For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
Laura Martin assured herself. But would the cloak of anonymity she wore to escape a hellish marriage also protect her from the discerning gaze of the Earl of Beaulieu? Or would the famed Puzzlebreaker discover her deepest secrets as easily as he had the key to her heart?
Desire filled the earl when looking upon the enigmatic Laura Martin. Reclusive as she was, he saw the tender heart she'd hidden beneath the chilly facade and recognized her as his destined bride. But could he teach her to trust him enough to let him into her life--forever?
|File size:||684 KB|
About the Author
Julia Justiss grew up breathing the scent of sea air near the colonial town of Annapolis, Maryland, a fact responsible for two of her lifelong passions: sailors and history!
In high school she worked as a junior guide for Historic Annapolis, conducting visitors on walking tours through the colonial city and to the town's other great attraction, the U.S. Naval Academy. That fond association with the navy led her to eventually marry a Naval Academy grad--and they now have a son at Annapolis.
But long before embarking on romantic adventures, she read about them, transporting herself vicariously to the pyramids of ancient Egypt, World War II submarine patrols in the South Pacific, the mansions of the Old South and the ballrooms of Regency England.
She also began writing in grade school. From jotting down story ideas for Nancy Drew mysteries in her third-grade spiral, she moved on to writing poetry in high school and college, then worked as a business journalist.
After her marriage to a naval lieutenant, she wrote the newsletter for the American Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, and traveled extensively in Europe. In Tunis, she also completed her first Regency novel, which fortunately never made it farther than the inside of her desk drawer.
But she learned from that work and kept reading between children and moving twelve times in ten years. When her husband left the navy to return to his Texas homeland, she began her second novel, discovered Romance Writers of America and built an English Georgian house in the piney woods of East Texas, where, when she closes her eyes, she can almost imagine she inhabits the world of Pride andPrejudice.
That second novel, which she finished while working a day job as a high school French teacher, won RWA's Golden Heart Award for Regency in July 1996. Then in May 1998, her long-cherished dream of becoming a published writer came true when Margaret Marbury bought the revised manuscript for the Harlequin Historical line.
Her works, all set in the Regency period and generally including at least one military character, include: The Wedding Gamble (May 1999); A Scandalous Proposal (October 2000); the novella "An Honest Bargain" in the anthology The Officer's Bride (April 2001); The Proper Wife (July 2001); My Lady's Trust (January 2002); My Lady's Pleasure (June 2002); My Lady's Honor (October 2002); Seductive Stranger, in the two-in-one volume Forbidden Stranger (July 2003); Wicked Wager (November 2003); the novella "The Three Gifts," in the anthology Christmas Keepsakes (October 2005); and The Courtesan (December 2005).
She still teaches French and lives in that Georgian house with her husband, three children and two lazy dogs. Readers can reach her via her web site, or by writing to 179 County Rd. 4112, Daingerfield, TX 75638.
Read an Excerpt
Soundlessly Laura crept through the dark hall. Having rehearsedand usedthe route before, she knew every carpet, chair and cupboard in the passageway, each twist of the twenty-nine steps down the servants' stair to the back door. Even were their old butler Hobbins and his wife not snoring in their room just off the corridor, the winter storm howling through the chimneys and rattling the shutters would cover the slight rustle of her movements.
Just once she halted in her stealthy passage, outside the silent nursery. Leaning toward the door, she could almost catch a whiff of baby skin, feel the softness of flannel bunting, see the bright eyes and small waving hands. A bitter bleakness pierced her heart, beside whose Chill the icy needles being hurled against the windows were mild as summer rain, and her step staggered.
She bent over, gripping for support the handle of the room where a baby's gurgle no longer sounded. Nor ever would againnot flesh of her flesh.
I promise you that, Jennie, she vowed. Making good on that vow could not ease the burden of guilt she carried, but it was the last thing she would do in this house. The only thing, now, she could do.
Marshaling her strength, she straightened and made her way down the stairs, halting once more to catch her breath before attempting to work the heavy lock of the kitchen door. She was stronger now. For the past month she'd practiced walking, at first quietly in her room, more openly this past week since most of the household had departed with its master for London. Shecould do this.
