Exile for dreamers

Exile for dreamers

Material Information

Exile for dreamers
Baldwin, Kathleen ( Author )
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 online resource (362 pages)


Subjects / Keywords:
Adventure stories ( lcsh )
Boarding schools -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Dreams -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Great Britain -- history -- 1800-1837 -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815 -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Romance fiction ( lcsh )
Schools -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Young adult fiction ( lcsh )
novel ( marcgt )


General Note:
This is an author's manuscript.
General Note:
A stranje House novel.
General Note:
Final draft manuscript for the novel published as Exile for dreamers. This version went to copy editing, but line edits had not yet occurred.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
H43-00009 ( USFLDC DOI )
h43.9 ( USFLDC Handle )

USFLDC Membership

Added automatically

Postcard Information



This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 1 Exile for Dreamers A Stranje House Novel By Kathleen Baldwin


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 2 Dedication To the men who taught me to run, swim, hunt, gallop horses, ride the rapids, ski powder, hang glide, and rock climb back when girls did not do that sort of thing To Daddy, for teaching me to box at a time when it was sacrilegious to strap a pair of boxing gloves on a little girl, and to the boys whose noses I broke I am truly sorry. And to Susan Thank you for your extraordinary skills as an editor. I'm grateful you can see when I am blind.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 3 Chapte r 1 Tess I run to escape my dreams. Dreams are my curse. Every night they haunt me, every morning I outrun them, and every evening they catch me again. One day they will devour my soul. But not today. Not this hour. I ran with Phobos and Trobos, the h alf wolves half dogs who guard Stranje House W e raced into the cleansing wind. What is the pace of forgetfulness? How fast must one go? "Tess! Wait!" Georgiana's gasps cut through the peace of the predawn air and broke my rhythm. I slowed to a stop and turned. A mo ment later, Phobos broke stride too, and trotted back beside me He issu ed a low almost imperceptible growl, impatient to return to our race. Georgie leaned forward breathing hard. Her red hair hung in wet ringlets, dampened from the sea spray that had bathed us as we ran along the cliffs. But we were inland now, headed for the woods between Stranje House and Ravencross Manor, and except for the misty ghostlike vapors swirling about us, the air was much easier to take


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 4 in. Winded, she gulped gre edily for more. "I have to stop. My side hurts." Trobos trotted behind her and nipped at Georgie's heels. "Ouch!" She jerked her boot away. "Stop that." "She wants you to keep running." "I'm trying." Trobos tried to nip her again but Georgie swatted at h er. "Back!" The dog growled in warning and Georgie withdrew. "Trobos," I scolded. She tilted her head at me, tail wagging, and shook droplets of moisture out of her black fur. Quizzical as to why I'd called her off, after all, she was only doing what was best for her pack, training the young one to run faster. "Walk." I looped my arm through Georgie's and tugged her forward, needing to get Georgie moving before Trobos took to nipping again. "Ever since that night on the beach, when she kept you warm, Trob os considers you one of her pack. She practicing for when she becomes a mother in a few weeks "She's having puppies." Georgie's eyes opened wider. "Is that really why she nudges me with her nose so often? She thinks I'm one of her pack ?" "In a sense. Yes. It was true, but I had to stifle a smile. Georgie was such an unlikely creature of the forest, especially clad in that bright white cotton dress. It was one of the absurdly frothy concoctions her mother had sent with her to Stranje House. Georgie had rip ped the flounce off so that it was short enough to run in, but the fierce white only served to make her appear more flame like. Georgie is a burst of fire, a blazing beacon in the early morning gray.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 5 Unlike me. I am part forest. Wearing this brown dress, I blend with the woods. My eyes are green as leaves, my hair dark as shadows on bark, and my skin is as pale as frost. I am Welsh, a daughter of the earth. My mother used to tell me that the spirit of these things, the soil and trees, the rocks and beasts they call to us. "We are part of this land," she would say. Only now, my mother lies silent, cloaked in the very earth she spoke of with such love. I shook away those thoughts. "Are you well?" Georgie asked. "You went pale for a moment." I refused to sp eak of my mother's death, so I ignored her question and mumbled, "Trobos also nudges to show affection." I pulled Georgie into a faster walk. "Today she's prodding you to make you keep running, so you'll learn to go faster and longer. If you don't want to "I want to. I just can't. My legs won't go any farther this morning." "S trength isn't in the legs. It's in the mind." I run because I fancy I'll escape my wretched dreams, but with Georgie, it is a different matter. "Why did you want to come running with me this morning anyway?" Her chest heaved. "You know why." I had my guesses, but I wanted her to say it, so I kept mum. "If I'd been faster that night in London" She gasped for more air and didn't finish speaking. "Don't say such things." I hated to se e how she was letting guilt chew on her heart. I wished she would stop blaming herself for what happened in London and Calais. "If


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 6 you'd been faster that night, Lady Daneska would've captured you, too. And then she would've delivered two hostages to the Ir on Crown instead of one." "You don't know that." She yanked her arm away from mine. "I might've been able to lead Captain Grey to them. Or perhaps, if I'd caught up to them on my own, I could've stopped Daneska and freed Seb she trailed off, unwilling to say Sebastian's name out loud. I bit my bottom lip to keep from blurting out the fact that if she had caught up to them, she and Lord Wyatt would probably be dead now. "He's alive and well, thanks to you. It's over. Sebastian is off to who knows where, s erving king and country." That didn't seem to console her. She stared off at the pink of the sun that was beginning to rise on the eastern horizon. "It was my fault he was captured in the first place. If I'd caught up to them, maybe I could've bested Lad y Daneska." She said it softly, as if even her words slid uncertainly down a thin strand of false hope. "That's a heavy basket of ifs and maybes. Daneska is fast and skilled with a blade. You'd had no training yet, I don't see how "That's the point, isn 't it?" Her chin jutted out like it always does when she musters her courage. "Madame Cho is teaching me. I'm getting better with the dagger, and in the future I want to be able to run faster in case I need to in case someone's life depends upon it. She shoved a handful of curls defiantly away from her face. "I'm going back to the house now. I don't want to be around when you meet up with Lord Ravencross. We're nearing the spot." She waved her hand at the place, as if I'd forgotten where we were. The trees were up ahead, and we neared the clearing where I usually cut through to


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 7 his pasture, the juncture between the two properties where he liked to exercise his horse, Zeus, the place where he used to pretend he didn't plan to meet me. But things wer e different now. "He won't be there." My words came back at me and landed hard, like stones dropping on my chest from a great height. Georgie denied them with a shake of her head. "Surely, he "No." I drew in a deep breath, forcing air into my squeezing c hest. Breathe and face life squarely. That's what I try to do. There's no sense in lying to oneself. "He hasn't come out riding early, not once, not since that night in London when I left him standing on the dock." Georgie stepped closer as if to comfort m e. "Perhaps he doesn't know we're home." I moved back. "Don't be absurd. It's been two weeks." "Only thirteen days," she corrected, always accurate, always exact. "He may not have observed" Fortunately, she dropped that foolish line of defense, except th en the pity in her expression made things worse. I wanted to run again, instead I did something I never do with Georgie, I argued. "You like to put a favorable construction on things, don't you? Well, in this case, you are just plain wrong." I didn't inten d for it to sound that harsh, but I couldn't let her sympathy weaken me. In less strident tones I added, "He's taken a dislike of me. And why shouldn't he? What sort of a young lady takes a running leap off the end of a pier and grabs hold of a moving shi p?"


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 8 "But you had to do that." The loudness of her declaration startled us both and the dogs. Georgie caught her bottom lip and lowered her gaze to the grass and bare patches of dirt between us. "I was terribly glad you did," she mumbled. "He's bound to hav e understood." "Did he? You saw his face when you hoisted me aboard. Did you think he look pleased that I'd abandoned him in such a way?" She didn't answer right away I didn't need her to. I could envision his scowl. "Perhaps he was just alarmed because he didn't know you could swim. How would he have known such a thing ." She kicked at a pebble. With a resigned sigh I said, "And there you have it. The high and mighty Lord Ravencross has turned his heart back into stone. And when it comes to any thou ght of me, he will have ground my memory to dust." A thin wisp of vapor snaked across our path and blew apart as if a blast of wind exploded it. Phobos, his ears peaked and alert, trotted a short distance up ahead and halted. Something was not right. The woods were too quiet. Morning larks, who every night tried to hurry sunrise with their song, had hushed. Rabbits, who loved to suckle on grass covered in morning dew, ought to have scampered into the underbrush at our approach, but they were already hidin g. Still as the birds around me, I strained to hear. A breeze blew through the woods in broken patterns. Leaves rustled in stops and starts, disturbed by some intruding presence. I closed my eyes, and heard a whicker in the distance, stamping hooves.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 9 Hors es in the woods. Impatient. Pawing. A snort, followed by the clacking of a metal bit against thick teeth. Horses held at a standstill, not allowed to graze. Georgie touched my sleeve. "What is it?" "Hush," I whispered. Both dogs came silently to my side. I drew the knife from the sheath on my calf. Phobos and Trobos crouched into hunting position, their shoulders slunk low as we crept forward. I heard a twig break in the distant underbrush and pebbles click under horseshoes as one of the animals moved t hrough the thick stand of trees at the north corner of the field. In that instant, images flashed through my mind. Blinding splotches of color tumbled and spun in my head. I could no longer see the field or woods. Instead, I was overcome by a burst of bla ck and then an explosion of white. Georgie's dress? It shimmered away and in its place, I saw Trobos tearing at a man's leg. Blood. Knives slashing. Lord Ravencross's face. A searing pain struck my chest. The blast of a gunshot startled me out of the visio n. I gasped and clutched my upper chest to stop the bleeding. Except there was no blood. No wound. It had only been a phantom pain. I opened my eyes wide and stared at the stillness in the predawn field. There were no frightened birds winging away in the sky. Nothing had disturbed the dewy gray green grass. No shot had been fired, and yet I shook as if it had truly happened. It had only been a dream. Not real. A useless indecipherable vision. It was nothing I told myself. Only a cursed waking


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 10 dream, l ike the ones that drove my mother and her mother before her to their graves. I forced myself to breathe slow and even, quieting my heart so I could listen more closely to what was actually happening. One horse moved through the undergrowth in the woods up ahead, and yet I still heard others. Why were they staying back? A lone rider emerged from the trees and rode toward us. He touched the rim of his felt hat and called out a greeting. "Good day, mam'selles." Phobos barred his teeth and growled. I didn't like the man either. Menace wafted off of him like stink from a chamber pot. His eyes landed on Georgie and brightened with a vicious sort of glee, and I knew they had come for her. We would never be able to outrun his horse. But the wolves and I could fe nd him off while she escaped. "Georgie." I spoke low. "Run." I urged through gritted teeth. "Go. I'll hold him off. Get help. Bring weapons." She hesitated. "I can't leave you." That was all it took. The blackguard saw her alarm, issued a shrill whistle and kicked his horse. "Run!" I ordered, this time in a voice she couldn't argue with. She took off and, tired or not, she tore for the house as if her life depended upon it. And it did. Georgie had the presence of mind to scream, a shrill throaty shrie k that sliced through the early morning peace like a bolt of lightning, and she kept at it, yelling for help, loud enough to awaken half the countryside. Phobos and Trobos streaked toward the horseman. The man cursed in French and dug in his spurs. Except his mare was no warhorse seasoned for battle. This was a skittish rented hack, wide eyed with terror at the wolves


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 11 charging her. She wheeled sideways and reared, snorting and shying to ward them off. Their snarling snapping jaws gave her no quarter. Phob os circled behind her. She kicked, spun, and reared again, throwing her rider to the ground. Just then, three more horsemen charged out from the underbrush. Three. Knife in my hand, I took a stance, ready to stop who ever came at us first, the men on ho rseback, or the fallen rider struggling to escape Trobos, whose teeth were buried in the scoundrel's leg. I caught a glimpse of another rider galloping across the neighboring field. He was only a speck in the distance, but I would recognize him from a hun dred miles away. Gabriel! He had ridden out this morning after all. Surely he could hear Georgie's screams. But even if he did, Lord Ravencross would arrive too late to save her. And what would he use to fend the brigands off with? His bare hands? No, it fell to me. Phobos and Trobos left off attacking the fallen man and raced to face the three new riders. One of the henchmen was able to steer wide and galloped past them. He raced to the fallen man and dismounted to help, but the injured man shoved him aw ay and pointed in my direction. Idiot Leave me. Get her." The new arrival squinted at me from under the brim of his sailor's cap. "That 'un? Nah. When Herself arrived in England I heared her clear as day. We was to nab the redhead. That 'un ain't red." He swiped an arm across his mouth. "An' she has a knife." I glanced over my shoulder at Georgie. She was still too far away from the house. Still too easily caught. The wolves held the other two riders at bay, but how long would that


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 12 last? ImbÂŽcile! La f ille de roux is halfway to the house La comtesse also promised extra francs if we did in the Marquis from next door? But I don't see a lord strolling by do you?" His cohort glanced toward Ravencross Manor as if he was actually expected to answer the ques tion. Had they not see n Lord Ravencross galloping in our direction? Perhaps not since he was riding along the north field beyond the trees. But if they should turn and look behind them... My stomach knotted even tighter. There was no time to consider what might happen if they did. I stepped back, placing myself in a better position to block these scoundrels path to Georgie. The injured man spit o n the ground at his companion 's feet "Think, you sorry excuse for a dog's bottom. They'll be no silver for us and hell to pay if we come back empty handed. Are you afraid of a little girl?" "Hoi!' The other man object ed. "That's no little girl not holding a dagger like that." I continued edging back trying to gain some distance The bossy one cursed under his breath and limped to his companion's saddlebag, drew out a pistol and thrust it at the other man. "Take it. Go! Bring one of those girls back alive. I don't care which." The lackey advanced on me, a burlap sack tucked in his belt, and the pistol waving un steadily in front of him. Trobos yiped as one of the riders lashed at her w ith his riding crop and shouted to the other rider who was struggled with his rearing mount. "Cut em down." "Leave her be," I shouted She was pregnant My pulse quickened and my free hand


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 13 fisted in anger. I wanted to protect Trobos, b ut I couldn't. M y focus snapped back to the man fast approaching me. "Y you" He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down nervously. P ut down that knife." Perhaps I should've called the dogs to help me, but that would have freed the two riders to run down Georgie and all would be lost. I couldn't let them take her, not knowing how Lady Daneska enjoyed torturing her captives. I had to stop them. I wasn't precisely certain how I would do it, bu t I knew from my training that every move I made now would count toward her life or death. Time did a peculiar thing. All the clocks in the world must have stopped as I shifted the knife in my palm and changed my hold in preparation to throw. The gunman striding toward me seemed to slow down. Birds stopped flapping their wings and hung flightless in the air. The wolves' deep guttural barks and snarls faded to nothing. Even the horses' fearful neighing and rearing stopped. Their tails lay stretched out and frozen on the wind. It was as if I possessed all the time in the world to aim and send the blade speeding to its mark. I threw, and the knife streaked in a blaze of silver through the gray morning air and plunged into the gunman's chest. I lunged to the left in case his gun went off. It didn't. He glanced down at his chest, stunned, staring at the hilt of my dagger as if a bee had stung him rather than six inches of steel. Mon Dieu ," he said, dragging out each vowel and then he dropped the gun. It tumbl ed slowly from his fingers, struck the grass, bounced, and fired. The blast of his pistol awakened the world and set time spinning again. The sun


