Today's Reading

PROLOGUE 
October 1908
Broadgate
Coventry, England

How many times in life could a boy say he was risking his neck, doing the very last thing he'd expected... for a girl?

It was a first for Amos Darby, pounding on a shopkeeper's door to convince the old man to open up after dark. But to find himself standing in Coventry's most eccentric secondhand shop in the market square to sell a lady's property from a steamer trunk? Unimaginable. He'd not have believed it, save for the curiosities on all sides—a wall of clocks with mismatched chimes, towering book stacks, ladies' hats teetering dangerously close to the edge of the counter, and a moody raven chittering behind the brass bars of his cage—and the old shopkeeper taking his sweet time to inspect what Amos had brought in.

The plan to be in and out in ten minutes flat had been sorely tested.

If only he'd known that making it out of the shop would be the easy part. Now Amos very nearly regretted winning the cat-and-mouse game of haggling over the gilded goods. By the time he'd hauled the wooden cello case and a canvas bag full of books he'd bartered down the length of the cobblestone street, he'd passed the confectioner, tobacconist, and greengrocer shops back to Greyfriars Lane with arms screaming all the way.

The carriage waited right where he'd left it, in the shadows of the alley untouched by the glow of gas streetlamps.

A quick peek over his shoulder—praise be no one was about to notice them in the twilight—and Amos rapped on the door. Charlotte poked her head around the curtain. And then, as if it had appeared by magic, her face brightened when she set eyes on the hefty brown instrument case leaning into his side.

The door flung wide on crying hinges. Charlotte pushed her riding cloak back off her arms to better reach for the cello. "Oh, I can't believe it actually worked! He bought it all?"

"Everything, including your trunk. Here." Amos eased the messenger bag strap from his aching shoulder and dropped the load onto the carriage floor. "You can thank me later. Just help me get this thing inside, and let's get out of here before we're spotted."

This friend of his—golden hair and eyes both, bright as her infectious smile—seemed completely undone by the mere presence of the instrument. Charlotte set about angling the case so she might open it right then and there. And while Amos would have enjoyed nothing more than to let her, those clocks on the shop wall were still ticking.

"We've no time, Charlie." Amos referenced the pet name he'd whittled down from "Lady Charlotte Terrington" some years prior. He climbed in and sat across from her, latched the door, and tapped his boot on the floor to signal the driver it was time to make tracks. "You're certain the coachman will keep this to himself?" 

The carriage lurched, and they were on their way to the outskirts of the city, back toward her family's estate.

"Of course. He'd never betray us. I've been a pet of his since the day I was born." Satisfied for the moment, Amos nodded and leaned deeper into the seat cushion, plush velvet allowing him to rest taxed limbs. And breathe. And try not to wonder what had just occurred to him as Charlotte inspected the rosewood case in her arms... 

Was she a sort of pet to Amos? Or worse, was he a mere pet to her too?

How else could this little slip of a twelve-year-old heiress convince a farmer's son, only three years older than she, to barter designer gowns to buy back the beloved cello her mother had sold? And he to obtain books he'd never have been able to afford in his lifetime? Amos had no answers. All he knew was by some miracle, they'd not been discovered—neither for this mad excursion to the city nor for the secret friendship they'd kept up since childhood.

"If your mother finds out I sold your dresses..."

"She won't. And you didn't—I sold them."

"And if she sees them in the shop window tomorrow?"

"Mother never comes into Coventry. Besides, I've so many she'll never notice they're gone. Only my maid would, and she won't tell. Especially if I slip her a little something extra from our next London shopping excursion." Charlotte waved the notion off, then went back to hugging the top of the case against her shoulder. She'd not soon let it go again.
...

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Today's Reading

PROLOGUE 
October 1908
Broadgate
Coventry, England

How many times in life could a boy say he was risking his neck, doing the very last thing he'd expected... for a girl?

It was a first for Amos Darby, pounding on a shopkeeper's door to convince the old man to open up after dark. But to find himself standing in Coventry's most eccentric secondhand shop in the market square to sell a lady's property from a steamer trunk? Unimaginable. He'd not have believed it, save for the curiosities on all sides—a wall of clocks with mismatched chimes, towering book stacks, ladies' hats teetering dangerously close to the edge of the counter, and a moody raven chittering behind the brass bars of his cage—and the old shopkeeper taking his sweet time to inspect what Amos had brought in.

The plan to be in and out in ten minutes flat had been sorely tested.

If only he'd known that making it out of the shop would be the easy part. Now Amos very nearly regretted winning the cat-and-mouse game of haggling over the gilded goods. By the time he'd hauled the wooden cello case and a canvas bag full of books he'd bartered down the length of the cobblestone street, he'd passed the confectioner, tobacconist, and greengrocer shops back to Greyfriars Lane with arms screaming all the way.

The carriage waited right where he'd left it, in the shadows of the alley untouched by the glow of gas streetlamps.

A quick peek over his shoulder—praise be no one was about to notice them in the twilight—and Amos rapped on the door. Charlotte poked her head around the curtain. And then, as if it had appeared by magic, her face brightened when she set eyes on the hefty brown instrument case leaning into his side.

The door flung wide on crying hinges. Charlotte pushed her riding cloak back off her arms to better reach for the cello. "Oh, I can't believe it actually worked! He bought it all?"

"Everything, including your trunk. Here." Amos eased the messenger bag strap from his aching shoulder and dropped the load onto the carriage floor. "You can thank me later. Just help me get this thing inside, and let's get out of here before we're spotted."

This friend of his—golden hair and eyes both, bright as her infectious smile—seemed completely undone by the mere presence of the instrument. Charlotte set about angling the case so she might open it right then and there. And while Amos would have enjoyed nothing more than to let her, those clocks on the shop wall were still ticking.

"We've no time, Charlie." Amos referenced the pet name he'd whittled down from "Lady Charlotte Terrington" some years prior. He climbed in and sat across from her, latched the door, and tapped his boot on the floor to signal the driver it was time to make tracks. "You're certain the coachman will keep this to himself?" 

The carriage lurched, and they were on their way to the outskirts of the city, back toward her family's estate.

"Of course. He'd never betray us. I've been a pet of his since the day I was born." Satisfied for the moment, Amos nodded and leaned deeper into the seat cushion, plush velvet allowing him to rest taxed limbs. And breathe. And try not to wonder what had just occurred to him as Charlotte inspected the rosewood case in her arms... 

Was she a sort of pet to Amos? Or worse, was he a mere pet to her too?

How else could this little slip of a twelve-year-old heiress convince a farmer's son, only three years older than she, to barter designer gowns to buy back the beloved cello her mother had sold? And he to obtain books he'd never have been able to afford in his lifetime? Amos had no answers. All he knew was by some miracle, they'd not been discovered—neither for this mad excursion to the city nor for the secret friendship they'd kept up since childhood.

"If your mother finds out I sold your dresses..."

"She won't. And you didn't—I sold them."

"And if she sees them in the shop window tomorrow?"

"Mother never comes into Coventry. Besides, I've so many she'll never notice they're gone. Only my maid would, and she won't tell. Especially if I slip her a little something extra from our next London shopping excursion." Charlotte waved the notion off, then went back to hugging the top of the case against her shoulder. She'd not soon let it go again.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...