Kindle Edition Free From 12/1 - 12/31
Kindle Edition Free From 12/1 - 12/31
She could cross an ocean, but could she ever win his heart? An Anglican maiden longs to marry for love. Widower Horton still grieves the loss of his beloved wife, but knows his young sons need a mother. With tender hearts, Mary and Barnabas take a leap of faith and wed. But when his secret plans to move the family to the New World come to light, Mary’s world is upended. How could she possibly leave papa and her sister? And will she ever reach the secret places of her husband’s broken heart?
October 21, 1630, London, England
Wooden ships languished in the Thames, lolling to and fro, like oxen taking a mud bath. The murky water lapped at the blackened oak as Papa’s words washed over her once more.Mary Langton leaned over the crumbled stone wall and buried her face in her arms. How long she wept she could only guess.
Someone moved beside her, but she could not bear to look—could not bear to face anyone. She turned her tearstained face eastward to the great port.
After an eternity, she pressed a handkerchief to her reddened nose and cast a sideward glance. “Papa.” She straightened and turned from him. What use would a discussion be?
Her sister approached and .hope rose in her heart. An ally, perhaps? No, Lizzie stepped aside, apology evident in her eyes.
Papa’s voice was strained, with a sadness she’d not heard since her mother had died. “You shall come to know that I am right, my girl. You might not agree with me today, but you shall see.”
“You are wrong about that, just as you are wrong about forcing me to marry Robert.” She whirled to face him and raised her chin. “How could you? Please don’t do this to me. Papa, the last thing I would want to do is to leave Mowsley and marry someone here in London. I could not bear to leave you and Lizzie. You know that.”
Before he could answer, wind and tide came together. Sails snapped. With creaks and groans the ships moved in awkward unison toward the North Sea. The same gust of wind that billowed sails lifted her hat.
She grabbed the brim with both hands, firmly settled it on her brow, and watched the ships as they bumped about, leaving port. Fresh tears pressed from the corner of her swollen eyes to the inky water below. “You might as well be sending me off to the colonies.” Her stomach clenched, causing the words to rush out in gasps, and she clutched her waist as she glanced at her father.
His cheeks reddened. “Hush. Do not say that. You know I love you dearly. I have always had your best interests at heart.” His voice was rough and strained.
He hurt as much as she did, she knew that, but still the words tumbled out. “Do you, Papa? And Nathan? Was he best for me?”
“Do not speak to me in that tone. I agree. Marriage to him would have been a tragedy, indeed, but ’tis why you must let me take care of you.”
It tore her heart to have words with Papa, but desperation urged her on. “I’m sorry, but how many tears must I shed? What must I do to make you see?” She was wailing now.
A second blast of wind caught her hat and sent it cartwheeling down the dock. She grasped her skirt as she raced after it. With her free hand she tried to hold her hair high on her head, but it tumbled down, swirling in the wind.
“Be careful. We shall buy you another,” Lizzie called as Mary’s boots flew over puddles in the chase.
The errant bonnet came to rest at the foot of the stone bridge spanning the Thames. With a sense of triumph, she scooped it from the mire, then stood to face her family. Her father, shoulders slumped, trudged up the cobbled path toward the shops as Lizzie came to her aid. Thank heavens. What took her so long?
“You should not run like that. You might have broken your ankle and then how would we get you home?” Lizzie’s eyes rolled as she shook her head, but a gentle smile played on her lips. “Father says we should go to the milliner’s. He has business to finish with Mistress Haskins.” She eyed the muddied gray felt with its high crown and wide brim. “It looks worse for wear anyway. Perhaps you shall get a new hat out of all of this.”
“Business to finish? I hope it has nothing to do with me and Robert. What shall I do? I do not love him. Not one whit. I shan’t marry him.”
