At Somerton: Secrets & Sapphires

One house, two worlds, dark secrets...The year is 1910. For the past decade, the Averley family has lived a life of luxury in India, but now they must return to Lord Averley's ancestral estate, the sprawling, majestically beautiful Somerton Court. As the household staff hastily prepare for the family's arrival, they receive shocking news: Lord Averley is bringing back a fiancee with three children of her own, and on top of that, there are rumours of a terrible scandal surrounding Lord Averley's resignation as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. As the family settles in, tensions arise both upstairs and downstairs. Lady Ada must choose between her honour and her heart, Sebastian must fend off ruinous threats from a former servant (and lover...) and gentle housemaid Rose will find herself at the centre of a scandal so enormous it could destroy the Averleys' reputation forever.

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4. Chapter Three

The train chuffed into Somerton Halt. Green boughs changed from a blur into the dappled mixture of sunlight and shadow, and Lord Westlake, leaning forward eagerly, exclaimed, “Well, we’re here!”

“Already?” Ada jerked out of her thoughts, startled.

“What are you talking about, Ada? We’ve been on the train for hours.” 

Georgiana was laughing at her. Ada smiled back, glad her sister was in such high spirits. She linked her arm into Georgiana’s, and they went together down the train corridor. Their father’s valet helped them down, and Lord Westlake followed.

“Isn’t it green!” Georgiana was looking around eagerly. “I mean, of course India was green too, but this is a different kind of green somehow. The light’s different—did you notice?”

Ada murmured something. Georgie was right—the light was different, it was somehow more distant, damp and cool. But then, everything was different.

She had thought she was coming home. But all she could think, as she looked around, was how foreign everything seemed.

She let the groom hand her into the carriage. Her fingers, imprisoned in kid gloves, were locked together in her lap. As the horses set off, harness jingling and hooves clip-clopping up the lane, she sank back into her thoughts. They were as turbulent as they had been ever since that night on the Moldavia.

How had it happened? She had always imagined that if a man tried to force himself on her, she would have screamed, fought, run away—killed herself or him, anything rather than allow her honor to be compromised. But it had not been like that. She could not bring herself to lie, not even to herself. Ravi had not forced himself on her. He had kissed her, and she had kissed him back just as passionately.

She could feel the color flushing into her face as she thought of it. If only the pink had all been from shame and regret. But the horrifying truth was that it wasn’t. She had kissed a stranger—an Indian boy—and she had enjoyed it.

“Ada, are you quite well?” Her father leaned toward her. “Your color is very high. Do you feel feverish?”
Ada managed a smile and shake of her head.

“I’m just tired,” she said. Her father was so good to her. To have let him down like this, to be deceiving him, was unforgivable. She could feel the sting in her eyes, and she clenched her fingers together tightly to try and stop the tears from falling.

She had hardly dared to leave the stateroom since that night. The thought of having to meet his eyes across the dining room had made her face burn. It was not hard to fake seasickness when her stomach was churning. What if he boasted of his conquest? What if Douglas Varley found out and told her father? What had come over her?

You will doubtless never see him again, she told herself. Oddly enough, it was not a comforting thought.

She stared out at the gentle green fields. It was not exactly raining, but the sky was gray, the boughs dripped with water, and damp hung in the air like dust. She found herself longing for the release of a monsoon storm. Something—anything—to break the tension.

There was a sudden hooting, and a roaring like a dragon. Ada sat up, startled. The horses whinnied and she heard the driver’s warning voice. A cloud of dust surged up by the window, and looking out, she had a sudden impression of speed, a strong smell of burning oil, and the glimpse of a man, his eyes covered in insectlike goggles.

“A motorcar!” Georgiana exclaimed, leaning forward. “Papa, look!”

“Thank you, Georgiana, I could hardly miss it!” Lord Westlake said with great disapproval.

Ada exchanged an amused glance with Georgiana before turning to her father with a teasing smile. “You will have to get one of those, Papa. Everyone has them now, you know— like electric light.”

“Electric nonsense!”

Ada couldn’t help laughing at her father’s expression. She looked out of the window again, just as the high hedgerow gave way to a smooth, grassy slope running down toward the distant hills and valleys. And there, nestled in the folds of the hills, was a mansion built of honey-colored stone, with more chimneys and windows than she could count.

“Somerton!” she exclaimed. “We’re . . . home.”

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