Saturday, July 30, 2011

These are a few of my favourite bits...

Hi Everyone...

Was taking a break from editing, and took time to tidy up all the random files scattered throughout my poor computer.

In the midst of it all, I begun flicking through the pages of some of my back catalogue, and came across some of my favourite bits....

This 'bit' is the prologue from my historical romance "Serenade'....


NOT all sea monsters lived beneath the waves.

“…eight…nine…ten.” Marcus dashed down the dark, narrow corridor as fast as his little legs could carry him. Almost breathless he glanced back, knowing it would be only a matter of minutes before they’d try to find him. He wouldn’t make it easy though.

No. He was far too clever.

Squeezing himself between a thick wooden beam and a barrel of ale, he squatted down and listened. He could hear the gentle licking sounds of waves against the ship’s hull and the creak of swollen timbers from somewhere in the dark belly of the bough below. The stench of rotten fish, tallow and sea salt rose up, filling his nostrils. He pinched them shut against the awful smell, screwing up his freckled nose. But the discomfort was worth it.

They’d never find him there.

The faint echo of footsteps drew attention from his thoughts. Holding his breath he waited, hearing nothing further save the beating of his own heart. He thought it strange, never noticing the sound before. Did it always pound so hard?

The groan of a loosened floorboard made him concentrate once more. It was closer than before - much too close. Closing his eyes, he leant forward and clutched his knees. It was too late to run.

There was nothing for it.

He was trapped.

“Got you!” The voice came from nowhere.

The shock made him gasp, but he couldn’t turn to face his captor. There was no room. Dragged from his hiding place, he found himself flat on the floor as two determined hands took to his stomach and began torturing him without mercy.

“Mama! Mama!” he cried, unable to control his laughter. “Stop! It’s not fair. You cheated!”

A slender woman with honey-gold hair and kind blue eyes stopped her tickling and lifted the protesting child to his feet. He was not pleased. He’d gone to a lot of effort to find just the right hiding place. Why did she have to find him so soon? There was little enough to keep him amused.
The voyage was so boring. Papa told him it would only take a few days to get to their new home, but after four sleeps already, he knew better. It was going to take thirty hundred years at least. And that was such a long time. With no where to run outside, hide and seek was one of the few games he was allowed to play. He liked games.

He loved the dice.

Papa said it wasn’t a game gentlemen played. Sometimes though, just after supper, he would sneak away from his parents and watch the crew sit at the other end of the deck playing with gleaming sets of the carved die. He liked the way they tinkled across the shiny deck before being scooped up by some enormous hand and shaken, then tossed again. He wasn’t certain why they were doing it, but it looked like enormous fun. Sometimes they were having such a grand time Captain Wiggins would complain and make them stop.

Grown ups were so unfair.

“Now, Marcus. How could I possibly cheat?” A smirk crept to his mother’s patient face, as the youngster huffed and kicked at the boards. He was only four years old and already displayed his father’s fiery temperament. William James was a loving, kind man whose only flaw lay in the stubborn streak that ran right through his veins and into those of his son. Like his father, Marcus didn’t like to bested – at anything.

His little brow furrowed and he crossed his arms. “But, Mama, you must be have been peeking. I was in the dark you know. It was a good spot and you spoiled it.”

“But I was supposed to find you, my love.”

He wasn't convinced. “Not fair, Mama. Not fair.”

“Come now love, I shan’t play anymore if you’re going to be so disagreeable. You can’t always win. What would Papa think?” Papa would no doubt exclaim he didn’t know where the child got his determination. Meeting his stare, her firm but loving expression made him lower his face and look at the floor. Just as she dealt with his father, Elizabeth James knew how to handle her son. It was a look he could not deny. He sighed and pulled at a piece of thread he noticed dangling from his sleeve. He wondered where it came from.

“I’m sorry Mama. I am.” He glanced up and was rewarded for his change of heart by a tender kiss on his forehead and a gentle smile. He smiled back and reached for her hand, forgetting all about his complaint.

The satisfying aroma of roast beef and potatoes floated on the salty night air. Enjoying the peaceful moment, the young family stood on the quarter deck looking out to sea, as golden streaks of light spilt the early evening sky into spectacular ribbons of crimson and grey. The smooth, black waters below reflected the brilliant colours like glass. It was dazzling sight.

