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Tilly Wallace

Sixpence and Selkies

Sixpence and Selkies

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A heart as lonely as the ocean…

Hannah and Wycliff arrive at his ancestral estate in Dorset as tragedy strikes the coastal village. A young woman has lost her life to the tempestuous ocean, but only Hannah suspects the woman’s death is anything but a horrible accident. As Hannah learns more about life in the closeknit community, she discovers two other women lost their lives to the sea. Or did they?

A rift grows between the young couple, as Wycliff refuses to believe another hand was responsible for the deaths. With her husband consumed by the needs of the long neglected estate, Hannah is left to her own devices and finds herself walking the same lonely path as the dead women.

Can Hannah and Wycliff heal the chasm in their relationship, or will Hannah succumb to the call of the ocean…?

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After the biggest society wedding of the London season, the mood of Hannah, Lady Wycliff, was a leaf on the wind—swirling in different directions depending on the whims of a breeze. Joy would sweep through her at being witness to a day so marvellous that it filled the newspapers with tales of the beautiful bride, the handsome groom, and the magical enchantments. Then a wave of sadness would break over her. Never again would she and Lizzie be two giggling girls, as close as any sisters could be.
When she returned from her honeymoon, Lizzie would step into the role of Duchess of Harden and society had laid weighty expectations upon her. Not to mention the soirées the duchess would host, the charity work for the underprivileged she would undertake. Hannah wondered if her dear friend would manage to find any spare time for her once she threw herself into the full whirlwind of the Season. A quiet voice in the back of Hannah’s head pointed out that if she had remained unmarried, she might by now have slipped into the role of companion and been a constant support to Lizzie in her new life.
If Hannah were brutally honest with herself, her wallow in self-pity was fuelled by the tiniest sliver of jealousy. Lizzie had married the man she loved and experienced the full pleasures of married life. Hannah felt trapped in the first few pages of a romance novel, as though the reader had lost interest and the characters could not advance to the next chapter. She longed for more heated kisses from Wycliff, but the thought of boldly asking for them made her blush. Nor could she read his behaviour.
When she had sought her friend’s counsel, Lizzie thought he might be taking a slower approach in order to woo Hannah and allow her time to become accustomed to his affections. While she appreciated that her husband cared enough to progress slowly, sometimes slow was, well, too slow.
Tick tock. The clock on the mantel marked the progression of time for those in the room. Though it must be said that, due to her mother’s freezing her in time, for Hannah the clock struck the same two-second beat over and over again. What if, in order to advance matters, she had to remove the spell from her body and let the curse steal her life? Oh, the irony if she couldn’t truly live until she died!
Hannah stabbed her boiled egg a little too vigorously and it shot out of its porcelain cup. The plop as it hit the tablecloth made Wycliff stare at her over the top of the newspaper, his intense black eyes as unfathomable as ever. Hannah had no inkling whether she had committed some terrible wrong, or if he were about to confess his undying love.
The very thought of that made her snort, which turned into a cough.
“Are you all right, dear?” her mother asked from her side.
“Yes, something caught in my throat, is all,” Hannah replied.
She couldn’t imagine Wycliff doing anything so…fanciful as giving a heartfelt pledge of love and devotion. Nor did she know where such silly ideas were coming from. More and more, she stewed in her growing feelings for her husband. How did one know if one was in love? A distinct physiological change would make a diagnosis easier. Or Timmy could peer into her heart to see if Wycliff’s name was written upon it.
Pursuing that line of thought made more questions burst into her mind. Did love always evolve at an equal pace in each person? What happened if it didn’t? Or, horrors, what if one person fell deeply in love, only to discover the other party simply thought of them as a good chum?
“Your egg is escaping,” Wycliff murmured.
Rather like wrangling bolting horses to a halt, Hannah managed to pull her wayward thoughts back to the scene at the table. The egg spun in a slow circle, its escape impeded by its oval shape and an inability to roll in a straight line.
She scooped the egg up on a spoon and dropped it back into the chicken-shaped porcelain cup. Hannah swallowed a sigh. If only all her problems were so easy to deal with. Before it shot off again, she placed a finger on the top to exert downward pressure and then sliced horizontally through the shell with her knife. The decapitated piece fell to the plate and Hannah peered within at the bright orange yolk. Their chickens laid eggs with the most vibrant centres, as though each held a little burst of sunshine.
“I have a request, Hannah.” Wycliff spoke with cautious, measured tones.
Hannah picked up a small spoon in one hand and a slice of toast in the other. She managed a weak smile. “Oh?”
Wycliff fidgeted with the edges of the newspaper, then scrunched it up and discarded it beside his plate. “As you know, I instructed my farm manager to buy a ram and a number of ewes of the new breed of merino sheep. I intend to return to my estate to see the flock and attend to some long overdue business matters. Would you care to join me?”
He kept a steady gaze upon her as he made his request, but his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down.
This time, a genuine smile touched her lips. He was trying, and perhaps another jaunt in the countryside was just the tonic their marriage needed. “Why, of course I would. How wonderful to see your ancestral home.”
Seraphina reached out and took Hannah’s hand. “We need to consider timing, Hannah, depending on how long you wish to be gone.”
She stared at her mother’s gloved hand. With the passage of each day she wondered if her heartbeat’s failing was such a curse anymore. She had a husband who would protect her beyond death. Did a pulse make any difference in whether one was happy or not?
Hannah patted her mother’s hand and glanced up at the veiled face. “I know. But I have never been to Dorset and it has been so long since we used to go to the seaside as a family. How I miss building sandcastles.”

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