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Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride

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«Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride» - Энни Берроуз

GOVERNESS WANTED… Miss Aimée Peters desperately craves respectability: after her father scandalously auctions off her virginity, she flees London to become a governess in remote Yorkshire. She’s horrified to discover her new employer, the piratical Captain Corcoran, never sought a governess – he wants a bride!TO BE CAPTAIN’S FIRST MATE!Aimée’s unadorned charm makes Captain Corcoran forget the true reason he married her. Then he discovers the fortune of coins stitched into Aimée’s bodice – what secrets does his new wife hide behind her oh, so innocent façade?
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‘I find it hard,’ the Captain said, ‘to believe you would flee from the prospect of becoming a countess, when you walked to my house, in the pouring rain, thinking you were about to become a mere governess.’


‘Not that it makes any difference now,’ he said, in a tone of chilling finality.

‘Oh, but …’ she began, but he had turned away. His shoulders stiff with affront, he stalked from the room, shutting the door behind him with the exaggerated care of a man who would have got a great deal more satisfaction from slamming it hard.

Aimée rolled onto her back, thumping the counterpane at her sides. Yes, why had he gone to such lengths to get her to his house? Why had he placed an advertisement in a London newspaper that made it sound as though he wanted to employ a governess when what he really wanted was a wife?


The Earl of Caxton has two granddaughters. One of them, Miss Aimée Peters, has grown up in exile, knowing only poverty and hardship. She is desperate to find some security. To put down roots.

To the outside world the other, Lady Jayne Chilcot, has been her family’s pampered darling. But she feels suffocated by the stultifying propriety that hems her in on all sides, and longs for adventure.

These cousins have one thing in common. Their mothers were proud women, who instilled that pride into their daughters, teaching them that a lady will always rise to the occasion, and to look upon adverse circumstances as a test of character.

I am still writing about how Lady Jayne finds her adventure at the moment, but first you can read about Aimée.

In this story Aimée goes looking for the respectability she craves in a job as a governess. What could be safer for a single woman than living quietly in the country, teaching children all the things she has learned in her so far turbulent life? She does not dream that in her new employer, Captain Corcoran, she will face the greatest challenge of all. A challenge to her heart …

About the Author

ANNIE BURROWS has been making up stories for her own amusement since she first went to school. As soon as she got the hang of using a pencil she began to write them down. Her love of books meant she had to do a degree in English literature. And her love of writing meant she could never take on a job where she didn’t have time to jot down notes when inspiration for a new plot struck her. She still wants the heroines of her stories to wear beautiful floaty dresses and triumph over all that life can throw at them. But when she got married she discovered that finding a hero is an essential ingredient to arriving at ‘happy ever after'.

Previous novels by Annie Burrows:






(part of Regency Candlelit Christmas anthology) DEVILISH LORD, MYSTERIOUS MISS

Also available in eBook format in Mills & Boon® Historical Undone:





Annie Burrows

To my editor, Sally Williamson, for all your patience with me on this one, your insightful revision suggestions, but most of all for reminding me to write from the heart.

Chapter One

Wanted: For Gentleman’s family in Yorkshire. A Healthy Young Person from good family, to supervise education of young children. She will not be expected to dine with servants or do any menial work. Any person able to provide proofs of their pedigree, education and character may call at the Black Swan, Holborn, on Tuesday, 6th June, between the hours of three and four in the afternoon.

Miss Aimée Peters sighed as the church clock of Beckforth chimed the half-hour. Again.

It meant she had been sitting on her trunk in the coaching yard of the King’s Arms for well over an hour.

Of course, no governess could expect her employers to send one of their other servants to wait for the stage to come in, and to meet her as though they regarded her as a significant member of the household. There was not a creature on earth of less significance than a governess.

Which had been the whole point of going to such lengths to secure this position. Nobody ever looked twice at a governess. Her background and education separated her from the servants, and her status as paid employee kept her apart from the family. She would belong neither above nor below stairs.

To all intents and purposes she would be invisible.

Which was exactly what Aimée wanted.

Though—she shivered as the wind skirled round the corner of the yard in which she was sitting—it was one thing to have pulled off such a successful disappearing act, but where on earth was Mr Jago?

He had left a letter for her at the Black Swan, telling her that if she still wanted the position for which she had undergone that rather cursory interview, it was hers. All she had to do was go to the Bull and Mouth and collect the tickets he had purchased for her transport as far as this inn in Beckforth, which was the closest village to her employer’s home.