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 14 peeked up from the horizon, a crimson fireball trying to burn through the morning haze. The wolves turned to see what had happened. The other riders fought with their frightened horses, who shied and kicked in a desperate attempt to retreat to the woods. Across the park Ravencross bent over his stallion, Zeus's, neck and broke into so swift a gallop it was as i f he was racing God himself. Everything was going to go very wrong in the next few seconds if I didn't do something quickly. I was in dire need of a weapon. I rushed to the fallen gunman, kicked the pistol farther away from him and wrenched my dagger out of his chest. His eyes opened wide when the blade slid free. "I'm sorry," I whispered. He wouldn't die, not from that one wound. Or so I thought, until blood spurted out of the vacant gash, and when his mouth moved in a wordless plea, thick wine colored l iquid bubbled out. I winced, swallowing back the sickness rising in my own throat. With shaking hands I wiped the blade on the grass. There was no time to mourn the passing of his soul. Besides, it was nothing new, I told myself. How many deaths had I li ved through in my dreams? Hundreds And yet this felt different. Vastly different. Always in my dreams I was the one who died, experiencing deaths yet to come, or deaths that might be. But this man was real. He wasn't an illusive dream. He lay dying becaus e of me, his blood seeping into the ground because of me. My dagger had cut his life in two. I heard hooves pounding the earth, coming in my direction. I heard Phobos and Trobos leap back into action. I even heard the leader's limping gait as he ran towar d me, shouting in French, telling his men to grab me. Even so, I couldn't stop wiping the death


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 15 stain from my dagger. I began to shake. At least, I think I did. I remember a shudder coursing through me until I heard Gabriel call my name. "Tess!" His voice called to me from far across the field, as if we were in one of the caves beneath Stranje House. "Tess!" Yet it echoed so forcefully in my ears that it seemed to reach in and shake my very soul. I glanced up just in time to see Gabriel leap Zeus over one of the hedgerows in the north field. He was coming. I blinked slowly, letting the sound of him calling my name wash over me. He shouted again, this time with such urgency that I realized, if we were to save Georgiana, it was time for me to stand and pre pare for another fight. The roiling sickness inside me ebbed and I tried to stand. But as I rose, a grain sack descended over my head and shoulders. I struggled, swinging my fist and thrusting my blade out, but struck only air. Something hard cracked aga inst my skull. A roar exploded in my ears. This was no dream. No vision. No nightmare from which I would suddenly awaken. This time, the bursts of light spinning in my head were real. And the devouring blackness would not wait.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 16 Chapter 2 A live I awoke from that dark oblivion to the unbearable certainty that I'd failed. There was little doubt that by now the men on horseback would have run Georgie down and captured her. And Lord Ravencross I swallowed against the dread swelling in my throat. What chance had he stood? One man against three. Three men with weapons. The curs will have killed or wounded him. The tightness in my throat swelled into a dry prickly knot. I was barely able to wheeze air in and out of my lungs. And my skull throbbed as if the demons of hell were hammering against it. I'd been slung across the front of a saddle with the gunnysack still cinched over my head, and we were galloping hard. My arms dangled against the side of the horse, and I fought an overwhelming urge to retch. My thoughts whirled from despair to rage, and circled back again, to stomach churning anguish. I couldn't stop picturing Georgie captured by Daneska's brigands and Lord Ravencross wounded or dead. And I hung there like useless baggage, unable to help eithe r of them. How could I help them now, when I didn't even know where I was.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 17 What could I do? Nothing. Nothing except to surrender to Miss Stranje's training. I squeezed my eyes closed and tried to slam my mind shut against the terrifying thoughts of what m ight be happening to Georgie and Ravencross. If there was even a remote chance left for me to help them, I needed to think clearly. I could almost hear Madame Cho barking at me to regulate my breathing and Miss Stranje ordering me to think, assess the sit uation, then act. There was nothing left to do, except obey. So, I made a cold unfeeling list of my circumstances and weighed the options. My first inclination was to yank the stinking burlap sack off my head so I could see more than this reedy view of r oad and horse. Except that would alert the rider that I was awake, and in so doing I could expect another whack on my head. Next, I considered shoving myself off the horse. Although falling from this angle, while galloping this fast, would most likely pul l me directly under the horse's hooves. I might be able to grab my abductor's leg and yank him out of the saddle with me. Then we would both tumble under the horse, but at least that would kill or injure him, too. The horse. I should've thought of that so oner. Arhosiad ," I whispered, which meant halt' in the old language. She tensed, lurched, and took a quick misstep before regaining her gait. Skittish. This was another rented horse, uneasy and fearful. I thought of a way to spook her, except at that ve ry moment I heard a shout accompanied by the steadily increasing rhythm of another horse galloping


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 18 not far behind us. "Stop, or I'll shoot!" That voice froze me in place. Ravencross? No. It couldn't be him. He shouted again. It was him. Giving chase. Lik e the skittish mare, my pulse pitched forward and took several missteps before regaining its gait. How? How had Gabriel escaped the other men? My kidnapper did not stop. Instead, he whipped our horse into an even faster run. I doubted Lord Ravencross would shoot. I wished to heaven he would, but he wouldn't. Not at this bruising pace. He'd figure the bullet might stray and hit me, or the horse. Even if he shot my captor, he'd assume, and rightly so, that the riderless horse would bolt with me slung over the saddle. Time to act. My hand dangled near the sensitive area where the horse's neck met her chest. I dug in my fingernails, moving them like tiny claws. The horse, thinking it was a rat or some other vermin that might bite her, shied and nearly threw us. I slipped my other hand under the girth strap and held tight, thrusting my nails into her neck again. A gunshot startled me and the horse. Ravencross must have fired after all. The terrified mare reared, stood on her hind legs and pawed the air. I prayed to God she wouldn't fall backward. With me draped across the front on the saddle, the rider had no pommel to grab, nothing to hold. I felt him scrabbling and clutching at my back, except I soared up with him. But I had flung both arms around the horse's ne ck and hung on for dear life,


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 19 kicking my feet back. The saddle jerked as the rider flew off. Legs airborne, I scissored them so that when we crashed back to earth I landed straddling the saddle. My frightened steed took off in a frantic gallop. I clung to her neck, the bag still over my head. The poor animal smelled of fear sugary sweat and urine. Tawelu I called to her in the ancient Welsh tongue. I wrapped my arms around her neck a nd spoke calming words to silence her fear. Gwroldeb. Areulder She still ran, but not quite as fast. I heard Ravencross and Zeus gaining on us. Blind inside the sack, no stirrups, barely able to stay astride, I remained hunched over the pommel, holding o n to her neck. The reins whipped useless in the wind. All I had were words. Melodic old words of peace. Tangnefedd Ancient word songs about brave horses. She slowed to a jarring trot and snorted in answer. "Good girl," I crooned. Boddhaus I'm proud of you She tossed her head and allowed Zeus to come along side. An arm encircled my waist. I didn't need eyes to know his touch, to recognize his gentle strength. Ravencross I let go, trusted him to swoop me away. As soon as he pulled me onto his saddle I yanked that stinking hood off my head. We circled away from the runaway horse and slowed to a stop. Both of us slid down. "Tess," he murmured, his hands scouring my head and shoulders as if he couldn't believe I was in one piece. "Tess," he said again, this time with a sigh, as if saying it reli eved some great strain. Then he frowned. "You've a lump the size of London on your head. You could've been killed." "What of you, my lord? You're bleeding." The fabric just below his collar bone had


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 20 been sliced clean through, and a gaping wound was stainin g his white shirt a rich scarlet. He kept staring at me. "It's nothing." Nothing? I shuddered, remembering the pain of that wound, having felt it earlier that morning. Nothing? It had been as if someone shoved a red hot torch into my chest. That's what t he dreams do, they make me live through another's pain for a short time. For what reason or to what purpose I cannot fathom. I only know that the first born women in my family must bear this curse. Perhaps we are being punished. I clutched his sleeve, in sudden terror of what else may have come to pass in that waking dream. "Georgie? Did they get her?" He squinted as if he didn't understand. "That's what they were after, then? Her ." "Yes. Yes. Is she safe? Did she make it to the house?" "Aye. I believe so. I saw her running toward Miss Stranje who came out of the house brandishing a pistol. Your headmistress managed to shoot one of the blighters, reloaded, and that's how I came by this." He glanced down at the now empty gun tucked into his belt. "You fought with them, didn't you? And they stabbed you. How did you get away?" I wanted to lay my hand over the wound and somehow make all the pain he must be feeling disappear. If only I were magic. "How did I "He ignored my question and raked back his dark curls. "You baffle me, Tess. In London, you fought beside me, but not like any girl I've ever known. And then, when you leapt onto Captain Grey's ship, I didn't know if you would..." Gabriel clamped


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 21 his lips tight and took a step back. "If I would what?" He shoo k his head, and looked annoyed. But I could see the hurt beneath it. "I had to do it. I had to jump." I parroted the words Georgie had used to console me earlier. It didn't seem to comfort him any more than it had me. And that raised my ire. Not that my i re isn't usually pretty close to the surface. Aside from that, I had nothing to fear by trying. Had I missed my mark I would've simple swum to shore. I am a perfectly able swimmer." "Of course You would be, wouldn't you," he muttered. "I'm sorry if that displeases you, my lord." "No, what displeases me is that without a thought for yourself or a care for what I might fe He stopped short and rammed his fingers in his hair as he always does when he is completely flustered. I'd hurt him that night. It gr ieved me to think it, but there was no denying what was plainly written in his face. Part of what I liked about Ravencross was that, at least to me, he often seemed more beast than man. And never more so, than he did that morning. He reminded me of our hu ge wolf dogs, proud, strong and magnificent. Even his hair was dark and wild like theirs. And yet, despite his powerful build, he remained guarded and cautious "It's highly irregular, that's what it is." H is boyish confusion vanished and he flexed his jaw "And now this." He gestured at the runaway mare, as if I ought to have done something different. "I don't know what to think about you." If he were Phobos or Trobos I would have ruffled his hair and challenged him to a


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 22 race to goad him out of his warine ss. Instead, I tilted my head to the side as if accepting a pretty compliment. "It's enough to know you think of me, my lord." His brows drew together in a frown, but I saw the corners of his eyes soften, hinting that underneath he was pleased that I'd fli rted with him. Vixen ," he said, as if that would humble me. "What I think is that you are the most troublesome female in all of Christendom." "Such flattery, my lord. You'll turn my head." He paled and I realized h e'd lost too much blood. "Gabriel?" I t ook hold of his arm. He looked down at my fingers on his sleeve and his lips curved in the merest suggestion of a smile. Except it wasn't a smile I liked. It was weary, too weary, and reeked of relief and surrender. He looked at me oddly, the way a lover might if he were bidding farewell. "I'm tempted to kiss you and ruin your reputation altogether." He was teasing. The almighty unsmiling Lord Ravencross was teasing. A distraction My heart faltered. It tumbled weightless through the air as surely as if I'd been thrown from the horse. Gabriel would only tease in such a way if his wounds were much worse than he let on. Much worse. I tugged him toward his mount. "Get on Zeus. Now." "You first. We can both ." Without another word he gave up arguing and raised his foot into the stirrup, almost too spent to heave himself into the saddle, but he managed.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 23 Short of breath, he held out his good arm. "I'll pull you up." He sounded so weak, so un Gabriel like. I fought back the tears that were stupidly trying t o water my eyes. There was no time for that. Instead, I took the hand he bravely offered, and swung up behind him, clasping his blood soaked waist. Thick wetness seeped through my fingers. So much blood. Too much. The coppery smell of it stung my nostrils. I regretted every second I'd wasted talking. We needed to hurry. I clucked my tongue and nudged Zeus forward. Gabriel did not kick Zeus into a gallop, another testament to the truth of his condition. It meant he wasn't certain he could keep his seat in a gallop. We did an easy canter past my abductor. The wretch lay unconscious or dead in the road. I didn't care which. I had only one thought get Gabriel home and tend his wounds. "Tell MacDougal to collect that" Gabriel drooped in the saddle. rubbish. "My lord?" He didn't respond. I reached around him, cradling his hands in mine, holding the reins with him. "Gabriel, wake up." I had to keep him talking, keep him alert enough that he didn't fall off the saddle. I held my arms more firmly against his si des. "How did you escape the attackers?" When he didn't respond I spoke louder, and jostled him lightly. "You were outnumbered. Tell me." He groaned. "Saw that cur hit you." "Yes, but obviously one of them stabbed you. How did you get away?" "Couldn't let them take you." He had escaped for my sake. "Oh." I drew in a shivering breath and, for just a moment, pressed my cheek against his back. He straightened a bit. "When he hit you it lit a fire in my veins." I felt his muscles


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 24 tense. "Could've killed ten me n." He slumped again. "But now ." "No. No," I pleaded. "Gabriel, don't give up now." He tried to sit taller. I felt his muscles tighten and then falter again. "Stay with me. Please Your manor is up ahead. There. See it?" I held him and kicked Zeus fa ster. Don't die I begged silently. "We're almost home. Please." Lord Ravencross swayed in the saddle, barely conscious, making short unbidden sounds every time Zeus jarred him. Not full moans, and yet each utterance stabbed my heart as surely as any black guard's knife. I told myself that at least those groans meant Gabriel was still with me, still conscious, still alive We neared the place where the road split between the two manors. "Georgie!" I screamed. "Miss Stranje! Anyone! Help!" Dear God in heave n, someone please help us. I was about to veer toward Stranje House when, in the distance, I thought I saw Miss Stranje and several others standing in the drive at Ravencross Manor. They appeared to be circled around what looked like a dead man sprawled o n the gravel. I shouted again and strained to see who was there. That's when I spotted Georgie. She was alive. Safe But it was Seraphina who noticed us first. Long before any of them heard my cries. She dashed toward us, running faster than I'd ever seen her go. Her bonnet flipped back and her white blonde hair flew in the wind as if she was an angel on God's errand. Georgie took off right after her, and a burly Scotsman followed hard on their heels. He must surely be MacDougal, Lord Ravencross's man of a ll work. Miss Stranje scurried behind them, her black skirts flapping like a raven in the wind. When Sera reached us she hollered back to the others. "He's hurt." She took hold of


