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Miss Bell's Ballroom Betrothal

Written by Georgie Lee

Orphaned and impoverished, Miss Eliza Bell dreams of the day when she’ll escape her malicious stepmother’s home and begin a new life with her secret beau, Navy Officer Laurence Allen. So when Eliza’s family threatens to send her to Russia as a lady’s companion, Laurence and Eliza decide to elope…

But duty to Laurence’s family usurps their plans, and Eliza’s belief in the strength of their love begins to crumble. This couple must fight against all the odds to hold on to each other and finally take the step to announce their betrothal to the ton!

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Chapter One

Hertfordshire, September 1811

Eliza Bell raced through the woods, hoping Laurence Allen was still waiting for her at the clearing across the stream. She was a half hour late, shortening the already too brief time they’d spend together today. Sneaking out of Huntford Place had been difficult, especially after the startling events of the morning which had sent the entire house party into a spin. It had made her stepmother more churlish than usual and much freer with her demands and criticisms of Eliza.

She ran faster through the forest, hopping over a puddle and pushing a sagging branch out of her way. Eliza was desperate to reach Laurence and experience once more the joy of being wanted and cherished. Her stepmother was eager to see her gone, only bringing her to the house party in an attempt to marry her off. Every time Eliza had spoken to another gentleman or laughed with the other young ladies, her heart hadn’t been in it. All she could think about was the next meeting with her beloved, longing for the day they could finally announce their engagement and be together for good.

At last the clearing appeared through the trees, and her spirits rose only to be dashed. The usually calm creek she needed to cross had overrun its banks, swollen into a torrent by last night’s storm, the one which had led to this morning’s tempest in the sitting room between Lady Huntford, their hostess, and Miss Radcliff, the governess.

As thrilling as it’d been to watch the drama, Eliza had been too consumed with her own near scandalous affair to care about the governess’s alleged indiscretion with Major Preston. Eliza had already suspected a relationship between the couple after she’d spied them together in the woods on her way back from meeting Laurence the other day. She hadn’t said anything to anyone. There was no reason to ruin their stolen moments of happiness, not when so many forces were working against hers, including Mother Nature.

“Laurence, how will I get to you?” Despairingly, she doubted things would turn out as well for her as they had for the governess. Little except Laurence’s love had gone her way since her father’s death five years ago had left her at the mercy of her stepmother. Even her intended’s constancy was a source of worry for her. Her mother and father had left her through death, and their friends had drifted away, too concerned with their own daughters to bother about her. Her stepmother and sister had never wanted her. It sometimes made believing in the strength of love difficult.

No, Laurence’s love is strong. It had remained so during all the times his duties as a commander in the Royal Navy had kept him away, or so she believed.

She paced the bank in agitation. Whenever he came home, there was always a reason why they could not wed. Perhaps Laurence was merely pretending to love her like her stepmother had done with her father. The woman had acted smitten with him, and in his grieving weakness he’d believed her farce. The illusion had died shortly after the wedding, leaving both Eliza and her father miserable. Now, she feared Laurence would break her heart, too.

She glanced across the rushing water, searching for some sign of Laurence. He was too honourable to callously hurt her, and there was no reason for him to feign affection. She possessed no wealth or standing and could offer him nothing except love.

It made her wonder again why he troubled with her.

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About the author

I was born and raised in southern California where I grew up watching ...

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Georgie Lee

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