• Ayden K. Morgen

When the Bow Breaks: Excerpt



Today, I thought I would share with you guys part of a story I've been working on for YEARS. Literally. This story is set in 1840s England, when the New Poor Laws forced unwed mothers to abandon their children to baby farmers. It's a horrific period in history that lead to the eventual creation of our foster and adoption systems.


One horrible night changed everything for Lady Sophia Iverson and Dante Warren, forcing Sophia to wed the Duke of Griffin and prompting Dante to flee from England. But when a horrible tragedy claims the life of Sophia's infant daughter, the lovers are brought back together. Two years has changed so much for both of them, but Dante will do anything to bring Sophia back from the grief slowly killing her... even if that means opening his home to the orphaned children England's New Poor Laws have abandoned to starvation and worse. If saving their lives reminds Lady Sophia why she ever loved him in the first place... well, Dante wouldn't object to that, either.


He's always loved Sophia. He always will.


He just has to convince her that the terrible secret she's hiding won't send him running again. It won't, will it?



Bow (bou)

to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as in submission, shame, recognition, or acknowledgment.

2. to yield; submit

...

When the wind blows The cradle will rock When the bough breaks The cradle will fall And down will come baby... Cradle and all


PROLOGUE

London: May, 1840


"Papa, no," Sophia Iverson pleaded with her father, fighting against the sobs building in her throat. These last weeks had seen enough of her tears. She would not shed another, no matter what her father decided today. But Lud! She had not expected courage to hurt so very much.

Viscount Adaire stared at her, his soft brown eyes full of sympathy, but his face set in that intractable way of his. He'd made up his mind that look said, and no matter how much his decision hurt his only daughter, he would stand by it. No plea would sway him now.


Sophia pleaded anyway.


"Please, Papa. Please don't ask me to do this." Despite her vow not to cry, tears leaked from the corners of her eyes, blinding her. She took a deep, gasping breath, forcing the damning tears back once more.


"I'm sorry, Sophia, but it has to be done." Lord Adaire raked a hand through his silvering hair and blew out a breath. "There is no other choice. You know this as much as I."


The last bit of Sophia's hope vanished with his words.


His decision had been made. In little more than a fortnight, she would wed a man she barely knew to spare her family another scandal.


For long moments, she stood frozen across from his desk as she fought to accept her fate, her hands clasped so tightly together her fingernails scored her skin. She wanted to weep and wail, but would not. She was with child. Regardless of how her condition had come about, it would ruin her family. After everything they had already endured with her brother, she could not force this indignity upon her father, too.


That truth did not keep her heart from breaking, though.


She had never been one of those silly girls out to trap a man in marriage. Her mother and father had married for love, and Sophia had always expected to do the same. But Dante Warren, youngest son to the Earl of Seabrooke and the only man Sophia wanted, had disappeared, taking that dream with him.


Despite all his pretty words and promises for the future, he'd left her.


No matter how hard she tried to force herself to accept that sad fact, she could not do it. Her heart refused to believe Dante had abandoned her so easily, instead clinging to the hope that he would come for her and this nightmare would end.


It was a foolish hope, of course.


In the ten weeks since he had vanished, he had not once sent word. He had simply disappeared. That realization made her ill when it first came so many weeks ago. She had denied it, fought it, battled with it, and railed against it. Now, however, it seemed she would be forced to accept it.


Dante was not coming back for her.


And she could not mope about for him any longer. Her child needed her to be strong and courageous, to think of his or her future instead of her own selfish dreams. Her hand went instinctively to her belly, hovering protectively over the life growing within.


Yes, her babe had to come first.


The Duke of Griffin was a good man. He would be kind to her, just as he'd been kind when he'd found her broken and bleeding all those weeks ago. She had been so alone, so frightened, but he'd helped her. He'd carried her home to her father, summoned a doctor, and not breathed a word to anyone of the horror she had suffered.


Sophia shook her head forcefully to dislodge the pain the memory of that awful night brought welling to the surface of her mind. She would not think of it. She would think only of the child, never of the faceless man who had so brutally fathered it... or of Dante, the one who had allowed it happen.


Her child would not suffer for their sins as she had suffered.


"You are right, Papa," she said, gathering what little courage remained to her. Her voice sounded dull and lifeless to her own ears, but she paid it no mind. Her course was set. She would see this through. Opening her eyes, she met her father's concerned gaze. "I will marry the Duke."

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