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Moonstruck - Chapter 1

August 19, 2015 10:35PM
Author's note: I know I haven't been here in ages, but I was writing recently and recalled that someone wanted Rachel Winterbottom's story. It's only a few chapters long (six, I think), but it is a sequel to both Samantha and Arabella's Answer. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1

“Miss Rachel?”

Rachel Winterbottom, seated in the family parlor reading a romance novel and thinking about how two of her friends had recently become betrothed to each other, looked up as the nursery maid poked her head in the room.

“Yes, Katie?”

“Begging your pardon, miss, but the twins are missing.”

“Again?” Rachel frowned. Her brother and sister, at ten years of age, were an adventurous pair, but lacked sense, as they often slipped out of the house to explore London on their own.

“They asked for tea after their lessons, Miss Rachel, but when I came up to the nursery with a tray, Miss Calvert said they had gone downstairs with me.”

Rachel wanted to be angry with the twins, but she knew the restrictions her mother had placed on the children. She, at eighteen, had more freedom, but even she was limited in where she could go.

“Get your hat and cloak, Katie,” she said in resignation, “and meet me in five minutes at the kitchen door.”

“Yes, miss.”

It would have to be the rear of the house, Rachel thought as she went upstairs to retrieve her own outerwear. If either of her parents returned home as she and Katie were leaving, there would have to be explanations, and then there would be the devil to pay.

There were several reasons Katie brought her concerns to Rachel. One, Miss Calvert was a good educator, but she had less notion of how to get along in the city than the twins combined. Second, Katie did not like seeing Elizabeth and Michael in trouble, and Rachel was an understanding sister, not prone to tattling on the children to their parents. Third, however, was the most important reason of all. Rachel was good at tracking the twins. She seemed to have some sixth sense when it came to their direction, and twice this week, already, she had found them.

Once, they were outside the British Museum, pooling their money for admission. Another time, they had gone to Gunter's for ices. The first time, Rachel had calmly purchased tickets for them all, let them tour the museum and then acted later as if the outing had been planned for days. No one seemed to have missed any of them and had accepted Rachel's explanation without question. But she refused to buy ices for the reprobates during the second incident. They had to learn sometime that they could not just wander about on their own.

Evidently, they had not yet learned that lesson.

After she and Katie left the house, Rachel stopped, sniffed the air, and turned left into the mews behind the Winterbottom townhouse. From there, her senses led her to a main Mayfair thoroughfare, where she hailed a hansom cab.

“Where to, miss?”

“South, sir, and I shall tell you when to stop.” As Rachel gave the driver a tip in advance, he doffed his hat, grinned at Katie and told the ladies they were in charge.

Rachel wondered about that twenty minutes later when their trek took them into a seedy part of the city. As they neared the river, the neighborhood appeared even more sordid, and Katie began to fret.

“Hush! They are nearby.” Rachel asked the driver to stop in front of a dilapidated little church with the illustrious name of St. Natalis.

“Shall I wait here, miss?” The cab driver shifted nervously in his seat.

“Katie, you stay with the cab. I will only be a few minutes.” Rachel paid part of their shot for good measure and went inside the drab building. The interior was as shabby as its outside appearance, but to her relief, she heard a familiar voice coming from the small sanctuary.

“You would like our sister, Rachel,” Elizabeth was saying. She was sitting on the front-row pew, her legs dangling. Michael was on her left, munching happily on sugar biscuits. A gentleman – presumably the vicar – faced his current congregation of two, looked up and smiled at her.

Rachel stopped short just behind the twins, and she could not recall meeting a more handsome gentleman. He had dark hair that was longer than was fashionable, and it curled around the nape of his neck. Because of the dimly lit room, she could not determine eye color, but his smile was bright.

“Is this sister dark-haired, with a heart-shaped face and a blue bonnet?” he asked.

“Yes! And she took us to the museum on Tuesday!”

“How do you know what she looks like?” Michael wondered.

“Because she is standing right behind you, about to wring your scrawny little necks!” Rachel exclaimed.

“Rachel!”

Instead of being cowed, as she might have hoped, the twins clambered to their feet and ran around the pew to embrace their sister.

“We knew you would find us!”

“I have sugar biscuits!”

Rachel nodded, brushing crumbs from her cloak, and sighed. “It is a miracle I did find you! How in the world did you end up in this...” She struggled for something nice to say.

“Pitiful excuse for a church?” the clergyman offered. “It is true,” he added before she could protest. “There is not much to say about this place, except to recommend my housekeeper's biscuits.” He sneezed, suddenly, and patted down his coat for a handkerchief, to no avail.

“Bless you. It is a perfectly lovely little church, and I thank you for keeping the children safe, but it is time for us to go. My maid is waiting in a cab,” she explained to the vicar, even as she fished in her reticule, found a square of linen and handed it over.

“Understood.”

“The vicar was just about to arrange a ride home for us,” Elizabeth said.

“How thoughtful.” Rachel looked into a pair of light-colored eyes she was sure were either green or gray, and smiled. “I appreciate all you have done, sir, more than you can imagine.” Her mother would kill them all if she discovered the reason for so many outings this week.

