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Authors: Gilbert Morris

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BOOK: As the Sparks Fly Upward
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She was a thoughtful woman, the Right Honorable Lady Stoneybrook, and able, at times, to put everything aside and live in her thoughts. She did this now, thinking of her children and her hopes for them and, of course, her husband, Lord Stoneybrook. Then suddenly, without warning, a pair of arms surrounded her, and she gasped as she was lifted off the floor.

Twisting around, she saw her husband's smiling face. “You put me down, Brandon!”

“I won't do it, woman! I can't afford to let you go!” But he did put her down and turned her around to face him. She put aside the thought that he had forgotten what was so important to her, asking, “Where have you—?” She never completed the sentence, for he closed her mouth with a kiss.

Finally she pulled away from him and demanded, “Where in the world have you been?”

Ignoring her, Brandon said, “Woman, you are due for a good loving. See me tonight.”

Eden struck at him, but he warded off her blow and whispered, “Wear that silk gown I paid far too much for.”

Eden's eyes sparkled as she pushed him away. He had the uncanny ability to lift her out of her moods. “All you think of is getting me into a bed.”

“No!” Brandon said quickly, and his eyes sparkled. “Sometimes I think of getting you in a soft patch of moss out in the woods.”

Eden, as always, could not resist him. “You are a fool, my lord!” she laughed. She studied him for a moment. He was a tall man, almost six feet, and in the prime of his life. He had auburn hair with golden glints in it, light blue eyes, and a tapered face that was very expressive.

“I've always been a fool for you, sweetheart.” He kissed her, then let her go but still held her hands. “You're all worn out getting ready for that blasted progress of the queen's. I hate the very idea of that thing! Senseless and completely out of keeping with good taste.”

The “progress,” as it was called, was something most of the nobility dreaded. It consisted of a visit from the reigning monarch, who brought a large entourage, sometimes as many as fifty people. They also brought enormous appetites, and the host was expected to feed them royally—and expensively. No
one spoke against it for fear that the queen would hear of the complaint, but many felt it was unjust and hated the very thought of it.

“Well, it's our turn,” Eden sighed. “I suppose we can get through it.”

“Yes, we've survived worse. I had better go make sure we have enough food on hand.” Brandon kissed her on the cheek and turned to go. At the door, he suddenly stopped and turned back, snapping his fingers. “I
knew
I came in here for a reason.” He turned his back to her, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small leather bag. “I thought you might like this.”

Eden reached for the bag, pulled at the drawstring, and lifted out the most beautiful necklace she had ever seen. At the end of a dainty gold chain was an enormous ruby mounted in gold. Giving a cry of delight, she reached up and pulled Brandon's head down to kiss him. “You didn't forget!”

“Forget? Well, bless me, no. How could I forget ten years of the best life a man has ever had?”

“It is so beautiful, Brandon!”

“Payment for ten happy years, my sweet.” He took her in his arms and said, “You have made my life sweet, dear one.”

Eden blinked the tears away and reached up to put her hand on his neck. “You're the best husband in the whole world.”

“And the handsomest, don't forget that.”

“Yes, that too.” Eden put the necklace on, giving him a mischievous look. “I will have your present tonight.”

Brandon laughed. “Well, now, I wonder what that could be?”

After Brandon left, Eden sat before the mirror for some time. The mirror was made of highly polished metal and did not give a true picture, but it was the best available. She could see well enough to admire her necklace.

“Lady Stoneybrook, are you up?”

Eden turned and saw her maid, Dorcas Loring, standing in the doorway.

“Yes, come in, Dorcas.”

The young woman came to stand beside Eden. “My! That's a new necklace, isn't it?”

“Yes, my husband just gave it to me.”

“It's beautiful, ma'am.”

“It is, isn't it? It's for our tenth wedding anniversary.”

“Well, I hope my husband, when I get one, will be as thoughtful as yours.”

“You'd better be sure he's thoughtful
before
you marry him. Women don't usually reform their husbands a great deal.”

“Oh, I'll be careful. But I been wondering about how it is between you and the master.”

“What do you mean, Dorcas?”

