Sunday, July 20, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 10 and 11

Another Week, Another episode in Zara's saga. When last we left her, she'd been taken back to the manse by the very man she was trying to flee from. Zara's injury may be serious indeed, and St. John has sent for the physician from a nearby village. Zara is terrified the physician may recognize her. She has just been told by the housekeeper that the doctor has been sent for.

Copyright Lily Silver, 2013

“Oh, no.” Zara clutched the old woman’s arm with alarm. “He mustn’t. I do not like doctors.” It was true. She’d heard horrifying tales about the Gadje physicians and their brutal ways. “They do more harm than good. Where I come from, the women tend the sick.”
“Oh, now, just settle yourself, Miss Jennings.” The old woman soothed. She placed a comforting hand on Zara’s and squeezed her palm with affection. “I don’t know how the doctors in the Indies go about things, but I assure you that Dr. Mulleins has served this family for three decades and he’s not given to excessive bleeding and leeching, if that’s what you fear.”
The red haired servant burst into the room at that moment, bearing an armload of goods from the mistress’ chamber. “I brought the pretty dressing gown, Annie and her slippers. I thought the young miss must be properly clothed before the doctor looked in on her.” The freckle faced girl smiled brightly at Zara, making her feel even more wretched in her deception.
“Ach, you’re a canny one, Maggie.” The older woman, Annie, chuckled. “I didn’t think that far ahead, meself.” Annie took the things from the girl and sent her to retrieve a pitcher of warm water so that ‘Miss Jennings’ could wash up proper. “And you have leaves in your hair.” The older woman commented, glancing about the room for Zara’s bag. Finding it, she rummaged through it in search of a hairbrush and comb, and then returned to the bed. “These are very fine.” The old woman commented. “Silver, rare indeed.”
“They were a gift, to my mother from my father.” Zara confessed. It was the truth. Her mother had kept them hidden all those years, and when she knew she was dying, she’d given them to Zara, along with her father’s crimson Hellfire Club Cloak.
The woman made small talk as she brushed out the tangles of Zara’s thick, dark hair.
“Such pretty hair, Miss Jennings.”
“Call me Sarah, please?” Zara begged, disliking the strict formality of the Gadjes already.
“As you like, Miss Sarah.” Annie sighed, and grimaced as she encountered an especially difficult tangle. Maggie removed Zara’s other boot and her stockings, and then attempted to remove the rest of Zara’s clothing. It was embarrassing to be undressed by another. Zara had not had anyone undress her so since she was a very little girl. When her arms were bared, and she remained in her chemise and petticoat, she crossed her arms, fearful they might notice the mark on her arm.
“Come now, Miss Sarah.” Annie coaxed. “I understand a girl being shy, but you’ve not got anything under that chemise I’ve not seen before. Off with it now, and this damp petticoat. You’ll be much more comfortable once you’ve been put in warm dry clothes.”
Zara ground her teeth. Tears stung her eyes, but she uncrossed her arms and allowed Maggie to lift the chemise over her head. If they saw her birthmark, neither woman remarked on it. She watched them carefully with averted eyes to see if any peculiar looks were exchanged, but both women seemed oblivious to the mark on her underarm as they stripped her and placed the fresh gown over her head and helped her find the arms.
During the next hour, Zara did her best to play the part of Sarah Jennings. Her mind was slowed by the pain, but she took great care to think before she spoke when answering their questions. Fortunately, the servants were more concerned with combing out the tangles in her hair and making her comfortable than in interrogating her concerning her identity or her past. She found herself slowly relaxing beneath their kindness concern. Maggie was sent out for warm water and towels by the older woman.
“How long have you been traveling, Miss Sarah?” Annie asked in a neutral tone.
“Months, it seems. I journeyed from the Indies, that took six weeks and when we arrived here it was so bleak and cold. I was told we must make another long journey by coach to my uncle’s home. They said it would take at least a week, if the roads were favorable, to reach Northumberland.”
“Poor dear. Yes, the weather has been quite damp and cold these past weeks, and you from the tropics and all. It must seem an unwelcoming place to be. If you’d come in June and not November, why, you’d have found England a delightful place indeed. If not for that broken ankle, I’d have you in a steaming bath soaking your worries away. Best not to fuss with moving you much until the doctor sees you.”    
There was a discrete knock, and Maggie returned bearing a pitcher of steaming water and a set of towels. “The doctor’s arrived.” She informed them. “Sir is bringing him up.”
“Oh, fustian!” Annie snapped, setting the brush on Zara’s lap. “We’ve not gone halfway to making the poor child presentable. Here, quick, give me that dressing gown. The wash water will have to wait.” Annie made a face as she gingerly touched Zara’s temple and then rubbed her finger on her apron. There was a smudge of red dirt on it, Zara noted.
The physician was allowed entrance. St. John merely poked his head inside the door to nod hello and then retreated. The physician was indeed great in age. She judged him to be at least seventy. He was bright eyed and very dignified. Zara endured the doctor’s poking inspection of her person, as she knew she must. Dr. Mulleins told her and the frowning Annie that he was trying to ascertain if there were any broken ribs as his stubby fingers poked into her side. Zara gasped at one point, to which the man made an odd grunting noise and then nodded knowingly. Cracked rib, he informed her and instructed the older woman to bind Zara’s ribs tightly with linens after he left.
The doctor was gentle and seemed sympathetic to her plight, just as the women had been. Zara was stunned by their compassion. She didn’t expect such treatment from the Gadje—er—English. Indeed, she’d learned from experience as a hated gypsy that they could be very cruel towards those they deemed outsiders. Their warmth and acceptance of her was overwhelming. Once again, she felt tears prickling behind her eyes.
After assessing her head wound and her torso, the doctor finally held her damaged ankle between his palms and looked positively repentant as he met her gaze. “I’m afraid it’s broken, my dear. And you won’t like me very much for what I must do to repair it.”

