Twenty-year-old Rein Pierson dreams of seeing the ocean on a steamboat and convinces her good friend Saria Kendrick to accompany her to America. In 1843, the two friends and their escort Edgar Johan embark on their adventure. Rein is only too pleased to leave her past behind.
Once aboard the ship, Rein meets Traith Harker, a shy, handsome man with scars who has lost his memory. Traith seems like the embodiment of her dreams, but like everything else she uncovers, he harbors a deep secret. As mysteries unfold, Rein finds herself in a whirlwind of emotion-confused about her growing love for the dashing but mystifying Traith, frightened by his secret that reveals a supernatural world encroaching upon her own, and heartbroken as tragedy disrupts her voyage.
Weaving a uniquely dark tale of love, intrigue, and acceptance, Insperatus narrates a historical romance rewritten by the paranormal.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
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InsperatusAn unrelenting love. An undeniable destiny
By kelly varesio
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Kelly Varesio
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe town was filled with the common bustling and busyness of life. Ladies held umbrellas high to shade their delicate skin from a blistering sun, and gentlemen walked with them, their suits fashioned to please. It was a rather common-man town, but it was a wealthy one nonetheless. The houses were quaint and lovely; gates were swung open and carriages were stationed elegantly along the roads; fields stretched across the plains with horses running blithely among the moss. In the midst of the town activity, the town's surgeon ran the hospital, the bank was flourishing, the grocer and baker's shop were eventful, the wine house and auction barn had its customers. There was even a learning institution near Sherwood Street called Barnard that was thriving.
It was May of 1843, and just past the boarding school, across the railroad tracks, Rein Pierson bent over to brush the dust from her dress. She stood straight, looking up at the sky and squinting. The weather in Teesdale was warm and the sky was clear, but it was dreadfully windy, and she had no umbrella or hat to shade her. She did not mind the sun, however, or darkening her skin in it. The weather was too gorgeous to hide from.
Despite enjoying the sun, the wind was so frustratingly fierce that it stirred the dirt from the road high into the air, making her cough. Her hair had been pulled back in a chignon, but she realized she had not made it tight enough. All she could see were the black, wavy wisps of her hair pulled from their placement as they tangled and blew into her eyes. Pushing them behind her ears, she lifted her dress above her ankles to walk across the wide, dirt road.
Opening a large iron gate, she saw old Jonathan Kendrick tip his hat to her. He was hunched over and sweating while raking his yard, as he did every day, around his prized flowers and small trees. He chose to do it himself over his servants.
"Good day, Rein," he said to her as he propped his arm on the rake, wiping his tanned forearm across his face.
She smiled back in greeting. "Afternoon, Mr. Kendrick. How are you today?"
He glanced up at the beaming sunlight, his heavily wrinkled eyes bunching up. He laughed looking back at her. "Ah, I'm well, dear girl, not granting the sun being hotter today than it should be, but I can see you do not mind it." Rein smiled as he took another break of laughter. "Is it Saria you're looking for?"
"Yes," she replied, shading her eyes with her hand. "Is she home?"
"She's most likely waiting for you, dear girl! Check around by the garden. She spends all day in that garden of hers behind the estate."
Rein smiled at him again and thanked him with a nod. She let go of her dress, letting it fall and drag in the dirt, and walked around the back of the estate into the garden.
Saria, a small, thin girl, sat in the garden with her head tilted to the side. She was almost hidden between the ivy and the different sorts of flowers she was watching from the bench. Her parasol was high and her bonnet large, shading her well from the sun. Her dark, braided hair was neatly tied in a ribbon, and she was in a most elaborate dress. She motioned for Rein to come near, but as she approached Saria's face grew grim with shock.
"Rein!" she called with frantic distress, sitting tall and slapping her hands on her thighs. "Dear Rein! What are you doing to your dress?"
Rein looked down at herself and laughed a little. "It is an old dress, Saria."
"An old dress especially! It is much too beautiful and antique to be dragging in the garden! Look at the bottom of it—already filthy!"
Rein blinked a few times as her hair blew into her eyes again. "Why do you worry so about my dress?" she asked, taking a seat next to Saria on the garden bench.
"Oh, please do not make me say it!" Saria huffed with intolerance.
Rein smiled. "I merely came to ask you if you've spoken with your father yet."
"Oh, please, Saria, the trip! Have you spoken to him about the trip?"
Saria looked bemused for a moment, but then sighed with a giggle. "I did, I did, yes. Have you written to your own father?"
"I don't need to write to him," Rein answered impatiently. "He is still in France, and I'm sure he won't respond. He hasn't for fourteen years."
Saria looked sad for a moment. "You want this much to leave?" she asked with a sigh. "America is beautiful, I am sure, but I do not think your idea of leaving England for it is suitable enough for my parents."