It didn’t impress Marcus.

Turning his attentions from the tiny crab scuttling over a pile of ropes, he watched as his father held up a long shiny object to one eye and closed the other eye tight.

Marcus laughed, his eyes sparking with anticipation. A toy perhaps? What ever it was, he wanted to play too. Papa should share. He tugged at his father’s coat. “Papa, can I see? I want to look too. Please, Papa. Please.”

William James ignored his son’s pleas, telling him instead he must learn some patience. Tears welled in Marcus’ eyes. He didn’t like being chastised by his father. What four year old did? But, he was stubborn and refused to let one teardrop fall. Taking in a deep breath, he puffed out his little chest and huffed, then followed it with another. Then another. It seemed all his father could do not to laugh, so the bemused man turned his head away and coughed instead.

“Very well Marcus,” his father said in a firm tone after several minutes. “Careful now. A telescope is a delicate instrument.” William James always stood his ground, but his weakness was his beloved son. A wry smile came to William’s face as Marcus grinned, wiping away the tears with the back of his sleeve. The boy had won.

Standing upon a small barrel, Marcus stood still as his father helped him hold the magical device.
“What is a teclasop papa?” he asked, looking into the dark lenses with his eye closed.

“Telescope,” his father corrected, adjusting the glass in his sons hands. “It allows you to view things from a great distance away. You see.”

Marcus held up the glass with his eyes open and looked through. He gasped. “Ooh, Papa. I can see lots of things.” Excited, he reached forward and waved his fingers over the end of the instrument. His father smiled and shook his head before turning away to speak to the Captain. If the weather stayed fair and the winds strong, they would be in England before weeks end.
Balancing the heavy object against the rail, Marcus looked out to sea. He squealed with delight as a seagull darted along the water, skimming the surface for food. Moving his face away from the device, he wondered where the creature had gone. Pulling it down, he sat on the deck and turned it around.

“How did they get in there Papa?” He was looking into the large lenses as his father turned around.

“The things you see aren’t in there. I told you, they are far away.” He almost turned away, but stopped. There was something odd about his son’s question. “What do you mean by they, Marcus?”

“The birds, Papa. How can they fly? Can they get out?” he asked with curiosity. “And the ship.”

“You’re standing on the ship, son. Were you looking at the sails?”

“No,” Marcus replied, wide-eyed as he pushed the telescope closed. He shouted with triumph then offered up the object to his father. “The ship’s inside Papa. Look.”

A look of grave concern washed over William’s face as he took the telescope from his son, extended it and cast his sights across the horizon. It was but a few moments when he lowered the glass from view and took a deep breath. The boy was right.

There was a ship.

Marcus felt confused as he tried to keep up with his mother, her hand pulling him along the corridor to their cabin. Lost in his frustration, he hadn’t noticed the sudden commotion on the deck, as frantic crewmen hoisted sails and tied off ropes. There were other worries on his mind. Why was he being put to bed so early? He’d not yet eaten supper and was very hungry. Almost on cue, a gurgling sound echoed from his complaining stomach. “Did you hear that Mama?” he said, rather pleased by the sound. “That was my tummy.”

“Yes, Marcus.”

“I’m hungry Mama. My tummy’s hungry too. Hear?”

“Yes, I know, my love.” She didn’t turn around.

He stared at her. Her voiced sounded strange to him. Not soft and sweet as always, but far away and afraid. Why would his mama be scared? She wasn’t afraid of the dark or what was living under the waves. His eyes widened, as he thought about the stories the crewman told him when his parents weren’t listening.

Sea monsters.

Tales of enormous creatures with long tentacles and sharp teeth filled his head. They could crush entire ships and swallow little boy’s whole in a single gulp. He took a deep breath as every creak and groan in the darkened hall around him took on a life of its own. Holding his Mama’s hand tight, he vowed he would be brave and protect her from those awful monsters if they tried to get in. He wouldn’t be afraid.

Closing the cabin door behind her, Elizabeth James locked it and dashed across to a large chest sitting against the hull. Dropping to her knees, she opened the lid and began pulling out the contents, tossing them to the floor. Marcus was curious. Mama didn’t like him making a mess. Perhaps he could he? Standing next to her, he reached in and began pulling out clothes, books and trinkets, stopping every now and then to admire a potential treasure.

