In the bitter winter of 1752, Evangeline Grey is determined to return to London, claim her inheritance, and lead a solitary, uneventful existence. York holds too many sad memories for her now, and she’s ready to leave it behind.
When she finds out that her guardian has designs on her — and her pending fortune — Evangeline manages to escape, but her journey south is fraught with uncertainty and danger. Mourning the murder of her brother, still reeling from her aunt’s recent death, and close to penniless until she finds her way back to London, she’s never been more alone.
And then, on a desolate Northern English moor, she meets a benevolent stranger who changes everything.
Kendall Beaumont is a man running from a few demons of his own. On his way to his home in remote Almsborough, he stops to help the pretty, young runaway. The future seems fairly bleak for the both of them — until he decides to make her an offer she can’t refuse…
About Hannelore Moore:
In 2012, Hannelore published a short story in Timeless, a young adult anthology from Cool Well Press. Since then, her work has appeared in The Rusty Nail literary magazine and on the Flash Fiction World website, among other places. In June 2013, she won The Iron Writer Challenge #17. Hannelore is a rabid Anglophile, as you’ll discover when you read her work, and recently published her first novel, Tower Bridge. You can find more information about her on Hannelore’s Happenings (http://hanneloreshappenings.blogspot.com/)
How to reach Hannelore Moore:
Excerpt of The Ice Goddess
I’m worried about my Aunt Caroline. Her laughter is infrequent these days, and she seems to be walking through the house in a sort of haze. Once, in the dining room, I even saw her clutch onto the back of a chair, as though she were steadying herself. When I rushed over to ask what was wrong, she gently held up her hand to prevent any help I might offer and said she was fine; she just hadn’t slept well the night before.
As I stand by the window and stare out into the dull, February afternoon, I have a marvelous hope: perhaps she is with child. That would make her unbelievably happy. She’s always wanted a baby but was never so fortunate with her first husband, Andrew.
I turn to see Gregory walk into the small study, and I smile at him slightly, wondering if he suspects the same thing about his wife. I think he’s surprised by my expression, for it’s rare that I interact with him at all.
After two years, I still can’t get over Gregory’s youth and good looks. He’s so handsome with his chiseled features and pale blue eyes that it’s almost distracting. He wears wool breeches and one of his heaviest dress coats, for the day is exceedingly cold, despite the bright, dancing fire in the grate. He was muttering about the price of perukes the other day – maybe that’s why he’s powdered his own dark-blond hair and pulled it back into a queue. From what I understand, he’s nothing like Andrew Bingham, who was portly and jolly and near sixty when he died. Indeed, in Andrew’s simple, scholarly house, filled with books and maps that I treasure, Gregory sometimes appears at a loss.
I’ve always suspected that he wasn’t too pleased when Em and I came from London to live here. Nevertheless, he’s treated us with kindness — or maybe a better word is indifference. For some reason, though, my brother has openly showed disdain towards him ever since we arrived in York. Em never told me exactly why Gregory bothered him so, but perhaps he saw or heard things that were kept from me. Then again, Em treats most people scornfully.
Gregory toys with the chess set on the elm tripod table. Lately, I’ve been running into him more often, it seems. That musky cologne he wears always precedes him. He wanders into various rooms when I’m already there or ends up at the stables planning to ride when I’m preparing my own horse for an outing. Right now, he picks up a knight made of veined white marble and studies it absently.
“Would you like to play?” I ask, wishing I were more comfortable with him so I could broach the subject of my aunt. But I can wait. Such news is out in good time.
“Play?” he echoes, looking up at me, and the light in those eyes makes me think he’s talking about something else. There’s a lilt in his voice as he says, “Not just now, Evangeline.”
I nod. It’s probably better, anyway. We had a game once, and I won, easily. Gregory was angry about that, although he tried to pretend otherwise. Em stood in the background, smiling broadly, not attempting in the least to hide his glee over Gregory’s loss.
We can hear the pounding at the front door from here. As surprising and desperate as the summons is, I’m glad of it, for Gregory’s eyes haven’t left me. They’re steady and contemplative. I get nervous when people pay too much attention to me, always thankful for anything that might distract them.
We both step out of the study as Caroline starts down the stairs. Our butler is leading David, the innkeeper’s son, through the entryway. I push Gregory to the back of my mind because too many things about this new scene disturb me. Why is David here, wearing that torn black greatcoat? He set off to Oxford with Em just a fortnight ago to serve as a valet. Em, you see, wouldn’t hear of living on his own without a manservant. The boy is dirty and ragged, quite a different creature from the proud, well-scrubbed assistant we sent south. At that time, he preened in his new clothes, looking as much the proper young man as Em. Even my brother, usually self-absorbed with his own concerns, complimented him on his aplomb.
And then there’s Aunt Caroline, approaching David now, her eyes worried and afraid. She looks terrible. I realize she wasn’t feeling well today, which explains why she decided to rest after dinner, but the malady afflicting her is more than a simple headache. There’s something dreadfully wrong with her. She should have stayed in bed. I know she is too curious, though, and evidently struggled downstairs again to see who was calling. Despite the fact that she wears a loose sack dress, it’s obvious she’s lost weight. Against the dull, snuff-brown linen of her garment, her skin is pale. Not fashionably so, but sallow and waxy and damp with perspiration. I try to convince myself that women appear this way in the first months of their pregnancy, but I give that up quickly enough. My aunt isn’t with child and probably never will be.
She leads David into the withdrawing room. Gregory and I follow, even though I want to run in the opposite direction. Out the front door, to the stables so I can saddle my horse and ride far away from here. I watch, becoming detached, as she tells David to sit before the fire. The boy doubles over in a worn upholstered chair and begins to cry. I don’t want to feel what he’s feeling; I don’t want to know what he’s going to say. After a while, he calms down, for, despite her illness, Caroline’s easy presence soothes him. She has a way of doing that, of making people comfortable.
“Can you tell me now?” she asks in her sweet voice.
David stares at the unadorned, wooden hearth, and then, with dull, heavy words, he relates a story about highwaymen and the Oxford coach. Somewhere south of Nottingham, they blocked its progress. The occupants were mercilessly shot, including Em. Only David managed to escape. It has taken him this long to return to York, and he misses his mother very much — more than he ever thought he would. But before he saw her, before he went home, he wanted to come here to let us know what happened.
I continue to look at David as he speaks, refusing to believe him. Em can’t be dead. Not Em, who has so much planned for himself. He intends to write a great novel, just like Mr. Fielding, his idol. And as long as I can remember, he’s looked forward to teaching at Oxford. He loves poetry and prose and hopes to help others appreciate the beauty of the written word. A mere pistol shot wouldn’t hurt someone like him. His sarcasm and that condescending manner of his make him invulnerable.
“No,” I say to David, almost apologetically. “Not true.”
Gregory steps over and takes my hand in his, but I continue to study David. The boy is wrong. He has to be.
“Do you think I’m making this up?” David says. “Why would I tell such a lie?”
“You’re mistaken.” I shake my head and feel very dizzy all of a sudden. Gregory has to steady me, apparently, by wrapping his arm around my shoulders.
“Have Abby take Evangeline up to her room.” I hear Aunt Caroline say, and the next thing I know, I’m climbing the faded wooden stairs, my lady’s maid at my side. We are at my threshold and then in my room, and it’s so incredibly cold. Abby leads me to my plain bed and I have the presence of mind to sit down on the edge. I stare past her, seeing nothing.
“You must rest.” I hear the catch in her voice and wonder why she would be upset, because it’s obvious that David is wrong.
I nod anyway, to appease her, and allow her to prepare me for bed. The day is gray and never seems to end.
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