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Whispers in a Corner of Cairo

The dining room of the Hotel des Anglais in Cairo hummed with conversation and bustled with activity. Waiters in white saw to every comfort. Gentlemen in formal dress surveyed the diners from their perch near the door, ready to step in if needed. Della Faulkner thought that they well should. A baronet’s granddaughter, she had fine sense of what was due her sort.

Cairo

The Dining Room, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

She huddled at a table in the far corner with two other ladies in perfectly proper English dress, and perfectly proper English bonnets, their faces bright with a sheen brought on by Egypt’s oppressive heat. They lingered over after-dinner cordials, their husbands having departed in search of something more fortifying. After a voyage on the new mail steamer and a harrowing trip across the desert from Suez, they were in great need of civilized comforts.

“Tell me exactly what you heard Mr. Badawi say,” Della demanded for the second time. As the eldest and, in her opinion, highest ranking of their number, she assumed the right to demand. Frustration that she had missed a confrontation between the Egyptian manager for the Nile and Oriental Company, their local contact, with a scandalous fellow passenger gave her voice more force than normal.

Alice Fuller, the nervous woman next to her, jumped at the sound. A tiny woman, she blinked several times while she babbled, “He said, ‘if you are not married.’ I heard that distinctly, didn’t you Bertha? ‘If’ he said.”

Cairo

The Lobby, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

The third woman, a sour-faced matron of indeterminable years glowered at Alice and sighed deeply. “We weren’t eavesdropping, mind, but when we saw Captain Wheatly conversing with Mr. Badawi in the lobby, we feared yet more difficulties and moved closer. This entire journey has been a nightmare. I so regret letting Albert talk me into the overland route.”

Della brushed that aside. “Yes, yes, but what did you hear?”

“He all but accused Wheatly of lying to him, but I did not hear the proof.”

“Tell me ladies, did the couple act as if they were married when aboard ship?” The speaker, the lone man in their company, leaned forward. Della detected an unattractive eagerness behind his air of unconcern. Egbert Weaver appeared encroaching to her, though the others professed to find his quiet manner charming. Quiet he may be, but the man didn’t miss much that went on, always hovering nearby listening.

“Well, the way they carried on on deck, they should be married,” Alice giggled. “Remember Bertha? Right there in front of us?”

Della sniffed. “No better than she ought to be if you ask me, latching on to an officer and pretending to care for those children of his.” She shuddered.

“Is there something odd about his children?” Weaver asked, his face a mask of sympathy.

Alice leaned toward him to whisper, “They are dark. Indian, no doubt. His but not hers—you know…” She raised her eyebrows.

“Oh say the word, Alice! Bastards, Mr. Weaver. I would bet my bonnet on it,” Della proclaimed. “And if he isn’t married to the woman traveling with them—well!”

“We don’t know that, Della. He told me he was widowed. As to his current companion, they had two cabins, as I recall,” Bertha pointed out.

cairo steamship

Della rolled her eyes. “You are too softhearted, Bertha. None of that means squat and you know it. Who slept in which bed and why, I should like to know,” she hissed under her breath.
“Are you saying they are married, but slept apart,” Weaver began, “Or—”

“Look!” Alice said bouncing in her seat and wagging her head toward the door. All eyes followed her direction. The subject of their little talk, Captain Frederick Wheatly, led his “wife,” Clare into the dinning room. Two dark-skinned girls followed, gazing around at the room and the diners.

“Who is that young man who stood up to greet them?” Alice whispered, when the boy seated the two little girls as if they were grand ladies.

“I don’t know, but the fool acts like they belong here.”

All four pairs of eyes watched the tableau on the far side of the room, as if trying to ferret out the truth. Moments later, an older man with the air of great consequence entered accompanied by an outburst of excessive bowing and fussing on the part of staff. He stood well over six feet tall, his white-blond hair reflecting candlelight. He walked directly to the Wheatlys’ table, and the diners rose to greet him.

