I always enjoy sharing one of my favorite romance fiction authors and writers. I am also honored to call Rusty Blackwood a dear friend of mine and meeting several years ago through social media and became fast friends. She is an amazing author with books like,
“Such a talented writer that all her books should be on the NY Times Best Seller List!
Who says authors don’t interact with thier readers? Rusty sure does. Just as she enjoys sharing her process of writing a new book as well.”
So, I am privileged she asked and has given my readers another exclusive look and share a Sneak Peek Chapter of her new book coming out this fall titled; The Perils of Autumn. I know all my avid readers will love reading a good long juicy chapter to prepare you for this amazing new release this FALL …
Photo of Miss Blackwood by Miss Carson Doan ©2013 Carson Doan Photography, St. Catharines, ON.
The Perils of Autumn ~ Chapter 35
A Four Course Journey Through Hypocrisy
( This is a working cover only for The Perils of Autumn. Image courtesy of Google Images ©)
A Note From The Author, Rusty Blackwood:
“Hello Avid Readers. This chapter is fairly long but it helps to set the flow of the story. The chapter centers around a dinner party that Autumn gives with hopes of bringing Cyril and her mother closer together – as Autumn and Cyril are becoming close and Abigail (Autumn’s mother) who is not pleased with their relationship because he is so much older than her daughter. The housekeeper, Agnes – life long friend of Cyril’s – begins to show her true colors” …You may read another chapter from my Official Author Website Rusty Blackwood and make sure you sign up for my newsletter while there for this new fall release, news, and author events too!
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Saturday had arrived and with it growing anxiety for Autumn. She wondered at this for she had everything well planned, dinner would be at six, the menu had been decided, and the weather appeared favorable. Much of the meal would consist of items she and her mother had never consumed, but there was always a first time, and the selection was good. It would also be a feast for Cyril’s pallet, for the menu consisted of many of his favorite foods that he had not enjoyed in quite some time. There was not a doubt he would partake heavily. His assignment was the stocking of the bar which would be left to his choosing. Autumn’s mother did enjoy a nice sherry, or an after-dinner brandy, that of which Autumn had already informed Cyril, and she was certain he would include them in the lineup.
Noon had come and gone. Autumn couldn’t help noticing the cold shoulder she was receiving from Agnes whenever she entered the kitchen, but it was something the older woman must come to terms with, and Autumn was not about to ruin her expected pleasure over someone’s possible attempt at sabotage. She kept checking the time, noticing the hands on the clock seemed to speed faster with each look. Three o’clock finally loomed; it was time to adjourn to her suite. She had less than two hours to prepare for the planned festivities. After a final check in the kitchen, she trod to Cyril’s room to see if he was resting, but he was not there. He did say he was going to exercise Dan for a while; must be where he is. I do hope he’s watching the time, she thought with concern while climbing the stairs to her privacy. Now, what should I wear? She didn’t want to be over-dressed yet wanted to appear festive. It may be a simple dinner for four, but it was a most important one; she wanted everything to be just right, and that included her.
Her wardrobe had grown over time. It brought her comfort when opening her closet doors to find an actual selection within. Both she and her mother could now enjoy nicer clothes, as well as a wide variety. Her mind suddenly flashed to the days when it hadn’t been that way. There had always been clothing, but not always the nicest nor the most recent in style but at least they were clean. She smiled when realizing that sparseness was no longer the case for either of them. She had always admired her mother’s impeccable taste, the way she made a statement with the combination of simple items used with flair, creating her own look, and pulling it off with grace. Autumn’s style was different from her mother’s. It didn’t matter if something was not of the latest trend, in fact, the more flamboyant the better, and aside from wearing conservative riding habits, she fancied her own look with whatever took her eye at the time.