Rein stared down at her feet. "It isn't that I want to go to America. I just want to see the ocean, on a ship. Visit a place far from here—"
"Oh, Rein! Can you not give up these dreams of yours? We're meant to be here! We are barely even allowed to travel around the town, let alone to another country!" She sighed. "Rein, it's hard to have a serious conversation with you when you are so careless and obstinate about your attire! Look at you; you're dustier than an ox! Your beautiful face is filthy and your dress—"
"Is dress all you can think about?" Rein asked with a moan. Her smile won Saria over. "I've looked into it," she continued on, forgetting Saria's distaste. "I've spoken to Mr. Harold, the baker, and he said he's been there. It's wonderful. He said there is a port as close as Easington."
"But we have no reason to go," Saria replied, her green eyes looking hopeless. "Can I do nothing to change your mind?"
"Saria, it's only a trip. Only for a little while. Imagine seeing the ocean on a steamboat! Wouldn't it be wonderful?" Rein looked at Saria's father on the front lawn. "I have no one to stop me from going. My father has no choice. I have been out of Barnard long enough to do what I please. I have the money."
"You know that my parents tried very hard to get you out of that boarding school to live with us, but your father—" Saria cleared her throat, and then she smiled. "And I must agree, Rein, that I would enjoy a trip away from here." Her smile became mischievous. "And I am going with you ... I'm just trying to persuade you to stay."
"Persuade me to stay?" Rein repeated, still pushing the lingering thought of Barnard from her mind. "Why persuade me?"
She slid her hand across her head to make sure her hair was in place. "I don't know. I just think it's an insensible notion. I do want to go with you, though." With a bite of her bottom lip and a teasing smile she pulled three pieces of paper from her hand purse.
"I've even made arrangements," she said slyly.
Rein's eyes widened and she smiled with overjoyed delight. "Tickets? You have tickets? You rag, Saria! You love to torment me, don't you? Well when? When are we going?"
"Tomorrow! I've talked to my father and he'll take us. Well, to the ship, anyway. Edgar, one of our senior butlers, is going to come with us. But knowing him, he'll leave us plenty be, and—"
"Saria, that's so wonderful!" Rein said, hopping off the bench and throwing her arms around Saria. "You already have tickets—my goodness!"
"Apparently it's one of the finest ships there are," Saria said, pulling away. She looked down and brushed off her bodice. "Oh, Rein! Look what you've done, hugging me like that! My dress is nearly covered in dirt!"
"I don't have a bit of dirt on me," Rein said with frustration. "I don't understand why you pester me so much!"
Saria sighed and then giggled, throwing her arms around Rein despite the dirt. "Oh, I love you just as you are, Rein! You beautiful piece of God's creation! You should just learn to work with your beauty instead of working against it. If only we were blood sisters, perhaps I'd have a slight chance of having as much beauty as you!"
"Don't say such a silly thing, ever. You're perfectly handsome! And tomorrow will be fine—great!" she said with a laugh, turning and making her way toward the front of the house. "We'll have so much fun together! It will be worth it, I promise."
"I am sure it will be."
"My! I have to pack!" Rein burst with excitement. "You will enjoy it, won't you?" she called, turning around to face her friend.
"Yes, of course I will. It just isn't common for women to leave home. We have everything we need. I'm not yet nineteen and you're barely twenty. We've still time to find nice gentlemen, marry, have children—" Saria stopped abruptly. "Oh, my! Nice gentlemen will be absolutely abundant on a steamship, won't they?" She clapped her hands together. "And any on a steamship ought to be rich, too, you know."
Rein shook her head with a grin. "Sometimes your intentions worry me."
Saria laughed. "Well then I shall meet you at your gate a little after noontime with my father. Is that all right? Then we can have lunch before we go."
"That's perfect," she returned. With a wave of her hand, Rein turned and exited through the iron gate, full of excitement for the next morning.
Chapter TwoThe sky was black with night, and the combination of the ocean mist and the downpour was freezing on Rein's face. There was a beautiful full moon that lit the ocean's surface enough to see the boat's reflection in the water. But a thick fog made it hard to see any farther than a yard or two. Despite the chilling downpour, the waves were rather calm. She shivered; her skin was crawling with chills. She was on the small boat with only Saria, Mr. Kendrick, Edgar, a skipper, and a small rowing crew. Despite the terrible weather, Rein did not complain about having to ride on a dinghy for a few miles to the new steamship that would eventually take her to America.
They'd arrived at Easington port late, and it was mainly because of Mr. Kendrick's slow going. The Olde Mary, their ship, had already taken off. Fortunately a skipper had approached them and, for an extra pound, said he would ride them to their ship on his dinghy—he said the Olde Mary had only been absent port twenty minutes or so. As absurd as the skipper's notion sounded, they accepted the offer, and were told that the Olde Mary was a most beautiful and high-class ship.
Reviewing what happened, Rein hoped it was not an illegitimate deal. The skipper was talking to Mr. Kendrick as they rode, and Saria was holding an umbrella above her head, but both she and Rein could see that it wasn't doing much good. Rein had brought only a small suitcase filled with a few dresses and belongings she thought would be needed for the voyage, but Saria had two large bags, full to the buckle. Edgar was holding them for her.