Della gasped.

“What is it?” Bertha asked anxiously.

“Not what. Who. Wheatly just introduced that woman to the Duke of Sudbury. I believe that young man dining with them is his nephew, Richard Mallet.”

Alice covered her mouth with her serviette, eyes wide, unable to speak. Bertha, too, stared back at the group. Before their fascinated eyes, the duke smiled at the children, spoke briefly with Wheatly and his companion, and left, taking the captain with him.

“Well!” Della declared. “I should like to hear that conversation.” She turned her attention back to her companions only to sigh with an irritation she didn’t attempt to disguise. “Mr. Weaver, what are you scribbling?” The little man bent over a small notebook writing rapidly.

“Merely taking a few notes, ladies,” he said ,snapping the notebook shut and rising to his feet. “If you will excuse me, I think I’ll have a chat with Badawi before I turn in to catch up on my correspondence.”

“Correspondence with whom, Mr. Weaver?” Della demanded.

A slow smile lit his face. “Why, with my friend Mr. Clemens, editor of The Teatime Tattler. He will love what I have to share.” With a tip of his hat, he left them.

cairo empire reluctant About the Book

The Reluctant Wife:  Children of Empire, Book 2

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06XYRRR1R/

Children of Empire: Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home. The first book is The Renegade Wife

About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—Caroline Warfield has been many things, but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Caroline is of course, a Bluestocking Belles. In addition to  The Teatime Tattler, she regularly writes for  History Imagined.

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

 

 

Whispers From Calcutta

A Missive from Calcutta, seat of the Bengal Presidency

The Colonel's Wife CalcuttaMost of England’s fine young men, who labor far from home and are faced daily with coarseness and Foreign Influence on all sides, hunger for the refinement and civility of Proper Company. Know that the Respectable Ladies of Calcutta take it as our Sacred Duty to be exemplars of Culture in this outpost. We take our role with the utmost seriousness.

Unfortunately those who lack beneficial influences sometimes succumb to the specious charms of Hindustan and stray from right behavior. We bring one such incident to your attention lest you think we fail in our Christian Duty.

calcutta

Girl by S Elayaraja

While, as we said, most True Gentlemen welcome the tender hand of English Womanhood, the occasional clerk—even the rare officer—strays from right behavior in this heathenish climate. We have been disheartened lately over the behavior of a certain Captain who parades his mixed-blood by-blows across Calcutta and attempts to impose them on some of the Better Schools. Those fine institutions are not deceived and have shut their doors to the two imps of Satan whose behavior is reported to be forward and pushing, with little apprehension of Conduct Expected of their Proper Place.

Clare Armbruster CalcuttaUnfortunately a Certain Woman hinders our efforts to ensure that we protect the Children of Respectable English Families from such influences. Miss Clare Armbruster thrust herself into our company upon the recommendation of her brother, a fine major of my husband’s regiment. The brother, being sadly misled regarding his sister’s character, although wise in the ways of the world, commended her to my Influence. The Impulsive and Obdurate young woman resisted wisdom at every turn.

Fred Wheatly CalcuttaOne puzzled where she might fit in our company—certainly not a Senior in Precedence and yet, owing to the rank of her brother, not to be consigned to the Lower Rungs with the wives of subalterns. Still we accepted her into our society, and yet she refused to be led. She stubbornly evaded all efforts to introduce her to the right sort of unmarried officer and was seen consorting with the very captain who brazenly flaunted his base-born children among us.

We provided a companion, a meek and Respectable Widow, to accompany Miss Armbruster home to England in the hopes that removal from this heathenish clime would curb her tendencies, but word has reached us that she evaded the woman who sailed without her. Miss Armbruster has in fact set herself up to care for the Captain’s bastards (forgive my coarse language, but there truly is no other word for this Regrettable Condition) even as Captain Wheatly himself stands before a disciplinary hearing for Gross Negligence and Violation of Duty.