Before long she was attired in a mid-length, long sleeved, crushed velvet coat dress in royal blue, set off with a matching belt sporting a huge square chrome buckle. She wore chunky, three inch heeled knee-high boots of the same color and fabric of the dress, but what set them apart was a spattering of shinny chrome studs around the cuffs, and down the sides. To complete the look, she chose dangly silver hoop earrings. Her cheeks were adorned with a soft pink blush, dark auburn mascara complimented her thick, wispy lashes, and a bold crimson lip gloss finished the look. She decided to wear her shoulder-length hair loose and flowing, and as she stood before the full-length mirror she had to smile, feeling every inch the seventies girl that she was.
The limo, driven by a suit-clad William was Lexington bound to retrieve Abigail Leeves who was expecting its arrival at the time her daughter had given, and she would be ready. A feeling of nervousness touched her stomach, but she shrugged it off, knowing there was no need for such nonsense, and she would not have it. She had always faced uncertainty head on, and this would be no different. She held to her usual conservative look, consisting of a three-quarter sleeved teal linen dress with gold piping, flat heeled, mid-high charcoal leather dress boots, and matching gold necklace and earrings. Her fur trimmed, black shear ling coat fell just below her knees, and was set off by a black leather shoulder bag boasting an elegant gold chain. She struck a stylish figure that she hoped would make her daughter proud.
Back at the mansion Autumn’s nerves were beginning to get the better of her. Surely things will go as planned, she trustingly thought, picturing everything in her mind as vividly as if it were playing out before her. She couldn’t wait to taste the traditional English fare that had been planned for everyone’s enjoyment, certain her mother would feel the same. She has always encouraged new avenues to try, so this will be no different, but still her nerves encompassed her stomach, as she further thought, what time is it now? Realizing it was almost five, she rushed downstairs just in time to meet her dashing squire of the manor, looking dapper in a light grey pin striped suit over an open-collared apricot colored linen shirt, and in lieu of a necktie, he wore a large silk apricot pocket square tucked loosely in his lapel. It truly was his color, for it set off his silver hair perfectly.
Sweeping his dancing eyes over her, he exclaimed, “You look exquisite, my dear!”
“Thank you, Cyril; you’re not a bit shabby yourself!”
“I suppose one could say we are totally mod.”
“Mod was last decade, now we are considered groovy.”
“Then groovy we shall be. Care to cut a rug with me?”
Giggling like an adolescent, Autumn playfully slapped his right shoulder before throwing her arms around him. He grinned at her daring gestures all the while realizing how they affected him, kept him youthful, and wanting to play. However, he didn’t think it wise to appear disheveled when his guest arrived.
Straightening his suit coat, he said, “I so look forward to seeing your charming mother again. How has she been keeping since leaving hospital?”
It took Autumn but a second to clue into the mannerism Cyril was expecting, as she replied, “She’s feeling fine and doing much better, thank you for asking. The new medication Dr. Boxford ordered appears to be helping much better than the previous one. Possibly she had become immune to the prior dosage; that often happens in cases like hers, but her mobility is much improved, and her discomfort has lessened. She’s even walking without the aid of her cane. It is a great relief for both of us,” and letting her eyes again travel over him, she coyly confessed, “You, my elegant horse master, look wonderfully debonair. I just had to say that before my mother arrives.”
He bowed, while sweeping his right arm before him. “My sincere gratitude, Miss Autumn, your charming presence at my side on her arrival can only do me proud,” and sensing her sudden nervousness, he asked, “Are you excited?”
Autumn couldn’t believe the extent of her nervousness, she actually felt nauseous, certain her sweaty hands would slip from within his; that alone increased her anxiety. She took a deep breath, straightened her posture, and then walked hand in hand with him to answer the call of the doorbell now ringing out its usual refrain. The door opened to reveal Abigail Leeves, standing in wait.
Cyril graciously extended his right hand, as he stated, “Welcome to Landon Manor, Miss Leeves, and might I say how lovely you look. Do come in.”
