An Excerpt from
“Well,” Mr. Pomeroy said as he sat beside Sara in his gig and picked up the reins. “I can honestly say that not many visits have gone worse than that. Indeed, I believe we may have set a new precedent.”
Sara gave him a sympathetic smile and held onto the side as the gig lurched into motion, enjoying how the movement made her side press into his momentarily. “I don’t think it was that bad.”
“Oh no,” he said, “I assure you, this will become material at rectories all over England of how not to conduct visits.”
Sara shook her head. “You cannot be so hard on yourself. Mrs. Simpson was simply not in a good visiting mood. I doubt anyone would be, with an absent husband and three sick children, not to mention the other two who need constant attention.”
The vicar returned her smile, finally. “I am sure she appreciated you finishing up her laundry and putting a loaf of bread in the oven.”
“And you taking the two out for a walk,” Sara returned. “All she needed was a few moments of quiet to herself.”
He sighed. “I will return in a day or two to check on her and see if she needs any more help. And I will let Dr. Moore know of the illness. Perhaps he can do something for the children.”
“That is a good idea. I don’t know if I am able to accompany you then, but I can send along a basket.”
“Oh, I wasn’t suggesting you join me, Miss Collins,” Mr. Pomeroy said, looking at her with earnest brown eyes. “I believe I now have a good grasp on the needy families in the parish.”
Sara’s stomach dropped. Was he implying that her help was no longer needed? Dear heavens, if she didn’t accompany him on these visits, how could she prove to him that she would be a useful wife for a vicar? She swallowed and forced herself to speak. “That is good.”
Oh bother, that was more of a squeak than her voice. Mr. Pomeroy looked at her with concern in his eyes. “Are you unwell?”
Sara shook her head, unwilling to try to speak again.
His concern did not abate. “I would never forgive myself if you were to take sick after visiting Mrs. Simpson with me.” He reined in the horse and turned to face her, taking her hands in his.
“I am fine,” Sara assured him, though her voice was still little more than a squeak. His hands warmed hers, sending slow frissons of comfort up her wrists. She took a shaky breath and enjoyed the sensation.
“Have I distressed you in any way? I wish I had some water or lemonade to offer you. Your voice is still strange.” He rubbed her hands between his, his eyes filled with concern and anxiety.
Looking into his chocolate eyes, so full of emotion, all on her behalf, filled Sara with a sense of peace and security. He was a good man, a kind man, and would make her a fine husband. Her anxiety eased and her throat cleared, allowing her to speak normally. “Truly, I am well.”
Relief reflected in his eyes. “Thank God.”
She gave him a weak smile. “I am sorry for concerning you.”
Mr. Pomeroy looked at her, his face serious and intent. “The health and well-being of all my parishioners are my concern, Miss Collins. I would not be able to forgive myself if you were harmed while helping me with my work.”
“I should not have put you into a situation where you were at risk. We are fortunate that nothing serious occurred. We must be more cautious in the future.”
Sara bent her head and looked at her hands, still being held in his. She ran her thumb over his, marveling at how soft and large they were.
His concern warmed her heart and she smiled to herself. Louisa was wrong; he did care for her. How could he express such worry over her well-being if he did not have some affection for her? She needed him to know, however, that she was up to the task of being a vicar’s wife.
Sara raised her eyes and met his gaze. “I am sorry for causing you concern, Mr. Pomeroy. But I assure you, in my experience of helping my father, I have seen and been exposed to much worse than the colds of Mrs. Simpson’s children.”
Mr. Pomeroy’s eyes held a rueful quality as the anxiety left them. He smiled at her. “I suppose that is true. I keep forgetting that you have more experience at this than I do.”
They shared a smile for a long moment. It was the horse nickering that broke them apart. Mr. Pomeroy suddenly seemed to realize he was still holding her hands and dropped them, an embarrassed look coming over his face. He picked up the reins again and once more set the gig in motion.
“Are we returning to Ridgestone?” Sara asked after several moments of quiet.
He pursed his lips. “There is one more visit I was planning on making and it is directly on the way to Ridgestone. Would you mind terribly if you accompanied me? I can return you home if you would prefer.”
She smiled. “Of course not. Whom would we be visiting?”
“The new owner of Windent Hall. He arrived just the other day and I wish to welcome him to the village.”
“Oh.” A new person in the neighborhood. The usual nervous ants started walking around her throat, making her feel queasy. She took a breath to regain some sort of control. She was a grown woman, for heaven’s sake. It was far past time to be so affected by the thought of meeting someone new.
Besides¸ she thought, looking at the vicar, the last person I met was Mr. Pomeroy and look how well that has turned out. She cleared her throat. “Do you know what his name is?”
“Mr. Nathan Grant, recently from London.”
Mr. Grant. A new neighbor. She could do this. Mr. Pomeroy was here to help her.
Sara nodded. Yes, she could do this.