About the book
She didn’t need him to save her, only to love her…
After losing her husband in the Napoleonic wars, Melody Balfour is left alone to run the Gentle Rose Inn. In a world built for men, she fights tooth and nail to stay afloat and love is the last thing on her mind. Until the day a dashing Duke strolls in...
A Duke that believes in women’s rights is rare, even more so one that advocates for them. Tired of the vapid girls he meets in high society, Zachariah Livingston, the Duke of Sandorne, is looking for more. And he finds her in the form of a strong-willed innkeeper.
When Zachariah goes missing, a ransom note is the only thing that maintains Melody’s hope of finding him. A hope, however, that seems futile when his family find themselves unable to pay. Desperate, Melody employs help that comes with strings attached. Strings that come in the form of the chain of a broken locket...
A Troubled Carriage Ride
Night had already fallen on London when Zachariah, the young Duke of Sandorne, emerged from the House of Lords. He was in mixed spirits but the clouded state of his mind soon cleared when he saw his steward, Caleb Ridlington, already standing by the carriage.
“I certainly hope you had enough brandy for the both of us, in your time spent waiting,” the Duke smirked to his friend as he climbed into the carriage.
“No, my good friend. Had you not been sequestered away all evening in the House of Lords, you would not have found me lazing about the fine streets of London with a snifter of brandy,” Caleb stated in his most aristocratic voice, lifting his chin as if to snub away the very notion.
He then peeked at his friend from the corner of his eye, his face faltering into a bit of a smirk. “A delicious imported cognac, on the other hand...”
They both chuckled as they settled in, the driver lurching the carriage forward. It was just a couple hour’s ride back to the dukedom of Sandorne in nearby Kent, but Zachariah almost would have preferred horseback just to arrive home that much sooner. How unseemly it would have been, for a Duke to barrel down the streets of London on horseback.
I am sure London has seen stranger sights.
“Do not keep an old man in suspense,” Caleb called from the other side of the carriage, interrupting Zachariah’s fantasy.
His eyes sliced through his dear friend, a smirk beholding his lips.
“Do not be so daft! We are of the same age. We might not be the spring chickens we once were, but I think we could still bring all of England to its knees if we chose to do so.”
The men shared light laughter before a pause fell over them, Caleb still waiting for Zachariah to speak. He let out a long and heavy sigh, rubbing his face. Caleb wanted the details of what transpired in the House of Lords.
“Oh, it was a run of the mill affair, Caleb. I don’t know why you hold such a burning interest. They went round and round about property dealings, attempting to sweeten the proposed pots with offering up their daughters for marriage to other’s sons. Quite an insulting world to live in for a woman, is it not? A room filled with gray-haired men, well passed their vitality, treating them less than the family jewels. More like a family cow! It’s truly quite dreadful to witness.”
“Zachariah Livingston,” Caleb stated, motioning his hand as if reading the Duke’s name on a sign, “A Lady’s Man: but not in the way one would think.”
They shared another chuckle, but Zachariah’s was a bit bemused. He had never understood how it was a scandalous idea to think women should be equal to man. It was not as though they were cave women, where the men took on all the danger to hunt down food, and the women stayed home, doing nothing more than cradling suckling babes. To think of women as lesser in modern society was to think them mentally inept.
His thoughts couldn’t help but return to witnessing his mother and father playing chess, his mother holding a certain smile to her lips that always made it known she could have easily beaten his father. She always let him win, making a bit of a show to make her loss convincing.
His father never seemed to notice, but Zachariah always saw through it.
Who was the coy, inept one then? The woman who protected her husband’s pride and manipulated him into believing he had bested her, or the man who had a daft grin on his face and patted his wife’s hand to comfort her supposed loss?
“I suppose there was one thing of note,” Zachariah stated, breaking himself away from his thoughts. Caleb’s brow arched and he leaned in, giving Zachariah his ear. “I announced my intention to open a university. One in which women may study in its halls, welcoming them just as much as the men to the world of academia.”
“I do not have to question whether or not they called you a charlatan,” Caleb chuckled, his hand going to his cheek in secondhand embarrassment of his dear friend’s actions.
“How absolutely devilish of I to want to educate their daughters,” Zachariah grinned. “What a vile world we live in, where a man would rather have me, a thirty-two-year-old man, marry his debuted daughter than for me to teach her the theories of Aristotle.”
