March 21, 2017
Bound By Their Secret Passion
A forbidden attraction… A hidden desire!
Years ago, penniless Lorene Summerfield wed for duty, giving her siblings the chance to marry for love. But now the generous-hearted countess finds herself widowed…and the man she’s loved in silence for years is falsely accused of her husband’s murder!
Although he closed his heart to love long ago, the Earl of Penford has always found Lorene irresistible. Their newly ignited passion may be scandalous, but now he’ll stop at nothing to clear his name and win Lorene’s hand!
The Scandalous Summerfields—
Disgrace is their middle name!
Bound By Their Secret Passion
Bound By Their Secret Passion
Christmas Day 1816
Lorene leaned back against the soft leather seat of the carriage. Outside snowflakes fluttered down from a sky almost milky white from the light of the moon. The snow on the fields glowed and the sounds of the horses’ hooves and the carriage wheels were as muffled as if passing over down pillows. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, a day-long visit with her two sisters, their husbands and the man she adored.
Thank goodness her husband had refused to come with her.
Her husband, the Earl of Tinmore, a man in his seventies and at least fifty years her senior, had forbidden her to spend Christmas Day with her sisters at their childhood home, Summerfield House. Lorene had defied her husband’s dictate. She’d walked the five miles to Summerfield House that morning. Snow had been falling then, too, but the cold merely filled her with vigour and made her feel more alive.
How different it was at Tinmore Hall where she had to kill every emotion merely to make it through the day.
‘Will you be all right?’ the man seated next to her asked.
She turned to him and her heart quickened as it always did when looking at him, Dell Summerfield, the Earl of Penford, the man who had inherited her childhood home. His blue eyes shone even in the dim light of the carriage. His well-formed lips pursed in worry.
She could not help but stare at those lips. ‘I suspect he will be asleep. He retires early, you know.’ She did not have to explain that she spoke of her husband.
‘What of tomorrow?’
She loved his voice, so deep, like the lowest notes on the pianoforte, felt as well as heard.
How silly to have a schoolgirl’s infatuation at the advanced age of twenty-four, especially since she was a married lady and he’d merely been civil.
No, he’d always been more than civil.
He’d been kind.
The last thing she wanted was for him to worry about her. Or to think of her. He must never know how much she thought of him. Or how much his kindness towards her meant to her.
She smiled. ‘The worst I will endure is a tongue lashing, but I might earn one of those for choosing the wrong dish for breakfast, so I am very used to it.’
Dell frowned and glanced away.
‘It is equally as likely he will say nothing,’ she added quickly. ‘One never knows.’
Dell had insisted upon returning her to Tinmore Hall in his carriage and insisted on accompanying her. Lorene treasured these rare moments alone with him when she could pretend they were the only two people in the world and that she had not been forced to choose marriage to Tinmore.
Although no one had forced her. She had approached Tinmore and offered herself to him. She’d done so because her father had left his children penniless and Lorene could think of no other way to help her sisters and half-brother. She’d promised to marry Tinmore and to devote herself to his comfort for the rest of his life. In exchange he agreed to provide generous dowries for her sisters and enough money for her brother to purchase a captaincy.
Nothing turned out as she’d thought, though. Her sisters and brother found happiness, but who could say it was not in spite of Tinmore, instead of because of him?
Their happiness was a sufficient prize for Lorene, though, even if the cost had been her own happiness.
‘I did have the most lovely day,’ she said to Dell.
She’d felt close to her sisters again. She’d basked in the joy they shared with their husbands.
And in being near Dell.
He turned back to her, his gaze meeting hers and warming her all over. ‘I am pleased.’
Once when she’d been a child caught in a thunderstorm, lightning struck a tree near her, so close she’d felt the crackle of the bolt around and through her. Sometimes it felt like that lightning bolt crackling when she was with Dell.
How silly was that?
The carriage reached the iron gates of Tinmore Hall and their gazes broke away. The cupolas of the huge country house came into view, like wagging fingers chastising her.
She’d done nothing wrong, though, except to defy her husband who had no good reason to keep her from Summerfield House. It certainly had not been wrong of her to want to spend Christmas Day with her sisters at their childhood home. Her infatuation with Dell had nothing to do with it. Besides, being enamoured of Dell was her secret and no one would ever know of it.
Especially not Dell.
When the carriage pulled to a stop in front at the entrance, the butler opened the door. Dell climbed out and turned to Lorene. She clasped his hand, so warm and strong, as he helped her descend the carriage steps.
He walked her up the stone steps to the massive mahogany door where the butler waited.
‘Thank you, Dell,’ she murmured, not daring to look at him.
He stepped back and she crossed the threshold into the hall, where her husband stood leaning on his cane and shooting daggers from his eyes.
Dell watched Lorene disappear through the doorway. He hated to relinquish her to that old man who was her husband and who neglected or scolded her in turn. Life could be cruelly fleeting. One should cherish those nearest and dearest while one could.
Tinmore’s raspy voice rose as the door closed. ‘A visit with your sisters, eh? A tryst with your lover, more like! I’ll show you—!’
The door closed.
Ridiculous! She’d gone to see her sisters, nothing more, and Tinmore very well knew that.
Dell called to the coachman, ‘I’ll only be a moment.’
Without bothering to knock, he opened the door.
The butler jumped back and Tinmore’s eyes bugged in surprise. ‘How dare you, sir!’
Tinmore stood at the bottom of the grand staircase. Lorene was halfway to the first landing.