“Well, most men don't pay much attention to their wives, but Lord Stoneybrook still holds your hand—and in public, too. And I've heard him talking to you, saying such sweet things.”

“You're right. I don't think he has missed a day in our married life telling me how much he loves me, except when he is gone from Stoneybrook.”

“Was he like that before you married him, my lady?”

“I had a strange upbringing, and my husband and I had a strange courtship.”

Dorcas moved behind Eden and began combing her hair carefully. “How did you two meet? You never told me.”

Old memories flooded into Eden, and she hesitated for a moment. “I had an odd childhood, Dorcas. I was kidnapped by a Spanish pirate when I was just a child. I was brought up in Spain. I didn't know my real parents and I was very unhappy. Then one day a man came and I was impressed with him.”

“And that was your husband, Lord Stoneybrook?”

“Well, he wasn't Lord Stoneybrook then, but yes, it was.”

“And did you fall in love with him at first sight?”

Eden laughed. “No, not right away. You see, I didn't know it, but my real parents had just found out I was alive. They thought I had been lost at sea all that time. When they discovered the truth, they sent Brandon to get me away from my kidnapper, who was about to make me marry a man I didn't love.”

“And then what happened, my lady?”

“Brandon promised to get me away, and he did. He stole me right out of captivity, and brought me on a ship to England and returned me to my parents.”

“And you fell in love with him.”

Eden smiled. “It was a stormy affair. I felt he had made me fall in love with him just so he could collect the reward my father had offered for my safe return. So it took some doing, but we found each other and have been together ever since.”

“Oh, my, it sounds like one of the love stories the actors sing about!”

Eden started to speak, but a knock drew her attention. “Come in,” she said. She smiled as a man entered, and said, “Hello, Quentin.”

“Hello, Eden.” Quentin Winslow was Brandon's uncle and a favorite of the whole family. He had the Winslow look about him, except that his auburn hair was turning silver. As Eden rose to greet him, he took her hands. “Well, you're looking beautiful as usual, my dear.”

“You always say the nicest things.”

“I understand the queen's progress is coming. What do you think of that?”

“I dread it, and so does Brandon. Why does she do it? It costs so much!”

Quentin shrugged. “She is selfish to the bone, my dear, like all kings and all queens. Queen Elizabeth is a fine queen and
brilliant in many ways, but she will do as she pleases. I think she goes on these progresses to save money in the royal treasury.”

“These progresses have bankrupted two noblemen that I know of.”

“I'm not surprised. Anyway, how are the children? I brought them some gifts.”

“They're down at the brook. You'll be staying for the progress, won't you?”

“Oh, yes. First I have to see my little friends. I will see you later, Eden.” He turned and left the room.

Dorcas said, “All the Winslow men are fine looking, aren't they, my lady?”

“Yes, they are, and Quentin dearly loves the children.”

“I've never seen a preacher as handsome as him. Is he married?”

“No, he never married, although he's had plenty of chances. Now that's enough with my hair. I have to go help Brandon get ready for this awful progress!”

Adam Winslow, at the age of eight, was two years older than his brother, Colin, and four years older than his sister, Adara. The three of them had been playing in the cool water of the brook for some time. Adam and Adara were shouting and splashing, but Colin had moved downstream and had paused to look at something on the edge of the water. Adam was irritated and shouted, “Come back here, Colin, we're going to build a dam!” Colin did not move, and Adam became angry. “Look at him, Adara! He pays no attention to me!”

“Make him come!”

“I will!” Adam waded out of the stream toward where his younger brother was crouched. Adam was a strongly built lad with golden hair and hazel eyes, unlike the blue eyes that most Winslow men had. He was a stubborn boy and, since he was the
eldest, always wanted to have his own way with Adara and Colin. He moved to where Colin was staring at something. “Didn't you hear me? I said we're going to build a dam!”

“I don't want to build a dam.” Colin had chestnut hair and light blue-gray eyes. He had always been dominated by Adam and was accustomed to being yelled at. “Look, it's a turtle.”

“Who cares about a stupid old turtle?”

“But I've never seen one like this, Adam. I want to take him home.”

