Romancing My Lady
by Nancy Pirri
One Magical Night
Marcus Calhoun returns home after divorcing his unfaithful wife. He renews his friendship with spinster, Anne Prentice. Marcus soon discovers his friendship with Anne has changed to love. Due to an imperfection, Anne can't believe Marcus loves her, until Marcus manages to prove his feelings.
Courting the Nanny
Helen Jameson turned away from the man she loved when rumors spread that he had betrayed her with another woman. Years have passed, and Helen finds herself having to serve the man she once and still loves as nanny to his twin boys, as a way to pay off her brother’s gambling debts to him. Elliott Falconer has wanted to marry Helen for as long as he can remember. He forgave her for not trusting him and believing a lie. Now that he has her in his home, he hopes to rekindle the romance and make his long-time dream come true.
To Love a Music Master
Piano virtuoso, Jasper Hughes, once found his piano student Annabelle Watkins undisciplined. Seven years have passed since their tumultuous parting. Now she’s back on his doorstep, asking Hughes to teach her again. He reluctantly agrees, and finds himself falling in love with her, and she with him.
In Depression-era Minnesota, Eleanor Swenson inherits her deceased parents’ dream resort—six cabins in need of repair near the Canadian border. Lumberjack Riley Flaherty has recently lost his job. When Eleanor offers him a job as her “handyman” he gladly accepts, smitten by her beauty. When wild animals in the northern Minnesota woods threaten them into leaving, they don’t give in, but discover true love beneath the northern lights.
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Genre: Historical Romance Anthology
A PINK SATIN ROMANCE
To Love a Music Master
November 1890, New York City
Annabelle Watkins stood outside the Hughes School of Music, a pristine, white-gloved hand poised and ready to knock on the door. The prestigious school, housed in an old brownstone building, was located on the corner of Fifth and Cedar. Annabelle was personally familiar with the school.
Covertly, she glanced around, knowing she should not have left her chaperone behind. Society frowned upon unmarried women of an available age gallivanting (as her mama used to say) alone about town. However, it was daylight and she was twenty-two years old, not some young girl directly out of the schoolroom. Recently, Annabelle concluded that her prospects at finding a suitable beau were diminishing with the passing of time, resigning herself to the possibility of subsiding into a sorry state of spinsterhood for the rest of her life. The thought brought tears to her eyes and she choked back a sob.
Annabelle straightened her peacock-blue hat and brushed a piece of lint off her matching woolen coat. Tucking one strand of wheat-colored hair into her new coiffure, a loosened bun atop her head, she knocked briskly on the door, and then backed down one step. The worst that could happen was that Master Hughes could simply tell her “no,” he wouldn’t take her as a student again.
Annabelle supposed she couldn’t blame him if he declined, thinking of their past history. Embarrassment swept through her as she thought about her final momentous lesson with Hughes several years ago; it had not been pretty, albeit it had been memorable. Her words at the time had rung out, loud and clear, laced with sarcasm that she would never step foot inside his studio again. Now here she was, with little choice in the matter.
The door swung open, heat escaping with it. Annabelle welcomed the warmth and was eager to enter—until she met the glaring expression of one of the world’s most talented pianists. Master Jasper Hughes stood slim and tall, hair unfashionably long and bronze-colored, flowing to his shoulders, eyes a perfect shade of robin’s egg blue. Attired head to toe in black, his hair was a stark contrast. Undeniably handsome, he was also, in Annabelle’s memory, a harsh taskmaster who expected nothing less than perfection from his students.
Seven years had not changed him much, and she found her heart beating a bit faster as she viewed his handsome face. She’d been in love with him all those years ago and wondered at her heart’s palpitations now upon seeing him again.
The man had been grouchy, and unsmiling, and still, she found herself falling in love with him. She had hoped, with the passage of time, to fall out of love with him, but now knew she hadn’t, which was a problem. All she wanted from him were piano lessons, nothing else. And she was a woman full-grown, not a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. With a nod, she squared her shoulders and met his scowling visage.
His scowl softened somewhat as he looked down at her. “Well, what is it?” he said rather impatiently. “I’m with a student.”
“Spit it out, young woman,” he snapped. Then he narrowed his eyes on her until she noted how they darkened, and a humorless smile crossed his lips. She realized then he recognized her, and she braced herself for what she decided would be some form of chastisement. He’d been excellent at dressing her down when she was his student.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Miss Annabelle Watkins, in the flesh.”
She heard the irony in his voice but forced a smile on her lips. “Not quite,” she said, knowing well how he had always hated her contrariness. Still, she could not help but taunt him. “I am wearing a simple day dress under my coat, and—”
The teacher swept her body a disdainful look. “I could care less what you are wearing. You could be standing there without a stitch and I would not care. I must return to my student. Good day, Miss Watkins.”
Annabelle snatched up her skirts, moved up to the stoop to stand behind him. “But you have no idea why I’ve come!”
He paused in shutting the door, turned, and lifted his brow. “I could have sworn I’d said I don’t care.”
Annabelle jammed her black kid boot in the doorway, preventing him from closing the door, for once in her life satisfied with the rather large size of her foot.
He looked down with a sigh, then up, glaring at her. She imagined that at any moment she would see smoke seeping from his ears and eyes. The thought nearly caused her to laugh aloud, but that would not bode well for her at all. From experience, she knew that Mr. Hughes possessed little sense of humor. Rarely had she seen him so much as crack a tiny smile.
“You left seven years ago. You said you were through taking lessons from me. In fact, I distinctly recall you telling me to go to Hades. Now remove your foot.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Please.”
She kept her foot right where it was. “I will wait here until you’re through with your student. I must speak with you about resuming lessons.”
