A Fragile Mask
A Georgian Romance
In Tunbridge Wells, Denzell watches a beautiful girl playing with children in the snow. The mysterious Verena proves cold and apparently impervious to Denzell’s charm. Verena, anxious for her abused mother’s health, is struggling to remain aloof. Will his affection be enough to coax Verena out of her fear of matrimony?
Excerpt of A Fragile Mask
‘How could you be so unkind—Miss Chaceley? Visiting the place—and then leaving before I could so much as catch a glimpse of you!’
Verena found her own breath catching in her throat, as if she had been running as hard as he. Her pulses were flurried, and it was all she could do to maintain the outward cool reserve that must distance him.
‘Good morning, Mr Hawkeridge,’ she managed, refusing to be drawn into responding to his provocative speech.
He grinned, bowing, as he flung aside the folds of a greatcoat that hung open. He had obviously seized it and thrown it on all anyhow in his haste to follow her, and taking no time at all to find his hat, for his head was uncovered.
‘Good morning, Miss Chaceley. May I escort you home?’
She blinked, saying stupidly, ‘Thank you, I know my way.’
‘No, do you?’ he countered, on a spurious note of surprise. ‘Why, then you must have come this way before.’
The spurt of laughter could not be contained. She controlled it.
‘You are absurd, sir.’
‘I know,’ said Denzell, and the grin vanished. ‘It has become a habit with me. And for that you should take pity on me, Miss Chaceley, and indulge me just a little.’
‘What, by allowing you to escort me home?’
His face lit. ‘You are so quick, ma’am.’
Again, Verena was obliged to bite down on a quivering lip. ‘And you, sir, are remarkably slow.’
Verena drew a breath. ‘What does it take to convince you, Mr Hawkeridge?’
He raised his brows. ‘Of what, Miss Chaceley?’
Disconcerted, she snapped, ‘You know perfectly well.’
Denzell eyed her for a moment, his gaze roving her features under the bronze bonnet. He had succeeded in rattling her, but that was not what he wanted. Yet if that was what it took to shake her out of that infuriating façade, then what choice had he? There was only frankness left.
‘I don’t know what it takes,’ he said. ‘I can only suggest that we pursue the matter until we find out.’
A slow grin entered his face. ‘Why, I think so. Though I admit that for you, Miss Chaceley, it seems to be a case of willy-nilly.’
She almost laughed out again. Really, the man was too much. In spite of herself she warmed to him, saying in a friendly way that she had not meant at all, ‘In that case, I will be on my way, and you may do just as you please.’
‘How magnanimous,’ he murmured, turning to keep pace beside her as she began to plough across the uneven ground.
A hidden dent under a pocket of snow undid her, catching the heel of her boot. She gasped as her step faltered. But Denzell put out an instant hand, grasping her arm.
She straightened, glad of his support. The gratitude in her smile, as she turned to him, was genuine. ‘Thank you.’
His lips quivered at the edges. ‘That will teach you to try and run from me.’
Verena’s laughter bubbled up, but she nevertheless drew her arm from out of his grip, retorting, ‘It ought rather to teach you not to trouble me.’
Denzell’s features at once became serious, and his gaze held hers. ‘Do I trouble you?’
A flurry of confusion was set up in Verena’s chest. The automatic rebuttal came out before she could stop it.
‘I wish I might!’
About Elizabeth Bailey
With 18 historicals published, she began to concentrate on the mainstream and in 2005, Elizabeth’s novel Fly the Wild Echoes was released in both the UK and the US simultaneously by Unlimited Publishing. The novel was a contender in the Booker list for that year. A mystery – a whodunit of the mind, as one reader has it – the book explores the interwoven lives of three women and investigates the possibility of past lives.
Now retired from teaching, Elizabeth directs for a local theatre group where she lives in West Sussex. Recently, however, even this foray into drama has had to take a back seat as she changed direction to enter the world of crime.
Still thoroughly involved in her favourite historical period, Elizabeth placed her female sleuth in the late Georgian world of intrigue, elegance, aristocrats and rogues, where privilege rubbed shoulders with the harsh realities of making ends meet. While Ottilia moves into the upper echelon, she is thoroughly at ease in the lower, which allows Elizabeth to cross boundaries with impunity.
Not content with mere authorship, Elizabeth launched as an independent publisher with Timeless Books created on the Lulu website. She also runs an assessment critique service for writers.