But what if the letter she had sent, along with the requested references, to tell him she was indeed accepting the post, and would be travelling to Yorkshire immediately, had gone astray? What if nobody was expecting her to arrive today at all? She could not just sit on her trunk in this ramshackle inn yard indefinitely!

She gripped her overnight bag, which she had kept on her lap the entire way, a little more firmly, stood up, and brushed a few stalks of dried, muddy straw from her skirts.

It was not as though she was not perfectly used to fending for herself. Her lips twitched into a wry smile.

Her willingness to travel—nay, her experience of travelling had been, she was convinced, the deciding factor in landing her this post. Mr Jago had scarcely asked anything about her pedigree, but had sat up and looked very interested once she had told him how she had spent her childhood becoming fluent in Italian and French by flitting from one European city to the next. Naturally, she had not mentioned that these moves had usually occurred at dead of night, with outraged creditors in hot pursuit.

Mr Jago, after pursing his lips and looking her up and down with those keen blue eyes of his, had unbent far enough to tell her that his employer, the man who had placed the advertisement in the London papers and had sent him to conduct interviews, was a naval captain who was looking for a woman with backbone. Aimée had only briefly been puzzled by his choice of words, for she perceived that a naval officer would probably need to uproot his family regularly, depending on where he was to be stationed. She saw that she would adapt to a peripatetic lifestyle more readily than any of the other applicants, and so had proudly replied that she had a backbone of steel.

Aimée picked her way carefully through the piles of droppings, refuse and puddles that made up the surface of the yard, to the half-open inn door. If Mr Jago really had hired her because he had thought nothing would daunt her, she had better prove him right! Beginning by finding out how far it was to The Lady’s Bower, the charmingly named house where her new employer and his family now lived, and making her own way there.

She might have cheated her way into this post, but she was so grateful for the chance to earn her living doing honest work that she was utterly determined that neither Mr Jago nor the naval officer whose children she would be caring for would ever have cause to be sorry they had hired her.

The smell of spilled ale, tobacco fumes and unwashed working men hung over the threshold like a thick curtain. She had to mentally push her revulsion to one side before she could go inside.

‘Can you tell me, sir, how far it is to The Lady’s Bower?’ she asked the stringy individual who was leaning on his elbows on the far side of the bar. ‘And whether it is practical for me to walk there?’ She could probably hire some form of conveyance from this inn, if not. She had enough coin in her purse, tucked into a side pocket of her overnight bag, to provide for such contingencies.

He sucked air in through his teeth. ‘You don’t want to be going there, miss,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘You want to put up here for the night, and take the stage back to London in the morning. I’ll have a room made up for you, shall I?’

‘No, thank you!’ Aimée drew herself up to her full height and glared at the slovenly landlord. She had enough experience of his type to tell from the state of the yard and his clothing that his bedrooms too would be dirty, the sheets damp, and any food on offer poorly cooked.

‘I most definitely do not want to return to London. I just want to reach The Lady’s Bower before nightfall!’

The landlord’s patronising expression hardened into a sneer.

‘On your own head be it, then,’ he said, eyeing her in a way that made her even less inclined to sample the dubious quality of his lodgings. ‘T’aint more than three, mebbe four miles across Sir Thomas Gregory’s lands. Course, a stranger to these parts, taking the direct route across his land would like as not run foul of his gamekeeper …’

‘You expect me to believe this area, being so far from London, is so savage that people go around taking potshots at strangers?’ she scoffed.

‘Poachers, aye …’

‘Do I look like a poacher?’ she exclaimed, indicating her neat little bonnet, deep green travelling dress and serviceable cloak. She had chosen each item carefully, from second-hand dealers that stocked a better class of cast-offs, so that the entire outfit made her look exactly what she thought a governess ought to look like.

‘Or an imbecile?’ It had suddenly dawned on her that her outfit actually made her look fairly well off, as well as eminently respectable. The man was obviously trying to scare her into giving him her custom. Just because she was a stranger to the area, he thought he could hoodwink her into staying the night, then hiring some overpriced conveyance from his stables in the morning to take her on a journey that would probably turn out to be hardly any distance at all!

He sucked air through his teeth again, running his eyes over her slender frame with a decidedly hostile expression.

‘You could go by the roads, I dare say. If you’re so set on going there.’

