Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blog Tour: The Forgiven Duke

Chapter Two

Holy Island, Northumberland, England—September, 1818
Clink. Clunk.
The wind blew a misting sea spray into Alexandria’s face as she picked her way across the rocky shore of her home on Holy Island. She paused, listening for the location of the sound against the gentle patter of the rain.
Clink. Clunk.
The sound roused her already keen sense of curiosity, knowing that it was new, something different that didn’t belong on her beach. She veered to the right and climbed over a large boulder, thankful for the light of a full yellow moon. Her mind swam with possibilities and her heart sped up with the beginnings of a new adventure. What if the object making that sound was an old bottle with a letter inside? Mayhap the author of such a letter had decided to end his poor life and she would be the one person who discovered why. Or even better, a bobbing treasure box from the wreckage of a pirate’s ship. Her generous lips curved into a smile as she imagined opening the brine-encrusted lid to reveal golden coins, no—glittering jewels—a jade emerald the size of a nightingale’s egg.
Lifting the hem of her thin nightdress to better gauge her footing, she picked her way toward the rocky incline. Much of the beach was flat with small, dull-hued rocks and a little sand, but the sound was coming from a low outcropping of stone. She hurried toward the jagged precipice, eased herself onto her stomach, and peered over the edge into the dark sea below.
Alex sucked in her breath as she saw the cause of the noise. Rolling white. Turning with the slapping waves. She reached down, not bothering to stop and consider what she was doing, and stretched out her hand. There. Her eyes squeezed shut as her fingertips brushed the smooth surface. She stretched farther, her toes curling into the sand as a drifting anchor, and then it was in her hand. She scrambled to her feet and lifted the pale, glowing object toward the moonlight, almost dropping it in her shock.
It was a skull. A broken skull. The face intact, like a mask, but the back of its head was missing.
Alex turned it back and forth, a hundred new questions forming in her mind. Was it a child? A young woman? From what faraway place had it come?
“The poor dear,” she muttered as she lifted the skull toward her face and peered—eye to eye—through the blank sockets. Alex blinked…and then blinked again through the ancient spy glasses as her gaze swept the hazy, mist-shrouded horizon. She stopped. It couldn’t be. She slowly lowered the skull and gasped.
A ship.
Alex ran up the steep incline of the rocky hill toward the castle that was her home. Much of the castle was uninhabitable, but the family had salvaged and repaired the great hall and several smaller rooms for bedchambers. Centuries ago the castle had been a first line of defense for northern England against the Scots, but it was eventually attacked and overrun by Vikings—nasty pirates who had destroyed the monastery.
In those days, ships were common on Holy Island’s shores, but it had been decades since anything other than local fishing boats bobbed on the North Sea, and Alex could not ever remember a visitor gracing their small village that had not come from the land route. That is until now. With the ship growing bigger and bigger before her eyes, she knew someone was indeed coming and they would be asking for the lord and lady of the castle.
That thought had her running in earnest through the old great hall and then up the stone steps to her bedchamber. She still clutched the skull and paused on the threshold of her room to look down at it. What if the ship had something to do with this? Perhaps they were murderers come back to kill them all!
She shoved the skull underneath her pillow at the same time reaching for the ancient sword propped against the wall beside her bed. She brandished it in front of her, or rather tried to. The thing was so heavy she only managed one swipe through the air before it fell with a thud onto her bed. Oh, well. Little good one sword would do against a ship full of murdering pirates. If only the castle’s cannon still worked.
Turning from that thought she pulled her nightdress over her head, rushed toward the armoire, and flung the doors wide. She stood, baffled, at her simple dresses. There wasn’t anything of elegance or refinement here. If she showed up to greet them in any of this garb, they would hardly believe she was the lady of the castle. Then again, maybe she should pose as a servant or the chatelaine perhaps, and give over the castle willingly to protect the villagers.
No, she shook her head. She was a Featherstone and a Featherstone would never take the coward’s way out.
Another idea stopped her short. Her breath caught at the thought. Dare she? With a small smile she turned from the armoire and rushed from the room.
The door to her mother and father’s bedchamber was closed. A sudden stab of sadness shot through her heart. They had been gone so long this time. And no letter in months. She took a deep breath and pulled up her chin. No time to feel sorry now.
She turned the knob. The creaking hinges groaned against the silence. Moonlight spilled into the room from a long, narrow window. She glanced at the bed, the coverings thick with dust. Why had no one kept the room clean? It wasn’t like Ann, the castle’s housekeeper, to shirk her duties. Unless of course the rumors were true. That her parents were never coming back. That they had met with some misfortune and were— No. She wouldn’t believe a village soothsayer and a bunch of foreboding gossips. She would continue to pray and believe in God’s power to save. And anyway, she would know, deep in her heart; if something had happened to them, she would have a feeling of it, and she did not have that feeling.
Turning from the thoughts, she ran, near blind, over to her mother’s large armoire and opened the doors. Her hand shook a little and she bit down on her lower lip as she reached into the back and drew out a faded blue satin gown. It was old, older than she at twenty, but still lovely. It had been her mother’s wedding gown. Alex held the garment up to her chest and took a deep breath. It should fit perfectly.
After donning the dress, she sat at her mother’s low dressing table. A mostly empty jewelry box sat on one corner. Alex dragged it toward her and opened the lid. Inside was a small set of combs with paste jewels looking like tiny emeralds and blue sapphires along the edge. With practiced ease she twisted her long, dark hair into a knot that was slightly askew and secured it with the combs.