Cautiously she unlatched the lock, then fastened her heavy cloak and drew on her warmest gloves. At her firm push the door opened noiselessly on well-oiled hinges. Ignoring the sleet that pelted her face and the shrieking wind that tore the hood from her hair, she walked into the night.
The crisp fall breeze, mingling the scents of falling leaves and the sharp tang of herbs, brought to Laura Martin's ear the faint sound of barking interspersed with the crack of rifle shot. The party which had galloped by her cottage earlier this morning, the squire's son throwing her a jaunty wave as they passed, must be hunting duck in the marsh nearby, she surmised.
Having cut the supply of tansy she needed for drying, Laura turned to leave the herb bed. Misfit, the squire's failure of a rabbit hound who'd refused to leave her after she healed the leg he'd caught in a poacher's trap, bumped his head against her hand, demanding attention.
"Shameless beggar," she said, smiling as she scratched behind his ears.
The dog flapped his tail and leaned into her stroking fingers. A moment later, however, he stiffened and looked up, uttering a soft whine.
"What is it?" Almost before the words left her lips she heard the rapid staccato of approaching hoofbeats. Seconds later one of the squire's grooms, mounted on a lathered horse and leading another, flashed into view.
Foreboding tightening her chest, she strode to the garden fence.
"What's wrong, Peters?" she called to the young man bringing his mount to a plunging halt.
"Your pardon, Mrs. Martin, but I beg you come at once! There were an accidenta gun gone off ..." The groom stopped and swallowed hard. "Please, ma'am!"
"How badly was the person injured?"
"I don't rightly know. The young gentleman took a shot to the shoulder and there be blood everywhere. He done swooned off immediate, and"
Her foreboding deepened. "You'd best find Dr. Winthrop. I fear gunshots are beyond"
"I already been by the doctor's, ma'am, and hehe can't help."
"I see." Their local physician's unfortunate obsession with strong spirits all too frequently left him incapable of caring for himself or anyone else. 'Twas how she'd gained much of her limited experience, stepping in when the doctor was incapacitated. But gunshot wounds? The stark knowledge of her own inadequacy chilled her.
Truly there was no one else. "I'll come at once."
"Young master said as how I was to bring you immediate, but I don't have no lady's saddle. 'Twill take half an hour 'n more to fetch the gig."
"No matter, Peters. I can manage astride. Under the circumstances, I don't imagine anyone will notice my dispensing with proprieties. Help me fetch my bag."
She tried to set worry aside and concentrate on gathering any extra supplies she might need to augment the store already in her traveling bag. The groom carried the heavy satchel to the waiting horses and gave her a hand up. Settling her skirts as decorously as possible, she waited for him to vault into the saddle, then turned her restive horse to follow his. Spurring their mounts, they galloped back in the direction of the marsh.
As they rode, she mentally reviewed the remedies she brought. During her year-long recovery from the illness that nearly killed her, she'd observed Aunt Mary treat a variety of agues, fevers and stomach complaintsbut never a gunshot. To the assortment of medicaments she always carried she'd added a powder to slow bleeding, brandy to cleanse the wound and basilica powder. Had she thought of everything?
She had no further time to worry, for around the next bend the woods gave way to marsh. A knot of men gathered at the water's edge. As she slid from the saddle, she saw at their center a still, prone figure, the pallor of his face contrasting sharply with the scarlet of the blood soaking his coat. His clothing was drenched, his boots half submerged in water whose icy bite she could already feel through the thin leather of her half-boots. The squire's son Tom held a wadded-up cloth pressed against the boy's upper chest. A cloth whose pristine whiteness was rapidly staining red.
Her nervousness coalesced in firm purpose. She must first stop the bleeding, then get the young man back to Everett Hall.
"Peters, bring more bandages from my bag, please."
At her quiet command, Tom looked up. "Thank God you're here!" His face white beneath its sprinkling of freckles, he scooted over to let her kneel beside the victim. "He's bled so badlyand ... and he won't answer me. Is ... is he going to die?"
"Help me," she evaded. "Lean your full weight against him, hard. Keep that cloth in place while I bind it to his shoulder. Did the shot pass straight through?"
"I don't know, ma'am. II didn't think to look."
Excerpted from My Lady's Trust by Julia Justiss. Copyright © 2002 by Janet Justiss. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews