Authors: Gini Rifkin
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Virginia Rifkin
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
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Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First English Tea Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-727-4
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-728-1
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Gini Rifkin
“A hot time in the old west.”
"Iron Heart gives the classic epic adventures a run for their money.”
~Sizzling Hot Books (5 Hearts)
“Rifkin weaves a tale of romance and adventure that could easily be shared around a blazing campfire.”
~The Romance Reviews
“A wonderfully captivating blend of medieval history and fantasy!”
“I highly recommend it to any fan of historical romance.”
~Long and Short Reviews
“Rifkin's novel is epic in scope, meticulously researched and finely detailed. A genuinely sweet romance married to an exciting war/espionage story.”
~Romanic Times Book Reviews
THE DRAGON AND THE ROSE
“This is an ENCHANTING story!”
~The Long and Short Review
“Rifkin is immensely knowledgeable about the story's time period.”
~Romantic Times Book Reviews
In memory of Mom,
who taught me to read and love books,
who read my books and encouraged me to write,
who was man enough to wear my pink baseball cap.
With thanks and gratitude to
The Wild Rose Press and
the amazing Amanda Barnett.
Dedicated to family who are friends—
and friends who are family.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
~Lord Byron, “Darkness”
1851, New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts
Alone in the dark, Walker Garrison stood on the dock of the deserted waterfront, his shoulders hunched against the nor’easter blowing down from Wellfleet. How many hours had he stood just like this, only on the deck of a ship?
He usually found unrestrained nature exhilarating and conducive to clear thinking, but tonight nothing dispelled the nagging feeling something was terribly amiss. It was unwarranted of course. Lost in thought, he smoothed his mustache with thumb and forefinger then rubbed the palm of his hand across his clean-shaven chin. What could possibly go wrong?
He narrowed his gaze, and the ghostly outline of the
came into focus. Evening mist, cold and sinister, wound around her rigging and mast, and the huge vessel quaked as if it too felt danger lurked nearby. Standing taller, he tried to throw off the unease creeping through his body like a fever. Foreboding was a sensation he’d felt before—disaster had always followed.
Maybe he was simply afraid of being happy. An infrequent visitor in his life, when happiness had come, it had never stayed long. Now it made him nervous when things seemed to be going too well.
A bell tolled out on the reef, the mournful clang heading straight for him, striking a lonely chord deep within his soul. Shreds of fog, twisting and dancing, joined hands to form a thick gray wall. It felt as if it cordoned off his heart as well as the horizon.
“Buy us a drink, luv?”
Startled, he turned in the direction of the voice and spied two women-of-the-night plying their trade along the wharf. Their girlish laughter was a welcome interruption.
“Not this evening, ladies,” he declined, with a slight bow and a grin. “But thank you for the...generous offer.” The last he added in response to the visual enticement the two well-endowed females boldly flashed in his direction.
With a snort of amusement, he watched their hips as the women sashayed down the cobbled street. Even if he was not inclined to book passage, he appreciated a well-outfitted ship. At present, the creation of his transport line was his only passion. He had no time for attachments, or even simple diversions. At least that’s what he told himself.
Besides, it was safer to love a ship than a woman. You could depend on a ship. She wouldn’t surprise you when least expected. You could be her master and trust her to be there when you needed her. All a ship demanded in return was your respect, and for you to know her limitations. Women were like the sea, unpredictable and hard to fathom. And even loving the good ones came at too high a price—when they were no longer there.
Hands clasped behind his back, legs braced wide, he fought the haunting thoughts of days-gone-by. Tomorrow he would begin his new life, the culmination of many months of hard work, his last hope for salvation. His chance to escape the downward spiral into which his life had been heading. Now he had a reason for getting up in the morning—a purpose other than seeking forgetfulness. All the more reason there must not be one misstep.
In truth, everything had gone like clockwork. He admired and respected Philip St.Christopher, his new business partner recently arrived from England. Earlier this evening, along with Philip’s wife, Ophelia, they had enjoyed a pleasant and leisurely dinner. The legal documents for the shipping line, signed and sealed, left only the ceremonial papers needing attention in the morning. There was nothing to worry about.
Besides, under no circumstances could he cancel tomorrow’s proceedings. It would be monstrously unfair to his crew and all the people instrumental in this undertaking. They deserved a celebration before the
took to the open sea on her maiden voyage. He could hardly justify ruining the dockside party and scheduled gaiety because of an attack of nerves. He needed to put these thoughts to bed, as well as himself.
