Brynnde: Excerpt

They gathered in the drawing room after the dinner bell rang, and Brynnde stood awkwardly by one of the bookcases, watching everyone else mingle. Both Graeme and Garrick Sommerford were tall, with fair hair. Garrick, the older son, was leaner than his more robust brother, and tanner; he had a worldlier look about him. Brynnde remembered someone having mentioned that Garrick Sommerford spent much time abroad, and when he was in England he was typically in London and almost never at the family estate of Ridgemow.

Graeme, on the other hand, seemed very warm and outgoing. He talked knowledgeably of country matters, speaking fondly of Ridgemow.

“Yes,” Garrick’s voice rose above the general chatter, “Graeme looks after things while I’m traveling. I fear I’ll never be able to take the reins from him at this rate.”

“If you’d just stay home long enough to learn the ins and outs of it,” Lord Darley remarked. Although he made his tone light, Brynnde spied a hardness around his eyes as he spoke.

Garrick glanced at his father and away, his stormy slate-colored eyes finding the windows so that he gazed out at the darkening lawns while sipping his wine.

Graeme laughed, his own mood honestly light. “I’m reluctant to give it up,” he said, “although I suppose at some time I’m going to have to.”

Jemmings appeared at the parlour door to announce that dinner was ready, and the party moved into the dining room. Unheeding of precedence, Brynnde fell behind the others and found herself walking beside Garrick.

“Am I to understand that you travel a good deal?” asked Brynnde.

If he was surprised or put out by having her there, he had manners enough to hide it. “I do. I enjoy it. And I find the country unutterably dull.”

“I am sorry, then, that you were coerced into coming to our house party.”

“Well, it was either come along or knock around Ridgemow alone,” Garrick said.

“So we are the lesser of two evils.”

Garrick actually grinned at that. “Oh, Miss Archambault, I cannot imagine you to be the lesser of anything.”