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Dark Hero Excerpt, Day 2
Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance is the first book in my Reluctant Heroes Series. It features two very wounded and scarred characters, Donovan and Elizabeth. Both are survivors. Donovan escaped France at the start of the French Revolution, after being imprisoned and tortured for a crime he didn’t commit. Elizabeth is a survivor of a different type. She survived a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather. Both characters have strong issues with trust, but what they need most to heal is to trust each other. Love comes first, but trust is not always so easy.
In this story, I’ve used many Gothic tropes; the heroine being isolated, away from family on a lonely estate, the brooding hero that at times might seem like the villain of the story, and the supernatural occurrences every Gothic Romance demands. Elizabeth’s isolation on the island of Ravencrest, and her inability to leave the island without her husband’s knowledge adds to the suspense, as do the many appearances of ghosts at the manor house. Elizabeth has psychic abilities, but she is afraid to let her new husband know she can see ghosts because, well, he’s a scientist who adheres to the strict confines of logic and reason. She’s afraid he might think she’s crazy and commit her to a mad house. And, there is the pesky little problem of her head injury, which has made her forget Donovan’s courtship and their wedding. She has amnesia. She awakens in Donovan’s bed with no memory of their love. She’s frightened by her new circumstances–being taken away from her family and all that is familiar to her, and being dependent on a stranger’s kindness for survival. Ah…. those pesky trust issues again. In this excerpt, Elizabeth is recovering from her injuries on Donovan’s ship, and is deeply confused about who this handsome stranger is and what he wants from her.
Excerpt from Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance, Copyright Lily Silver, 2012
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
The most massive characters are seamed with scars.”
Edwin Hubbell Chapin
That strange man was sitting in the chair beside her bed again. He was reading, unaware Elizabeth was awake and studying him. Shoulder length black hair was secured in a neat queue. He wore a clean linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up at the elbows. A neatly tied stock hung from his neck, secured by a ruby pin. A black silk vest shot with gold and green threads remained unbuttoned. Black breeches hugged muscular thighs, disappearing beneath gleaming Top boots. His hands were neatly manicured. A signet ring circled one finger but she could not make out the crest in the dim light. It was obvious the man was a gentleman, not a sailor.
She tried to remember who he was and why she was here with him. There was the vague impression that he had rescued her, yet how she came to be in that dark hold in the first place and needed his rescuing was a mystery to her. “Excuse me, Sir?”
Pale blue eyes gazed up from the book. Hair as dark and shiny as a raven’s wing swirled in elegant swathes about a face that had been lightly kissed by the sun. What mischievous pooka had enchanted this handsome man to make him take an interest in her affairs?
“Do you need to use the privy closet?” He set the book aside and started to rise.
“No.” Elizabeth flushed scarlet, all the romance of the previous moment effectively doused as she recalled he’d been carrying her to that small closet frequently during her illness. “I-I just needed to ask you a question, sir, that’s all.”
He sat down, hunching forward slightly, elbows resting upon splayed knees, his large hands laced together before him. “Go ahead,” he sighed with an air of resignation.
“You’ve been very kind to look after me, sir. I’m afraid I don’t recall your name.”
“Dr. Donovan Rourke Beaumont, Count Rochembeau, at your service, my lady.”
“You’re a doctor and a nobleman? How can that be?”
“My father was the younger son of a French Count. Being the younger son and not the heir, he went off to make his fortunes in the American colonies. He bought a plantation in the Carolinas and married the feisty Irish lass who stole his heart. My mother christened me with both her parent’s surnames so I might never forget I’m half Irish.” He spoke in a languid colonial drawl with just the hint of an Irish burr in it, a mixture she found alluring.
Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile. He smiled back, and her insides did a peculiar little twist to be the recipient of such bounty.
“I went to France to study medicine, and lived with my uncle, the former count. My uncle died without heirs, bestowing upon me the ancient title of Count Rochembeau. So, I’m American by birth, a count by default, and a physician by choice.”
She nodded at his explanation. “I owe you a great debt for rescuing me, my lord. My grandmother will be very worried. She’s quite old and frail. We must send word to her.”
Her caretaker reached forward, took her hand and cradled it between his own. “Your grandmother passed on some weeks ago.”
“No, it’s not true,” she protested as her throat closed around a hard stone that suddenly lodged there. She squeezed her eyes shut to contain the moisture gathering before it spilled out onto her cheeks. The large hand encompassing her own tightened slightly, not enough to hurt, but enough to convey his compassion, enough to say he understood her grief. She opened her eyes. Releasing a strangled sob, she swiped at the tears escaping down her cheeks with the lace sleeve of her gown. “Sheila loved me, more than my own mother.”
“Yes,” Something flickered in her caretaker’s eyes. “Sheila loved you very much. That’s why she made me promise to take care of you after she died.”
“Well, I do have a brother. Michael Fletcher. Have you attempted to contact him?”
“Ah, Michael’s a good lad.” He patted the hand he had firm possession of, and took to stroking her captured limb in a manner that seemed far too intimate. “He’s in London, preparing to enter St. Paul’s Academy in the spring.”
“And just w-who is p-paying f-for that?” she huffed, enraged by his strange claim and frustrated by her inability to speak clearly.
“Your grandfather. I was planning to, but the earl insisted upon it in the end.”
Elizabeth sat bolt upright in the bed and jerked her hand from his grasp. “Lord Greystowe? The earl wouldn’t care if Michael and I were d-drowned in the Th-thames as infants. H-he disowned my m-mother—h-h-he-he-“
“Easy, lass,” he rose to stand over her. “You’re getting upset and there’s no need. Michael is fine, and I’m going to take good care of you, just as I promised Old Sheila.”
“I want to go home.” She tossed back the covers and swung her legs over the bed.
Strong hands circled her shoulders, preventing her from rising. “You are not leaving this bed. You suffered a severe blow to the head that nearly killed you. That’s why you can’t remember the past two years of your life.”
Two years? What a queer world she’d awakened to; Sheila was dead and Michael was at a school for rich boys? And she was in the keeping of a stranger. “Where are you taking me?”
“To the West Indies.”
“But . . . I don’t know anyone in the Indies,” she whispered above the loud roar in her ears. The room seemed hot and confining, like a prison cell.
“That’s where I live, darlin’, on a beautiful island.” He sat down on the bed, facing her, his arm resting along her thigh. She could feel the weight of his hand on her leg, the heat of him even with the blanket between them. “We can go riding in mornings and picnic on the beach in the afternoons. You can collect sea shells and swim in the ocean.”
“I don’t know how to swim,” she managed in a voice that sounded high and tight to her ears. Fisting the blanket in her hands, she gazed about the room for some portal, some magical means of escape that would take her back to Sheila, Michael, and all that was familiar to her.
“It’s all right. I’ll teach you.” The count caressed her cheek with a light forefinger.
Elizabeth grew still. His caress, his nearness, his manner were too familiar. “Are you—are you my legal guardian, s-sir?”
He studied her for a torturous moment, as if debating the answer in his mind. “I suppose in a manner of speaking, I am.” He paused before adding, “I’m your husband.”
Continue reading Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance today!
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