Welcome back! I'm continuing to share from my next release, Love's Refrain. Lord Covington's mother, eager for her son to remarry, has just revealed that she has accepted an invitation to that evening's ball on his behalf:
Expelling a groan, Andrew excused himself and stalked from the room. He knew he'd eventually give in and accompany his mother to the ball. There would be no peace for him if he didn’t. But he would need several hours to himself before he'd be able to face the carnival he'd find at the ball. Finding solace in his office, he sat, rested his elbows on the surface of his father’s carved mahogany desk, and cradled his aching head in his hands.
He was so weary of his mother's constant harping about heirs. If he should die without an heir, the estate would go to his young cousin, Nelson Something-or-other. That was good enough for him. Why couldn’t it be enough for her?
He had nothing against the state of matrimony. His first marriage had been pleasant, and he'd enjoyed coming home each day to someone who waited there for him. And he would have loved children, too, if there had been any. But his poor wife had not survived even a year of marriage to him, and he wasn’t in any hurry to subject someone else to it.
He took a deep breath, willing his nerves to relax. Fresh air, that's what he needed. Getting up, he fumbled with the latch and opened the windows. The hinges creaked in protest, having sat unused for the winter.
Andrew had just settled back in his chair when the most beautiful music floated through the open window. At first, he thought it was his imagination. But the uplifting of his soul was not imagined. The smile on his face was real, as was the voice he heard.
Quiet at first, as if the singer tried to hide it, the smooth soprano melody was barely discernible. But gradually, the singer gained confidence, and the volume grew, to Andrew’s delight. The song was one familiar to him — a Scottish air his nanny had sung to him when he was small — and he absently hummed the melody along with the singer. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Suddenly, the weight of his worries drained away. The dull ache in his forehead eased, and he breathed more easily.
Who was the mystery singer? The voice was cultured, and had the maturity of a woman, but without the force of one trained for the stage. Still, the music was pleasing to his ears, and to his world-weary soul. He settled back to enjoy the performance.
But as soon as it had begun, the singing stopped. An undistinguishable voice called out a command, the singer responded, and footsteps receded away from him. And as the volume of her footsteps decreased, so did his state of euphoria.
Silently, he thanked the singer for providing a welcome respite from his daily drudgery. It had been a pleasant interlude, but now it was time to return to his life and responsibilities. With a rueful twist of his mouth, he sorted through the day’s correspondence.
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