Her sister’s eyes filled with sympathetic tears and the corners of her mouth quivered. “Father is adamant. After what happened with Nathan, he feels there is no other solution. Certainly your prospects for marriage in Mowsley are naught. Perhaps here in London . . . Perhaps Robert . . .”
Mugginess draped her like a shawl. Her nose wrinkled at the acrid stench of the water below. Nathan. What shame he had brought to her family. She pushed her sadness aside. “’Tis not as if I loved him, Lizzie.”
“Whatever do you mean? Nathan? I thought surely after five years you had grown to care for him. You cannot tell me you have no pain, that you did not love him.”
“I did not. Truly. I think I was more enamored with the idea of marriage than with Nathan.” She folded the cuff of her sleeves back and fiddled with the lace. It looked much like the lace her sister had sewn into the gown for her wedding. She glanced at Lizzie sideways.
Did Lizzie believe her? She would never admit to another being, not even her sister, her love of Nathan. Not after he left her standing on the church steps. “I think by the time Nathan returned from university, he realized I lacked the skills he would need in a wife. Who needs a wife who rides horses and loves numbers? He feared I would rather be out riding than washing his clothes.”
“But you loved him, yes?”
She closed her eyes for a moment, bracing herself for the whitish lie. “Lizzie, I only care about the disgrace he brought you and Papa—how the whole village must have laughed at us. But I do not give a fig about Nathan or myself. I cried over the spoilt feast left on Papa’s table much more than Nathan Cadwell. How could he have done that?”
“Disgrace to be sure, but ’tis why you must let Father take care of you. Everyone in Mowsley knows of your disgrace. It was not very manly for Nathan to just abandon you rather than admit to you he had a change of heart. Father truly wants you to be happy. Let him take care of you, Mary.”
Lizzie wrapped her arm about her sister. “Tell him you shall marry Robert. Mistress Haskins will be a kind mother-in-law. She’s a good businesswoman, and we know she is a good cook—we’ve supped with the Haskins many times. Indeed, you can keep the books for her, as you do Father’s, and she’ll treasure your help as well as your company.”
They followed the narrow cobbled streets, and Mary covered her nose with her damp handkerchief. The perfume of the gardens mingled with the stench of garbage in the lane and underscored the capriciousness of the city. “I always look forward to our trips to London, but once I’m here I long for home.”
Her sister took her hand, her voice gentle. “You should know, little sister, Father wants to find a husband for you quickly. And London is the most likely place to find one. Mistress Haskins’ son is a most eligible one.”
“Do you not see, Lizzie? It cannot be Robert. I shall never love him.” She’d played with Robert when they were little, but as they grew older he treated her in a most awkward fashion, staring at her without saying a word. And with her engagement to Nathan, he became downright hateful. “You and Zeke love each other and I want that someday, too. Besides he looks rather like a pudgy pear.”
An infectious giggle erupted and the two laughed until their sides ached. Lizzie smoothed her stomacher and tried to regain a degree of decorum. “You shall be a spinster if you stay in Mowsley. Father shan’t be around forever. Besides, many women who marry for the social status fall in love later. It happens all the time.”
“And the men? Do they fall in love?”
“A man would be a fool not to fall in love with you, little sister, but you are not getting any younger.”
What could she say? Mary glanced up as the shops came into view and dabbed at the tears that still threatened.
Lizzie seized her arm, directing her into Haskin’s Hats. “A wool hat or silk?”
“I—I am not up to looking at hats, Lizzie.” She cast a look around, hoping to avoid Papa, Robert, and Mistress Haskins, as if that were possible.
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Rebecca DeMarino is a historical romance author who lives in the Pacific Northwest. She inherited her love of baking and gardening from her mother, a love of horses, reading and writing from her dad, and the wanderlust gene from both parents. To Follow Her Heart, book #3 in The Southold Chronicles, released in 2016. The series is inspired by Rebecca's ninth great-grandparents, Barnabas and Mary Horton who left Mowsley, England in the 1630's for the wilds of Long Island.