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Authors: Lawana Blackwell

The Widow of Larkspur Inn

BOOK: The Widow of Larkspur Inn
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Books by

Lawana Blackwell

The Jewel of Gresham Green

T
HE
G
RESHAM
C
HRONICLES

The Widow of Larkspur Inn

The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter

The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark

www.lawanablackwell.com

The Widow of Larkspur Inn

Copyright © 1998

Lawana Blackwell

 

Cover by Jennifer Parker

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners.

 

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

 

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

ISBN 978-07642-02674

 

Library of Congress has cataloged the original edition as follows:

 

Blackwell, Lawana, 1952-

The widow of Larkspur Inn / by Lawana Blackwell.

    p. cm.—(The Gresham chronicles ; bk. 1)

ISBN 1–55661–947–2 (pbk.)

I. Title. II. Series: Blackwell, Lawana, 1952-     Gresham chronicles ; bk. 1.

PS3552.L3429W53     1997

813’.54—dc21

97–33858

CIP

This book is lovingly dedicated

to my mother,

Polly Chandler,

who taught me how to be a lady.

LAWANA BLACKWELL has eleven published novels to her credit, including the bestselling G
RESHAM
C
HRONICLES
series. She and her husband have three grown sons and live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Content

Chapter 1

 

Chapter 2

 

Chapter 3

 

Chapter 4

 

Chapter 5

 

Chapter 6

 

Chapter 7

 

Chapter 8

 

Chapter 9

 

Chapter 10

 

Chapter 11

 

Chapter 12

 

Chapter 13

 

Chapter 14

 

Chapter 15

 

Chapter 16

 

Chapter 17

 

Chapter 18

 

Chapter 19

 

Chapter 20

 

Chapter 21

 

Chapter 22

 

Chapter 23

 

Chapter 24

 

Chapter 25

 

Chapter 26

 

Chapter 27

 

Chapter 28

 

Chapter 29

 

Chapter 30

 

Chapter 31

 

Chapter 32

 

Chapter 33

 

Chapter 34

 

Chapter 35

 

Chapter 36

 

Chapter 37

 

Chapter 38

 

Chapter 39

 

Chapter 40

 

Chapter 41

 

Chapter 42

 

Chapter 43

 

Chapter 44

 

Chapter 45

 

Chapter 1

 

London
March 1, 1869

 

How many miles to Nottinghamshire?

Sixty, seventy, eighty-four.

Will I be there by candle light?

Just if your legs be long and tight.

 

Julia Hollis stopped reading and looked down at the child asleep in her arms. The combination of rocking chair and
Tales of My Mother Goose
had proved too formidable an opponent for a five-year-old’s nightmares. Grace’s heart-shaped face was now the epitome of peaceful slumber; her lashes resting gently against her cheeks, her lips parted slightly, and her breathing steady.

Give her sweet dreams for the rest of the night, Lord
, Julia prayed silently. She did not begrudge being roused from her bed by a frantic nanny. If only her own nightmares could be chased away so easily.

From her left side came the whisper of felt slippers against the carpet. Julia turned her head to look at Frances, whose gaunt figure was swathed in a flannel wrapper, her brown hair wrapped in curling papers.

“It’s time to put her back to bed now, missus.”

Recognizing the injury in the nanny’s tone, Julia knew that it was because Grace had refused to be pacified until she came.
What was I to do? Refuse my own child?
Nevertheless, she would attempt to make it up to Frances by asking Jensen to extend her next half-day off to a full day.

“I believe I’d like to hold her a bit longer,” Julia whispered back. “Did she wake the others?”

“I just looked in on Miss Aleda—she’s fast asleep. And there wasn’t a peep from young master Philip’s room.”

“I’m glad. They’re just starting to sleep well themselves. And they resume lessons with Mr. Hunter tomorrow.”

“And that’s why the child needs to be back in her own bed. If you coddle her too much, she’ll repeat the same behavior again and again.”

Julia was beginning to feel a faint irritation. True, Frances had been with them since Philip was born, and responsible nannies were supposed to be difficult to find … but she was, after all, the children’s mother and the mistress of the house.
And it’s high time Frances became aware of that
, she told herself.

But then worry set in, squelching any rebellious thoughts. If she made Frances angry, she might possibly be cross with the children tomorrow. They certainly didn’t need that, not after having lost their father three weeks ago.
It’s probably better to compromise this time
. Giving the nanny her most nonoffensive smile, she said, “You’re right, of course. But I know I shan’t be able to sleep until I’m positive she won’t wake again. Why don’t you go on back to bed, and I’ll be sure to tuck her in very soon.”

“Well … I suppose it won’t hurt,” Frances said after covering a yawn. “But just this once, missus. I cannot abide a spoiled child.”

“Yes … thank you.”

“I’ll go straighten the bedclothes. You be sure and tuck them around her shoulders so she won’t catch a chill.”

“I will.”

After Frances had padded back into the night nursery, Julia leaned her head against the back of the chair and resumed rocking. The warmth of Grace’s body against her shoulder and the sound of her faint snoring were comforting. She closed her eyes and her grip upon the book in her lap loosened.

 

If all the world were apple pie,

And all the sea were ink,

And all the trees were bread and cheese,

What should we have to drink?

 

“Mrs. Hollis?”

Images of inky black sea water dissolved at the sound of her name, but it took Julia a few seconds to realize that the voice had not been part of a dream. She turned to peer over her left shoulder. Jensen, the butler, stood framed by the doorway leading into the corridor. He was a man of about sixty and carried himself erect with a restrained dignity that would befit any palace guard. He was just as restrained with his facial expressions as with his bearing. In the fourteen years that she’d known him, Julia couldn’t recall ever having seen him smile.

“Yes, Jensen?”

“My apologies for disturbing madam at this late hour, but there is a caller downstairs. A Mr. Deems.”

BOOK: The Widow of Larkspur Inn
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