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 25 Zeus's bridle to steady the horse. Breathless, Georgie ran straight to my s ide. "Thank goodness, he caught up to you oh ." She took one look at Gabriel and blanched. "How bad is it?" There was no time to answer her question. MacDougal came huffing and puffing up to us and let go with a guttural cry when he saw Lord Ravencross bloo died and drooping. "Aww Laddie, not again." He must've been remembering when Gabriel got wounded in the war. We stopped on the drive, and he helped me and Georgie ease Lord Ravencross off the horse. Gabriel was conscious enough to drape his uninjured arm across his servant's shoulder. They stumbled and limped toward the manor. I got hold of his other side to help, and glanced over my shoulder at the ribbon of blood trailing behind Gabriel. How much could he lose and still live? Georgie would know, but I c ouldn't bear to ask. "Mrs. Evans!" MacDougal's shout echoed across the drive with enough force to have awakened everyone in the county. "Where are ye, woman?" A plump woman in a cook's apron stood in the manor doorway crossing herself as she stared at th e gristly tableau unfolding on the drive, a circle of neighbors surrounding a dead man on the drive and MacDougal half carrying their employer who was covered in blood. "Merciful heavens!" Her hands flew to cover her mouth. "Look lively, woman! The master 's hurt." As we approached with Lord Ravencross she shuffled back against the doorframe about as helpful as a trout flopping on a riverbank. We half dragged half carried Lord Ravencross into the entry hall. MacDougal stopped to catch his breath and looked up the length of the staircase. He heaved a deep


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 26 sigh. "He's not going up all them stairs, I can tell ye that much." Mrs. Evans grimaced at the dripping wound. "Aye, poor lad, it's a fine mess he's made of his shoulder. My rooms are closer. Take him down the hall to my bed." MacDougal renewed his grip in preparation for their journey down the narrow hall which wasn't wide enough for me to assist them. Lord Ravencross groaned as they started down. "Careful," I warned. Miss Stranje pushed between us and he rded me back, out of the manor, onto the front step. She leaned close and spoke so softly that only the two of us could hear. "Tess, I must ask you to remain outside." "What?" I jerked back astonished. "No." How could she expect me to abandon him? "He need s me." I saw her face harden. Our headmistress is like a hawk. Miss Stranje sees all, and watches over the young in her care, but when it is time to go in for the kill, her eyes darken and what may have been mistaken for soft feathers turns into steel pla ted armor. In a cold unwavering voice she laid down the law. "You will stay out, Miss Aubreyson. This is no place for a young lady with your delicate sensibilities. It would be highly improper." Had she lost her wits? "My delicate sensi "Highly imprope r," she repeated in a low tone coupled with a flash of indignation. It was as if she thought I was the one being thick headed. "Particularly with onlookers present." She bristled up, a veritable wall of black bombazine barring my entrance into the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 27 manor. With brusque finality she gestured to Jane who bounded forward. "Lady Jane, run back to Stranje House and fetch my treatment kit. You know the one it contains my remedies and bandages." Jane dashed off without hesitation. Miss Stranje issued another orde r, this time, to Maya. "Attend to Tess, if you please. She appears to be injured and overwrought." "I am no such thing." Besides, Ravencross needed me. Who else could calm him? In pain, he would be more unruly than ever. "I can help you with him." Miss St ranje's ferocious frown hushed my protest. "Nonsense. There's blood in your hair. You are pale and shaking." She glanced past my shoulder as if something of concern stood just beyond me. "You will do as I say." With a sharp toss of her chin she spun around and headed down the hall. "No." I rasped pathetically. Please ." But her shoulders stiffened and she did not even glance back. Mrs. Evans took one look at our formidable headmistress and stepped aside. "Bring warm water and towels. Quickly." Miss Stran je sent the housekeeper scurrying off to do her bidding and continued marching down the hall. "Mr. MacDougal, as soon as you help me situate Lord Ravencross you must ride with all haste to fetch the doctor." They all disappeared into the housekeeper's room s and I remained standing on the front step, staring into the empty hallway, helpless, prevented from entering as surely as if our headmistress stood guarding the way with a flaming sword.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 28 Chapter 3 Innocents In all the confusion, someone rushed up behind me. It wasn't Sera or Jane. Although, I vaguely heard Sera warn, "No. Not now. You mustn't A stranger's voice startled me. "You there, Miss That was all I heard before a hand rested on my shoulder and tried to turn me. I'd had enough of stran gers grabbing me that morning. I stepped back, clamped hold of the offending paw, dipped forward and yanked whoever it was over my shoulder. The maneuver worked as efficiently as it always did in practice with Madame Cho. My assailant flipped over my sho ulder and smacked down on his back in the gravel by the front step. The young gentleman on the ground appeared to be surprisingly well dressed. His hat had toppled off revealing honey colored cherubic hair and eyes blue as an afternoon sky. And although h e was trying desperately to catch the wind back into his lungs his expression was brimming with innocence and inquisitiveness. If he were an animal, I would've instantly liked him. But he wasn't one, and what's more, he'd had the audacity


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 29 to lay a hand on me. Where most men would have instantly turned angry at being tossed on his backside, this fellow remained astonished. "I must say He gasped hard, gathering in more breath. "That was unexpected." He managed to look somewhat pleased. Sera stooped beside him. "I did try to warn you. Are you injured?" "Not at all." H e grinned at her. "Quite all right." And with no heed for the fabric of his coat, he propped himself up on his elbows. Astounded mind you, but otherwise undamaged. Only thing bruised is my eg o at having been taught my manners." He stopped beaming at Sera, who had lowered her lashes and was blushing ridiculously red, and turned to me. "My apologies, miss. I should not have startled you. I'd only meant to ask about the man you killed." He seeme d in no hurry to move from his position on the ground. Regardless of how good natured he might be, I had no interest in his cheeky question. "If you are referring to the man I stopped from abducting Miss Fitzwilliam, I don't see what business it is of your s." Tess ." Georgie issued a low hiss and her eyes widened in warning. "What?" I snapped. "I don't believe you have been properly introduced," she proceeded with an oddly formal aire. "Miss Aubreyson, this gentleman is Mr. Chadwick. His father, our local Justice of the Peace, dispatched him to see what all the shooting was about. Apparently neighbors sent word to him when they were awakened by the sound of screams and gunfire. If I understand the situation clearly, until his father and the coroner arrive, it is Mr. Chadwick's duty to maintain the scene of the crime and collect evidence related to


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 30 theuh" She hesitated, obviously avoiding the word killings for fear of its effect on me. Her worried expression flittered self consciously to the place out in t he field where we'd been attacked, where he was, the man I'd killed. "The deaths," she finished. Meanwhile, Sera still knelt beside the overturned magistrate's son, blushing pinker than boiled shrimp. She was unbearably shy, and normally withdrew to the e dges of most gatherings, watching, and noting anything of importance. But today she remained squarely in the middle, looking completely flustered. Maya gently urged Sera up and extended a hand to our fallen guest to assist him to his feet. "Our deepest apo logies, Mr. Chadwick. As you can see, it has been a most trying morning." Maya's voice flowed smooth and sweet. Her lilting Indian cadence was intoxicating, and her words melted over our ears like warm butterscotch. "Miss Aubreyson's nerves must surely be frayed after having been abducted so roughly and now" Her hand fluttered gracefully toward the trail of blood. "With Lord Ravencross wounded. I'm sure you can sympathize with her fragile state of mind." Fragile? Me? I tried to shake myself loose from the soothing strains of her voice. It was an absurd thing for her to say. I'm not fragile. Not in the least. Quite the opposite. I journey through hell and back nearly every night, and yet here I am. Why would she say such a thing? I can't risk being fragile. Before I could object, Chadwick, that impertinent whelp, chimed in. "I understand


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 31 completely. No one can blame her for overset. And I am sorry to distress her with these questions. I'm sure this is a difficult situation for all of you genteel young ladies ." Mr. Chadwick dusted off his hands and straightened his rumpled coat. He took a second look at my coarse running garb, perhaps reassessing his remark about our gentility. "My father and the coroner will arrive shortly to take matters in hand. But in the interim, Miss Aubreyson, at the risk of troubling you further I must ask if I might have a word with you while the events are still fresh in your mind "You may have all the words you like, Mr. Chadwick, at another time. At the moment, I am far too concer ned with Lord Ravencross's welfare." I stepped around him hoping to catch a word about Gabriel's condition from MacDougal who had just charged out of Ravencross Manor. But he swung up onto Zeus and dashed off to get the doctor so fast that I missed my oppo rtunity. "Ah, I see." Chadwick brushed specks of gravel from his hat. "Then, am I to assume you are his betrothed?" That stopped me. "Don't be daft." I turned back to him. "The man can scarcely stand to be in the same room with me." He tilted his head a s if trying to cipher it all out. Sera, the wretch, had the temerity to press her lips together suppressing a smile. They all assumed there was something more than mere acquaintance between Lord Ravencross and me. I don't know what Georgie had told them ab out that kiss she witnessed a few weeks ago. But it meant nothing. A moment of weakness on his part, that's all it was. I'd goaded him and he fell prey to my taunts. Nothing more. Except now they were all hiding smirks.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 32 Enough! Pushed to my limit, I gest ured at Georgie. "I suggest you ask Miss Fitzwilliam about the morning's events. She was there. She saw everything. Or quiz Miss Wyndham here. I pulled Seraphina forward. Given the fact that she has perfect recall, I'm certain she can give you a complete a ccounting of anything she may have seen or heard. And knowing my fellow students" I glared at the pack of them, even Maya. "They will have seen a great deal from their windows." After all, we attended an establishment for young ladies that trained us to do exactly that, make detailed observations, while pretending we hadn't seen a thing. His attention whipped to Sera. "Perfect recall?" I tromped back to the open door and called down the hall. "How is he?" The housekeeper pattered across it into the bedr oom, carrying a bowl of water and fresh linens tucked under her arm. She returned empty handed and headed straight for me. "Miss Stranje says you're to keep a civil tongue in your head when speaking to the Justice of the Peace's son and I'm to close the do or." "No! Wait." I held it open. "You must tell me how he is." She shook her head. "Wish I knew, miss. It don't look good. That's all I know." Then she shut the door with a click that echoed as loudly as the gun shot had earlier that morning. I may have thumped my fists against the heavy oak and let out a roar of frustration. I confess, I don't know for certain. Young ladies do not normally do such things. I do remember hearing Trobos from clear across the park let out an answering howl. The sound of it p reyed even further on my mind. I felt as if I might explode.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 33 "Very well," I whirled on the Justice of the Peace's son. "What is it you want to know?" He offered me a puppy ish smile. "You're injured. Perhaps if you sit down I might ask you a few simple questions to speed my father's inquiry along." He indicated a bench off to the side of the drive. I declined his offer and kept pacing. I was too agitated to sit. I felt as if I would slide off and collapse in a puddle if I sat down. "And, of course, the law requires me to confiscate your weapon." My knife. He wanted my knife. The one with a stranger's blood all over it. "Help yourself." I pointed brusquely at the tall grass across the park in Miss Stranje's back field. "My dagger is out there somewhere. You'll have to pardon me for not knowing the exact location. They threw a sack over my head." For the first time I became acutely aware of the body laying in the gravel on the other side of the drive. "What happened to that one?" I wanted Georgie or Sera to answer, not him, not the interfering Mr. Chadwick. But he responded first. "Your headmistress shot him in an attempt to protect Miss Fitzwilliam and rescue you." He indicated a spot across the park near Stranje House's garden door. "From there. Quite a distance. I wouldn't have expected a spinster schoolteacher to manage a shot like that at a moving target." Hackles raised, Georgie huffed. "What does her being a spinster have to do with anything?" Sera interceded with a slightly less quarrelsome approach "Surely, you are not assuming that Miss Stranje's aim would be less accurate because she is unmarried? One


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 34 thing has nothing to do with the other." "Not at all." He raised his hands, warding them off. "You misunderstand me." "Hhmm." Georgie crossed her a rms. "If not, then you must be suggesting a woman cannot fire a gun as accurately as a man. Which is a preposterous notion "Heavens no." He backed up under her onslaught. "My own mother is an excellent shot. Outshoots my father on almost every hunt. No, I simply meant that in her profession, as a headmistress at a finishing school, one would not expect Miss Stranje to have acquired any skill with firearms." Oh ." Georgie's arms dropped to her sides. "I suppose that is a fairly logical deduction." She fidg eted. Georgie is unable to lie without displaying a great deal of discomfort. "Yes, I see why you might have assumed that. But it is quite possible Miss Stranje learned how to handle firearms while hunting with her father." She smiled pleased with the expl anation she'd concocted. It was clever, and hopefully it would throw him off the scent. What Georgie didn't know is that she had just told the plain truth of the matter. Miss Stranje's father had indeed taught her how to handle a gun. Mr. Chadwick need not be told that Miss Stranje's father had been one of England's finest spy masters and that he trained his daughter to follow in his footsteps. We had to guard the true nature of Miss Stranje's school at all costs. He bowed his head to the side, accepting t he plausibility of her suggestion. Seraphina usually speaks with a gentleness that matches her angelic appearance, as if she empathizes with everyone. But that day Sera frowned at Chadwick. No, she well and truly scowled at him. I hadn't thought it possib le for her. In fact, she chided him in a tone so prickly that it sounded completely foreign coming


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 35 from her. "I'm surprised at you, Mr. Chadwick. It is a dangerous thing to make assumptions without ascertaining the facts first. Particularly, when you are here in service to your father's office." She surprised me. It was not like Sera to deliver a scold to anyone, and she wasn't finished. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be off studying at Cambridge or Oxford?" "I .well er. no." The young gen tleman flushed, adjusted his collar, and looked considerably more rattled than he had when I'd yanked him over my shoulder. He took a deep breath before continuing. "If you must know, and I'm not saying it's of any importance to the matters at hand, but a s things stand I didn't, well you see ." Odd He'd been such a talkative fellow and now he stumbled over his words. His back went rigid, and he did not address any one of us in particular. Although, he did glance sidewise in Sera's direction. "Very wel l, if you insist on the facts of the matter I surpassed what might be gained at Cambridge at a fairly young age. That's why I am here. My father hired tutors to educate me. Excellent tutors." He turned several shades of pink while explaining. He looked aw ay, smoothed the nap of his top hat with care, and replaced it snugly on his head as if that signified an end to the matter. So agitated was he at having told us about not going to university that he failed to notice Sera withdrawing even more. She closed in on herself as she so often does. It is impossible for Sera to hide her feelings. A sad gray pall settled over her. She studied the gravel and quietly said, "You are fortunate to have such understanding parents." Ah, so that was it.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 36 I understood then what was vexing her and my heart ached on her account. Mr. Chadwick had been given approval and granted the opportunity to learn. Whereas Sera's peculiar gifts of memory had been treated with distrust and suspicion. He'd been rewarded for his extraordinar y mind with tutors. Whereas she had been locked away in the attic until, in desperation, her mother had carted her off to Stranje House. Uneasy with the silence that fell between them, I glanced over to where Georgie stood studying the dead man. I took a closer look and drew in a sharp breath. Mr. Chadwick leapt to attention at my gasp. "You recognize him?" Despite the sizable hole in his skull I knew this was t he man who lashed Trobos with his riding crop. In a sudden panic I whirled to Georgie. "Wher e s Trobos? Did they is she hurt?" She's all right ." Georgie grasped my shoulders and frowned But Miss Stranje is right yo u re trembling You mustn't worry. Both dogs are fine. Agitated, of course, but unharmed. Pups and all. Jane fed them and took the m to the kennels." I nodded with relief and she let go. Chadwick renewed his question. "So you recognize the dead man?" "Only that he whipped our dogs because they were trying to protect us. Other than that, no. I don't know him." I backed away from the gruesome specter of his remains, stumbling in the gravel. I never stumble. I'm not squeamish. Not a bit, and yet, gooseflesh raised on my arms and I shivered. Mr. Chadwick closed in on my weakness. "Miss Wyndham saw this fellow help lift you onto the ho rse. Do you remember anything about them? I'm sorry to put these


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 37 question to you, but even the slightest detail might help us identify who they were and ascertain their purpose." "Their purpose?" My hand flew to the lump on my head. "They clubbed me and ba gged me! As if I was an animal to be slaughtered." Dizzy with rage, my voice flew up in pitch. "I know nothing of their purpose. How could I?" He had the decency to flinch. Georgie reached for my hand Normally, I would never have taken it. I stand alone. Every night I face carnage and suffering alone Always alone. I cannot rely on the strength of others. But that morning, I let her clasp my hand in hers, and I am forced to admit it helped calm me. Chadwick leaned in sympathetically. "My sincerest condole nces, miss. They were villains of the first order." Condolences? Are you pitying me? I'm not the one who is dead. Those men were nothing to me." He stepped back. "No, miss, but they put you in the monstrous position of having to take a life in order to pr otect yourself and someone you care about." He shook his head and squared his shoulders. And for just a minute it felt as if his chief concern was my welfare. Except his voice regained its inquisitive bent and he flung one more horrid question at me. "Do you have any idea why they would try to abduct you rather than simply leave you unconscious in the field?" I pressed my lips together willing myself to silence, and shot Georgie a desperate glance, remembering exactly what the cutthroats had said. It was s upposed to be her in that bag not me. The command had originated from a female leader, and that could


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 38 only mean one person. Lady Daneska. What could I tell this prying son of a Justice of the Peace? The truth? We are actually young ladies with highly s pecialized talents. Miss Stranje is training us to work with spies and diplomats in service to our country. But we have been betrayed. One of our number ran away and joined Napoleon's Order of the Iron Crown. Should I tell him that I had simply been an in convenient substitute? That the traitor, Lady Daneska, in her vicious desire for revenge, planned to abduct Georgie and torture her in order to extract her formula for invisible ink and obtain the current location of several key spies, in particular, Capta in Grey and Lord Wyatt. Out of the question. I couldn't say any of that. So, I shrugged weakly. "It's all so very puzzling." He rubbed his thumb across the faint stubble on his chin. "My father will have a number of questions before we can put this matte r to rest. In all likelihood, he will suggest for Miss Stranje to hire a Bow Street Runner to investigate. In my opinion that sort of investigator would be of little use. They've no access to the higher circles of society, and I suspect there is something larger at work here. You're certain you have no idea who these culprits are? Or what connection they might have to yourselves or the school? "Of course, not." I swallowed against the lie that turned my mouth dry and bitter. "Why would I?" His hat shaded d angerously intelligent eyes. Nevertheless, I could read the signs in


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 39 the skeptical tilt of his head, his cheek muscles flinching and his eyebrows raised a millimeter too high. He didn't believe me. "How very perplexing." he pursed his lips. Sera wrapped her arm around my waist. "They were murderers and thieves. Most likely t hey assumed Miss Aubreyson came from a wealthy family and planned to extract a ransom." That is possible." He continued to appraise me far too astutely. "Although, given her mode of dress, I find that unlikely. Why are you wearing a dress of that sort?" He also noted the ragged hem on Georgie's dress. "What brought the two of you outside so early in the morning?" "A walk," I said tersely, and rubbed my arms to keep warm. "Precisely." Georgie piped up. "We like to take a brisk walk in the cool of the morning before weeding the garden. You wouldn't expect us to wear our Sunday best for that now would you?" "I suppose not. But if that's the case, we must assume these men had been watchi ng the house. How often is it your habit to perform these early morning activities, and" Chadwick rattled off a string questions, but my head throbbed and I found I could no longer listen. All I could see was the dead man with his skull blown half off. I t surprised me when Mr. Chadwick finally quieted for just a moment. He, too, stared at the dead man. "I still think it was a lucky thing your Miss Stranje was able to make that shot." Lucky? I turned to stare out at the field where it had all begun. There was another man


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 40 l a ying out there with a fatal wound in his chest. M y dagger having done the deed Lucky? There was nothing lucky in all this. I hated th e word. It tasted like poison on my tongue. The pounding in my head grew nearly unbearable. I reached u p to check the bump and was rewarded with a handful of matted hair and blood. Let me have a look at that ." Sera tugged my shoulder down so she and Maya could inspect the goose egg about to hatch on my skull. "She needs rest," Maya murmured to Sera. "The shock has been too much." Sera nodded and turned to my inquisitor. "Mr. Chadwick, look at how pale she is. She must lie down soon or I'm afraid she'll collapse right here on the drive We must excuse ourselves and take Miss Aubreyson home straight away "Yes, certainly My apologies. I should've noticed she's worse off than she let on. I'll help you "Wait." I turned and pointed down the lane. "There may be another man back there, l aying in the road. I don't know if he's dead or not. When Lord Ravenc ross fired his pistol the horse reared and threw the rider. We couldn't stop to check. Lord Ravencross's injuries were too..." I stared down the length of my arm. Wine colored streaks stained my sleeve. Gabriel's blood was everywhere. Crusted and drying. I gaped at my outstretched arm. "Severe." Shivers changed to quaking. I'm not the missish sort. Truly, I'm not. Nor do I have a weak stomach. Nevertheless, I felt as if I would vomit at any minute. "I'm cold." My plea sounded puny and weak even to my ears Mr. Chadwick whipped off his coat and draped it over my shoulders. "Let me help you get her home."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 41 Maya put a supporting arm around me and Sera brushed him away taking the other side. "Thank you, no. We can manage." Georgie wedged herself between us and him. "You've done quite enough for one morning, Mr. Chadwick. At any rate, y ou are obligated to stay here to meet your father and the coroner." "But." He stood there looking more bewildered than ever as we trudged down the drive and started across the la wn toward Stranje House. Apparently, those excellent tutors of his had not taught him how to deal with young ladies.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 42 Chapter 4 Secrets Mr. Chadwick called after us. "I didn't mean to distress you. I hope you feel better tomorrow, Miss Aubreyson. We'll call on you then and perhaps you'll be able to give us a more thorough account." Georgie took the lead as we pushed through the grass heading back to Stranje House. "He asks too many questions," I mumbled to Sera. "Mmm." She agreed, and glanced back over her shoulder. "He's too curious by half. And unless I miss my guess, he'll be like a dog with a bone until he solves this puzzle. We must come up with some suitably engaging answers." Jane met us where the two properties bordered as she was coming ba ck from Stranje House. Philip, our footman, trailed behind her carrying Miss Stranje's doctoring bag and a stack of extra linens from our bandage closet. Immediately, she added the ewer and basin she carried to the footman's stack, and rushed to us. "What' s happened?" Sera kept hold of my arm as she explained, "The blow to Tess's head is worse than we thought. We're taking her home." "Wait. I'll help you." Jane instructed the footman to hurry on to Ravencross Manor and take the equipment directly to Miss S tranje.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 43 He left us and we continued on our way, but when we passed the undergrowth on Stranje House's park I stopped walking. "We may be making a mistake." Something was niggling at me. We needed to consider this more carefully. "Sera, I think you ought t o go back. Return Mr. Chadwick's coat to him. Try to convince him that he needn't come back tomorrow. You'll think of something to say." I pulled off his coat and held it out to her. "Please. I can't bear any more of his questions. Besides, you can tell hi s father everything you saw without having to lie." "Tess has a point." Georgie agreed with me for once. "Sera, you could help guide them as they investigate the scene. One of us really ought to be there to throw them off the scent. And it was obvious he r espected you the most." "I don't know." She glanced back at the young man pacing on the drive. "What if he sees through me?" I shivered without the warmth of his coat. "He won't. You're a girl. He'll underestimate you. They always do." "That's right." Jan e patted Sera's arm. "You'll think of something to keep them from looking to closely at what goes on at Stranje House. You're the best of us at strategy." "I'm not as convinced as you are that he'll underestimate us. And Jane, everyone knows you're better at strategy than I am. You're just trying to convince me to go stick my neck out." Jane didn't argue she simply glanced to her feet and shifted uncomfortably. "Perhaps, but you're definitely better at pointing out details they might not notice, or knowin g which of those clues might be to our advantage if they didn't notice." Sera sighed. "Very well, I'll do my best." With a determined nod she snatched the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 44 coat from me, turned, and marched back to Ravencross manor like a soldier bravely headed off to war. Jane pushed aside the branches of a scrub oak and we pressed on to Stranje House. Georgie took Sera's place and I leaned closer to her. "You do realize it was you they were after?" Her eyes squeezed tight for a minute as if she could keep the truth out tha t way. She needed to face it. "I heard them say so. They'd been told to nab the girl with the red hair, and the person who gave them their orders was female. La comtesse. Georgie caught her breath. "A countess, then "Daneska!" Jane finished for her. Undoubtedly," I said. "She'd also told them she'd pay extra if they killed Lord Ravencross." I shivered even more violently, but this time not from feeling cold. "Why would she want him killed?" Worry flashed between Georgie and Jane, followed by a conspi ratorial expression that set warning bells clanging almost as loud as the drumming in my head. They were hiding something. "What is it?" I demanded. But they remained buttoned up tighter than clams out of water. It didn't matter, I would fish it out of th em eventually. Jane tried to smooth over the uncomfortable silence. "You know why. She's hated him ever since Mockern, when he..." She trailed off. Mockern The battlefield where Lord Ravencross was wounded the first time. The day Lady Daneska's param our died.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 45 I'd lived it in a dream. No, not a dream, a reoccurring nightmare that haunted me long before I'd actually met Ravencross. Three times I'd dreamt of that ghastly humid battlefield in Mockern. I could still see the insides of the ramshackle farmh ouse where they fought. Could still smell it. That house stank of rot, mold, and the coming storm. Three times I lived through that sword fight between the brothers. Two men on opposite sides of the war, one loyal to England, and the other, leader of the I ron Crown, Napoleon's secret order of knights. Gabriel's older brother almost killed him that day. Sliced his leg nearly in two. An injury he still carries. Anyone else would have died. Not him. Gabriel does not die easily. I prayed that today it would remain true. His brother, Lucien, moved in for the death blow. Instead of giving up, Gabriel swung his sword around and delivered one last protective thrust. Lucien collapsed like a toppled tree. His cheek struck the splintered floorboards, and his mouth g aped open in bloody surprise, his eyes fixed in a wide death stare. I could still see Lucien's lifeless face. Could still feel Gabriel's desolation. Three times I have awakened to a scream that still shreds my peace. Gabriel's cry of anguish. Not for his own pain, but for having killed his only brother. Of course, Daneska hated Ravencross for killing her lover. But I could tell Jane and Georgie were still holding something back, something that had to do with him, with Ravencross. "What are you hiding? Tel l me." I glared at them, annoyed that they would try to keep a secret from me. I would wiggle it out of them in time. Not today, though. Today I was weary and my head


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 46 hammered like a blacksmith reworking a bent horseshoe. "We must concentrate on the matt er at hand." Georgie's ploys are transparent. Obviously, she sought to distract me. "Think hard," she wheedled. "Did you notice anything about your kidnappers that might lend us a clue?" "I'm not Sera," I grumbled. "I don't remember details." "Try." We cr ossed through Miss Stranje's gardens. A tangled mass of roses left to grow wild created a maze of thorns, calculated to discourage visitors from arriving in that direction. Georgie persisted with her questions. "There must be something you recall. Did they say anything else that might help us? Perhaps you noticed an accent?" She needled as much as Mr. Chadwick, except now that I thought of it, she was right. I had noticed something. "The one with the injured leg had a thick French accent. But the other one, the man who came at me, the one the one I killed I bit my lip before continuing. "His vowels were mixed up. It sounded as if he might've been from East Sussex." Then I remembered the worst of it. "He said she'd given him their orders when she arrived in England." "Ohhh." Georgie blew air through her lips. Her brow pinched up and her freckles paled. "That means she's here. Lady Daneska is back in England." Jane and Maya both stopped cold. We all did. Jane turned around her lips pressed tight. "Then we must assume they traveled here from somewhere along our coast. Close by." "I could be wrong. Perhaps the blow to my head has muddled things," I said, hoping


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 47 to ease their minds, except I could still hear those blackguards talking in my head. Georgie rubb ed her ear as if that might change the facts she'd heard. "This is not good. Not good at all." "Come on. Let's get you into the house." Jane put her arm around my waist and urged me forward. Georgie stumbled along behind us, grumbling about Daneska's braze nness at returning to England. "Doesn't she know she could go to the gallows for her treachery?" Maya answered with a quiet but troubling truth. "I believe Lady Daneska fears very little." "Irrational creature. She's no better than a common viper." Georgie pronounced sentence. But she was wrong. I knew Daneska. She'd once been my best friend. And there was nothing common about her. Oh, Danni was poisonous all right, but she was more like an exotic cobra. Beautiful. Mesmerizing. Deadly. Georgie piped up with renewed anger. "If she had a lick of sense she would be afraid, because if I ever get my hands on her scrawny neck they'll be no need for a hangman. She must be made to answer for what she did to Sebastian." "And for her betrayal," added Jane. As we cli mbed the back steps, the garden door flew open and Madame Cho rushed out. Clearly, she'd been watching from the window. She nudged Jane and Maya out of the way and marched me into the house. The minute we were inside she began sizing up the lump on my head I winced as she inspected it, while evaluating me with her coal black eyes.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 48 "Come." She tugged me down the hall to the small sitting room where we usually studied geography and language. "Sit." She wrapped an afghan around me, washed the blood from my h ands and face with a ewer and cloth. By the time she finished, the water in the basin had turned a sickening red. She peered closely into each of my eyes, first one and then the other. Madame Cho clicked her tongue, rattled off something in irritated Chine se, and then told me what I already knew. "You have a bad bump. Very bad." "I'll mend. I just need to rest." I leaned back against the sofa and closed my eyes. Madame Cho yanked on the bell pull and Alice, our parlor maid, hurried in. "Bring tea." Alice no sooner left, than Greaves, our butler, appeared in the doorway and cleared his throat. "Pardon me, ladies, but we have a visitor." Madame Cho looked up, suddenly wary. I think it was because of the way Greaves said the word visitor,' as if it wasn't simply Lady Somebody Or Other from the village. "We've no time for visitors today." Jane took charge, as she is inclined to do. Not that Jane is bossy. It's simply that she excels at managing. "You may tell whoever it is that we are not at home today. "B egging your pardon, miss, but this one claims he carries a message." When Jane makes up her mind she won't budge for anything less than an artillery shell. "Tell him to leave his message and go." "But Georgie exhaled loudly. "Don't you see, Tess is inju red. We've bodies in the field, a nosy magistrate's son, and Lady Da She stopped short and caught herself before


