Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spellbound - Mary Balogh

A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat




Nora Ryder has just left employment she found intolerable with only enough money for her stagecoach ticket to London. When she arrives at the village inn to board the coach, however, she discovers that it has been incapacitated in a collision with a gentleman's curricle.

Beyond the group closest to her, Nora could hear the stagecoach passengers, their voices raised in appeal and outrage. What were they supposed to do until tomorrow? And what if they could not wait until tomorrow to get where they were going? How could they be sure anyway that the coach would be ready to resume its journey even then? Someone was going to hear about this. Someone was going to answer for it. Someone was going to pay.

Nora felt slightly weak at the knees even though it did not appear that anyone had sustained any physical injury.

What was she going to do?

Within a few minutes everyone was beginning to drift away in the direction of the inn itself, and Nora was able to elbow her way forward until she stood before the man who must be the stagecoach driver.

“When do you expect to be on the way again?” she asked, realizing the foolishness of her question even as she spoke. She could see the carriage more fully now.

“Tomorrow, if I have anything to say about it, ma’am,” he said none too graciously, not even looking at her. “If you have a ticket, you are just going to have to come back tomorrow.”

“But what am I to do today?” she asked him.

He shrugged and scratched his head, his eyes on the damage to his vehicle. “Take a room at the inn like everyone else, I suppose,” he said. “You had better hurry, though. There aren’t going to be any left pretty soon.”

It would not matter if there were a hundred rooms left. Nora’s mind was humming with the realization that she was well and truly stranded. With nowhere to go and without a feather to fly with.

“Perhaps,” she said, “I can have back the price of my ticket.”

Though that was no real solution to anything, was it? If she spent that money, then she was going to be stranded here forever and a day.

“It’s not possible, I’m afraid, ma’am,” he said with surly impatience, bending to peer under the vehicle. “No refunds are allowed.”

And so that was that. Somehow she was going to have to hang around here for a whole day--and a whole night--before she could even hope to begin the long journey to London.

She did not know anyone here. Even though Wimbury was only five miles from Mrs. Witherspoon’s, she had not once left the house and garden until today, and there had never been visitors.

It was going to be a long, hungry day. Nora glanced up at the sky as she wandered aimlessly toward the inn entrance, where everyone else had disappeared. She stood just inside the taproom door for several minutes, undecided about what to do or where to go. Other people milled about her. All seemed to have somewhere to go and someone else to talk to.

She felt suddenly and horribly lonely and isolated and--stranded.

A lanky young man wearing a soiled apron and carrying a tray of empty glasses stopped close to her. He was looking slightly harried.

“If you are another of the stranded passengers, ma’am,” he said, “you are going to have to make other arrangements for tonight. We are full, what with the May Day fair and the coach crash.”

“I--”

Nora was never afterward sure what she was about to say. Someone else spoke first. It was a man’s voice, soft and cultured and clearly accustomed to commanding and being obeyed.

“The lady already has a room,” he said. “She is with me.”

Nora, startled, looked to see to whom and about whom the gentleman was speaking. But clearly he was speaking to the waiter--and he was looking directly at her with lazy blue eyes, above which his dark eyebrows arched.

She had a fleeting impression of tallness and broad shoulders and slender hips and well-muscled thighs, all clad in fashionable, expertly tailored clothing that looked as if it had been molded to his handsome frame. But then other thoughts intruded.

It could not be.

Surely--

The light inside the taproom was dim, the windows being small and half covered with heavy curtains. It was impossible to see with any clarity after just stepping inside out of the sunlight.

Even so…

It could not possibly be, though.

But it was.

Or rather, he was.

Richard.

He was Richard.

But she had missed something. He had said something else during the second or two of numb shock she had felt as she recognized him. The words were only now imprinting themselves on her hearing, like an after-echo.

She is my wife,” he had just said.

“Ah, that is all right then, sir,” the waiter said as he turned away about his business.

This has been an excerpt from Spellbound in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Mary Balogh grew up in Wales and moved to Canada on a two-year teaching contract. There she met her future husband and stayed a lifetime. While her three children were growing up, she began working on her lifetime dream of being a writer. Dreams do sometimes come true.
Please visit her website at:
http://www.marybalogh.com/

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