Last week I wanted to mail a book to a friend and send a card to another friend’s mother, and since the FedEx center doesn’t carry stamps, that meant a trip to the local US Post Office. Passing through the doors of my small town post office is like walking through a time-space portal. My ability to communicate becomes grossly distorted and time slows to an excruciating pace. I avoid it if at all possible. (Can I say I think I prefer my yearly mammogram to my annual post office trip? At least a mammogram is quick and painful rather than drawn out agony.)
Despite my desire to be in and out as quickly as possible, I decided to take a little extra time to gather supplies I'll need to mail out books for giveaways, which will be here before I know it.
There was one guy in the lobby when I entered, and he was done in under a minute. It looked like I might meet my goal of a quick in-and-out. Wrong! I had failed to notice the invisible line that had formed before my arrival. I took my place and waited. And waited some more. Fortunately, the woman at the window finished her inspection of her shoes before I sprouted any more gray hairs, and it was my turn.
I told her I needed to mail single copies of paperback books. (Ask me why. Ask me why. Nothing? Really? You're not even the least bit curious? Sigh.) I explained that I wanted to have supplies on hand so I could avoid another awkward postal encounter such as this one. (Just kidding. I didn’t really say that part aloud.) Here’s how our conversation went...
Me: Do you have any boxes that are prepaid that I can drop in the mail to save me a trip to the post office?
Lady: We don't have boxes.
Me (pointing to the wall): What about those boxes?
Lady (slowly turning head): Yeah. That box is $5.25.
Me: So I can purchase that box and it won’t require any more postage?
Lady: If it’s under 13 ounces.
Me: If it’s under 13 ounces, I can just drop it in the mail without coming into the post office?
Lady: You still have to come to the post office.
Lady: If it’s more than 13 ounces, you can’t use that box.
Me: But if it is under 13 ounces, I don’t have to come in, right?
Lady: You still have to come in if it's over 13 ounces.
Me: I really don't know how much 13 ounces would be. How much does a paperback weigh?
Lady (blank stare)
Me: You know, a small paperback that will easily fit in that box?
Lady (more blank staring with minimal blinking)
Me (holding out the MUCH bigger book I’m mailing): Well, how much does this weigh?
Lady (placing it on the scale): Thirteen and a half ounces.
Me: Oh, good! Those boxes should work fine.
Lady: You'll still have to come in to see if it's over 13 ounces.
Me (Loudly screaming in my head): Never mind.
I’m sure there’s an easier way, and I will figure it out or just go to FedEx. But it made me think about how difficult it must have been to get letters where they needed to go during the early 1800s. Perhaps the Duke of Danby will share his tips with me. After all, he summoned all of his grandchildren to Yorkshire for Christmas when they were spread here and there, and I can’t even get a straight answer from the lady at the post office.
Well, however he managed it, he did it! And what a great start to the Regency Christmas Summons Anthology, a collection of interconnected stories about the matchmaking duke and how each grandchild finds love. The books are like four boxes of yummy truffles. You can eat just one at a time for a satisfying experience, but really, who can stop with just one piece of chocolate? You can find my story, Twice Upon a Time, along with Jerrica Knight-Catania's and Lilia Birney's in A Summons from the Duke.
Julian Beckford, grandson to Duke of Danby, is up to his top-boots in one of his cousin's mad schemes only days after his return to England. Baron Penlow wants to engage an actress to play his wife over the holidays at Danby Castle, and he has asked for Julian's assistance in casting the role. Here's a sneak peek at their evening...
Julian nodded. “She’s the one.”
It had dawned on him too late that it mattered very little which woman he recommended to Pen since Julian had every intention of talking his cousin out of his plans on the morrow. He could have ended this nonsense hours ago.
“Are you certain?” Pen asked.
“Yes. Now I’ve done my part, and I’m growing impatient with this clandestine operation. I’m ready to play faro.”
Pen rapped sharply on the roof and opened the window.
One of his servants moved into the woman’s path before she reached the end of the alley. “Pardon me, miss. Lord Penlow would like a word.”
She froze like a rabbit, poised to dash away. “Step away from me, sir.” She readjusted her grip on the bag. The poor dear was probably frightened out of her wits, being accosted the minute she exited the alley, and who could blame her?
“Make it quick,” Pen called out. “We have somewhere to be.”
When the footman turned his head towards Pen’s voice, she took advantage of the distraction and tried to bolt around him.
“Stop her!” Pen scrambled from his seat and threw open the door. “Stop her now!”
His servant lunged to grab the woman, hugging his arms around hers and knocking her bag from her hand. It hit the ground with a thud.
“My bag!” Her panicked voice echoed off the building.
“Quiet her,” Pen said. “Put her in the carriage.”
The servant clamped a hand over her mouth before she let loose a scream and lifted her off her feet. She kicked and wriggled until he almost lost his hold. The hood fell away to reveal a cascade of dark hair.
Julian shot out of the carriage. “What are you doing? You said nothing about abduction.”
Her gaze darted towards him, her eyes wide, and her thrashing increased.
“See what you’ve done?” Pen sprang forwards and captured her legs. “Let’s put her in the carriage before someone discovers us.”
Together, Pen and his servant struggled to put her in the Berlin before Pen climbed inside. “Come on, Julian.”
Julian hesitated a moment, then snatched up her bag and clambered into the carriage, closing the door behind him. Pen was sitting on the bench, holding his nose and oddly silent. The girl huddled in a corner, her breaths shallow and rapid. She was as scared as a church mouse. Good Lord, this might take some doing to make everything right.
Julian placed her bag on the floor and reached a hand towards her. “No one is going to hurt you, miss.” As he leaned in, her leg shot out, and her boot struck him in the center of his chest.
“Damnation!” He fell against the door; his side banged against the seat.
She barreled for the exit, trying to climb over him to reach it. Her boot ground into his thigh, and she lost her footing on the slick fabric of his breeches. She dropped like a lead ball, her knee crashing into his groin.
Julian hissed in pain. Pinpricks of light danced in the blackness, clouding his vision. His gut wrenched, wringing every ounce of comfort from him and replacing it with excruciating torture.
He would never trust his judgment again. He’d chosen a wildcat.
So, back to my original topic, sorta... If you had a team of footmen to run errands for you, which one would you be happy to hand over to them?
***Everyone who leaves a comment today with an email address will be entered into the Regency Christmas Summons Prize Extravaganza. We're giving away a Kindle and many more prizes.