It's rather fitting since I'm not quite sure what I intend to do with this story. I'm thinking I may post the entire story for free here on the blog as a serial, but it needs quite a bit of work before that happens.
This one has always been a little vexing to me. I started it as original years ago, turned it into fanfic, and then set it aside. It's a rather tragic love story that happens to end well enough, set in 1840s England when the New Poor Laws forced many desperate women to hand their young children over to nurses who didn't always have their best interests at heart. In fact, several of those nurses were later convicted of willfully murdering the children placed into their care. Whether or not the mothers knew this would happen, no one knows for sure, but it's a damn sad reality that lasted far too long.
This story introduces Sophia and Dante, lovers pulled apart by circumstance and brought back together after tragedy strikes, leaving Sophia's heart shattered. Dante will do anything to help her find herself again, even if that means helping her to rescue children from farmers and housing them himself. And if doing so happens to remind her why she ever loved him in the first place... well, Dante wouldn't mind that either. He's always loved Sophia. He always will. He just has to convince her that whatever she's hiding from him won't send him running again. It won't, will it?
Sophia opened her eyes, blinking against the sun, to find her elderly butler making his way toward her down the cobbled path. "Yes, Bertie?"
The old man drew to a stop in front of her and bowed smoothly. "I'm sorry to disturb you, my lady, but Lord Adaire is here to see you."
Good heavens, Jonathan had been to see her every day since she'd taken up residence in the home he'd found for her. His constant hovering had to stop. She hated to send him away, but her brother had promised to give her space and thus far, she had gotten none of it.
"Inform him I am indisposed," she said.
"No. I shan’t be sent away today, Sophia." Jonathan's deep voice rang out from farther down the path.
Sophia sighed heavily and stood to face him.
Bertie wisely stepped out of the way, revealing the top of her brother's blond head. The tall hedge hiding her little bench from the house obscured the rest of his body, but the resolute look on his handsome face made it clear he would not be easily satisfied today.
"What do you want, Jonathan?"
She loved her brother, but gad! This truly had to stop. He had to stop. No matter how she tried to convince him, he would not accept that what had happened to her was not his fault. He'd been in Barbados for heaven's sake, completely unable to do a thing. He refused to believe that though, and seemed intent upon making up for it by smothering her half to death now.
"Can't I just want to see you?" Jonathan stepped around the hedge completely into her view. He looked like he'd spent the night in his cups again. His clothing was rumpled, his hair tousled, and the beginnings of a beard shadowed his face. His brown eyes were bloodshot and bruised beneath from lack of sleep.
Sophia steeled herself against the sight, refusing to feel sorry for him. Every time she allowed herself to soften toward him, unable to disappoint him when he looked so bloody sad, she found herself giving in to whatever he wanted–a quick jaunt around the square, dinner at the Adaire townhome… a little conversation. The list went on and on, keeping him stuck to her side from sun-up until sundown most days.
This time she would not give in.
Crossing her arms over her chest, she frowned at him. "Jonathan, you promised me!"
"Dash it, Sophia," he sighed and then his dogged expression crumbled, leaving pure misery in its place. "I miss you."
That expression, those words, tugged at her heart. She missed him too, terribly. But she forced the emotion ruthlessly away and continued to hold her ground. "I do not see how that's possible. I have seen you nigh on every day since I left!"
"I worry about you." He shrugged as if that explained everything.
Sophia closed her eyes for a brief moment, searching for a little patience and a bit more will. "I know you worry about me, but this–you being here all the time–isn't helping, Jonathan. I cannot even breathe without you or Sebastian or the Marquess and Emma popping up. You are all driving me mad!"
"I suppose that means you don't want to join us for a house party?"
"No!" Sophia cried, stomping her foot in frustration. "No, no, no!"