Gretna Green - A Victorian Novella (Our Story Begins, page 2 of 23)

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"What brings you north?"

"I'm visiting friends," he fibbed. "I leave for the army in a week's time."

"The army!" She pressed a doll-sized glove to her chest, her rich brown curls bouncing out of time with the carriage. "My goodness, what an adventure. A gentleman such as yourself must be an officer."

"A gentleman," he agreed, "but hardly an officer. I don't boast enough coin to purchase a fitting commission." Patrick fought to keep a bitter note from his words. "My brother holds the title of 'Lord Field'."

"Oh," she breathed, looking down and tracing a seam in her lilac traveling coat. She looked so young, and he puzzled over how she'd come to be there, unescorted.

"So you must be a second son?"

Once the dam was broken, there really was no stopping her. "So I am."

"Still," she murmured, "that must be something."

"Better to be the first son of a farmer than the second son of a lord. At least a farmer's son is reasonably sure of getting something."

"Nothing!" she gasped, blue eyes wide. "Nothing at all? Is that why you've joined the army?"

"I've talked enough about myself," he dodged, having formed a murky acquaintance with the truth in less than five minutes. He was eager to spin a bit less yarn, and even more eager to know about his curious companion. "Almost too much really. It's rude. Tell me why you're heading north."

Miss Blake glanced around, as if there were any question of their being the carriage's only two occupants, and then smiled. "I…" she paused, he guessed for effect, by the hand pressed to her chest, "am on an adventure."

He was well and truly speechless, perhaps for the first time in all his twenty-four years. "An adventure," he repeated, too taken aback to make the word a question.

"An adventure," she asserted, smile revealing a dimple in her left cheek.

Patrick settled deeper into an unyielding seat and crossed his arms. "Wouldn't it be more favorable - and interrupt me, Miss Blake, for this is not a subject on which I am well versed - but would it not be more favorable to travel in a southerly direction to seek adventure? It does seem that the people and locales would be more…varied, moving onto the Continent and away from the top of an island."

"Oh no, Mister Field!" She reached out a slender arm, gripping her fine leather traveling case in a stranglehold. "I thought so once, too, but A Patient Heart taught me otherwise."

Her response raised his brows. Patrick cupped a hand to his ear. "A what?"

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