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About the author:
USA Today Bestselling author Amanda Mariel dreams of days gone by when life moved at a slower pace. She enjoys taking pen to paper and exploring historical time periods through her imagination and the written word. When she is not writing she can be found reading, crocheting, traveling, practicing her photography skills, or spending time with her family.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Dorset England, 1812
Lady Marina Ellis took a cautious step toward her father’s desk being careful to keep her eyes downcast though her head was high. He’d not summonsed her here for a warm chat. No quite the opposite in fact. As it turned out, she’d created quite a mess of things and he no doubt intended to make her pay for her transgressions.
She swallowed past the tightness in her throat as she drew nearer. She could not—would not allow nerves or regret to shine past her carefully steeled exterior. If she did, Father would destroy any dignity she still possessed. Drawing on every ounce of courage she possessed, Marina met his heated gaze. “Father.”
He narrowed his storm-filled green eyes, anger creasing his forehead and wrinkling the bridge of his nose. “Sit.”
She glanced at her mother standing off to the side of the office. Anger did not screw her features as it did fathers. Instead, a far worse emotion marred her tender face—grief. Marina’s heart squeezed at the knowledge she’d caused every bit of her mother’s sadness. She’d not thought of how her reckless actions might affect others. A laps in consideration she’d not make again.
She lowered herself into the highback chair across from father’s desk and folded her hands in her lap. Regret filled her—as did fear—but she had no-one but herself to blame. Whatever the outcome of this meeting, she’d have to make the best of it.
She’d been foolish and careless to fall into Lord Banfeld’s trap. Nonetheless, she had and now she would pay dearly for her transgressions. Based on the way father was staring at her, she’d wager the price to be higher than she ever imagined. A trickle of dread caused goose-bumps to spread over her flesh.
Father would show her no mercy.
It mattered not that Lord Banfeld had swept her off her feet with his sweet words and promises of marriage. Nor did it make any difference that he’d insisted they need not wait to couple. Marina had been the bird-wit that chose to get beneath the proverbial sheets with him. He’d not forced her. He had no need too. After all, they were to be wed. What reason did she have to deny their passion?
None, for he’d promised to offer for her the moment he had his future secured. Not more than a few months time, and if she should find herself with child before he was ready, he’d offer straight away. His future be damned. In retrospect, she should have asked what there was to secure. He was a lord, his future laid out for him. She should have known he was toying with her. But why?
That was one question she’d never have an answer to. When she went to him with news of the babe, he’d dismissed her out of hand. Acted as though he had no idea what she was talking about and no responsibility for any of the ensuing hardship.
He was the worst sort of nave, and she was England’s biggest fool.
Marina chased the musings away. Replying the past and belittling herself would not help her. The damage was well and truly done. To think, she’d fancied herself in love with the no-good scoundrel. That was one mistake she’d not make in the future. She’d not bestow her heart on any man who didn’t deserve her love. She’d guard it fiercely, with all she possessed.
Marina stared back at father, waiting for him to weld her sentence. For the way he glared at her, she might-as-well be sitting before her executioner. His green eyes radiated anger causing her to glance away for a heartbeat. A part of her longed for it to be so. The executioner would at least make it fast where father was drawing her punishment out at an insufferable pace.
Perhaps she should speak, but what would she say? Father would hear nothing she had to convey. He wouldn’t care that she was remorseful, nor that she’d been led astray by a smooth-talking lord who’d promised her marriage.
Father only cared about his title and his reputation. He’d always been that way. Daughters were nothing more than girls to marry off and love was a useless emotion. How many times had he told her that affection was a weakness?
Still, the silence was excruciating. Marina darted a glance toward mother, pleading silently for help. Mother offered a weak smile, her lips trembling, then nodded her head toward father. It was the last place Marina wished to look, but she clearly had no choice in the matter. She returned her gaze to father. When he remained silent, she inhaled deeply, then said, “For whatever it may be worth, I am sorry.”
The storm of anger in father’s green eyes intensified darkening their shade to the point they were almost black. “You don’t understand the meaning of sorry. If you did we’d not be in this position.”
Marina fought back her rising tears. She had not expected Father to believe her, but his verbal assault pained her all the same. But then, hadn’t it always been this way?
She’d spent her childhood trying to earn his affection, and as a young lady, she’d desperately attempted to secure his love. Weary of being turned away and ignored, Marina had at last reached the conclusion that there was nothing she could do to make him care for her.
She was a girl who resided under his control. A daughter to marry off for the betterment of the family. There was little if any value in girls. Leastwise, that is what father always said. Secretly, Marina knew better, though she’d never challenged his assessment.
Father leaned over his desk pointing one gnarled finger at her. “Heaven help me, girl, you will know the meaning of sorry by the time I’m done.” His voice boomed, ricocheting off the paneled walls of the study.
Started by the force of his tone, she jumped in her chair, tears gathering at the backs of her eyes. Marina forced herself to give a slight nod. She would not cry. Doing so would only make things worse. Father detested crying woman.
She blinked back the moisture and squared her shoulders. “I’m prepared to accept responsibility for my actions.”
