A Most Scandalous Christmas – Excerpt

Chapter One

Darlington, Yorkshire, Saturday 3rd December 1825

‘Lady Merton? I thought I recognised you. I’m Ellis Wyn-Jones,’ the stranger clarified in response to Silvia’s blank look. ‘We met at a dinner hosted by the Thornhill’s about four years ago.’

‘Did we?’ The man who had greeted her in the crowded reception area of the posting house was tall, with black tousled hair, craggy brows, liquid brown eyes and absurdly long lashes. But it was his smile, tentative and rather charming that sparked her memory.

‘I remember now, you are the inventor,’ Silvia said, smiling back. ‘We talked about the machine you were developing to cut metal shapes. You explained it so well that I was persuaded I understood how it worked.’ And at the other end of the table, Edward had been blatantly flirting with his current mistress, she remembered. Mr Wyn-Jones had deliberately shifted in his seat to shield her from the unedifying spectacle.

He shifted again now, this time to protect her from being buffeted by the stampede of new arrivals at the inn, all demanding service. ‘Are you waiting on your carriage?’

‘I have a hired a post-chaise. I’m waiting on a change of horses. They said it would be an hour at most. I did enquire about a private room, but was told they were all taken. That leaves the tap room, but…’

‘Good heavens, no!’

‘No, on reflection perhaps not,’ Silvia agreed. ‘I do like a pint or two of ale with my breakfast, but I prefer to sup it in private.’

His eyes lit up with laughter. ‘I have a parlour to myself. Why not join me? You can have a pint of gin or a quart of ale or even a cup of coffee in comfort.’

It was a tempting offer, for not only was the prospect of respite from the hustle and bustle appealing, so too was Mr Wyn-Jones. He had made no attempt, that evening four years ago, to hide either his contempt for her husband nor his attraction to her, and both had been a balm to her miserable state of mind. ‘Thank you,’ Silvia said regretfully. ‘I know your offer is kindly meant, but you are clearly unaware of my change in circumstances.’

His mouth firmed. ‘If you are referring to your divorce from Lord Merton, I am aware of it. It would have been difficult not to be, given the press coverage. If you’ll excuse me for being blunt, I reckon congratulations rather than commiserations are in order.’

Silvia was startled into a laugh. ‘Thank you. You are the first person to say so, and in actual fact I couldn’t agree more.’

‘I am glad to hear it, Lady – Miss – Madam? How should I address you?’

‘I am Mrs Armitage now, for I have reverted to my maiden name, but Silvia will suffice.’

He sketched a bow. ‘Then Ellis it must be, at your service.’

There was just a hint of flirtatiousness in his smile and for the first time in a very, very long time, she felt the stirrings of attraction. ‘Ellis. Is that Welsh?’

He rolled his eyes. ‘From the Hebrew, Elijah. A sacred name, for the second son who was expected to take holy orders. But my true vocation is mechanical innovation, thus making me a permanent disappointment to my genteel family.’

‘Not, I fear as much of a disappointment as I am to mine,’ Silvia retorted. ‘If your offer still stands, I would very much appreciate a cup of coffee if you don’t mind sharing it with a scandalous divorcee.’

‘It was your husband’s behaviour that was scandalous, in my opinion. I’ll let the landlord know where to find you when your transport is ready. Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer beer?’

 ‘No thank you,’ Silvia said, getting to her feet, ‘I’m trying to cut down. Coffee will do nicely.’

Back to Regency Christmas Liaisons