On a beautiful May morn, the verges thick with dandelions and daisies, Polly Worth followed the lane to the blacksmith’s forge. Her thoughts danced ahead to seeing Henry, her fiancé, until hoof beats behind her, made her turn.
“Mistress Worth.”
Polly’s blood ran cold, staring up into the cold blue eyes of a man on horse back.
“Squire Bulstrode.” Tipping her chin in the air, she carried on walking.
“Ah, Mistress Worth, have considered my proposal further.”
All color drained from her cheeks. “Squire Bulstrode, I am engaged to be married and yet you want me for your mistress. My answer is still no.”
The squire’s eyes glowed with lust, tracking over her full bosom and neat waist, watching her long brown plait sway against her bottom. A lean athletic man, his blonde hair cropped short, it was his manner, not looks, that was unpleasant.
“Polly you have much to learn. Both your father and your betrothed earn a living on my manor. If I let Cowper go from the forge… and with your father in poor health, should he be turned out of lace w:st="on">Willowlace> Farm… what would become of your family?”
Polly gasped at his undisguised malice.
“I…I…” but she was saved from answering as they rounded the corner and the forge hove into sight.
Henry stood shading his eyes, watching for her; with biceps like iron and shoulders broad as an oak, sandy hair and kind eyes, he was undeniably the most handsome man in the village. Some even joked that if the young Queen lace w:st="on">Victorialace> was not newly betrothed, then a fine Englishman like Henry Cowper would have turned the Queen’s head.
“Remember,” Linden Bulstrode hissed, “Cowper’s livelihood is mine to take away. Tomorrow night, 8 o’clock, in the south orchard. Be there….”