Sunday, September 14, 2014

Serial Sunday: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 14 part 1

For Those of you new to this blog, this is a weekly serial story that I am posting excerpts from each Sunday. It is a rough draft of a story I have been working on and hope to have released later this fall. The Gypsy's Curse is a the story of a runaway Gyspy girl hiding in an empty manor house in rural England. The owner of the house returns, and she is caught in his snare, injured, unable to leave. Meanwhile, the ownere has his own problems, being a werewolf. His ancestors were cursed by a gypsy and in order to be free of his cursed state, he must win the love of a gypsy girl. Every week there is a new excerpt. If you begin in Februrary of this year, you'll find the beginning and can scroll throught the weekly posts at your leisure.

The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter Fourteen, part 1

He turned the knob quietly, not bothering to knock this time. Stephan was not a man of impulse, or hadn’t been until a pair of bewitching emerald eyes captured his attention.
Peering into the quiet room with only his head moving past the door, he saw that Maggie was sitting dutifully by the bed, her head bent with some sewing project that Annie must have given her to keep her occupied. Maggie was a good girl. Perhaps she should become Miss Jennings lady’s maid during her stay here instead of Annie’s minion. It would serve Maggie well for future employment references to have some experience in the higher position of lady’s maid. He wanted to help the girl succeed in life, and being a lowly scullery maid would not help her prosper and achieve the respect of others in the service industry. Why not skip ahead a little? 
“Sir.”  She mouthed the word. The freckled face lit up with joy when she saw him. She put two fingers to her lips to indicate the need to be quiet as their patient was sleeping, set her mending aside and rose from the chair. 
Stephan couldn’t help smiling at the cheerful adolescent in return as he stepped into the room and stood at the foot of the canopy bed. Maggie came to stand beside him. Together, they silently admired the sleeping beauty before them.
The bruise on Miss Jennings left cheek, the bandage about her temple and the dark circles beneath her eyes told the story of her struggle in the wilderness. A small, elegant hand lying on limp on the covers had angry red scratches, from fighting the brambles. Her oval face was relaxed in slumber, the cherry red lips parted slightly, beckoning him to bend over her like a prince in a fairy tale and steal a kiss. Surprised by his own crude thoughts, he glanced guiltily at Maggie through shuddered eyes. At his insistence, Annie reminded the girl that it was not proper for Miss Jennings to be left alone in the company of a man when she was so indisposed.
Now Stephan was finding that he regretted speaking to the older woman. His baser instincts wanted nothing more than to have Miss Jennings all to himself, propriety be damned. He motioned to Maggie to follow him out the door.
Once out in the hall, he spoke in a normal tone. “How are you, Maggie? Have you had a break to eat yet?”
“Annie was going to bring me up something, but I think she forgot.”
“Are you hungry?”
The riot of red curls bobbed quickly.
“Why don’t you go downstairs and take a little break.”
“Oh, no sir. I’m not to leave Miss Jennings unattended. Remember?”
“Yes,” Stephan agreed, unable to control the wolfish grin that spread across his face. “Miss Jennings is asleep and I believe she’ll sleep for at least another hour at least. Dr. Mulleins gave her Laudanum for pain. It is a powerful opiate. Since she’s asleep we needn’t worry about her for a short time. If you come back within the hour, there can’t be any harm.”
Maggie, to her credit, seemed unconvinced by his wily logic. She pursed her pink lips, and frowned. “I . . . I suppose not. Annie might be mad at me, though.”
He chuckled. “Tell her I instructed you to go down for short time to have something to eat while your charge is asleep. I’m the master here, not Annie, you recall?”
“Yes, sir.” She parroted, and raised her gaze from the carpet to hesitantly search his eyes for the final reassurance that would tell her she was not breaking any rules by leaving her post.
“And I’ve come to the opinion that you might be better situated to become Miss Jennings’ personal maid while she is with us instead of a maid of all work. Would you like that?”
“Oh, yes, sir! Yes—“ Bright blue eyes lit up with exuberance. “I don’t know a lot about that kind of work, but I’m a quick learner, sir. I’ll do my best, if Miss Jennings is agreeable to the appointment, that is.”