We wash our hands of the woman, Gentle Readers. I write to assure you that the Respectable Ladies of Calcutta did our best in this matter should word of it reach London. As wife of the regimental colonel I speak for the senior wives of the Bengal Army officer corps. Standards will be upheld even in this outpost.

Mrs. Walton Davis
______________________________________________

About the Book

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it on Amazon

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of The Reluctant Wife, Caroline will give a kindle copy to one randomly selectedperson who leaves a comment.

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/a-dangerous-nativity-1815/

Excerpt

“Steamer? Here?”

The shipping agent nodded. “Why not? It’s the coming thing. It cuts the trip from six months to two if conditions are right.”

“Two months! But Suez? What happens then?” Clare’s mind spun with images. Shortening time shipboard with two girls had obvious appeal.

“In Suez, the company arranges with a local pasha for overland travel to Cairo. From there, travel down the Nile and to Alexandria via the Mahmoudiyah Canal,” he said, watching her reactions.

“And from Alexandria to England,” Clare said. The agent nodded. “Another steamer?” At his nod, she remembered something else. “You did say ‘mail service,’ did you not?”

“Indeed. Steamship companies start with government backing for the mail but rarely make a profit at it. The Pharaoh is designed with 120 passenger cabins, all first class.” He leaned forward. “The thing is, Miss Armbruster, while a few people are eager to try the next new thing, others are more reluctant. It leaves in ten days and isn’t full. I can get you a cabin—or two if you prefer—for half price.”

He had her attention. Ten days! What if Fred isn’t back on time? And they will want a deposit. She weighed the time saved against keeping Meghal from falling prey to Nile crocodiles.

“As tempting as your offer is, I fear we need to secure a berth on The Madras Queen. I can only put one pound on deposit now, but when the, ah, girls’ father returns, I’ll manage the full amount.”

A subtle shift in posture and expression were the only clues that he found her answer troubling. She suspected his sudden reluctance had nothing to do with money.

“Mr. Wheatly, the girls’ father, wishes me to convey them to family in London. His connections are highly respectable, I assure you.”

He took her money. A wrinkled brow marred his effort to smile, but when he spoke she heard compassion and understanding in his tone. “The Madras Queen is your best choice. A woman traveling alone with children might not find the overland route suitable.”

That settled, she led the girls back to their temporary home, stopping only to lunch on naan with a delightful paste of chickpea and curry. She would miss the spices of India. She would miss many things.

Meghal continued to speculate about steamships and elephants all the way back and up the stairs.

“If not an elephant, then why not a camel? I would so like to ride a camel,” she declared, rounding the top of the stairs and approaching their door. It opened before Clare could touch it.

She stopped breathing for a moment at the sight of him—one hand on the door handle, the other holding a satchel—smiling through a coating of road dust.

“What’s this about a camel?” he demanded. “Who plans to travel by camel?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Gossip

The following is a rendering of a conversation between Sinjun, butler to the Earl of Claverlock, and the valet of a visitor to The Beeches one month before the events described in the novel If Wishes Were Earls. Sinjun, as per usual, is doing all the talking.

Kitchen gossipCome along to the kitchen where we’ll enjoy some privacy.

There now, sit by the oven, I have it heating for scones. His lordship prefers my scones to the cook’s but don’t tell Mrs. Smith. Did you know that’s not her real name? She never was married, for a start. I can’t tell you her real name because you would recognize it in an instant and then you’d wonder what the daughter of such a grand family is doing working in the kitchen of a manor house in a small village in Cornwall. And well may you ask! My dear, it is a tale fraught with disaster and heartache. But I promised a confidence I shall not break.

Let me pour you a cup of tea. Milk or lemon? Neither? How strange.

You’ll have noticed a few changes since you were last here. We’d all understand if the earl secluded himself in his library for the remainder of his days. The house has fallen below the standards we’re used to.

