Home > A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(14)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(14)
Author: Tessa Dare

“The village seems the likely place to begin.”

Another barely perceptible nod.

“Sheepdogs,” Thorne mused sometime later. “Perhaps I’ll find a few. They’d come in useful. Then again, hounds are better for game.”

“No dogs,” Bram said. He wasn’t one for pets. “We’ll only be here a month.”

A rustling sound in the shadows had them both turning their heads. A bat, perhaps. Or maybe a snake. Then again, he supposed it was just as likely a rat.

“What we need in this place,” Thorne said, “is a cat.”

Bram scowled. “For God’s sake, I am not acquiring a cat.”

Thorne looked to the woolly beast at his knee and cocked a brow. “You seem to have acquired a lamb, my lord.”

“The lamb goes home tomorrow.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“He’s dinner.”


In a village of women, secrets had shorter life expectancies than gnats. The moment she opened the door of Bright’s All Things the next morning, Susanna was inundated with queries and questions. She ought to have known she would be besieged. Young ladies crowded around her like hens after corn, pecking for bits of information.

“Is it true, what we’ve heard? What they’re saying, is it true?” Nineteen-year-old Sally, the second eldest of the Bright children, leaned eagerly over the counter.

“That would depend.” Susanna lifted her hands to untie the ribbons of her bonnet. As she worked the knots loose, anticipation in the shop built to a palpable fever.

“Depend on what?”

“On who ‘they’ are, and precisely what it is they’re saying.” She spoke calmly. Someone had to.

“They say we’ve been invaded!” Violet Winterbottom said. “By men.”

“What else would we be invaded by? Wolves?”

Susanna looked about the shop, taking a moment to collect her thoughts and enjoy the familiar splendor. This sight never failed to enchant her. The first time she’d entered Bright’s All Things shop, she’d felt as though she’d stumbled upon Ali Baba’s treasure cave.

The shop’s front was lined with south-facing diamond-paned windows, which admitted an abundance of golden sunlight. Each of its other three walls was stacked, floor to lofty ceiling, with shelves—and those shelves were crammed with colorful goods of every sort. Bolts of silk and lace, quills and bottles of ink, buttons and brilliants, charcoal and pigments, comfits and pickled limes, tooth powder, dusting powder, and much, much more—all of it sparkling in the midday sun.

“The inn’s scullery maid had it all from her brother.” Sally’s cheeks were pink with excitement. “A band of officers have encamped on the bluffs.”

“Is it true there’s a lord in their party?” Violet asked.

Susanna removed her bonnet and laid it aside. “Yes, some officers are temporarily encamped on the castle bluffs. And no, there is not a lord in the party.” She paused. “There are two.”

The squeal of excitement occasioned by this pronouncement quite pained her ears. She looked to Sally. “Could you show me those two spools of lace again? The ones I looked at Thursday last? I couldn’t decide between the—”

“Hang the lace,” Sally said. “Tell us more of these gentlemen. Cruel thing, you know we are dying of anticipation.”

“Miss Finch!” A most unexpected woman pushed her way to the fore. “Miss Finch, what is this I hear about lords?”

“Mrs. Highwood?” Susanna blinked at the lace-capped widow in disbelief. “What are you still doing here?”

“We’re all here,” Minerva called, standing behind her mother, arm-in-arm with Charlotte. From the counter, Diana gave a shy wave.

Somehow, Susanna had missed them in the initial crush. “But . . . But I saw your carriage leaving yesterday.”

“Mama sent it to fetch all our things,” Charlotte said, bouncing on her toes. “We’re to stay here in Spindle Cove for the summer! Isn’t it marvelous?”

“Yes.” Susanna laughed with relief. “Yes, it is. I’m so glad.”

Even Mrs. Highwood smiled. “I just knew it was the right decision. My friends always say my intuition is unparalleled. Why, just this morning two lords have arrived in the neighborhood. While we’re here, Diana can get well and get married.”

Hm. Susanna wasn’t so sure about that.

“Now tell us everything about them,” Sally insisted.

“There truly is not much to tell. Three gentlemen arrived in the neighborhood yesterday afternoon. They include a Lieutenant Colonel Bramwell, a Corporal Thorne, and Bramwell’s cousin, Lord Payne. For his service to the Crown, Bramwell has been granted the title Earl of Rycliff. The castle is his.” She turned to Sally. “May I see the lace now?”

“The castle is his?” asked Violet. “How can that be? A man just marches into town, and suddenly a centuries-old castle is his for the asking?”

Mrs. Lange harrumphed. “That’s a man for you. Always taking, never asking.”

“He was awarded the earldom in recognition of his valor, apparently,” Susanna said. “He’s been tasked with raising a local militia and providing a review. The field day will take the place of our usual midsummer fair.”

“What?” Charlotte cried. “No midsummer fair? But I was so looking forward to it.”

“I know, dear. We all looked forward to it. But we’ll find other ways to amuse ourselves this summer, never fear.”

“I’m sure you will.” Sally gave her a knowing look. “Cor. Two lords and an officer. No wonder you’re taken with the lace this morning, Miss Finch. With the new gents in residence, all you ladies will want to look your best.”

Several ladies pressed into a circle around her, investigating the wares with fresh interest.

Miss Kate Taylor didn’t join them. Instead, she crossed the room to join Susanna. As Spindle Cove’s music tutor, Kate was one of the rooming house’s few year-round residents. She was also delightfully sensible, and among Susanna’s closest friends.

“You look out of sorts,” Kate said quietly.

“I’m not worried,” she lied. “We’ve worked too hard to build this community, and our cause is too important. We won’t let a few men divide us.”

Kate looked around the room. “It seems to be starting already.”

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