"Engaging historical romance … Known to her admirers as GRACIOUS JANE MARIE [of GraciousJaneMarie.com], the author has written a delightful story with THE GOODBYE LIE. Set in the late 1800's …, the story takes off to far away shores-and far away desires, lies, and deceit. I look forward to the next [novel in the series], VELVET UNDERTOW." - Jennifer Wardrip for RomanceJunkies.com
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About the Author
Jane Marie invites you to enter her world of lace and laughter at GraciousJaneMarie.com. Discover the fascinating Dunnigan family recorded in the historic GOODBYE LIE Series set on Amelia Island, Florida. Let her imagination embroider your realm with mysterious wanderings and delightful rainbows because Jane Marie Malcolm believes in happy endings.
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Amelia Island's VELVET UNDERTOWThe Goodbye Lie Series
By Jane Marie Malcolm
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Jane Marie Harkins Malcolm
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLate January 1889
As a few breeze-blown clouds danced over the island town of Fernandina, Florida, intense sunlight grilled every surface that lay exposed. Sunshine poured through the Dunnigan dining room window. Today, a beam was intercepted and then intensified by the new crystal bowl on Miss Ella's sideboard. A concentrated ray pinpointed Carolena's tussie mussie, left from last month's holiday dance. The dried rosettes in the small bouquet smoldered and burst into a flaming golden halo of combustion.
Burning petals spit radiant sparks onto the sugar-starched doily beneath the bowl. The crocheted cotton speckled brown. It appeared to rot and, in seconds, transformed into a glowing black patch.
The blistering heat scorched Aunt Coe's nearby letter from her new home in Charleston. The pages curled, charred, and drifted onto the Oriental carpet, catching the braided fringe along its edge. The floral design darkened as the woven rug smoked and flashed.
The thick mahogany table leg resisted the fire, fighting for survival, but after a time, it also turned torch.
Old-rose colored draperies framing the window, whose glass had welcomed the rays of destruction, caught a spark. Flame spread onto the wallpaper. Or was it thepetit point chair cushions? No matter. Each object in the room came alive to join the charge toward its demise.
The scarlet fire demon found the dining room too confining. Flames leapt onto Grammy's long braided rug in the hall and leapt again, crossing into the front parlor. Stroking the pump organ, the bellows moaned a final crackling cord. Sheet music surrendered without hesitation. Ashes floated around the room on currents of heat, landing on the green velvet sofa, the oak bookcase, the walnut desk, and Michael Dunnigan's favorite wingback chair. Family faces framed in silver blackened, then vanished, mercifully blind to the scene.
The lead flame split in the front hall. One lashing tongue entered the library and passed into the offices of Aqua Verde Passenger Line. Another raced up the carpeted stairs to the second floor. The fire punched through exploding windows, reaching for more players in its game of annihilation. Then the roof puffed smoke and blazed. The inferno seemed to sear the clouds above, changing the sky to twilight.
In less time than it had taken Michael to design his wife's pantry, their haven of three decades was swallowed by hell, and there was no one about to witness the scene but Clover, hired hand and loyal friend. All he could do was direct the horses and cows, the chickens and goat to the farthest pasture and pray the fire wouldn't catch the dry, yellowed grass and spread to his cabin, to Grammy and Peeper's little house, or to the Taylors' new home on the property. His silent plea was interrupted as he glimpsed Monstrose. The no-tail marmalade cat fled flat to the ground, his hideyhole under the front veranda suddenly and curiously very hot.
Catching Blackie-White-Spots by the collar, Clover tried to hush his barking. "Shhh, dog. Shhh. Only thing holdin' down them loose porch planks was footsteps. Guess there's no need ta worry 'bout replacin' 'em now."
Together, man and animal sat in the sand, ignoring the prickling thistles and reflecting heat to watch the conflagration. The last screw securing the veranda's plaque lost hold and the carved sign reading Dunnigan Manor, thudded onto Miss Ella's hand painted welcome timbers corralling her shriveling pansies.
"Jesus God," Clover whimpered and closed his eyes. "That seals it. We got nothin' left."
