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Simple Musings

Simple Musings

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Simple Musings

360 pages
5 heures
Apr 29, 2012


A full length romance novel variation of Pride and Prejudice

Rebecca Stanton is the only daughter of a struggling farmer. After an unexpected tragedy strikes her family, she finds herself fighting to protect everything that she loves from being torn apart and destroyed. Her battle is further challenged by the focused attention of two men; the first a prominent plantation owner who pushes her temper to its most violent depths, while the second holds a letter of debt against her which could mean the loss of her home.

This is a clean regency romance written in the classical style of Jane Austen's works.
It is a Pride and Prejudice variation set between the American Colonial and Regency eras, when the white settlers still viewed the Native Americans with some prejudice.
It has a few plot twists and variations, but any fan of Jane Austen's books will recognize the underlying story.
Horses feature strongly in this tale as well, so readers who enjoy a clean horse romance novel may also find it enjoyable.

Apr 29, 2012

À propos de l'auteur

Celeste Hall is a passionate writer of paranormal and erotic romance with over twenty-five titles to her credit, including Beware of Wolves, the Kitty Coven series, and her ultra-sexy Seduction series. If you're looking for a sizzling escape from the pressures of a long day, her alpha hero incubi will make you purr.Celeste believes that a great book can do more than offer an afternoon's pleasure, it can change your life. She is absolutely addicted to happy endings. Her favorite stories will often include elements of the paranormal or fantastical, but they will always have a romantic heart.When not writing, Celeste enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors. She also enjoys photography, graphic design, a variety of artistic mediums, gardening, horseback riding and geeking out online - especially on Facebook.You can find a full list of her books by visiting: CelesteHall.com.

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Simple Musings - Celeste Hall


Chapter One

It was an uncommonly hot day in mid-May, even for Louisiana, but the races had still brought the crowds out en mass.

Hundreds of lacy fans could be seen waving in the afternoon sun, one of which was held by the young Rebecca Stanton.

She wore her favorite racing dress, a sea green colored thing, with several swaths of ribbon and lace.

A matching hat adorned her head, but could not quite manage to contain her fiery red mane. It escaped in thin wisps that fell to her neck, and clung to the moisture starting to form there.

At her side stood a very pretty blonde, of about the same age, and to this girl she now turned with a sigh.

In this heat, I wonder if the horses can run at all!

Karen Williams nodded her agreement, and looked longingly back towards the upper stands. Those were kept shaded, but reserved for visitors with a higher rank in life.

Must we stand out here at all? Karen asked meekly. We could go inside and talk with some of the other girls. There’s to be a wonderful ball tonight, in honor of May Day. It would be such great fun to talk about it.

Nonsense! I bet two bits on Dark Knight, and I’m determined to see him win!

Karen sighed wistfully. She had known her friend would never leave the stands until the races were finished. The girl lived, breathed, and dreamed of fine blooded horses. But she had as much a chance of owning one, as flying to the moon.

Oh look! Rebecca cried, They’re ready to start!

Indeed, the horses were at that moment being loaded into their individual starting boxes.

A large black colt went into the first stall and Rebecca pointed him out immediately.

There he is! Isn’t he marvelous?

Karen nodded, although she didn’t feel her friend’s enthusiasm.

Dark Knight was followed into the gate by a dozen or so other horses, and the starter raised his pistol.

There was a loud crack as the gun was fired, followed instantly by the gates flying open and the horses hurdling out onto the track.

The low hum of the crowd now became a loud roar, as the horses entered the first stretch.

Where is he? I can’t see him…oh! Exclaimed Rebecca, as she caught sight of the colt near the center of the pack.

Around the track they went, and Dark Knight slowly moved his position from the center, to the lead.

As they neared the far turn, he was nose to nose with a thin looking gray.

They came around the bend, and raced into the second lap, with Dark Knight now pushing out in front.

The roar of the crowd was deafening, and Karen slapped her hands over her ears to block out the overwhelming blast. Rebecca, however, made just as much noise as the rest of them.

The horses entered the final stretch, and Dark Knight exploded with a burst of speed that put him a full length ahead of the rest of the field. Then they were under the wire, and Rebecca couldn’t help but scream and clap her hands in praise of him.

He won! He won! She exclaimed repeatedly, her eyes abruptly flashing as a thought came to her. Quickly! Let’s go see him in the winner’s circle!

Grasping the other girl’s hand, she half led and half dragged her along behind.

