The Restless Heart
My new novella, The Restless Heart, is out now with My Weekly Story Collection. You can find on sale in WH Smith and other newsagents in the UK & Commonwealth.
Here's a short excerpt from the story's opening.
The Restless Heart
‘Anthony!’ said the sharp female voice. ‘Oh do go and help that poor creature out of her misery. I can hardly bear to watch.’
Isabella Oakley had two choices – turn around to observe the female who had spoken or plunge forward in one last ditched attempt to save her bonnet from being blown completely away. She plunged forward but a strong gust of wind got there first, lifting the straw bonnet with its frayed ribbons up into the air and further across the lawn.
‘Heavens!’ she muttered, biting her lip and knowing that young ladies such as she were not supposed to look so utterly undignified. Bella put her hand up to the side of her head and felt hair coming loose. She’d now lost a hairpin as well. By now, all the people who had been enjoying a promenade on this pleasantly sunny afternoon would have stopped to watch the spectacle she was making of herself. They were most likely in better circumstances than she and could have let the elements take a bonnet with the certainty they would afford to buy a new one. She shuddered to think how much her aunt and uncle had already spent on her wardrobe to make sure she would be properly outfitted for her debut.
Bella gripped her skirts in her hand and darted forward once more as the bonnet took off from the lawn and got caught in the branches of a tree above her.
She stood next to the tree trunk and looked up with some dismay. Maybe if she balanced on her tiptoes and reached up with her right hand…?
‘Miss,’ a deep voice said. She snatched her hand back to her side. ‘Allow me.’
A tall gentleman dressed wholly in black save his starched white linen cravat reached up into the branches of the tree and plucked out the bonnet.
‘It appears beyond repair, I’m afraid,’ he said, turning the squashed straw over in his long-fingered hands.
‘Thank you, sir.’ Bella looked up as he handed her the article and found herself looking into some very dark brown eyes squinting because of the sunlight. He had a long face with a square chin yet his strong features were softened by the tousles of his dark hair. Curls framed his forehead and around his ears, and rested in sharp contrast on his brilliant white neck cloth.
His gaze narrowed and Bella realised he was not simply trying to keep the sun out of his eyes but was regarding her with some curiosity. It was perhaps not surprising as her green serge dress was unfashionable. She looked down to the tops of his black leather boots and felt a heat rising in her cheeks.
‘Anthony Davenport,’ he said and gave a small bow as was customary. ‘Your obedient.’
He kept one hand behind his back. His manners were clearly those of high society. What was she supposed to do? She had no idea whether she should introduce herself or simply thank the stranger and be on her way. Her uncle was going to be cross enough as it was that she had gone out for a walk alone.
‘Are you not going to share with me your name?’ he said his voice as smooth as cream as he raked his hand through his hair. Yet she had the strangest sensation that he was a little nervous.
‘Isabella Oakley.’ Whether or not he was nervous she was - her cheeks were burning and she’d already forgotten his name. Anthony something…?
‘A pleasant day for taking a turn, Miss Oakley,’ he went on to say, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Bella’s attention turned to the conversation of two fast approaching ladies.
‘What a circus,’ one of the ladies said.
Bella wanted to hide her head in her hands. She should have noticed one of the ribbons on her bonnet was fraying and then none of this would have happened. But she’d been in such a thoughtless rush as usual….
The second lady said, ‘Well, Anthony is busy making an acquaintance. One day he really will disgrace us all!’