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Lost at sea, p.1

Lost At Sea, page 1


Lost At Sea

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Lost At Sea

  Table of Contents

  About Lost At Sea

  Praise for the Scandalous Scions series

  Title Page

  The Great Families

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Did you enjoy this story?

  The next book in the Scandalous Scions series.

  About the Author

  Other books by Tracy Cooper-Posey

  Copyright Information

  About Lost At Sea

  The Great Family was not always a great family.

  In October 1843, Anna & Rhys, Natasha & Seth, Elisa & Vaughn all face problems, their hearts heavy with the challenges of life.

  This is the origins story of the Scandalous Scions series—the first great family gathering, where traditions that will last a generation are born and Anna & Rhys, Natasha & Seth, Elisa & Vaughn meld into a single, united family.

  Find out how the couples of Scandalous Sirens learn that together, they are stronger.

  This story is part of the Scandalous Scions series:

  0.1 Lost at Sea

  0.5 Rose of Ebony

  1.0 Soul of Sin

  2.0 Valor of Love

  3.0 Marriage of Lies

  4.0 Mask of Nobility

  …and more to come!

  A Historical Romance Novelette

  This novelette is not available for retail purchase. It is available only as a special bonus for readers of the series who subscribe to Tracy’s newsletter.

  Praise for the Scandalous Scions series

  If you are familiar with the previous series, I am sure you fell in love with the huge family like I did.

  She is a go to author for me when I need a fix of historical romance.

  Tracy Cooper-Posey takes us into the staid yet surprisingly bawdy Victorian Era where appearance is everything and secrets are held inside the family.

  Thanks once again, Tracy Cooper-Posey, for giving us another great story and for giving me back my love of historical romances.

  I love historical romances and this one filled all my likes, from a dashing, wonderful hero, a beautiful strong heroine, a love story to sigh over, side characters that are interesting, and funny, and move the story along.

  I don't often give books five stars, but I really enjoyed the mystery that puzzled all of the characters in this story.

  I found the entire extended family intriguing because they, the women in particular, are very aware and careful of what society will think, yet they often have made choices that are deemed semi- scandalous.

  A wonderful story set in the Victorian era of such strict social conventions and yet the main characters are shimmering with latent sexual tension. What a fabulous juxtaposition!

  The Great Families

  Elisa and Vaughn Wardell

  Marquess of Fairleigh, Viscount Rothmere

  1825 Raymond, Viscount Marblethorpe, stepson, 18

  1839 William Vaughn Wardell, 4

  1842 Sarah Louise Wardell (D)

  Natasha and Seth Williams

  Earl of Innesford, Baron Harrow (Ire.)

  1839 Lillian Mary Williams (4)

  1840 Richard Cian Seth Williams (3)

  1841 Neil Vaughn Williams (2)

  1843 Daniel Rhys Williams (February)

  Annalies and Rhys Davies

  Princess Annalies Benedickta of Saxe-Weiden, of the royal house Saxe-Coburg-Weiden, Formerly of the Principality of Saxe-Weiden.

  1842 Iefan William Davies (1)

  Chapter One

  Innesford, Cornwall, September, 1843

  The next time Anna was forced to look up from her book to rest her eyes, she peered through the window at the bleak day outside. The trees whipping past the carriage as it rolled westward were bare of leaf, their bark black with moisture, their branches dripping.

  It rained, still. Now she could see the sea—a dirty, gray expanse of water, with dark clouds scudding over the top of it. Not even gulls plied their trade.

  Anna glanced at Barstow, who sat on the opposite bench. Baby Iefan slept beside her, a small blanket over him. Barstow soothed him with soft pats. His thumb was firmly corked in his mouth.

  Barstow shook her head. “Not a peep out of the little lad, your Highness. He’s slept like a lamb. The rocking of the train helps, of course.” Barstow’s small brown eyes were warm—perhaps the warmest thing in the carriage.

  Anna pulled the thick lap rug up around her distended torso. Lately, she had been unable to rid herself of the chill.

  “It is as well he sleeps,” Anna told Barstow. “A screaming child unsettles other passengers.” She glanced at the expanse of tucked and buttoned blue velvet beside her. “Where is Mr. Davies?”

  “He said he wanted to stretch his legs,” Barstow replied. She leaned to look through the compartment door window. “There he is now,” she added.

  The door slid aside. Rhys stepped in and closed it softly. He leaned over the child beside Barstow to check on him, then slowly lowered himself onto the seat next to Anna. He put his feet out. There was not enough room for him to extend his legs properly.

  He sighed. There was no happiness in his hawk-like features. His face had always been thin. Now it seemed drawn. Even his movements were slow and deliberate. It was Anna’s fault he looked and moved the way he did.

  She put her hand in his.

  “Your hand is cold,” Rhys said, his fingers curling over hers. He studied her. “You are well?” he asked, with a note of anxiousness, his dark eyes roaming over her face.

  “As well as I may be,” Anna assured him. She put the book aside. She had lost interest in Mr. Mill’s system of logic.

  Rhys glanced at her rounded belly. His throat worked. He would not call attention to her shape or touch her while Barstow sat there, although she could see his worry.

  “I am fine,” she said softly, to take away the expression in his eyes and smooth out the furrow between them.

  “We’ll be in Truro within the hour,” Rhys told her. “Then, to Innesford as quickly as we can, with the best-sprung carriage we can find, so you are not jostled.”

  She bit her lip. “Did you send the wire ahead?”

  “From Southampton. They would have received it by now.”

  Anna swallowed. “Are you sure this is the best thing to do, Rhys? It feels so strange to be away from London.”

  “I know nothing for sure.” His voice was strained. “I only know that staying there would not have served either of us.”

  “‘tis best to be away, your Highness,” Barstow added. “London is so dirty and dreary at this time of year. Smelly, too.”

  “Because of the low water levels,” Rhys said, nodding. “The sea air will be fresh and clean. I would see pink in your cheeks once more, Anna.” His hand tightened around hers and his throat worked. “I would see you well again.” His hand lifted, toward her belly. “You and the babe, both.”

  Anna said nothing. She did not speak of the fear in her heart. She did not dare say aloud the worry that gnawed at her. Instead, she nodded.

  The train pulled into Truro within the hour as Rhys had predicted. He helped Anna step out of the carriage and over to the bench that sat beneath the notice board on the little platform. He tucked the lap rug around her once more. “Barstow, stay with Anna, please. I will find a carriage.”

  He hurried away as Barstow settled on the bench beside her, with Iefan on her knee. Iefan looked around curiously, his little mouth a perfect bow, his eyes blinking with sleep.

  The carriage was not as well-sprung as Anna had hoped, although the journey to Innesford was only a couple of miles. They were muddy and rutted miles, though. She bit her lips and clamped her jaw as each rattle shook her.

  At la
st the carriage pulled up in front of an imposing Georgian building, with two wings and many outbuildings and a luxurious garden on every side.

  “I had not realized how large Innesford was,” Anna murmured.

  “I knew the size of the estate, although square miles are meaningless until one sees them,” Rhys said. He pushed open the carriage door, as the driver cranked the brake and climbed down to the ground to help with the trunks. Rhys helped Anna to the ground, as she stepped carefully down.

  The large front door opened and the gray haired butler, Corcoran, stepped out. Right behind him came Natasha. She hurried out with her arms spread and tears spilling down her cheeks. “There you are!” she cried, her voice hoarse. She hugged Anna, bending so she did not press against her belly. Natasha was shaking.

  Anna was not used to hugging. No one she knew did it as often as Natasha and Seth did. This particular hug was more than welcome, though. Anna closed her eyes. “I’m sorry to land on you in this way. It happened so quickly—”

  Natasha stepped away from her. “No, no, you mustn’t say that. Not ever. Of course you are welcome. When I heard the news…oh, Rhys!” She turned to her brother and hugged him, too.