A large crowd was already teeming around the sweaty colt, but Rebecca shouldered her way to the front.

Oh, Karen! She sighed dreamily. Isn’t he exquisite?

The fair haired girl managed to pant a reply, but it was lost on her friend as a tall man entered the ring and approached the colt’s side.

That must be Mr. Carver. He purchased Dark Knight just last year, Rebecca gushed. I heard that he paid a king’s ransom for him, but that he intends to use him as a future stud on his farm.

He’s very handsome, Karen admitted, and such a tall man.

Rebecca shrugged, her eyes glued once more to the black colt.

She’d heard other girls talking about Egan Carver. He was relatively new to the area, single, and quite wealthy. But she took little interest in such things herself.

Do you think it’s true about his grandfather being an Indian? Karen whispered. Just look at how dark his skin is! And his hair, it’s as black as a raven’s wing.

Rebecca shook her head in irritation. How could her friend be so enraptured by a mere man, when such perfection in horse flesh stood before her?

Oh, but look, they’re taking him back to the stable. She cried regretfully, and then grabbed her friend’s hand. Let’s follow, quickly though, or we’ll lose sight of them.

Karen gasped in fright as she was pulled through the boisterous crowd, nearly tripping over the shoes of so many people collected in one small area.

Rebecca, slow down. She pleaded, and then stopped in dismay as her hat tumbled off her head, to land in the dust behind her.

Oh no! It’s ruined, I’m sure of it!

Don’t be silly, Rebecca scolded. Nina can repair it in just a few moments. But we shall miss him if you don’t grab it and come swiftly.

You go on without me, Karen directed, turning to retrieve her hat. I’ll meet you inside the dance pavilion later.

Rebecca watched the black colt disappear into the crowd, and sighed. Reluctantly, she returned to her friend’s side.

Nonsense, I shall return with you, she assured. Perhaps we can catch a glimpse of Dark Knight tomorrow, when they bring him out for his return to Twisted Oak.

The girls walked dejectedly back to the pavilion, arm in arm. One mourning the ruin of her favorite hat and the other a closer look at her favorite steed.

A small luncheon was being served for the race goers, but they knew better than to partake of such fare in public.

They walked instead to where Rebecca’s mother stood talking with some of the other ladies of her class.

Why Karen, darling, what happened to your bonnet? The older woman murmured, taking up the poor offending article, and attempting to dust it off as best she could.

Karen ducked her head in shame, a pink flush tainting her cheeks.

It was my fault, I’m afraid, Rebecca admitted. Frowning at the little hat, before plucking it from her mother’s fingers and returning it to her companion. We got rather tussled by the crowd down at the winner’s circle.

Mrs. Stanton looked terribly shocked.

Heavens, Rebecca! What a way to introduce your friend to Livingstown society! she admonished. Her first day her with us, and already you’re instructing her in your uncivilized ways!

Karen’s blush deepened, and Rebecca cast the girl a forlorn look.

I am truly sorry for your hat, she admitted. But I so wanted to see Dark Knight.

You and those horses, her mother sighed. One of these days you’ll open up your eyes and realize that a horse isn’t going to put a roof over your head, give you children, or keep you fed. It’s time you start acting like a lady, Rebecca. Or you’ll scare off all the gentlemen which might otherwise have proposed.

Horse feathers, Rebecca sulked. There isn’t one man alive that could ever be interesting enough to make me think of marriage.

At her side, Karen fidgeted nervously. She was of a different mind altogether.

In truth, half the reason she’d come to visit her friend, was to investigate the possibility of finding her future husband here.

The men of her hometown had somewhat lost their charm for her, as is sometimes the case when one is brought up too closely with someone, and therefore allowed to observe their bad habits.

Regardless of how you feel now, I’m hoping Miss Williams will influence you for the better, rather than vice versa, Mrs. Stanton continued. Now collect your things. I’ll have your father drive us home so you may change before the dance. There are some rather elegant men here from Longburn, and I’m expecting you to at least look presentable, even if you refuse to act so.

Accepting her mother’s argument with an attempt at good humor, Rebecca followed her back out into the bright sunshine.

Her father was nowhere to be seen.

Stay here girls. I’ll find Old George, and have the carriage brought around for you. Keep an eye out for your father, but if he doesn’t appear, we shall go on without him. I’m sure he would prefer to remain here at any rate.

Remaining in their places, they watched the woman walk away.

Oh Rebecca, look! Karen suddenly whispered excitedly. It’s that Mr. Carver fellow!

