Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Hi lovelies! I'm excited to share a first chapter excerpt from my upcoming holiday novella, The Captain's Midwinter Bride. Enjoy! Chapter One
A wedding took a bloody hell lot more work than Phillip ever imagined.
But then when was the last time he’d had the luxury to consider anything but the wind and tides?
Sighing a heaving breath, he returned his attention to his wife, who was reviewing the seating chart for the wedding breakfast. Their daughter’s wedding breakfast.
Annalise darted a quick glance at him, so quick he would have missed it if he hadn’t been paying attention.
We’re almost done.
I warned you this would be tedious, but you insisted upon being here.
This is important to Beth, so do try to act interested.
Despite his many absences over their twenty-five years of marriage, Phillip still managed to glean a whole conversation in the span of a few looks.
“But Mama, the MacKenzies cannot sit with the Packwoods. They have not spoken—”
“Civilly,” Phillip murmured under his breath, earning himself a brief look of reproach from his wife.
“—since Mr. MacKenzie accused Mr. Packwood of theft,” Beth continued, as if he had not interrupted.
Phillip supposed that since he had largely been a nomadic figure in her childhood, his daughter had become accustomed to ignoring him. She turned to Annalise for all things and valued her mother’s opinion above all others. Such deference had stung him countless times over the years. He had been the one sailing the ocean, protecting the empire from enemies far and near, and yet his opinion had never been worth much to his daughter. Beth had ceased asking him to bring her trinkets from his port stops around her tenth birthday, and he could not remember the last time she had asked him to tell her a story from his travels.
Oliver, his son, had always been curious about his adventures on the high seas, but the lad was now in London where he worked as an engineer for Great Western Railway, and could not stroke his father’s wounded ego with his enthusiastic questions.
It was a bitter tonic to feel like an unwelcome stranger in his own home, and Phillip was still not comfortable in his own bed. After years on a ship, he needed the waves to rock him to sleep every night.
He hadn’t been certain of his reception upon returning home for good a fortnight before. Would his wife and children welcome him but become annoyed at the everyday realities of his presence? After years of issuing commands and running a tight ship, would he be able to throw off the mantle of captain? Would he try to run his household, admirably captained by his wife for the past twenty years, the way he ran his ship? Would his family be patient with his transition?
So far they had been—for the most part. Phillip was well aware of his faults and limitations, and every morning when he arose from bed, he endeavored to keep his autocratic tendencies to himself. It was easier than he anticipated, probably because Annalise was more than a competent homemaker.
“Beth, that unfortunate incident occurred ten years ago.” Annalise shook her head. “Mrs. MacKenzie and Mrs. Packwood speak daily at the market. It is their husbands that carry the old grudge. Perhaps your wedding breakfast will encourage them to finally let sleeping dogs lie.”
She said this with easy grace, her suggestion sensible as always. She was always practical. Phillip appreciated practical. She treated his retirement in the pleasant manner in which she treated all things, and if her smile at the breakfast table was a tad tight, she still looked to him for input when decisions needed to be made. He suspected that was difficult for her, as she made all the decisions when he was at sea.
“I hadn’t realized Packwood and MacKenzie were still up to their antics,” he murmured, taking a sip of tea and trying to focus on the present situation.
“You would be familiar with the feud if you were around long enough to know our neighbors.”
Phillip had been a captain in Her Majesty’s Navy for almost three decades and had stared down any number of threats, foreign and domestic. But none of them had prepared him for the look of mutiny in the green eyes of his nineteen-year-old daughter. A daughter who would marry a well-situated and well-connected future barrister the week after next and leave her childhood home—his home—behind. The wee daughter he remembered holding in his hands, a pink-tinged, dark-haired babe he thought the most beautiful creature in the world…who he then had to kiss goodbye for a mission to France a fortnight later.
Resentment and anger flashed across her face like a kaleidoscope, and for a swift second Phillip grappled with how to respond. If she were a young greenhorn under his command, he would order her to scrub the decks. But Beth was an altogether different creature, and he felt out to sea with how to respond.
“Are you hungry, my dear? Feeling lightheaded? Overtired? We can continue to review the seating chart at another time.”
Annalise’s questions were uttered calmly, and yet both he and Beth jerked their heads to her. His wife considered their daughter with a cocked brow.
Beth blinked. “I’m fine, Mama.”
“Are you certain?” The corners of Annalise’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “For surely something must be amiss if you think it your place to scold your father in such a way.”
Phillip watched with muted satisfaction as Beth’s face turned florid. This confrontation had been building since he arrived home for good at the beginning of December, with Beth’s disrespectful behavior amplifying every time they conversed. He could ignore it no longer. Placing his teacup on its saucer, he cleared his throat.
“Beth, love, I understand you’re upset. In many ways, I’m upset too. I missed out on so many moments with you and Oliver. I will always mourn that loss.” He smoothed his hands down his thighs. “But remember this career of mine that kept me from being a present father to you is the reason you are able to have this grand wedding you’re planning. As you gleefully choose between lilies and roses, beef or lamb, and rearrange the seating details at the wedding breakfast, remember that such choices are available to you because I was off protecting queen and country, mourning the time away from my family.”
With a nod to his wife, Phillip slipped from the room, doing his best not to let the guilt follow him out.
The Captain's Midwinter Bride releases November 12th, but you can PRE-ORDER it now!