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Bloodied Leather

A Shenandoah Neighbors Story


Isabelle Gilbert chafes against the restrictions that Victorian life puts on a young lady.

Forced to accept a betrothal to Percival Egmont, an English ex-patriot like her father, she is disturbed by his passion for prize-fighting—and other pursuits. And what if Mama spots the bruise on her cheek?

Then shared secrets perplex Isabelle even more.

A “Shenandoah Neighbors” story that extends the Owen Family universe, “Bloodied Leather” opens a new era for this popular family saga.



Bloodied Leather


A Shenandoah Neighbors Story


Marsha Ward


Bloodied Leather

Copyright 2014 Marsha Ward

http://marshaward.com


Cover Design by Victorine Originals


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief passages embodied in reviews and articles.


This book is a work of fiction. The characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are represented fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


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Published by WestWard Books

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Thank You

Other Books by Marsha Ward

About the Author


Chapter 1

San Francisco, California. 1886


Isabelle Gilbert pulled a blonde curl down alongside her cheek. She repeated the effect with a second lock of hair, then adjusted the coiffure on the other side of her head for symmetry’s sake. She frowned. Mama had such sharp eyes. If the bruise weren’t entirely hidden, she would spot it in one second and ask about it in the next. How would Isabelle ever explain how it had happened?

Surely Percy hadn’t meant to strike her. He’d been so excited about attending the prizefight, and when she had declined to accompany him... I never imagined what trouble a fiancé could be to a girl. I must work harder to make him happy.

Isabelle determined at last that three dangling curls did the job of masking the unsightly discoloration. She gave her hair one last pat and rose from her dressing table to choose her outfit for the day.

Something simple. Nothing to call Mama’s attention to me.

Since Isabelle would not make any calls on friends today, she chose a pale blue bodice with puffed sleeves and a matching skirt with only the slightest of bustles. Something comfortable would be best. After all, she’d only be working on her trousseau. She grimaced. The hand towels must be embroidered with intertwined initials to herald her upcoming marriage to Percival Egmont.

She didn’t call him Percival. Who would? She had chosen to call her fiancé Percy, even though he pressed her daily to use an endearment like “dear” or “darling.” It didn’t suit her to bestow such sweet names on him yet. Especially after last night.

She had left Percy in the parlor on his knees, swearing he had not meant to lay a hand on her. Well, he had done so, and her remembrance of the blow stung as sharply as had the blow itself. Fortunately, Mama hadn’t caught her on the stairs afterward or she would have known something was amiss. Isabelle wondered what action, if any, Mama would have taken in regards to the man. Mama was sometimes a puzzle.

Papa, now, was a different matter. Isabelle sighed as she fastened the top button of her bodice. It was Papa’s idea for her to accept Percy’s offer of marriage. Leave it to Englishmen to stick together! She sometimes wondered if Papa would be happier back in England. Instead, he was obliged to remain here in America, due to some ancient scandal or other. She thought Percy was under the same sort of constraint but had not managed to bring up the subject to him.

She was familiar with the relative size of Great Britain and the United States. One could get lost in the western expanses, as Papa had done, years ago. Then he had met Mama, the story went, and had repented of whatever had been his offense in order to win her hand. She had chosen to marry Papa instead of her own fiancé, a young man from Virginia newly arrived in the West.

Interesting and highly romantic as the old story was, thinking about it now would not put any stitches on her linens, so Isabelle threw back her shoulders and went downstairs.

After a brunch prolonged as long as she dared, Isabelle entered the parlor with her embroidery case and three linen towels, holding her breath. Mama scarcely paid her any mind, greeting her with a simple “Good morning,” and returning to her own hand work.

Isabelle exhaled and sat, arranging her threads to decide the best color arrangement for the initials.

“Ecru and dark blue, I believe,” Mama said, without even looking up.

“What?”

“For the initials, my dear. The colors of the Egmont family crest.”

“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.” Mama’s faint snort disheartened Isabelle. She thinks I have no sense at all. Perhaps she is correct. I never even thought about using the colors of the crest.

Isabelle threaded a needle with a deep, brilliant blue, put a hoop over the end of one towel, tightened it with the screw, and began work on a capital E she had previously traced in elegant script. E is for Egmont. She made a careful stitch. E is for eggs. They sat like a lump in her stomach, nervous as she was about Mama’s sharp eyes. E is for idiot. She stopped. Of course that wasn’t right. She allowed herself time to take a long breath. I is for Isabelle. She exhaled and pulled her thread tight. She didn’t let her thought follow to the next possible I. She kept it at bay, off in a corner of her mind where it wouldn’t become reality. Instead, she looked at another letter. P is for Percival. P is for philanderer. P is for... pig!


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