Novice Threads | Women’s Historical Fiction set in 19thC Scotland | Nancy Jardine

Novice Threads
by Nancy Jardine

A thirst for education. Shattered dreams. Fragile relations.
1840s Scotland
Being sent to school is the most exhilarating thing that’s ever happened to young Margaret Law. She sharpens her newly-acquired education on her best friend, Jessie Morison, till Jessie is spirited away to become a scullery maid. But how can Margaret fulfil her visions of becoming a schoolteacher when her parents’ tailoring and drapery business suddenly collapses and she must find a job?
Salvation from domestic drudgery – or never-ending seamstress work – comes via Jessie whose employer seeks a tutor for his daughter. Free time exploring Edinburgh with Jessie is great fun, but increasing tension in the household claws at Margaret’s nerves.
Margaret also worries about her parents’ estrangement, and the mystery of Jessie’s unknown father.
When tragedy befalls the household in Edinburgh, Margaret must forge a new pathway for the future – though where will that be?
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Enjoy an Excerpt: First Seduction
Kate was right about the fire. It did need some dross added to it, and though Margaret was careful when she added a shovelful of the gritty little bits of coal, she needed to clean her hands free of coal dust before she lifted the pile of towels for the attic bedrooms. Stepping back out into the basement corridor she felt quite flushed, and murmured sincere thanks to the corridor walls that she had avoided being employed in some household as a laundry maid.
The climb up three flights of stairs to the attic floor made her feel even more heated as she thought of who was sleeping up there during the festive period. When there was no response to her knock on the door of the first small room, she entered and looked around for a free surface to set down the clean towels. Whoever was staying in the room was not a tidy person at all. Popping her whole pile on the bedcover, she lifted up a used towel from the floor and placed it over her arm. After two clean towels had been set beside the basin and ewer on the dressing table, she lifted her now smaller pile and left the room.
She clenched her knuckles to knock on the next door but was startled when the door opened. Overbalancing into the empty space, she found herself tight in the clutches of Francis Douglas Scott, who took his time about removing his steadying palms from her shoulders, his mesmerising hazel eyes capturing her gaze. Feeling her cheeks heat even more than in the laundry room, she dropped her gaze, her embarrassment acute as she attempted to take a step backwards.
“If I had known you were going to come all the way up here to visit me, I’d not have arranged to play cards with Robert, downstairs in the parlour, in five minutes time,” he jested.
Raising her head at his playful tone, Margaret’s breath hitched when his slow sensual smile captivated her, so close that she could see every single hair of his neatly-trimmed moustache.
“I’d much rather play a different sort of game with you, Miss Margaret Law.”
Completely flustered at the flaring heat in his gaze, and annoyed with her lack of poise, she stuttered, “I brought clean towels.”
“I can see that.” His voice had dropped to a whisper.
Before she could attempt another word, his head dipped and his lips touched her own.
Startled for the second time in as many moments, her mouth opened. To say something, to protest at his presumption, she didn’t quite know what she was intending, but she found she barely had the strength of a new-born kitten. Somewhat mortified, she closed her eyes yet allowed herself to marvel at what was happening.
She found herself entirely cradled by his arms; the towel pile crushed against her breasts as he deepened the kiss and drew her in towards him. His questing palms then caressed a pathway down her back to her buttocks where they splayed open and massaged through her numerous clothing layers. As the kisses deepened, so did the pressure of his touches.
The disturbance at his groin seemed to have a will of its own and made her gasp into his mouth. If anything, her reaction seemed to make Francis smile into their kisses.
She was naïve, for sure, but not completely unworldly. She and Jessie had had recent conversations with Kate, some of which had been utterly revealing. She knew what was likely happening to him, but having never been kissed before she was in thrall and had absolutely no idea of what to do. Only when she was gasping for air, did the amused man free her lips.
“Well, this is the best surprise of the day. I was not expecting this early Christmas gift.”
Before she could reply, his smiling lips returned. This time she had an idea of how to respond and revelled in how he changed the angle of his kisses, his palms moving up to bracket her cheeks. When his tongue probed at her lips, she opened up and revelled in the experience, a delicious and tingling heat warming her even more than before. She was only barely aware that the towels she’d been clutching had been released from her grasp and were now trapped between them, her arms sneaking through to creep up to his shoulders.
After a few lingering moments, and more gentle caresses of his fingers at her lower back, she sensed Francis draw away.
Daring to open her eyes to look at him, she could see his humour was evident, his words a terrible tease when he set her well back from him. The towel pile drifted to the floor, but Francis seemed completely unaware of them. “You have no idea how much I would rather remain up here with you and continue with what we’ve started, but…alas, I am a mere guest here and must hasten down to my hosts.”
Without another word, Francis released her. Flashing her a rueful grin and an upturn of his eyebrows, he tugged his waistcoat down and pulled the edges of his jacket forward so that he could fasten the buttons. After a final peck to her cheek, he stepped past to make his way downstairs, leaving Margaret staring at an empty space, her feet leaden. She couldn’t even describe how her body felt, apart from moving from stunned to bereft.
She found herself skulking in the corridors as she moved around helping with household tasks during what was left of the long Christmas Eve, desperately wanting more than one repeat of the breath-stealing kisses.

Nancy Jardine writes historical and contemporary fiction. 1st Century Roman Britain is the setting of her Celtic Fervour Series. Victorian and Edwardian history has sneaked into two of her ancestry-based contemporary mysteries, and her current Silver Sampler Series is set in Victorian Scotland. Her novels have achieved Finalist status in UK book competitions (People’s Book Prize; Scottish Association of Writers) and have received prestigious Online Book Awards. Published with Ocelot Press, writing memberships include – Historical Novel Society; Romantic Novelists Association; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Alliance of Independent Authors.

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