Authors: Heather Manning
Swept to Sea
By Heather Manning
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
SWEPT TO SEA
Copyright © 2013 HEATHER MANNING
Cover Art Designed by AM DESIGN STUDIO
To the best English teacher ever, Mrs. Fosburgh, who ignited my love of writing. Thank you for being so awesome and reading my short stories—no matter how LONG they were. Thank you also to my family, especially to my mom and dad, who let me go to my first writer’s conference this spring, and to my sister, Cortney, who listens to all my ramblings about my stories. Finally, thank you most of all to God.
Lady Eden Trenton dashed into her bedchamber and slammed the oak door. The bang sent an echo through the chilled room. A loud crash sounded behind her, but she ignored it. At one time she would have felt guilty if something broke as a result of her temper, but now she truly did not care. She threw herself onto her four-poster bed and curled into a ball.
She hated Lord Rutger. Hated him and what he had tried to do.
How could he? How could she have let him turn her into this crying, weak little woman she hardly even recognized?
Eden shoved those thoughts from her head even as she pushed herself up onto her elbows.
I will not be his victim. Not now, and not ever again.
She couldn’t just lie here in self-pity. That would get her nowhere. She had to do something or she feared she would not make it through the night without going insane.
Her tear-clouded gaze drifted to the wooden writing desk in the corner. Where a glass vase had once proudly sat, harboring a bouquet of fragrant red roses, a pile of shattered glass now lay. The once-vibrant roses now lay withered, mingled with the glass. Their demise must have been the crash she had heard when the door slammed.
. When Eden saw it was Lord Rutger’s vase she had destroyed, a thrill of rebellious excitement coursed through her. He had given her the flowers, along with a sapphire necklace, when their engagement had been announced publicly. ‘Twas a shame such a beautiful piece of jewelry was so tainted.
Eden gathered up the shriveling flowers in one hand. She bit her lip when a shard of glass pricked her finger but did not care it hurt her. It was worth the pain to see Rutger’s gift in such a tortured state. Her sole regret was it marked the flowers’ demise and not that of the cruel man himself.
Eden hurried toward the other end of the room and tossed the petals out her open window, willing them to fly away. Fly away and escape this cage they were in—just as she longed to do herself. Bright lightning forked across the night sky. A deafening crack of thunder caused her to jump. The storm seemed to mirror the myriad of emotions churning deep inside her.
Feeling every bit a madwoman, she began to take up a pace around her bedchamber. She had no idea how she could escape this wretched, heartless man, this man to whom her own father had promised her hand in marriage. Her chances of survival were slim if she
Oh, what will become of me?
She sank back onto her bed with a grimace. Her ribs ached from Rutger’s latest assault.
I need to get out of here. I need to leave this town, this country.
But where could she go? She had no family but her father here in London and her brother Adam, wherever he had run off to.
An idea burst into Eden’s mind as she thought of Adam. Against their father’s wishes, her brother had visited the colonies in the Caribbean on a sailing trip a few years ago. He had come back regaling them all with fantastic stories of clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and lush, green palm trees. Since then, she had always dreamed of visiting the colonies for herself.
What Eden needed was to talk to her dear friends Aimee and Ivy and ask for their advice, but the evening had grown far too late for a social call. She would have to wait until morning, which seemed ages away. Plopping back onto her pillow, she tried to sleep. A few dragging hours passed before she finally fell into a fitful slumber.
When the first rays of daybreak streamed through her window, Eden rose to seek out her friends. She dressed, grabbed her reticule, and tiptoed down the grand staircase, tugging on her gloves as she went.
She winced as a floorboard creaked under her weight.
Although many of the servants had been released of their services because of the Trenton’s dwindling estate, Eden did not doubt the remaining few would notify her father of her activity. No one made social calls this early in the day.
One more step brought her to the parlor. Eden took a deep breath and glided past.
She collided with a tall, hard form.
Fear coiled through Eden as she realized a man towered above her. Her pulse accelerated. Had she been caught?
It took only a moment to recognize Gregory, one of her father’s footmen.
“Gregory, you gave me a scare. I thought you were … I thought …” Eden inhaled shakily. How would she get to Aimee and Ivy now that a servant knew her whereabouts?
“I apologize, Lady Trenton. May I ask, where are you planning to go so early in the morning? You are hardly ever awake at this time of the day.” He clasped his long hands together behind his back.
“I… I…” Eden worried her bottom lip with her teeth. If her father heard she was making mysterious trips out of the manor he would suspect something. But if she didn’t leave the house herself…
“Could you stay here for just a moment, please, Gregory? I will be right back.”
“Of course, Lady Trenton.”
Eden dashed off to her father’s study and grabbed a few pieces of paper from his desk. She dipped a quill in ink and jotted down the same message on both papers: “Meet me in my parlor as soon as you can — it is an emergency.”
She signed the notes and folded them in half. If she couldn’t summon her friends personally, she would have one of the footmen do so.
Eden tucked the notes under her arm, picked up her skirts, and sped back to the entryway. Gregory was waiting as she had asked.
“Yes, Lady Trenton, what may I do for you?”
Eden hesitated, but decided to trust him. It was just Gregory. Nothing to worry about. He had been one of Adam’s best friends when they were youths. Surely he would not tell her father what she was doing if only she asked.
