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The Ragged Maid (The Winds of Misery Victorian Romance #1) (A Family Saga Novel): The Winds of Misery, #1

The Ragged Maid (The Winds of Misery Victorian Romance #1) (A Family Saga Novel): The Winds of Misery, #1

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The Ragged Maid (The Winds of Misery Victorian Romance #1) (A Family Saga Novel): The Winds of Misery, #1

Longueur:
330 pages
4 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Feb 16, 2020
ISBN:
9781393149163
Format:
Livre

Description

He's a well-to-do gentleman. She's a destitute orphan.

It certainly could not work. Or could it?

Upon coming of age, orphan Charlotte Sutterfield has left the safety of the convent.

She did not know earning the position of governess would be so difficult.

Especially when her new employer tries to assault her!

To make matters worse, the only gentleman who can prove her innocence is the arrogant and rich…

Mr. John Huntley

John finds this low-born woman intriguing

But instead of defending her, he turns his back on her.

Charlotte is forced to leave…

Alone once more, she must fend for herself on a journey to London to find factory work and shelter.

But… it is no ordinary journey.

It is the infamous and dangerous Portsmouth to London Road, where robbery and highwaymen rule.

And in the thick of danger, Huntley tries to right the wrong he did to her and denies his growing desire and a path he cannot turn back from.

Will her life forever be in danger? Or can she learn to trust Huntley?

Will she ever have a proper home, a proper life, and a proper love?

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Feb 16, 2020
ISBN:
9781393149163
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Dorothy’s writings advocate the strength of a woman, within and without. The women in her writings help to bring about restoration and hope towards the poverty and struggles that they are in. At the same time, these women play a virtuous role in their strength as they progressed in their life journey.  It is Dorothy’s hope that through her stories, the readers can find meaning and strength amongst a like-minded community, and to believe that love still exists and that one should never give up waiting and seeking love. Dorothy lives in Bolton with her husband and their beloved dogs.

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The Ragged Maid (The Winds of Misery Victorian Romance #1) (A Family Saga Novel) - Dorothy Green

chapter

0 1

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Wickham – Hampshire County, England

1855

Charlotte Sutterfield shook to the very core on the front doorstep of the stately Linwood Manor. Her trembling bones were courtesy of the pouring rain falling upon her bonnet but also from her anxious nature. She was about to meet the very family that could change her life for the better. For the Dawson family had taken it upon themselves to find a position for her as a governess but only if she passed their tests.

The massive wooden door creaked open. In place of the servant Charlotte had expected to find was a wide-eyed girl of approximately fifteen years of age with dark locks and a silk blue dress. She looked quite the frightful little creature.

‘Be quick!’ the girl whispered. With one swift yank of Charlotte’s arm, she pulled her into the foyer and closed the door. Puzzled by this strange behaviour, Charlotte said nothing, for what could she say to such an informal greeting?

‘You are Miss Sutterfield, yes?’ the girl whispered.

‘Yes, indeed, I am. What is the—?’

‘No. Not here, for he comes this way. Hurry, follow me, and be quiet about it.’ The girl tugged on Charlotte’s soaked brown travelling coat.

‘Who comes, child?’ Charlotte kept her voice a whisper. The panic in the girl’s eyes told her that it was of the utmost importance to do so, and she followed her through the grand country estate.

‘Why, Mr. Ashmore, of course.’ The girl gave her a look as though in disbelief of Charlotte’s confusion.

Charlotte was indeed confused as she followed in her wet lace-up boots. First, through a grand hall decorated in rich tapestries, then into another hall, and another, each one growing barer than the last, until they found themselves in the kitchen. A plump cook with blond curly hair and rosy cheeks stopped kneading dough and glared at Charlotte as they quickly moved through and down a narrow winding staircase.

Mr. Ashmore was not a familiar name to Charlotte, which only added to her confusion. She was supposed to come to the home of Mr. Dawson and his two sisters, who had placed her friend Elizabeth in a governess position only a year earlier. But this Mr. Ashmore had not been mentioned, and why did this girl fear him so?

