In honour of the two week count down to the release of Duels & Deception, I offer you the original beginning--before it was revised.
Despite being in possession of a mind weighted with heavy thoughts, Lydia Whitfield stepped past her butler, Shodster, at the usual hour of ten minutes after one for her daily constitutional. Buttoning her gloves as she surveyed the treed grounds of Roseberry Hall, Lydia felt the pervasive calm of the outdoors settle her swirling thoughts and lessen her burning frustration, if only temporarily.
With a deep-restorative breath, Lydia leaned forward to begin her walk, then hesitated. She stared down the drive, puzzling over a strange shadow behind one of the trees. She knew her estate down to the last blade of grass… and yet the shape of the silhouette was somewhat odd—as if the shadows were hiding a person lingering and watching from behind the greenery.
Lydia knew Sam and Brad, the under gardeners, to be working on the rhododendrons on the west side of the manor and Mr. Doune, the head gardener, was busy with the seedlings in the greenhouse. There was no reason for a dawdle of any sort, behind the elms or otherwise. Only one explanation was plausible; her imagination was running amok.
With a ghost of a smile, Lydia dismissed the shape, deciding that her heightened emotions were affecting her thinking capacity. Taking another soothing fresh breath, she turned her mind to a more relevant subject—how to proceed. Should she walk around the east wing through their extensive park and down to the lake? Or should she march over to the small-drive that led to the river and then, return by way of the main gate?
“It is Tuesday, Miss,” Shodster said as he slowly closed the door behind her.
“Thank you, Shodster.” Lydia nodded to the narrowing threshold. Shodster must have seen her uncharacteristic confusion and realized, as all good butlers would, that she was overwhelmed with important matters and had, therefore, forgotten the day of the week—for it was, indeed, Tuesday.
“I always walk to the river on Tuesdays.”
Turning, Lydia skirted the east wing of the Elizabethan manor, where the conservatory had recently been added some sixty or seventy years ago, and headed toward the service road just past the low-walled kitchen gardens. Lifting her skirts a full inch above her ankles, Lydia minced her way around a muddy patch and jumped up onto the small drive.