Ruined - Annabelle Anders Page 0,1

and intriguing her story was.”


My mother’s smile is bright. “Oh, filled with mystery and drama, like all the good ones are.”

“Why haven’t you ever told me about this?”

“I forgot it was up here, honestly. You know, if I remember, her life was quite a bit like yours in some ways.”

I scrunch my nose. “Drama with other women and a bad ex?”

Mom laughs. “Well, yes, but I mean her love story. Naomi was a woman that struggled through life. She didn’t have it easy, especially when it came to men.”

“We must not be the same then since I have Liam.”

“Yes, love, you do, but you didn’t always, and neither did she. Her first husband, Arthur, wasn’t great and left her a widow.”

I smile, touching the cover of the book lovingly. “So she was strong at a time that women were considered weak.”

“From all that I remember, yes. She then . . . well, you know Lee, now that I think of it, she’s a lot like you overall. Not just your story but also who you are and all you’ve endured.”

I open the book again, touching the ink from so long ago. “Then she must have been fantastic.”

“She probably was.”

“I’d like to read it,” I tell her.

She looks around. “Why don’t you head down now and get some lunch. Maybe you want to take a . . . nap.” Mom winks. “You know, with that diary . . .”

I catch on and shake my head. “Is that what you did when you napped when I was little?”

“Darling, when you have a good book, you’ll do just about anything to finish it. I napped, took very long showers, and did a lot of time at the grocery store to get reading in.”

All her secrets being exposed. “Well, then I may just do that now. I’d like to learn about her struggles.”

Mom kisses my cheek. “And let me know if her love story was as happy as yours in the end.”

I think about my husband and smile. “I will, but there’s only one Liam and he’s mine.”

But I’d like to see if Naomi had anything like my love story.

Chapter One

November 1828, Milton Cottage, Dorset, England

Mrs. Naomi Gilcrest studied the minuscule radish in her hand and shaking her head, tucked it into her apron. Although it was nearing the end of October, only a handful of her crops were coming to fruition.

Resting on her haunches, she arched her back and then perused her garden. She had not been raised for this life, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world.

She would not.

Because neither had she expected that she would marry a man like Arthur, one who loved her so passionately.

If only he’d purchased the seeds when she asked, they could have planted sooner.

She grimaced and then smiled to herself. In one particular instance, she and Arthur had managed to plant early enough. Her hand automatically settled on her swollen belly. Very early.

Too early.

She had not been able to smile about it when she’d first missed her course. In fact, she’d been horrified.

She’d met Arthur at the first ball of the season, along with several other members of his regiment, when luck had shone down on London allowing an abundance of eligible young officers to attend the Season’s affairs.

Gentlemen wearing colors were simply irresistible and more than one young lady fell into a fit of vapors upon an unexpected introduction or request to dance. These bachelors had embodied all that was courageous, brave, and honorable, making attempts to resist them futile.

More than one respectable debutante had emerged from the season… ruined.

And Naomi, even at the ripe age of twenty-four, had been just as susceptible as the younger ladies coming out.

Arthur had gained an introduction immediately upon spying her at the Willoughby Ball and he began to court her in earnest after only a few weeks. Despite her parents’ disapproval and rumors of his roguish reputation, she’d been unable to resist.

Even now, her situation was by no means ideal. Despite her marriage, she’d lost the support of her family and many of her friends. Two weeks after Naomi informed Arthur of her—their—predicament, he’d stolen her away to Gretna Green in the middle of the night. The journey had been harrowing but also exciting and adventurous. After a rushed ceremony at the anvil, Arthur had brought her to Milton Cottage, the small property bequeathed to him as the second son of the late Earl of Tempest.

As a result, she’d lost almost everything she’d known but was now