Sunday, September 28, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse: Chapter 16

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.

Chapter Sixteen:

The woods were silent as he passed through.
Oddly silent.  Not a bird trilled, or squirrel scolded to warn of his passage.
Stephan was on foot. He traversed the bare expanse of leafless trees and denuded bushes in the drizzling rain. His wide brimmed hat kept his face dry and his sealskin coat provided a waterproof covering for the rest of him. He needed to escape the manor house, as the urge to hover over Miss Jennings was proving more than he could manage without the deliberate distraction of physical exertion.
Jasper had offered to come with him, but he wanted to be alone. He wanted to visit the site of his wife’s murder without another to witness his pain, or the guilt that surely would seep out of his pores as he wondered for the thousandth time if he had been responsible for her demise. He wore a brace of pistols on his belt and carried a modern regimental rifle for Jasper’s benefit more than any concern for his safety on his own part. Jasper said there had been several reports by the cottagers of a large animal attacking livestock in the area. One young boy had been killed by what was thought to be a wolf. Stephan doubted it, as wolves had been driven nearly to extinction in England for centuries. A large, predatory animal, however, was closer to the truth.
He hiked through the wooded path at a brisk pace, anxious cover the distance between himself and the infamous trysting place as quickly as possible. He hadn’t returned since Julia’s lifeless body had been found beside her lover’s, locked in a pitiful embrace as death consumed them instead of the lust they had anticipated. Even now, the sight of Julia’s savagely torn body would not fade from his memory. The blood was still vivid crimson, her expression still one of fresh, frozen terror as the lifeless eyes gazed up in horror. Her hair had been loose and wild about her shoulders; dark chestnut curls framing her pale ivory face.
I loved her. Even then, coming across her murdered in the arms of her lover, I loved her.
It was the full moon tonight. He sensed the change coming in him in recent days, and so did his horse. Thus, Hades shied away from him, and Stephan found himself wanting to roam the wilds near his home was becoming more than a whim, but rather a driving need.
He covered the ground in record time. Before he realized it, he was standing at the arched ruins of a chapel, staring at the place where his wife had bled and died two years past, killed, they said, by a wild animal while in the throes of passion in the arms of another man. The corner of the chapel where the pair were discovered seemed peaceful, serene. It was beneath an arched window where stained glass had once shone on a sacred stone floor. A place were the faithful of the land had knelt in prayer and begged protection from the Viking raiders that frequented the northern regions of England. The floor had long since sunken into the soft earth and given way to the lush moss and weeds.
It was the perfect place to meet a lover. The perfect hiding place, nestled deep in the woods, far enough from the manor house on the hill to be noticed beneath the lush overgrowth of the forest, yet close enough to the manor to reach by the well worn horse paths criss-crossing the woods by both the lady of the manor and the steward.
The rain had stopped. Stephan removed his hat out of respect for the dead. He sighed, releasing a tense breath that circled his head in a ghostly pall. He stood, with head bowed, silently begging forgiveness for a crime he wasn’t sure he was guilty of committing. 

The events of that night long ago were shrouded in his mind. He’d been angry, very angry. His heart craved blood, screamed out for it. He just received the news of his wife’s betrayal that very afternoon, via the gamekeeper on the estate, Grady. The old man had spied Mrs. St. John’s horse tethered near the chapel ruins, along with another one from the stables, but notably not Hades, Stephan’s horse. Concern for the lady as it was growing twilight, and a would be maid he thought accompanied her, the old man had had the temerity to attempt to step into the enclosed ruins to warn the women that they should return to the manse. He did not announce himself but rather stepped quietly into the roofless, crumbling enclosure, only to discover the steward of the estate in a compromising position with the lady.
Grady fled to the manor, and told his employer all with the admonishment that he might wish to find a more trustworthy steward and let this one have his walking papers. The news was not a surprise to Stephan as the old gamekeeper imagined. He knew of his wife’s infidelities as she flaunted them in his face during their time in London. What he did not know was that his own steward, a man who had served the St. John family here in the northern wilds of England for over twenty years, would betray him. Stephan didn’t recall much after that, save going out of the house without a coat or weapon, stalking to the stables, and trying to mount Hades. The horse, seeming to sense the violence roiling in his master or the hidden beast that would emerge that very night, and had shied away from him and refused to be mounted.
His rage increased with the horse’s rebellion. It seemed a last turning point in a long line of betrayals he’d endured in the short two years of his marriage to Julia. The bitch would fuck anyone and everyone it seemed, except him, her lawful husband. Even here, where he’d brought her, nay, dragged her with the threat of divorce if she didn’t acquiesce to his wishes, even here, in the wilds of northern England, she found a way to humiliate him, with his estate manager.
The horse’s reaction brought a blinding fury, and he’d stalked out of the stables  and into the darkening woods, down the familiar path he’d trod as a youth with his sisters, toward the chapel that had once been their enchanted fort. His memory dimmed. He remembered feeling as if something wicked were clawing at his insides, attempting to claw its way out of his skin. He fell to his knees, and then everything went blank.
When next he awakened it was dawn. The mist swirled in eerie tendrils through the forest floor, like fingers, claws stretching their evil tendrils across the barren land. He was lying naked in a ravine with the raw taste of blood on his lips, with blood on his hands, and the sick feeling that he’d done something horrible.  His head ached, and his heart was curiously heavy in his chest, a foreboding of the events to come. He managed to crawl out of the deep ravine, and gain the safety of the manor house without anyone noticing his undressed state. He had transformed into the wolf in his rage, an rare event that he had managed to conceal since his adolescent days. Safe once again at home, he had climbed into bed and fell into an exhausted slumber only to be awakened by his servant with harrowing news. His wife was dead, found murdered in the woods.
In the years since, he had queer, disjoined dreams about the incident that did not make sense.  He would be running through the woods not as a man, but as a wolf crouched on all fours. He reached the chapel. In the darkening twilight, he’d seen a deformed creature crouching over his wife’s body, lapping at the flowing blood. She was dead, and yet not truly dead in the dream as she whimpered at Stephan’s approach, a pitying whimper, her eyes pleading for him to help her. It was too late for him to help her. Her abdomen was torn open, she was bleeding out. The creature, sensing his presence, retreated from the carcass, snarled at him, and then pounced on Julia again. It tore out her throat as if to wound him by the action.
Stephan recalled the shrill, chilling shriek that emerged in that instant, a cry that began in his own throat and the subsequent rush of power within him demanding satisfaction. The dream was disjointed, because suddenly he was the one crouching over her and his own teeth seeming to be the ones sinking into her delicate throat and tasting that warm, coppery tang of fresh, hot blood roused in the throes of passion. The man beside her, who had been atop her lay several feet away, tossed there and mauled to shreds by fury well spent. His brain retained the haunting impression of reaching with a huge clawed hand toward the man’s nape, lifting him, and tossing him aside. When the man tried to interfere with his attack on Julia, he’d clawed into the steward’s chest cavity and ripped out his beating heart. Then, as dreams do, his reality seemed to shift, as he was outside of himself, watching the beast as a spectator as it wreaked havoc on the man and woman without mercy.
He knew what had happened, why his mind had refused to recall the events clearly. The beast in him had risen to deal the death blow to his beautiful tormentor and her latest swain. How else could he account for the fury that overcame him, his horse’s refusal to abide him in that state and the loss of consciousness, followed by awakening in the forest with no memory of how he came to be there, naked, with fresh blood on his hands and face? 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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

Chapter 14 Part 2 ,Chapter 15, part 1

Stephan took her hand, regretting his presence now, as it seemed to have upset her. “Miss Jennings, please do not be alarmed. I’m St. John. I found you injured in the woods and brought you to my home. No one will harm you here, I assure you.”
She blinked, and turned her head to survey the room.  “Oh, yes.” She sighed, relief filling her delicate features. “Yes, I forgot. I thought I was . . .” She sank back down on the pillows, but did not insist on retracting her hand. She allowed him to continue to hold it, whether due to being unaware of his touch in her confusion or the simple need for human contact when she was distressed, he couldn’t tell.
 “The pain medicine does tend to make one’s head whirl.” He commented dryly. Her hand was soft, uncalloused. The hand of a gentle woman or someone’s mistress. He grimaced, his mind immediately damning the base turn of his thoughts. 
As if reading his mind, her small, fine boned hand slipped from his grasp. She hugged the coverlet up over her chest, and gazed across the room with a forlorn expression. “How long must I stay here?” She asked, her voice an octave higher than before.
“You are my guest, not my prisoner. I believe we had this conversation before. Perhaps, because of the opiates you do not remember. The important thing is for you to relax, and allow your body to heal. When you are able to walk again, I’ll help you find your family and return to your home.” He paced to the end of the bed, the better to see those beautiful green eyes.
“Is there someone in England I should contact on your behalf?”
She was frightened. He could see it in her stricken features now that he’d moved from the side of the bed to the foot of it. “Will I walk again? When a horse breaks a leg, it is considered lame and put down out of compassion. Am I to be a cripple, then?”
“No.” He understood her fear; being an object of pity, or worse, being different from those about you, forced to depend upon the kindness of strangers. “Dr. Mulleins set the bone and put your foot into a sturdy brace to keep it still while the bone mends. But you must do your part and not put any strain on that foot until it heals. If you do, you risk the chance of causing the bone to grow together at an odd angle and create a deformity. So, you’ll stay here and allow my staff to care for you.”
“You are kind to offer me shelter in your home. Why do you do this?”
“Christian charity, good manners, human kindness. I should hope that if I were lost, in a strange place alone and injured, that someone would do the same for me.”
“And what do you require in return, St. John? It has been my experience that men do not help others unless there is something to be gained. I have a little money, I could pay you for your trouble in sheltering me until I am able resume my journey.”
“I don’t need your money, Miss Jennings.”  Stephan assured her quickly.
Dear God in Heaven, the look she gave him nearly brought him to his knees. She appeared completely baffled by his generosity. It came to him that her experience with men, as she put it, must have given her the assumption that all men expected either money or sexual favors for their troubles. “And I do not require any other services for assisting you, either.”
Miss Jennings merely stared at him, as if unable to comprehend such a creature.
Thankfully, Maggie returned, so he was relieved of his duty in watching over her.
“Oh, sir.” The redhead bobbed a curtsy in his direction when she noted him in the room. “Was I gone too long?”
“No.” Stephan reassured her. He gripped the bed post, finding himself unwilling to leave the delectable Miss Jennings, but realizing that it would be best if he did go so that she could relax.  “Now that Maggie is back I’ll leave you to rest. I’ll check in with you again after dinner this evening.” 

Chapter Fifteen

The bed was soft, the room was warm and the pain medicine the doctor left was strong.
Zara found it hard to feel anything but dull and complacent. She knew she should be worried about the future, yet, she felt so comfortable here, wrapped in the warm womb of kindness and ‘Christian Charity’, as St. John had said, she found herself wanting to stay.
Three days had passed in a blur. She slept much of the time due to the medicine. St. John had not come to see her again, not that she could recall. She knew it was ridiculous, but she missed the alluring stranger who had shown her more kindness than her own family. And Maggie, the little freckled girl who was caring for her, was chatty and pleasant. The girl had been appointed to care for Zara. She even slept in the same room, on a small pallet in the corner.
Tonight, Zara felt restless. She’d not been allowed out of bed except to use the necessary chair. Maggie continued to push the heavy drug on her to dull her pain, she found herself taking less of it simply to try to stay more aware of her circumstance. She didn’t like being helpless like this, dependent upon the generosity of others. Well she knew how with the turn of pin a person’s entire life could be sent crashing down a ravine.
Maggie was getting ready for bed. The younger girl was sitting before the dressing table, attempting to braid her fiery locks into some sort of order. The girl was frustrated by the knot at the back of her head.
“Maggie, come here, let me help you.” Zara offered. The girl had fussed over her so in the past days, it seemed natural to return the favor.
The freckled face turned to her with surprise. “Oh, Miss, you don’t have to.”
“I want to.” Zara replied softly. She patted the bed on the opposite side of her broken foot. “Bring the comb. You did my hair, now let me help you with yours.”
Maggie’s lips twisted with uncertainty. She seemed to be afraid she was overstepping some invisible boundary. Perhaps Zara was by offering to brush out the girl’s hair. The Gadje had scads of complex social rules about how to get on with one another. It wouldn’t surprise her if showing a servant a simple kindness like this wasn’t forbidden. Then again, St. John seemed to favor the girl. She came here with him. She must know a great deal about the man.
Having overcome her shyness, the redhead came to the bed and sat down with her back to Zara. She handed her the comb. “My mum used to do it at night. She was good at tangles. I’m not so patient as she. I tend to pull out more hair than I should.”
Zara nodded. The girl could talk the bark off of trees, as her uncle would say. “Let’s see what we can do.” She murmured as she took up the brush. She worked through the worst of them gently, holding the hair loosely in one hand so as not to pull it tight from the scalp and hurt the girl, in the same way her own grandmother had done for her.
The room was dark, except for one candle and the firelight. The house seemed quiet.
“What is it like in Martinique?” The exuberant girl asked as the silence continued between them. “I hear it’s fair hot there.”
“Yes, it is warm there all the time. Like summer here.”
“Did you grow up there? How long have you been here?”
Oh, the girl was a magpie, wasn’t she? One question leading to another and then another.
Zara considered her words carefully before answering. “I spent most of my life there, yes. I’ve been here for a short time, a matter of weeks.” She answered, hoping that she wouldn’t be questioned on it later by the lord of the manor, or held to it.
 “Do you like it here? My lord said you wished to go home.”
“I do not understand all the strange customs of the English. It is difficult to move about in this country and in this society. The women are so constricted.”
“Oh, yes.” Maggie turned about to face Zara with a peculiar look. “You’re French, right?”
“Well . . . no, not precisely.” Zara didn’t know how deep she could keep digging this hole. “My father was English.” That was the truth. “What happened to your parents?”
The slim shoulders sagged. “They’ve both died, miss. First me mum with the fever. Then me da, he went off to the wars in Spain. Never returned.”
“I am sorry.” Zara murmured, knowing that was what the Widow Kendall would say, and feeling it the right words for the moment. “You are alone then? As am I.” She placed a hand on the slim shoulder. “But now, we are not alone, as we are together.”
The lovely red hair moved in a wave as the girl turned about. Huge blue eyes regarded her carefully, eyes that were full of unshed tears. “Oh, miss. You are so kind to say so. Everyone here is so kind to me. Annie, Jasper, the master, even that pokey old servant he has, a gypsy I wager,” Maggie said with disgust, “Brisbane, they call him. Seems surly and wild, but he’s not mean, least wise, not to me.”
“I’ve not met him.” Zara said with caution in her tone. “However, his being a gypsy or not should not have any bearing on whether he is nice or not. Have you met any of the Romany folk?”
“Well . . . no, Miss.” Maggie mumbled, looking suitably set back. “I’ve not, but I’ve heard stories about gypsies.”