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 49 sputtering all of her worries out on poor Greaves. "Not today. We simply can't allow vis Greaves never interrupts, but he did that day. "A message from Lord Wyatt." Georgie paled and stood, staring at Greaves. Her frustration draining entirely away. Quiet as a breath, Lord Wyatt's given name escaped her lips. "Sebastian." "Yes, Miss." Despite the hump on his back, Greaves stood as rigid as the king's guard and solemn as an undertaker. "I'll go with you." Jane took Georgie's arm. "Greaves, you may show the messenger to the upstairs parlor. Thank you." "Wait!" I leaned forward to stand up. "I'm going with you. I'll not have any more secrets. "No. You will not." Madame Cho clamped an iron hand on my shoulder and pressed me back down. "You must stay still. No stairs. Not yet." "Very well, if you're that worried about it, we'll all stay together." Jane acted as if, in Miss Stranje's absence, s he were the matriarch of Stranje House even though she was younger than me and Madame Cho really ought to be giving the orders. But she has that aire of command about her, and everyone just seems to fall in line. She guided Georgie back to the divan and is sued more instructions. "You may show this messenger in here, Greaves." "Here?" Georgie looked about the room strewn with books and maps. Madame Cho grumbled about it not being proper. She probably would have objected further except Alice hurried into the room with a teapot and tea tray. Greaves hoisted his nose higher in the air, obviously disapproving of the decision.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 50 Before he could leave the room, Philip burst in, hunched over and panting as if he'd run all the way from Ravencross Manor. Greaves rais ed one gloved hand and delivered a disciplinary smack to the center of his footman's back. "I will not have you bolting into a room huffing and puffing as if you have just finished a race. Not in front of the ladies." "No, sir." Philip stiffened to soldier like attention. "Begging your pardon, ladies. I was given orders to run straight here with a message from Miss Stranje, in particular for you, Miss Aubreyson. I'm to tell you to stop fretting. The Doctor has arrived, Lord Ravencross is being well cared fo r, and it looks as if he is going to live. She also said for Madame Cho to make certain you rest, so that you may do the same." He gathered in another breath. Live that is." "Hmph." Greaves clamped Philips by the shoulder, turned on his heel and guided h is first footman out of the room. For the first time all morning I took a deep breath of relief. Then I got to thinking. His message had been worded so carefully. "She said to tell me .' But does that mean it's really true?" I looked to Jane or Maya for c onfirmation or denial. Jane glanced down at the worn Turkish carpet and chewed her lip. She didn't answer, none of them did, because we all knew our headmistress was prone to setting down the truth in ways that most benefited her purposes. Maya broke the s ilence. "The doctor is tending to him. Of that much we can be certain." It wasn't much comfort. Georgie's hands were clasped tight and her attention fixed on the doorway, awaiting the good news or bad that would arrive at any minute.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 51 Madame Cho handed me a cup and saucer. "Drink your tea." I'd barely taken a second sip when Greaves returned and ushered in our guest. I looked up expecting to see someone who would ordinarily carry a message for king and country, someone like Mr. Digby, or one of the other s oldier like men we had met while working with Captain Grey in France. My expectations were as wide of the mark as snow in July. When the visitor stepped into in our workroom I nearly dropped my teacup.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 5 2 Chapter 5 Messenger "Mister Alexander Sinclair." Greaves annunciated our guest's name oddly, straining to pronounce each syllable carefully. "From the Colonies, he added, in a tone that indicated our guest's origins caused our aged butler a bellyache. "United States," the visitor corrected a nd bowed stiffly from the waist. Clearly, he wasn't accustomed to bowing. We all stared at the young man whose golden curls were tousled and looked as if they hadn't seen the useful side of a comb in several days. His ill fitting tailcoat was dusty and hu ng open revealing a waistcoat of a blue and purple stripes that did not mix well with the brown of his trousers. Not only that but it appeared to be buttoned incorrectly. He must have borrowed the trousers, or else he'd grown since purchasing them because they were embarrassingly short. His buckle shoes were so scuffed and worn they looked as if they hailed from a previous decade. One of his stockings had slithered down from its moorings and collected around his ankle.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 53 Madame Cho took in his appearance and sucked disapproving air through her teeth. Jane uttered an audible gasp. Georgie took a deep steadying breath. On the other hand, I found his disastrous appearance both amusing and interesting. For a moment I forgot about my pounding headache. Who had we allowed into our midst? "Welcome, Mr. Sinclair." Georgie extended her hand to him. "We were told you carry a message for us." He took her hand and rather than bowing elegantly over it, he gave it a firm shake. More and more intriguing, this unruly pup fro m the Americas. "Yes, miss. I've a letter from Lord Wyatt to be delivered to Miss Fitzwilliam. From his description, I take it you are she?" Her hand flew out of his and up to her distinctive red hair and self consciously to her cheek covered with equally distinctive freckles. Then she took a deep breath and regained her confidence. "Yes, I am she." Mr. Sinclair reached into his coat and produced a sealed letter. "Lord Wyatt said you'd know what to do with it." Georgie's hands shook as she took it and broke the seal. "You must excuse me for a moment. Would you care to be seated, Mr. Sinclair?" "Thank you, kindly, but no. Feels as though I've been sitting for a fortnight. A man needs to stretch his legs now and again or the muscles freeze up like a waterwheel in January." He demonstrated his need to loosen his muscles by shaking out first one long leg and then the other rather vigorously. Madame Cho hissed again.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 54 I will admit; we stared openly at our peculiar guest. It was rude, but none of us looked away. M e, fascinated. Jane appalled that he would mention legs and muscles, and then proceed to shake said legs as if he had fleas. It's a lucky thing for Mr. Sinclair that Madame Cho didn't have her bamboo cane in hand, because her natural inclination would've b een to wallop him for his appalling manners. Undaunted, Mr. Sinclair continued to regale us with the intimate details of his arduous journey from Paris to England. Much of his tale is not fit to recite in polite company. Although, given his American dialec t, I may not have comprehended all of it. It was a bit difficult to decipher his odd accent and phraseology, made all the more challenging because his overly vivid descriptions were frequently interrupted by Jane gasping and Madame Cho hissing like a Madag ascar cockroach. Georgie had excused herself from the room, no doubt so she could apply a developing solution to the invisible ink on Lord Wyatt's letter. She returned to us studying the contents of the letter. At last, she handed it over to me, Maya and J ane. We abandoned our study of the peculiar Mr. Sinclair to read it silently: Dear Miss Fitzwilliam, I am sending you a gift by way of this gentleman. You will need to apply some effort in order to open it properly. Meanwhile, I am desirous of knowing how you fare. Are you in good health? How fares our Miss Stranje? Is she as determined as ever to transform you into a proper young lady? Please extend to her my sincerest best wishes in the endeavor. Captain Grey also sends his warmest regards and asks if she would please look in at his cottage


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 55 now and again, to make sure the servants are diligently tending to their tasks. Our business on the continent has met with a few setbacks as you might imagine with Napoleon sitting on the throne of France. Yr humbl e servant, Lord Wyatt. The real letter, the letter that had been written in invisible ink, now lay exposed between those innocuous lines. My dearest Georgiana, This fellow, Mr. Alexander Sinclair, like yourself, is something of an inventor and engine er. I discovered he was being held prisoner by the Iron Crown in a house outside of Paris. We took the liberty of slipping him out from under their care and are sending him to you for safekeeping. He is the nephew of a remarkable engineer and artist, Mr. Robert Fulton, of the Colonies. He assisted Fulton in France on the construction of an extraordinary underwater ship. The French were disappointed, but if the flaws were corrected, we might use an underwater vessel to great advantage against our enemy. Not only that, but Sinclair has improved upon Fulton's design of an underwater bomb called a torpedo. Sinclair also carries by memory the plans for Fulton's warship powered by steam. You will immediately grasp the value of such a ship. I trust you will aid hi m in his work as he has yet to build a prototype of the torpedo. I'm certain that between you and Jane you can harness his faculties and put them to good use.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 56 Although the government originally rejected plans for the warship, with Napoleon back on the thro ne of France, Lord Castlereagh feels certain there may be a change of mind on the matter. He is desirous of having drawings and a small working model of the warship to present to the council at White Hall as soon as it can be arranged. Georgie, my dearest a word or two of caution; there must be no late night collaborations. Remember my previous warning about not tempting gentlemen beyond their ability to resist. If poor unsuspecting Mr. Sinclair should behave toward you in an overly friendly manner, I wou ld have to call him out and beat him senseless. Thus, the world would be robbed of his brilliant mind. Apart from that, I ask that you listen to him with respect and that you and Jane assist him in his work. Beseech our beloved Miss Stranje to house and keep him from danger. We must not let him fall into our enemies' hands. I rest easy knowing that at least he is at Stranje House and away from the reach of the Iron Crown, for now. Yours with deepest affection, Sebastian Mr. Sinclair shifted uncomforta bly from one foot to the other. Madame Cho folded her arms and narrowed her dark eyes at him, so that I'm sure the poor fellow felt as if he were under guard. Georgie leaned over our shoulders while Jane, Maya and I read the letter. When we finished she f rantically whispered, For now? What do you think he meant by that? Something is wrong. I know it. And Mr. Sinclair isn't safe here. Not with Daneska back in England."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 57 Before I could respond to Georgie's question, Jane sprang up to confront our guest. "T his is impossible." She waved the letter at him, shaking it as if she could not believe the contents. "What kind of game are you playing at Mr. Sinclair? You cannot possibly be an engineer. You? Robert Fulton's assistant?" She looked him up and down bristl ing more by the minute. "Impossible. Robert Fulton is one of the finest minds of our" Jane almost stuttered, "And you you'reyou're an American ." She drew out American as if it meant he'd been born on the wrong side of the blanket rather than the other s ide of the ocean. "Yes, miss. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania." Mr. Sinclair doffed an imaginary hat. "As was my uncle." Jane gathered her wits and proceeded more calmly. "That's not what I meant. I meant to say that I am familiar with Mr. Fulton's work. I studied the locks he made for the Duke of Bridgewater's canals. I've read all about the steamship he built in New York. But this underwater vessel there you have gone too far. You would've been a mere child when Mr. Fulton constructed the Nautilus for Na poleon." "Yes, miss." He answered her warily. "I was a lad of twelve when I served my uncle in France." "I am not a miss My lady ," Jane corrected him with a surprisingly indignant tone. Although, to be fair, it was the second time he'd addressed her as a commoner. "I am Lady Jane Moore." She pursed her lips and skimmed the letter again. "A thousand apologies, my lady I'm honored to be sure." He made a great show of bowing. Too great a show, and I felt sure that wry curve of his lips indicated a bit of c overt mockery.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 58 Jane studied the letter as if the answers must still be hidden in the text. "That is preposterous. Why would a man of his intellect bring a twelve year old boy to France?" Mr. Sinclair took a long slow breath and his easy manner turned as cold as that frozen waterwheel he'd mentioned earlier. "Begging your pardon, my lady but despite all those fine papers you may have read, you don't know beans about my uncle. He is the best of men, kind, generous, and he loves his family. He took notice o f how I liked tinkering. He and my ma decided I should benefit by serving as his apprentice. And so, I did. Twelve being the accepted age to begin an apprenticeship." She glanced up from the letter, blinked, and looked momentarily chastised. That's somethi ng for Jane. His voice lost some of the stern edge. "I was with Uncle Robert when the Nautilus made her maiden voyage on the Seine in July of 1800. If you read the account, you will know that there were four men inside the Nautilus that day. It ought to h ave reported three men and a boy. But to be fair, I was tall for my age." He added this last remark about his height with a jaunty grin that seemed to completely unsettle our Jane. She pruned up and refused to look at him. Mr. Sinclair relaxed then, and itched absently at his snarled hair. "A leaky tub, that Nautilus. We took her down twenty five feet. Water pressed against the copper hull, dripping in around the seams, and she creaked so loud I thought she would burst her buttons any second. But we kept her under for seventeen minutes." He watched Jane for a reaction. When none came, he repeated, Seventeen minutes." Then as if Jane might be a little slow witted he added, "Underwater." She sniffed and straightened her back gracefully.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 59 "Folks watching alon g the banks were amaz ed, I can tell you that. They reckoned we had all drowned until we bobbed up and, pretty as you please, steered back to shore as if we hadn't just sailed nearly four hundred feet down river." I watched him, this insolent apprentice en gineer from America. He wasn't quite the dunderheaded fool he appeared. There was a spark of mischief in his manner, but he lost interest in Jane when one of our maps caught his attention. Without dismissing himself, he strolled over to our worktable. "Is that are those the new European borders?" "No." Madame Cho snatched up the maps and rolled them. "History lessons. Old maps. Nothing to concern you." He looked confused. "But I saw" "No. They are old. Not new." Madame Cho waved him away, gathering up all of our papers and maps. "You go back over there." Georgie took him by the arm and guided him over for a look at the tea tray. "Surely you would enjoy some tea to refresh you after your long journey." "I well yes. If you say so. Thank you, I suppose t hat might be just the thing." She deposited him in a seat and he managed to convince his long gangly legs to cooperate. In the diminutive lady's chair his knees stuck up too high and the rumpled stocking shown worse than ever. Jane seated herself beside me and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, in an effort, I'm sure, to block out the sight of his hairy leg exposed by the droopy stocking. She grimaced when he tucked a kipper inside a cucumber sandwich and consumed it with puppyish enthusiasm. Then he sm eared two heaping spoonfuls of quince jam on a warm