Zara gasped, knowing what his next words would be. She was no stranger to injuries or illness, as her grandmother Sapphira had been the healer among them. He must set the bone.
“Annie, m’dear,” The old doctor murmured, “Take Miss Jennings’ arm, if you will, and Maggie, girl, you get on the other side and do likewise. Now, Miss, I know this will be painful. I’ll give you a generous dose Laudanum before we precede, but it will still hurt some.”
He set her bruised and swollen foot on the pillow, and rummaged in his black satchel for something. A bottle of dark liquid emerged in his pudgy hand, and he measured out an amount in the small glass medicine flask he kept on the top of the short bottle neck. Zara took it as he instructed, with Annie rubbing her back in a supportive gesture as she sipped the noxious potion.
Dr. Mulleins pulled a strange wooden contraption from his large bag. It was shaped like a letter L, with leather tongs laced up the long shaft. It was very much like a boot, without the toe shield or the long leather shaft, rather like the skeleton of a boot, or a form for stretching leather to create a boot, she thought, as she watched him set it on the bed next to her.
“Whenever you’re ready, Miss Jennings.”

Stephan knew he should be downstairs, somewhere a fair distance away from his guest’s bedchamber. He couldn’t leave the hallway. He stood with his arms about his chest, leaning against the wall outside the room, straining to hear the conversation beyond the wall. He couldn’t make out their words but he could hear Mulleins talking to his patient in that low, calm tone he was famous for.
The girl was breath-taking. Mysterious. Her dark hair was as shiny as a raven’s wing, and those green pools—a man could lose himself staring into their bewitching depths. She had the lightly tanned complexion of one who had lived her life in the tropics, and if he wasn’t mistaken, she might even been a quadroon. That would explain her uneasiness around them, her distrust of those who only wished to do her a kindness.
He could well imagine the so called ‘uncle’ and his people, whom she’d said were ‘horrible’ to her. There were men who thought it was acceptable to prey upon a woman of unfortunate circumstances, a woman born of a slave and a white planter. Stephan and his family had long been members of the abolitionist society. He knew that men took advantage of such women in the tropics and sometimes a man would return from the West Indies with a little something extra to pad his bed, an unwilling mistress. Some men even sold girls of mixed blood to the brothels here. The thought of such a tender young girl as Miss Jennings falling prey to such men made his blood seethe and churn.
T’was obvious she was running away from something or someone. She’d kept to the woods instead of the road. Well, she’d run no more, not if he had anything to do with it. He could see that she was . . .
A bone chilling shriek brought him up short, and raised the hackles on his neck.
Stephan swore and lunged for the door. “Good God, Mulleins, what are you trying to do, skin the girl alive!” Copyright Lily Silver 2013

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Love: I Had The Time of My Life, Tribute to Dirty Dancing




                                                                      Oh, yes, that one!   

Of all the summer romance movies of all time, this one has to be on the top of the list. You can't resist Patrick Swayze as Johnny, the bad boy dance instructor who teaches Baby (Francis) how to dance, and so many other mysterious things about life . . . cough.   If you missed this love story, you're missing a swoon worthy classic.  It's another top shelf summer romance movie.  Why? Well, as with Grease, and with this story, each of us has had that high school crush, that first love, first brush of true romance that happened during our summer vacation.  

It could be a time share, a resort, a camp, or campground. A summer cottage or home.   Doesn't matter if your family is wealthy or not, the romance of the summer months and being on vacation is heady stuff for a seventeen year old girl.  It's wandering the camp or resort area at night, with just friends, no parents around. A giddy feeling of freedom and bliss, an endless round of summer days and nights devoted to fun as school is out for the season. I remember stolen kisses under the stars, near the lake, or around a campfire surrounded by other teens. 

Our timeless lovers this week: Baby and Johnny, endure in our hearts.  Baby (whom I will refer to as Frances from this point on), is seventeen. The story is set in the summer of 1963, before Kennedy was shot, as the grown up Frances tells us in an opening monologue that infers a time of innocence for her as well as for the nation. 

Jennifer Grey plays Frances in the film. She is adorable, both innocent and yet has that hidden intellect behind melting brown eyes. She's the younger sister. Her older sister is college material, and as mom, dad, Frances and her sister Lisa go off to the resort for a summer vacation, there is the usual bickering in the back seat. Frances is treated like the baby by her family, including her bitchy older sister, and hence, they continue to call her Baby in her high school years. 

When she arrives at the resort, she is shy and slinks about in the background. She overhears the manager telling the staff to schmooze it up with the guest's daughters, dance with them dazzle them, give them what they want to make their stay here memorable, even if they are unattractive. After all, that's what the staff are being paid to do. Frances sees a cadre of young men dressed as waiters and tennis teachers, dance teachers and the like, all standing in a row like soldiers being give their orders by their general; go out and entertain the guests, but keep it clean!  No dirty, no nasty, just a few flirtations and chaste kisses. 

Johnny Castle is there. He's hot, who wouldn't fall for this Adonis clad in black?  Patrick Swayze is delicious in the role of bad boy Johnny from the wrong side of the tracks.  He first brushes Frances off as just another rich kid.  But then, when trouble comes and Francis bravely steps in to help, he notices she's more than just a wealthy doctor's spoiled but innocent little girl. He starts to see her as a strong, determined woman instead of a child.  This is an important moment for Frances, as no one has thought of her in those terms before. She grows up a little bit more, realizing she is so much more than Baby, the youngest daughter of Doctor Houseman.

To briefly bring you up to speed, in the story, set in 1963, there is a certain level of prudishness that still exists among the upper class. The free sex and free love thing isn't in vogue as yet, as it's the early 1960's. That comes in the latter years of the 1960's with Woodstock and the Summer of Love. In this time, girls are still supposed to bevirgins til they marry, or they are considered bad girls. And boys who get girls pregnant are the bad boys.  Johnny's dance partner, Penny, has gotten pregnant by another member of the staff. She tries to get the guy to take responsibility, he blows her off, calling her a whore. Johnny tries to help Penny through this, as a true friend would. He's trying to come up with the money for her to get an abortion, but can't. Francis gives him the money for it. Now Penny can have her abortion, but there is another dilemma. Johnny and Penny are scheduled to perform at another resort, the Shelldrake, at the end of the week, but she can't do it if she has this surgery. Frances steps in and says she'll do it for Penny. She'll learn the dance steps and perform with Johhny at the Shelldrake. This is the point where the storyline just sizzles! 

 Johnny spends the next week teaching Francis the steps, and it is pure magic, pure romance. They spend hours together, in each others arms as Frances learns the steps of the exotic and sensual dance, and you guessed it, they fall in love, or at least she does. The dance scenes in this movie are so hot, so sensual, you will literally melt with delight, and sigh and swoon. You may even wish you were Frances for a moment or two, being swept away in Johnny's arms. They do this in secret. Frances sneaks off away from her parents and meets Johnny in his dance studio each afternoon. They have a blast together and hearts collide.

We know Johnny likes her a lot but he still considers her a kid as he is about twenty by now, a working man trying to earn a living by teaching rich people dance steps. But, he does have a particular fondness for Frances and admires her for helping him and his wrong side of the tracks friends. He's in love, really, but just doesn't know it yet.  

They successfully perform at the Shelldrake Resort, but when they return from their triumph, they find Penny has taken a turn for the worst. Her abortion was a back alley sort, and she is very sick and in pain. Everyone is frightened among the staff, uncertain of what to do. If they reveal to the boss the reason for Penny's illness, she'll b fired. So, once more, Frances, the 17 year old girl everyone discounted as just a kid, step in to save the day. She goes to her father (its the middle of the night), and askes him to come with her to help a friend who is ill.

Once on the scene with the ailing Penny, Francis's father, Dr. Houseman, askes the staff gathered, "Who is responsible for this young lady?" A question that back in 1963 meant, who is her lover, her fiancee, her husband--who will take care of her. It's a sexist question, to be sure, but we're a few years before the women's movement, so yeah, women were still considered SOMEBODY'S (A male somebody) responsibility. 

Good old Johnny, with his heart of gold, steps up and says. "Me!" He's being gallant, and you just can't not love him for it. Frances does. And so do we. But, his answer sets in motion a set of misconceptions:  now Dr. Houseman thinks that Johnny is the father of the child, (he isn't) and this puts Johnny on daddy's bad list. This comes back to haunt Francis and Johnny later, when daddy refuses to give his blessing for their love. 

  Now Daddy Houseman is very upset, because he doesn't want his daughter hanging out with this group of racy young people. He saves Penny, but forbides Frances from hanging out with any of the group from now on, including Johnny. Especially Johnny as Dad thinks the guy is the one who knocked up Penny and then paid for an abortion for her instead of marrying her.

Well, as parents, or as teens ourselves, we all know how that usually turns out . . . . 

Frances continues to see Johnny on the sly. It's a story as old as time. They make love, become lovers, and daddy finds out. 

 Frances is now on her parent's bad girl list. No, she's not knocked up, but they are disappointed in her for her behavior in seeing Johnny behind their backs, and her dad won't even speak to her. I think he took it pretty hard to learn his innocent little girl has been sleeping with the dance instructor, no longer a virgin--a big deal in 1963.  Oh, well. In the end, the lovers triumph. They dance at the end of the season party for the audience, and steal the show.  

 There are other subplots throughout the movie, but the romance is front and center. One subplot/dilemma is that the resort owner realizes his days are numbered, kids don't want to come to camp anymore with their parents. Kids are bored with the camp routines. He's at his wits end trying to find a new and fresh idea to appeal to parents with teens to bring them to the resort.  In the background, Johnny has had some great ideas about dancing classes, but his boss keeps telling him to shut up and just do what he's told. Johnny would love to teach modern dance steps, like the kids want. He can't, he has to stay traditional to keep his job.  Well, at the end of the movie, when Frances and Johnny, along with the other dancers, give a send off that is modern and popular with the young and old alike, the resort owner now realizes he has a gem in Johnny, and Johnny's dance moves may save the guy's business. Nice twist. 

  Only problem with the movie is this for me. We don't really know if Johnny and Frances had their happily ever after. The movie ends, and did they get togeher forever or was it just a summer fling?  That is the only thing I would change in this movie.  It has great songs, and a soundtrack that rocks. You'll recall that old song that sticks in everyone's head, "I had the time of my life"  it comes from this movie.  Also, Hungry Eyes, Love is Strange, Big Girls Don't Cry, and many others. You can order the soundtrack on amazon or iTunes.

If you love dance movies, you'll love this one. The dance scenes are plentiful and awesome. If you love romance, this is it, girls--a timeless classic that will make your heart soar again and again.

Sadly, Patrick Swayze died of cancer in 2009.  He was a brilliant star, a great actor and dancer. His movies included Ghost, another one which I discuss in length in another timeless loverss post Haunted Romance   back in October of 2013. 



 He starred in several movies and miniseries, including my favorite, North and South, as Orry Main, a southern plantation owner's son during the civil war era made back in the 1980's that might be worth your time if you like miniseries with historical themes. He has a tragic love story in it as well and plays a strong lead as a civil war soldier and a plantation owner.

 Enjoy your summer, timeless lovers fans, and don't forget to make your own romantic memories. Take time to fall in love or renew an old love.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse

Another week, another installment.  

As Zara, now going by Sarah Jennings, tries to flee the manse and the frightening man who owns it, she is injured in the woods, and is found by the very man she is trying to escape . . . and she's still wanted for that murder in a nearby village . . 

His grimace eased into a petulant smile. “Miss Jennings. I’m pleased I could be of some service to you. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get you out of these woods before the sun sets. Even to someone who knows the paths, they can be treacherous.”

Moments later, Zara was seated before him on his horse. She wondered that he didn’t have her sit behind him, but reasoned that he must fear she might fall if left to cling to him with her own strength. Ah, and speaking of strength—she was nestled in his arms, literally sitting on his lap with one firm arm about her waist and the other in front of her, guiding the horse. The sun was gone from the horizon by the time they left the ravine. The sky was taking on an eerie pink cast as it surrendered slowly to the deep velvet night.
“Were you the only person in the coach?” He asked, as they emerged quickly from the woods and onto a road.
She released a long breath, uncertain once more of how to answer. She could say her uncle was with her, but would they find the dead man and his servant at the wreck several miles back and determine she was a liar. She must be careful in what she said. “No . . . I was travelling to . . .”  She let her voice drift. Let him think she was a little disoriented. At least for now, until she could decide what to tell him. It was one thing to lie to a stranger at an Inn or in a coach but lying to her rescuer, well, she wasn’t too certain it was good to dig the hole too deep.
“Don’t worry, Miss Jennings.” His deep, masculine voice rumbled down her spine, warming her and making her shiver all at once. “We’ll sort it all out later. You need get warm and we need to get that leg looked at right away.”
She nodded, grateful for the stay of execution. “I should not like to trespass on your hospitality long, sir. I would like to be on my way as soon as possible.”
“And where are you headed?” There it was again, that lush, rich voice against her temple.
“I-I was going to the harbor, I left my uncle’s family. They were terrible people. I wish only to find passage so I might return home, to Martinique.”  Here I go. One step closer to the ledge.   “I am not familiar with England and the coach I was traveling on was a hired one.”
“Ahhhhh.” He sighed. “Now I understand. I couldn’t place your strange accent before. You’re from the West Indies.”
“Yes, I am.” She said firmly, hoping it would seep down into her bones and become truth. People fled England all the time to go to America or to Europe to start a new life. Why couldn’t she seem to be fleeing England, too?
“It must seem dreadfully cold here for you, then.” He commented.
“Yes, very much so. My uncle’s family lent me this old cloak, but it does not seem thick enough by half to keep out the damp, cold air.”
   “We’ll have you beside a warm fire in no time.” He said, as the horse trotted up to the front courtyard of Huntington Abbey. 

  Stephan dismounted, carried her in the front door, and started shouting for his meager staff to assist him with his burden. Annie came running from the kitchen with Maggie on her heels. Jasper appeared and within moments, they were rushing about at his orders to prepare a room for the young miss he’d rescued from the woods.
The waif was chilled from exposure to the elements and he was dead certain that her ankle was broken. A doctor would need to verify his assertion. As Stephan carried the young miss up to the guest bedroom, he felt a keen sense of purpose that had eluded him for longer than he could remember.