“Why wouldn’t she be?” He couldn’t help asking. “You are employed by me, not her. I’m appointing you to be her personal maid while she is our guest. Miss Jennings will appreciate it, I’m certain. We’ll hire a few locals to help Annie with the kitchen work and with opening up the rooms. Since Miss Jennings is injured, Dr. Mulleins claims she’ll be bed ridden for the next few days due to her head injury and will need to have assistance in walking for weeks after that while her ankle heals. Naturally, her care takes precedence over any cleaning duties in the manor due to my impetuous arrival.”
Maggie bobbed her head again in the easy agreement of a trusting child. An older woman, more astute, might counter his simple logic with a long list of reasons why they were not qualified to serve as a lady’s maid when they had had no prior training whatsoever in service, and a lady’s maid was superior among the servants, on equal terms with the housekeeper.
Maggie seemed to take the appointment with the practical belief that she could learn what was required of her as she went along. Oh, he’d have liked to have seen Julia’s face if he’d have made such an appointment on her behalf with an untrained young girl like Maggie. Then again, perhaps that was a battle scene he could live without, as the high pitched whine Julia was known to emit when she was displeased resurfaced in his memory.
 He smiled indulgently at the adolescent girl and sent her on her way. Stephan watched Maggie nearly skip down the hall, carefree as a young colt kicking up its heels in the summer pasture. He was pleased he made the impetuous decision to bring her here. He wasn’t philanthropist by nature, yet after hearing Brisbane’s report about the child lingering about Covent Gardens late at night, he might reconsider his indifference to the matter of orphans wandering the streets due to the peninsular war. Alone, unable to find honest work as a household servant, Sweet Little Maggie was being lured into a life of harlotry by a nefarious Madame who preyed upon such girls with the promise of food and lodgings if they surrendered most of their street earnings to her. Fate had determined that Maggie’s first night out she would stumble upon Stephan--drunk and needing her assistance in returning home safely. No wonder the child latched upon his inebriated promise of giving her a position in his home for her troubles. It was refreshing to know that his time in London was not completely wasted.
Once Maggie was out of the way, Stephan crept back into Miss Jennings’ room. She was still asleep. He moved Maggie’s mending out to the way and took the chair she’d placed near window, several feet from the bed. He sat with his elbows propped on his splayed knees, leaning forward, ready to bolt behind the curtain next to him she opened her eyes. The thought of hiding in her room, behind the curtains, like a curious school boy spying upon a bewitching Venus made him nearly chuckle aloud. Ah, how had he become reduced to this? Spying on a mysterious beauty as if she were royalty and he the stable master’s son?
Julia. The name came with frost. Being married to a woman who resented you for the incident of your birth and who continually made you aware of the fact that you didn’t quite measure up to her exalted standards wrought bitterness in his soul. In Julia’s world, all that mattered was the pedigree, not a person’s income, their moral integrity, intelligence or natural talents. She never let him forget she married him out of financial obligation to her family, the titled elite, who had recklessly depleted their coffers and had to stoop to the gutter to find a rich merchant to build up their wealth again.
This girl, injured and far from her home in the West Indies—if indeed her story were true--this innocent young woman lying in the arms of Morpheus, gave Stephan a sense of purpose he hadn’t known he lacked. He felt obligated to protect her.  
The green eyes fluttered open. She moved her legs and then moaned as pain creased her lovely face.
Stephan was on his feet and standing beside the bed before he knew what he was doing.
“Try not to move your foot.” He cautioned, and was suddenly pinioned by the most lovely pair of emerald eyes he had ever beheld.
“What are you doing here?” She gasped, alarm marring her lovely face. “Who are you, where am I?”
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Serial Sunday: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 13.3

For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.