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 60 bun with a spoonful of curried egg topped off with a slice of stilton cheese. Jane blinked in disbelief at this concoction. For someone like Jane, who valued order above all things, whose gowns hung in th e wardrobe in graduated colors, whose hair ribbons were meticulously rolled, and who kept neatly penned planting records to account for which type of corn ought to be planted in what field in order to yield the most abundant harvest, I could see how a man like Mr. Alexander Sinclair might cause her to grind her teeth. As she was doing now. I, on the other hand, found him amiable company, refreshingly guileless and yet clever. He reminded me of an otter. Except, less tidy. It wasn't until we watched him c onsume half the tray of food cook had sent down, that I remembered none of us had eaten breakfast that morning. Georgie finally helped herself to jam and bread, and Jane selected a delicate bacon and cheese finger sandwich while carefully avoiding eye cont act with Mr. Alexander Sinclair. I found it difficult to concentrate when across the park I was certain Lord Ravencross must be gritting his teeth in severe pain. Real pain. Nevermind what the footman had been told to tell me, it was the kind of pain that could steal one's life away. I stared unseeing at my murky cup of tea, into which Madame Cho had stirred some excessively bitter herbs. I nibbled absently at a biscuit, but it promptly turned to dry cotton wadding in my mouth. Surely, the doctor was with him by now. Despite the pounding in my head I wanted to run back to Ravencross manor and demand to be admitted. It was foolishness to sit here sipping repugnant tea when he was suffering.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 61 Jane reached over and laid her hand over mine to stop me from shre dding my biscuit to crumbs. "I know you are worried, but there would be nothing you could do for him." Maybe not, but I could be there. I could annoy him just enough that giving up would not be an option. Georgie fretted too, but for other reasons. She tu rned her plate of bread and jam round and round in her lap. "Mr. Sinclair would you mind telling us how you left our friends, Lord Wyatt and Captain Grey? Are they well?" Usually Georgie asks a hundred questions where one will do. Today it was the opposit e. I knew what she really wanted to ask, but couldn't. The yearning in her small query made me wince for her. She wanted to ask so much more. She ached to know if the man she loved was safe. Were Lord Wyatt's wounds healed? How much danger was he in? Were he and the captain on the run from the Iron Crown? Or were they the ones doing the chasing? Most of all Georgie wanted the answer to one gut twisting question. When would Sebastian return home to her? Our guest finished chewing before responding. "Lord Wya tt said you would ask after him. He instructed me to tell you he is in fine fettle." Georgie's lips pursed for a moment. Instructed you. Does that mean he is well or not?" "Yes, miss. Both men are hail and hearty. A daring lad, your Lord Wyatt. I'm under strict orders not to recite the details of our escape from France, but I can tell you this, he and the Captain are men to be reckoned with." Mr. Sinclair stopped speaking abruptly and made short work of a sausage roll. Georgie blanched. I could well ima gine the scenarios she must be conjuring in her


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 62 imagination. "Tell me frankly, Mr. Sinclair. Is unharmed or not? No new injuries?" "Nothing to speak of. A scratch here and there. The man is a first rate swordsman." Mr. Sinclair reached for a salted egg and I wanted to slap his hand for terrifying poor Georgie. I was beginning to think the rude American was as deceptive as Miss Stranje. "You needn't worry, Georgie. He has the right of it. Lord Wyatt is an excellent hand with both sword and gun," I said all t his with a firmness meant to settle her fears. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Miss Stranje and Sera in the doorway. I jumped to my feet, nearly toppling my plate to the floor, catching it just in the nick of time. "What news?" I'd risen so suddenly the room began to whirl, so I slumped back into my seat and gripped the arms of my chair. Miss Stranje looked grim, grimmer than her earlier report warranted. "What's happened?" My voice cracked and sounded odd even to my own ears. She answered me directly, no lying this time. "Lord Ravencross is doing as well as can be expected." She look ed drained weary and absently rubbed her palms on the side of dress "The doctor stitched him up and gave him laudanum. They've moved him upstairs to his own rooms where h e seems to be resting more comfortably than he was in Mrs. Evan's small bed." Seems to be ?" I asked. "We'll know more by tomorrow morning." Miss Stranje straightened and gave me a shrewd once over. "And you should be resting as well." I waved her repriman d away. "He isn't safe. Not in his condition. They might come back. I overheard "Not now." With a stern look she held up a hand, forestalling my outburst, and


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 63 turned to our guest. Our odd Mr. Sinclair had the presence of mind to stand when Miss Stranje a nd Sera had entered. He stood quietly watching her, alert, reacting to every nuance of her speech precisely the way a curious otter might. Georgie introduced him. "He arrived with a message from Lord Wyatt." "Welcome to Stranje House, Mr. Sinclair." Miss Stranje extended her hand and, as he had done to Georgie's, he pumped her hand and down as if it were the handle of a water spigot. Jane thrust the letter of introduction at Miss Stranje. Miss Stranje ignored Jane's interruption, even though I knew she mu st have a mad itch to look at that letter. Nor did she let on that she noticed anything objectionable in Mr. Sinclair's appearance. She treated him with the same respect she would have given a peer of the realm, graciously gesturing for Mr. Sinclair to tak e a chair. "Please be seated. You mustn't let me interrupt your tea. You've had a long journey I'm sure." Only after he took his seat did she accept the letter from Jane who was fairly frothing at the bit for her to read it. I clutched the arm of the set tee because suddenly the room began to swim before me. The lump on my head must be worse than I thought. But then I glanced at my tea cup on the table and remembered the bitter herbs. "You gave me a sleeping draught?" Madame Cho had been watching me. With a curt nod she stood. "Come. We must take you to your bed." The very last thing I wanted to do was sleep, but what choice did I have? If I didn't go with her to the dormitorium, I would collapse right there on the settee. Before accepting Cho's help, I lea ned over and hissed in Jane's ear, applying enough grim warning that


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 64 she knew better than to refuse. "Wake me at nightfall."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 65 Chapter 6 Shadows Jane jostled my shoulder and awakened me from a remarkably dreamless sleep. "I hope you appreciate us dis obeying orders. We were told to leave you sleeping." All four of them stood next to the bed, surrounding me in the dark. Wary. Worried. Sera thrust a crusty roll stuffed with meat and cheese at me. "Ham and cheddar. It was all I could slip into my pocket. Maya laid an offering of grapes in my lap. "Thank you." My throat was dry, so it came out sounding garbled and croaky. Georgie handed me a glass of lemon water. "You're planning something. What is it?" I gulped down the contents. "It's best if you don 't know." Jane crossed her arms. "Tell us anyway." "It's something I must do alone." Georgie took the glass from me, refilled it from a pitcher, and set it down with a firm plunk. "We work together. Remember?" Even in the dark, I could see worry dampening the fire in her features and it needled me worse than anything she might say


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 66 "Explain your plan, so that we may help." Maya's soothing voice almost lulled me into confiding. "Don't use your tricks on me, Maya. Not tonight." I took a bite of the sandwic h hoping food would help awaken my groggy limbs. "Go to bed, all of you." Sera sat down on the covers beside me. "You intend to check on him, don't you?" "Perhaps. More importantly, someone has to protect him. Daneska's men could come back." I took another bite, chewing vigorously to hide my defensiveness. Hands on hips, Jane gave an exasperated huff. "If they dared return, and I'm not saying they would," She straightened to her full height as if towering over my bed might lend her more authority. "But if they were foolhardy enough to come back, what makes you think they wouldn't attempt to kidnap Georgie again?" I took another drink of water before explaining. "Because, as you say, they aren't foolhardy. Georgie is here. Safe inside Stranje House. And they 've already lost one of their number to Miss Stranje's prowess with a gun. I don't think they would be so daring, not with servants and all of us to protect her. But Lord Ravencross is a different matter. They need only put a bullet in him to get paid, and he has one lone servant to protect him, MacDougal." Jane countered feebly, You're forgetting Mrs. Evans." "Phfft." I popped a grape into my mouth. They all stayed quiet for a moment, mulling over my reasoning. Jane bristled. "Well, I don't like it. W hat do you intend to do, roam the perimeter of Ravencross manor all night watching for murderers?" "No. There are too many ways someone could sneak past." I took the ham out of the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 67 bread and ate that. Georgie rubbed her arm, thinking. "What if each of us took a section of the grounds to guard?" Jane whirled on her. You're not going anywhere out of the house. Not after what happened this morning. You heard Tess. You're safest inside." Sera shifted uneasily. "Besides, if we all went out Miss Stranje would be bound to notice. Sometimes I feel as if she has invisible bells tied around our necks. She always seems to know." "Or she has clever ways of discover ing it." Maya didn't credit our headmistress with being as all knowing as the rest of us did. "We have the additional problem that in the darkness, if only four of us are walking the grounds, a skilled assassin could easily slip through our net." I wiped the crumbs from my mouth and took another sip. "There's an easier way." "Oh!" Georgie blurted too loudl y. "I know what you're planning to do. You'll We heard footsteps outside the door. Madame Cho Everyone scattered to their beds. I quickly stuffed the remaining food beneath the covers and scooted down, head on my pillow. The door cracked open and Mada me Cho shuffled part way in. We had practiced pretending to sleep often enough that we knew to keep our breathing slow, loud, and rhythmic. She came to my bedside and gently brushed hair away from my face. Checking I imagined her squinting at me worried silently scrutinizing her patient. The others don't like Cho as much as I do. She is a mystery, strong as sword steel and yet she has


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 68 the touch of a grandmother. A grandmother I never had. I am her favorite, or so I tell myself. Grandmother or no. Tonig ht I had to deceive her. I stir red as if in restless slumber, shift ed and turn ed away, sinking deeper into the pillow. Satisfied, Madame Cho tucked the covers around my shoulder, and glided quietly out of the room, shutting the door behind her But she is tricky, crafty as an old cat, and so we waited, counting our breaths, knowing she continued listening at the door. At last we heard her soft footsteps drift down the hall. Georgie was the first to come padding back. "You'll climb into the manor won't yo u?" She guessed that because of that night in London when I'd thought we needed to enter Lord Castlereagh's townhouse by stealth and I'd told her that I would climb the wall, enter through a window, and then pull her up. Someday I would tell her about the first time I had to climb a wall. But not tonight. "What? Jane hissed in the dark next to my ear. "Climb through his window? Are you mad? You can't do that. You could get shot. Or worse, caught. Then you'd be ruined." "It doesn't matter. I have to protect him. You know what Daneska is like. She won't let her assassins' failure today deter her. If anything she'll hire better more skillful killers. If you truly care about me, you'll help me sneak out of Stranje House without Madame Cho noticing." Sera stood at the end of my bed. "Through the passageway?" I nodded. In silence, I donned my dark blue running dress. I would blend with the night just as I'd blended with the woods that morning. Georgie handed me her knife to replace the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 69 one I'd lost in the field. I checked the balance, it would have to do. "Sharpened." "Of course. Just as you taught me." I strapped a sheath to my calf and slid the blade into it Jane went to the oak paneling along our back wall and pressed the latch that led to a secret passage As soon as the panel opened, my two pet rats scampered out and danced around my feet. I tossed Punch and Judy a morsel of bread. They snatched it up, stuffed the bread in their cheeks and scurried into my out stretched palms. I handed them to Sera. "Keep hol d of them, will you? I don't want them following me outside ." She nodded. Jane blocked the secret passage. Mark me. If you're not back by sun up we're coming after you." Circled around me, they all nodded, looking stern, except I sensed the worry beneath their bravado. I had the uncomfortable urge to hug them, but of course I would never do such a thing. I f I had, it would've alarmed them even more They know I am not by nature demonstrative. "If anything goes wrong you'll hear me. You know how loud I can be." "Like a roaring wind," Maya said with more admiration than I deserved. I turned away from them and ducked into the pitch dark of the secret passage. I knew every bend and turn through the thick walls of Stranje House by heart. Instead of going up to o ur secret room in the attic, I took the narrow stairs down, the first turning to the left was difficult to catch I ran my fingers lightly along the crumbling plaster until I found the slender opening I slipped through and from there I headed along the ba ck of the house until the passage behind the first floor gallery opened up.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 70 Once, not so very long ago, Miss Stranje had said that I knew these passages better than she did. I doubt that. She was born here, and ran through them as a child. But I do know t hem well. In those dark days w hen I first came to Stranje House these passages had been my sanctuary. It had ma de me feel safe knowing I had a hiding place, and more importantly that I had a way out, an escape Cool air seeped around a slender hatch at t he bottom of the s teps. I pressed the spring lock, ducked my head and wriggled through the narrow opening. Night I breathed in deep T he air was fragrant from all the bloom s of May, and I could taste salt and moisture from the sea. In the distance, I he ard the surf crashing against the rocks. A waning half moon rode on smoky gray clouds casting a silver light on the world. Our shadow dogs, Phobos and Trobos, trotted up silently and greeted me, blacker than night itself, the pair of them. Georgie was righ t they were more wolves than dogs. And they loved to run as much as I did. I gave them a soft whistle, no more than a night wren's call, and we were off. Racing across the park. They led the way as if the three of us were a pack, running on the hunt. I st opped at the edge of Stranje House's property and crouched. "Distewi," I warned Phobos and Trobos in a hushed voice. They sat on their haunches beside me, panting, as I searched for signs of intruders, and listened for anything that didn't seem right. Hi gh above us a hawk's high pitched skree meant a mouse or mole was about to meet its doom. Natterjack Toads burbled and drummed unworried in the underbrush. Cicadas buzzed undisturbed. Those reassuring sounds meant n o intruders were in the se woods or field s. Yet


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 71 Ust I commanded Stay The two of them sat, a matched pair of dark sentinels, waiting, watching, as I leapt up and dashed across the Ravencross lawns. I circled his manor house keeping a watchful eye on the shrubbery and trees search ing fo r any hints of light. There was none on the first floor But on the second floor I spotted the telltale flicker of a candle. That could only mean one thing. That was his bedroom. T he candle had given his location away and if I could figure that out so co uld a murderer Precisely the reason I had to come. Ravencross was too vulnerable. I made quick work of scaling the wall, finding ready toeholds and finger holds between the stones. I'd learned to climb even before I'd come to Stranje House, I had to learn the day I'd fled from my uncle by way of an attic window and a three story wall but I'd continued learning under Madame Cho's tutelage. I was becoming so adept at scaling walls that should my current profession fail me, and if I'd had the disposition for it, I might've made a capable thief. The casement creaked only slightly as I pushed open the window and slipped over the sill into his room. the candle fluttered with the influx of air, but still n o one stirred. All my stealth was for naught, I could've come in whistling a tune. Neither of them heard me. MacDougal's rhythmic snores were so loud I 'd heard them long I opened the window and as Miss Stranje said, the doctor had dosed Ravencross with laudanum to ease his pain. I saw the bottle sitting on his bedside table. I tiptoed along the edge of the wall wanting to have a closer look at Gabriel just to satisfy myself that he was indeed breathing and still alive. Sheeting covered him only to the waist, leaving his chest bare except for t he bandages wrapp ing the left side bandages ripe with bloodstains Taking in the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 72 bloodstains and his nakedness I drew in a sharp breath. For modesty's sake, I should've looked away. But I didn't. Apart from the bandages Gabriel had a magnificent chest, smooth and muscled. More importantly, he was alive. Alive Why should I look away from so gratifying a sight? His eyes were closed, and he looked so peaceful. Beautiful in sleep his face was at rest, and not nearly as tense as it usually was. I resisted the urge to smooth my hand over his cheek. The one with the scar. "What are you doing here, Tess?" He spoke without opening his eyes. "I..." I didn't finish answering. He had to be dreaming, talking in his sleep. He couldn't possibly know I was here. He'd had laudanum. I h adn't touched him, and I'd been quiet as a church mouse. Quieter. A winging bird makes more noise. I stepped back silently. His eyes flashed open. "I will only ask once more. What are you doing here?" "Guarding you." I was so startled, I could scarcely sp eak in a whisper, the words squeaked out of me. I glanced sideways at MacDougal who shifted in his chair and snorted as if something had disturbed his slumber. Don't be absurd, he growled. And for an instant I felt absurd, but then I remembered the man I'd slain that morning and his bloodthirsty companions. I inched closer. "Someone wants to kill you my lord Someone very dangerous." "No more dangerous than you, I think." He closed his eyes again as if drowsy. I already have a nursemaid. Go home." Lad y Daneska was far more dangerous than I. Pressing my lips together, I glared


