Excerpt from Bride of the Summerfields







                                                                                                      


         
           Prologue

                                                                                         
                                                                                                     
     Autumn 1881

    She wore a wig so no one would recognize her. She wore a simple dress of tan cotton, adopting the appearance of a farmer’s wife
    instead of a titled guest.

    Though other villagers smiled and linked their arms sentimentally as they gathered outside the country church, she wore a frown
    and stood alone. As they gathered in small groups waiting for the ceremony to be over, she hid behind a bush and peered in a
    back windows.

    The bride, Lila, looked beautiful standing at the altar in her gown of duchesse satin with a pleated edge to the bustled train. The
    long veil had a scalloped edge, and there were tiny ivory silk roses sprinkled across her shoulders and hair as if she’d just walked
    through a floral shower.

    That could have been me.

    “Do you, Joseph Hayden Kidd, take Lila June Weston as your lawfully wedded wife . . .?”

    Joseph should have been mine.

    To be once-engaged then lose a man to another was a dagger to her heart. Yet Clarissa’s loss was not confined to love. She had
    been Lady Clarissa Weston, the daughter of the Earl of Summerfield. She had held that title her entire life, until the revelation of a
    forty-year-old secret allowed Lila’s father—a mere shopkeeper in the village—to step forward as the older brother and rightful earl.
    His rise shoved Clarissa’s family down a branch in the family tree, and elevated Lila to her Lady Lila Weston title.

    Clarissa had gained Lila as a cousin but had lost Joseph as a fiancée.

    She had lost a title, surrendering “Lady” to become a simple “Miss.”

    And since she’d fled to London, Clarissa had also lost a place in the family.

    “I do,” she heard Joseph say.

    Clarissa shut out Lila’s vows and looked at her family as they sat in the second row behind Lila’s father and brother.

    There was poor Father. That he could stay at Summerfield Manor in his demoted position of second son was not surprising.
    Status had never meant as much to him as it had Clarissa. To Father, the demotion was a relief from the responsibilities that
    accompanied the title of earl. Clarissa tried not to think less of him for it.

    Then there was Mother. Mother had never embraced the countess designation, nor its responsibilities. The demotion from
    countess to the rather bland title of Mrs. Weston was no strain on her. Over the years she had grown accustom to leaving the
    duties of her position to her mother-in-law, the dowager countess.

    Speaking of . . . Grandmamma looked as lovely as ever, if not even lovelier than when Clarissa had seen her last. She sat close
    to her husband of less than a year, the love of her life, Colonel Grady Cummings. After decades of being married and dutiful to the
    late Earl of Summerfield, she’d finally been reunited with her Grady. Clarissa envied their happy ending.

    The last family member Clarissa noticed was George, her little brother. In the months she’d been hidden away in London, he’d
    ripened from a boy to a young man. He’d not minded a whit that he was no longer the heir to an earldom and that Lila’s brother
    Morgan now held that position. As long as George could breed and train horses, he was happy.

    Everyone seemed happy, except Clarissa.

    “I now pronounce you man and wife.”

    Joseph tenderly lifted the veil from Lila’s face and touched her cheek with a gentle hand as he kissed her. Then they turned as a
    couple toward the congregation and beamed as though they were king and queen of the world. Joseph raised Lila’s hand to his
    lips before walking together down the aisle.

    Clarissa suffered a swell of anger and pain. Why had she come?

    Come or not, she couldn’t stay a moment longer.

    She turned away from the church before the pain within its walls came outside and did her in. For a brief moment she considered
    lingering, letting her family see her—or letting them think they might have seen her. Yet knowing how the blessings of life seemed
    to fall upon everyone but her, she couldn’t take the chance of one final humiliation. And so she ran to the train station that would
    hasten her escape back to London, where she could disappear from the sight and mind of her family yet again.

    If only she could forget them as they’d surely forgotten her.

                                         Copyright @ 2015 Nancy Moser
                                                                                       Mustard Seed Press