“Perhaps shelve your revolution for the night, old chap,” Caleb chuckled. “It has been quite the day. Would you like a night cap? Perhaps some of that marvelous brandy of yours and a game of chess before we both retire.”
“I cannot, for the life of me, think of a better way to end the evening.”
They shared a smile before the carriage was suddenly rocking back and forth violently.
“Bloody hell!” Caleb gasped as it suddenly stopped. There were frantic footsteps just outside the coach and hushed voices. Zachariah’s heart pounded in his chest, not understanding what was going on.
Why is the footman not sounding off assurances or apologies?
He soon got his answer. The carriage door was swung open and masked men overcame the Duke and his steward with speed and precision. The men each cried out, commanding the strangers to halt their attack at once. Of course, criminals were not inclined to adhere to the commands of the noble. Zachariah did his best to stay calm as his hands and feet were tied, and a blindfold placed over his eyes.
It is quite all right. They must be thieves. I will be down my rings and pocket-watch but will be no worse for wear. Just keep calm and do not agitate them.
There was rustling and rummaging around before the two men were dragged from the carriage.
Are they going to take the bloody carriage, too? Surely, they know that it would be recognizable as a Duke’s. It would doom their fates to be caught and tried for this crime.
There was more noise, a bit of a struggle—and then an unsettling silence. The sound of ripping fabric signaled the release of their hands. Caleb was the first to remove his blindfold and was first struck by the sight of his own rings, still on his hands. Patting his pockets would prove that not a single thing was missing from his possession. His eyes fell to the footman, who sat next to him. They exchanged confused, surprised looks.
“Perhaps they were hooligans, seeking out a thrill in scaring the noble,” he hypothesized.
When he turned to confer with the Duke, Caleb was struck by his absence. His head whizzed all around as he scrambled to his feet. “They have taken the Duke!” he exclaimed into the night air, that was then, far too still.
Six Weeks Earlier…
Not a day went by that the Gentle Rose Inn was not brimming with life. For Melody Balfour, the innkeeper, it was enough to keep her head spinning.
That day was no exception. The dining room of the inn was filled with its typical patrons who feasted on the roasted poultry, mashed potatoes, and freshly baked bread that flew out of the kitchen from opening until close each day.
She sauntered around the tables with expertise, not bumping a single elbow or chair as she passed by.
“Oh, George, you’re missing your extra gravy! I’ll be sure to call back for Betsy to get that for you,” she spoke to a patron as she wafted by.
“Thanks, lovely,” he shouted back, holding up a mug of tea as a sign of gratitude.
Melody was familiar with every face in her lovely town and knew them each well enough to know the specifications of their orders.
George Blackwell was a man that took no spoon to his mouth of any dish unless it was absolutely smothered in brown gravy. Betsy, her best friend and cook, swore she had once seen him put it on a slice of dessert pie.
It was this personable nature she had with them that had gained her the respect of the town. After her dear Frank had passed away at war, the town had grown leery of the inn and Melody’s ability to keep the doors open. She had set out to prove them wrong, no matter how mundane and tedious running an inn tended to be.
“Mellie, dovey pie,” an all too familiar voice cooed to her as she passed by. “Would you be such a dear as to fetch me another sherry?”
It took all of Melody to not roll her eyes and slap the man upside the head. “Obadiah, I believe you have had a fair amount to drink. Would you not agree?”
He lazily brought a finger to his chin as he thought over her sentiment. “Have I been away for some time? Did I miss a notice in the papers that the currency has changed? Since when is my money no good here?”
She sighed and eyed him challengingly, “Tell you what, Obadiah, you finish a meal for me, and I’ll pour you that lovely sherry myself.”
He gave her a grotesque grin, flashing her his rotted teeth as if it were somehow charming. “You have yourself a deal, dovey pie.”
Melody returned the smile in kind but as soon as her back was to him, she muttered to herself, “Call me dovey pie once more and I’ll be sure your dinner is crow, you old drunkard.”
She found relief, at least, that he was willing to have a meal. The hope was that a hearty portion of bread and chicken would soak up some of the liquor and wine already surging through his veins, so that he would continue to be a well-behaved customer.
Her eyes were then set on Julia Middleton, one of her favorite regulars who despite being of the working class, carried herself like a Duke’s daughter. She ate with a knife and fork, patting her mouth with a napkin between each bite, and sipped white wine in the inn every night.