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 73 down at him with all the severity I could muster. "Oh yes, and a marvelous watchdog he is." MacDougal complimented my words with a gurgling snore loud enough to rattle the painti ngs on the wall. I bent close to Ravencross's ear. "If I can climb through your window with such ease, so can an assassin. I will stay and guard you until MacDougal has caught up on his beauty sleep." He motioned for me to lean closer, but rewarded me wit h a rather snappish tone "You needn't have worried. Do you think me a fool? MacDougal might need his rest. I on the other hand, have been forced to lie in this confounded bed ever since our morning's escapades. More to the point, I heard you coming long b efore you crept through my window." With his good hand, Gabriel slid a gun out from under the covers. He gestured for me to back away. "Luckily I guessed it might be you. Now, if you will be so kind as to shut the window on your way out." I didn't back aw ay. I found it quite pleasurable looking at him up close in the candlelight. The amber glow turned his skin a delicious creamy bronze I had the absurd urge to kiss his forehead, and the scar on his cheek, and most especially his divine mouth. Which, at th at very moment wa s puckering up with irritation. Instead of kisses, I bestowed upon him several words which I plucked solely for the purpose of vexing him. "You're going to make me climb down? How very ungentlemanly of you. Climbing down is much harder th an climbing up. I might fall. Aren't you worried I'll fall?" He exhaled, heavy and hard with exasperation. "Woman, you worry me in a hundred ways. Falling isn't one of them. Given all the other things I've seen you do, I'm certain


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 74 you'll manage." He said a ll this while studying my lips with an intensity that made blood crash through my veins like a flash flood. Then he closed his eyes and bit down on his bottom lip. "You're in pain." I leaned across him checking the bandage for new evidence of blood. "For pity's sake, Tess. Get out of here before your reputation is completely in tatters." I drew back. "I don't give a fig about my reputation." "Well, maybe I care about it." He grabbed the front of my blouse and pulled me close, close enough that I could tas te his scent and feel the heat rolling off him. Surely, he had a fever. "You don't look right," I said sternly. Your color is too high. Shall I call for the doctor?" "No." He grimaced. "I want you to..." He didn't finish. His voice faltered, but his grip on me tightened. His pupils widened, so hungry and dark I feared they might swallow me up and trap me there forever. Words passed over my lips, more of a breath than a whisper. "You're not well, my lord." "I want you to leave." He let go and sagged back a gainst the pillow. I can't rest with you here. Get out." I stepped back, hurt that he would send me away so callously. "Must you always lie?" I said it to myself, so softly he couldn't possibly have heard. MacDougal's snores grew noisier and more rhythmic He couldn't cast me out that easily. I neared him once more, stooping next to


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 75 Gabriel's ear. "I will settle into that corner, in the shadows. You won't even know I am here." "Have your wits gone begging, Tess? Don't you understand? Even if I were half d ead, drugged to the gills, deaf, dumb, and blind, I would know you were here. How can you expect me to rest when you arouse such madness in me?" Madness I nearly laughed. "I know all about madness, my lord. You have my sympathy. However, in view of the f act that I refuse to leave you untended and unguarded, y ou will simply have to cope, as I must ." Having said my piece, I left him and eased into the dark corner across from his bed. Smiling. Because there had been a declaration of some kind in his words. A declaration made all the sweeter by the fact that he had not wante d to make it. We had no future this lone hungry wolf and I. I c ould not bear the idea of destroy ing his life by entangling his with mine. Madness, indeed. What did he know of madness? I wou ld spare him the suffering of my father and grandfather. I would shield him from the very real madness that would someday overtake me. But for now, for this one night I might watch over him, stand guard in his den, and pretend that things might be differe nt. I w ould never be the doting wife who wiped his brow and smoothed back the wild curls from his fevered brow. But tonight, tonight I could do this one thing I could watch over him while he was wounded. I could wait in the shadows with my blade at the r eady. And even if Daneska herself came, I would cut her heart out to protect him. I would keep him alive.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 76 "Irksome female." "If you mean to chase me off, you will have to do better than that." "Witch," he muttered and shifted in the bed, trying to find a comfortable position. It stung, for him to name me a witch as he knew it would. But only a little. I was used to that one. So, I said nothing in retort. He needed his sleep. Timing my movements with MacDougal's snores, I tiptoed to the window, tightene d down the latch, and took up my vigil in the shadows. I sank onto my haunches with my back propped against the wall. I would feel a vibration should anyone try to open the window or tread on the floorboards. I checked the knife blade. Sharp as a dragon's tooth. Twice the doctor came and went, checking on his patient, and not once did he notice me sitting vigil in the dark recesses of my corner. In the early morning hours, MacDougal's snores finally changed key to the gurgle of a lighter sleep. He would wa ke soon. I left the shadows and stood next to the bed. Gabriel was wrong. He had slept well and deep. His arms were spread wide and relaxed, his hands flung recklessly atop the covers, nowhere near the hidden gun. Farewell His innocent black curls tempt ed me. I had no right to touch him. No right at all. And yet I dared to gently smooth them back from his forehead They were softer than I had imagined. He slept so peacefully that he didn't even stir. My fingers drifted feather light down the scar on his cheek, scarcely touching the jagged ridge. His breath caught, broke rhythm. I yanked my hand away and fell back into the shadows. Foolish girl


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 77 Time to leave. I slipped out of Lord Ravencross's bedroom the same way I'd come, scrambling down the wall wit h ease. My muscles, having crouched all night, were glad of the exercise. The moon was still out and although the sun would not crest for another two hours the world was bathed in a smoky gray. I t reminded me of yestermorn ing and the chaos that had nearly taken him from me It seemed a hundred years ago. I dashed home through the dewy grass and my tracks might be mistaken for those of a deer springing joyfully back to her lair.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 78 Chapter 7 Caught It surprised me when Phobos and Trobos were not wai ting where I'd left them. But then, I supposed even wolf dogs must sleep now and again. I leapt over the low brush between Stranje House and Ravencross's park, wove through the trees, navigated the maze of wild roses, loped past the kitchen gardens and wri ggled around the archery targets tucked away between a towering hedgerow and the side of Stranje House. Targets we also used for long range knife throwing practice. There is a reason Miss Stranje keeps the landscape au naturel. From there it was only a sho rt dash to the small trap door. I stopped short. My joy vaporized into a gasp. Miss Stranje leaned against the wall, Phobos and Trobos pacing on either side of her. "Good morning, Tess. I gather you are feeling better?" Caught I swallowed in answer. "And how is our patient?" She asked, as if simply making polite conversation,


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 79 nothing more. Devil take it! There was nothing I could do except face my punishment. Still panting from running so hard, I bent to catch my breath. "Resting." She stood, relaxed at ease, as if we'd simply happened upon one another at a dressmaker's shop. That's how I knew to keep my guard up. Miss Stranje was always more dangerous when she was relaxed. "You do realize these passageways exist so that if Stranje House is ever att acked and overrun by an enemy we might be able to make our escape." When I did not answer, she took a step closer. "They were not designed so that young ladies might sneak out in the dead of night and climb into a neighboring lord's bedchamber." That set m y nerves thumping. "Put like that, it sounds rather sordid." "So it does." "You know perfectly well why I went. There was nothing unseemly about it. He needed protecting." Miss Stranje waited as unmoved as a monolith in the moonlight. "How did you know I' d gone?" I straightened and crossed my arms, shoring up against the peal she would surely ring over my head. "Madame Cho went to check on you in the middle of the night. Imagine her dismay to find you missing from your bed." To this, I could only dip my he ad, shamefaced. Miss Stranje understood my attachment to Madame Cho, and attachment she shared, which gave her all the more reason to scold me. "She came to me in considerable distress."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 80 I was sorry to have worried Madame Cho, but I would still have gon e. Someone had to keep him safe from Daneska's murderers. Defiant, I looked up and collided with her hooded hangman expression. "Madame worried you had wandered off in a stupor. We live near some rather treacherous cliffs." "And yet" I jutted my chin hi gher. "You didn't sound the alarm. Why is that?" I kept my shoulders back, square, as rigid and unyielding as hers. She took a deep breath, calculating whether to admit the truth or not. "You know why." Something akin to pride tempered her expression. "Y ou guessed where I'd gone." "It didn't require much conjecture on my part." She exhaled and clicked her tongue as if I was being childish. "It did, however, bring into question my trust in you." "For that I am sorry. And for alarming Madame Cho. But I do n ot regret that I went. Daneska hired assassins "Yes, I know." She waved away my protest. "Sera and Jane explained it all to me. Nevertheless, you must understand my position. It was not so very long ago that Lady Daneska snuck out at night to rendezvous with the former Lord Ravencross. I should not like to see history repeat itself." She might as well have slapped me. "How can you say that?" I jumped back throwing my hands wide. "I would never! He would never. How can you even suggest such a thing?" Tro bos yipped softly and nuzzled my hand in an effort to calm me. "Because, my dear, I hadn't expected it from Lady Daneska either. At least, I hadn't


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 81 suspected the depth of her treachery." "But I am nothing like her." I thumped my palm against my chest. Not hing Daneska is an evil, vicious, conniving" I could not find the right expletive. Georgie's words from the previous morning came back to me. "Vipers are more trustworthy." Miss Stranje shoulders pinched up. She looked away from me, out across the park t o where Ravencross manor stood, still a dark silhouette at this gloomy hour before dawn. She stared. Silent. Remembering. I remembered, too The night she left us, Daneska told me the truth about Lucien. It had been cold, having snowed the day before. I 'd awakened an hour after midnight to find her bed empty, but the panel to our secret passage lay slightly ajar. I'd caught up to Daneska as she was headed out through this same hidden door. She was carrying a satchel and I knew my best friend was not sim ply sneaking off for another assignation. But she wouldn't tell me what she was doing, not until she swore me to secrecy. Once she'd obtained my promise she confided that they were fleeing the country because Lucien had aligned himself with France. He was obsessed with Napoleon's ideologies, and had even gone so far as to join the Order of the Iron Crown. I could still hear her laughing at me for not understanding why she, too, intended to side with France. She and Lucien were convinced Napoleon was destin ed to win the war and that he would one day unite all of Europe. With her chin at a haughty angle, hoisted well above the white fur of her ermine collar, she'd said, "And then, Lucien and I will rule at his side." I'd begged her to reconsider. When, in de speration, I'd asked if loyalty meant


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 82 nothing to her, she mocked me. Loyalty? Do not be so na•ve, Tessie. I have no country. No King. My father's duchy has been laid waste by British armies. I owe my allegiance to no one, not you, not Miss Stranje, and ce rtainly not your fat English prince. I am loyal only to myself." Even though we were the same age, she'd patted her glove against my cheek as if I was a toddler she pitied. "Not even Lucien. Like all men, he is merely a means to an end." She'd grinned wick edly, as if it pleased her to admit that even Lord Ravencross had no hold over her. "I'm not like him," she'd said proudly. "I have no interest in democracies and lofty ideals. But I do have a keen interest in being on the winning side." She'd laughed the n, and slipped through the door. "Power, Tessie, that is what matters. Money and power." I'd followed her out and stood in my nightgown and bare feet watching her traipse across the snow. Ice crystals blew in soft sparkling swirls as she turned and pressed a lone gloved finger to her lips, reminding me of my promise not to tell until morning. She knew that where she had no use for loyalty, I prized it. Though it ate at me like a green sickness, she knew I would keep my word. With another laugh she ran away. The sound caught on the wind and turned to breaking glass. I kept standing there, my feet going numb, watching as she faded into the night, leaving dark coffin shaped footprints in the snow. It had taken me a long time that night, before I'd ducked back i nto the passage and slammed it shut behind me, and even longer to trudge back up to the dormitory. Daneska's betrayal angered me more than it could ever vex Miss Stranje. It still gnawed at my stomach, a churning ball of spiked fury. I wanted to cough it out


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 83 and forget Daneska had ever been my friend, forget she had ever existed. Some wounds take longer to heal. With a quick intake of breath, Miss Stranje spun back to me, herself once again. "You're right. You're not like her, Tess. Not in the least." Sh e meant it. I saw it in the softening of her features. The dogs paced between us, looking first to her then to me, gauging our words, whimpering at our harsh exchanges, unsure of how to protect against this kind of trouble in their pack. I felt bad for the m. And for her. I lowered my pretense of pride. "I'm sorry I worried you and Madame Cho." She nodded and put an arm around my shoulders. "It might surprise you to know I did not wait out here at this hour to scold you. To warn you perhaps, but not to scold I do understand why you went." She swallowed, and hesitated, as if the worst was yet to come. "I waited for you so that we might have a private word." Private. Twelve kinds of trouble dripped like poison from that word. Phobos tilted his head suspiciou sly, and I expect I may have done the same thing. "Private?" She dropped her arm, and resumed her normal headmistress like self. All business. Except her tone was too stiff. T oo formal. "I'm concerned, you see." She took a deep breath before going on. "Mat ters are going rather badly on the continent. With Napoleon back on the throne, making sweeping advances to the north, Wellington's troops have been forced to retreat. Bonaparte has driven them all the way up to Hanover. The House of Lords and several of o ur military advisors are recommending


