A Marchioness for Christmas by @alannalucas27 is a Christmas Festival pick #regency #giveaway
A Marchioness for Christmas
Historical Romance- Regency
After Antonia Madeley’s mother died, she learned just how heartless her father could be. Not caring for his daughter’s grief, Lord Madeley forbade her to play her beloved violin, and then remarried with indecent haste to a woman who made it plain she’d rather Antonia wasn’t there. The engagement that’d been arranged between Antonia and Dracon, Lord Trawden, offered no escape. Dracon was clearly still in love with his late wife, Catherine. Facing a life of always being second best, Antonia ran away.
Five years on, Antonia receives the news her father is gravely ill. Perhaps the time has come to make amends and go to his bedside. However, traveling in inclement weather and on treacherous roads, her carriage is involved in a terrible accident, and when she regains consciousness, she’s being cared for at Lionshead, Dracon’s family seat! The feelings she has for Dracon haven’t dimmed, but she has no reason to believe he’s stopped loving Catherine either. With Christmas only a few days away, will Antonia be forced to endure yet another bleak midwinter, or is it possible that a yuletide miracle will gladden her lonely heart?
The frigid wind slapping against Dracon’s face was far more annoying than the heavy deluge of rain that was trying to saturate his clothes. The road was deserted. No one with an ounce of common sense would dare be out on such a miserable night. He should have been home by now, but the wind and rain had slowed his progress. Thuban was a strong horse, but even he was showing signs of fatigue.
A fork in the road signaled that he was almost home. To the left lay the tiny village and to the right, Lionshead.
For a brief moment, he thought about taking a detour and staying the night at the local inn. At least then he would not have to pass the churchyard. He detested that church. A deep agony mixed with anger still coursed through his veins. He had been living with the guilt that he’d been unable to save them for such a long time that he couldn’t remember a time without it.
He shook those thoughts away and focused on the lonely road that led to an even lonelier house filled with too many painful memories—a house that had not witnessed joy in over ten years. There had been a brief chance at happiness, but it had slipped between his large fingers and fled to Gretna Green. But despite the years, he was still in love with her.
“Not long now.” He rubbed Thuban’s neck, encouraging him on. Even at this slow pace, they should reach Lionshead within the hour.
A hazy mist slanted against the landscape, sending a strange eeriness rapping along his spine. In the dreary distance he spied an odd shape half hanging over the embankment. He squinted until the dark object came into focus.
“Damn,” he swore into the twilight, his breath puffing in front of him in a billowy, ghost-like cloud. He kicked Thuban into a gallop.
After what felt like dozens of minutes later, he finally reached the mangled carriage, dismounted, and started pulling through the wreckage for survivors. He did not have to take a second look closer to know that the two bodies crushed beneath the weight of the conveyance had both perished. One of the horses lay dead off to the side. He climbed on top of the wreckage and opened the now upward-facing door. Peering inside, he saw two figures. He pulled the already damaged side panel away from the carriage, giving further access to the occupants inside. Leaning over the first female, he felt for a pulse. Nothing.
A moan came from the opposite corner. He edged closer. Rain from the open door above trickled in. All was silent for a brief moment before the cracking of wood rose in a steady crescendo.
There was no time to lose.
Without further thought, he kicked out what was left of the side panel, scooped the injured woman into his arms, and slid out of the debris. Seconds later, the carriage shifted further on its side and plunged into the ditch. The sound of splintering echoed through the stillness.
Carrying the woman to a nearby tree, he eased her onto the ground. She was clad in black, her damp hair covering most of her face. A slight, painful moan escaped her lips.
“Shh, I mean you no harm. There was an accident.” He began smoothing her dark, wet hair away from her bloodstained cheek. “I…” The words caught in his throat as soft green eyes met his for a second before fluttering shut.
Five years of solitude that had numbed his soul shattered at the sight of her. Those years of regret rushed through his heart, and pent-up longing dissipated in a single breath. He looked up at the fierce dark clouds overhead and swore on all that was holy, that as long as there was breath in his body, he was not going to lose her. Not again.
With each beat of his stuttering heart, worry kicked at him. What the hell was she doing out on a night like this? Why were they even traveling at night? Why had they not stopped at the inn?
Antonia’s body shivered, centering his thoughts on her. Now was not the time to discern the meaning of all this. He took off his overcoat and covered her, then went to retrieve Thuban. At this hour, the chance of another passerby was slim. He had no choice but to take her to Lionshead on horseback. He would send his stablemen to deal with the deceased and the wrecked carriage.
Carefully draping Antonia over Thuban’s back, Dracon quickly mounted. He brought her cold, limp body gently into his embrace, cradling her against his chest, hoping to bring her some warmth.
The spicy scent of carnation surrounded him, reminding him again of wasted years. Disquietude over the past gave way to relief. She was alive, in his arms, and wearing widow’s weeds. “Please let her live. Please give us another chance,” he murmured into the darkness.
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A Marchioness for Christmas is a second chance romance where the spirit of the season helps mends the past and brings hope to the future.
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Bestselling, award-winning author, Alanna Lucas pens Regency-set historicals filled with romance, adventure, and of course, happily ever afters. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, volunteering, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband, children, one sweet dog, and hundreds of books.
Just for the record, you can never have too many handbags or books. And travel is a must.
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