Chapter Eleven

It was infuriating. And it was wonderful.
Zara was propped on pillows in a cozy bed in a luxurious room where a roaring fire had been made just for her. When she protested being ensconced as a guest in St. John’s house, he rebuffed her with a recitation of the rules of hospitality in England. She was injured, alone and lost, therefore it was his responsibility as a gentleman to assist her in every way he could.
How odd. If he or anyone else in this land knew she was a gypsy, she’d be shunned, scorned and driven from their midst as if she were common vermin, a skunk or a rat invading their town. Yet, the Gadje in general, specifically this Gadje man, prided himself on the strict rules of hospitality regarding a ‘lost’ traveler, a lost female as if he were reciting ancient verse. Tradition, it was a strange thing. If a Gadje man or woman were lost in the woods and the gypsies came upon the unfortunate person, they would take them in and minister to them no matter their race or background, just due to human charity.  
Zara was amazed by his tenacity in the matter. She tried to talk him into simply dropping her at a nearby Inn where she could convalesce. She assured him she had coin. In truth not more than to see her through more than a month or two but she decided he didn’t need to be told that. St. John would not hear of ‘shipping her off’, as he put it, to strangers.
Was she not a stranger to him as well? She had argued, only to be reminded that he had found her in the ravine on his land and therefore it was his duty to care for her until she recovered. The last thing she wanted to do was become dependent upon his good will for any length of time. It meant she would be required to maintain her presumed identity for weeks on end with the man and his staff. She’d rather take her chances at an Inn where she was just another traveler and would not draw attention to herself or her situation.
St. John had been adamant that it was not proper for a young lady to reside indefinitely at an Inn, particularly a young lady without a chaperone.
Oh, she’d forgotten that trifling detail about Gadje women. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere without someone accompanying them. After a slight panic at her miscalculation in that regard, fearing her entire charade might come crashing down upon her head due to her ignorance of society’s rigid rules, she was relieved when St. John left the room so that the old woman could help her undress.
The gray haired woman sent the girl at her side down the hall to the mistress’ quarters to fetch a bed gown for their guest. Zara pursed her lips fretfully at the action. She knew that the woman whose belongings she’d plundered was dead, but she mustn’t let on that she knew that fact.
“Pardon, ma’am, but won’t the grand lady here resent lending her fine garments to another?”  She asked, endeavoring to sound sincere. “I do have a petticoat that will serve.”
“Ach, the Mrs. here has been dead for two years. She won’t miss her night rail.”  The old woman clucked and fussed over Zara in such way that she felt near tears again. “Tis a sorry state of affairs, Miss Jennings, you being stranded out in the woods at this time of year. Good thing he found you or you’d be singing hymns next to Mrs. St. John in the hereafter. Oh, dear, don’t cry, Miss, you’re safe at Huntington Abbey. The master will see that you’re put to rights. He sent for the doctor in the village.”

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter 10

 Here we are again, anonther Sunday, another installment. A rough draft of a novel, a fresh entry into the world of a gypsy girl fleeing for her life.  A romance set in the Lake District of England in the early 19th Century.

 For those of you just joining us, we left Stephan in the woods, hearing a woman weeping . . . . .

And Zara, after seeing Stephan in his wolf form, has decided it best to flee the manse and face the elements alone . . . .

