Rakes and Roses - Josi S. Kilpack

About the Author

Halfway through the harpist’s performance, Sabrina Carlisle slipped through the French doors of the Gilmores’ music room, her eyes fixed on the six-foot rose arbor near the back of the garden. It would afford her the privacy she desperately needed. Her breath came in quick gasps, and she put a hand to her heaving chest. This extreme reaction had happened before: a physical attack of such fear and panic that she could not breathe, could not think, and most certainly could not recover herself in that room full of people.

She moved beneath the arbor woven with climbing roses and pressed her back into the thorny branches of the hedgerow that spread out on either side of the archway. The needle-pricks helped ground her in time and place, and the yellow roses of the climbing vine helped remind her of better days. Whatever happened tonight, she needed to keep her wits about her, which meant she had to calm her mind.

Breathe, she commanded herself silently the way Therese, her housekeeper, had coached her on similar occasions. Think of nothing but your next breath.

She forced her mind away from any other thought.

Breathe in.

Hold.

Breathe out.

Hold.

She began to breathe the heady scent of the roses in through her nose and out through her mouth in audible release, focusing on the vibrations of the air moving in her chest and throat and mouth. Picturing Hortencia’s rose garden in Wimbledon helped her remember the peace she often felt there. Richard never came to the rose garden his mother had designed, and Sabrina was careful not to let on how much she liked it so that he would not somehow take it away from her.

A minute passed.

Then two.

Finally, the grinding sensation in her brain subsided, and her thoughts began to clear. Not clear like a stream racing over rocks, but clear like the still pond located in the center of Hortencia’s garden. How she wished she were in that garden now instead of this one that was not her own.

She patted at the sweat on her forehead with the back of her gloved hand, careful not to disrupt the curls around her face, and then moved her hand to her belly, only barely rounded beneath her high-waisted dress.

Richard won’t hurt his own child, she told herself. Which means he won’t hurt me.

The affirmation had proved true for three months now, ever since she’d told him she was finally going to have a child. That he’d not hurt her since that day almost convinced her that he would never raise his hand to her again.

Almost.

Perhaps that security was why she’d been lulled into foolishly commenting on his poor luck at the racetrack. Why had she said such a thing? And in company too. She knew better than to embarrass him. And she knew the look that had flashed over his face when he’d turned sharply toward her.

When he’d announced to the same company that they would not be staying in London for the weekend as previously planned, the old but not forgotten panic had begun to build. Richard was careful in London, where there were morning callers and daily social events she was expected to attend, but at Rose Haven, the Wimbledon estate some seven miles from the city, no one would call on her. No one would know what happened once the doors had closed them in. She had learned to defend herself over the years even though it infuriated Richard into greater brutality, but the baby . . . She didn’t dare do anything that would increase the violence.

How is this my life? What would I give for a second chance to make a different future?

Sabrina pressed on her belly to remind herself it was real. She had reached the halfway point in the pregnancy and had only another four and a half months to go. Therese had impressed upon Richard the delicate nature of Sabrina’s condition, and he’d respected that, refraining from exerting his dominance over her.

She’d had a growing hope that this child could change everything. Remedy his rage. Soften his heart. Give them a place to build from so they could have the kind of marriage God intended. She did not expect to be cherished by such a man as Richard, but as the mother of his child, she’d have some security. She could no longer be so easily replaced, and therefore, he would not handle her so roughly.

Right?

Could she still believe that?

She had to believe it. She would be a mother,