* * *
"There! I'm all done!" Nora Duffy slammed the lid on her deerskin trunk. "For the last time, Carolena, please get up. Have you even begun packing yet? You'll take forever doing it. You're too fussy about your duds, you know. I just threw in my things. I'll worry about wrinkles when we get back to Fernandina. I'm too excited to be as careful as you always are."
Not pausing to take a much-needed breath, she added, "I'm starved for some sticky buns. I'm so glad Captain Taylor insists his ships serve your family's recipes. You're not still feeling under the weather are you? I thought sure Peeper's ginger tea would settle your stomach. You look fine. Please hurry."
Carolena Dunnigan, in bed in the ship's stateroom she shared with her cousin, pushed off the covers, sat up and gulped the fresh air blowing in through the porthole. "I'm up, Nora. I'm up and feeling fine. And why are you awake before me? That's never the case."
"True, true, but today is such a lovely day, and although January means winter on the calendar, it surely feels like spring here in Florida. I'm hoping for a little romance on the beach later to go along with the fine weather. Walking barefoot, arm-in-arm ..."
Her imagination wafted away and just as quickly, she returned to the present. "Of course, I haven't a candidate with whom to share a beach moment, but one will happen along. I know he will."
The talking continued as Carolena readied herself for the new day. Jabbering was always Nora's way, and her friends got used to it. Carolena realized she'd likely miss the nonstop gabbing if it weren't a daily occurrence.
"Would you quit asking? I'm having an awful time. I can't get this darned shoe buttoned. I'm not accustomed to the handle on your hook. Wonder where the dickens mine has gone."
Impatient, Carolena struggled to secure her boot without bunching and creasing her skirts. "Honestly," she said, "I'm as anxious as you to get to the beach, but you do realize it isn't seemly to go without foot cover unless you're in a proper swimming costume, don't you? That is what you were thinking, isn't it?"
"This is 1889, for goodness sake, Cary, and it's the beach. I always walk naked." Her eyes opened in mild shock for having said such a thing. Instantly recovering, "Oh, you know what I mean. I walk barefoot no matter what I'm wearing." She added, daringly, "If anything."
Realizing Nora was unusually full of empty talk, Carolena let that particular subject pass without further comment. She said instead, "Since I only brought my small steamer trunk with me, I finished packing last evening while everyone was playing for shuffleboard champion. It just proves I wasn't missed."
"You were too missed. We thought you were strolling the upper decks with Grey. Don't tell me you were wasting your last night at sea folding dresses and stashing toiletries. Please don't tell me that."
Neither confirming nor denying, Carolena responded, "Golly Ned! Folks sure are ready to see us as a couple. Why are they always pushing us together? I admit he's handsome enough. Perhaps a little too handsome."
Nora interrupted, "Now really, whoever heard of someone being too handsome? It's completely impossible!"
"Maybe," Carolena gave in. "Even dismissing his good looks, we haven't the same interests. Where I love to read, I'd bet the last book he picked up was the dictionary, and that was only because his teacher demanded it."
"Are you being fair? I think his occupation as an engineer requires a lot of study to keep those engines and all that nasty, oily equipment running on this brand new ship or any other. By the way, don't you just love the name, Coral Crown? It really expresses the magnificence of the boat we're riding in."
"Hmm? Yes, it's quite the perfect name." Carolena was still considering differences between Grey and herself. "What about religion? I may not be as devout as some; still, it does mean a great deal to me, and I rarely see him in church."
Nora defended the gentleman, "It isn't because Grey doesn't want to attend. Being out on the ocean most Sundays gives him ample cause not to be there." Expecting an answer, she asked, "Well?"
"I suppose it's as good an excuse as any. When he is in church, his bass voice is so powerful, it's almost embarrassing."
"I don't understand why you're so critical. You never sing a note yourself."
"It's because I can't carry a tune in a bucket." Carolena recalled the time Sister Josephine, although sweet about it, had told her to move her lips when the other children were singing so no one would guess she was tone-deaf.
"You always say that. How do you know it's still true? No one's heard you sing in years. Now that you're grown, maybe you've improved. One thing's for certain, Carolena. If everyone were as reticent as you, well I'm just glad they aren't or we'd have no choir. Then the only accompaniment to the church organ would be old Mr. Winders' snoring. Bless his heart, he's so decrepit, his skin is almost transparent!"
Nora prattled on, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. A few weeks back, as we were all leaving church, I saw Uncle Michael clap Grey on the back and then say," Nora lowered her voice in imitation, "'I've got to admit, boy, you're one hymn-singin' sonofabitch.'"
"Those were his exact words! I swear!" Slightly insulted her cousin could think she would make up such a thing, Nora sighed and immediately forgot the offense. Pouring herself a glass of water from the carafe on the nightstand, she found the upholstered chair in the corner. With her legs dangling over the arm, she leaned back, sipping.
"Anyway," Carolena proceeded, "I consider myself reserved and dignified and frankly, Grey's down right bold in his deportment. Besides, he has a temper, I've heard. Any fight he's in, he's probably the one to toss the first lick."
Nora shrugged, indicating a so-what kind of reaction.
"And his choice of acquaintances, for the most part, would certainly never be invited into my parlor."
Nora judiciously gave her analysis. "I now realize your problem, Cary. You lead a constipated existence."
Astounded at such a determination, the blonde Carolena scolded the redheaded Nora. "You know how much I despise being addressed as Cary. I've told everyone, time and again, my given name is Carolena. I find it unique. So please, do me the small courtesy of abiding by my wishes. Cary just isn't the image I want to present."
Nora casually examined the twist of one of her curling tendrils. "My point exactly."
"Humph! Nevertheless, I can't see the day when Grey and I'll unite. There are simply too many differences. While we talk over anything and everything in the world when we're together, he doesn't show the least inkling of interest in me - that way. Yes, I took notice of him around town when he first arrived. Just like all the girls, I was taken by his physique. Had it not been for us working together, I doubt we'd have spoken except in passing. And that's only because my sister is married to his best friend, the all around wonderful Captain Waite Taylor," she said unreservedly. "Since Breelan and Waite built their home behind our Dunnigan Manor, Grey visits him, not me.
"I only wonder what woman will finally snag him," Carolena added. "How many times have we seen others prostrate themselves at his feet? I think it's simply degrading. He's not flattered by feminine pursuit. I see him as an aggressor, and that's how it should be."
This wasn't their first conversation along these lines, Nora realized, wondering why Cary was so brittle about things. She hoped one day her straitlaced cousin would recognize life had more to offer than reading books. There was so much romance out there for the taking. Nora smiled to herself at the thought of some young man holding her in his arms and ...
"Nora, are you listening to me?" Carolena was impatient. "Here I am telling you some of my deepest, most personal feelings, and you're not paying attention."
"I am. I am!" Nora squawked back. "Don't get in an uproar."
"I'm sorry." Carolena couldn't contain herself any longer. "Oh drat! I have to admit the truth. I'm captivated by the man and have been since the first day he walked into my line of sight. Despite our dissimilarities, what I really, truly want is to find common ground, solid enough to support a mutual love."
Glad her cousin had fessed up to what they both already knew, Nora instructed, "You're going about this backwards, Cary. Did you ever think love might be the common ground and the obvious differences between you would only enhance that love? Make it more entertaining, more fertile and enjoyable somehow?"
"I guess we'll never know because up to this point, there's been no spark from him to ignite the love, let alone any flirting with me. To Grey McKenna, I'm a capable, intelligent woman and a good friend. It's normally not my fashion to tease. Seems I've changed because when he's around me, I'm like any other lovesick female. I have to force myself to smother my coquettish leanings. Were he to reject me ..." She shuddered once. "Dunnigan pride is a power unto itself, so with all my strength, I refrain from initiating any intimacy between us. And I'll continue to deny my attraction to him to everyone, except you. Needless to say, I have your word this conversation between us is private?"
Nora nodded, honored Carolena had confided in her. She picked up a magazine to occupy herself while the troubled woman she loved like a sister quietly straightened the bedclothes on both beds.