“It has been my pleasure.” He tried to hand back the handkerchief, and when Rachel indicated he should keep it, he bowed instead to the children, and then to Rachel. “Mr. Winterbottom, Miss Elizabeth. Your servant, Miss Winterbottom.”

“Thank you.” Rachel could have stood there longer, trying to determine the man's eyes, but Elizabeth nudged her.

“Katie is outside, waiting,” she was reminded.

“Oh, yes! Yes, she is.” Taking her truants by the hands, she nodded to the vicar and left the building, bustling the twins into the cab, even though it meant taking Elizabeth onto her lap. Rachel looked out the window toward the small church and saw the vicar standing in the doorway, watching them leave. She almost raised a hand, and thought better of it. It would not do to be too forward with a gentleman she was never going to see again.


“You wished to see us, Father?” Twin mountains by the names of Marric and Ulric Hartwell stood with military precision in front of their parent in his office, an imposing room with intimidation, not comfort, in mind. The two elder sons of Maximilian Hartwell, however, were very much at home in this space, as their father was their leader, as well as their progenitor.

“Sit, men,” the older Hartwell invited them, indicating the two grand chairs that faced his wide, mahogany desk. They did as they were bid and he sat there a moment, regarding his offspring.

“I have found a girl,” he finally said.

His sons did not speak.

“She will be for one of you, and whomever she chooses will marry her.”

“Yes, sir,” they said as one, not questioning their father's command. And it was a command.

“Neither of you will ask it, but I will tell you why I have discovered this girl, and what she means to the family. I want you to understand my plan, so that you do not interfere.”

The brothers looked at each other. It was true that one or both of them did not often follow through with their father's orders, or would do something to foul his schemes. It was not planned that way. Indeed, they were more loyal to the older man than any other members of the pack. Things just had a way of going awry. This, however, was personal. One of them would be required to take this girl to wife.

“Yes, sir.”

“Excellent. The girl, Miss Rachel Winterbottom, has the potential to produce lycan children.”

That was important, as there had not been a lycan child born in the pack since the arrival of Ulric, twenty six years before. Hartwell had a third son, but that child was not a shape shifter, and as such did not count. The family must be preserved, but more importantly, the pack must not be allowed to die out.

“I want you two to attend a social function, get to know the lady, let her know she may have her choice of you. Do this, and you will be greatly rewarded. Fail, and I will have to resort to more desperate measures. Do not force me to do so.”

“No, sir.”

“Excellent. You are dismissed. Check with Donald regarding Miss Winterbottom's social calendar. I want you wherever she will be, and I want you to insinuate yourselves in her life. She must be made aware that there is a choice, but only between you.”

The paperskulls would probably mess this up, as well, Hartwell thought as he watched his sons leave, but he had another plan. As he said, he preferred not to use it. Just because he was in a leadership position did not mean he liked using force. Much, at any rate. Still, Miss Winterbottom must be made to heel. She was desperately needed, and she must not discover why. Just because one had the potential to pass on the lycan gene did not mean one could access it themselves. And he did not wish the mother of his grandchildren to be frightened. Yet.


Once out of the office, the two Hartwell brothers left the house and went down to the local pub for a pint. Or two. An audience with their father tended to intimidate, as the older man intended, and alcohol was needed immediately afterward.

“Married, hmmm?” Marric said.

“So it seems.” Ulric held two fingers up to the barmaid and she rushed to bring them ale.

“Shall you do the pretty first, or shall I?”

“Do you not question this need to marry soon?”

“No. Do you?”

Ulric shrugged. “Not particularly. I just always hoped I could choose my own bride.”

“Perhaps she will like me better than you, and that will not be a problem.”

“Until the next time Father finds a girl he wants in the family. He will run out of sons eventually.”

“Even Alex will be forced to bend to Father's will.”

“I doubt he will.” Marric was rather proud of the way their younger brother stood up to their leader. Not that Alex was a member of the pack. He had renounced them all in favor of a profession.

“So do I, but one never knows. I wonder what his parishioners would think if they knew he had lycan blood?”

“Do you think any of them can even spell that?”

“There is the chance. After all, you did not even realize, Marric, that lycan had a y in it until last year.”

Marric frowned and pushed his brother off the bench, sending Ulric tumbling backwards into the pretty barmaid, who sent the drinks flying. Fortunately, his reflexes were excellent, and Marric's brother caught the tankards before they could hit the floor. Some was spilled, a waste of good ale, but Ulric earned a few kisses from the barmaid in the process, and she quickly promised more ale and kisses if they would just be patient. They might have to spend the next fortnight or so wooing a chit they did not even know yet, but at least the day was not a total loss.

blurb: Miss Rachel Winterbottom finds herself being forced into marriage, when all she wants is true love.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Moonstruck - Chapter 1

Cindy C.August 19, 2015 10:35PM

Re: Moonstruck - Chapter 1

LisetteAugust 26, 2015 02:52PM

Re: Moonstruck - Chapter 1

JessyAugust 21, 2015 03:37AM

Re: Moonstruck - Chapter 1

JoannaAugust 20, 2015 03:37AM

Re: Moonstruck - Chapter 1

UlrikeAugust 20, 2015 07:24AM



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