“Good,” Father fairly yelled, his voice maintaining its rough edge.
Marina fought the urge to look away. Pressed her lips together to stop herself from saying anything. Inwardly, she wanted to scream back at him. She wanted to stomp her feet and throw things. Marina wanted to hurt him as he did her.
Father continued, “I have arranged for you to stay with your aunt, my sister Teresa in Northumberland. There you will have your bastard in seclusion. Afterward, it will be sent away. Permanently.” He spoke with venom lacing his every word. “You, Marina,”—his gaze intensified—“are never to return to society. Nor are you to come home.”
She choked back the lump forming in her throat as she willed a fresh batch of tears not to fall. He meant to take her child from her. Intended to take her mother from her. Marina’s head spun, nausea taking hold in her belly.
Father pointed at her, his eyes hard as stone. “So far as I am concerned, you no longer exist.”
“Augustus,” Mother said, her tone laced with shock and distress, “She’s our daughter.”
“Silence!” Father held his hand up, palm facing out toward mother. “This tart is no daughter of mine.”
The words pierced Marina’s heart, but they did not destroy it—no, the tears streaming down Mother’s cheeks managed that. Marina would sell her soul to undo the pain she’d caused mother. She was the one person who loved Marina and now her heart was devastated because of it. The one person Marina never wished to hurt was the one hurting the most, and there was nothing she could do to fix that.
“Do you understand me, girl?” Father continued to glare at her, his eyes hard and angry.
Marina attempted to speak but could force no sound from her lips. She gave a small nod of ascent instead. There was nothing more she could do. He never could be reasoned with and cared not for a woman’s theatrics. He’d handed down her fate and now she must accept the dictates.
“Very well.” Father rested his hands on the desk. “I want you gone within the hour. Pack your valise then see yourself to the waiting carriage.”
She gave another small nod, wishing she could sink through the floorboards and disappear altogether. Father always did have the power to make her feel inept. This time was marginally worse than the others for she’d brought his anger on herself through her own actions.
“We are done here.” Father nodded toward the study door. “Remove yourself from my sight.”
Marina fought the urge to look at mother as she stood then moved to the door. She’d never grieve the loss of Father for she’d done that years prior, but losing mother was shredding her insides. With a shaking hand, she reached for the door and pulled it open.
Father’s voice stopped her before she could disappear into the hall. “Mind you, take nothing of value besides your garments. Jewels and such remain my property. Nor will you be allowed the courtesy of a maid.”
His parting words delivered a final blow to her composure. Marina allowed the first tears to escape her eyes as she propelled herself into the hallway. A desperate need to get away driving her hurried footfalls.
It wasn’t that she cared about jewels and such. No, she most certainly did not. Things of real value—love, family, friendship—could not be purchased with coins. However, his dictate showed her once again how very little he cared for her. She’d never mattered overmuch to father, and now she failed to be of any importance at all.
Marina entered her bedchamber then sank onto the bed. For long moments she allowed her emotions to run wild. Warm tears streaked down her face and her shoulders shook as sobs racked her body. She’d caused a fine mess, indeed. But she could do nothing to change her past discretions or her father’s mind.
Exhausted, she wiped the moisture from her face with the backs of her hands. Weeping would do her no good. She had to pull herself together and brave her new reality.
Forcing her head high, Marina went to her wardrobe. She selected a few gowns and a nightrail, along with underpinnings and a dressing gown, then placed them in her valise. Her resolve built more with each item she stuffed into the traveling bag, and by the time her task was complete, she’d determined to face her circumstances head-on.
To the devil with father!
He could disown her. He could send her away. He could ban her from his home and society—but he could not destroy her. Father could not take her child and her future. Somehow she would find a way to salvage them both.
The door squeaked and Marina turned to face it as mother stepped into the room. Mother pulled Marina into her warm embrace. “I’m so sorry.”
“There is nothing you could have done,” Marina said, then she sunk into mother’s warmth, soaking up the affection she offered. The only real love she’d ever experienced had come from mother, and for that, she would always be grateful.
Marina held on a little tighter, inhaling mother’s lilac scent as she hugged her. How she wished she could sooth mother’s pain—ease the sorrow she’d caused her. Unfortunately, an embrace could never undo the hurt Marina had caused—not for either of them.
Marina pulled back from mother and gazed at her, hoping Mother could see the love and appreciation radiating from deep within her. “I must be going,” Marina’s voice cracked.
A tear slid from mother’s eye as she stroked the backs of her fingers over Marina’s cheek. “He’ll change his mind, darling. Give him a bit of time and he’ll come around. He won’t truly banish you. No forever.”
Marina did not dare lend any credence to mother’s words for she knew father would never allow her to return. But neither could she bring herself to upset mother more by stating as much. Instead, she gave a forced smile. “Until then…” Her throat restricted cutting off her empty words.
“Yes, until you return, darling.” Mother dropped a kiss on her forehead. “For you most certainly will.”
Marina pulled away then lifted her valise from the bed. Exhaling a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding, she notched her chin and strolled from the room.
A silent wish hung in her heart as she made her way to the waiting carriage. A wish for the future—one she would be allowed to share with her child.