Who am I kidding? We’re living in a hovel. That third wife hadn’t a housekeeping bone in her body. We all know what she used her body for, don’t we. You will have heard, I don’t doubt, that the child wasn’t his lordship’s issue. Yes, she declared to all and sundry as the life drained from her broken body that she’d taken a lover. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I tried to warn his lordship, before he departed for London. I said he should take the full year of mourning after the death of Lady Suzanne.

Now there was a pleasant woman – thick as a plank but nice about it.

Unfortunately his lordship was tempted by a seductress. He scandalized us all by returning with a new wife. I ask you. Nothing good could come of such a match. But it’s not for me to say. More tea?

Kitchen GossipA Giveaway

Dear reader, is there more you’d like Sinjun to say on the subject? Leave your question and I’ll attempt to wring the answer from him.

One commenter will receive a hand-knitted (by me) washcloth and a bar of handcrafted soap. (USA and Canada only.)

About the Book

When a mysterious note directs Miss Miranda Large to a tiny village in Cornwall to find her heart’s desire, she has no choice but to go. An enchanted keepsake heightens her curiosity. A snowstorm forces her to accept the hospitality of a sullen, albeit sexy and handsome, earl and Miranda’s wish doesn’t seem so out of reach

Edward Penhallion, the 12th Earl of Claverlock, is not in the mood to start his search for a new wife. He wants to be left alone with his books and his dreams of revenge. But the arrival of a headstrong, sharp-tongued spinster forces him to play the charming host. Not a difficult task, given her intelligence and beauty. Suddenly, he’s not terribly eager for her to leave.

But as the snow falls and the winds blow, Edward discovers there’s more to Miranda than a lively wit and a lovely face. And Miranda wonders if the trappings of wealth are enough for true happiness.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N0QJSHA/
Nook: http://bit.ly/2ifWvXO
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/if-wishes-were-earls-2
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/if-wishes-were-earls/id1184695145?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
All other retailers: https://www.draft2digital.com/book/209375

Kitchen GossipAbout the Author

Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother’s stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.  Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna now lives in Maine with her dear husband, two college boys, and two cats. When she’s not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious.

Writing under the pen name Grace Hood, she has two novellas published with The Wild Rose Press.

Website: http://www.luannastewart.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Luanna_Stewart
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Luanna.Stewart.nau
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/luannastewart/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14104212.Luanna_Stewart
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/luanna_stewart

The Passionate Mr. Gilbert

Your intrepid reporter, Saralee Etter, is here in Yorkshire at the beautiful ancestral castle known as Snowden Hall, speaking with Mr. William S. Gilbert. When he is not (as he is now) a guest at an exclusive country house party, he works for the Department of Education while also preparing for a future career as a barrister.

William Gilbert as an ensign

Mr. Gilbert is over 6 feet tall, slender, and possesses a lounging grace in his movements. You might think him German, because he is fair with tawny mustaches and blue eyes. Quick-tempered and quick-witted, he has an amazing talent for clever wordplay. He places a high value on honor and loyalty. His natural reserve makes him appear almost brusque toward strangers and those he doesn’t like, but no one could be kinder or more generous to his friends.

WSG: (looking over my shoulder) You might want to mention that I’ve written a few play reviews and comic pieces for Fun.

SLE: For fun? Have they been published anywhere?

WSG: Yes, in Fun! Fun magazine. I write a weekly column, accompanied by a half-page drawing. And you might remove the adjectives “amazing” and “clever” from your descriptions above. That’s a bit too too, as the Aesthetic types would say.

SLE: And you also write burlesque plays, I hear. Aren’t they a bit risqué?

William S. Gilbert

WSG: My dear lady, you’re thinking of the American burlesque. In England, a burlesque is a comedy based on puns, nonsense and extravagant wordplay, similar to a Christmas pantomime. They are often parodies of well-known operas. I’ve written a dozen of them – you may have heard of my version of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore? I called it Dulcamara! Or the Little Duck and the Big Quack. No? How about Robert the Devil, or the Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun? Well, you are American, after all.

