Driven from his childhood home because of his gypsy blood, Florian Feakes has made a life for himself on the Melcombe estate. He contents himself with nurturing park grounds and his own small, hidden garden. Until a new groom is hired. He understands the meaning of the heated looks Everett Wedmore sends his way, but knows nothing good will come from such an association.
Everett, surprised at how difficult Florian is to find, decides to invite the handsome gardener to the local summer fair. Things don't work out exactly as planned...
Bonus excerpts from The Pirates of Port Royal series and the Second Chances series are included at the end of Florian's Garden.
Melcombe Park, July 1805
“I will do it today!” There was a hint of doubt in Florian Feakes’s voice. He cleared his throat, stiffened his spine and repeated, with more vigor, “I will definitely do it today!”
The force only made the waver in his speech more noticeable. He sighed. “I am an unmitigated coward. A coward, coward, coward.”
His voice rose with every repetition, and he thumped his fist on the table, ignoring its drunken wobble. Long ago, he had saved it from the rubbish pile when Lord Melcombe’s servants were clearing out the attics. Clever with his hands, Florian had replaced its missing leg with a stout branch, and now it was as good a table as a man in his lowly position in life could expect.
Like the table, everything he owned had first belonged to someone else. He looked around the small room where he lived. A large piece of mirror, salvaged from that same pile as the table, hung on the wall. He had smoothed off the edges, though no one would ever be fooled into thinking it was other than a piece of rubbish. Two worn but sound chairs, cast-offs from a generous householder in Brockhill Village sat on either side of the table. A wide bed, gifted to him by Lord Melcombe himself, after his wife redecorated their home and ousted the old furniture, took up half the room. It took Florian weeks to fashion the mattress from old ticking and new straw, but the task was well worth the effort and the bed was more comfortable than any other he remembered sleeping in during his one and twenty years.
Of course his lodgings were a cast-off as well. A folly, a ruined Roman temple constructed by the present Lord Melcombe’s father, sat in a secluded corner of the Park. Lord Melcombe loathed the building, thinking it a ridiculous piece of pretention, and Florian had been given permission to convert it into a lodging. It had taken two whole months, but after mending the roof and chinking up the gaps in the stonework, it was now a snug little dwelling.
He scarcely minded that he had no fire, at least not most of the year, for there were no drafts or leaks. Best of all, he did not have to share it with anyone else. A bed of his own, in a house of his own—it was a luxury for a lowly apprentice.
But despite his improvements, it would never be anything other than a ruined pile of stone. A hovel. He could not expect anyone to be interested in his attentions. He was poor, it would be months before he earned enough to buy himself a decent Sunday suit so he might present a good appearance. Not that it mattered much, for he was plain, and even worse, of mixed blood, for which he had suffered sneers and insults all his life. On top of all that, he was cripplingly shy, and the thought of speaking to the subject of his secret fantasies made his stomach churn.
He had a half day today, and leave to visit the fair in Brockhill. But his best breeches, threadbare from years of wear, had ripped last Sunday, beyond his mending skills. He could wear work trousers—they were clean enough, and with his Sunday jacket he might pass as presentable.
He sighed, knowing his suit was hopeless.
Although Mr. Wedmore was a groom, his dress was always fastidious.
Staring at his scowling reflection in the mirror, Florian said with distaste, “You are so below him, he won’t even give you the time of day.”
This book was added to our catalog on Friday 23 June, 2017.