The Gypy's Curse, Chapter 13 part 3

Stephan stood before the large mullioned window of his study.
The room overlooked the lake and the valley below.
Oddly, the idea of having a beautiful young woman in his home for several weeks to come pleased him. He now had a tangible hope that the gypsy’s curse might be lifted from him at long last. He literally stumbled on woman who claimed to be from West Indies. He would bet his last shilling she had gypsy blood in her. If he could woo the girl, make her come to love him, then, he might be able to free himself from the curse. He hadn’t planned it, but it looked as if he’d be spending the winter here at Huntington Abbey.
Why not? He couldn’t leave his invalid guest here alone
And the arrangement could only work for his benefit. After spending weeks here, alone with him, nay--mayhap the entire winter--they would have no option but to wed to save her reputation. It was highly irregular for a man living alone to have a young lady under his roof for so long, a lady who was not his ward or a relative. Stephan couldn’t stomach the idea of sending her to an inn as she had pleaded he do. It wouldn’t be proper. In fact, it would be worse for her. She’d be unprotected at an inn, a woman alone, prey to any lecherous sort who knew she was residing there. With her ankle broken, she could not defend herself or avoid the attentions of a man determined to force himself on her.
He could not in good conscience send her away. That would be setting the girl up for disaster. And wasn’t that what the curse was all about?  Men who should have concerned themselves with a woman’s honor and her safety had sorely abused her instead; they preyed upon an innocent and caused her death.
Stephan sighed audibly and turned away from the window. His moral dilemma was firmly settled in his mind within moments. Until her ankle healed, Miss Jennings would need constant care. An innkeeper’s staff would not give her the care she required, no matter how kind they might be. At least here, under his protection, she was safe from neglect or abuse.
 How sad that at the same time simply being here with him caused concern regarding her reputation. Miss Jennings would be ruined if word got out, regardless of the fact that nothing happened between them. If Stephan had a mother living him, or a sister, such would not be the case. Society was vicious snake to deal with, either way, it would damn an innocent young woman for circumstances over which she had no control. He took her in as the laws of hospitality dictated and now that she was here she was open to scandal if word got out that she was spending the winter at his isolated manor house without a chaperone.
What was he supposed to do? Leave her there in the woods to die?
Foist her off on some villager who could not afford another mouth to feed or provide competent medical care for the girl? Stephan was well aware that if her ankle didn’t set properly she would become a cripple. The bone would grow at an odd angle, and she’d be doomed to a life of hobbling around on a crutch or cane, and that would narrow her chances even further of finding a husband.
Her naivetĂ© at not understanding social conventions in this strange land she’d been brought to was her undoing. She couldn’t simply go off on her own and start a new life without some sponsorship, be it the ‘uncle’, who in his mind was very likely more a lecher who had taken her in against her will, or be it a rich spinster aunt. The reality of living alone in England in 1815 for Miss Sarah Jennings was that without a family to support her financially and socially she was destined to obscurity--unless she married or became someone’s mistress.
Oh, she might be able to get work at one of the new textile mills or be hired on at an inn to serve drinks if her ankle healed properly. That was not a future he would like for his raven haired beauty.  And as far as finding work in service, it would be difficult. Without references few would be willing to take her into their home even as a servant.  
The most glaring setback remained unanswered; was she of gypsy blood?
If so, it would hinder her chance for acceptance in society, no matter what class she settled into. She was clever to conceal that fact by claiming to be from the island of Martinique. It explained her dark looks and her mysterious, exotic aura. She was truly an intoxicating creature, he admitted, rising up on his heels briefly at the stark realization.  
The answer to this quandary was clear. He wasn’t sure if he liked it. The idea was pleasant, on the surface, but if he learned anything during his marriage to Julia it was that love did not grow in time with arranged marriages, regardless of how much those proposing such unions claimed that it did. The reality of a marriage between complete strangers was that one or both parties would eventually resent the other.  Julia resented him from the outset, and he was loath to repeat a misalliance such as that a second time in one lifetime.
What were his options?  He didn’t have any maiden aunts and his sisters were busy with their own lives, too busy to take on a girl they know nothing about.  Maria was newly married. It wouldn’t be fair to expect her to take on Miss Jennings when she was trying to set up her household and establish her place in her husband’s world. Catherine had just had her third child last month and her lawyer husband was a prude when it came to such things. He’d be more likely to look at Miss Jennings with suspicions than to accept her into his household as a guest needing social sponsorship. Lucy, his baby sister, was off to America visiting her fiancĂ©e and his family.
You could make her your mistress.
As soon as the thought materialized Stephan was disgusted by his base response.
Or, you could make an offer for her, marry her, you’d be protecting her reputation, and insuring no one ever preyed upon her again. That would fulfill part of the requirement of lifting the curse. The woman who could free him from the curse needed to be of gypsy blood.  He was not certain if it was a requirement that she must to fall in love with him, but it seemed that love was the only way to proceed if he were to keep her from leaving him. Julia had married him, but her heart never belonged to him, and eventually, she might have left him if given the chance.
He did not like the direction of his thoughts. There was no honor in plotting to woo a woman and coax her into falling in love with him only to break a curse!
Damn. Mistress or wife, he was obviously not thinking with his head as both involved gaining sexual access to the delightful little vixen.
He pinched the bridge of his nose, hoping to bring clearer thoughts to the logical part of his anatomy. It didn’t work. He could still see those curvaceous legs that had been exposed when he burst into the room to see what the doctor was doing to her to elicit such hellish cries. At the memory of those lovely legs, his trousers grew too tight. He cleared his throat, to no effect, moved from the window and sat at his desk. The ledgers lay open for his inspection.
The neat columns of figures did not interest him as much as a beautiful pair of emerald eyes and sensuous red lips.