Melody often wondered if the woman knew how to cook. She was nearing forty, had never married, and was such a character that Melody saw her conversations with Julia as her break in her mundane day.
Before she could reach her, however, Melody was met by Susan, one of the maids. “Miss Balfour,” she began, her voice as faint as a mouse, “We have new guests waiting in the lobby.”
“Thank you, Susan,” she nodded, offering the girl a kind smile in hopes of calming her anxious spirit. “Would you be a dear and tell Betsy to send out George some extra gravy? And that Obadiah is in need of a meal—heavy on the bread.”
Heavy on the bread had nearly become code between the women that someone in there was too drunk, and it was in their best interest to sober them up as much as they could, and send them on their way.
The maid looked as though she wanted to say something more, but decided against it, scurrying away to the kitchen as fast as she could. Melody fixed her face into her professional expression, flat and polite, before she exited the dining room and into the lobby. Almost immediately, Melody was brought to a halt by the sight of two noblemen standing before her. They were both tall and well groomed, wearing flashy colors of royal blue and emerald green tailcoats and matching breeches.
The one in green spoke first, “Are you the innkeeper?”
“That I am,” she spoke confidently, though her face was still marveled at the sight of nobility in her modest inn.
“This is Zachariah Livingston, Duke of Sandorne, and I am Caleb Ridlington, his steward,” he informed her. Melody’s gaze shifted back to the supposed Duke, his expression then seeming strained, as if embarrassed by the formal introduction.
It took a moment for her manners to catch up to her, providing them a small curtsey in her simple and plain muslin and spencer jacket. “Your Grace,” she muttered before straightening her posture. “Forgive me. We are not used to nobility coming around.”
The Duke offered her a kind, warm smile, “There is nothing to forgive…” his voice trailed off, searching for her name.
“Melody Balfour,” she filled in the blank for him.
Before anything else could be said, Betsy’s distressed and dramatic voice sounded from behind her as she bounded into the lobby. “We must start charging George more, Melody! I cannot keep up with all this incessant gravy he shovels down his gullet! Day in and day out, gravy, gravy, gravy with that man. I’ve about had it, I swear this to you. I am out of bones to make my broth. Without broth, there is no brown gravy. What am I meant to do, Melody? I say we demand him to be our supplier. After all, I know that he neighbors a cattle farmer. It is the least—”
It was only then, after her emotional outburst, spurred by a lack of beef bones in the kitchen, that Betsy appeared aware of the men standing with them. Any other woman would have been embarrassed about the flour smudged on their face, or messy apron hanging about their waist in the presence of nobility—but not her Betsy.
All the woman did was straighten her back and square her shoulders, “I suppose the likes of you did not need to overhear my rambling.” She did not curtsey or show any acknowledgement of their class. For a moment, Melody worried that the Duke or steward would chastise her for her abrasiveness.
“That is quite all right,” Caleb stated, grinning ear to ear.
Melody must have been wrong, but she swore she saw a sincere affection growing in his eyes as he took in the sight of Melody’s round-faced, excitable cook. Clearing her own throat, Melody retrieved a coin purse from her pocket and placed a few pence in Betsy’s hand.
“Send one of the maids to the butcher to get more of what you need. Do not let the likes of George Blackwell unsettle your mind.”
Betsy, although still visibly flustered, nodded her head and turned to leave. Melody looked back at the men, shooting the Duke an apologetic smile before stating, “Would you follow me?”
The two men nodded and followed in Melody’s haste. She guided them up to the third floor of the inn, giving them the best room she had available. It would still pale in comparison to their usual accommodations, Melody was sure, but it was the best she could do.
She unlocked the door for them and stood to the side, bowing her head in respect. Even if her cook apparently had the privilege of disregarding the aristocracy, Melody knew that she did not. “It is a double suite. Inside you will find doors to two joining bedrooms. There is a lovely, hearty dinner being served in the dining room this evening. However, if you would prefer it, I could have it sent directly to your room. Allow myself, or any of the staff, to know what you prefer.”
“You are the most gracious host,” the Duke stated. He looked as if he started to bow, but caught himself. With that, Melody bid them a farewell, knowing she still had the kitchen to sort out.
What is actually on menu for dinner? It needs to be something marvelous…
She needed to catch Betsy before she sent out for the butcher!
As soon as the door to the room closed, Caleb collapsed onto the chaise in the sitting room area of their suite. “Did you see that cook?” he absolutely oozed.
