Prologue from Book 1 of the Darkes of Penzance series
by K. R. Richards
Penzance, Cornwall 1845
Every other Thursday for the past three years Captain Jonas Darke took a phaeton from his fine gentleman’s residence, Trevena House, just outside Penzance, into the town proper to number four Regent Square. He called upon the young widow, Mrs. Loveday there. On a fine day, the couple would walk along Chapel Street, maybe even the Promenade. They might pause for an ice or stop in at the Book Sellers. Afterward, they would return to Regent Square where Captain Darke, now eight years maimed and able to walk only with the use of a cane would take tea or an early supper with the widow then take his leave and return alone to Trevena House.
On a cold, bleak, winter’s day, such as this, the residents of Penzance were left to wonder what the widow and the Captain did with their afternoons. Mrs. Loveday, a widow for four years past, in her younger years was considered quite the loveliest young woman in Penzance, with dark blue eyes the color of the Cornish sea during a storm, dark brown hair and fair, unblemished skin. When she came out, she was rumored to have been called a diamond of the first water her first months in London, before her father arranged her marriage to Henry Loveday.
Captain Darke, considered quite a catch in his day, was still quite handsome with dark hair, eyes, and a fit figure, excepting for his crushed leg. Though still involved with shipping and ship building as all the Darkes were, his days as a daring sea Captain and rake about London were long behind him. In truth, he was now more of a recluse.
One rarely saw Captain Darke in Penzance proper, unless it was to see him enter the offices of Darke, Darke & Co or on a Thursday with the young widow on his arm. The same could be said for the widow, Louisa Loveday, although she did visit the unfortunate women at the almshouse weekly and attended services at the church. She shopped at the market occasionally, but mostly her butler or cook performed such tasks.
There were whispers that residents of Regent Square were more attentive to the goings on in the Square every other Thursday. Some even made a point to stay home on those days and tended to remain near the front windows so they might have a good view of the street and number four. None could ever say they saw anything untoward taking place in the front parlour of Mrs. Loveday’s house. Occasionally, there was a glimpse of the misfit couple sitting across the small tea table from one another. Those Regent Square residents with very sharp sight might see the widow passing the Captain a cup of tea.
He was a man cut down in his prime, after all, who had no prospects of marriage after the horrible accident that left him crippled. He was no doubt lonely living in his grand and spacious gentleman’s residence outside of town. His elegant home offered lush gardens and land, but no companionship save that of his Uncle, Aunt, and cousins when they visited.
Poor Louisa Loveday, widowed as practically a new bride, was married just a few years really. Loveday left her childless, with only a small, yet neat and fashionable house on Regent Square. It was rumored Mr. Loveday left very little money behind, scarcely enough to pay for a cook, butler and allow much for her to live on. There had been many whispers, even before his death, that Henry Loveday, handsome though he was, was a gamester and womanizer.
So on this cold and dreary morning, Mr. and Mrs. Leake in number three Regent Square, and the Misses Symonds in number five were not paying particular attention when the Captain’s carriage, not his phaeton as was the custom, rolled into the square. However, once they realized it was the Captain indeed arriving at number four, they were instantly attentive. Other neighbors took note as well.
It was exactly two hours earlier than his normal arrival time, which gave the Misses Symonds some cause for concern. True, it was a windy, drizzly day and the Captain did sometimes arrive in a carriage when the weather was foul, but it was not the Captain’s habit to call during the morning hours.
The inhabitants of Regent Square thought the deviation from the normal quite odd. That he was in a carriage, not a phaeton was one thing, but it was another thing entirely that Captain Darke was indisputably early.
The suspense increased when he did not step down, but sent his footman to the door in his stead. Those who were at home on this particular Thursday morning, were now at their parlour windows, eagerly watching this extraordinary event unfold.
The growing number of residents congregating at the front windows about Regent Square were left open-mouthed when she, Louisa Loveday, exited number four in a slate blue gown. More than one lady remarked that the young widow wore only dark somber colors. Even more shocking, the Captain’s footman stepped into the foyer of number four and brought a small trunk with him, placing it into the boot of Captain Darke’s carriage.
