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Silver Bells (Distinguished Rogues series #17)

Silver Bells (Distinguished Rogues series #17)

On the run from a man determined to take her child, Ruby seeks refuge at her uncle’s estate, only to go from one intolerable situation into another. Should she trust her own flesh and blood? Or rely on someone else, someone from her past, to keep her son safe?

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Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Best Friends Brother
  • Twin Trouble


Widowed a year, Ruby Roper must flee her Scotland home when she discovers her father-in-law plans to marry her off—and keep her only son. Running to her uncle finds her in an equally undesirable situation, surrounded by silent servants and mounting secrets. Very soon, it seems perhaps The Vynes isn’t the safe haven Ruby had hoped. After all, the last time she set foot on the estate, she’d lost something dear. This time, she could lose something a great deal more precious…unless she’s willing to put her trust in a man she’s not seen in years.

Intro to Chapter One

Ruby Roper shivered at the sudden chill of the kitchen and wished she were outside in the real cold of a snowy field. “What do you mean, I’m leaving?”

Her father-in-law sniffed. “Fergus Masters requires a wife and likes the look of you, despite everything.”

Despite Ruby being English is what he meant. Mr. Roper, a Scotsman with an unrelenting dislike for anyone born English, had never approved his son’s choice of bride. He now made no bones about how worthless she was to the family since his son was no longer alive to defend her existence.

Ruby was considered a burden. The fact that she had loved their son from the moment they’d met until he’d suddenly passed away a year ago counted for nothing in Mr. Roper’s eyes. Nor did the dowry she’d brought to the marriage. That money had disappeared into the family coffers, never to be seen again.

Now, a year after she’d buried Liam Roper, his father would be rid of her. “I don’t know the man well enough to consider such an alliance.”

“Well, ya canna stay here,” he said, rising to tower over Ruby at his dinner table. “It’s him, or you’ll find your way in the world. He’ll be here tomorrow.”

Ruby swallowed. “To meet us?”

“To fetch you, girlie. I’ll have none of your fancy talk of long courtships. You wrapped our Liam around your finger. Keeping him away from his duty to the family for too long.” Mr. Roper jabbed a finger in her direction. “You’ll tie the knot without a fuss, as every other Scottish lass does, and be grateful I thought of you at all.”

She shivered at the future her father-in-law had in store for her. But it made her decision to leave next week, return home to the family she’d become estranged from, all the more urgent. She didn’t have a week to escape with her son. “You can’t possibly want to send Pip away from the only home he’s ever known.”

Mr. Roper shook his head. “The boy stays with us. He belongs here.”

Ruby stood. “No, I won’t be parted from Pip.”

Roper raised his hand above her face, ready to strike her. “You’ll do as ya told, lass.”

She trembled, waiting for the blow…but it never came. Her mother-in-law had taken hold of her husband’s elbow and stopped him. 

“Not in my kitchen,” Eliza Roper cried out.

Mr. Roper threw off his wife’s grip and turned away. He went to his grandson and ordered Pip up on his feet. Ruby’s son was only four, with hardly any idea what was going on. He faced his grandfather with a smile. “Can we go to the stables and see my papa’s horse?”

“Aye, lad. We’re done here,” Mr. Roper announced.

When they left the room, Ruby nearly cried. Roper was a hard man who’d never had need to punish her child, but she feared what he would do to her little boy.

Ruby swallowed hard. She’d run away this minute if she had the fare. Her original plan was to take the mail coach back to cross the border into England and make her way south as fast as she could. But she still had days of work to go on a piece of embroidery that she would sell to pay for the journey. Getting there without funds would be an impossible trip with a young child.

Ruby had never had a fair chance to make a place for herself within Liam’s family. They’d never tried to accept her the way they did her four-year-old son, Pip. As the only male grandchild, he’d been beloved since birth. And for weeks now, her father-in-law had been attempting to keep them apart in subtle ways.

But it seemed Mr. Roper was done being subtle. Fergus Masters lived many miles away, a relative of one of their neighbors who had visited recently. She could not imagine she would ever be allowed to see her son again once she was moved away.