“Please, take these missives to Lady Aimee Dawson and Lady Ivy Shaw. Do not tell anyone you did this for me.” She handed him the notes.
He bowed. “Of course, milady.”
"Do you truly think I will simply sit around in London and marry that obnoxious excuse of a man? Do you ladies even know me?" Eden exclaimed, trying to re-pin her hair back into its up-do. She sighed, letting her arms drop to her sides. Her curls never could be tamed by pins.
Aimee and Ivy had finally come to Eden’s home, well after noon.
"No, we didn’t think you would," Ivy laughed, shaking her head.
Eden’s gaze flicked to the window where carriages moved past.
"But we will miss you so much," Aimee pouted, "What will Ivy and I do without you here with us? Who will go shopping for jewelry with me, and who will attend balls with us? We need you." She plopped herself down on the leather-cushioned chair in Eden's parlor room.
"Would you have me marry that insolent cur just so I can stay here with you, Aimee?" Eden jutted her chin out.
an earl, Eden. You know your father needs the money a marriage like that could bring.” Ivy placed her teacup back on its saucer on the table next to her.
"And he is quite handsome," added Aimee, giggling and straightening one of the pink bows on the shoulder of her frilly dress.
Eden inhaled a slow breath. The deep, earthy scent of her father's smoking pipe filled her nostrils. He had always smoked in their parlor room after her mother had died even though it was a habit Eden detested. "Now wait just a minute — whose side are you on, ladies? Lord Clive Rutger—" she imitated his low, nasally voice, eliciting a hearty chuckle from her friends”—is nothing but a shallow cad who wants to marry me simply because he decided he fancies the way I look. Despicable monster." Just thinking about the slimy excuse of a man sent an uncontrollable shiver crawling down Eden's spine, especially after what that fiend had tried to do to her. The fresh bruise on her shoulder throbbed. She could not bring herself to think about it, much less speak of it to her friends.
"But what are you going to do to prevent this marriage, Eden? Knowing your father, I hardly think he would want to cancel the deal. You know what a disgrace it would be for you if the engagement is called off. Besides, your father appeared quite happy with the arrangement at your engagement party." Aimee tossed a golden curl from her shoulder as her emerald-hued eyes reflected in the hand mirror she had grown attached to.
"You are right. Father refuses to back down on this marriage arrangement. I already tried pleading with him. The union would be beneficial to us. 'Twould give us the money we so desperately need to keep living as we are." She opened her arms wide, indicating to her only moderately posh surroundings. Unlike her father, Eden cared not for wealth. Especially if wealth meant being chained to a monster for the remainder of her existence.
"So what are you going to do about it, Eden?" Ivy patted her hair, the rich color of fire in the moonlight. Her lovely waves were the envy of the town, along with her eyes, the cloudy blue of the sky before a thunder storm. Looks like that could get her into a situation like Eden’s.
"I don’t know what to do yet, but I
escape the earl. I promise you I will." Eden shifted her feet from where she stood by the fireplace. She would not sit around and live such a life, married to a man she did not love. Not only did not love, but despised with all of her heart.
"Only you, would be plotting to escape marriage to this man, Eden. Do you know how many women would practically kill to marry a lord, not to mention an earl?" Ivy commented, a stern look on her face.
"I care not if he is an earl. I do not want his title or his money. Oh goodness, all those women who want him can have him. Since Papa won’t help me, I
to leave. I think I would like to visit the Caribbean. You know how I loved all the stories Adam used to return home with. I know I don't have enough money to pay for a passage across the sea yet, but I will find a way to escape. I can assure you of that."
Aimee and Ivy cast each other an exasperated look. Eden knew her friends could read the expression in her eyes as a determined one. She could not be stopped now that she had set her heart on escaping this life her father and Lord Rutger had planned for her.
"Why on earth would you wish to set off for the colonies all on your own? I have heard it is quite a wild, dangerous place. Vicious, cutthroat pirates are rumored to run the seas. They kill and kidnap without a thought. You will have to fend for yourself all alone. Do you even understand what kind of trouble you could get yourself into over there?" Ivy asked.
Eden rolled her eyes and leaned back on the edge of the mahogany fireplace’s mantelpiece. She had come to her friends for support, not a lecture as if she were some guilty child. They were not her parents by any means.
She sucked in a breath, realizing she would have to escape before her father could catch her. "It is not as if I would be venturing to Tortuga or a place like that. I think Port Royal or New Providence would be pleasant. Adam told me they are quite charming little areas, surrounded by the sea. That was a couple of years ago when he went there, but they cannot be half as bad as what I have heard of Tortuga."
"It still must be quite dangerous. Anywhere is a dangerous place for a young woman on her own. How will you ever provide for yourself? You have to understand, we just don't want you to end up hurt in some way," Aimee reasoned.
"I will be able to take care of myself," Eden huffed, sinking down onto the embroidered footstool that sat next to Ivy's chair. "I do not care what everyone else says. I will
marry him. I never want to marry a man. All marriage does is give a man a chance to control a woman. I will not be a part of a union like that, and especially not with Lord Rutger. Have you two not seen the way he looks at me? And he always stands far closer to me than propriety allows." She shivered and glanced away from them, blinking the tears from her eyes.