Sherri Browning Erwin, best known for critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations, also writes paranormal romance and historical romance as Sherri Browning. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in Massachusetts and Michigan, but is now settled with her family in central Connecticut. She returns to historical romance with the Thornbrook Park series. An Affair Downstairs, second in the series, was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Romance of 2015, and lists as one of their Top 101 Romances for the Past Ten Years.
Exposing a secret on Christmas Eve with Sherri Browning Erwin
Exposing a secret on Christmas Eve… and what a secret! In An Affair Downstairs, the second of my Thornbrook Park series set in Edwardian England, Alice and Logan finally reveal their secret love and engagement on Christmas Eve. What could be nicer? But secret love isn’t always made for happy endings, as Alice’s sister Sophia discovers when an admirer reveals himself. The story continues in The Great Estate, the third and final book of the Thornbrook series. Can Sophia and Gabriel ever reconcile?
It was late in the evening. Logan and Alice stayed up as late as they could for the chance to spend more time in each other’s arms. Gabriel and Sophia made their excuses, wishing to leave the two lovebirds alone.
“It has been such a long day,” Sophia said. “I’m so tired.”
“You go on up to bed, darling,” Gabriel said. “I’ve got to clear some business downstairs with Finch to prepare for Boxing Day. I want to make sure everyone is free and able to have a day off without waiting on us. I’ll meet you up in bed shortly.”
“Of course,” Sophia said. “Don’t stay up too late, you two. And best wishes again for a wonderful life together. My apologies if I did anything to stand in the way of your happiness. I might have been overzealous in acting for what I believed was in Alice’s best interest. I look forward to having you as a brother, Logan. Growing up, I always wanted brothers. Now I’m to have two of them.”
“Thank you, Sophia. It means a lot to me that we have your approval,” Logan said.
“To me, too,” Alice added. “Thank you for coming to see things as they should be. Logan and I belong together.”
“I can see that now.” She flashed a genuine smile. “And I’m very pleased for you. Goodnight. Happy Christmas.”
Logan and Alice stayed in front of the fire for some time, kissing and cuddling, not quite ready to part. At last, they decided they had better go in case they were keeping the servants up.
It was as they rounded the corner to head up the stairs that they froze in their tracks. Lord Ralston had returned. He stood in the hall, his head bowed in quiet conversation with Sophia. They looked almost like lovers, which Alice began to laugh off as preposterous, until he took Sophia in his arms and kissed her passionately. At first, Sophia had started to push him away, but slowly she began to give in.
“Sophia,” Alice breathed, unable to believe her eyes. For once, she wished so badly that she had been wrong, so terribly wrong, about Ralston’s attraction to Sophia. But it appeared that she had been right, the secret finally revealed. Alice leaned on Logan for support.
Logan’s arm around her waist gently guided Alice away from the disturbing sight, but the worst of all things happened next. Lord Averford turned the corner and witnessed his wife in the arms of another man. And his face, Alice would never forget the look on Gabriel’s face, a look of sheer agony. Alice watched her brother-in-law’s heart break into a million pieces right before her eyes.
“Gabriel.” Some sort of awareness dawned on Sophia at last, a minute too late. She looked up to see her husband watching her with Lord Ralston. “Gabriel! It’s not what it seems. Please, let me explain.”
Sophia left Lord Ralston standing there in the hall and ran off after her husband.
Alice stepped forward, Logan two steps behind still holding her hand.
“You.” The word held all the venom Alice could muster.
“I love her, Alice. I’m sorry. It has always been Sophia. I finally came to admit it to her. I had to take the chance. She said I was being ridiculous, and she begged me to leave. She said she loved her husband, but I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t. We could be so good together. I took her in my arms and I kissed her so that she would finally understand. Clearly, I was wrong. Maybe she really does love him.”
“Of course she loves him,” Alice said, perhaps a little too loudly. “Are you mad? Or just daft? She loves him, you fool. Get out.” Alice pointed toward the door. “Get out of this house, and don’t ever come back or so help me God, Ralston, I’ll shoot you myself.”
He held up his hands, resigned. “I’m leaving. There’s nothing here for me now. Goodbye. I wish you all the best.”
“Out!” Alice yelled. Once he left, she turned to Logan. “Can you believe his nerve? That man! Tonight of all nights.”
“I would have been glad to punch him again, but you seemed to have it all under control.” Logan pulled Alice into his arms. “I’m sorry we had to see that. But Sophia and Gabriel have a lot of love between them. They will work it out.”
“I certainly hope you’re right.” Alice allowed herself to lean into him, the man she planned to marry. She wasn’t so sure that he was right about her sister’s marriage recovering. She’d never seen Gabriel look so broken. “Whatever the future holds, I’m so glad I have you to face it with me, Logan.”
“Whatever the future holds.” He kissed the top of her head. “I’m here. Merry Christmas, Darling.”
Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford...and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she's determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love... before they're lost to each other forever.It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love...and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.
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