What was this? What could this mean? The buzzing of excited voices could nearly be heard travelling aloft from house to house throughout the Square.
As the fine carriage left the terraced houses of Regent Square behind and turned onto Abbey Street, heading toward Chapel Street, practically all of the residents had witnessed the widow and the Captain sitting side by side in the carriage, not across from one another as they usually did.
The inhabitants rushed into their narrow front gardens and excitedly speculated amongst themselves what it all could mean.
By the time they took their evening meals in the small but fashionable dining rooms in Regent Square, all of Penzance Society knew that Captain Darke and Mrs. Loveday had stopped by the church and exchanged their vows. It was reported that a quarter of an hour after the ceremony concluded, Captain Darke’s carriage took them to the gloriously modern and fashionable residence, Trevena House, atop the bluff outside of town.
Many remarked the next day that the conversation at every table in Penzance that evening was of Captain and Mrs. Darke.
Penzance was abuzz. There hadn’t been such excitement in the town since Melissa Emonds eloped with Jory Davis five years before; excepting of course when the Davis’s babe was born a mere seven months later. (Calendars were duly marked in the event the new Mrs. Darke should have a child soon.)
The Captain and the Widow must have been in love! Perhaps all this time he was romancing her. It could be they were so lonely, they simply married for company, to ease the boredom of their dark and dreary days that stretched endlessly before them? Neither one had any other prospects really.
The ladies tended to romanticize everything while the gentlemen might remark to one another in the public houses or one of the clubs in the evening that the Captain was a man, maimed leg or no, and the widow had always been, and still was, quite handsome with a fine figure.
Yet, as the days passed, the ladies and even the gentlemen in Penzance wondered what really happened between Captain Jonas Darke and Mrs. Louisa Loveday. No one knew exactly what it was that brought the couple together. Wouldn’t it be just dreadful if they never knew the reason? Well, they certainly couldn’t allow that happen.
Book 1 of the Darkes of Penzance series will be released late 2014.
Lords of Atonement, the final installment of the Lords of Avalon series will be released in Summer 2014!
The Rake of St. Nectan’s Glen, book 1 of the Cornish Rakes
Gideon had to remember what happened that day. He had to know if what he dreamt had truly happened twelve years ago. It seemed returning home had made him see all of the selfish errors he made in the past that he had either forgotten or never realized. Actions that hurt his family and Phoebe. He was determined to make amends for all of his mistakes. Every last one of them.
Deep in thought, he strolled along the footpath beside the river Trevillet that lead through the ancient forest of the Glen. He didn’t realize he was close until he heard the roar of the falls just ahead. He was anxious to see the Kieve. He and Phoebe spent much time there together during their childhood. Some of his fondest memories had been at the waterfall with her. He could not remember coming to the place since that day in question long ago. He had come to the waterfall today in hopes it would help him remember the details of the incident that tormented him. The occurrence that last night’s disturbing dream had brought to the forefront.
In his younger years, he always thought of the Kieve as their special place. He walked toward the spot he knew would afford him a view of the waterfall as it plunged way down to the deep rock basin below. After the water swirled within the confines of the stone basin, it rushed through a large hole, shaped like a perfect circle, forming a wide, shallow pool below. Surrounded by walls of slate on three sides, the water moved through the pool and swirled around a bend. It spilled over rocks then ran swiftly along out of sight, where it continued through the wood and past an old mill toward Rocky Valley where it rushed and cascaded through the slippery, slate canyon and emptied into the sea.
When he reached the vantage point where fern and ivy tangled and hung down the rock walls alongside the falls, he heard the tinkling of laughter.
His gaze moved immediately to the pool beyond. There he saw her. Phoebe laughed as her dog splashed about her, a large stick in his mouth. She tugged on it and eventually the canine let go. She threw the stick to the other side of the pool. The dog bounded through the water after it. Again she laughed.
“Good boy,” she rewarded the returning chestnut colored dog with a pat on the head.