  Then she picked up Anna’s hand. “Come along. Inside. There is a fire and a comfortable chair and a stool for your feet. Corcoran will have your trunks put in our best guest room and one for Barstow—how are you, Barstow?”

  Barstow gave a little bob. “Thank you, my lady. Such a to-do. Little Iefan has been a wonder through it all.”

  Natasha patted Iefan’s cheek. “He looks tired, too. Perhaps, an early supper and bed?”

  “That might be best, my lady. It has been a trying few days,” Barstow admitted.

  Natasha tugged Anna into the house. The big entrance foyer soared up through dozens of feet to the roof far overhead. The majestic staircase ran around three sides of it. On the fourth side were large archways, showing comfortable rooms beyond.

  Natasha took them through the middle arch, into a large room with the promised roaring fire. The wall on the opposite side of the arch was nearly all multi-paned windows and doors, showing gray sky, gray sea and an expanse of lawn in between. A rose garden lay to the left and stables to the right, backing onto woods.

  “That is a view indeed,” Anna said. “Regardless of the weather. No wonder you pine to return every August, Natasha. It is glorious.”

  “The changeable weather ensures we never tire of it,” Natasha admitted. “By tomorrow, the sun will be out. You’ll see.” She patted a big, comfortable chair. “Here. Sit. Let’s get you settled. Rhys, perhaps you could find Corcoran or a footman and ask for tea?”

  Rhys nodded and hurried away.

  Natasha fussed with a cushion, settling it behind Anna’s back. “He looks so sad,” she murmured.

  Anna’s eyes stung. “It is all my fault. He’s worried.” She put her hand on her belly.

  “What did the doctor say, exactly?” Natasha asked, as she bent to arrange the footstool, then prop Anna’s feet on it.

  “After the pains stopped, he said I should remain in bed for the next month, until the baby is born. If it were born now, it would not survive.” She pressed her lips together as her eyes hurt, the tears flowing even though she had sworn to herself she would not cry again. “Even in a month, it would be early and a risk.”

  Natasha sat on the edge of the chair beside her and brushed her hair from her face. “Then rest you will. You must not lift a finger. You are here now and we will take care of you.” Then she smiled. “I’m so glad you came here. I know the doctor didn’t want you to travel, however, I think Rhys is right. Escaping London for a while must surely help.”

  “I think being here may do that,” Anna admitted. “It is so peaceful, Natasha. So lovely.”

  Natasha picked up her hand once more. “And for as long as you need it, it is yours,” she said softly.

  * * * * *

  It was rare for Vaughn to lose his temper. Elisa could not remember the last time he was truly angry.

  When he stalked into the house, trailing mud and scowling, she received her first hint that perhaps he had reached that rare crisis point once more.

  Vaughn slapped the riding crop on the big sideboard in the front entrance. “Elisa!”

  She put the lap secretary aside and hurried out to survey the damage to the tiles. “Oh, dear,” she breathed. “What an extraordinary amount of mud!”

  It was everywhere. Gray and runny, it daubed Vaughn’s boots to the very top and had splashed his breeches, too. Now it ran from his boots in rivulets, pooling in low points on the tiles.

  “Good Lord, what have you been doing?” Raymond said, from the first landing.

  Elisa glanced up at him. “Conversations should be held face to face,” she said gently. “It isn’t polite to make a lady crane her head. It is most certainly not proper to gaze down upon a lady from that angle. Also, William is sleeping and I would appreciate you not disturbing him. Please come down here and speak civilly.”

  Raymond grinned and skipped down the steps. “No, really,” he insisted, looking at Vaughn. “You’re a complete mess.” At eighteen, Raymond was nearly as tall as Vaughn, yet slender in a youthful way that time would correct.

  Vaughn shook his head. “Those damn royal surveyors!”

  Elisa blinked at his language. “They have blocked the drive to the road again?” she asked.

  “They have the most astonishing equipment, Mama,” Raymond told her. “I was looking at it yesterday. They have a mounted looking glass that can see far off objects—far stronger than any telescope.”