Noticing the grip her daughter had on the Englishman’s left hand, Abigail was thankful he had reached out with his right, but she pleasantly smiled, and stepped into the opulent foyer as he helped remove her coat, and then hung it in the closet.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Landon,” Abigail announced, “thank you for inviting me to dinner. I look forward to us becoming better acquainted,” and letting her eyes travel over her daughter, now standing on her own, she said, “You look stylish, my dear. I adore your outfit, it is typically you.”
Autumn said nothing, only smiled as if her mouth had become paralyzed in its present clown-like position while she walked aside Cyril and her mother toward the double parlor. As the trio entered the massive room, Agnes appeared through the dining room door, and appearing to ignore those present, went straight to the bar located at the far end of the room.
“Agnes,” Cyril called out, signaling her total lack of manners, “you remember Miss Abigail Leeves I assume? Do come and say hello. I shall tend to the drink orders directly.”
The sullen housekeeper moved toward the women, extending her hand to the elder of the two, stating, “Hello again, Miss Leeves, it is nice that you could attend our little soirée. I trust your journey was a comfortable one. William does try his best to avoid most bumps in the road,” and she smiled in a sinister way.
As Cyril escorted Abigail to a comfortable heather-toned wing chair, she replied, “It was fine, no bumps, just a smooth ride throughout its entirety. I must say what a pleasant man William is, a most delightful chap indeed.”
Escorting Autumn to a matching chair opposite her mother, Cyril said, “That is our William for you. He enjoys nothing better than a fine conversation. I trust he didn’t bore you with constant horse topics. He tends to forget that not everyone is as interested in them as he. May I offer you an appetizer, accompanied with an aperitif of your choice?”
Abigail looked amused but comfortable as she studied the colorful selections on the silver serving tray, and upon choosing one, she replied, “A glass of sherry would be nice, thank you. Regarding your inquiry concerning William and our conversation, he did not bore me in the least. I find the world of horse racing interesting actually. My daughter has tried explaining different aspects about it during our phone conversations; she is certainly taken with it ever since you taught her to ride. The pony you assigned her is a lovely one, very pretty.”
Autumn, now channeling a bobble head doll, moved her eyes between Cyril and her mother, before stating, “Cinnamon is hardly a pony, Momma, but rather a breed known as Morgan. A small horse – an Indian pony actually – though not a pony. It’s somewhat difficult to explain.”
The expression on Cyril’s face revealed amusement. He found it enlightening that Autumn was trying her best to explain something that she was still a novice about in many ways. He admired her forthrightness in doing her best to clarify things, but he surmised his help was required.
Pulling a chair aside Abigail, he explained, “The majority of horse breed at my stables is thoroughbred, or warm blood, horses bred for professional racing and show events such as open-hunter, show-jumping, and dressage, however I do keep a few different breeds for pleasure, such as Autumn’s mare Cinnamon, whose breed is Morgan. They are solid, tough horses, smaller than a thoroughbred in height and build, not nearly as hot blooded or high strung, but they are perfect for pleasure riding as well as teaching beginners to ride, such as your daughter, whom I understand had never sat on the back of a horse.”
Setting her half empty glass upon an adjacent table, Abigail replied, “We were never fortunate to be around horses I’m afraid, though I know my daughter has always had an affinity for them but we never lived where having one, even a pony, was possible. However, I am glad that she has been allowed to experience what she was denied throughout her formative years.”
Oh, Mother, must you make us sound like a welfare case? Autumn agonized in thought, doing her best to prevent her eyes from rolling as she continued to listen to the conversation.
Nodding his head in a receptive manner, Cyril remarked, “Yes, I am too, but it has been my pleasure to assist her by teaching her the basics, and she is a fast learner, picking up difficult aspects exceptionally fast.”
“Yes,” Abigail agreed, “that she is, always first to jump into the fray.” Oh, Mother, please, must you be so explicit? thought Autumn with growing annoyance fast boarding on embarrassment. She had to change the subject.