Brisbane returned from Lexford just before sunset. He found Stephan in his study.
“The doctor is dead, sir.” The valet said without emotion.
“Indeed?” Stephan returned. “A pity, that.”
Brisbane snorted. He looked at his employer with wary eyes. “Did you encounter him last night, Sir? T’was obvious an animal killed him.”
Stephan pursed his lips, and frowned. He knew what his man was asking him. “I’m not sure. I was angry with him before the transformation.” He placed the lid on the ink pot and set aside his pen, wiping the tip carefully with a cloth before putting it in the holder.  
“The villagers know there is a creature of legend in the area responsible for the killings. They’re looking for you, sir.” Brisbane cautioned. “We must be careful.”
“For me?” Stephan regarded the man with raised brows. “The killings started years ago, and continued while I was away these past two years. Surely you realize, my good man, that there is more than one Loup Garou in the neighborhood.”
“Aye, sir. But the villagers, they’ll not care if the Loup Garou they capture is the guilty one. Superstition breeds brutality. I beg you, my master, be very, very cautious in what you do. I witnessed the death of my brother after they captured him. I cannot bear to repeat viewing that horror if the townsfolk take to trying to drive to the devil out of you.” 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 13.2

For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.

The Gypy's Curse, Chapter 13 part 2

Did he know the truth about her? Zara’s mind snapped to attention, despite the dizziness. Something in his pleasant, yet, acerbic tone suggested a hidden meaning behind his words.
“Why, our being alone together at the moment, without a chaperone.” St. John’s voice startled her as it emerged from directly to her left. He’d come to stand next the bed, and then her hand was being enclosed between his. “I’d step out, but I’m hesitant to leave you unattended in this state. You look pale, are you well, Miss Jennings?”
Zara rolled her lips and nodded. The movement of her head had the room swim before her eyes in a distorted blur. Her ankle was shrieking as if someone has suddenly twisted it. She gasped aloud with pain and realized that she had been the one responsible as she’d inadvertently moved her foot just now.  “Is the doctor coming back today?” She didn’t like the old physician, but she didn’t quite understand why. He had been kind and yet, there was something in that doctor’s eyes that she didn’t like; greed? Or was something more sinister?
“No.” St. John’s hard reply sliced through the air like a knife blade, startling Zara.
Seeing her reaction, his features softened. “No, my dear. I fired him, in a manner of speaking. He’ll not be bothering us again.”
“The doctor was the only one who knew I was here?”
“Precisely.” St. John’s eyes had warmed as he gazed upon her. “I did send word to an old friend, asking him to come to have a look at you. There is no guarantee he will, and if he does, he’ll be travelling from London. That means we have no one to interfere or intrude upon our little holiday.” He smiled at her. While the tone of his words were cheerful, Zara could not forget the horror she experienced when he chased her through the secret passages while his wolf form. She couldn’t forget the feeling of having been hunted by the wolf. And thus she had left, hoping to be free of this dratted region and the people who accused her of wickedness forever.
Instead, she made a muck of it and had broken her ankle. She was stranded here, his guest or his prisoner. Hadn’t he just informed her that no one knew she was here?
The man next to her yanked a slim rope hanging beside the bed with impatience. He seemed disturbed, in spite of his attempt to appear sunny and cheerful. “My apologies. My house is understaffed. I just arrived last week. You shouldn’t be left alone, not when you’re so weak and you cannot even up without assistance.”
“I’ll manage it.” Zara whispered, wanting nothing more than to close her eyes to escape the agony in her foot and the dull ache that was threatening to become a full blown tempest in her head. “I need only rest.”  Good Mercy, how thin her voice had become.
The door opened, this time without the benefit of a knock. Zara gazed at the intruder through slitted eyes as the pain of her foot overwhelmed her. It was Annie, the older woman.