SLE: Tell me what brings you to Snowden Hall, up here in Yorkshire.

WSG: The North Eastern Railway. Very well, I came here because my two sisters, Maude and Florence, were all in a lather to visit the place. Both of them cherish hopes of marrying our host, baronet Sir John Snowden, although I can’t see how they’ll manage it. Generally a fellow is limited to only one wife at a time, and the law prohibits him from marrying sisters one after another. So at least one sister is bound to be disappointed, and most likely both. Furthermore, they aren’t the only young women here who are angling to wed a baronet.

Lucy Turner

SLE: Are you referring to Miss Lucy Turner?

WSG: (laughs) Little Lucy! If anybody could win a fellow over, it’s her. I call her Kitten—she’s an adorable little ball of fluff with a surprising streak of temper and willfulness. People underestimate her. She may be tiny, but like any kitten she can do a lot of damage with those razor-sharp teeth and claws.

SLE: So you think Sir John might ask for Miss Turner’s hand in marriage?

WSG: I hope not! That is, Kitten’s much too young for me, but I don’t fancy that Sir John as a husband for any young woman I care about. He’s far too slick and ingratiating. The danger is, she might accept him if he offers for her, because of that wretched curate.

SLE: Which wretched curate is that? You don’t mean Rev. Reed Niemand from the Victoria Road Church in Kensington?

WSG: That’s exactly the one. He used to mope and sigh and pant over little Kitten, and then suddenly, poof! One morning, he became another girl’s love-sick boy.

SLE: The curate fell in love with another woman? Who?

WSG: My sisters report that his new love is none other than our host’s sister, Miss Tallullah Snowden. And now they’re all here together at this blasted house party! I don’t envy Mr. Niemand at all. That curate is going to be one sorry fellow when Kitten catches up with him.

SLE: But I heard that Mr. Niemand had not promised to marry Miss Turner.

WSG: That doesn’t matter. Every female in Kensington knew about it and were loud in their pity, so Kitten was as good as jilted. I just hope I can stop her before she does something drastic.

SLE: Thank you for your time. I hope that this country house visit is pleasant and uneventful!

About the Author

Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. She’s presently working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first novel in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com, or check out her blog, A Fine Mystery Indeed, at www.saraleeetter.com/blog1

 

 

 

 

 

Conversation Heard on the Street

Lobster Cove, Maine, September 20, 1851

Well, you asked if there’s anything interesting going on in our little town of Lobster Cove, so I’ll just share a tidbit I heard the other day. I don’t normally gossip. You know me—Bertha Mayer’s a respectable woman. But I don’t feel I have the right to keep something so scandalous to myself.

It’s about that Lisbeth O’Shea—widowed barely a year, her husband lost at sea and his body never found. There was plenty of talk about him before he died. Said he took up with other women including that barmaid over at the Hogshead, the one who already has an illegitimate son. But I always thought Lisbeth a respectable woman. A respectable widow, if you know what I mean. Now she’s gone and given widowhood a bad name.

What’s she done? Only moved in with that handsome blacksmith, Rab Sinclair—the one with the thick Scottish accent and those fine blue eyes—moved right into his bachelor quarters behind the forge, she has. Shameless! Such things just aren’t done in our quiet town. Of course, Rab claims he hasn’t been staying there nights. He says he’s been sleeping down the street at the livery stable. As if anyone believes that.

You know, half the women in Lobster Cove have been chasing him for years but he’s barely looked at any of them. Makes me wonder now. Did Rab have an eye for Lisbeth even back when her husband was still alive? Just what did happen to Declan O’Shea anyhow, when his boat wrecked? People do funny things, especially when the heart’s involved.

But I have to say, just between you and me…if a woman, even a respectable widow, were to throw caution to the winds it just might be for the sake of a man like Rab Sinclair. Now, promise you won’t repeat that to anyone!

