Authors: Kimberly Luke
Table of Contents
A Bride for Alfie
Copyright © 2013 Kimberly Luke
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The author has provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. This book may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without written permission from the author.
Yorkshire, England 1822
Pain... Why am I in such agonizing pain?
His head was pounding; he felt he may lose the contents of his stomach. He heard a woman’s voice, but was unable to discern her face in the darkness.
“Lie still, my maid has gone for help,” the woman said. “Your horse has thrown you.” He felt a light touch on his cheek.
“Is my horse injured?” The copper-sorrel was an old friend.
“No, he is unharmed; we will stable him for you in a good place.”
“I should try to get up.” His pride demanded fortitude.
A light pressure held him fast. “No, please, I am uncertain how serious your injuries are.” His angel’s good sense cut through the bravado; he obeyed.
“How long have I been out?”
“I am unsure. You were unconscious when I found you nearly half an hour ago.”
“Audra”—a male voice called out in the distance—“Audra?”
“We are here Robert,” his angel said.
She caressed his cheek once again. “Help has arrived Mr...”
“Lockwood, My name is Alfie Lockwood.”
A male form bent over him; he could hear his angel talking with another woman.
“I see you have taken a serious tumble, Mr. Lockwood. My name is Dr. Robert Shirley; I am the local surgeon. I must examine you to determine how best to move you.”
Alfie braced himself as knowledgeable hands ran over his battered body.
“Your legs seem to be well intact. We are going to help you stand, and get you onto my horse; however, both of your arms are broken, so please, do not try to do anything other than lean on me, and Miss Parker.”
The pain was excruciating: his legs did not wish to cooperate, and his lower back was in spasms. They finally managed to load him onto the horse. The painful journey to a bed proceeded.
They took him to a generous cottage where an older woman and the good doctor unclothed him. There, the good doctor re-examined him in the candlelight of a bedchamber.
Dr. Shirley stood, hands clasped before him, at the side of the bed. “Mr. Lockwood, I am going to have to set both of your forearms. It will be painful; I do apologize.” He turned and spoke to the older woman. “Will you ask Audra to come? I need her.” After a sympathetic pat on his uninjured leg, the older woman left the room. Soon thereafter, his angel entered. It was his first real glimpse of her. She was no longer a voice in the dark; she was a beautiful young woman. Long sable hair hung down across her shoulders in gentle waves, and as he had imagined, she had the delicate features of an angel: skin of porcelain, and big blue eyes. He guessed from her manner she was older than she appeared. With his beautiful assistant, the good surgeon set his broken arms. Relieved he had not cried out, Alfie tried to quell the lingering pain.
Dr. Shirley gently grasped his shoulder. “You should stay off your feet until the muscles in your lower back have had time to heal. I will clean, and stitch your head wound, then I will leave Miss Parker to clean your other wounds.”
The beautiful Miss Parker, his angel, presented him with a smile. “ Do you remember what happened Mr. Lockwood?”
“I remember leaving out this morning, and that is it.”
Dr. Shirley threaded the final stitch upon his forehead. “Your head injury is likely causing your memory loss. The memory of the actual event may return in time, but it is not uncommon for people never to remember.” He rose from the bedside and cleaned his tools in a wash basin atop the nightstand. “I am leaving you in capable hands tonight; I will return to check on you as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
Dr. Shirley acknowledged his gratitude with an easy smile. “Good night Mr. Lockwood.” He turned to Miss Parker and grasped the top of her arm. “I have left medicine with Mira to help him sleep if he has need of it.”
Audra followed Robert from the chamber. He traced the length of her celestial nose. “Audra, I am not particularly comfortable bringing the man here, but I suppose he is sufficiently immobilized for the time being, and it would have been torture for him to go any further.”
Audra helped roll his sleeves back down and buttoned them. “You worry too much over us Robert.”
“I love you”—he pulled her against him—“I love your sister; I love your mother.
“We love you too”—she put her hands on his chest and gently pushed him away—“now go see to your other patients, and leave me with mine.”
Audra waited for Robert to make his exit before issuing her own set of instructions to her mother, and Mira. “You two go on to bed. I will see to cleaning Mr. Lockwood’s smaller wounds, and I will come to bed when I am done.”
“Very well my dear, you have a good night.” Her mother kissed her forehead.
When she returned to her patient he had his eyes closed. She knew he was in pain. “Mr. Lockwood, are you awake?”
His eyes popped open. “Yes...” His suffering was evident in his voice.
“I need to clean your other wounds, and then I promise to let you rest.”
He presented her with a boyish smile.
She placed the replenished wash basin on the nightstand and sat on the side of the bed. Her hip felt scorched where she touched his. She quickly felt for fever, but his forehead was cool to the touch. As she set about her work, she carefully cleaned each hand. His fingers were rough, and calloused; he was a man accustomed to activity. As she cleaned a particularly angry cut across his collar bone, she examined his bare chest. His skin was dark, and taunt over his well defined musculature. His hair was a dark shade of blonde; his chest and arms bore a light dusting of the same. His poor battered arms; she could not bear to think of the pain he must be in. She finished up her ministrations when she realized he was watching her with curious greyish-green eyes.
“Where were you heading this evening Mr. Lockwood?”
“I have property two hours ride north of here; I travel there a couple times a year to check on the place, and meet with my steward.”
“Where do you live the remainder of the time?”
“Are you familiar with Lexington Hall near York?”
“A tenant farmer raised me there. He has passed on, but I am still overseeing the place until my sister’s marriage. Her husband will then take over. She is not my biological sister, but her father raised us as though we were; therefore, I love her as such.
“What of your biological family, if I may ask?’
“My biological father has passed as well. My mother and I scarcely see one another. She lives in London. I do, however, have a fledgling relationship with my half-brother Garrick Winter; he is master at Lexington Hall.”