Despite her previous neglect, Rebecca found herself interested in seeing what kind of man might own such a fine colt as Dark Knight.

Turning abruptly, she immediately caught his eye.

Egan Carver stood at least several inches over any of the men in his presence, with a figure forged of steel. Every muscle so defined as to make him appear most intimidating.

His hair was as black as the hide of his colt, and the eyes he now turned on her were just as dark.

Utterly expressionless was his tanned face, as though sculpted out of bronze. Yet his eyes were so piercing, so very fierce, that Rebecca quickly looked away.

Good heavens! She felt her skin goose pimple with nervousness.

He’s extremely handsome, Karen whispered into her fan.

He’s extremely frightening! Rebecca retorted. How on earth could such a man be welcomed in civilized society?

I think he looks like a perfect gentleman, Karen assured her. Look at how straight and tall he stands. And his airs! Why, he holds himself like a prince!

Rebecca stole another glance at him from beneath carefully shielded lashes, and was startled to find his eyes still upon her. His surly glare made the small hairs on the back of her neck prickle in alarm, but at the same time roused her indignation.

What right had he to stare at her so? She had every right to be here as he did. Perhaps more so, as she was born near Livingstown, and he was only a visitor to it.

Raising her chin, she sent a scathing look down her nose at him. At least, she would have, if he hadn’t stood so much taller than she. Yet Rebecca made a valiant effort at it nonetheless!

Something flickered across his face, but she was unsure of whether it was disgust or amusement. She found either possibility to be equally infuriating.

She was saved from further discomfort however, by the arrival of her mother with the family carriage.

Old George helped the girls into their seats, and took his own place in the driver’s box.

Getup now, he called to the horses, as Rebecca stole one last look at the foreboding Mr. Carver. He had apparently lost all interest in her the moment the carriage had arrived, for he was now walking towards the pavilion with his group.

I do hope that he stays for the ball, Karen murmured eagerly, following her friend’s gaze. I would very much like to have at least one dance with him.

You may have all the dances with him, Rebecca returned petulantly. The encounter with Dark Knight’s master had left her with more than a small resentment for the man.

That would suit me very well, Karen laughed amiably. But I truly doubt he would be so congenial.

Rebecca managed a small smile on her friend’s behalf.

If he knew your sweet temperament, I doubt he could resist.

She then quickly turned the subject back to safer ground, by asking her companion what she intended to wear that night.

Chapter Two

It was dusk as the girls finally entered the dance pavilion with Mrs. Stanton, and quietly made their way towards a group of acquaintances.

Compliments and introductions passed among them, before all eyes turned outward to welcome the start of the music.

Several couples paired off immediately, including the pretty Karen, who was swept away by an exuberant young man of about her age.

Mrs. Stanton recognized one of her friends from the quilting circle, and left Rebecca standing quite alone at the edge of the room.

Not wishing to appear rejected, she started towards another circle of friends, when a hand caught her arm.

Pardon me, requested a deep and cheerful voice, But would you give this old man the pleasure of a dance?

Papa! she laughed, You startled me.

Would it be unseemly to dance the first waltz of the evening with your father? He asked with a mock solemnity that was belied by the twinkle in his eyes.

Even if it were, I would still dance with you!

Mr. Stanton was a very accomplished dancer, as well as a witty partner, and soon she was light headed with scarcely contained mirth. When the tune ended, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and thanked him warmly.

For the next three dances, she was never without a partner. Her dancing eyes and welcoming smile kept her always on the arm of an eager gentleman.

At several moments during the night, she caught sight of Karen, and each time her friend was in the arms of a new partner.

For just a moment she felt a twinge of regret at having been born with bright crimson tresses and pale blue eyes, rather than Karen’s golden curls and doe brown eyes. But she quickly shook off the momentary jealousy and offered a brilliant smile at an approaching young man.

He returned her smile, introduced himself as Jonathon Bryce, and asked her to dance.

After a lively round together, he escorted her to where his acquaintances stood, and Rebecca felt a sudden jolt of surprise as she recognized Mr. Carver in their midst.

She hadn’t caught a glimpse of the man all evening, and had assumed that he’d gone on to Twisted Oak long before the ball had begun.

Miss Stanton, if I might present you to my sister, Samantha. Her friend, Miss Elizabeth James. And to my good friend, Egan Carver.

Rebecca smiled and curtsied prettily for each of them.

