This is one of my favorite series and today I am thrilled to share this excerpt that Anna Belfrage so graciously provided.
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It had to be said: Philip Burley had a certain flair to him, in everything from how he carried himself to how he was dressed, impeccable linen contrasting nicely with the deep blue of his dashing coat. That didn’t endear him one whit to Alex, and, in particular, not when he popped up most unexpectedly just as she was leaving the apothecary, her daughters trailing after her.
“Mrs Graham,” Philip said, bowing. Alex controlled the urge to turn on her heel and run. Never, ever show him how much he scares you, she admonished herself, just stare him in the eyes. Except that she didn’t want to, unnerved by the penetrating, assessing look in them – as if he was putting a value to her, estimating how much she might be worth should he sell her.
“Mr Burley, how unfortunate to find you still so very much alive.”
He laughed, shaking his head so his signatory lock of black hair fell over his left eye.
“Why, Mrs Graham, one could think you don’t like me much.”
“Like you? I hate your guts, Philip Burley, and to my dying day, I’ll regret not serving you toadstools the first time we met.”
His eyes lightened into impenetrable ice. “Well, you didn’t, did you? And so, here I am.” He glanced over her shoulder, studying her girls with interest. “See?” he said, directing himself to the Philip lookalike that had appeared beside him. “Quite pretty, aren’t they?”
Walter Burley grunted, his eyes stuck on Sarah.
“We’re partial to fair girls,” Philip said. “In particular to young, fair girls.”
“You ...” Alex swung at him, Philip ducked, and came up grinning, eyes like flint.
“Don’t,” he warned, and, at a snap of his fingers, yet another Burley brother materialised, this one so badly scarred Alex knew he had to be Stephen. She threw a look over her shoulder, relaxing somewhat at finding the street busy. Should they try anything, she’d scream – or stab them with her new knitting needles. Still, they were far too close, with Walter more or less drooling over Sarah. When he made as if to touch her daughter, Alex flew at him, slapping him hard over his wrist.
“Don’t you lay a finger on her. Do that, and I’ll—”
“... do what, Mrs Graham?” Philip purred.
“Kill him,” she replied, staring into those eyes as firmly as she could. It only made him laugh.
A hand at her waist, and Alex’s shoulders dropped an inch or two, safe now that her husband stood beside her.
Philip regarded Matthew, a jeering light in his eyes. “Not as afraid now as when we met last?” He chuckled at the responding wave of angry red that suffused Matthew’s face. “You should be afraid, because someday we’ll make you pay for Will.”
“You can try,” Matthew said.
“Oh, we can do more than try.” Philip looked Alex up and down a couple of times. “You have a comely wife. What a pity she’ll soon be a widow.” He smirked. “And, once she is, then who is to stop us from taking what we want?” He nodded in the direction of Sarah.
Rage rose red before Alex’s eyes. She didn’t stop to think. She set down her basket, hitched up her skirts, and kicked Philip, swiping his legs from under him. Philip’s smirk became a surprised squawk, converting into a grunt when he crashed to the ground. Walter rushed forward, shoving Alex so hard she fell. Matthew’s fist drove into Walter’s gut. Walter wheezed like a punctured accordion and doubled up. Stephen cursed and went for Matthew. By now, Philip had regained his feet, and in his hand was a knife.
Alex regained her feet. She raised her arms and crouched to achieve balance, immensely grateful of the time she had spent on upholding her martial arts skills – even if one man and one woman against three determined Burleys didn’t feel like good odds. Why was no one interceding? Why were the people of Providence content to watch, instead of putting a stop to this? And where were her girls? She wheeled, tried to smile reassuringly at her girls, standing very close together. Sarah squeaked, pointing, and Alex turned just in time to see Philip lunge at Matthew.a Rafflecopter giveaway