“I’m glad you had a good trip out here, Momma. I knew you would enjoy conversing with William, he is a most interesting dude, always has something delightful to say. Maybe after dinner you might like to have a tour of the stables; even meet Cinnamon — and Dapper Dan!”
“Excuse me, Dapper who?”
“Sir Dapper Dan. That is the official name of Cyril’s horse, a magnificent, dapple grey thoroughbred stallion that is a blue-ribbon winner in his field. Why he simply soars over hurdles, regardless of how high or difficult to maneuver. Then again a lot of that can be credited to Cyril’s exceptional horsemanship.”
The Englishman’s face suddenly reddened, he was actually blushing, as he stated, “Oh my, you must forgive your daughter’s enthusiasm, Miss Leeves, she is rather bias, however the credit she gives Dan is certainly well placed. He is both my stalwart friend, and my champion on the course. We have been together a very long time, and he never ceases to amaze me.”
“Yes, Momma, it was Dapper Dan that saved Cyril the day of his accident. The horse got down on his knees and eased himself upon his side as to allow Cyril to climb on his back, where he then brought him to the stables. It was a miraculous feat, a total gesture of love. I don’t know many humans who would go to that length for another.”
Looking amused, Abigail exclaimed, “My-my, you certainly do have a friend in your horse, Mr. Landon! I would very much like to meet this applauded steed. I must say you were a lucky man.”
“That I was and do call me Cyril. Mr. Landon seems so formal, and I always address my friends by their name.” “Then you must call me Abigail. I understand you own a Triple Crown winner. That must be thrilling, to say the least.”
“That it is, Abigail! Devil May Care won the Triple Crown in 1969, setting a record for speed along with it. Unfortunately, that coveted series is open to three-year-old contenders only, but nothing can ever erase the memories of his win. I am now hopeful for my newest three-year-old stallion, Fenn’s Fancy. He has what it takes, but it is also up to chance, so we shall see.”
Before another word could be spoken, Agnes, who had previously left the room immediately after acknowledging the company, returned to announce that dinner now awaited them in the dining room. Cyril stepped between Autumn and her mother, and offering an arm to each, accompanied them to the dining room with its emerald green damask walls, and highly polished, colonial-styled walnut table. Six deep maroon-cushioned chairs lined the table either side, capped off with a captain’s chair at each end.
The table, sporting a tapestry runner in maroon and gold, sat beneath a shallow but tasteful flower arrangement consisting of Baby’s Breath, Stephanotis, and trailing English Ivy. Crystal serving bowls lined each side of the runner, each offering an English staple from the designated menu. Autumn and Abigail were seated across from each other on the halfway mark of the table, and Cyril and Agnes took up residence in the captains’ chairs.
To Cyril’s right side, chilling in an ice-filled sterling bucket in its stand was a vintage bottle of champagne. Popping the cork, he walked around the table filling each crystal goblet located aside a gold embellished dinner plate, on which sat a green enameled salad bowl offering a traditional London salad, consisting of assorted greens, walnuts, and apples.
The meal progressed with conversation taking place wherever it seemed to fit. Everyone appeared to be enjoying the assorted flavors of each dish, until the bowl containing Toad in the Hole was passed to Abigail, who awkwardly hesitated, giving the impression she was not sure about what she was viewing.
Agnes was quick to notice. Swiftly wiping a maroon colored napkin across her mouth, she openly inquired, “Is there a problem, Miss Leeves?” It was obvious Abigail did not wish to make a scene, but the pungent look on her face openly revealed her displeasure.
“I am sorry, I don’t wish to seem impartial but …this dish looks as if it contains sausage.”
“It does!” Agnes blurted.
“One cannot make a proper Toad in the Hole without sausage. Why don’t you try it before you turn up your nose? You might find it to your liking instead of jeering at it like you’ve been offered poison.” Abigail sat in quandary, not certain what to say. Cyril could not believe the words emitting from his housekeeper’s mouth. He was totally appalled.