‘Here you are. This is your room, I believe.’ The girl pushed Charlotte into a small room, which was comfortable enough with a small fireplace, narrow bed with an iron railing, and a worn wardrobe. Although servants’ quarters, Charlotte was quite pleased to have a room all to herself, something she had never had the pleasure of.

‘Thank you, miss. But what is the meaning of all of this? Who are you?’ Charlotte finally felt safe enough to ask this burning question.

‘Apologies, Miss Sutterfield. My name is Miss Jane Huntley.’ The girl smiled and gave Charlotte a proper curtsy. This girl was obviously from a fine family, but she was a Huntley, not a Dawson.

‘It is a pleasure. Miss Charlotte Sutterfield.’ Charlotte returned the formal greeting she had practiced over and over at the convent with Sister Mary.

Taking off the wet travelling coat and bonnet, Charlotte began to feel somewhat like herself again, though still chilled to the bone. Her travels had not been smooth, as she found herself travelling by post that did not take her all the way to the Linwood Estate and was forced to walk a mile in the rain with her brown leather bag.

She had hoped to make a much better appearance to her hosts than the frightful mess she now presented. The cold rain and wind had soaked right through to her stockings. Though in the presence of this fine young lady, whose dress obviously cost more than Charlotte had ever seen, she did not feel it was appropriate to take off her wet boots and light a fire as she wished that she could. This was very much a lesson the nuns had taught her about knowing her place, and her place was decidedly below this young girl.

‘You must think I’m a fright, but I just had to get you away from him so that you would not leave.’ Miss Huntley grabbed Charlotte’s hands as though they had been the best of friends for years.

‘Mr. Ashmore?’

‘Yes. You see, the last that came through, such as yourself, did not last but a fortnight. Mr. Ashmore harassed that poor girl until she could no longer withstand being in this house. I did not want that to happen to you. That is why I waited for you to arrive and whisked you away to your room. I hope that we can be friends.’ Miss Huntley had a bright-eyed hope that Charlotte had seldom seen where she was from, but she understood that she was in want of companionship. Miss Huntley had obviously made friends with the last girl who had come through and was now lonely because of it.

‘Yes. We shall be great friends.’ Charlotte gave the girl a rich smile that hid the fear welling up inside of her. This Mr. Ashmore seemed to be a dangerous man, and she had no doubt he would be coming for her just as he had the last girl.

*   *   *

chapter

0 2

*   *   *

Charlotte Sutterfield was not wrong to think such bad things of her hosts. As she sat outside the parlour waiting to be summoned by her regal hosts, she overheard their conversation.

‘How inconvenient it is to not have one’s home to oneself,’ a woman’s elegant voice echoed down the hall outside the parlour.

‘Yes, but remember, dear sister, we do it for the good of the convent. I am sure it is quite the excitement for them,’ another woman said with a giggle.

‘Excitement? Why, how could you say such things? No-one would want to be a governess.’

‘Perhaps not but being a governess might be all that a woman raised in a convent without family and relations has in order to make an agreeable life. That is the material point we all must consider and why you allow such women in your home.’ Although Charlotte could not see the man speaking, she could hear the disdain and disgust for the lowborn in his words. She hated him instantly.

‘Good point, Huntley. Good point,’ another man agreed. Charlotte quickly put together that the man with disgust in his voice had the same last name as her eager new friend Miss Huntley. Is he the girl’s brother? Father?

‘More wine here!’ a deep slurred voice rang through the doors. A shiver went down Charlotte’s spine as she realized that this must be Mr. Ashmore.

The heels of boots echoed, drawing Charlotte’s attention to a stiff valet approaching. He turned the knob and announced into the parlour, ‘Dinner is now served.’

‘Heavens, I thought we would have to wait forever for this country timing. I do miss London so. I do not know why you make us come here, brother.’ A regal woman with dark black hair and a fine red silk dress walked out, arm in arm with another woman who looked similar.