Copyright Lily Silver, 2013

At first he didn’t see her, as the cloak she wore was of green velvet. But, as he rounded a huge oak tree, the figure sitting on the floor of the ravine and holding her leg made him hurry down the treacherous slope. “Good God.” He swore under his breath, as he took in the sight at the bottom of the steep ravine. The woman seemed to be injured.
“Miss, what’s happened?” He shouted, as he came upon her. Not thinking of the polite proprieties, he chastened himself as he expected at any moment the slight creature would start shrieking as if he meant to do her harm. “I’m Stephan St. John, I mean you no harm, Miss.” He added quickly as he reached the ravine bottom.
The dark head turned about and huge emerald eyes fixed upon him with alarm. She didn’t scream, however and for that, he thought her very brave indeed. “M’sieur?” She whispered, in an odd accent that didn’t sound French, but rather a mixture of French with some other influence.
“St. John, at your service, Miss.” He knelt beside her. She was holding her leg, and her cheeks were wet from crying. “It’s all right, you’re safe now. Let me see.” He gestured to her ankle, intending to see if it were broken or sprained. She nodded, giving him the permission he sought. She’d removed the boot from her dainty foot, but even beneath the scarlet stocking he could see that the limb was severely damaged. He cradled it gently in his hands and felt the bone.
A sharp cry came from the lady at his intrusive touch. She whimpered, and he did not fault her in the least for her lack of restraint. Her ankle was broken. She would not be able to get out of the ravine, much less the forest, before nightfall.
“Here, I’m just going to lift you, Miss.” He whispered gently. “My house is not far from here.”
“Thank you.” She managed, and seemed to recover herself a little. “And where is this house you speak of? I did not see any lights when I was searching for shelter last night.”
“My house is several miles from here and it has been closed up. I only arrived three days ago. How did you come to be here?” He queried, his shock and concern at finding her at the bottom of a ravine turning to curiosity. “You’re far away from any road or any town, for that matter. Are you lost?”
The emerald eyes filled with liquid. She merely nodded, and seemed to stiffen her lips in an attempt to prevent harsh sobs from overtaking her. “The carriage, it was overturned . . . I awoke in the woods. I’ve been trying to find a road. It started to get dark and then I fell down here.”
“There now, it’s all right. We’ll get you into a warm bed and I’ll send for a doctor.”
Those alluring green eyes flared with alarm. “Oh no. I need no doctor.” She said in that exotic accent. “I’m fine, M’sieur. I just need to be on my way.” 
“You’re not going anywhere on that leg.” Stephan warned ominously. She grimaced, but had enough sense to point to a leather satchel that was several feet away. He nodded, but carried her up the steep ravine first. It was hard going. By the time he reached the top, he was out of breath. The girl didn’t weigh much but the steep incline was difficult, even without an extra burden to carry. He set her on a fallen log near his horse and assured her he would be back in a moment. Then he began the steep descent once more to retrieve her satchel.

Zara was stunned by these peculiar circumstances. She’d left the manse just before dawn, determined to get away before she was discovered for trespassing with the master and new servants arriving. She was no fool. Trying to hide from two old people who remained on the first floor much of the time in the back kitchens, was one thing. Trying to conceal herself in a house that was sure to be full of servants in the coming days was quite another. She’d dressed as a gentlewoman and trudged down the hill, past the caretaker’s cottage, and then up another steep hill in the hope of finding a road further south, far from the Abbey and from the village to the northwest that had men searching for her. She’d fallen down the ravine in the dark, and as luck would have it, she hit her head and hurt her ankle. She’d tried to get up, but without so much as stick to help her, she was trapped in the low ravine and feared she would lie there until she died.
What was she to do now? She hadn’t planned to be taken back to the Abbey, not by the bewitching stranger she’d visited in the last few nights under the pretext of being a ghost. What a fine stew this would make. Now, she’d be taken back to the Abbey and someone there might notice the clothing she wore was from that same place. Granted, the cloak was from the attic, and the woolen pantalets she wore, but the boots were from the lady’s room as was the plain cotton gown she was wearing. Would St. John recognize them?
The crunching of leaves informed her that he was on his way back up the hill. He appeared moments later, winded from his exertions. He leaned against a tree, the satchel in his hand and waited to recover his breath. In those still moments, she watched him and knew that fate had either favored her or cursed her. His clothing today was less grand, more practical for riding about his estate. A sheen of sweat moistened his brow, despite the cool air. His hair was a deep russet brown and the sunlight revealed eyes that were a lovely shade of pale blue, almost like the sky. She noticed he limped a little as he emerged from the steep ravine the second time, and was absently rubbing his thigh.
“I am Stephan St. John, at your service, Miss. And you are?”
Zara hesitated. She stared at him, feeling more than a little breathless.
He stepped forward when she did not answer readily, muttering a curse.
Zara froze, frightened by his sudden approach and his cursing. It could only bode ill. Did he recognize her or worse for it, recognize his dead wife’s clothing on her?
“Forgive me. You’re bleeding, Miss.” He said, noting her fear as he approached. He removed a handkerchief from his plaid coat pocket and lifted it to her temple. “Poor lass.” He muttered. “You hit your head when you fell. Can you tell me your name?”
Zara took a momentous breath, feeling as if she were about to  step off a cliff or tumble down a ravine, again.  “Sarah.” She said with a shaky voice, realizing that she was about to head down a path from whence there could be no return. “Miss Sarah Jennings, Sir.” 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2013