Although she found it almost impossible to meet Carver’s gaze, when she finally did so she found him to be regarding her with the same dark countenance that had marked him earlier that day.

To her dismay, Mr. Bryce asked Miss James to dance, leaving her with only his sister and the unpleasant Mr. Carver as company. As there was no sign of an expeditious escape route, she must at least attempt civility.

I was very excited to see Dark Knight’s win today, she offered, hoping to see some sort of expression from him. But he merely offered a nod and cast his gaze back to the dancers.

Do you raise thoroughbreds, Miss Stanton? asked Miss Bryce, with an air of doubt.

No, although my father has made an honest attempt to find a good stud for our farm. It seems that they are all above his funds.

She noticed a slight twitch of Carver’s jaw, as a muscle clenched there. His expression was now decidedly less friendly than before.

They remained in an uncomfortable silence until Rebecca could stand it no longer.

Tell me, Mr. Carver, are the rumors true? She asked, falling back on her own passions in an attempt to draw him out, Do you intend to stud Dark Knight at Twisted Oak?

Of course, he offered shortly.

Then, you must be seeking mares for him soon. You’ll want foals on the ground while he is still winning races.

He gave her such a look of contempt that her eyes widened in astonishment.

She quickly recovered however, and managed to turn her gaze back to the dance floor.

Was it the topic that he despised? Or was it her?

Shove off then, she growled, hardly loud enough for her own ears. But his black eyes flashed to her so sharply, she knew he had heard her.

Refusing to be embarrassed by the unladylike show of emotions, she offered him a glower of her own, then stiffly turned her back and walked to where she’d seen Karen’s last partner deposit her.

Karen saw her coming, and was eager to hear what had turned her expression so sour.

Perhaps he’s only in a bad mood tonight, Karen offered, when Rebecca had admitted the entire exchange, Or he doesn’t like speaking of his horses to anyone.

Ha! A bad mood? After Dark Knight’s tremendous victory this afternoon? I should highly doubt that. Rebecca frowned, and what horseman doesn’t enjoy discussing the prize of his stables?

Karen looked mournfully towards the object of their conversation, and sighed.

Oh, I’m sure you’re probably right, but how disheartening to discover that his personality is not so handsome as his appearance.

Rebecca followed her gaze, and had to admit that he was indeed very handsome. At least until you spoke to him.

The music suddenly faded as the announcer took the floor.

All right now, let’s have a bit of quiet for just a moment, he commanded, as is customary, I’m going to pick four lucky people. Two couples whom will dance the pattern onto this year’s Maypole for us!

A cheer went up from the crowd, but he shushed them all down once more.

Now, if all of you young ladies would please bring your dance cards forward? He took off his hat and held it out for them to fill.

Karen immediately shook Rebecca’s arm.

Oh, quickly! Let’s put our names in the pot!

Heaven’s no! I wouldn’t dare compete in such a lottery. I would be humiliated if my name were drawn.

Please, Karen implored, If you don’t then I may not either, for I’m not a true candidate, but just a visitor here!

Why would you want to be?

Becca, please?

The endeared use of her name was more than she could combat, and Rebecca allowed herself to be dragged to the front of the room, where she carefully made sure that her card was pushed as far to the bottom as possible.

I do hope that I’m chosen! Karen beamed, It would be such fun!

You’re a strange girl indeed! I would be mortified, at the very least.

To Rebecca’s dismay, the announcer began shaking his hat in a fierce manner that would assuredly displace her name from its hiding place. But she was confident that with so many others it was unlikely to surface.

Reaching into his hat, the announcer lifted a card from its heart, and turned it over to discover the name.

Miss Rebecca Stanton! He exclaimed gleefully, Do come forward, my dear, and collect your prize.

But Rebecca found herself pitifully frozen to her place. Utterly shocked, and horrified, by the turn of events.

Miss Stanton? The announcer called again, and it jolted her to her senses.

Oh please, may I never breathe again. Karen, tell me that I am mistaking the name he is calling?

What, are you jesting? Quickly now, he thinks you’ve left!

Rebecca would have taken advantage of just such an excuse, if her friend had not promptly pushed her forward.

Ah, there you are! The man smiled. Come up on here dear.

She approached the man on wooden legs, and barely managed a stiff curtsy. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and proceeded to blindfold her.

Now if the ladies will fall back against the wall, to expose our eligible gentlemen, I’m going to spin Miss Stanton around three times. When she stops, the man she points to will be her partner!

Ambitious applause was followed by the combined voices of the party goers as they chanted in time to her rotations.