With the warmth of a lover’s caress, his glance slid over the sleek clipper ship. From keel to masthead, he’d watched her grow, watched her come alive.
“You’re a proud free-spirited lady,” he declared. “Unquestionable strength, tamed by grace and beauty.”
He’d named his first ship after his mother. She had possessed similar qualities. So had his wife. Too bad neither had lived to see this day. Too bad neither would be at his side tomorrow to share in his achievement.
Twickenham, England, that same night
The scream that awakened Trelayne St.Christopher turned out to be her own.
Hair damp, nightrail twisted and clinging, she bolted upright in bed and gulped in great breaths of cold night air. The images, so vivid in her mind, were gruesome portraits of her mother and father. They were bloodied and injured, unable to move or talk, they were dying.
Shivering with fright as well as the cold, she gripped the covers, and drew them up to her chin. Her gaze darted from corner to corner of the dark room. It was all in her mind, not real. At least not yet.
“Trelayne, dear child, you’ve had another one of those beastly dreams.”
Aunt Abigail entered the room, hurried across the floor, and sat on the edge of the bed. The flickering light from the candle she carried sent haunting shadows looming obliquely across the walls. The effect did nothing to calm Trelayne’s nerves
“I’m all right, truly I am,” she lied, as Aunt Abigail set the candleholder aside. Then, like a mere child rather than a grown woman, she sought the refuge of her aunt’s embrace.
“If only your parents were here,” the older woman fussed. “They would know what to do.”
At the mention of her parents, she shuddered.
It was only a dream. A horrid wicked dream.
Maybe this one wouldn’t come true.
“Darling, you’re shaking like the last leaf of winter. What is it? Describe the vision. Perhaps it will help.”
“No,” she all but shouted.
To speak of the nightmare might give it life, setting it free into the night. Although in her heart, she feared nothing could truly stop its course. As a child, prophetic dreams had occasionally come her way, but they were happy illusions, portents of when people were coming to visit, or helpful information to aid someone in finding a lost object. Then during adolescence, the dreams had stopped. Now, since the advent of womanhood, they had come back, and not pleasantly so. Usually the people involved in her dreams were strangers, and she had no way of knowing if what she saw came to pass. But this was different—this time it involved her mother and father.
“Dear, dear child,” the older woman crooned, rocking Trelayne to and fro. “Isn’t there anything I can do? With your parents in America, and your brother Branwell jagging off to India, the family is scattered hither and yon. And you’re stuck here with me, your old Aunt Abigail.”
“You’re not old,” Trelayne defended, easing back in her aunt’s arms. “And I’m not stuck, I’m unfettered. You’re much more lenient than Momma and Poppa.”
Ten years ago, when her older sister died of typhoid fever, her parents not only suffered most grievously, they also instituted desperate measures to ensure she did not follow suit. No outings in inclement weather for fear of pneumonia. Visits to town only for necessities and fittings. Small soirées to be attended only if the known participants were in apparent good health. At times, it was quite stifling.
In turn, most of the year, the family stayed at Royston Hall—breathing fresh air and eating a plethora of vegetables. And while her education, acquired via thoroughly scrutinized tutors, was extensive, she felt wrapped in metaphoric batting. Being insulated from the ugliness and hardships of the world was not the worst circumstance to be endured, but it eliminated the exciting adventurous parts—like the things she read about in books. Having Aunt Abigail stretch the rules on occasion was a boon to her existence
She eased her grip on the counterpane. “This past month has been wonderful,” she insisted, as the wild thumping of her heart began to slow. “Our overnight stay at Amberley was especially enjoyable—exploring the ruins, stargazing at night, reading Byron by the light of the moon. And my mind is soaring with your suggestions for restoring the medieval dwelling.” How she loved the old fortress left to her by her grandfather.
Aunt Abigail smiled, her expression enlivened by faraway memories. “As children,” she reminisced, “your mother and I had splendid times there. It was more primitive of course, no modernized kitchen like there is now, and hardly any furnishings. But we loved living the gypsy life, not a care in the world as we dreamed of knights in shining armor and perfected our renditions of Shakespeare grandly performed for your grandfather.”
“We should go back again soon,” Trelayne suggested. “I shall take my charcoals and make sketches. And we’ll bring more food and stay longer.”
She must keep busy, be too exhausted to dream. If only she could stay up all night and not risk dreaming at all.
“It sounds like a good plan,” Aunt Abigail agreed. “In hopeful preparation we can procure supplies tomorrow while we’re in town for the lecture on the cause. Your mother will be green with envy for having missed the meeting.”