Short excerpt from Lady Runaway, Chapter One
© Ginger Hanson 2009
The heavy brass doorknocker banged against the front door, startling Lady Riana Travistock into dropping the two portmanteaus. They thumped to the bare wood floor at her feet while she frowned at the door. Since the last of the household servants had left yesterday, she would have to answer the summons. Stalking across the foyer, she paused long enough to curve her mouth into a polite smile before opening the door.
"My dear Lady Riana!"
The smile froze on her face. Sir Hector Stalkings was supposed to be in London, not Dorking. An unladylike expletive exploded in her brain. She tried to soften her smile, but her mouth felt as starched as the cravat around Sir Hector's thick neck. "Sir Hector, what a... pleasant surprise."
Peering beyond her into the shadowed hallway, his brown gaze swept the room, stopping at the bags bunched on the inlaid oak floor. "What I hear is true? You're leaving us?"
Gossamer wings of panic unfurled in her breast. She had hoped to escape Dorking without seeing her father's friend. "You heard correctly. Pennywise and I are booked on this afternoon's stagecoach."
"Thank goodness I returned from London before you left," he said.
Good manners forced her backward when he started through the door. The scent of the late June roses blooming along the front portico wafted into the hall behind cloying waves of his Canterbury violet perfume.
"Stricken," he said, "absolutely stricken to hear you and Mrs. Pennywise have been forced to leave your home."
The wings of distress flapped against her ribs with the power of a kestrel fighting to be airborne as he stepped into the foyer. Only years of deportment lessons kept its drumming beat out of her voice.
"Thank you for your sentiments, but Mrs. Pennywise and I quite look forward to this change in our lives."
"Look forward to the change! How can you? I hear Pennywise is to retire to her sister's home in Woking. And you have secured a teaching position in London. What a brave face you have put on this disaster." Sir Hector shook his head as he closed the front door. "'Tis a sad day when Lady Riana Travistock is reduced to teaching someone else’s brats."
He hadn't heard the complete truth, but no one in Dorking knew about the jewels except her and Pennywise.