Araminta Ambleforth had been looking forward to her outing to Maidstone from the moment she’d thought of the idea yesterday. Sadly, it looked as if her journey would end almost before it began. The phaeton she had ordered from London, with a mint green body and wheels picked out in red, looked rather forlorn on the side of the lane with one wheel at a very odd angle, while Cloud, a pretty gray gelding, happily munched on the grassy verge.
Groom Jack, a young man with a shock of black hair and startling blue eyes got up from inspecting the wheel and shook his head.
“Can it be fixed?” she asked with a hopeful smile and a twirl of her blue silk fringed parasol designed to ensure not a ray of sunshine touched her face. It was too late for that, unfortunately, because she’d been pruning rose bushes in the formal gardens behind Ambleforth House and had forgotten to wear a hat. Not only freckles bloomed across the bridge of her nose, but a telltale pink tinged her cheekbones. The perils of being the typical English blonde with blue eyes.
“No fixing that on the fly, my lady. The wheel has a definite wobble. I’ll not trust it to carry you another yard. Haslops in Midbury will need to take a look. If he can’t fix it, we’ll have Mr. Wilson from Maidstone carriage works out.”
Araminta glanced up at the sky. It was a lovely June day, a few fluffy clouds, a light breeze carrying the scent of spring, and fields verdant with new growth. “You know, Jack Merton, it is almost too nice a day to go shopping. You take the phaeton to Haslops , while I walk home.”
Young Jack’s jaw dropped. “Now, my lady, if his lordship were alive, he would never have permitted-”
“But he isn’t.” His lordship hadn’t permitted all manner of things. Now she was out of mourning, it was time to enjoy the world. Meet some people. Begin life anew. And as a widow, an unexpectedly very rich and young widow, the world was waiting for her grand entrance. And if she’d only dared brave a couple of visits to Maidstone so far, it was because she had been a very young bride. But all that was over. “And I can certainly manage to walk a mere two miles.”
It was time, to be a little daring. Not scandalous, mind you. But she needed to test her independence. She gave Jack a winsome smile. “Please see that Cloud is well-stabled, and then come home and report on the condition of my carriage.” Without giving him a chance to object, she strode out for Ambleforth.
Oh, and who was this coming in the other direction?
Ann Lethbridge has a new book coming out in July, The Laird's Forbidden Lady. You can find Ann and all her news at her website.
Don't forget that the Harlequin Historical Authors have a very special contest going on this month. Details can be found on her website.