‘I am,’ she snapped, her initial plan, of asking if he could provide some form of transport evaporating in the heat of her increasing irritation.

The directions he then gave her were so complicated, with a couple of left turns by the corners of beet fields, followed by right turns after blasted oaks, and making sure to take the right fork after Sir Thomas’s beech plantation, that she was half-convinced she was going to go round in a great big circle and end up right back where she started.

In this benighted inn yard.

Having left instructions as to the care of her trunk, she strode off with her head held high, her overnight bag gripped tightly in her left hand, and a confirmed dislike of the inhabitants of Yorkshire simmering in her breast.

She eyed the fields to either side of the lane, wondering if the funny-looking reddish leaves within them belonged to beetroots. If they did, then she had to turn left at the end of the next one, then left again once she had crossed the little footbridge over the stream.

That she found a stream, complete with a footbridge, did not encourage her as much as it might have, had she not suspected the innkeeper was sending her on a wild goose chase. She had annoyed him, by not immediately falling in with his suggestions, and surely this was her punishment! She ought to have been more conciliatory, she supposed.

Her mother always used to say that there was never any excuse for forgetting her manners. Or surrendering to displays of emotion in front of vulgar persons.

How right, Aimée sighed, her mother had been. Vulgar persons did not waste time in getting their own back. Vulgar persons took great delight in sending you out on six-mile hikes. When rain was on the way.

She hefted her bag into her other hand, and glanced warily at the sky. When she had set out, the clouds had not looked all that noteworthy, but now they were building into a decidedly threatening mass. And there were no other buildings in sight. She was right out in the countryside now.

But she could, at last, see the woodland that the innkeeper had told her belonged to Sir Thomas Gregory.

A stone wall delineated the boundary of his property, but if it really came on to rain hard, she would have no trouble nipping over it and seeking shelter under the trees.

She could only hope that the gamekeeper was the type who stayed at home on wet afternoons.

She shrugged down into her travelling cloak, flicking up the large shawl collar over her bonnet, forming it into a hood, as it began to rain. The shopkeeper had promised her that the cloak, though lightweight, would keep out the wet.

And had she been walking back to her lodgings from the shops, through city streets, it might well have done so. But the kind of rain that gusted across open fields, building up speed and force by the acre, could not be halted by one layer of merino wool, no matter how finely woven.

She eyed the wall uncertainly. And the trees on the other side. They did not look, now she was up close, as though they would offer that much shelter after all. Every time a gust of wind shook the branches, great cataracts of water flowed from the leaves, as though a million tiny housemaids were emptying buckets out of invisible upstairs windows. And the wall that from a distance, when it had been dry, had looked so easy to climb, looked positively treacherous up close, now it was slick with rain.

She had no wish to turn up on the first day of her new job looking like a drowned rat. But it would be far worse to look like a drowned rat in torn and muddy clothes. The only thing that could have been worse was to have stayed huddled on her trunk, in the inn yard, looking like the kind of helpless female that required the services of a nursemaid to so much as wipe her nose!

She stayed on the road. It was not as if she could get much wetter, anyway. The unmannerly Yorkshire rain sneered at cloaks fashioned for city dwellers, using its playmate, the wind, to flick it aside so that it could soak her dress directly. And because she was having to clutch her makeshift hood to her throat, to keep it in place, it also managed to trickle down her cuffs. Not to mention the way it alternately splashed up under her skirts, and dragged her hem down into the mud. And although her sturdy brown boots were watertight, it did her feet no good, because her stockings were soaked, which meant that the water oozing down her legs had no means of escape. She should have purchased a coat, she sighed, that buttoned fast all the way down the front. Had she had more experience of weather in the north of England, she would have known that labelling the season between June and September ‘summer’ was no guarantee that light clothing would suffice.

And to cap it all, she could hear a distant rumble that sounded as though a thunderstorm was approaching. She shivered. The way her luck was going today, that probably meant hailstones.

But then she spotted the fork in the road that the innkeeper had mentioned about halfway through his convoluted directions. Hopefully, that meant she was geographically halfway to her destination.

She changed her bag to her left hand, clutched her hood to her throat with her right and strode out a little faster.

The sound of thunder grew steadily louder; in fact, so steadily it began to sound more like carriage wheels.

She glanced over her shoulder, and, sure enough, cresting the brow of the undulating lane behind her came a carriage and pair at a spanking pace. Such a spanking pace that she had to leap nimbly over the ditch that flanked one side of the road to escape being run down.

