in Love for Maui:
A Charity Romance Collection
Love Unbroken is a reunion novella set in the Regency era.
Lionel Eversfield is impressed into the navy on the very day he vows to support his dearest friend Lady Annette (Annie) Ryehurst on the hardest day of her life - her father's funeral. Nevertheless, he manages to get a letter to her and explain why he left her to bear it alone. He daren't write again. Annie's the late earl's daughter after all, and Lionel is merely a clergyman's nephew.
Annie moves on from her father's death, but her life gets harder while her childhood friend is away at sea. The debts from her mother's addictions find her eking out a miserable, solitary existence as she waits for her cousin (the new earl) to propose. She waits...and waits...meanwhile the earldom runs to ruin, and Lionel returns to England, but he's not the same young man from all those years ago...
Your steamy taster...
Lionel’s neck muscles tightened. “There’ll be no balls for Captain Eversfield. Society will be grateful, I’m sure.” He turned his face deliberately towards the light. His mangled cheek faced the other men, the scar thrown into hideous relief when he turned up the lamp. Though he stiffened, the vicar didn’t blanche, merely releasing a sigh that ruffled Lionel’s new curtains.
“This is not what I wish for you, Lionel.” Uncle Richard’s tone remained mild. “I believe society will stand it better than you know.”
“I thank you, Uncle,” Lionel said shortly. He couldn’t attend. The ladies and gentlemen of Mayfair preferred their war heroes whole and handsome. The doctors had done their best, but Captain Lionel Eversfield would never be either of those things again.
He sat opposite his uncle, watching the old fellow fold papers into simple shapes. His doctors recommended this as ‘soothing’ for military men after the war, but Lionel had resisted them so far. He studied the paper creature emerging beneath his uncle’s hands.
“I met Countess Ryehurst in Mayfair today, nephew.” Doctor Eversfield pressed down on a paper fold, riveting Lionel’s attention better than he’d have done with any other news.
“How is the countess?” Reaching for a paper, Lionel ignored the tension in his hand. He folded his page in half, avoiding his uncle’s gaze. He’d not called on Annie, not wished to witness the shock on her face as his dearest friend beheld his face. The pity with which she’d undoubtedly coddle him… Lionel shuddered and, having finished his newspaper hat he took up another page, making a great show of studying the column before him. A poor choice, as it contained much detail regarding Lady Huntley’s imminent ball. He clenched his jaw, feeling the stretch of sheened skin as he did so.
“I’d wager the countess is up to something,” the vicar continued.
Lionel eyed his uncle. “I’d wager you’re both as devious as each other, Uncle Richard.” He reached for his drink and took a large swallow. “Was Annie with – was Countess Ryehurst alone when you met her?”
His uncle sounded oddly relieved by the inquiry. “Lady Ryehurst was with her. I had the kindest notice from the earl’s daughter, though she seemed strained.”
“Strained?” Lionel stopped pretending to fold a boat. Instead, he gripped his glass so closely the crested crystal marked his palm. “How so?”
“I do not know, nephew.” Uncle Richard took up his own drink.
“What of her cousin, Lord Grantley?”
His uncle coughed. “My point precisely, Lionel. Paying his addresses over five seasons is hardly a compliment.”
“Five seasons?” Lionel’s brows rose. “What the hell’s the matter with him? Why, if I were courting Annie–,” he stopped, drawing his paper boat towards him again.
“I quite agree with you, nephew. The lady deserves better. It troubles me that she seems to be suffering under the weight of some great burden as though she’s all alone in it.”
“She’s not alone,” Lionel murmured, staring at the rich colour of the brandy in his glass, the darkened depths reminiscent of Annie’s eyes.
“You might find a way to let her know it.” His uncle levelled what Lionel called his ‘pulpit-gaze’ across the polished wood desk. “I nearly lied to that lovely girl, Lionel. She asked me if you were home yet. I could hardly tell her you were in town and would not see her.”
“I cannot.” Lionel’s strangled voice shocked him.
Uncle Richard leaned in, one palm on Lionel’s shoulder. “You can, Lionel, and your stubborn refusal to rejoin the rest of us over here in the peace is as damaging for you as it is for your friends.” His uncle never raised his voice. His quiet calm was more effective than anything. "As though she’s not suffering enough.” He stared at Lionel, one brow raised as though he’d asked a question.