“How dare you speak to my guest in such a disgraceful manner, Agnes? I demand you explain yourself and apologize immediately.”
Autumn sat in disbelief yet knowing full well that the outburst was because of the woman’s growing animosity toward her and Cyril’s blossoming relationship, but she would not sit in silence while her mother was chastised because of it.
“I too am waiting for an explanation, Agnes. If my mother has hesitated to try something there must be a good reason; even if there wasn’t, it does not give you the right to speak to her like that.”
Abigail graciously blotted her mouth, before stating, “I am sorry. I certainly did not mean to cause such uproar, but I cannot eat sausage without it triggering a gallbladder attack. I have not been able to eat sausage since I was a child.”
“No mind, Abigail,” Cyril assured, “you need not explain. Agnes is the one who needs to do that, and if she cannot, she may excuse her presence from my table. Miss Autumn and I can serve the dessert and tea.”
Agnes found it hard to absorb that Cyril would speak to her in such fashion. It hurt, even though she had been wrong to use the tone that she had with Abigail, but she would not be spoken to in this manner, and she would not be banished from the table like an impertinent child.
She abruptly rose to her feet, and began walking toward the kitchen, but stopped, whirled around, and snapped, “I am the housekeeper here, Cyril, until you see fit to dismiss my service! I will clear the table and see to the dessert, but I will not join you!”
The look on Cyril’s face revealed total displeasure. He had always conducted himself with honor, respecting everyone around him, but he could not tolerate what was presently happening before his eyes.
He stood erect, extending each hand toward the women sitting at the table, and in a rather shaken voice, he said, “Would you both please accept my sincere apology I … I do not know what has gotten into her, I don’t understand it at all, any of it. In all the years that I have known her she has never lashed out like that. Abigail, I had Miss Autumn invite you here because she and I have grown close, and you and she are so very close that I want to know you better.
I held such anticipation for this dinner, having you here with me, in my manor at my table with Autumn and me. I hope to have many more dinners with you at this table … Please, I must excuse myself for a moment, if you will both indulge me.” Moving toward Autumn, he added, “Please top up your mother’s glass and keep her company ’till I return. I shan’t be long.”
It was plain to see that the proud Englishman was distraught and had to get out before he lost his composure. It was embarrassing to have an employee – though an old friend – conduct herself in such a disrespectful manner. He would not have it. She had not only spoken to Abigail in the unacceptable manner in which she had, but this was the mother of the woman he had fallen in love with, regardless of whether she had reservations about it or not. She had to be made to understand. He knew he must not be gone long; that would not be acceptable either, but what he had to say could not wait.
I am enjoying the creation of this novel immensely. The more the story grows the more in-depth it becomes. The characters are raw, bold, and pretentious, yet each carries a certain uniqueness that pulls you in and makes you want to know them more. ~Rusty Blackwood
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Romantic fiction author Rusty Blackwood, who chose her plume de nom by combining the colour of her russet hair with her husband’s great, great, Scottish grandmother’s maiden name, was born in St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada on October 5th, and grew up on her paternal grandfather’s farm in the County of Elgin, located in the south-western portion of the province of Ontario.
She acquired her love of literature while still in elementary school where she entered her original compositions into county fairs, school contests, and whatever venue allowed participants in the writing field. She has carried that love ever since and has put it to use many times since becoming a professional writer in 2001.
From the time of youth she has loved the Arts in their many unique forms and is a graduate with honors in Interior Decorating & Design. She spent many years on the south-western Ontario stage performing with her family’s country music band: The Midnight Ramblers, followed by the country – rock – blues band: ‘MIRAGE’ as an accomplished vocalist, bassist, and rhythm guitarist. She now resides in the cultural city of St. Catharines, Ontario.
Please visit her official website Rusty Blackwood – Bio/Contact for numerous reviews, author interview requests, and information on her work.