The Duke settled in at the small desk nestled in the corner of the room. His eyes admired the craftsmanship of the desk. It had been chipped and scratched with time and usage, but it somehow gave the quaint desk character. Much like the Gentle Rose Inn itself.
“The one which looked primed for the oven?” he teased, making a joke of the cook’s floured face. “How could I miss her?”
“Did she not remind you of a cream bun?” Caleb queried, his voice dreamy and distant. “Powdered and ready for tasting.”
Zachariah howled in laughter, “Control yourself, man!”
The cook had been rather adorable, he would give Caleb that. She was petite in height but with a full figure. His mother had always told him not to trust a thin chef, and so he was certain that the girl could cook.
“If she is a cream bun, I fear that she would bite you back.”
“All the better,” Caleb grinned. He then perked up, once more on his feet. His hands clasped together in front of him, as if to restore his posh exterior. “I think it best that we dine downstairs this evening.”
“Do you, old chap?” he quizzed, unable to wipe the amused look from his face. “And pray tell, why that is?”
Caleb wracked his brain for a suitable answer, a smirk lingering on his lips. “As you stated to the innkeeper, she is a gracious host. I think it would be in good spirit for us to grace the dining room with our presence.”
“And this notion of yours would have nothing to do with your cream bun?”
His smirk grew devilish, “If I were to happen to become acquainted with that fiery cook, it would not be a wasted evening.”
“Leave it to Caleb Ridlington to become smitten with a commoner,” Zachariah teased, his fingers tracing the wood grain of the desk. “I cannot wait to read all about your bastard children in the tabloids.”
It would not be a scandal for Caleb to marry a cook, but he was the son of a very well-known merchant. If he were to marry, Zachariah imagined his family would want their son to marry someone of a like status.
“Just as I cannot wait to read more of your interminable bachelor life.”
The Duke chuckled and looked out the small window at the sunset settling over the small town. “You are well aware of how I feel about dining in open settings.”
“What is the matter, Your Grace? Afraid the common folk will breathe your air?” his steward poked, seeming unable to resist the urge to joke and play.
He could only roll his eyes, no longer entertaining the likes of Caleb’s humor if he was going to make it an issue of social status.
However, there was something intriguing about the innkeeper. “When have you ever heard of a woman innkeeper?” Zachariah pondered aloud.
“I think I never have,” Caleb answered.
“Nor have I,” he nodded. “And you, too, overheard the bustling of the business? How is it that a woman has found success on her own?”
“Why don’t you suggest she sit with us at dinner, and ask her?”
He took a moment to consider it, though his mind was already made up. Zachariah had a strange love affair with the subject of women’s rights, and conversing with a successful woman, a commoner no less, was too tempting to pass up.
“Very well. Let us prepare to go to dinner.”
The Delight of Red Wine
Melody was once again in the throes of running the inn when she departed from the Duke and his steward. She and Betsy decided on a change of menu for the important night, serving braised lamb, roasted carrots and potatoes, stewed greens, and Betsy’s delicious Yorkshire pudding. It would all be finished with a proper English trifle for dessert. Never had the Gentle Rose Inn have such an esteemed meal. After seeing the bill from the grocer, Melody had no intention of making a habit of it, either.
She knew, however, making a good impression with a Duke could be nothing but good for business. Perhaps he would pass along the word of her inn in his circles and bring her more business, and even if not, she was certain all the locals, even the ones who rarely visited, would make their rounds to soak in the stories of what the Duke of Sandorne had been like during his stay in her modest inn.
She was in the midst of the dining room, explaining the menu to one of the patrons, when she noticed all of the heads at the table turn. Her eyes followed theirs to see the Duke and his steward standing in the doorway to the dining room. Pardoning herself from the table, Melody found her way over to them.
“Your Grace,” she smiled, bowing her head. “Are you dining in, or would you care for your dinner to be sent up?”
“We shall be dining here tonight, thank you,” he stated.
Just as she began to lead them to her best table, which she had reserved just in case they had decided to dine in, his next words caught her.
“We would be most appreciative if you would join us for a meal.”
She anxiously soothed her skirt.
Dine with a Duke?
The idea felt so foreign that her mind had trouble processing it. Instead, her mouth spoke for her, “I would be delighted to join you, Your Grace. It will be but a moment before I can.”
