Date Published: February 28, 2017
Official blurb: Commander Raymond Burntwood of the Royal Navy has returned to England where he meets the reclusive heiress Lady Ariana Grayhart. After the scandal of a night spent dancing together, Ariana returns home to Northumberland. Raymond’s superiors—seeking information about Ariana’s father—dispatch the commander under the cover of courting the heiress.
All is not as it seems in the Grayhart household. Captain Grayhart is an invalid, the servants maintain a monkish silence, and secrets are layered upon secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, from Raymond’s friend and confidante Du Bois, to the family lawyer Sir Berwick, and Ariana herself.
In the midst of it all, Raymond must unravel the truth of Captain Grayhart’s decline and save Ariana’s reputation and fortune. In doing so, he learns dark secrets about himself that could tear his world apart.
The sounds of his uncomfortable movements in the chair punctuated another long lull in the conversation. “What is your interest in my daughter?”
At this mention of Ariana, I caught the faint sense of her scent once more. I was momentarily weightless, falling from the yard arm, into the ocean.
“Sir, I have no right to ask you this, as I am a man of neither name nor wealth. But what I have, I have made for myself. I am in love with your daughter and would marry her with your permission.” I did not know where those words came from, yet as they were spoken I knew them to be true. My head was awhirl at the admission. A gasp from close by brought me back to my senses; I fought to keep a grin off my lips. Of course, Ariana was listening. No doubt she had opened the window so she could hear me clearly from outside.
“Have you asked her?”
“No, sir. I have not. I hoped to gain your approval before I took so bold a step.”
“That is well. I shall give you my answer on the morrow. Dismissed.”
I stood. The mission of my heart was well progressed, but that of my duty remained undone. “Sir, if I might ask. You served with great distinction. Why did you leave the Navy?”
He did not answer. Had I offended him? His hand lifted off the arm of his chair, and onto the desk, so slowly that at I first I could not perceive the movement. His finger emerged from the curl of his fist and pointed with agonising slowness at a ledger buried beneath a pile of papers. His head and his other arm remained stock still.
In contrast to his motions, he said in the same tone as before. “I shall give you my answer on the morrow. Dismissed.”
Bio: Ali Abbas is a writer, photographer, and carpenter from London. He has travelled widely but still lives in the suburb where he was born. By day, he masquerades as an accountant, but no one is fooled.