Daydreaming as she worked, Carolena hoped for all the writing and all the talking of it, there was more to love than the tingle of a random kiss. She craved to encounter all aspects of passion, and for her, passion was Grey McKenna.
She wouldn't let herself dwell on it further. Turning to Nora, "Now, about last evening. After I packed my trunk, I got restless. Since I'd read all the books I brought from home and I'd already been through what would be the ship's library while they were building her, I went for a walk. I wanted to think. I'm working on the new yacht for that musician from Charleston. He seems impatient to get our ideas. As I understand it, he has the fortune to expect quick results. Though this trip's been wonderful, it's put a crimp in the business of design. It's made me fall behind schedule."
"Carolena! You're simply too dedicated for your own good. Captain Taylor and your dear father, Uncle Michael, took the time off and pleasure owed them for having worked so unceasingly to get this ship through her sea trials before she was christened at the beginning of the year. Now here we are, family and friends, enjoying her first-ever private sailing. It's the only chance we'll have this beauty all to ourselves. She goes public next week, as you know. Why can't you take a break from your all-consuming job until we get home?"
Nora took hold of Carolena's arm to still her. "And why can't you let the maids tidy our room? You'll put them out of work, for holy sakes!"
"Don't be a silly-billy. They'll change the linens and clean the staterooms once we dock in Fernandina, the same as they'll do for all passengers each day at sea. I'm so fussy about the way things look because the responsibility for the embellishment of these rooms, of the whole ship, was left to me. I have a hard time seeing them less than just right. I guess I consider them like my, um, pets."
Nora eyed Carolena then scrutinized their compartment, taking in the comforters of gold threaded brocade, which shown as the sun's rays set them sparkling.
"I almost said I consider them like my children. However, never having had any babies, I'll not use that comparison."
"If you don't take some time for yourself, you'll never get the chance to have those children with Grey or any man for that matter." Nora had started; she might as well speak her mind. Now seemed the perfect opening. "And while we're on the subject, I must tell you, I'm ashamed of you."
Caught off guard, Carolena pricked her ears. "Ashamed of me?"
"Yes, ma'am. I haven't told a soul before this, but I'm at the end of my rope with you. May I elaborate?"
"Please do." Carolena readied herself for Nora's onslaught.
"You're sullen so much of the time, and you're, you're just plain dull! You act superior and talk superior. You're impatient and curt and can take the fun out of everything. We all try to include you, encourage you to join in. Often, you seem as if you can't be bothered. You're so stiff, you look like you'll crack. You make everyone around you uncomfortable. You act like we're all stupid, and we're not, none of us." Tears were in Nora's eyes. "It's because I love you I say this. Carolena Michelle Dunnigan, you're a bore!"
Hurt, the accused never thought to defend herself. Her reply was simple. "I never realized."
Nora went on while the target of her words closed her ears and again became pensive. She was used to being criticized for working too hard, too intently, but never had anyone called her a bore! A bore?
She made a silent examination of her recent past. Since graduating from Florida Women's College in Tallahassee, Carolena desperately needed to dedicate her life to something. A body could only tolerate so much housekeeping and cooking and stitching, especially when done in the family residence. She was long past ready to have a home to call her own. She had toyed with the idea of moving to a room in Mrs. Steinberg's boarding house in town, a few miles away. But her parents carried on so, it hardly seemed worth upsetting them. As an incentive to keep her at home, the entire attic, except for a quarter left for storage, was converted to a spacious bedroom. She had planned it, and her father had two of his ship's carpenters execute the work. So, in theory, she did have her own place. Of course, the entire family, including her Grammy and Peeper, as well as Nora's parents, Aunt Noreen and Uncle Clabe Duffy, were all aware of her comings and goings. There was little privacy.
Excerpted from Amelia Island's VELVET UNDERTOW by Jane Marie Malcolm Copyright © 2009 by Jane Marie Harkins Malcolm. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was "there" in the story with Velvet Undertow. Especially the flood. I could smell the stench, and taste the water, and feel the fear and hopelessness. The Goodbye Lie [1st book in The Goodbye Lie series] was great and kept me reading. I was unable to put it down. Velvet Undertow was even more so that way. I was living Carolena's life with her.