Rein pulled her cloak closer, and although it was wet, it stopped some of the chill. She continued gazing ahead. Any moment. They had been on the sea long enough ...
Rein leaned forward, straining to see through the fog. There it was; her heart skipped a beat when she saw the ship suddenly appear through the fog. Her eyes widened at the sight of it, for it was massive in size; bigger than any she had ever seen or heard of. Two large sails were blowing high above the smoke stacks, and it was tall and dark.
No wake was left in its path. This relieved Rein since it affirmed that the ship wasn't moving, and she was reassured that the deal she had made was, indeed, honest. The ship seemed to have seen them arriving behind.
The skipper moved aside and opened a drop on the side of his small boat. It was directly next to a step that led to a long stairway on the side of the massive ship.
"Yeh must go," he said loudly, over the rain and beating water. "We mustn't be much of an hindrance to em. Tisn't often ships stop and accept more passengers like this."
Saria turned and held her father. "I'll return soon. This is a wonderful chance for Rein, and I've always been so curious." She moved her umbrella up and threw her arm around him, kissing him before her departure.
"Have a wonderful trip, dears," he said. "Please take care! Watch them well, now, Edgar!"
The butler smiled from beside them, his arms full with only Saria's belongings. "Aye, Master Kendrick, of course!"
Saria's bony, old father waved one more time and held up his cap until he and the dinghy disappeared into the murkiness.
Rein looked around at the deck after climbing the stairwell, and just when she had gotten truly drenched, the downpour slowed into a slight drizzle. Through the mist, lit by the moon, a figure came into her view.
He was a hunched ghost of a man who was hardly visible, even in the moonlight. He wore an old commander's uniform, faded and frosted as if it hadn't been touched or washed for years. Two epaulets hung on his shoulders, a begrimed color of gold. His faded cap was torn in three spots, and though the brim was black and metallic, it was dull. But it was his eyes that made it hard for Rein to swallow; they were entirely white.
She heard Edgar murmur, "Oh dear," as she turned to Saria. He had caught sight of the eyes, too. Saria appeared a little shocked at the sight of them.
The old man's grin was twisted and snarled, and he opened what seemed to be a black door made of some sort of metal. It shrieked as he opened it.
"We saw the dinghy following us," the man said as to charm. "We're happy to have more passengers. I apologize for not being in port. Welcome to the Olde Mary."
Saria returned a cautious smile and Rein thanked him timidly. They followed him into the ship, a dank smell of salt filtering from the deck.
Rein brushed the water off her cloak and followed quietly after the man. He walked unhurriedly and with a limp, holding a candle he had taken from a sconce. His features were sunken in his face, and white hair curled out in a frizzy mass under his captain's hat.
When Rein reached the hallway, the salty, mildewed smell of the deck transformed into the more pleasant smell of cedar. She tried not to think about her upset stomach as she continued to follow the man. It felt like it was blistering with the unintentionally ingested rainwater she had partly consumed outside.
At that exact moment, Rein felt her breath escape her. She was treading on unexplored territory. There was only a butler whom she did not know with them. Saria's father was much too old to attend such a trip, and her two brothers were already married and had families of their own. Rein had no family as far as she knew, except her father: the man who left her when she was little. She had no brothers, sisters, cousins ...
She wiped a wet tangle of hair from her face as if to push away her thoughts. Their eerie greeter led them through another door into a large, dim atrium.
"It is very odd that a dinghy would follow us for passage," he murmured from pursed, wrinkled lips. "Were you that desperate for a ride?"
"Not at all," Saria answered. "But we had just missed you, and that skipper had given us an excellent review of your vessel." She looked around at the intricate woodwork of the foyer. "I see he was not wrong."
Saria looked at Rein and smiled, and Edgar trailed behind them quietly, his top hat crooked from the wind. He was a portly man, and rather short. His face had all the joy of the world portrayed within it, but he stayed as quiet as a church mouse unless spoken to.
Rein returned Saria's smile, but her wary nature was still in full stride. Why did she feel the need to be so cautious? She laughed to shake off her apprehension. Saria did too, then.
She finally took in the beauty of the ship's interior. There were old chess tables that stood around the lobby, their games only half finished, pawns sitting undisturbed. Antique chairs and sofas were around the lobby with tables between them, and a lit fireplace stretched to the right of them, tall and made of stone. Suitcases, top hats, and canes were propped up against it. Two rocking chairs sat in front of the fireplace, slightly creaking back and forth, yet no one was sitting in them. The lighting there was very soft.
There were passengers sitting on couches reading torn books, staring coldly at them, but conversation was going on nonetheless. The cedar smell faded off as Rein, Saria, and Edgar left the hallway behind them. A chill struck Rein. For a 'spectacular ship,' the interior seemed years old.
Excerpted from Insperatus by kelly varesio Copyright © 2012 by Kelly Varesio. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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