The Heart's Appeal

London Beginnings series, Book 2
March 6, 2018
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 978-0764219214

Paperback
   
  

Ebook
  

He Never Expected to See Her Again. Then She Appeared with a Most Unexpected Request....

Strong-minded and independent, Julia Bernay has come to London to study medicine and become a doctor--a profession that has only just opened up to women. When she witnesses a serious accident, her quick action saves the life of an ambitious young barrister named Michael Stephenson. It’s only later that she learns he could be instrumental in destroying her dreams for the future.

Coming from a family that long ago lost its status, Michael Stephenson has achieved what many would have thought impossible. Hard work and an aptitude for the law have enabled him to regain the path to wealth and recognition. His latest case puts him in the middle of a debate over the future of a women’s medical school. He’s supposed to remain objective, but when the beguiling and determined Julia reappears with an unexpected entreaty, he begins to question what he’s made most important in his life. As the two are tangled into spending more time together, will their diverging goals be too much to overcome?

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from The Heart's Appeal

The shriek of a train whistle filled the air once more. Overhead, the large globes of the gas lamps swayed as the train pulled into the station.

A collective groan filled the air from the passengers who saw, as Julia did, that the third-class carriages were filled to bursting.

Julia had worked hard to get permission to attend this medical lecture, and she wasn’t going to miss it. She began to press her way through the crowd, needing to move swiftly but not draw attention. The third-class carriages were located at the front of the train, closest to the smoke belching from the engine. The first-class carriages were in the center. Julia sent a quick glance toward the station guard. He was conversing with the train conductor over some issue with the engine car, but another guard was eying her from across the platform. Had he seen her standing with the third-class passengers earlier?

Julia paused, trying to look as though she’d been standing here all along. Two women stood nearby. The first was a brunette, tall and striking, if not classically pretty. She stood an inch or more taller than Julia, who at five feet seven inches, considered herself above average height. The other woman was petite, with pale blond hair and a fur-trimmed cape. Her hair was delicately curled into an intricate bun, visible beneath a hat that perfectly complemented her clothes and was set on her head at precisely the most flattering angle.

They were too busy chatting to notice Julia. She overheard enough of their conversation to know they were on a shopping trip. Perhaps they were housewives, with husbands who were prosperous merchants or businessmen in the financial district of London called the City. Not quite rich enough to keep a carriage, but with plenty of disposable income. The blonde was detailing three different kinds of gloves she needed to buy. It was more than Julia could imagine buying in a year. Perhaps, Julia thought wryly, if she couldn’t pass for one of these ladies, she might be mistaken for a maid who’d been brought along to carry packages.

Whatever issue the train conductor and station official had been discussing seemed to have gotten resolved. A platform attendant was now hurrying along the train, urging people into the carriages and closing the doors after them. Julia wasn’t going to have time to reach the second-class section at the back. In addition, a surreptitious glance toward the other guard showed he was heading in her direction.

A gentleman who had been standing near the two ladies spoke to them, moving them forward with a polite sweep of his arm. The three of them boarded together, and Julia followed, just making it onto the carriage as the platform attendant closed the doors behind them. With a sigh of relief, she found an empty seat away from the window. Within moments, the train was in motion, hurtling into the tunnel.

Julia had ridden the Underground a few times since arriving in London, but she always found the experience disconcerting. She could not get used to the smoky darkness and the knowledge that the train was shooting at breakneck speed through a tight space. At least this compartment was more spacious than in third class. In addition to being farther away from the smoke, the carriage had proper lighting, and the seats had cushions. There were two other men already in the carriage. Both were absorbed in reading their newspapers and barely looked up as Julia and the others got on board. As no one had challenged her right to be here, she settled back in her seat, confident now that she would arrive at the lecture hall on time.

The gentleman had taken a seat across the aisle from the two women, and they were now engaged in casual small talk. Julia guessed he was just a few years older than she was, or perhaps nearing thirty. He was tall and broad shouldered, with dark hair trimmed neatly at the sideburns. Wearing a perfectly pressed dark suit, he projected an air of affluence and confidence.

Julia opened her copy of The Lancet medical journal, planning to make the best use of the travel time by reading. But her attention kept straying to the gentleman and the two ladies he was traveling with, trying to guess their connection. She revised her earlier guess about the women, deciding the tall one must be the man’s sister. Their interactions had a comfortable familiarity, and there was a certain family resemblance in height and hair color. The blonde, on the other hand, kept throwing sly glances in his direction, as though to check whether he was paying attention to her. Julia guessed she was not married and had her eye on him.