‘Lord Tinmore, you are mistaken—’ Dell began.
Lorene interrupted him. ‘There is no need to explain. Please, Dell.’ But her panicked voice did not reassure him.
Tinmore pounded his cane on the marble floor and waved her away. ‘Go to your room.’ He pointed his cane at Dell. ‘I will speak with you.’
Tinmore led him to a small drawing room, not the opulent one Dell had visited before when calling at the house to do his neighbourly duty to Tinmore, but one reserved for lesser callers and tradesmen.
‘Sir, you misunderstand.’ Dell started to speak as soon as he entered the room.
‘I completely comprehend, Penford. You have been carrying on with my wife since last Season and then you have the gall to invite her to your house—’ His words were slurred, as if he’d imbibed too many spirits.
‘So she could be with her sisters at Christmas,’ Dell broke in. ‘And the invitation included you.’
‘Hmmph!’ Tinmore lifted his nose. ‘That was merely a ruse. You knew I would not come.’
‘I knew no such thing.’ Although Dell had not been sorry Tinmore refused to come. The man put a pall on everything.
Tinmore’s hairy eyebrows rose. ‘Do not take me for a fool. You were constantly attending her in town, at every social event to which we were invited.’
Of course Dell had approached her. Was he not obligated as a gentleman of her acquaintance? Because of some distant ancestor, he’d inherited her father’s estate. Surely that was reason enough to do her a kindness. ‘You left her alone, sir.’
Tinmore’s face turned red and his voice rose to a shout. ‘You dare to criticise me when you are the one carrying on!’
Was Tinmore demented? Did he not know how difficult it had been for his wife at those balls and routs? The scandals of her parents and of her marriage to Tinmore caused most of society to shun her. Tinmore could have eased those times for her with the strength of his status.
If he’d have remained at her side.
‘There has been no carrying on!’ Dell’s voice rose above Tinmore’s. ‘Your wife has done nothing but visit with her sisters. As you would have seen had you come with her.’
‘Humph!’ Tinmore lifted his nose. ‘Her sisters are as scandalous as their parents. That is why I forbade her to go; that and to forbid her to be in your company.’
Dell met Tinmore’s glare. ‘You forbade her to go? I received an acceptance of the invitation with your signature.’
Tinmore’s gaze faltered. ‘I changed my mind.’
‘At the last minute.’ To be as cruel as possible, Dell suspected.
Tinmore knew Lorene was devoted to her sisters. She’d married Tinmore so her sisters and brother would have advantages denied them when their father left them penniless. Tinmore knew she would want to share Christmas Day with them.
God knew Dell would have done anything to share another Christmas with his family. Nothing would have kept him apart from them.
Nothing except death.
Tinmore sputtered. Dell had forgotten him for a moment.
‘You seek to evade the truth, Penford,’ Tinmore accused. ‘That you are making love to my wife behind my back!’
Dell leaned down to glare into Tinmore’s rheumy eyes. ‘This is nonsense, sir, and you well know it. I’ll hear no more.’
Dell turned away and strode to the door. He made it to the hall before hearing Tinmore’s cane tapping after him. ‘Do not walk away without my leave! I have more to say to you—’
Dell glanced to the stairway and saw Lorene still standing there. How much had she heard? He hurried on to the door which was opened by the butler.
‘Wait!’ shouted Tinmore, advancing on him.
Dell walked outside on to the stone steps. Tinmore still came after him.
‘You stay away from my wife!’ Tinmore swung his cane at Dell.
Dell caught it before it struck him in the head.
Tinmore released his grip on the cane and clapped his hands against his head. He uttered a high-pitched cry as he stumbled backwards. Dell reached out to catch him, but Tinmore slipped on the snow-slick surface and tumbled down the steps. He hit the cobbled ground, his head smacking against the stones.
And he was still.
End of Excerpt
Bound By Their Secret Passion
Book 4 in the The Scandalous Summerfields Series Series
Behind the Book
Bound By Their Secret Passion
Law and Order in 1816 England
Bound By A Secret Passion begins with the death of dastardly Lord Tinmore, Lorene Summerfield’s elderly husband, and Dell is accused of his murder. What I know about legal procedures I learned by watching years of Law and Order—and not the British version. Turns out things were different in England in 1816.
When a probable murder has occurred, there were no police to be called; police as we know them came in later years. Instead the magistrate would be contacted. The magistrate or justice of the peace was a landowner appointed to the role. Also appointed was a coroner, also a landowner, whose job it was to investigate the crime.
When a death has occurred the coroner must go to where the body is. It is the coroner who determines where the crime took place, questions witnesses, determines cause of death. He contacts the constable of a neighboring town to choose a jury of twelve “good and lawful” men.
The coroner swears in the jurors who must be at least twelve years of age, asks if they know the victim or were a witness to the crime. They must view the body, ideally where the death occurred, and determine how the victim died. This must be done within fourteen days of the death.
Then an inquest is held before the magistrate to determine if a crime was committed and if the accused should go to trial. At the inquest, the jurors hear the witnesses’ testimony.
The inquest was held in a public place, typically an inn, and was usually a big public event. If you saw the Poldark series, it was an inquest, not a trial, that took place when Poldark was accused of murder. And in Death Comes To Pemberly Wickham is accused of murder at an inquest.
In Bound By Their Secret Passion, Dell faces an inquest and the possibility of being accused of Lord Tinmore’s murder.