“Sir?” The woman huffed, as if she’d come a great distance and was breathless. Her face was flushed so it was easy to assume she’d come from the kitchen. “What is wrong?”
St. John straightened, still holding Zara’s hand between his. “Miss Jennings, Annie.” He said in a tone that was more brusque then the one he’d used when speaking to Zara. “I know you can’t be everywhere at once but I do not believe it is wise to leave our injured guest unattended. And even less wise for the maid to leave a young lady’s side when a man is present. It goes against propriety. I realize we are in the country, yet we must still be careful not to incur the slightest hint of scandal where our patient’s reputation is concerned.”
“Aye, sir. Maggie was told to watch over her. She’s young, mind you. Never been in service before, sir.” Annie replied, looking somewhat annoyed. “If you wish, I’ll sit with Miss Jennings, but then, I don’t know what you’ll be eating for dinner, tonight sir.”
“I’m well enough to be alone.” Zara protested, fearing the outcome if the older woman took her in dislike. “Honestly, sir, I don’t need to be watched.”
“A simple meal of leftover venison and vegetables from last night is more than enough.” St. John returned. When the old woman’s face soured at his words, he added. “You are a magician in the kitchen, Annie. Even your leftovers are a treat to be savored.”  
The words were like magic, soothing the frown that had settled on the cook’s brow. Annie almost appeared to be blushing at the praise.
“Ach, the poor lass.” Annie blustered, coming swiftly to the bed and fussing over Zara with motherly concern. “How are you fairing, dearie? I won’t lie, you look a fright. And tis obvious you cannot be left to fend for yourself with that ankle. Now, now, don’t say it. You’re not fooling a one of us, girl. You’ve had a hard time of it.” The older woman shushed her with a raised palm when Zara meant to counter her words. “I’ll speak with Maggie, Sir.” She directed at the master. “She was just in the kitchen, getting breakfast for our girl here.”
“Well then.” St. John squeezed Zara’s hand and then carefully laid it on the bed, as if it were the injured limb not her foot. “I’ll let you rest, Miss Jennings. I will look in on you later. Do you like to read?”
“Well, then, I will see what I can find in the library that might amuse you.” With that, he took his leave.
Zara watched him slip through the arched doorway with a pang of regret. His kindness toward her, a veritable stranger, was as perplexing as it was pleasing. She wasn’t used to anyone making such a fuss over her well being. Much the opposite, she was used to being tolerated by those about her by all except her mother or her uncle. Both were dead, so she had no one to care what happened to her. It was truly kind of St. John to show concern for her and more than anything now she wished not to betray the man’s trust or lose that delicate thread of compassion she’d unknowingly kindled in him.
“How are you fairing, honestly, lass.” Annie asked, as the door closed behind the master. “No sense lying now that he’s gone. You took a nasty fall and could have broken your neck. As it stands, you’ve a nasty gash on your head and broken bone. That can’t be fine, in my book.”
Zara gave the older woman a sheepish look. “Since its truth you seek, I’ll not fib. I feel like something the horse left behind in road.”
Annie giggled, and then smiled at her. “Aye. If it’s any comfort, you don’t look like a pile of horse droppings. You’re beautiful, Miss Jennings. And don’t think the master hasn’t noticed.”
It was Zara’s turn to blush.  Fortunately, she did not have long to endure the older woman’s presence.  As soon as Maggie returned with her breakfast tray the older woman took the girl over to the window and spoke to her in low tone.
Zara glanced down at the tray that had been set on her lap. A silver tray, no less, with a crystal goblet filled with water and an elegant china cup and matching china teapot. There was buttered toast on one small plate and scrambled eggs and a slice of ham on another. It smelled delicious. Her stomach gurgled in response to the wondrous aroma filling her senses. She lifted a piece of toast and began to gingerly chew it as the women near the window spoke in low tones. 
Did they suspect her true identity. Had she behaved improperly and reveal herself as an imposter? 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014