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On A Midsummer Night Excerpt

On A Midsummer Night will hit e-readers in a little more than two weeks, and if you haven't pre-ordered your copy, how about an excerpt to tempt you?

“Goodness, I didn’t think you knew how to smile anymore.”

With his heart threatening to thunder from his chest, Henry pivoted to find Beth standing in the entryway, the light from the house surrounding her in a luminescent halo. The glare masked her expression, but the amused note in her voice had tension coil at the base of his spine.

“Ah, so you do remember me.” Henry looked down at the liquor in his glass. “I wasn’t sure.”

“Because I didn’t welcome you like a long-lost friend?” Her snort was soft. “You didn’t say goodbye before you left Bristol all those years ago, so it seemed presumptuous to imagine us as friends.”

It took a moment to swallow down the knot in his throat. “I departed quite abruptly, which made it impossible to issue proper goodbyes.” Henry shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

The two words seemed so painfully inadequate.

“Yes, well”—Beth lifted a shoulder as she advanced toward the wall that overlooked the garden—“as I said, that was many years ago. I confess I’m surprised you remembered me at all.”

As if he could ever forget that magnetic girl who had streaked through his life like a shooting star before everything went dark.

Henry cleared his throat, angling to face the garden as she did. “It was a memorable trip.”

“But not memorable enough to remain friends with Oliver.” He could sense her looking up at him, but Henry did not have the nerve to meet her gaze. “He said things were much different after your visit to Bristol. That you changed.”

“A father’s death will do that to you.”

He bit down on his tongue so forcefully he tasted copper. Confessing such a thing so baldly—brushing aside the carefully constructed facade he’d worked for years to fortify as if it was so much rubbish—robbed him of breath.

Henry stared down at her then, anger pulsing hot in his blood. What was it about this woman, whom he had tried to banish from his thoughts when he re-crafted himself, that drew him still? That made uncomfortable truths slip from his tongue as easily as sighs?

“I’m sorry, Henry,” she whispered. “Oliver told me the news, and I remember you being quite close with your father. I can only imagine how difficult it was to lose him.”

Her earnest words, spoken in that soft voice of hers that had once whispered affection in his ear, sparked a fire in the back of his eyes, and Henry ripped his gaze away from her. “Many things changed after he died. My mother and sister moved to the continent, and I was left to pick up the pieces of his legacy. I no longer had time for friendships or acquaintances. My life became my work, and that has sustained me.”

Henry sensed rather than heard her huff. “That is . . . unfortunate.”

“Is it?” He narrowed his eyes. “I have acquired a fortune designing locomotives for the railway. Several American companies are courting me to help plan their great trek across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. None of those successes are unfortunate.”

“It would seem not.” Beth pressed her lips together for a moment. “But then, how many times have you seen your sister and mother since they left? How often do you go for a walk in the park, visit a new exhibition at the museum, or even attend the opera? Work is important and necessary, and for some people, their survival depends upon how hard and how often they break their backs and work their fingers to the bone. But if you have attained a fortune, surely you have the privilege to enjoy some of life’s little pleasures?”

“And what if I consider work one of life’s pleasures?” he pushed.

“Then I feel sorry for you.”

There was no pity in her voice. No sympathy in her steady gaze. Beth uttered the words with a simple ring of truth, setting his teeth on edge.

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