She managed to stay upright, even though the stubby crops made for a most uneven surface. Though naturally, given the way her day was going, she landed ankle deep in mud. She looked up from the quagmire in which she stood in some surprise when the driver hauled on the reins, drawing the carriage to a halt abreast of her, and shouted, ‘Miss Peters?’

When she nodded, he pointed his whip at her and bellowed, ‘Do you have any idea how long I’ve been driving up and down these lanes attempting to find you?’

His words sent a shiver of dread coursing through her. Surely he could not be a Bow Street Runner? Not after she had taken such pains to cover her tracks. Nobody could possibly know she was in Yorkshire.

Though how could he know her name, if he was not a paid investigator of some kind? She eyed him with trepidation, rapidly taking in the many-caped coat and tricorne hat of a typical coachman. His appearance was no consolation. A really good thief taker would naturally be a master of disguise. If he was masquerading as a coachman, then he would take care to handle the ribbons nonchalantly, as well as dressing the part so convincingly!

With the tip of his whip, he pushed back the hat that had been pulled low down over his forehead, sending a shower of water cascading over his broad shoulders, and revealing the fact that he wore an eyepatch. It gave his harsh, weatherbeaten features such a sinister touch that she promptly abandoned all thought of either begging him for mercy, or offering him double whatever he had been paid to capture her to let her go.

Then he tugged down the muffler that had covered the lower half of his face, and said, ‘What the devil do you think you are doing out in this weather?’

She had been cautiously feeling her way backwards with her feet, but the incongruity of the question halted her. Why on earth would a man paid to hunt down fugitives care what kind of weather she was out in? Unless it was on his own account. That must be it. He resented having to be up on that exposed box, in such foul weather.

Well, it served him right! As she surreptitiously tried to ease one foot out of the mud that held it fast, she glared right back at him, the villain! What kind of man took on such work?

He watched her freeze, then frown up at him in bewilderment. And felt as though somebody had reached into his chest and squeezed hard. It was as though somebody had cast a spell on the figurehead from The Speedwell, bringing her to life and casting her ashore in that muddy beet field. Dripping wet, confused and somewhat afraid, she still had sufficient spirit to lift her chin and square her shoulders, as though daring him to do his worst.

‘Mr Jago!’ he bellowed. Behind him, he heard the coach window come rattling down. Miss Peters tore her eyes from her appalled perusal of his wreck of a face. He saw the moment she recognised Mr Jago, then closed her eyes, her whole body sagging with what looked like profound relief.

Just who the hell had she thought he was? And what was she doing out here anyway?

He half-turned, and roared over his shoulder, ‘Did your letter not specify that we were coming to fetch Miss Peters from the King’s Arms?’

Aimée wanted to kick herself. Of course this vehicle and its driver were the transportation arranged for her by her new employers. It was just because her nerves were in tatters that she had immediately jumped to the conclusion that Bow Street Runners or thief takers must have caught up with her.

Thank heaven she had honest work now! She was not cut out for a life of crime. Her guilty conscience had left her fearing arrest every minute these last couple of weeks.

Perversely, the stupidity of her mistake made her absolutely furious with the coachman for giving her such a fright.

‘Don’t you yell at him!’ she yelled at the piraticallooking driver. ‘The letter offering me this job did say someone was coming to fetch me, but I had been waiting for an age in that filthy inn yard, and assumed that my arrival must have been forgotten. So I decided to walk.’

‘In this weather?’

‘It was not raining when I set out,’ she replied tartly. ‘Besides, I am not made of spun sugar, you know. I will not melt.’

Mr Jago opened the carriage door fully and clambered down. ‘Well, never mind who thought what,’ he said, crossing the road. ‘The thing is to get you out of this rain now.’ He extended his hand to her across the ditch.

A fleeting look of chagrin flickered across Miss Peters’s face as she regarded Mr Jago’s outstretched hand. Then her mouth compressed into a thin, hard line. She looked as though she wished she could consign the pair of them to perdition. But in the end, he saw a streak of practicality overcome her pride. He nodded to himself in approval as she reluctantly took hold of Mr Jago’s outstretched hand. The former bosun had come back from London telling the rest of the crew that he’d found a woman who boasted she had a backbone of steel. Which was just as well, considering what lay in store for her. But even better, her swift suppression of that little flash of temper showed him that she was sensible enough to know when to bow to the inevitable.