She leaned forward and studied her reflection, hoping she looked older and authoritative. Arched, dark brows over large, pale blue eyes. An oval face of classic lines with a small, straight nose and full lips. She pinched some color into her pale cheeks and then shrugged at herself in the mirror. She always had looked younger than her years. She would just have to brazen it out.
Now to awaken Ann and Henry, the servants who were now so old Alex did most of the work around the castle. She had to be sly about it, of course, or risk hurting their pride. Ann and Henry were more like grandparents than servants to her. Heaven only knew the shock her appearance would give them this night! A laugh escaped her throat as she pictured their faces. And where had Latimere trotted off to? Her giant, white Great Pyrenees was usually at her heels. He would put the fear of God into the scoundrels. She would send Henry out to search for him with one of those large bones from supper if time permitted.
The thought of time running out had her scurrying back toward the great hall and then deeper into the castle where the servants’ quarters were next to the kitchen.
“Ann! Henry!” She called out as soon as she was near. “Wake up! A ship is coming.”
She banged on Henry’s door hoping he would hear her. It wasn’t long before Ann stuck her head out her bedchamber, cap askew, worry in her eyes. “Lady Alex, it’s the middle of the night. What are you doing up and about? You should be in bed, child.”
Ann came out into the hall just as Henry opened his door and gaped at them like a beached fish. “What’s happened to cause all this racket?” His expression turned awestruck as he peered through his spectacles at Alex’s unprecedented attention to her appearance.
Alex hurriedly explained. “There is a ship in the harbor. A real ship. And it’s coming this way.”
“A ship? Who could it be? Whatever could they want with our little island?” Ann looked down at Alex’s bare feet and frowned.
“I don’t know but we’re soon to find out. Hurry and dress. Henry, I want you to find Latimere and meet me in the great hall. Ann”—Alex shrugged, her brow wrinkling in thought—“mayhap you should make some refreshments. Just in case they are not here to murder us and take the castle.”
Ann’s eyes grew huge with fright. “You must hide, child. Just look at you dressed like that.”
Alex wasn’t sure if Ann was complimenting or insulting her. She huffed out a breath of frustration. “This is our home and I will not let anyone take it from us. Now hurry—both of you.” She turned to go, a parting command shouted over her shoulder. “I found one gun. Bring any other weapons you can find!”
Hoisting up the heavy satin skirts, Alex groaned to see her dirty bare feet. She was turning to fetch her only pair of satin slippers when a heavy pounding sounded on the castle’s front door.
Bare feet or not, it was time to meet her future.
With a pounding heart and the rusty pistol she’d found in the deep recesses of the kitchen pantry hidden in the folds of her skirt, Alex opened the massive door. It groaned on its old hinges and the wind blew strong and salty in her face as she looked up at the smartly dressed man standing with two soldiers on either side.
The man cast a quick head-to-toe glance at her and then bowed low over a turned-out leg. Swinging his hat round to his chest, he gripped it and stared at her, seemingly dumbstruck.
Harmless looking enough. Alex gulped down a chuckle at the sight.
“I have come to see Lady Alexandria Featherstone,” the man said in a thin, nasal voice that sounded like he was more afraid of her than she was of him.
Oh, bother. He would never believe her the lady of the castle now. She should have had Henry answer the door like any proper noblewoman would have thought to do. Instead she curtsied out of confusion and lifted her arm toward the great hall without even asking his name or business. She was seriously botching this.
“Wait.” She stopped his progress into the castle with her flat palm thrust toward his chest. “What is your business with Lady Featherstone?”
He bowed again, the two men on either side of him standing like statues with ominous expressions frozen on their faces. “I have news for her ladyship. News of great import.”
He could be lying. Even if he didn’t look it, he could be dangerous. The thought brought to mind her gun. She lifted it, hoping he couldn’t see the rust in the dim moonlight, and pointed it at his chest. It would have been so much more fortuitous to have found some bullets to go with it. The soldiers eased back…assessing and reaching…
“Don’t even consider it!” Alex flashed her best squint-eyed look of disdain at the soldiers. If nothing else she did have experience brazening her way out of dire situations. Why there was the time she was caught red-handed camping out in the Yardley’s barn searching for the ghost they swore was knocking about keeping them awake each night. And then the time… oh, wait. Now was not the time to be thinking of her debacles. Task at hand, Lady Featherstone, as if anyone around here ever called her that! She almost snorted.
“No need to fear, sir, so you may call off your hounds, though I am an excellent shot. It’s just that I realized I don’t even know your name. Can you prove your story of news?”
They stared at her for a long, slack-jawed moment, and then the smaller man in the middle reached into his pocket and pulled out a heavy packet of papers. He motioned toward them with his head. “My name is Michael Meade, secretary to the Duke of St. Easton.”
Alexandria’s heart sped up at the sight of the papers. The Duke of St. Easton? She shook her head, spiraling down, down, down. Something was wrong. This man hadn’t come to rape and pillage in the usual way. No. Some dark feeling hovered and then wrapped around her shoulders, sending spikes of fear exploding through her head and down her back.
This man had come with another kind of destruction.
“My lady?” The man, Mr. Meade, took a step toward her, his arm outstretched toward the gun. “Are you Alexandria Featherstone?”
“What do you want, sir?” It took all the control she had to ask the question without a quiver in her voice.
“I regret to inform you that your parents, the Lord and Lady Featherstone of Holy Island, Northumberland, England, are, um, presumed dead. The Crown has awarded your guardianship to his grace, the Duke of St. Easton.
Dead? Alex gripped the gun tighter in a hand gone cold. It shook from the rusted tip, up her arm, all the way to her shoulder. Her breath came in little puffs. She shook her head.
“I would have known. I would have felt it.” She shook her head again. “It’s not true.” The gun was so heavy. Fingers, arms, chest—everything went numb. She couldn’t hold it any longer. She dropped it to the floor where it promptly exploded with a massive sound and spun in a circle. Mr. Meade screamed.
With wide, unblinking eyes they stared in shock at each other.
Great heavens. There must have been bullets in it after all.