The edges of her cream-colored skirts were pulled up and tied loosely about her waist. She had tried to hike up her petticoats also, but without as much success. A pair of quite gorgeous calves, slender and shapely, peeked from beneath her dampened petticoats. When she squatted down and began examining rocks she pulled from the bottom of the shallow pool, he realized just how her calves had come to be so well formed. She seemed perfectly at ease in that position. He guessed she spent a great deal of time squatting exactly like that while working with her father and brother in their archaeological pursuits.
As was quite a common occurrence with Phoebe, her unruly, dark reddish-brown curls had fallen from her hairpins and cascaded down her back. Visions from his dream and snatches of his memory assaulted him. There would be tiny droplets from the fall’s mist clinging to her wild curls as well as her eyelashes.
Memories of sweet, tender kisses from that day long ago, when their young love blossomed at this very spot, flooded into his mind. He pushed them away. As was also a common occurrence when he was near Phoebe, his senses were alive. He teetered in a near state of arousal.
He decided not to spoil such a beautiful moment. God knew he had made a mess of things already. He felt like an intruder. He would leave her to her privacy and go back the way he had come. He was about to turn away and walk back through the ancient wood alone when the exquisite canine noticed his presence. His barks echoed in the magical space enclosed by slate walls.
Phoebe looked up, alarm marring her features at first. Her frown disappeared when she recognized him. She smiled, waving up at him.
“Gideon! You’ve come to the Kieve, I see.” Phoebe had to search for words. She was surprised to see him here. She hadn’t slept well. She was plagued by dreams and memories after seeing him yesterday. She left her bed at daybreak and came to the falls. It was still her special place, even long after Gideon left St. Gerwyn’s Manor.
She rose from her squatting position. Remembering her skirts and petticoats were hiked up, she started to fuss with them and pulled the corners of fabric down so Gideon would not see her bare calves. He would no doubt disapprove of her appearance. Since Gideon left twelve years ago, she had often seen the disapproval in his eyes when he looked her way during one of his brief visits to Cornwall. Her foot slipped on a slick stone, and she fell backwards, landing in the pool on her backside with her knees bent in front of her.
“Oh, heavens,” she grumbled. Of all the times to take a tumble.
Anubis splashed around her, sniffing and kissing her.
“I’m fine, boy. I’m fine.” Embarrassment flamed upon her cheeks. Mr. Proper London Gentleman would not be impressed. She sighed heavily. It did not matter.
Anubis dropped his stick in her lap and smiled at her, his tongue lolling before he let go a high-pitched bark. She laughed and threw the stick as far as she could so that she might try to get up without the hound hovering over her.
With Anubis out of the way, she saw Gideon, dressed in his dashing London finery, coming down the steep slate-stepped path to get to her.
“Oh, Gideon, please, I am fine. If you come down here, you will surely ruin your boots and fine clothes. I can get up on my own, I assure you.”
He did look fine. His dark brown hair was neatly combed and his brown coat, probably the closest he had to country wear, fit him perfectly. His waistcoat was green and gold silk. His intricately knotted cravat was quite out of place in such a tiny hamlet in North Cornwall. She didn’t miss how well his buff trousers fit his long, powerful legs or the high shine of his black boots. Gideon had always been handsome, he was more so now if that were possible. Even with the stubble of whiskers along his jaw and chin.
“Stay where you are Phoebe. I’ll not leave a lady on her arse in a pool. I shall help you.”
Phoebe sighed heavily. She remained where she was. She assumed Gideon was as stubborn as he used to be, and there was no ladylike way to get up on her own.
“Gideon, take care. It is very slippery if you will remember,” she said as she saw him slip slightly as he stepped into the pool.
“I remember, Phoebe.” He waded toward her, the water swirling about his shiny boots. He stepped upon an unstable rock. It was mossy and proved to be as slippery as glass. His leg slid out from under him. He tried to right himself. That action resulted in him falling forward, arms flailing. He fell into the pool.
He landed with his face partly in the water, between Phoebe’s bent legs. He realized he was looking at the part of her anatomy that had kept him awake all night. It was there just inches from his face, covered by her sodden skirts, but there. Nothing like getting to the root of the problem.