He nodded and had an easy smile. Once she sat them at the table, Melody ducked behind the bar to fetch a fine bottle of wine. There was a small reserve of bottles she had been squirreling away, just in case of a scenario just as this arose. Her late husband, Frank, had considered it silly, never thinking nobility would come to their inn.
You would be such a fool if you could see me now.
The thought put a smile on her face, wishing to tease her beloved with how right she had been to age wine.
“The Duke is dining in?” a maid called to her as she dusted off one of the bottles and collected glasses.
“He is. Send word to Betsy that they have asked me to join. Make sure Susan and the others are tending to the dining room. The linen and such can wait until morning,” she instructed Ingrid in a hushed tone.
“And tell Betsy I said to mind her manners if she comes into the dining room.”
The maid’s eyes were round at hearing Melody would be joining the Duke for dinner, but she did not stand around to make small talk.
Melody sauntered back over to the table, making sure that her stride was confident and natural; she feared she would fumble and make a fool of herself. As she approached, Melody realized why she was so anxious. It was not because she was a commoner dining with a Duke, it was because she was a businesswoman dining with a Duke. She was certain in situations as that, it was customary for the Duke to dine with the innkeeper. It was strange because Melody was a woman. She had to be more composed and confident than any other innkeeper graced with the presence of a Duke.
“Jove! Red wine! That is absolutely marvelous,” the steward commented as Melody poured.
She smiled meekly, “It is a special bottle I had set aside for an occasion such as this.”
“It is as though you knew we would one day come,” the steward nodded, but then his fingers drummed against the table.
An anxious gesture? What does he have to be nervous about?
“I say, would it be too imposing of me to ask that your cook dine with us? I always love to thank the chef,” the steward continued anxiously.
“Oh,” she muttered, caught rather off-guard by the request. Melody was certain that after Betsy’s outburst upon their arrival, she was the last person that the Duke and steward would want to keep company with.
Well, other than perhaps Obadiah.
It would be rather a chore for the kitchen to relinquish the head cook, but she was sure that they had spent enough time preparing for the dinner service that the others could handle it on their own.
Melody flagged down Susan and asked her to get Betsy to join them.
In unison, the three sat at the table, and sampled the wine.
“Absolutely delightful,” the steward commented. “Is this a cabernet? In light of the recent wars, I know we are meant to hate the French, but I cannot help but be delighted in their food and drink.”
Melody gave him a smile and sipped nervously.
He’s an anxious chatterer, isn’t he?
“Forgive me if this is too forward,” the Duke stated, breaking the uneasy silence. “But how have you come to find yourself in possession of an inn such as this?”
Her eyes caught his emerald greens and she studied them closely. He did not appear to have contempt that she was a woman in possession of her own business, but was curious—almost lightheartedly so.
After another sip of the wine to calm her nerves, Melody gave a humble shrug. “It was my husband’s and he died at war shortly after our marriage began. I’ve been running it ever since.”
Caleb, the steward, shuffled uncomfortably after his offhanded comments of the war. Melody took no offense, however.
“One would have to be without taste buds to deny the deliciousness of French cuisine,” she added on, wanting to put the poor steward out of his discomfort.
The Duke did not waste a moment to get back to the topic at hand. “And there were no others in his family to run the establishment?”
“You mean, why weren’t there any men to step up to run the business?” she fired back, her tone challenging his line of questioning.
“His father had also died at war, and Frank, my husband, was an only child. His mother died of a broken heart. It left the business in my hands alone.”
“My condolences,” the Duke breathed.
She nodded in acceptance of his kind words. It was then that Betsy was at the table. She gave a half-hearted curtsey before settling down next to Melody, who motioned for a maid to fetch Betsy a glass for wine.
“And pray tell, miss, what is your name?” the steward asked, almost as soon as Betsy’s bottom hit her chair.
“Miss Betsy Lovell,” she confirmed, dipping her head cordially. “Charmed.”
“Betsy. I love that name. I have always made note of how adorable that name is. Haven’t I, Your Grace?”
The Duke’s lips curled upward as he raised his wine to his lips, “Not that I can recall.”
The Duke and Melody locked eyes once more and his smile proved to be infectious. He wasn’t willing to play along with his steward’s flirtatious antics. The two men were bound to be good friends, it being unlikely that a steward would be so bold in the presence of a Duke if they were not.
“And what shall I call you, good sir?” Betsy cooed. Melody was flabbergasted by the hints of flirtation in her own friend’s voice.