“In what?” he snapped, “Proper behavior?”
Annabelle gasped, then said, “I beg your pardon. Why, I never misbehaved as your student!”
He rolled his eyes heavenward. “Heaven help me. Never could I have imagined such a day would arrive. You’re right, of course, until that final day when you had your say, you had been well-behaved, yet lazy about practicing. Stay, if you must.” Master Hughes grabbed her arm and pulled her inside, slamming the door behind them.
She stifled her shriek of surprise. “What in heaven’s name are you doing?”
“I can’t very well leave you standing in the hallway, can I?” He led the way into the parlor, which she knew was next to the music room. There, she took a seat in a chair positioned in front of a blazing fire, grateful for the warmth.
He turned to leave her but paused when she gasped at the sight of two huge dogs rising from their bookend places by the hearth.
“Stay there. I will be done shortly,” he ordered.
Her hackles rose. Had he been talking to her or his dogs? She stood up and gave him a brisk salute. “Yes, sir! But aren’t you taking them with you?” Annabelle pointed at the dogs, now seated and watchful.
“Still the comedienne, are you?” he said dryly.
“No one has ever accused me of not having a sense of humor.”
He shrugged off her comment. “Roscoe and Rufus will keep you company.” He started to leave but paused then and swept his gaze over her body. “You may want to remove your coat. The fire will roast you, otherwise.”
Her gaze followed Master Hughes, one of the most handsome men she’d ever known, as he left the parlor. After he disappeared into his music room, she turned to stare into the fire. His watchdogs would be watching over her so that she couldn’t change her mind and leave. Annabelle stood, ready to pace the floor, when the dogs rose in unison and growled.
She gasped, then sank down in her chair, rearranged her small bustle before leaning back, her gaze on the dogs that had settled down again, closing their eyes. Annabelle guessed they weren’t sleeping at all but sensing her every move. She shrugged off her coat and tried to relax, listening to the music from the adjacent room. The student was gifted for not a single note did he or she miss.
Annabelle watched the leaping flames for a while then checked the delicate gold watch pinned to her bodice. It was after four, and she must arrive home by five before her father, or else he would worry. He didn’t want her “traipsing about,” as he called it, after dark. With the coming of December, the days had grown ever shorter and darkness came earlier and earlier.
Her eyes fluttered against her cheeks and she sighed as she slumped low in the high-backed, comfortable chair. Sometime later, feeling wonderfully warm, she woke with a start and sat straight up in her chair. The fire had dwindled, and she heard nothing but the ticking clock on the wall.
She rubbed her sleepy eyes and glanced around the parlor, disoriented, gasping at the sight of Master Hughes sitting on the divan across from her. He appeared relaxed and calm, but wore an intense look in his eyes, his dogs at his knees. She had fallen asleep and her cheeks heated in embarrassment, thinking he’d been staring at her.
“You have turned into a beautiful woman, Miss Watkins.”
His voice was cool and low, tinged with cynicism, as though he resented the fact she’d grown up.
“I’d bet my last half dollar you cause your good father more than a hint a worry in life, don’t you?” He raised his brows. “Or have you a husband and his worry now?”
Annabelle chose not to take umbrage with his personal comments. “No husband and thank you for the compliment. I think.”
He laughed aloud as he rose to his feet and stuck out his hand to assist her. Annabelle sat stock-still, stunned by his smile and laughter. There went her heart again, racing. Finally, she placed her hand in his and he pulled her up. With her free hand, she picked up her coat and carried it over her arm. Hughes tucked her arm through his, guiding her into the music room. There he released her and waved at the piano bench.
“Sit. Play. I’d like to hear where I left off with you all those years ago.”
Annabelle stayed far away from the piano and clutched her hands together. “Um, that’s why I’m here. I believe I’ve forgotten everything you taught me.”
Jasper groaned and waved a negligent hand to a side chair nearby. She moved to the chair and took a seat, straightening her skirts and not meeting his eyes. Amanda glanced up and saw him striding toward the piano. Sinking down on the bench, he sat facing her rather than the piano and clasped his hands in front of him. “Tell me why you require my services.”
That was blunt, Annabelle decided, and it was much to her liking since she had no time for dilly-dallying. “Months ago, my father asked me to learn to play several pieces of music, in order to entertain guests from Great Britain coming to visit us over the holidays. As you well know, Christmas is only five weeks away and—”
“Months ago, you said.” He raised his brow. “Had you begun attempting to learn the pieces on your own?”
“I am certain you recall my penchant for procrastination.”
“Unfortunately, yes. It’s the only reason why I could no longer instruct you. You refused to practice between lessons.” Sweeping a disdainful look at her, he dryly added, “It seems you have not changed as much as I believed after all.”
Annabelle’s cheeks grew hot at his accusation, wanting to tell him how wrong he was about her, yet she refused to defend herself—refused to tell him how she had struggled with the music from the day her father had asked her to prepare to play for his guests.
Over the past several months, she’d gone from teacher to teacher, but no one had been able to help her. Frankly, she was a dunderheaded female when it came to learning music, and playing the piano, though her father thought her talented. Of course, he knew nothing at all about music. Let Master Hughes think the worst of her. She did not care. As long as he took her on as a student, she’d have somewhat of a chance learning the pieces. The only procrastination she’d done was delaying coming to him for help.
“Think what you like,” she said crisply.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, or is your head still in the clouds over some boy?”
“Man, you mean. I am, after all, a woman full grown.”
His piercing, long look made her straighten her spine. Amanda watched in amazement—for the music master had always been so impersonal—sweep his gaze from her head to her feet. Softly, she heard him say, “Yes. You certainly are that.”