A Flight of Fancy
Laurie Alice Eakes
Series: The Daughters of Bainbridge House
Her head is in the clouds. His feet are planted firmly on the ground. Can love cover the distance?
Cassandra Bainbridge may be a bit of a bluestocking, but when Geoffrey Giles is near, love seems a fine alternative to passion for Greek and the physics of flight. With his dashing good looks and undying devotion to her, the
Earl of Whittaker sets Cassandra’s heart racing with his very presence. It seems his only flaw is his distaste for ballooning, the obsession that consumes so much of her thoughts.
When a terrible accident compels her to end her betrothal, Cassandra heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. With time on her hands and good friends to help her, she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when Lord Whittaker slips back into her life, she finds her heart torn between her love for flight and her abiding love for the man she fears will no longer want her once he knows of her hidden scars.
“Eakes seamlessly blends romance and intrigue, faith and history, into a story that readers won’t want to put down.” — Booklist
“Masquerades, English manners, romance, and intrigue abound in this historical series. Regency romance aficionados and fans of Nicole Jordan will adore this.” — Library Journal
“Eakes weaves the fine silk threads of historical richness, dangerous intrigue, and forbidden romance into a flawless literary tapestry . . . that will leave readers breathless.” — Louise M. Gouge, award-winning author of At the Captain’s Command
“Let me lend you a hand.” Mr. Sorrells held out both his hands.
Cassandra took only one to give her stability as she stepped onto the box. She needed the other hand to manage her skirt and petticoats. From there, climbing into the basket proved easier than mounting a horse. Inside, she found a flask of water and half a dozen apples, a hunk of soft cheese, and a loaf of bread.
“I thought you might get hungry,” Mr. Kent admitted, “if you make this a long flight. I know I did the last time I went up. It’s all that fresh air.”
“You are so thoughtful.” Cassandra leaned over the side of the basket to offer him her best smile. “I had no breakfast, and I rather like the idea of having it a mile off the ground.”
“We’ll get the ropes then.” Mr. Sorrells strode to one end of the balloon and loosed the first rope.
Mr. Kent went to the diagonal corner. The basket began to bob and sway with the inflated balloon tugging upward, its filling of hot air anxious to lift up and up.
“This is glorious!” Cassandra cried out and lifted her arms. “If we cannot create wings for men to fly themselves, then this is the next best way to go into the air. It is positively—”
Hoofbeats thundered across the field at a speed too fast for the lack of light in the sky and the roughness of the terrain. “Cassandra, do not go!” a shout carried on the wind. “Do not—”
“Quick,” Cassandra said, doubting she was strong enough to unhook the ropes herself now that the balloon was rising. “Loose the other ropes.”
But neither Mr. Sorrells nor Mr. Kent did so. They stood watching the approaching rider.
“Cassandra, come out of there.” Lord Whittaker reined in a dozen feet away and flung himself from the saddle.
“Now,” Cassandra commanded.
Perhaps her voice held authority. Perhaps they simply did not want their morning’s enjoyment spoiled by someone who did not appreciate their balloon travel experiments. Whatever the reason, Mr. Kent and Mr. Sorrells sprang into action, unfastening the last two ropes. The balloon began to rise.
“Cassandra, you cannot.” Whittaker sounded desperate. In the torchlight, his face gleamed pale, tense.
“I cannot stop it.” Cassandra started to lean toward him, realized she was not rising all that quickly and he might still manage to pull her from the basket. “It truly is safe, Whittaker. Never you—”
“But it is not. Cass—” With a noise rather like a growl, Whittaker leaped onto the box she had used, grabbed the edge of the rising basket, and half-dragged, half-rolled himself over the edge. “How do we get this to land again?”
“We do not.” Cassandra glared at Whittaker, her tone hard. “You are here for the duration of the journey.”
“But you do not understand.” Breath coming in gasps, Whittaker scrambled to his feet and caught hold of Cassandra’s shoulders. “It is dangerous today. After the other morning, I’ve learned some things. I warned you you were in danger.”
“Only with you.” She smiled at the glorious expanse of the sky arching around her. “Alone, or rather, with my aeronaut friends, I am perfectly secure.”
“But you are not.. Jimmy, one of the Luddite weavers—oh my.” His eyes went out of focus. His face turned green. “We’re off the ground,” he said in a strangled voice.
Cassandra glanced at the diminishing figures on the ground, now no more than blurs for her even with her spectacles on. “About five hundred feet ,. No more than that, I expect.”
“Five hundred? Five—”
“Standing is better in a balloon, but kneel if you are going to be sick, preferably over the edge.”
He sat. He lowered his head to his knees. “I dislike looking over the gallery into the great hall. That is only twenty feet. Five hundred . . .”
Cassandra resisted the urge to kneel beside him and offer comfort. “You got in of your own free will.”
He raised his head, perspiration beading his brow and upper lip. “I thought you would land it again.”
“Just because you ordered me to? I am your mother’s guest, not yours. And, as you admitted yourself, our betrothal is most definitely over; therefore, you have no control over my actions.”
“I do if I am trying to save your life.”