He could not help grinning when she consoled herself by pausing to bestow one last, fulminating glare at him before accepting Mr Jago’s assistance into the carriage.

Coxcomb! Aimée fumed, gathering the folds of her sopping wet cloak around her as she settled herself into the seat. It was his fault she was covered in mud now. And the shaft of pure terror that had lanced through her when she had thought he had come to arrest her and haul her back to London had left her shaking like a leaf.

‘Captain Corcoran intended to pick you up in the gig,’ said Mr. Jago, his face creasing with concern as she knotted her fingers together on her lap in a vain attempt to conceal how badly they were shaking. ‘But seeing the weather likely to blow up a storm, he went to his neighbour, Sir Thomas, to see if it would be possible to borrow his carriage, so you would not get wet.’

His eyes slid to the little pool of water that was forming around her boots, and added, with a faint tinge of reproof, ‘It all took a bit longer than we anticipated. But you really should have waited.’

Aimée’s chin went up. She absolutely hated being criticised for showing some initiative. Looking Mr Jago straight in the face, she considered telling him exactly why she had set out on her own across unknown terrain. How could she possibly have known what this Captain … whatever his name was, had arranged? It was not as if anyone had bothered to inform her. Why, the Captain had not even deigned to put his name to the letter his man of business had left for her at the Bull and Mouth.

And was she supposed, then, to just meekly accept any arrangements he might or might not have made on her behalf? As though she had no brain in her head?

However, she reined in her impulse to inform him exactly what she thought of him and his employer. It would not be a good start to her new life, to spend the journey to The Lady’s Bower arguing with a man who seemed to be very much in her employer’s confidence.

The fact that the carriage, with her in it, was even now rattling into the very yard of the King’s Arms she had hoped never to see again almost overset her good intentions. All the time and energy she had wasted, getting thoroughly soaked into the bargain, and here they were, back in the King’s Arms, presumably in order to collect her trunk.

She seethed. If anybody had thought to inform her of their intentions, she need never have set out in the rain at all!

And Mr Jago was still looking at her with that faint air of reproof as though he expected her to be grateful to his employer!

For one moment, just one, she admitted to herself that perhaps she ought to feel grateful. She could not remember anyone going to such trouble to see to her well-being, at least not since her mother had died.

But on the very day of that wretchedly pathetic little funeral, she had discovered that it was no use sitting about waiting for somebody else to look after her. Her father had taken to the bottle; if she had not swiftly learned to shift for herself, she would have starved.

And half a lifetime of facing neglect, of having to be self-reliant, was not going to dissipate under the meagre weight of Mr Jago’s disapproving frown!

The coach lurched to a halt, rocking as the driver jumped down from his box. She tore her eyes from Mr Jago’s disapproving ones to follow the driver’s progress across the yard to the inn door.

He had one of those voices that carried. Even from this distance, she could hear him berating the landlord for not stopping lone females from going wandering about the countryside in foul weather—in such highly colourful terms that she wondered whether she ought to be covering her ears. She was quite sure she ought not to know what half those terms meant. And Mr Jago, to judge from the way he shifted in his seat and cleared his throat loudly, was alive to her embarrassment, but at a complete loss to know what to do about it.

He ought, of course, to have got out and told the man to mind his manners.

Although perhaps not. She was merely a governess now, and not worthy of much consideration. She had to content herself with displaying her disapproval by glaring out of the window at the driver as he instructed the ostlers to stow her trunk in the boot at the back of the carriage.

She hoped she would not have to have too many dealings with this bad-tempered man. She thought it unlikely. A governess would not have much to do with the outdoor staff.

Thank goodness.

Having strapped the trunk in place with a violence that had the whole carriage jerking, and which to her mind seemed completely unnecessary, the driver whipped up the horses and the carriage lurched out of the yard at a cracking pace. She grabbed for the strap as they rattled down the lanes she had so recently trudged along, with a speed that had both passengers bouncing around the interior.

Wonderful. She was going to arrive at her first proper job in a state of bruised, chilled exhaustion! She had so wanted to impress her employers with an image of neatness and competence. Instead, she had the feeling that if this nightmare ride continued for much longer she was going to tumble out of the carriage looking like something the cat had dragged in.

What was more, if she had been a delicate sort of female, she had the notion she would promptly go down with a severe chill and take to her bed. The Captain might well have taken some pains to procure a closed carriage for her, to prevent her from getting the wetting that her independence of mind had ensured she got anyway, but he had not thought to equip it with a hot brick. No, there was not so much as a blanket to keep off the chill that was seeping through to her bones.