He was looking at a book when he noticed his mother take a tiny package from the bottom of the chest and hold it to her heart. She closed her eyes and looked at the floor. Perhaps she was praying, he thought as he knelt down beside her and closed his eyes, putting his little hands together. He’d pray too.

A sudden explosion made the pair jump, as a cry came from the deck above. Marcus swallowed. The monsters. Seeing the fear in his mother’s eyes, he wrapped his arms tight around her neck and squeezed. “Don’t worry Mama. It’s just the monsters. Mr Smythe said they are scary, but I’m not afraid. I’ll protect you.”

Elizabeth clutched her son’s arm and placed her other hand against her mouth, as a stifled sob escaped her lips. Nodding, she pulled his arms away and reached up into her hair, removing a long silk ribbon. Her hands shaking, she opened the parchment taken from the trunk and revealed an old, iron key. Another explosion rocked the ship, making her drop it onto the floor. It scattered across the boards as Marcus ran after it. “I’ll get it, Mama.”

As he reached for the object, shouts echoed from somewhere in the hall. More explosions rattled the rocking vessel, the noise inside near deafening. Undeterred, he grabbed the key and ran back to his mother. “Here Mama.” Grabbing him close, she kissed him on the cheek harder than he could ever recall. Looking into her pale face, he gasped. There where tears in her eyes. He’d never seen her cry before.

Threading the key onto the ribbon, his mother reached out and tied it around his neck. “I need you to hide, my love. Do you hear me?” Marcus nodded. “I have to tell you something very special, my love. Are you listening?”

“Yes, Mama.” More noises, loud and fierce began howling at their doors.

The monsters were here.

A gasp escaped his mother’s lips as the door threatened to collapse under the pounding. “No time…get into the trunk, my love. Quickly! Yes, that’s it. Now stay hidden, Marcus. I know you are brave and you are clever. You can hide so well.”

He nodded, uncertainty filling his eyes as she began to close the heavy lid. “Mama…”

“Ssh, my love. Please, please do not make a sound. You must pretend, just like our game. Keep still, keep silent. And, no matter what you hear, do not come out til I or Papa come for you. Do you promise?”

“Yes Mama,” he whispered, watching her disappear from view. It was dark inside the trunk. Like before, in the ships hold, he could hear his own heart beating. Though this time, he knew why. He’d tried to be brave, but fear was gripping his mind – not for himself, but for her.
A deafening crash was followed by a strangled cry, making his tiny body tremble. He shuddered as something heavy thumped against the floor. A thousand pounding footsteps echoed all around him as he covered his ears and closed his eyes tight. His head was spinning from the commotion. He wanted to get out, to find his Mama. But he couldn’t. He promised her he would do as she said.

He would wait for them.


He didn’t remember falling asleep. And, as he rubbed his tired eyes, he noticed it was dark all around him. He was still inside the trunk. Wiping his brow, he felt hot and thirsty. He wanted his Mama. Why hadn’t she come?

There were noises outside. Not like before. No crashes or shouting or cries from terrible beasts trying to rip the ship apart.

He lay still. Something was trying to open the trunk. Perhaps it was Mama and Papa? But, why didn’t they call to him? He was torn between shouting out to them and keeping his promise to wait, when a sudden stream of light blinded him.

Hiding his face from the brightness, he heard a deep husky roar from above. Something rough and strong grabbed his ankle and hauled him upwards. Hanging upside down and blinking with shock, he shaded his eyes and looked upon his attacker. He gasped.

The monsters were real.......

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Grace is plotting a course for unknown territory.When young Grace Hathaway decides to escape from the threat of marriage to a horrible man, she takes her fate into her own hands, stowing away on the Serenade with the aim of sailing to Spain.Captain Marcus James is haunted by a violent past he can barely remember except in the dark murky sea of his dreams. Competition with government traders has seen him take on illegal hidden goods, just to keep The Serenade and her crew afloat. The last thing he needs is undue attention from the wrong quarters, and the last thing he expects to find is Grace.Facing stormy seas, bloody battles with pirates and a sizzling romance, will Grace and Marcus find a port of call?

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