A Suggestion of Scandal
By Catherine Kullmann
If only he could find a lady who was tall enough to meet his eyes, intelligent enough not to bore him and who had that certain something that meant he could imagine spending the rest of his life with her.
As Sir Julian Loring returns to his father’s home, he never dreams that that lady could be Rosa Fancourt, his half-sister Chloe’s governess. Rosa is no longer the gawky girl fresh from a Bath academy whom he first met ten years ago. Today, she intrigues him. But just as they begin to draw closer, she disappears—in very dubious circumstances. Julian cannot bring himself to believe the worst of Rosa, but if she is blameless the truth could be even more shocking, with far-reaching repercussions for his own family, especially Chloe.
Later, driven by her concern for Chloe, Rosa accepts an invitation to spend some weeks at Castle Swanmere, home of Julian’s maternal grandfather. The widowed Meg Overton has also been invited and she is determined not to let the extremely eligible Julian slip through her fingers again.
When a ghost from Rosa’s past returns to haunt her, and Meg discredits Rosa publicly, Julian must decide where his loyalties lie.
Her captor had bundled her up a narrow back stairs and thrust her into this small attic room before locking the door from the outside. It must have been a maid’s bedroom, she thought, and recently occupied, for there was no accumulation of dust, let alone slut’s wool, and Mr Purdue’s housekeeper was generally spoken of as a slatternly creature although a good cook. She was not the sort who would think to ensure an empty chamber was swept and dusted.
The room was simply furnished; there was a narrow bedstead with a thin horsehair mattress covered in drugget, a rickety chair and a small deal table on which stood an empty, chipped jug and basin. Two wooden pegs were fixed to the wall behind the door and, to Rosa’s relief, she found a chamber pot under the bed. She had not yet brought herself to use it but knew she would have to if she were held here for long.
She had removed her damp spencer and spread it out to dry and, reluctant to take off her clammy gown, wrapped herself in the red cloak and lain down on the scratchy mattress. Just for ten minutes, she had told herself, until your head clears, but in fact she had slept although she did not know for how long, and woken shivering.
She had banged on the door and called until her voice gave out and had then peered down from the window, rapping on the pane when she saw a groom cross the yard. He had not looked up, nor had Sir Julian later even though she had hammered the jug against the thick glass.
She pulled the cloak around her. Without it, she would have felt even more chilled. Judging by the fading light, it must be eight o’clock. Was Purdue going to leave her here all night? She was thirsty—apart from the few sips of watered brandy she had taken nothing since nuncheon. Sighing, she sank down onto the bed again only to spring up when she heard firm footsteps outside her door. It opened just wide enough for a hand to place a tin plate of thick sandwiches on the floor.
“Take it in and I’ll give you some wine and water,” Mr Purdue said.
She tried to tug the door wider open but he resisted. “Remember, Miss Fancourt, it is your choice. Is it to be the hard way or the easy way? I shall not make you drink if you prefer not to.”
Be sensible, Rosa, she told herself fiercely and picked up the plate. It was immediately replaced by two tin mugs.
“You have thirty seconds to remove them,” the hateful voice said.
Suddenly, she craved liquid. After a first, hasty sip, she was able to snap, “How dare you hold me prisoner!”
“Now, now, my pet! You will find I dare a lot.” He laughed softly, pulling the door shut. Just before it closed, he said, “I almost forgot,” and tossed a soft bundle into the room. She snatched it up—it was her reticule and gloves.
The door slammed. She heard the key turn followed by the rattle as it was removed, then his footsteps retreated. She was alone again.
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
Catherine’s debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, received a Chill with a Book Readers Award and was short-listed for Best Novel in the 2017 CAP (Carousel Aware Prize) Awards. She is also the author of Perception & Illusion. Her latest novel, A Suggestion of Scandal, was published in August 2018.
Catherine loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Amazon Author Page.