Zara reached forward to gently wipe away the tears dribbling down the girl’s cheeks. “Yes, but we mustn’t believe such tales. My grandmother always said truth is in a person’s actions and behavior, not in the stories others may whisper about them. She always told me to form my own judgment about others and not let rumors influence me. I know it is appealing to listen to unkind tales about others, but those same tales are often spun out of jealousy or hatred.”
Maggie snuffled, and nodded with dejection. “You’re right, Miss. My mother would say the same. I’ll try to remember that. But nobody likes the gypsies here in England. Nobody, miss. Dinna they tell you that?”
“Oh, I’ve heard.” She murmured, sadness filling her. The Gadje people had so much animosity toward her mother’s people. It seemed an impossible chasm just to gain acceptance. She was better off emphasizing her English heritage and leaving her Romany blood a secret.
Maggie turned about again, giving Zara her back so she might finish the task of brushing and plaiting the child’s hair. Zara found the exercise soothing.
“How did you come to be here, with Mr. St. John?” She probed.
“Oh, Miss!” Maggie’s head turned about quickly so she could face her, making the neat braid Zara was working on slip from her fingers. “It’s a wondrous tale. I found him lying in the gutter, in Covenant gardens. His cloths was tore off him, lying next to him they was, like he’d been stripped by footpads to search for valuables. T’was naked, he was, and moaning so t’was obvious he’d been injured. He had blood in his hair, on his face and neck. I covered him with his cloak as I came to his side.  He sat up, dazed he was, having been set upon by footpads, I believe. Couldn’t make it home. I helped him to his home, and he told me to call the next day for my reward. I did so, and he hired me to come here and work as a maid. Ain’t that generous of him? He didn’t know me one whit. But when he found out I was orphaned, he said he needed people to work at his manor house in the country, and that the local girls shunned the place.”
Maggie went on, in her unfettered manner. Zara thought about the girl’s words. Blood on his neck, and his face. Had he transformed in London, and killed someone? Did he bring the child here so she couldn’t testify against him regarding his activities?
A shiver came, despite having taken a generous dose of Laudanum just moments earlier.
“What is it, Miss? You look scared? This place isn’t bad.” Maggie chattered on with a coaxing tone. “I know, they say it’s haunted, but I’ve not met any spirits. And what old abbey wouldn’t be haunted, now and again? Old Annie, she swears the former Mrs. St. John walks these halls. I think it’s more wishfulness on her part, myself. Don’t be frightened, Miss. This is a good place, and Mr. St. John, he’s a kind man, a very kind and noble sort. He took me in, and why, he’s taken you in, too.”
Did he remember their encounter in the secret passage? Did his wolf self recall her scent or chasing her through his home. Was he keeping her here because he knew she had discovered his secret? And what of this child before her, a girl hardly fifteen, if even that? Were they in the man’s keeping out of charity, or something more sinister?

 Copyright, Lily Silver, 2014

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