A Twelfth Night to Remember
High-spirited Grace Nettleton had once believed in exciting escapades and magic—so much so, she eloped with a man who promised both. But her husband offered little beyond betrayal and heartache, except for their son, Oliver, the one good and pure thing to come from their union. Now widowed, Grace has returned to Hartstone Hall, resuming a position in the kitchens and setting aside her former fanciful notions of adventure in order to provide stability for her son.
Rhys Wilton, Grace’s dearest childhood friend, has loved her all his life, but his position as third son of a noble family seemed an insurmountable obstacle in their youth. Putting Grace’s happiness first meant silently stepping aside when she departed to begin a life with someone else, despite the blow to Rhys’ soul. With her return, he will not make the same mistake twice. Finding his place in Grace’s and Oliver’s hearts is easy. Convincing her to ignore their stations, and embrace a new adventure as his wife, will require all the magic of the season.
“You put a frog in my hair!” Grace exclaimed.
She started to slap Rhys playfully on the arm, as she had done when they were children, but she halted herself just in time. “I must have washed my hair ten times before I removed all traces of it.”
She did her best to appear stern, but it was next to impossible. She had been startled by his appearance at the back door of the kitchens, and then elated, and then swamped with memories of how much he had been part of her daily life when they were growing up.
He was as handsome as ever, his dark curls longer than she remembered, but suiting him perfectly. He wore an elegant greatcoat, emphasizing his broad shoulders, while his buckskin breeches displayed even more of his muscular frame.
Rhys grinned. It was a devilish expression, a silent invitation to join him in mischief. It had been hard to resist when she was younger. How could she hope to withstand it now?
She had no choice, however. She had her child’s welfare to consider, not just her own.
“I apologized for the frog,” Rhys reminded her. “Though I truly did not expect it to end in your hair. I meant to put it close to your face and it just leapt—”
She laughed. “So I should be thankful it landed in my hair instead of on my face?”
“It does seem the more palatable option.”
“When the frogs are plentiful again, I shall test this theory of yours. On you.”
His blue eyes lit up. As if he enjoyed the thought of her being here at another season.
They strolled through the kitchen gardens, most of it barren, all of it covered with a light dusting of snow. She had been glad to take a few minutes away from her duties to chat with her lifelong friend. To her surprise, there was no awkwardness between them. It was as if they had spoken moments earlier rather than several years ago.
“I cannot wait to hear of your adventures,” Rhys said, his voice filled with envy. “We had always imagined what the rest of the world was like, and you have actually seen some of it.”
“Did you not go on a Grand Tour? I thought all young nobles were required to do so,” she teased.
“I had planned to, but it had to be postponed as Charles and Henry both came down with an illness at the same time. It was the only time there was genuine concern for my welfare, since for a few weeks it appeared as though I might end up being the heir.”
His tone held a touch of asperity, and Grace’s heart softened a bit more. He did not complain about his status, but she knew how restrictive it was. Nearly as confining as hers, though in a different fashion. His family was as unaware of what he desired in life as hers had been.
No wonder they had become such fast friends. Yet ultimately that was frowned upon, for fear it might blossom into something more, a liaison too scandalous to be borne. Leaving had been Grace’s best option, before she could begin to hope for something that could never be.
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About Donna Cummings:
I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.
I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.
Find out more at:
Website – https://www.AllAboutTheWriting.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/BookEmDonna