Winter of the Passion Flower (The de Vargas Family)

BOOK: Winter of the Passion Flower (The de Vargas Family)
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Winter of the Passion Flower

By

Annie Seaton

 

 

Winter of the Passion Flower

Copyright © January 2013, Annie Seaton

Edited by Amanda Clymo

Cover Art by Annie Seaton

 

 

 

NOTE: This book is a work of fiction. The names,
characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or
have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations
is entirely coincidental.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Epilogue

Summer of the Moon Flower

Chapter 1

The de Vargas Family series

Other books by Annie Seaton

About the author

 

 

Dedication

 

To Daphne May for instilling in me a lifelong love of
words.

 

Acknowledgements

 

Life events often change the direction you have planned for
your life and this story is the result of one of those unexpected side roads. I
would like to acknowledge the support of my ever-patient husband and family.
Many new friends have been made on my writing journey. My dear friend Elle
Fynllay who has been a fabulous critique partner and provided support on those
‘I am not really a writer’ days and my wonderful editor Amanda Clymo who has
helped me polish this story until it gleamed.

Chapter 1

 

’Twas a shame
.

An opportunity for a brief, but she was
sure, satisfying sexual interlude had not been taken up. The courier who had
delivered the missive from London was a young man with a very pleasing physique
and Indigo de Vargas y Irausquínno had been tempted to indulge for a fleeting
moment.

But not to be. Her desire was destined
to remain unfulfilled.

The young man had insisted on setting off
on the return trip in his small dirigible after partaking of a quick refreshment,
despite the howling winds and driving snow. His gaze darted nervously around
the salon and even a suggestive fingertip run down his chest did not persuade
him to stay for more than a quick cup of mulled wine. However, thoughts of a
sexual diversion quickly disappeared as Indigo broke the seal and read the
document from London..

“Absolutely impossible,” she said
emphatically as she read the document before her. Gripping the document
tightly, she strode across the sitting room to the warmth of the blazing fire
as she continued reading in disbelief.

The Great Exhibition of the Works of
Industry of all
Nations to be held in London three months hence, and now
Henry Cole, representative of Prince Albert, asked…nay, demanded, the
exhibition prototype be finalized within a month. Reading aloud, Indigo refused
to believe that Henry Cole gave credence to her dastardly neighbor’s trivial
complaints. She knew Duke Lorca constantly sent erroneous information about her
and her business to London. One consolation—

She was well aware she remained a thorn in
Lorca’s side and would continue to do so while ever her enterprise was
successful. He was just a sniveling jealous little man without a shred of
intelligence.

“Grrr.” Indigo grunted in frustration and
continued reading

“I am of the advice that your product
will not be manufactured in the timeframe required for display at the Crystal
Palace. I urge you, Madame, to respond to my letter forthwith and provide
evidence that your prototype will be forthcoming within the period of one
month. Duke Leopold Lorca is willing and able to exhibit a selection of steamed
farming machinery in the space, and will be allotted the aforementioned space
if a timely and satisfactory response is not forthcoming from yourself. Yours sincerely,
Sir Henry Cole, Representative of Prince Albert, Patron of Society for the
Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.”

Indigo threw the parchment to the floor in
disgust. “Over my dead body. That sniveling coward Lorca will not get his manipulative
hands on my exhibition space.”

The wind whistled through the door as Mrs.
Grimoult, her housekeeper, locked the cogs behind the departing courier but
Indigo paid scant attention. Bending to retrieve the parchment from the floor,
she tore it in half and threw it on the flames, muttering as it curled and
disappeared up the chimney.

“Round one to you, Lorca, but not for
long.”

It had been a long and frustrating day with
a procession of bad news coming to her door. And the latest shipment of blooms
from South America was late; Indigo had passed much of the day in the viewing
room, alternately pacing the floor and peering through the large telescope
mounted on the high platform, awaiting the arrival of her submarine, the
Artemis
.

Now, sitting at the bay window in her
salon, she fumed over the missive. The dismal weather matched her mood. The
large trees facing the sea bore the brunt of the strong wind gusting fiercely
off the Atlantic Ocean. An old oak tree bent with the weight of the fallen
snow, creaked ominously as the huge boughs pushed against the walls of her
manor house. She plucked at the velvet tassels of the scarlet cover on the
window seat as her temper worsened.

A loud knocking on the entry door
interrupted her brooding and she waited impatiently for Mrs. Grimoult to
announce the unexpected visitor. The knocking became louder and Indigo rose,
sweeping through the foyer, heels clicking on the wooden floor.

“I don’t know why I bother keeping staff,” she
muttered crossly to herself as she unlocked the series of cogs securing the
heavy oak door. She held the door firmly against the wind and flurries of snow
swept through the opening.


Gothewhar daa
.” A mellifluous voice
came from beneath the silken folds of a hooded cloak, which concealed the face
of the speaker. Indigo leaned forward, intrigued to hear the Cornish dialect.
The stranger with the deep voice stood hidden in the deep shadows of the porch,
where the candles flickered from the wind gusting from the ocean.