“I am but an honorable steward,” he grinned. “I think it all right if you were to call me Caleb. Mr. Ridlington is my father, is it not?”
Then, with ease, Betsy and Caleb were encapsulated in their own conversation, filled with flirtation and wit—the wit coming from Betsy’s fiery personality alone.
Melody sank in her seat a bit, having hoped that Betsy’s presence would have been one to relieve the pressure from herself.
“So, Miss Balfour, was it?” the Duke began again. She nodded to confirm her name. “Would you mind telling me about yourself? I do not mean to be so forward, but I am absolutely fascinated by you and your inn.”
A dark blush came over her cheeks. No one had ever stated they were fascinated by her or the Gentle Rose Inn.
Alarmed, perhaps, but never fascinated.
“What would you like to know? I fear there is not much to tell.”
“On the contrary,” the Duke stated, a gentleness in his tone. “There must be much to tell. I have no doubts of your knowledge or ability to run a business. I would simply like to know more. Was the town welcoming of you?”
She tilted her head side to side, weighing the question.
“At first, when my husband was alive, yes. If you were to see it then, and today, it would not look much different. However, after his passing when the Gentle Rose became solely mine, attitudes shifted. It took quite some time for the locals to take me seriously as Miss Balfour, rather than a wife to Frank Addams.”
He nodded, his hand grazing his chin as he thought it over. “How did you win their favor? Was there a campaign of sorts?”
“Not at all,” Melody shook her head. “I simply continued to run the inn. There were a few locals who still came, if for nothing but their own habits. Word finally spread that the inn was as it had always been. Good service and food proved enough to gain their respect.”
Their conversation was halted by maids bringing their plates. The aromas of herbs and butter filled Melody’s senses and for the first time, she realized she had not eaten since breakfast. Before her fork could prod her lamb, the Duke questioned her again, “And are there any men in your employ?”
“Not one,” Melody answered, her expression flushed with pride.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to give the employment opportunities to the women of the town, those who need work to support themselves and their families.”
“Remarkable,” the Duke breathed, truly sounding pleased by her answer.
“Just like this lamb,” Caleb commented. Melody’s gaze shifted to Betsy and the steward.
“Your own hands crafted this meal? What a talent you are.”
Melody had never witnessed someone eat flirtatiously, but she was certain that was what she was witnessing as Betsy and Caleb remained locked in eye contact as they took ample bites of their meal.
“Your wife must cook better than this,” Betsy replied, an edge of distrust to her voice, despite just how taken she appeared to be with the steward. Melody understood that Betsy was not shy about flirting, but was not so quick to become smitten as the steward was inclined to be.
“I, dear Miss Lovell, am not wed. I would be blessed to have one that could cook as well as this.”
“You would be fatter than an Earl,” the Duke teased, but his gaze was still on Melody, which made her want to squirm.
“This is perhaps a sensitive question, so forgive me and understand you do not have to satisfy my every curiosity, but who does your bookkeeping?”
For a moment, Melody did not wish to answer. That was, in fact, a sensitive question. It was unbecoming to speak of one’s finances, particularly in an open setting such as this. However, Melody wanted to be confident and proud of her own accomplishments.
“As the innkeeper, it is my duty to uphold the ledgers,” she informed him. “Forgive my own curiosity, Your Grace, but why are you so curious about me and my inn?”
“The Duke has a revolutionary mind,” the steward answered humorously.
Melody looked to the Duke for clarification. “I suppose my friend is not wrong,” he admitted. “I have a keen interest in women’s rights.”
“And your interest is inclined in which direction?”
For a moment, he looked offended, as if it were not already obvious how he really felt. Melody was unsure if he thought the Gentle Rose Inn to be fascinating, like one would think a play, or genuinely so. His expression eased, as though he could read her thoughts. The Duke had another drink of wine and bite of lamb as he thought over his response.
“My interest lies in mystification. I do not understand how society can deem women unable, when we do not give them the chance. You, yourself, are a perfect example of what a woman could be without the restrictions of a patriarchy. You and your inn are, in fact, absolutely riveting.”
“Riveting, is not what I would call the life I live,” Melody murmured.
“Do not be so modest,” Betsy stated, moving to pat her hand. As she did so, she knocked over a wine glass. Deep red spilled over the table and splashed onto the steward.
Melody’s eyes rounded as the man leapt to his feet, preparing for the wrath of the upper-class steward.
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