Charlotte’s gaze fell on them. These must be the sisters. She was used to feeling invisible, but this was her first time being invisible to such a noble and grand party as they all poured out of the room and into the hall. Should I cough? Stand?

‘Jane, what are you doing down here? I thought you’d gone to bed.’ One of the sisters looked at Jane standing in her nightclothes at the bottom of the staircase.

‘I did, but I do not feel well. I thought I could ask that Miss Sutterfield attend me.’

All followed Jane’s gaze and turned to Charlotte. She was visible now, and she felt flushed as she stood up and gave a curtsy.

‘Miss Sutterfield, what are you doing out here in the hall?’ asked one of the sisters as they both came forward.

‘I was summoned to wait here until summoned further.’

‘Oh, that is right. I did summon for her. It must have slipped my mind altogether,’ said the second woman.

‘My dear Eleanor, how careless of you, sister!’

‘You could have reminded me, Louisa. You know I am forgetful of these things.’

With her gaze on the floor, just like the nuns had taught her, Charlotte awaited further instruction. Though she had an itch to look at the three gentlemen now staring at her. Which one is Mr. Ashmore?

‘What do we do now, Eleanor?’ Louisa looked at her sister.

‘We had planned to begin our interview with her today but now must wait until morning. We cannot have her at dinner. It would not be appropriate,’ Eleanor stated.

‘No, of course not,’ the deep voice cut in. Charlotte recognized the man’s disdain from earlier. She glanced up, involuntarily ready to defend herself. The man speaking was a proud man with dark hair, dark features, and a brooding and menacing way about him. This must be Mr. Ashmore.

‘You do understand, Miss Sutterfield. It is not proper for a woman of your station to dine with us.’ Louisa smiled as though the smile made the blow softer. It did not.

Charlotte nodded.

‘But you may sleep upstairs across from Jane’s room. You will be in no-one’s way in that part of the house for tonight. Please attend to Jane, cold cloth on her head and the like. We shall see you tomorrow,’ Eleanor instructed.

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘This way, Miss Sutterfield.’ Polite young Jane grabbed Charlotte’s hand and led her towards the grand staircase. But Charlotte’s backside was burning as she moved. Was this the stare of the whole party or the dark and menacing Mr. Ashmore?

*   *   *

chapter

0 3

*   *   *

Charlotte found that Jane was indeed ill. Her skin was flushed, and Charlotte sat with her, tending to her into the late night. How lovely Jane was. She was nothing like the rest in the house. They were full of pride and vanities, and Jane seemed to possess none of those attributes. Charlotte would be pleased to be governess to this child if need be, though she would not want to stay under the same roof as Mr. Ashmore. A chill ran over her as she recalled his dark face. He was menacing indeed, and she was glad that Jane had spared her from an encounter with the man earlier in the day.

Charlotte poured cold water in the basin on the vanity. Her reflection caught her attention. Now that her brown hair was brushed into a bun, she looked better than the soaked girl who had shown up on the doorstep, but she could not help but compare herself to the fine polished Dawson sisters. She looked like a patch of straw next to diamonds.

She sighed and continued her work, sponging Jane’s forehead and giving her sips of water.

‘You are very pretty, Miss Sutterfield. Your brown eyes are a beautiful light colour, like amber.’

‘Thank you, Jane. Not as pretty as you, my dear, but thank you, nonetheless.’

‘I hope that you will stay a while.’

‘I will sit with you until you fall asleep.’

‘No, I mean here at Linwood Manor. I have no-one to talk with. Miss Dawson and Mrs. Ashmore do not have time for me.’

‘Mrs. Ashmore?’

‘Yes. Mrs. Ashmore and Miss Dawson are sisters, but Louisa is only lately married to Mr. Ashmore, so now she is Mrs. Ashmore.’

‘I see.’

‘Well, I look forward to us spending time together and you can show me around this grand estate, but we must get you better before then. Is that all right?’

Jane eagerly nodded.

