TITLE – Restoring Lady Anna SERIES – Eversley Siblings Series AUTHOR – Em Taylor GENRE – Historical Regency Romance PUBLICATION DATE – 1 May 2014 LENGTH – 55,000 COVER ARTIST – Veronica Fernandez
When Lord James Eversley is accused of a murder he did not commit, he dresses up as his new brother-in-law’s footman and hitches a ride in their carriage out of town. When it seems they are no longer being followed he begins to relax until a minor accident causes them to stop at a shabby looking inn. As his “master” and his sister sip tea in the scruffy parlour, James comes face to face with Lady Anna, the woman who left him in the dead of night five years before and a familiar looking child.
Lady Anna has accepted her life as Mrs Johnstone, mother of four-year-old Viola, “wife” of Peter, the mentally ill former footman and land lady of a shabby inn on the Great North Road. Her plans for a love match with the handsome Lord Eversley were cruelly snatched away from her five years before. Her ruination means there is no opportunity to return to her family or the ton. When James turns up, dressed as a footman and demanding answers, Anna must decide whether to tell the truth.
James never stopped loving Anna and now he must learn what happened that fateful night that Anna left him heartbroken. With the truth out in the open, he must convince the love of his life to take a chance on him. He wants to marry her and restore her reputation among the aristocracy. But in Regency England reputations are easily lost and difficult to regain. Can Anna trust James enough to do what is right for Peter, despite his actions, her child and most importantly himself? Can James convince Anna to seek the help that Peter needs and return to the ton?
“Why did you leave?” he asked. “I...I... did not have a choice."
“Were you in love with him?”
“No.” She should lie. She knew she should, but his light blue eyes seemed to bore holes into her very soul and she could not bear to hurt him further. She could not bear to have him think badly of her.
“Then I do not understand why you left. Was it... was... God dammit.” He took a large gulp of his ale and looked around before leaning close. “Was it the bedding? I know you were an innocent and it must have hurt but...”
“No.” She shook her head fervently. Could he really believe that the best night of her life had driven her from him? “That night... it was very special. You were wonderful and kind and caring. I could not have asked for a better lover the first time.”
Relief washed over his countenance before he frowned. “Then why?”
Should she tell him? Could she? “It is too complicated to explain, except to say that it was not my choice and it was not your fault.”
He pushed his long fingers through his blond curls and stared into his ale. “Is he—the footman—still alive?”
He looked into her eyes—the hope that had shone there moments before was gone.
“So you are married.”
“We never married.”
“You live in sin?”
“Yes. I refused to marry him—not even to give my daughter a name. I tell people I am Mrs Johnstone, but there are no legal documents and no marriage. Therefore, you can return to the ton, my lord, and tell them that Lady Anna Kingsley is a whore and has a bastard child.”
Now perhaps he would leave her alone to her miserable life and find someone who would make a proper countess when his father died. She swallowed hard, forcing back the tears. Willed herself to stay strong. She only had to stay strong until the damned ostlers could help Lord Ramsey’s horse.
“Shh! I will be returning to the ton to tell them no such thing. I wished you would tell me what actually happened, if for no other reason than to assuage my fear that it was something I did or said that drove you away. You said you have a daughter?”
“Yes. Viola. She is a pretty little thing but can be quite precocious when she wants to be. She would have made a beautiful debutante when her time came.”
“Mama. Who is this?” She turned to see Viola standing at her side and realised it had been the child who was tugging at her skirts.
James stared at the little girl standing next to Anna, tugging on the grey wool skirt. Blond hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks that reminded him of Rebecca when she was small. She even had the little turn up in her nose that was identical to his sister’s. But, it could not be.
This child could not be his? They had made love but once—or at least just one night. But he had not withdrawn as he knew he should. He had been too caught up in the moment—in their love. Had Anna fallen with child that one glorious night, how old would a child be? Three? No—four! Was this little girl four? He had no idea how large or small a child should be at the age of four. He did not come into contact with many children. But he did not have to ask her age. His sight told him that Viola was his as did something else…instinct perhaps? He schooled his features so they were unreadable. Years of training to be a gentleman, to show no outward emotion, were now paying dividends.
“This is Lord Eversley, a friend of mine.”
“Oh. Pleased to meet you Lord Evasey.” She bobbed a small curtsey, and he noted that she over extended her back leg a bit like the actors did in the theatre at the curtain call. It was very sweet. The child obviously did not meet many members of the aristocracy. Though it was just like Anna to have taught her daughter to act like a lady in preparation for meeting a viscount or even a duke.
“Very pleased to meet you too, Viola.” She smiled dazzlingly at him. It really was like being taken back in time to when Rebecca was a child. “Mama, he’s awake. I heard him shouting.”
“I see.” She turned to James. “I need to go just now. I have things that must be attended to.” Anna stood and looked like she was about to bob a curtsey but seemed to the think better of it, probably remembering he was supposed to be a footman. He watched her leave, Viola’s hand in hers. He had sired a daughter and all this time he never knew. He did not need Anna to tell him that Viola was his flesh and blood—he knew it with every fibre of his being. If he said it outright, would Anna lie? Could she lie about something as monumental as him having a child? Not the Anna he once knew. But she was harder now—more resilient. He saw it in her eyes. Even though he had sensed she had been on the edge of tears, he suspected Mrs Anna Johnstone did not cry very often. But he must allow Anna to tell him in her own time. There was a lot more to this than a silly lady having her head turned by a handsome footman.
Was the person who had just woken the footman? Why had Viola looked unhappy when she had to announce the footman was awake? And why was Anna the one working in the taproom? He would find out, and he would not leave this place until he knew the whole truth and certainly he would not leave without his daughter.