Lady in the Mist
Laurie Alice Eakes
By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets: the names of fathers of illegitimate children, the level of love and harmony within many a marriage, and now the identity of a man who may have caused his wife’s death. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, what he, a British nobleman, is doing on American soil working as a bondsman in the home of Mayor Kendall, a Southern gentleman with his eye on a higher office. By chance one morning before the dawn has broken, Tabitha and Dominick cross paths on a misty beachhead, leading them on a twisted path through kidnappings, death threats, public disgrace, and . . . love? Can Tabitha trust Dominick? What might he be hiding? And can either of them find true love in a world that seems set against them? With stirring writing that puts readers directly into the story, Lady in the Mist expertly explores themes of identity, misperception, and love’s discovery.
I loved, loved, loved this book. Laurie Alice is a master storyteller. Her book grabbed me by the heart and held on. I loved the characters and the plot, which was full of delicious romance and dark mystery. Authentic historic details brought the setting alive. I can hardly wait for her next book. ~ Lena Nelson Dooley, author of the McKenna’s Daughters series and Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico
“Featuring a charming hero with a mysterious past and mission, Lady in the Mist brims with tension, intrigue, and romance.” ~ Julie Klassen, bestselling author of The Silent Governess and The Girl in the Gatehouse
“Laurie Alice Eakes pens another novel that keeps the reader turning the pages with her expert knowledge of the time period and her skill with language. If you want to read a historical with romance, intrigue, and mystery all rolled into one, Lady in the Mist is a book you won’t want to miss.” ~ Golden Keyes Parsons, author of In the Shadow of the Sun King and Prisoner of Versailles
“I loved, loved, loved this book. Laurie Alice is a master storyteller. Her book grabbed me by the heart and held on. I loved the characters and the plot, which was full of delicious romance and dark mystery. Authentic historic details brought the setting alive. I can hardly wait for her next book.” ~ Lena Nelson Dooley, author of the McKenna’s Daughters series andã•Loveã•Finds You in Golden, New Mexico
“Lady in the Mist is not to be missed. Secrets, suspense, and a sweetly told love story make this a highly rewarding read.” ~ Cheryl Bolen, Holt Medallion—winning author of One Golden Ring
“Tabitha had lost everything dear to her, but just when she thought her heart might mend, two men vie for her feelings. Two men with pasts as gray as the turbulent sea.” ~ DiAnn Mills, Christy Award—winning author of Breach of Trust
“Laurie Alice Eakes tackles an era in our country’s history about which little has been written to craft a fascinating story of redemption and sacrificial love. Her absorbing novel captivated me from the first page. Lady in the Mist boasts a fresh plot, impeccably researched prose, and realistic characters. Readers are sure to have their hearts stirred as Tabitha and Dominick learn to trust one another and their heavenly Father’s plans for them.
“I hated to leave these characters behind when I finished the story. I’ll be eagerly awaiting book 2 in the Midwives series.” ~ Ann Shorey, author of At Home in Beldon Grove series
“The first book in Eakes’ new Midwives series is filled with secrets, a budding romance and mystery with characters who have their doubts about themselves and those around them. Readers will not be able to put this gem of a novel down.” ~ Patsy Glans, Romantic Times four Stars
“Lady in the Mist brims with tension, intrigue, and romance.” ~ Julie Klassen, bestselling author of The Silent Governess and The Girl in the Gatehouse
“A fascinating story of redemption and sacrificial love. It captivated me from the first page.” ~ Ann Shorey, author of At Home in Beldon Grove series
But as she turned and crunched her way along the hard-packed sand toward home, she couldn’t stop herself from slipping into the hope, the dream of a beloved striding out of the mist to greet her, take her hand in his–
Lost in her imagination, she blundered straight into a person standing on the beach. He grunted. She reeled backward. Her heel caught in the hem of her skirt. Her other foot slipped on the wet sand, and her posterior struck the ground with a splat like a landed fish.
The person moved, looming over her. “What do we have here?” Quiet, the voice was real and male, deep and unmistakably English. “Are you all right?”
He sounded friendly, even warm, and not threatening. Yet no one should be about on this stretch of beach in the wee hours of the morning. No Englishman should be about on the Atlantic coast, where young men disappeared with regularity unless he were–
“Pressgang,” the word burst from her like a curse, and her heart began to race. Her mouth went dry, tasting bitter.