‘Good. Now close your eyes and try to sleep.’ Charlotte dabbed Jane’s head with a cold wet cloth and watched over the young girl.

Only when Jane had finally fallen into a slumber did Charlotte return to her room across the hall. This room was much finer. She had never seen a room like it before. A four-poster mahogany bed with lace covers sat in front of a marble fireplace. The wardrobe was fine and so polished she could almost see her reflection in it. The grand tall window looked out over the garden and, even in the night, Charlotte could see that it was grand indeed. But lying in such comfort did not bring rest. Charlotte was worried about her patient and in the late night peeked out of the cracked door of her room. No-one was about, so in her thin nightshift and robe, she tiptoed across the hall and into Jane’s room.

‘Charlotte, is that you?’

Shh, yes, it is, dear. Go back to sleep. I am here.’ Charlotte laid her hand on Jane’s forehead, feeling the warmth. ‘You are not as hot as before. That is a good sign indeed.’

‘I am very tired.’

‘Then sleep, child.’ Charlotte poured cold water into the basin and plunged a cloth into it. Wringing off the extra water, she then dabbed Jane’s forehead with it delicately. Jane smiled a sweet smile and drifted off to sleep.

This reminded Charlotte of the young girls she took care of at the convent in their time of sickness. A sudden rush of homesickness came over her, which was silly. For how could one feel homesick when one had never had a proper home before?

‘You should not be out of bed. He will find you.’ Jane was half asleep. But Charlotte knew of whom she spoke.

‘Do not worry yourself, child. I am a strong woman.’

‘I can see that.’

Shh, go to sleep now.’

Charlotte sat with Jane for another half hour before deciding that she, too, was tired after the long day. For so much had happened in just the last two days. It was only a month prior that Sister Mary had come to her with the news that the Dawsons were looking to place another governess. Sister Mary wrote to the Dawsons regarding Charlotte being the next candidate and they accepted. Charlotte had never felt happier! After her good friend Elizabeth had gone through the same process, she knew that she had looked forward to the day that she would also have her life changed. But Elizabeth had gone to the Dawsons in London, not in Blackmore outside of London in the country. Charlotte knew that Elizabeth must be kept very busy at her new station because she had not written to Charlotte in months.

Still, Charlotte was eager and left the convent two days prior to arriving at Linwood. Now she was at the side of a young woman who could be nobility for all that she knew. How my life has changed.

Quietly, she left Jane’s side and entered the hallway to return to her own bed. Giving all her attention to closing the door quietly so as not to wake the sleeping Jane, she turned suddenly to come face to face with Mr. Ashmore.

She gasped. Pure terror seized her heart. She felt stupid for not taking Jane’s warning seriously. Now she was in danger.

‘Miss Sutterfield.’ He held a lantern up to her face.

Her hands clutched under her chin in order to use her arms to conceal her body. Fright filled every fibre of her being. She had just stated that she was a strong woman to Jane, but she had never been tested by the likes of a man like Mr. Ashmore. She braced herself. At any moment, this man was going to grope her. He would reach out and press his mouth on hers while she fought and screamed. Then she would be sent back to the convent in disgrace. There would be no governess position waiting for her. She would live out her days as a nun like Sister Mary.

The man’s dark eyes moved down her body and back up to her face. Charlotte was repulsed and terrified by this inappropriate movement. She had never seen eyes as dark as his. Should she make a run for it? Her eyes darted quickly to her door. It was too far. Then she looked at Jane’s door. Surely, he wouldn’t attack her in front of that child. Would he?

Then his gaze moved to Jane’s door.

‘Move aside,’ he said, his voice deep and commanding.

Charlotte’s eyes grew wide as she realized that Mr. Ashmore was going to try to go after little Jane. No! Not if I have anything to say about it.

She planted herself firmly in front of the door. ‘No, I will not.’

The man’s jaw clenched. Will he strike me?

‘I will only say it once more, Miss Sutterfield. Move aside.’

