Here’s a snippet from The Scoundrel’s Daughter where my hero, James, is reunited with the daughters he hasn’t seen for more than four years. He was a soldier in Wellington’s Army, and his wife and two daughters had happily traveled with the army. But when his wife was pregnant with their third child, she was having difficulties and was advised to return to England to give birth, which she did. She died shortly after giving birth.
Now, four years later, James has been released from the army and has returned to England eager to be reunited with his daughters. I won’t include the whole scene, but here is the moment when he meets his youngest, Deborah, aged four. . .
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James looked at Deborah, the child he’d never met, and took a swift breath. Dark-haired little Deborah didn’t resemble her mother in the least. She was the image of his brother, Ross, at the same age. There was a portrait somewhere of Ross as a child, with the exact same expression. She eyed him suspiciously, then, scowling, plonked her bottom on the stairs and folded her arms, making it clear she had no intention of coming closer.
He almost laughed; Ross, too, had often worn that same stubborn expression.
He approached the stairs and knelt down so that their faces were more or less level. “Good afternoon, Deborah. We’ve never met, but I’m your f—”
“Debo,” she muttered.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’m Debo, not Deborah.”
He nodded. “I see. Well then, Debo . . .”
She leaned sideways and looked past him at Judy and Lina standing behind him. “You sure this is Papa?”
They assured her he was. She examined him carefully. She didn’t look too impressed. Her scowl was as black as ever. She leaned forward and hit him on the shoulder. “You left us.”
“I did,” he admitted. Technically they’d left him, but he wasn’t going to argue.
“Why you left us?”
“I had to. I was a soldier, and the king needed me. A soldier works for the king.”
“Because of the king . . .” She considered that. Her scowl deepened, and her lower lip pushed out. She hit him on the shoulder again. “Then I hate the king.”
And there it was, another piece of his heart given over to a small, helpless, angry creature.
“We’re all going to be together now. I’ve come to take you and your sisters home.”
“Where is home?” Debo demanded.
“With me, with all of us together. I have a house in London and a house in the country, but we’re going to live in London first.”
Debo considered the possibilities, then tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. “You got a cat in London?”
“No.” Cats made him sneeze.
“Hmph!” The scowl was back.
Behind him Miss Coates spoke, “Deborah has a great fondness for cats. She has been waiting for the kitchen cat to have kittens.” She added softly, “The kitchen cat is a very fat tom.”
James turned back to his smallest daughter. “There might be a cat in one of the houses, Debo—I don’t know.”
The frown didn’t lift. Clearly ‘might be’ wasn’t good enough for this small, adorable despot.
“I suppose we could get a kitten.”
“Good.” Debo stood up. “We going now?”
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Thanks to Kelly Lyonns for the kitten photograph. Stay tuned for more kitten photos. I asked on FB and so many gorgeous kitten photos arrived I can’t choose just one…
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