  Vaughn was scowling heavily. Elisa held her finger up, trying to silence and caution Raymond at once. “Tell me later, Raymond,” she added softly. “Was the road blocked, Vaughn?”

  “Not at all,” he said heavily and shook one of his boots, looking down at the splotches of mud collecting on the tiles beneath his heels. He pushed his hair back with an impatient sigh and for the first time Elisa realized that it was wet through. “They cleared the road just as I requested. Only since yesterday, it hasn’t stopped raining.” He glanced toward the still-open front door with an resentful expression. Beyond the door, the rain fell in a gray sheet while mist rose from the ground.

  “I’m afraid I do not understand,” Elisa told him.

  “They cleared the road of all of their equipment,” Vaughn said heavily. “As Raymond pointed out, they have the most marvelous equipment. It also weighs a bloody ton and in their efforts to clear the road yesterday, they churned it into a mud soup!” Vaughn smacked the sideboard with his open hand. “The carriage sunk down to the axles. We won’t be able to get it out with anything short of four horses and chains.”

  Raymond’s mouth turned up. “Now the road is blocked again?” His smile grew. “This time, by us?”

  Vaughn glared at him. “Precisely,” he said heavily.

  “But Vaughn, the work of mapping Scotland is so important,” Elisa pointed out. “You yourself said the team of surveyors were welcome to use Kirkaldy as a base.” She worked to keep her tone reasonable, for Vaughn was livid.

  Vaughn nodded vigorously. “It is critical work,” he said, his voice flat. “Without a proper map, Scots will continue to fight over borders and territories…official borders will help with all that. It will help with national pride and so much more. It is work that must be done. Only, we cannot live here while they are doing it. I’ve tolerated the upset for as long as I can, but no longer.” His hand on the sideboard curled into a fist, the knuckles white. “I believe we must go back to London, Elisa. Perhaps even stay there for the winter and let the surveyors do their work uninterrupted by our demands.”

  “Oh, must we really?” Raymond said, sounding horrified.

  “Shh, Raymond,” Elisa told him. She picked up Vaughn’s hand. Only in an emergency of this kind would she dream of being so familiar with Vaughn in public. “Now I understand why you are angry,” she told him gently, for Vaughn loved
Kirkaldy and the winters they spent here. To be deprived of that experience for a year was a blow.

  “I don’t want to go to London,” Raymond protested. “I should already be at Cambridge and preparing for the term.”

  “We agreed you can start your year after Christmas,” Vaughn told him, his voice growing strident.

  “Wait, both of you,” Elisa said. She dug in her pocket for the letter she had pushed in there when she heard Vaughn return to the house. “I might have a compromise.” She handed Vaughn the letter. “Natasha wrote to me. Annalies and Rhys are in Cornwall with her. They will be staying at least until Anna’s baby is born.” She touched the letter. “We should go to Cornwell, too. Natasha says there is more than enough room. William would enjoy the sea air. And I very much want to see Annalies and make sure she is quite well. It was a near thing, Natasha said.”

  “The baby?” Vaughn said, studying the letter.

  Elisa could feel her cheeks heating. “Yes, the baby,” she murmured, embarrassed that she should be discussing such matters in front of Raymond. Yet Vaughn was reading the letter. He had not instantly dismissed the idea.

  “Cornwall is where all the pirates live, isn’t it?” Raymond asked, his interest piqued.

  “A hundred years ago, they did,” Vaughn said distantly. “And they were wreckers, not pirates. Perhaps while you are at Cambridge, you might study history and make up for your ignorance.”

  “I’m better at mathematics,” Raymond admitted without shame. “Can we go to Cornwall? Please?”

  Vaughn looked up from the letter. “Perhaps a season by the sea will make up for missing Christmas here,” he told Elisa and tried to smile. “And I would like to see this Innesford that Seth keeps boasting about. Tell Natasha we will come—all of us; Raymond and Will, too.”

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