‘So that you can put your dirty hands on that small child? No, you should be disgusted with yourself, Mr. Ashmore. If you touch a hair on that child’s head, I will hunt you down.’ Charlotte was amazed by her words. She was not one to speak in such a manner, but she had never had to defend a child from a man’s lust. Threatening a man of his status could send her to jail for all that she knew, but at this moment, it did not matter. The only thing that mattered was protecting Jane from this vile animal!

The man looked at her with a hard sternness. A sneer came across his full lips in the shadows that the lantern cast across his face. ‘I am not Mr. Ashmore, Miss Sutterfield. I am Mr. Huntley, and I have come to check on my sister who is ill. Now, remove these ill fantasies from your head and let me pass.’

Mortified was the kindest way to describe the feeling inside of her. Charlotte did not know what to say. She had mistaken the man’s identity and insulted him all in one moment.

‘Mr. Huntley, I—’

‘No need. Save your words for those who care.’ He pushed her aside and entered the room without another look at her. She was cast aside like rubbish. He was quite rude to her, but perhaps she deserved it.

Charlotte sighed and quietly took her embarrassment into her room. She sat on the bed and threw her entire body back, allowing herself to bounce on the bed. ‘You are an idiot.’

‘No, not an idiot. I bet you are a virgin, are you not?’ The deep voice came out of nowhere.

Charlotte gasped and sat up stiff as a board, clutching her arms to her body. There in the corner was another man. He was plump with brown curls and flushed with wine. This, she now knew, was Mr. Ashmore. The lust in his eyes spoke everything he wanted to say as he moved towards her.

‘What are you doing in here? Get out!’

‘You know why I am here. All you convent girls are the same. You have been denied the pleasures of flesh all your life, but you want it now. As soon as they let you out of those doors, you become as wild as animals. And you shall do as you please, but I will sample that delight first.’

Mr. Ashmore lunged for her and put his hand over her mouth, stifling her before she could scream. Mr. Huntley was just across the hall, but if he heard her, would he come to help? Or would he come to join? She was in a house of strangers and did not know whom among them she could trust besides young Jane.

‘That’s right. Shh... shh, just let me show you the ways of a man. You will enjoy it. I promise. Do not be scared. They all love it and so will you.’

She bit down on his finger hard! He let out a yelp and let her go for a brief enough period for her to shout, ‘No! Stop! Leave me alone!’ She ran for the door but was suddenly pushed down into the fine expensive maroon rug on the floor. Her belly slammed hard against it as she fell with a thud. The heavy weight of the man was on top of her as his hands greedily pushed up her nightshift and touched the bare skin of her legs.

‘You want it rough. I am all right with that.’

‘Get off her.’

The calm voice startled both parties on the floor. Mr. Huntley stood in the doorway, looking down at them both.

‘Huntley, go away. You can have her when I am done.’

‘Ashmore, get off the young woman, now.’

Tears streamed down Charlotte’s face, but she did not allow herself to feel relief just yet. She was still in a compromising position and isolated with two men of such high status that no-one would ever believe her accusations of what they had done to her if they proceeded to violate her, together or individually. This was the way of the world for a woman like her, and she was well aware of that fact.

‘Or what? What are you going to do, Huntley?’

Ashmore got to his feet and moved around her. As soon as he did, she gathered herself and stood up, searching the room for some sort of weapon. A large bronze candleholder might do the trick. She moved next to it and watched as Ashmore now stood directly in front of Huntley.

Whack! Huntley punched Ashmore in the gut, surprising Charlotte, who put her hand over her mouth as she gasped. Ashmore doubled over, and Huntley pushed him into the hall. But Huntley was not done. He entered Charlotte’s room and took several large menacing strides towards her. His face was filled with anger, but Charlotte did not feel safe. She wrapped her hand around the candleholder as he came towards her. The scoundrel had not rescued her! He had only stopped her attacker so that he could have a go at it. Why had she come to Linwood Manor at all?

‘Here.’ Huntley opened the drawer underneath the candleholder and pulled out a large skeleton key. He slammed it on

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