Adam reached down and pulled Colin to his feet. “Come on. We are going to build a dam.”

“No. I want to watch this turtle.”

“You are always looking at snakes or bugs. Come on.”

“I don't want to! Let me go, Adam.”

As always, Adam grew angry when he was crossed. He shoved Colin aside and kicked at the turtle.

“Don't hurt him, Adam!” Colin tried to pull his brother away, but Adam hit him in the chest. The blow knocked the boy face forward into the stream, and Adam shouted, “There, that's what you get if you don't mind me! You have to do what I say because I'm the eldest, Colin! And remember, one day I'll be Adam Winslow, Baron of Stoneybrook, and you'll still be nothing but plain old Colin Winslow!”

Brandon had joined Quentin, and together they went to the creek where the children were playing. They arrived just in time to see Adam knock Colin into the stream. As soon as Brandon saw Adam strike Colin, he ran forward, with Quentin following him. Brandon seized Adam by the arm and shook him. “What do you mean, hitting your brother like that, you rascal?”

Adam stared up at his father, showing no signs of remorse. “I wanted him to help us build a dam, but he just wanted to watch an old turtle! That's all he ever does, Father! He cares more about a dirty old turtle than he does for me!”

“He has manners enough not to hit his own kin!” Brandon said angrily. He waded out and pulled Colin to his feet. There was a small cut on his forehead where he had hit his head on a rock. “Are you all right, Colin?”

“Yes, Father.”

Brandon gently touched the cut. To Adam he said sternly, “Your uncle has come and brought you all some gifts, but you don't deserve one, Adam.”

Quickly, Colin said, “He didn't hurt me, Father. Let Uncle Quentin give him a present.”

Brandon hesitated, but Quentin came forward and put his hand on Colin's shoulder, saying, “I'll tell you what, Brandon. Let me give Adam his gift, and you can discipline him some other way.”

Brandon nodded reluctantly, and Quentin picked up Adara and kissed her. “How is my favorite lady friend today?”

“What did you bring me, Uncle Quentin?” Adara demanded. She had striking red hair, bright green eyes, and a heart-shaped face that showed early signs of great beauty. She also showed early signs of being spoiled to the bone. Quentin particularly indulged her.

“How about some nice juicy snails?”

“Give them to Colin!”

“I don't give presents to dirty children. All of you go up to the house and get cleaned up, and if you're all good until after dinner, I will give you your presents.”

“Good enough,” Brandon said quickly. “Go along now.” As they left, Brandon shook his head and groaned, “I have never seen three children so different.”

“But they're fine children,” Quentin said with a smile.

“Adam is stubborn as a mule!”

“I think we both know where he got that from—and it wasn't your dear wife!”

Brandon laughed. “You're right. I was exactly like Adam
when I was his age and long afterward. I hope he learns a little humility soon. Come, let's go to the house.”

As they walked back toward the castle, Brandon said, “Eden and I are worried about Colin.”

“He is not sick, is he?” Quentin asked quickly.

“No, he's healthy, but he's so different from Adam—and, for that matter, all the male Winslows.”

“You mean physically?”

“Well, that way too. He's smaller and not built as strongly as most of us. You were always strong. So was I, and so was Father. But Colin looks almost frail when he stands beside Adam. Still, it's not so much that Colin is different physically—he's strange in his ways.”

“Why, he's bright enough.”

“Yes, I give you that. But remember, he didn't start talking until he was almost three. Eden and I were afraid he wasn't normal.”

“But he talked well enough once he got started, didn't he?” Quentin said with a chuckle.

“Yes,” Brandon smiled. “As a matter of a fact, he started talking in complete sentences. It came as quite a shock to us. We waited and prayed for him to talk. Then one day he just up and said to Eden, ‘I want a drink of water.' Eden nearly fainted! It was the same way with reading. He taught himself, more or less, when he was only four.”

They reached the house, and Quentin said finally, “I remember the day he was born, Brandon. You and I were so nervous waiting for the birth. When we went in, Eden was so proud. She said, ‘I've given this child to God.' At that point we all agreed that God would touch Colin's life, and I believe He will.”

BOOK: As the Sparks Fly Upward
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