She wondered if this man was the sort who would find such a woman attractive. He was handsome—even Julia, who paid little attention to these things, could see that. But he did not appear vain or frivolous, as the blonde did. There was a hard-set edge to his mouth. Julia saw determination in him, the kind of man who would be serious about whatever he made up his mind to accomplish.

“Are you sure you won’t stop with us at Selfridges for coffee before going on to Gray’s Inn?” the blonde asked him. “It would be so nice to have you join us.”

“Only on the condition that I be allowed to escape before you two set about your shopping,” he returned with a smile. It seemed a genuine, warm smile. So warm, in fact, that Julia’s estimation of him went down several notches. Perhaps he was the type to have his head turned by such a woman after all. She supposed she ought to have known. Handsome men always seemed drawn to beautiful women.

Why should you care? Julia chided herself. Today she was going to attend an important medical lecture, and in a few years’ time she would be on her way to Africa and a life of service as a medical missionary. She had better ways to occupy her thoughts than to wonder at the private lives of privileged Londoners.

She was just about to suppress her little smile at her own foolishness when the man turned his head and caught her looking at him. He must have thought her smile was aimed at him, for his eyebrows lifted and he tipped his chin in acknowledgment. She detected an ironic gleam in his eye, as though he were used to having unknown ladies smile at him on the train. She bristled. She was most definitely not that sort of person. How dare he think so!

His eye traveled from her face to take in the rest of her. Julia knew he must be appraising her, noticing the secondhand clothes, the unstylish hat, and gloves that were worn though still presentable. For the first time in her life, she felt an embarrassed self-consciousness. How had he been able to do that with one look?

Was her face growing warm? No. She could not be blushing. Julia Bernay never blushed. That was for hapless females like the blonde sitting in front of her. She quickly averted her gaze, lifting her copy of The Lancet and making a point of reading it. That would show him the kind of serious woman she was.

Neither of the women had noticed this little interchange. The brunette said, “You know we would never subject you to something so incredibly tedious as shopping.” She spoke with an ironic air that echoed the look the man had given Julia. “Although you might consider finding a valet who can be a little more creative in your choice of clothing.”

The man shrugged. “What would be the point? There’s no need to be creative in my profession.”

Julia lowered her journal just enough to peek over the top and risk another glance at him. What was his profession? The blonde had mentioned Gray’s Inn. He must be a barrister. This was easy to believe. It took no trouble at all to imagine him standing in a courtroom, addressing a jury. He had the kind of presence that turned heads and garnered attention. What would he look like in a barrister’s wig and robe? She was sure he would be very imposing.

The train pulled into the next station. Julia could see the platform here was crowded too. While most of the people vied for the third-class compartments, a dapper man in a fur-collared coat and diamond-patterned cravat strode into the first-class carriage. From the corner of her eye, she saw him send a curious glance her way. She tried to project the casual air of someone who rode in first-class carriages every day, but she needn’t have bothered. His eye traveled quickly over her and settled for a much longer moment on the blonde before he took a seat.

The barrister took a cigarette holder from his pocket and opened it. Julia found this disappointing. She’d read some reports indicating there could be adverse effects to smoking, even though equally as many doctors touted its health benefits.

“Michael, will you hand me a cigarette?” the brunette asked.

He looked at her askance. “Now, Corinna, I don’t think David will appreciate me leading his wife astray.”

“Then don’t think of me as David’s wife,” she snapped. She held out her hand. “Remember that I am also your sister.”

With a sardonic smile, he replied, “Well, since you put it that way . . .”

He rose and stepped into the aisle to give her a cigarette.

At that moment, the train, which up to this point had been rattling and shaking in normal fashion, suddenly came to a screeching halt. It careened sharply to the left, its right side lifting as though loosed from the tracks, forcing Julia and the other passengers to grab hold of their seats to keep from being pitched to the floor. The man Julia knew only as Michael was thrown hard to the left, crashing backward into the carriage window. He tried to right himself, stunned, before he seemed to lose consciousness. As he fell to the floor, his head and neck scraped the jagged glass still attached to the frame. The rest of the glass fell with him, scattering across the floor and mingling with the blood flowing from his head.

 

©2018

- top -
- book index -