Fiction Fest: Another excerpt from Carla Kelly’s ‘Reforming Lord Ragsdale’

Reforming-Lord-RagsdaleWe know you love her books, which is why we’re happy to include Carla Kelly in our Fiction Fest series. Her latest book, “Reforming Lord Ragsdale,” is available in bookstores and from online retailers.

Kelly recently visited the Mexican Colonies, speaking to school children while there. “[I’ve always] wanted to visit the Colonies, but didn’t ever foresee an opportunity,” Kelly said to her hosts in an email after returning home. “I think I left a little chunk of my heart behind. Don’t look for it and send it to me; just leave it there.”Carla visiting with students

“REFORMING LORD RAGSDALE” EXCERPT:

Emma is desperate to pay off her indenture and try to find her father and at least one of her brothers, transported to the penal colony of Australia for their supposed complicity in the 1803 rebellion in Ireland. She has so few tools in her arsenal, but she knows the key to success is reforming Lord Ragsdale, the man who holds her indenture, and whom she hates, because he is English. But if Emma is anything, she is resourceful. It’s her unwelcome task to help the dreadful, drunken man to bed, and she has a plan.

She lowered him to his bed, and he flopped there. In another moment his shoes were off, and she was covering him with a blanket.

That should hold you until morning,” she said.

His head throbbing beyond belief, he waited like a wounded animal for her to hurry up and leave. To his chagrin, she stared around his room until her vision rested on his untidy desk. He watched stupidly as she shook her head in amazement at the ruin of his life.

Then the whole thing made him giggle. He tried to raise up on one elbow, but he seemed to have misplaced his arm. He remained where he was, content to watch the two of her. “Reform me, Emma,” he said, and then hiccupped.

“You are disgusting, Lord Ragsdale,” she said at last, each word as distinct and penetrating as a bell. She shook her head. “I never saw a more worthless man, much less served one.” She went to his desk and rummaged about for a moment. He raised his head to watch her sit down at his desk, clear off a spot, and put ink to paper.

She sat there quite a while, crumpling two sheets of paper and then resting her elbows on the desk as she contemplated him lying helpless and drunk on his bed. In another moment, she dipped the quill in the inkwell again and wrote swiftly, pausing at last to read over what she had written in the dim light. She nodded, picked up the paper and the ink, and came back to the bed.

“Emma, would you get out of my room?” he insisted, wishing he did not sound so feeble.

“Not until you sign this,” she replied, sitting down next to him. “Here.” She thrust the paper under his nose.

He tried to wave away the paper, but she would not relent.

“What is it?” he asked finally. “At least tell me that.”

“It has to do with what you just said, my lord,” she said. “You have given me such an idea. Now sign, and then I will leave you.”

Said? Said? What did I say? he thought wildly. I really must stop drinking so much. He closed his eyes, but she rattled the paper at his ear.

As drunk as he was, Lord Ragsdale knew that he could leave the paper alone, roll over, and go to sleep. She would go away eventually, and he would be in peace. Nothing would change.  By evening he would be at White’s again and drunk, or at Fae’s and miserable. He was on the verge of sleep when Emma Costello touched his hair. She smoothed it back from his sweaty face and rested her hand for a moment on his head.

“Sign, my lord,” she ordered, her voice softer now, and held out the quill to him.