The Enigma of a Widow
The Widows of Aristocracy Book 2
by Linda Rae Sande
Genre: Historical Regency Romance
Having lost her husband in the Battle of Ligny, Lady Lydia Barrymore is determined to resume her work for the Foreign Office when her mourning period is over. She's spent a year solving puzzles and assembling dissected maps to maintain her skills. Her first assignment has her perplexed, though - do what she must to help a fellow operative recover his sanity. Although she finds the man rather beautiful, Sir Donald has also proved most annoying.
Newly knighted Adonis Truscott returned from the Continent with a tendency to get lost in his thoughts. His frequent episodes of staring into space have his sister claiming he's a candidate for Bedlam - and he's not about to argue. He doesn't always remember where or when he was when he recovers, but he remembers he made a promise, and he's determined to keep it. A promise to provide protection for Lydia, whether she wants it or not.
When a puzzle's directions require Lydia to solve it with the help of Adonis, she discovers the man harbors secrets that may be impossible to reveal. With her own sanity in jeopardy - a year-long mystery involving her late husband may be more annoying and dangerous than an errant knight - Lydia will have to piece together a solution that suits them both in The Enigma of a Widow.
The Enigma of a Widow
The thought of viewing artwork created more than a millennia ago excited Lydia. That someone had the skills to cut and carve marble into such detailed works of art meant the ancestors of humanity weren’t the barbaric creatures she had been warned of whilst still in the schoolroom in Merriweather Manor.
For every Spartan, there had been an Athenian, after all.
Viewing statues of mostly naked men would have been nearly impossible if there were too many others with her in the Gallery. On a day such as this, she had the room to herself.
She didn’t exactly study the statues, but surreptitiously surveyed them as she slowly walked around each one. She found them intriguing. Men nowadays weren’t so very different from those of two- or three-thousand years ago, she decided, although she only had experience with the two from current times. Perhaps the Greeks were more beautiful. Youthful, mayhap. Or perhaps they only depicted younger subjects because it was difficult to carve wrinkles into marble.
The reclining man before her was definitely youthful, his body barely muscled, his face relaxed as if he were sleeping. She could almost feel his soft breaths as he lay there, one arm raised above his head and angled so its hand was atop his curly hair whilst the other was bent with its hand resting beneath his chin. He wasn’t entirely naked but wore a cape tossed over one shoulder, and the folds of a skirt were strewn about his mid-section. His feet sported sandals with leather ties wrapped about his thick ankles.
Awareness of another’s presence in the gallery had the hairs on the back of her neck reacting.
The sensation of a soft breath wafted over her shoulder again, this time bearing the slightest hint of sandalwood and spice cologne. Stiffening where she stood, Lydia realized someone was standing directly behind and to her left. A man, no doubt, given the scent of his cologne. She was about to put voice to a complaint, but he put voice to a most audacious claim before she had a chance.
“I’ve been told I look exactly like him,” the male voice whispered, almost in her ear.
Lydia carefully stepped to the right and turned slightly, amazed to see that, yes, the intruder did indeed look exactly like Adonis. Or Endymion sleeping on Mount Latmos, if one remembered the label mounted next to the block of marble. He was also impeccably dressed in a superfine navy topcoat, an elaborately embroidered waistcoat in red and gold, and buckskin breeches that, at the moment, left absolutely nothing to the imagination as far as his muscular thighs and the bit of anatomy that was located just above them. A quick glance at his tasseled boots, and Lydia was sure she could see her reflection. One of his gloved hands was pressed onto the top of a cane handle decorated in ornately-patterned silver plate while the other held what appeared to be a sketchpad.
“You do, in fact,” she murmured, her gaze darting back and forth between the statue and his living twin. “Are you related, perhaps?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
“My mother must have thought so. She named me Adonis,” he replied with an equally arched eyebrow.
Excerpt #2 514 words
At precisely one minute to three o’clock in the afternoon, Lydia Barrymore entered the open area outside the office of Lord Chamberlain, reported to his secretary, and took a seat in a rather uncomfortable chair meant for visitors to the viscount’s office.
It was nearly four o’clock before she was called into Chamberlain’s office. She was being punished, she knew, and decided not to complain.
“Lady Barrymore,” Chamberlain said. He didn’t get up from his chair, nor did Lydia expect him to.
“Lord Chamberlain. So good of you to summon me,” Lydia replied in the most pleasant tone she could manage. She reached into her reticule and pulled out the parchment she had filled out whilst in the study earlier that day.
The viscount frowned when he realized she held more than one sheet. “And what’s this?” he asked as he nodded toward the papers she held.
“Oh, this?” Lydia asked as she lifted the papers in a silk gloved hand. “It’s what I’ve discovered about Sir Donald during our recent encounters. So far, at least. I expect I’ll learn even more later tonight.”
Matthew Fitzsimmons, Viscount Chamberlain, leaned back in his chair and regarded the viscountess with an arched, bushy eyebrow. Although he tried hard, he couldn’t hide the surprise he felt at hearing her words. “Let’s have it then.”
Lydia allowed a nod and began reciting everything she knew about Sir Donald. She never once looked at the papers she held, but she did put the front one behind the second page as she spoke, as if she had memorized every word and knew exactly where the notes continued onto the next page. “Have you any reports from doctors? Physicians?” she wondered when she had completed her report. “That might assist me in this project?”
Lord Chamberlain sighed and pulled open a desk drawer. A thick stack of papers slammed onto his desk, the force of which had the other papers on his desk lifting up and moving slightly away from the offending pile.
Not bothering to hide her disappointment, Lydia allowed a sigh. “He is not insane,” she murmured with a shake of her head. “Preoccupied, perhaps. Troubled, certainly. But he is not insane,” she repeated.
The viscount nodded as he laced his fingers together. “These mostly have to do with his leg,” he finally admitted. “Compound fracture, dressed in the field but not reset until he was in hospital in Brussels.”
Lydia fought down the urge to wince. The man had to have been in severe pain for hours. Even more so when the bone was forced back into place. “He walks with a cane and usually limps a bit, but when he’s doing something he enjoys...” She stopped suddenly, remembering how Sir Donald had been at the Serpentine, as if he had completely forgotten how to limp. “He walks quite normally,” she finished after a moment. “Imagine that.”
Lord Chamberlain frowned. “What was he enjoying?”
Despite her attempt to hide the embarrassment she felt just then, Lydia could feel a blush coloring her face. “Me, I suppose,” she whispered.
A self-described nerd and lover of science, Linda Rae spent many years as a published technical writer specializing in 3D graphics workstations, software and 3D animation (her movie credits include SHREK and SHREK 2). An interest in genealogy led to years of research on the Regency era and a desire to write fiction based in that time.
A fan of action-adventure movies, she can frequently be found at the local cinema. Although she no longer has any fish, she follows the San Jose Sharks. She makes her home in Cody, Wyoming. See her upcoming books on her website: www.lindaraesande.com.
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