“I am sorry to hear both of your father figures have passed on. My father passed away as well.” She stood, and eyed her handiwork. “Well Mr. Lockwood I am all done. I will leave you to sleep. If you have need of me, I will be sitting up for a while.”
“Thank you Miss Parker, and I am sorry to hear of the loss of your father.”
Goodness, why did she feel so breathless in his presence? Sure he was a handsome man, but so was Robert.
After a few hours of reading, she could hardly hold her eyes open, and her patient had not made a peep, so she thought it safe to go on to bed; however, she wanted to look in on him first. She quietly entered the small downstairs chamber where her patient slept. He was restless: asleep but fighting his pain. She placed her hand on his forehead; he seemed to calm.
“Eva. Stay with me.” He pleaded.
She did not know how to respond. He was talking in his sleep.
“Eva, please, just for a while, Garrick will not miss you for a few moments.” He tried to move his arm to reach for her.
The pain brought him abruptly awake.
His eyes fixated on her immediately.
“Mr. Lockwood, would you like me to give you the medicine Dr. Shirley left for you?”
“No, I will be fine; please see to your rest.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am, please.”
Audra turned and left him alone.
As she lay trying to go to sleep she wondered who Eva was, and why his words had unsettled her.
By the time Alfie awoke, the morning sun had infiltrated every corner of the chamber. He had not slept most of the night; his arms were throbbing, but his headache had subsided. He tried to scoot up in the bed, which sent his back into a spasm, so he settled for his prone position.
He had dreamt of Eva last night. A part of him would always love his brother’s beautiful wife as more than just a sister-in-law.
Damn, I’m wretched.
The door opened, and the woman they called Mira entered. “I have some food for you Mr. Lockwood. I know you are not able to feed yourself with those broken wings so I will take care of you. First, we are going to have to prop you up a bit. I will be right back.”
Alfie prayed his beautiful angel would save him once more. He re-opened his eyes, and there she stood.
“Good morning, Mr. Lockwood.”
“Good morning Angel.”
“Angel... Some of your spirit must have returned during the night; nevertheless, it is Miss Parker to you,” she said with her hands on her perfect hips. “I am going to help Mira prop you up so you can eat.”
Mira returned. The movement once again caused him excruciating pain in his lower back.
Miss Parker caressed his cheek. “I am sorry. I am going to ask Robert to take another look at your back when he comes by.”
Mira interrupted. “I have him now Miss Parker you may return to your correspondence.”
Apparently having recognized his disappointment, his angel intervened. “I am fine Mira, I will see to Mr. Lockwood’s breakfast.”
“I’m close if you have need of me Miss,” Mira said before taking her leave.
Miss Parker sat upon the chair Mira had placed next to the bedside. The chair was not of sufficient height for her purpose, which resulted in a delectable view of porcelain décolletage as she fed him.
“Mr. Lockwood, is there anyone I may write to let them know you are in our care?”
He focused on her question a moment longer than necessary in order to allow his ardor to subside. “My sister will not miss me for a month, which is when I must return for her wedding. My steward at Lockwood Farm has no reason to expect my arrival.”
“Surely someone of the feminine persuasion will be waiting to hear you safely arrived at your destination?”
What a curious question,
he thought. “Sadly, Miss Parker, the answer is still no.”
Halting her ministrations she pressed him. “I feel compelled to let someone know of your condition. It is going to take nearly two months for your arms to heal.”
“Sincerely Miss Parker, I would not wish to alarm anyone at home. They all have their own issues to deal with; you and Dr. Shirley are taking excellent care of me, and I have every reason to expect a full recovery.” He gave her one of his signature charming smiles.
Her brow still furrowed, she appeared unconvinced; nevertheless, she let it go for the time being, and continued feeding him. A few moments had passed in silence before her face lit up once again. “I would be happy to wash your hair this evening if you would like.” Her desire to please him evident.
“Miss Parker, a hair washing would be glorious.”
Smiling, she rose with the now empty bowl. “Get some rest, and I will check in on you later.”
He knew Nora, and Eva would be furious with him for keeping his misadventure from them, but Nora was busy preparing for her wedding; Eva and his brother had just announced the forthcoming arrival of their second child. Truth be told, half of the reason he made this trip was to save himself the torture of watching the woman he loved with his half-brother. A brother he was just starting to rebuild a relationship with.
His mind wandered back to his beautiful angel, when he saw her glide past outside the window. Perhaps she could soothe his tortured heart. She was smart, beautiful and caring.
Audra stepped into Robert’s surgery. “You’ve been busy already this morning, I see.”
“My first patient has already come, and gone.” He continued tidying up. “How is Mr. Lockwood?”
“His lower back is still causing him a great deal of pain when he moves about.”
“I have a few calls to make this afternoon, but I will come by tomorrow. It is going to take rest, and time.”
He rolled his sleeves down and replaced his jacket. “I assume you were out on your daily constitutional when you decided to pay the old fiancé a visit.”
“You are not old, Robert, but yes I was rambling about when I decided to pay you a visit.”
He picked up his medical bag and offered her his arm. “Would you like to ramble about with me for a bit?”
She took his arm.
He steered her down the lane that would return her home.
“I can accompany you half-way,” Robert said.
“I will enjoy every minute I can steal with you Dr. Shirley. After we marry, you may have to take on a partner, or I will never see you.” She offered him a faux pout.
He laughed, but she could see he had something weighing on his mind. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, of course.”
She did not press him.
They had walked a ways before he addressed her. “Have you learned anything more about our Mr. Lockwood? Has he recalled the animal throwing him?”
“He still does not recall the accident, but he did talk to me about his family. Also, he told me he is master at Lockwood Farm to our north, but he lives currently at Lexington Hall.”