The silence left in Mr. Roper’s wake was deafening, and Ruby finally looked at her mother-in-law when she sat opposite. Eliza Roper stared at her steadily, and then she shook her head. “You’ll be Fergus’ fourth wife. His last wife died along with the third daughter she bore him.”

Ruby swallowed hard.

She had never been sure how Eliza thought of her. She’d offered Ruby very little kindness over the years they’d shared the upkeep of this house. But Eliza had not been entirely without compassion over the past five years. She’d taken charge of Ruby’s lying in and delivered Pip safely into Ruby’s arms. However, Eliza always sided with her husband. She’d adored her son while he’d lived, but her grandson Pip had become the center of her world. When Ruby was married off, no doubt she would take over raising young Pip in his grandfather’s image.

“You canna stay, lass,” Eliza informed her.

“I loved your son. He wouldn’t want this for Pip or me.” Ruby stood and began clearing the table angrily. She could expect no help from Eliza. The woman was Mr. Roper’s puppet, too.

Eliza sighed. “I know you did, and he loved you, but he’s dead now, and you’ve got to think of the future.”

Ruby carried everything into the kitchens. Roper had funds to pay for a maid to do the work, but he was too tight-fisted to pay anyone properly. In the end, it was left to Eliza and Ruby to keep the house tidy. Ruby had taken on the lion’s share of the work to spare her mother-in-law from scrubbing her fingers raw in the hope of becoming friends.

The work of filling the sinks took some time, and her mother-in-law watched her work without comment as she often did.

Ruby finished and turned.

Eliza was holding out Ruby’s secret bit of embroidery. The piece she meant to sell to escape Scotland. 

Ruby wet her lips. “Where did you get that?”

“Ye canna keep secrets in my ’ouse,” Eliza warned. She turned it over. “It’s not finished.”


Eliza suddenly tucked the piece into the bodice of her gown. “Mine now.”

“No, please!” Ruby cried. “Give it back to me.”

Ruby had hoarded that linen and thread since the day she’d left home. If Eliza took it, she’d have nothing of any real value left.

“It’s not finished, and you won’t have time.” Eliza went to the kitchen hearth and crouched down. She moved a log of wood, and then turned back to Ruby. “You need to leave,” Eliza repeated. When she approached Ruby, she held a tiny pile of coins in her hand. “Go to your family.”

“I will not leave my son behind.”

“I expected nothing less.” Eliza grabbed Ruby’s hand, uncurled her fingers, and started counting out coins into Ruby’s palm until she had enough for the fare and food on the journey home to England for both her and Pip too.

Ruby gaped, stunned. She had to stop her when it became too much. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You raise him right, teach him what he needs to know about his father and his family. Give him the education his father would want Pip to have. You send him back to me when he’s fully grown to take up his inheritance.”

Pip was heir to their lands. Irreplaceable to the family. Mr. Roper would be furious with Eliza for helping Ruby get away. “What about you?”

“My place is here with my husband. He knows I’d never help the silly English chit my son shackled himself to. She’s only ever been a burden. I’ve made my disapproval of you plain as day since my Liam brought you into my home.”

Ruby held the woman’s stare and didn’t believe a word she said. Eliza wouldn’t be helping her leave, giving her money, if she hadn’t come to care about her welfare. Her eyes filled with tears. “All this time. You only pretended to dislike me all this time.”

Eliza shrugged. “You’ve grown on me a little. You still babble too much, but you’re a good woman, faithful to my Liam in life and in death. He’d want me to help you get back to your people.”

Impulsively, Ruby hugged the woman. Eliza was stiff as a board at first, and then she suddenly embraced Ruby tightly. “You go back where you belong, lass, and find yourself a good man to marry soon. Someone who will care about the boy.”

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Praise for Silver Bells...

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Short but packed a punch.” ~ Angela D

Distinguished Rogues Series

The Distinguished Rogues have the world at their feet, but they may have met their match in this ongoing steamy series.
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