She tried to scramble to her feet. She needed to warn the village men to stay inside. But her cloak and skirts tangled around her, holding her down.
“Let me help you.” Still speaking in an undertone, he stooped before her. She caught an exotic scent like sandalwood, saw no more than a shadow outline and dark hair tumbling around features pale in the misty gloom.
Listening for others moving about on the beach, Tabitha waved him off. “No, thank you. I can manage myself.”
She tugged at her skirt, and nearly toppled sideways.
“You don’t look to be doing such a good job of it.” Laughter tinged his words. The hand that clasped one of hers was real and masculine, strong and too smooth to belong to a fisherman or sailor. “Perhaps you can get to your feet if I help. Do you have feet? There does seem to be something trailing behind you. Perhaps it’s a tail. Are you a mermaid?”
Tabitha snorted and tried to wrench her hand away. Flirtation would get the stranger nowhere with her. The instant she regained her feet, she would run back to town and warn the sheriff or mayor that the English were at it again, stealing young American men to serve aboard their ships in their endless war with France.
If the man let her go. At that moment, he gripped her hand with a firmness suggesting he would not.
“I’m not certain whether or not that noise you made was human.” He closed his other hand over hers. “But this lovely hand hasn’t any scales on it, which argues on the side of human. On the contrary, it’s as smooth as silk.” He rubbed the tip of a finger across her knuckles, and the skin along her arms felt as though lightning were about to strike. “What’s a human female doing out so early?”
“Going home.” Her voice emerged hoarse, sounding unused. She swallowed to clear it. “What’s an Englishman doing in Virginia?”
“President Madison hasn’t managed to rid these shores of all of us yet.”
“Ah, a hostile mermaid.”
His words pricked her conscience. She was being rather rude to someone who, although in a place where he had no business being, acted kind enough he deserved a modicum of courtesy in return.
“I’m not hostile. I’m cautious and worn to a th-hread.” Her voice broke.
“You must have been swimming against the tide.” Speaking with a tenderness that drew all too ready tears to her eyes, he rose, drawing her to her feet with him. “No, not a swim. Alas, a fatigued female human. That’s a cloak, I see, not a tail. Forgive the mistaken identity, But I’d expect to see a mermaid out here before I’d think to find a. . .lady.”
“An understandable error.” She used the edge of her cloak to dab at her eyes. “I wouldn’t be out here if I weren’t a midwife.”
“Indeed?” His tone spoke of disbelief. His hand lingered on hers, that errant fingertip tracing the third finger on her left hand.
She didn’t need to see his face or have him speak the words to understand he sought a wedding ring.
She snatched her hand free and tucked her ringless fingers inside the folds of her cloak. “Indeed.”
“Then it’s the last proof you’re human, since surely mermaids are hatched in the bottom of the ocean.” He curved his hand over her forearm. “Then allow me to walk you home, Madam Midwife.”
“I’m not going—” she glanced around her.
A hint of sun glowed along the line between sea and sky, turning the sand to a silvery gray and the mist to tendrils of gauze. Other than the usual flotsam thrown up by the tide, the stranger, and her, the sand lay empty. If he’d had cohorts, he’d managed to distract her long enough for them to get away. By the time she found someone in authority, he would have vanished, too. She couldn’t even identify him with any certainty. He stood with his back to the light, a tall, broad-shouldered silhouette with hair tumbling from his queue.
“It’s not necessary,” she said instead. “I’m perfectly safe, especially now that daylight is nearly here.”
“I insist.” He released her arm, but headed in the direction of her house. “You were going this way.”
“I was, but if someone sees me walking with a man. . .” She sighed and hastened to match her stride to his. “I depend on my reputation to make my living secure, sir.”
He continued up the beach, but slowed. “Ah, I see. If someone sees you with me, they will think perhaps you had an assignation rather than a duty.”
“Only my good name allows me to move about freely at night without being accosted,” she affirmed.
“Then I’ll leave you here, before we’re in sight of the village again.” He stopped, took her hand in his, and bowed as though they were attending a formal reception. “Have a care, Madam Mermaid Midwife.”
He released her hand and retraced their footprints in the sand, his head bent, his hands clasped behind his back.
Feeling as though flotsam filled her shoes, weighing them down, Tabitha trudged toward home. Images of the Englishman filled her head, tingled along her fingers, danced down her spine. She despised the way she thrilled to his flirtation, his touch. She feared his presence on her normally empty beach.