New Release, January 1st, 2008
Sunday, October 21, 2007 5:50:00 AM
by Hazel Statham
|Following closely in the wake of my August release, ''Dominic'', is the story of his son. ''My Dearest Friend'' is due for release on January 1st, 2008, and here is a brief synopsis:
Robert Blake, Duke of Lear, is a man of intense emotions who loves deeply and protects fiercely. Devastated and wracked with guilt by the death of his younger brother, Stefan, in the Peninsular War, he readily agrees to aid Jane Chandler to bring her seriously wounded brother back from Portugal.
Much against Jane’s wishes, he decides to accompany her and together they embark on the hazardous mission to retrieve the young soldier. However, the journey holds many revelations, not least of all the abiding friendship and growing love between the two travelers.
That special love is put severely to the test by the treachery that awaits them upon their return to England, when a tenant of Jane’s former home invades their lives, maliciously creating jealousy and misunderstandings for his own nefarious reasons.
Can their friendship and love conquer the emotions that threaten to tear them asunder?
Their arrival at the inn that night went quite unnoticed, the sound of the horses’ hooves clattering over the cobbled yard exciting no more interest than had done their predecessors during the day. Once they were halted, the duke hurried Hannah and the sleeping Sophie from the vehicle and into the private parlor.
He had hoped to find Jane within but the room was deserted and he knew a moment’s disappointment. Just as he was about to go in search of her, Eaves pushed open the door and stopped in some surprise.
“Your grace,” he beamed coming into the room. “We had given up hope of you arriving today.”
“Where is Miss Chandler?” the duke demanded, making toward the door.
Eave’s countenance sobered, “She’s with the Major, sir. I am afraid he took a turn this morning and she has not left his side since. The doctor has been called and says that despite it being but a momentary setback we must delay our return journey for a few days. Shall I fetch her for you, sir?”
“No need, I will go to her directly,” the duke said. “However, I would be grateful if you would arrange suitable accommodation for my ward and her nurse and make sure they are well nourished before they retire. It has been a very long and tiring day.”
With that, he strode from the room and took the stairs two at a time to the second landing. Eagerly pacing its length, he came to a sudden halt just as Jane stepped out of Harry’s room and quietly closed the door behind her. In the dimness of the corridor, she did not immediately perceive him standing but a short distance away, awaiting her notice, and was startled when he softly called her name from the shadows.
“Robert,” she cried, involuntarily pressing her hand to her throat, unable to move, as a new shyness overcame her.
For an instant, they stood thus until the duke moved forward into the pool of moonlight that filtered through a small window and slowly opened his arms to her. She did not hesitate but ran to him and buried her face in his neck. Words were not necessary for the moment as they both rejoiced in their reunion. Indeed, if she had tried to speak she would have found her words crushed into oblivion as, bending his head, he fiercely kissed her, demanding a response. Finding in herself no resistance to his embrace, she welcomed it as if to be loved by him was the most natural occurrence in the world.
Eventually pulling apart and capturing her hands in his the duke gave a low chuckle, “I see you have missed me as much as I have you, my love.”
“That is unkind of you, sir,” she replied dropping her eyes before his fiery scrutiny, thankful that the shadows hid the warm glow his embrace brought to her cheeks. “But oh, how I have longed for you, my dear friend.”
He smiled mischievously, once more drawing her to him, the better to study her features. “So, you will still insist on calling me your dear friend, sweetheart. I had hoped for something more.”
“You will always be my dearest friend,” she replied meeting his gaze openly. “Whatever else you may become, you will still be my friend.”
“Tell me then, my little friend, do friends marry?”
“Of course they do,” she replied without hesitation. “Who else would tend me when I am nauseous and become a burden?”
He laughed, his green eyes dancing with delight, his face transformed. “If that is to be my role in life, then I must bear it with what fortitude I can muster, imp. Then sobering slightly, “Does it matter to you that we have known each other so short a time, for to me it seems an eternity?”
“Not a whit,” she replied cradling his hand against her cheek. “For me the seed was set when you so obstinately refused to desert me to my fates on The Mistral. It showed an unparalleled fortitude and a kindness I will never forget.”
“I wish you would, my dear,” he said, attempting to hide his smile, “for I can see you regaling our grandchildren with it in years to come and it will do nothing to enhance the superior image that I would cultivate.”
“I assure you your image is quite safe, sir, for will I not tell them what a true and faithful friend you are and how I have come to love you?”
He would have taken her in his arms once more but the sound of a door opening at the further end of the corridor drove them guiltily apart and instead, he clasped her fingers securely in his and led her to the stairs.
“In my eagerness I have become remiss in my duties,” he said. “You are no doubt impatient to know the results of my journey and to see the babe, and you must tell me of Harry and what is to be done. We have so much to arrange. I must warn you, however, that we are increased in numbers. When we set out on the journey we were two, anticipated four, and now we become six. We will present quite a cavalcade on our return.”
She smiled, returning the pressure of his fingers. “I care not however many we become as long as I have my dear friend, for without him I am desolate.”
This did not go unrewarded and having achieved the first landing, he found it necessary to quickly catch her to him.
“My love, I can see you will be an enchanting wife,” he chuckled before briefly kissing her upturned face. “It is well that we need not be separated again, forswear I could not bear it. Now come and meet our babe. She is named Sophie and is a delight. You will love her I’m sure.”
Hazel Statham Author of Historical Romantic Fiction