Rebecca felt she was going to be sick, if not from the spinning, then from the tension of the moment.

Raise your hand child, and point to someone.

Still blindfolded, she managed to swallow her utter humiliation before it could strangle her. Raising her hand, she pointed directly ahead.

You there sir, you are the lucky man!

Rebecca reached up to pull the blindfold off, and stared straight into the dark eyes of Egan Carver.

Of all the dozens of men in the room, how had she managed to point at him?

Despite the sudden weakening of her knees, she raised her chin proudly, and tried not to look completely intimidated by her terrible luck.

Well then, come on up here! The announcer urged.

Carver’s black gaze held hers for several seconds, before at last it flicked to the announcer.

You must forgive me, he stated with great dignity, but I will refrain.

Rebecca could have curled up right there and died, but the announcer did not allow her time to dwell on the rejection.

Well then, he laughed, I’m sure there is an eager young man among you who would enjoy the pleasure of this beautiful young lady’s companionship! Raise your hands then, gents, and I’ll choose the first of them!

Hands shot up all over the room, but Jonathon Bryce was the first of them, and he was instantly summoned to her side.

While the announcer chose another girl’s card from his hat, Jonathon offered Rebecca a genteel smile.

You must forgive my associate, he offered apologetically, but he would never lower himself to such an activity, no matter how incredibly luscious a woman was presented as temptation.

Rebecca flushed in embarrassment, first at having him so casually address her rejection, and second for the choice in phrasing his compliment.

You flatter me more than I deserve, she murmured, avoiding his eyes.

Not at all, he contested, I’ve seldom been so fortunate to meet with such stunning perfection.

Good heavens! If he continued such praise, she would never be able to dance with him, much less speak to him.

The second couple was now chosen, and each of them were handed the end of a long ribbon, which was attached by one end to the top of the pole.

As the musicians began their tune, the four young people jumped into action.

Weaving and spinning, around and around.

Each turn bringing them closer together, while at the same time extending the braided pattern upon the surface of the pole.

The music became faster and faster the closer they drew to each other, and it became a challenge to avoid one another in the race to lay each ribbon it its place.

Rebecca felt Jonathon’s chest brush her shoulder as she ducked beneath his ribbon. Then the forearm of the second gentleman struck her skirt as he ducked beneath her own ribbon.

So rapidly did they caper, the musicians had quite a challenge to keep up with them. Until - with a great flourish - they ran out of ribbon, and fell back to catch their breaths.

Jonathon quickly claimed her arm, and Rebecca couldn’t help but beam a smile in return.

Her cheeks were flushed from the dash of the dance, wild wisps of bright red hair feathering around her cheeks. She was glowing from the good fun of it all, despite her earlier reservations.

The announcer tied off the ribbons with a large bow and turned to stir the musicians back into play.

Would you allow me? Jonathon asked, before she could even think of retreat.

Rebecca accepted, but couldn’t help feeling rather surprised by his asking her for a second dance. It was rare that gentlemen dared such a thing with her.

She wondered if it was perhaps due to his being a stranger in town. Surely he must not yet be aware of her infamously boyish habits.

Heaven save him when he did finally learn of them, for his reputation might be ruined!

Whatever his motives were, she was delighted for the attention, and thoroughly enjoyed herself. That is, until she found herself caught once more by Egan Carver’s intense gaze.

What evil did he now plot against her? Surely his humiliating her before the entire town was more than sufficient punishment for whatever insult he must have thought she’d given him during their earlier conversation.

But if he were still feeling unsatisfied by the depth of her penance, what horrors might he consider next?

She shivered, and Jonathon felt it.

Are you chilled? he asked in concern.

Maybe, just a little, she suggested, although the chill she felt was one that no amount of warmth could erase.

Please, allow me to escort you closer to the fire, he offered, guiding her towards one of the large fireplaces which warmed the room.

Thank you, she smiled, noticing with great diversion that he remained at her side even then.

Forgive me for being so bold, he offered, but might I have the pleasure of knowing where you reside?

Rebecca’s eyes widened in surprise, as he was quite bold for asking in such a blunt manner. It was something she might be accused of herself, but never something she’d been on the receiving end of.

My father owns a small farm, just ten miles south of here, she explained, Gray Ridge.

Would it be uncomely of me to call upon you there?

Sweet Mercy! What surprises this night held for her.

With reddened cheeks, she assured him that he would be most welcomed.

"Ah, my

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