“Good evening, sir. May I ask what brings
you out on this miserable night?” she asked curiously.

“I need an audience with Madame de Vargas
as a matter of urgency. Is she in residence?”

“Who shall I say is calling, sir?” Indigo
wanted to know the business of the tall, broad-shouldered stranger with the
deep voice before revealing her identity.

“I would prefer to introduce myself to
Madame de Vargas, if I may,” he replied.

She stood back, carefully scrutinizing the
dark stranger before replying. Well-spoken and expensively dressed, he was
obviously a man of standing. “I am Madame de Vargas. Come in from this foul
night and state your business.” She ushered him in as the heavy door pushed
against her hands.

The stranger stepped through the wide doorway
and dipped into a sweeping bow. “I am here to offer my services as captain of
your vessel. I believe you have urgent need for a captain to master your next
expedition, Madame?” The silk-edged cloak of black wool slipped from his
shoulders as the stranger stepped forward, and pooled sinuously upon the wet
floor. Indigo choked back a startled gasp before it could escape her lips. She
looked up slowly, and her gaze locked with eyes the color of midnight. For a
long moment, she held his gaze and his lips tipped upward in a slight smile.
Indigo looked away disconcerted by the confidence of this man.

She pursed her lips; it was most unusual
for a man to challenge her. Her gaze dropped to his chest as she tried to think
who he may be; but he was unknown to her.

The removal of his cloak had revealed a
muscled forearm dusted with a sprinkling of dark hair. At the edge of his
wrist, the tattooed petals of a blue passionflower contrasted with tanned skin,
and her eyes narrowed as she saw the intricate green tendrils snaking their way
to his elbow.

Very interesting…and very strange.

 “Who are you?” Indigo demanded,
regaining her equilibrium.

“Captain Dogooder, at your service,
Madame.”

She regarded him for a long moment and his
gaze held hers. Flakes of snow blowing through the open doorway melted, making
small puddles on the wooden floor.

“You had better come in to my salon, sir,
and tell me why I need a new captain. And especially one with such
an…interesting name. I am intrigued.” Ushering him in from the foyer, Indigo
caught sight of her reflection in the mirrored wall opposite the main door and
was satisfied with her appearance, considering she had such a handsome, albeit,
mysterious guest.

She had dressed that morning in a revealing
ruby red bustier and black silk skirt. The intricate folds of her long skirt
molded to her derriere. Luxuriant black curls surrounded her face, and her lips
were painted ruby red and her eyes outlined with black kohl. She stood straight
and drew a deep breath. She was well used to her occasional gentleman visitors
using words such as bewitching loveliness, statuesque beauty, and not to
mention her commanding cleavage as she took them to her bed. This visitor was
of a different nature, she suspected.

Following Indigo into the salon, the
captain strolled to the fire, removed his leather gloves and spread his fingers
in front of the leaping flames. He reached into a deep pocket of his breeches
and Indigo’s gaze dropped to the muscled thighs outlined by the tight leather
as he removed a brass chronometer and checked the time before casually
returning the timepiece to his pocket.

“Are you expected elsewhere on this fierce
evening, Captain?” The peculiarity of the situation was beginning to grate on
her.

“No, Madame ,” he replied quietly.

She indicated for him to sit in a
deep-winged chair in front of the fire as she pulled a brass lever on the wall,
requesting the housekeeper’s services. Mulled wine would warm them both while
he provided her with an explanation for his visit. A sharp bell sounded down
the corridor but there was no response. Indigo went to pull the lever again and
the housekeeper bustled into the room.

“Madame , oh Madame …” Wringing her hands,
Mrs. Grimoult trailed off, eyes widening as she realized her mistress had
company. The captain rose from the chair and hurried across to the doorway,
gently taking the little housekeeper’s hands between his.

“’Tis all right, Madame. You can speak.”

Indigo looked from one to the other, as the
housekeeper pulled away from her visitor before lifting her apron and dabbing
at her eyes. She stepped away from him and spoke to her mistress.

“Oh, Madame, the
Artemis
has
returned.”

A huge sense of relief filled Indigo until
Mrs. Grimoult began to weep noisily into her apron. Indigo looked across at
her, worry quickly replacing her relief. Her housekeeper was generally an
unexcitable creature and it was unusual to see her showing so much emotion.

“The crew is gone. There is only my man
returned.” She lifted her apron, wiping more tears away.

“Where is Mr. Grimoult?” Indigo stood with
her hands on her hips, concern filling her chest.

“Upstairs, Madame.” The housekeeper’s voice
was muffled by the apron covering her face.

Indigo turned to the captain, who leaned
against the doorway. His shoulders were bent forward, and he dipped his head
dipped to avoid touching the lintel. She strode over, pushing him back, putting
her face close up to his. Reaching down, she pulled an embossed brass knife
from her long boot and held it at his throat, the finely honed edge pressing
against the tanned skin. Mrs. Grimoult lowered her apron and gasped, her eyes
wide with surprise.

BOOK: Winter of the Passion Flower (The de Vargas Family)
12.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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