About the Book

When the trawler White Gull was lost in a storm off the coast of Lobster Cove, Lisbeth O’Shea’s husband, Declan, was lost along with it. At least that’s what Lisbeth believes until, a year later, she hears Declan’s voice in the night and sees him haunting the shore near their tiny cottage. Then she wonders… Has grief affected her mind? Or is someone playing a cruel trick?

Town blacksmith Rab Sinclair has loved Lisbeth ever since he arrived in Lobster Cove. Lisbeth has never had eyes for anyone other than the charming, feckless Declan O’Shea, but Rab knows Declan was not faithful to Lisbeth. How can he convince the grieving widow she’s pinned her heart on the wrong man? And when dangerous secrets come to light, how can Rab protect the woman who means more to him than his own life?

Buy link for The White Gull: http://amzn.to/2jdpyLm

~Excerpt~

Lightning flashed once more, flooding her eyes with brightness. In the doorway of the bedroom stood a figure wearing dripping oilskins with only the sou’wester missing from his bare head.

Declan.

In the sudden darkness that followed the lightning she moaned his name and then shouted it.

“Declan? Declan, Declan!” She heard movement, the scrape of a boot on the floorboards, the flap of his coat as he turned and left the doorway. With a sob, she followed. Hands stretched before her like a blind woman, she felt for him, stubbed her bare toe on the leg of the bedstead and faltered. She blundered from the room in his wake.

The cottage boasted but three rooms: this bedroom they had shared, another smaller bedroom she’d dreamed of someday using as a nursery for her children and the main room which combined parlor and kitchen. The darkness of the main room enfolded Lisbeth like black velvet. She had but a glimpse of paler darkness as the front door opened and closed again.

“Declan!”

She followed after him, her heart torn between gladness and pain. He was here! But if he truly were here, returned by some miracle from the same sea that had stolen him, why would he go from her? She reached the door, tore it open and stared out into the storm. Waves and salt spray poured over the stones in front of the cottage. Static filled the air and lightning arced overhead, the thunder competing for dominance with the crash of the rain. Wearing only her nightgown, Lisbeth was immediately soaked to the skin. The wind tore at her hair as she strained to catch sight of the figure she had glimpsed in the doorway.

From the cottage, as well she knew, a path led either north to a narrow strip of shingle or south towards Lobster Cove. Which way might he have gone? She could see nothing but storm, the raging elements that matched the furor now in her heart. Would he head down to the sea? Most this coast consisted of sheer rock but the O’Sheas possessed that stony beach where they had hauled up their boats and readied their lobster traps.

The boats were all gone; the White Gull lay in pieces. Why would Declan go there? Having come home to her, why would he leave at all?

She walked barefoot to a break in the rocks where the sea poured in like a gray beast, alive and wild. No one but a madman would be down on that strip of shingle now.

She turned her head toward the track but saw nothing. The thought came to her: maybe I imagined it. But she had heard the scrape of his boots on the floor. She had seen his hair ruffled by the force of the storm.

A dream, then. She’d had them before, yes, but never, never so real. She returned to the cottage where she shut the door and hurried to the fireplace. With clumsy hands, she searched for matches and the stub of a candle. Her fingers shook so violently it took her three attempts to put flame to the wick.

The light took hold slowly and seemed pitifully inadequate. Thrusting it aloft, Lisbeth retraced her steps to the door of her room, careful to keep her now-sodden garments swept back, her eyes on the floor.

A trail of wet led its way to the bedroom door and culminated on the threshold.

The very place where he had stood.

The candle tumbled from her suddenly numb fingers and the flame went out.

About the Author

Award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Born and raised in Western New York, she’s pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though she’s made pilgrimages to both Newfoundland and Scotland in the company of her daughter, she’s usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog.

Author Web Site: http://www.laurastricklandbooks.com

 

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