Ariana and her family have been in America for the last year. Her father meets Stephen Summerville, the protege of a famous shipbuilder who wants to start his own company, and so more or less that's how we meet Stephen. When Ariana first lays eyes on him, she falls head over heels. BAM! But when Stephen meets Bella, BAM! and poor Ariana is left heartbroken.
Stephen has been the only man who has accepted her for who she is. But Stephen belongs to Bella, so Ariana suffers in silence.
I'm really enjoying writing this. It's a love triangle, confounded by the secret that's going to come out in THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE. And then EVERYONE is going into a giant emotional upheaval.
Fun stuff, and I'm excited I'm bringing this series to its end. Not that I'm excited it's coming to a close, I love my characters, but it's exciting to think that I wrote a whole series of books and finished them. (Some people didn't believe I could do it.)
Anyway, here's a little excerpt (first draft so don't mind the mistakes), and more pictures. From Chapter Two...
The crowded pier overwhelmed Ariana, with passengers milling about, and stewards and midshipmen pushing huge loads of cargo across the docks. Ariana stood by the luggage. Her leg remained stiff and walking on the uneven surface of the boatyard caused her great hardship. She refused to carry her cane. She didn’t want to appear as an invalid. It only caused piteous looks. Once she was on board, she could settle in and release the pressure.
“Ariana, dearest, are you all right?” her mother asked.
“My leg, Mama. Standing for so long last night has cramped it again. I shall be better once we are on board.” Ariana wanted to rub the spot on her thigh to relieve the tension.
“Perhaps we could find you a chair.” Her mother looked around the bustling wharf.
“No, Mama. Even if one could be found, I would only be in the way.” As if to clarify her statement, a huge man carrying two barrels across his shoulders bumped into their trunks.
“Sorry, misses,” he growled.
“Well, where has your father gone this time? I declare he likes nothing more than to disappear on us
|Lady Constance Leighton,|
Duchess of Hargrave
“I’m sure he must be doing something important, Mama. He would never leave us in this situation if he did not have to.” Ariana looked toward the shipping office. Stephen walked toward them, a wide smile etched across his handsome face.
“Your Grace, Ariana,” he said. “How do you do? A beautiful day to start our journey, do you not think?”
“Yes, very beautiful,” Ariana said. She drank in his smile.
“Have you seen my husband, Stephen? He has left us here to rot in the sun like some discarded carcass.” Her mother snapped her fan open and waved it rapidly under her huge hat.
“Bella has persuaded him to buy ices,” he said.
“Ices? We shall hardly have a care to enjoy them here.” She looked at Ariana. “What is your sister thinking?” She looked at Stephen. “Do you know when we shall be allowed to board? I vow I cannot stand here one more second.”
“A few more minutes, I assure you, Lady Hargrave. I spoke with the purser myself just moments ago. They are only waiting for the last of the foodstuffs to be brought on board.”
“Well,” Ariana’s mother huffed. “They allow the animals on board before the people. I’ve never heard of such a thing. In
England, they allowed us to board
as soon as we arrived. I hope you will do your best to remember that when you
have your own vessels, Stephen.”
He winked at Ariana. “Yes, Mum.”
“Mama.” Ariana placed her hand on her mother’s arm. “Do not be cross with Stephen. It is certainly not his fault we are not allowed to board.”
Stephen picked up Ariana’s hand. “Shall I find you a chair?”
“No, thank you. I would only be in the way.” Ariana tingled from his touch.
“Oh, look, here they come now,” her mother said.
The Duke of Hargrave strode across the pier. Bella chased after his long strides, her parasol flopping
Duke of Hargrave
“Forgive me, my dear,” he said to his wife. “I did not mean to leave you so long. Bella wished for ices before departure, but it was a fool’s errand.” He shot Bella a caustic glance. He turned to Ariana. “How are you feeling, dearest? I am assured it is only moments before we board.”
Ariana smiled at her father. Since the accident a decade before, he had always looked to her comfort first. “I am well, Father. A few minutes more will surely not do me any more harm.”
“Stephen,” Bella said. “Take me to the dock. I wish to look at the water.”
Stephen gave her his arm and they walked away.
“I do not know what that girl is playing at,
When we met Stephen in the shipping office, she barely acknowledged his
presence. Now she wishes him to walk her to the water. I do not understand.”
Her mother patted his arm. “Ariana’s leg pains her.”
And that was all she needed to say.
Since the accident, Bella’s jealousy over her parents’ solicitude where Ariana was concerned was a sore spot. And Ariana knew it, which is why when her leg did hurt, she never spoke of it. However, as her tell tale limp became more prominent, her parents grew more concerned.
A midshipman walked over to them. “Your Grace, my name is Tuttle. I shall take your luggage now.”
“When will be allowed to board? My daughter needs to rest,” her father said.
A bell pealed from the deck.
“At last,” her mother sighed. “Come dearest, take my arm.”
As Ariana reached for her mother’s arm, the midshipman pulled a portmanteau off the top of the pile, which bumped into another trunk and it crashed into Ariana, who fell to the ground. Tears sprang from her eyes. Her leg felt as if it had been shattered all over again.
“Ariana!” Her father knelt at her side. “Dearest, are you all right? No, of course not.” He glared at Tuttle, who could not apologize enough.
“Forgive me, your ladyship. I am so very sorry.”
“I will have your job for your ineptitude,” her father yelled.
“Father, please,” Ariana said. “It was an accident. Please just help me up.”
Stephen ran over. “Ariana, what happened?”
Her father straightened. “This fool hit her with a bag and she fell.”
“Come.” Stephen knelt on the ground. “Wrap your arms about my neck. I shall carry you on board.”
“No,” Ariana whispered. “I am well enough to walk.” She was sure being in his arms would cause her to faint, and that was something she did not wish to do.
“Nonsense, Ariana,” her father said. “Do as he tells you. Look at the throng. You will never get on board without another injury.”
Stephen wrapped his arms under her and lifted her easily. Ariana closed her eyes as she laid her hands around his neck.
“Come then, let us get you on board,” her father said. “I shall find the ship’s doctor to take a look at you.” He proffered his arm to his wife.
Bella pouted as she walked behind them.
Walking up the gangplank, Stephen asked, “How do you feel? Am I causing you any more pain?”
Ariana couldn’t feel anything. Her heart stuck in her throat. To have Stephen’s arms around her was heavenly. “No,” she managed to squeak out. “I…I thank you.”
Jostled from behind, Stephen glanced over his shoulder. “Have a care, would you? The lady is injured.”
Ariana felt flames burning her face. Once on the deck she said, “You may put me down now.”
“Ariana I have no wish to cause you further injury. Let us find your stateroom first.”
“No!” she said. “Please, Stephen, put me down. I am all right now.”
He walked to the rear of the boat and lowered her to the deck. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, thank you.” Ariana reached for the railing to steady herself. I am well now.” Her fluttering heart beat through her chest.
So, that's it so far. Hopefully, it won't take me too long to finish this. As I said, it's a prequel, and a novella, and just so you know, there won't be any kind of definitive ending in it. This novella, and LADY OLIVIA'S UNDOING both stop on the night of the Twelfth Night Ball. And then SEDUCTION takes over from there.
Have a happy week. I'll see you next Sunday.
Anne Gallagher (c) 2013