She had been far less uncomfortable outside! At least the activity of walking had kept her warm, whereas now, sitting still in her wet clothes in the unheated confines of the carriage, she was starting to shiver.

Yes, if she were not as tough as old boots, the incompetent Captain would be summoning a doctor for his new governess, within hours of her arrival.

Perversely, cataloguing the fallibility of her new employer went a great way to consoling her for her uncomfortable physical state. Like all men, he had decided he knew what was best, without either consulting, or informing, her what he was about. And his plans, like the plans of every man she had ever met, had been woefully inept. As well as being deleterious to the health of the female they intended to dominate.

She gripped the strap a little harder, bracing her feet against the opposite seat as they flew over the potholed, rutted road.

Oh, how she hoped some of his children were girls. She would thoroughly enjoy teaching them to think for themselves. To warn them that though men thought they were the superior sex, they were not to be trusted, never mind depended on!

She had cheered herself up no end with a series of similarly subversive plans by the time the carriage finally slowed down, to make a sharp turn between two gateposts topped with stone acorns. And the smooth glide along the short, but impressively maintained, driveway came as a welcome respite to her bruised posterior.

Mr Jago opened the door, got out and extended his arm to help her alight.

Aimée found herself standing on a neatly raked gravel turning circle in front of a three-storeyed, slate-roofed house.

The front door opened, and three men in a livery that consisted of dark blue short jackets, and baggy white trousers, which made them all look vaguely nautical, came tumbling out. One of them, a bow-legged, skinny man with eyes that each seemed to work totally independently of the other, came scampering up with an umbrella, which he unfurled with a flourish, and held over her head.

Far too late, of course, to do her any good, but it was a lovely gesture. She smiled her thanks and the man grinned back, revealing a set of teeth that appeared to have been stuck into his jaws at random.

‘I am taking the carriage straight back to Sir Thomas,’ the driver bellowed, shattering the feeling of welcome that had briefly engulfed her.

‘Get Miss Peters’s trunk and see her settled!’ he barked at nobody in particular. Yet one of the men ran directly to the boot of the carriage, unstrapped her trunk, hefted it on to his shoulder and trotted with it to the house. Her eyes widened in amazement. It had taken two sweating ostlers to manhandle it into the rear boot of the stage when she had left London, yet he was treating it as though its weight was negligible.

Mr Jago waved his arm in the direction of the front door. ‘Welcome to your new home,’ he said.

With the bow-legged man holding the umbrella over her, the support of Mr Jago’s arm, and the way the other two men stood each to one side like a guard of honour as she trod up the three shallow steps to the front door, Aimée almost felt like a queen being escorted into her palace.

She shook her head at the absurd notion. It was only the latest in a string of strange fancies that had popped into her head today. The certainty that she had been forgotten, when in fact her new employer was going out of his way to help her, the conviction that the piraticallooking coachman he’d sent was a Bow Street Runner, and now, the odd feeling that had not Mr Jago frowned at them so repressively, the oddly liveried staff here would have burst into applause as she alighted from the coach.

She raised her hand to her brow. Perhaps she was sickening for something after all. Her nerves had been strained almost to breaking point over the last few weeks. And her journey from London had seemed never-ending, because of the persistent feeling that at any minute, somebody was going to point at her, and cry ‘There she is!’ and drag her ignominiously back again.

And yet, here she was, her muddy boots staining the strip of carpeting that ran down the centre of the highly polished wooden floor of The Lady’s Bower. And the front door was closing behind her.

Shutting her off from her past.

Oh, they would keep on looking for her for a while, she had no doubt of that. But nobody, surely, would ever guess she had managed to get herself employment as a governess. Or if they did, by some peculiar quirk of fate, pick up her trail, she was surely not worth following this far north. Not all the way into the wilds of Yorkshire!

She had done it.

She had escaped.

And suddenly, the realisation that, against all the odds, she had reached her chosen hiding place came over her in such a great rush that she began to shake all over. The room shimmered around her, the heat, which had seemed so welcome only seconds before, now stifling her.

Tugging at the ribbons of her bonnet, she tottered to the staircase, sat down heavily on the bottom tread and bowed her head down over her damp knees.

She was not going to faint! There was absolutely no need to.

Not now she was safe.


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