Book blurb:

Tethered by her impulsive promise to marry Lord John Lemon - the path of least resistance - Alexandria Featherstone sets off toward Iceland in search of her parents with a leaden heart. A glimpse of her guardian, the Duke of St. Easton - the path less traveled by - on Dublin’s shore still haunts her.

Will he come after her? Will he drag her back to London, quelling her mission to rescue her treasure-seeking parents, or might he decide to throw caution to the wind and choose Foy Pour Devoir: “Faith for Duty,” the St. Easton motto. The Featherstone motto Valens et Volens: “Willing and Able,” beats in her heart and thrums through her veins. She will find her parents and find their love, no matter the cost.

The powerful yet wing-clipped Duke of St. Easton has never known the challenge that has become his life since hearing his ward’s name. Alexandria Featherstone will be the life or the death of him. Only time and God’s plan will reveal just how much this man can endure for the prize of love.

About the author:
Jamie Carie writes novels about fierce, passionate women; their dreams; their fears; their triumphs. Her deepest desire is to see her readers find that same passion as they follow their destiny and discover deeper intimacy with Jesus.

She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and three sons.

Jamie Carie
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Visit the official Facebook page for The Forgotten Castles.
The Guardian Duke - February 2012 See the making of the cover and trailer here!
The Forgiven Duke - Book 2 in The Forgotten Castles series - July 2012

Check out the other stops on the tour:
July- Release Date
July 2- A Soul Unsung -Excerpt #1, Dream CastJuly 3- Lynn Hardy - Official Blog -This or That
July 4- Sweetly Made (Just for you) -Review
July 5- Cummins Life -Review, Writer's Cave
July 6- Taking It One Page at a Time -Review, Guardian Duke Chapter 1
July 7- The Paperback Princesses -Review, Guest Post
July 9- Book Club Sisters -Excerpt #2, Cover Reveal (The Duke's Promise)
July 10- A Soul Unsung -Review
July 11- Colorimetry -Interview
July 12- Totally Booked Solid -Review, 6 Words Post
July 13- A Dream Within A Dream -Review
July 14- Simply Young Adult -The Guardian Duke Chapter 2
July 16- A Dream Within A Dream -Excerpt #3
July 17- Megan Likes Books -Author Spotlight
July 18- Colorimetry -Review
July 19- A Year of Jubilee Reviews -Review
July 20- Faery Tales Are Real -Review
July 21- Harvest Lane Cottage -Review
July 23- Comfort Books -Excerpt #4, Music Playlist
July 24- Swoon Worthy Books -Author Interview
July 25- Bookworm Lisa- Review
July 27- Swoon Worthy Books -Review
July 28- Book Club Sisters -Review
July 30- Reviews By Molly -Review, Excerpt #5
July 31- Bookshelf Confessions -Review and Grand Giveaway