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 84 our troops return home to protect British soil against his inevitable attack. But it is extremely difficult to transport more than a few troops at a time, especially when the nearest port is even further north in Hambu rg." All this I already knew. Last week Georgie had been desperate for news of Lord Wyatt. She was frantic to find anything that might tell her where Sebastian was or even if he was alive. The two of us decided to put our training to use. We crept into our headmistress's office and searched for correspondence about the war. "Although, I suspect you already knew this much." I caught my breath, and turned to scratch Phobos behind the ears, afraid to meet Miss Stranje's gaze for fear of giving away our duplic ity. "I may have read something of the sort in the newspapers, and I'd heard "Come now. Did you think I wouldn't notice that my papers had been disturbed?" Her tone lightened. She wasn't angry. But I was. Caught again It rankled. I exhaled loudly. "How did you know? We were so careful to put everything back exactly as it was. We replaced the stack of books atop the papers at precisely the same angle." The corner of her mouth turned up in amusement. "You may not have noticed the small broken nib I left s itting on the lower left corner of the papers." "A spent nib?" "Yes." She tsked, as if I'd suggested something silly. "You don't think I would be so sloppy as to leave a cut off nib on my papers for no reason. I also left a small corner of felt midway thro ugh the stack."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 85 "You were testing us." I growled and kicked at the grass, dislodging a sleeping grasshopper. Trobos bounded after it. She merely inclined her head in answer. "And we failed." "Not entirely. You entered and left my study without being see n." "Unlike tonight." I said, suddenly feeling weary and not nearly so light of foot as I had earlier. "What is it you wanted of me?" She caught her lip, and for an instant looked worried. Miss Emma Stranje is nothing if not intrepid. Where she might bite her lip in consternation, the rest of the world would quake in their boots. If she was worried, matters must indeed be grave. She rallied her air of authority. "It is about your gift, your dreams. You haven't mentioned them of late." I glanced sideways at her. What was she getting at? "I hadn't thought them important." She blinked as if she thought I was being obtuse. "Whyever not? They were instrumental in helping Georgie with the ink, and without them, who knows what lives might've been lost." "That one time, perhaps. But most of the time they are inscrutable a roiling mess of sadness and pain. Of what use it that?" Apart from causing my mind to break. Miss Stranje spoke to me as if I was still a young girl in her classroom. "The fact that they are someti mes predictive surely you see the benefit of that?" I retreated a step or two, trying to hide the low growl climbing up my throat. "I'm no prophet."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 86 "Of course not" She waved my dispute away. "But if it weren't for you and your dreams, Sebastian might be dead, and who knows what would've happened to the diplomats in Vienna. You must admit that much." I exhaled loudly trying to breath out the confusion she was stirring up. "Except things have gotten worse, not better. Worse! Napoleon is back in power." I sh ook my head trying to escape this debate. Nothing she could say would convince me anyway. "None of this matters. We've no way to know what would have been had I not interfered." She sighed. "I suppose there's not of much use in mere mortals pondering such things." "Then let us leave it, shall we. What is it you wanted?" She sniffed, haughty, defensive, very unlike Miss Emma Stranje. "Well, as a matter of fact, I would like to know if you've had any other dreams. In particular, any dreams about the situatio n on the continent. Or the war "You want to know if I've seen anything pertaining to Captain Grey." I asked, not intending to be cruel, simply wishing to get to the point a bit quicker. She caught my arm. "He is not the only reason for my asking." She le t go, and turned back into the sharp eyed hawk. "Naturally, it's frustrating not knowing. If we'd had some small word, anything You know how I dislike being kept in the dark. The diplomatic office has had no word either. So, yes, among other things I woul d like to know if he and Lord Wyatt are ." She pursed her lips. "Alive?" "If they are well ." She seemed annoyed that I spoke her fear out loud. "Have you seen


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 87 either of them? A glimpse, perhaps? Anything at all?" "No. Nothing of them." H er shoulders sa gged a fraction of an inch lower than her normal soldierly posture. "I thought as much." I felt sadness fall upon her like a cold fog. Phobos whimpered and rubbed his head against her leg. Miss Stranje stared down at the dark pool of grass surrounding us, wind rippled across the ebony blades. The moon had abandoned us, leaving the world still shrouded in the funeral clothes of night. Morning larks had not yet begun to sing and nightingales had long since fallen silent. In the stillness that lay between nig ht and morning one last star glittered just above the treetops, a small beacon of hope in the darkness engulfing us. "Shall we go in through the garden door?" she asked. With the wolf dogs at our heels, we walked silently through the predawn fog. As we n eared the back steps she said, "If you should happen to dream about Captain Gray or Lord Wyatt "It doesn't work like that," I spoke too harshly, but I knew what she wanted. "I cannot try to have a dream. I don't control them. They fly at me without warni ng. It's like being shoved off a cliff into the pit of hell. Into madness Each dream, each vision, carries me closer and closer to that abyss that destroyed my mother "Tess! Stop." She grasped my shoulders. "I would never ask that of you. You must n't ev en think such a thing." She forced a calming breath and leaned close, so that we were almost nose to nose. "I know you can't control these visions of yours. And I'm fully aware of how much they upset you. I would never ask you to dream. Only that if you d o


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 88 you would come to me and tell me what you've seen so that we might try to decipher it." "Oh." I swallowed and my heart slowed its thundering gallop. She let go of me, still standing near enough that I saw the sad soft curve of her lips. We climbed the steps and she opened the garden door, but neither of us went in. I bowed my head embarrassed about my outburst. "Then you're not going to lecture me about how we must all make sacrifices?" "Heavens no, child." She held the door open wider. "I'm not willin g to sacrifice your sanity, Tess. That is too great a price to ask of anyone."


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 89 Chapter 8 Staying Awake Miss Stranje and I parted at the garden door. She claimed she needed a brisk walk to clear her head, and she wanted to keep watch for anyone who might be roaming about uninvited. I went in and made my way upstairs, where I tiptoed into the dormitorium. "Good, you're back." Jane was already awake and dressed. "I was just about to come rescue you." "Why? The sun is not yet up." I stood beside my bed, and saw there was a teacup filled with Cho's sleeping potion on the side table. "Morning will be here soon enough. Anyway, we agreed you should return before sunrise. I was worried." "What would you have done? Stormed Ravencross manor with a torch and pitchfork?" "Don't underestimate what I can do with a pitchfork." I managed half of a smile and sat down on the bed. I was tired, and the promise of sleep beckoned to me. But the threat of dreaming stayed my hand. "Go back to bed,


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 90 Jane." "No, I'm up. I may as well go down to the workroom and finish my notes for Captain Grey's steward. With Mr. Sinclair underfoot, requiring assistance, I've no idea when I'll find time to write up instructions for the harvest if I don't do it now." I raised my fingers in a half hearted farewell, still staring at the teacup. It was true that I couldn't conjure my dreams. Even so, I had a strong suspicion that because Miss Stranje had asked about Captain Grey it might summon just such a dream. I shivered at the thought. I li ked Captain Grey. Like Sebastian, despite his position working for the government behind the lines to find out what the enemy was up to, he was a forthright and honorable man. What if she was right? Suppose a dream might prevent Captain Grey's death. Wa s my desire to stay sane more important than his life? Or Lord Wyatt's? Could a dream change the course of the war? If I might spare the lives of dozens, or hundreds, or maybe countless others, how could I, in good conscience, resist the visions? Madness or not. I knew the answer. More than anything else in the world, I wanted to stop dreaming. To stop living with the nightmares. To outrun the approaching madness. I wanted to clutch with both fists the few slender threads that tethered me to the normal w orld. But weighed in the balance, against those other lives men who were trying to do some good in the world my small insignificant life didn't matter. The truth nearly suffocated me. And I knew that resist though I might, I would have


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 91 to sleep sooner or later. My temples throbbed and my stomach roiled even though it was empty. I knew what must be done. I also knew the price of dreaming. I lifted the teacup that would help me sleep to my lips, but stopped. But I need not pay the price today. Not just yet Tomorrow was soon enough. I was in no hurry to experience a hundred strangers' gruesome deaths. With a dismal clink, I set it back on the saucer. Coward I sprang up and paced, searching for an escape from this fate, terrified of what I might see or not see. Finally, I settled on the idea that since it was already morning I would not sleep at all today. That way, I was neither dreaming, nor refusing to dream. I decided to go down to the workroom with Jane, and so I quietly padded out of the dormitorium, leaving Sera and Georgie and Maya sound asleep Blissfully unaware of my cowardice. Tomorrow. I would dream tomorrow. Downstairs on the first floor, I'd not gone far when I heard someone creeping toward the main foyer. I knew Jane's gait and Miss Stranje's. These were heavier footsteps. They didn't belong to Greaves, who has a very distinctive shuffle, or Philip, or any of the housemaids. No, these were unfamiliar feet coming straight toward me. I ducked behind a pillar, and silently unsheathed th e knife still strapped to my calf. Mr. Sinclair.


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 92 What was he doing up at this hour without a candle? He appeared to be poking about, sticking his head in open doorways. Hunting for something. I followed him, my knife at the ready. This was peculiar behav ior for a guest. I wondered if Jane might be right, that perhaps our guest might not be who Lord Wyatt had supposed him to be. Sinclair turned down the east hall to the workroom and nearly collided with Jane. He was the first to recover from the surprise. "Good morrow, Lady Jane. You are up early." She harrumphed. "I might say the same of you, Mr. Sinclair." "Alexander. You may call me Alexander." "I daresay, that is no less cumbersome than calling you Mr. Sinclair. Hardly more efficient. Not only that, b ut it would be highly improper, as we are not yet friends." She said all this in an markedly instructive tone her governess tone, the one Jane was overly fond of employing. I often speculated that she must've admired her own governess to excess. "Alexande r is my name," he replied, in an equally instructive manner. "I did not grant it to you for efficiency sake, my lady If we are to be all about efficiency I ought to go back to calling you miss. It would save me two entire syllables." Jane sniffed. "You'v e not answered my question, Mr. Sinclair. What are you doing down here at this hour?" "Couldn't sleep. Thought I might have a gander at those maps in your drawing room." "Drawing room? That was not surely you can't think that is a drawing room when i t is quite obviously a workroom, or a study." Jane avoided calling it a classroom, which


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 93 was it's primary function. Obviously, she didn't want to give him the impression of still being in the schoolroom. "Oh, begging your pardon, my lady Allow me to reph rase my answer. I thought I might find something of interest in those maps in your workroom." He would, indeed, find those maps interesting. Although, after he read them I might have to use this blade on him to secure his silence. I did give the fellow cr edit for being straightforward enough to give an honest answer. "You can't go prowling around the house, prying into our private papers. It simply isn't done. Miss Stranje wouldn't like it." He rubbed the back of his neck appearing at least a little cha grined. "I suppose that other one wouldn't like it much either the Chinese lady." "No. She would not. I daresay Madame Cho would come after you with a bamboo cane and give you a well deserved thrashing." "A well deserved thrashing, is that what you think? What do you have against me, my lady ?" He said my lady in that hard American twang of his as if her title was something repugnant he wanted to scrape off of his shoe. Jane's voice lifted a bit too high, a bit too strident. "I Against you? What, indeed W here should I start" "Spit it out." Even from where I hid, I could hear the smirk in his tone. "See. There it is. Spit That is just the sort of uncivilized thing you are wont to say, isn't it?" I peeked around the corner. His arms were crossed and he t owered over her like an imperious king, albeit a rather gangly ill dressed imperious king. "Afraid to tell the


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 94 truth, my lady? Or is it that you don't have a reason worth spouting?" "Hah!" Jane huffed. "Oh, I have reasons. Several perfectly rational reason s. I meant to spare you, but since you ask "Spare me? Ha!" He rocked back on his heels. "Tsk, tsk, my lady, you mustn't soil yourself with lies. The truth is you haven't meant to spare me since I walked through the door. Are you too lily livered to speak your mind?" Lily livered ? How dare you." Now he'd done it. I knew Jane well. That up and down heaving of her shoulders, the gasps and starts, the way she balled her fists, these signs did not bode well for Mr. Sinclair. "If you want the truth, Mr. Sinc lair. I shall be delighted to deliver it." She ground out his name. "I find it difficult to believe that any engineer worth his salt can't figure out how to tie a cravat properly. Or wouldn't know how to button his waistcoat properly. I ask you, what kind of engineer can't manage his own buttons?" "The kind of man who doesn't give a two headed nickel about what's on the outside, because he's far more concerned about what's on the inside." Mr. Sinclair's arms remained crossed and he stared down at her from h is great height as if she were a toadying magpie. Lady Jane ." "I have found," she answered with cold queenly dignity. "That the outside is a fairly clear indication of what is on the inside." She stretched her chin up, standing on her toes in a vain att empt to match his height. "If one is a careful, meticulous sort, as most engineers are, one polishes ones shoes so that they might last more than one winter." She glanced down at his scuffed


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 95 footwear with pointed disdain. He tilted his head and I saw tha t expression, the one I'd noted yesterday, the one that gave me the impression he found life amusing, and that even Jane's harsh diatribe entertained him. He answered her in a calm clear tone, like the one might use with a child. "I know a great many engi neers, my lady, and their dressing habits vary as much as feathers do on birds. What's more, if one must steal the shoes off the feet of one's unconscious prison guard or else traipse barefoot halfway across France, one might not have much to say about the treatment those shoes received prior to his acquiring them." "Oh." Jane drew back, her fingers covering her mouth. "I hadn't thought "No, my lady. You hadn't." She inched toward the workroom. "That still doesn't give you a right to go poking through ou r maps in the wee hours of the morning." "Are you suggesting I might do it later in the day?" "No," she squeaked. "You know perfectly well what I mean." He scratched his head, looking puppyish and befuddled. "No, Lady Jane, I confess you are something of a riddle. I see now how you counted my wardrobe, my shoes, and my error in addressing you, on the negative side of the slate. That still doesn't explain why you come at me with a temper hotter than a badger." "A badger." Her voice lifted again and, if sh e didn't get it under control soon, the entire population of Stranje House would be awakened and joining us in the hall. Her agitation seemed to ignite his tongue even more. "You know what a badger is like, don't you?"


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 96 "No, I'm not personally acquainted w ith any badgers, but I can tell you this "Oh well, let me explain. It's a fine fierce little critter. Looks something like a skunk. Black and white. Only about this big." He held out his hands showing her the approximate size. "But, oh you must watch yo ur step around her, my lady She has a mouthful of vicious teeth and a growl that will melt bones." "A skunk." The depth of insult twisting on Jane's features nearly made me laugh aloud. "That's right, a skunk with fearsome teeth. And I've seen one of tho se furry little gals take on a bear just for strolling too close to her den." Jane didn't move away from him even though he was clearly making sport of her. In fact, they both stood excessively close to one another. He leaned in to have a better look at h er. "And that is what you're doing, Lady Jane. Taking on a bear, and you don't even know it." "Hah." She lifted her palm and I swear I thought she might slap him into the next county. He laughed. "See what I mean. The way you're sputtering and carrying o n, anyone would think I'd stepped on your gouty big toe." She backed away, scalded. "Oh, now you're just being rude. You know perfectly well I don't have gout." "Begging your pardon, my lady. I thought all you English aristocrats had trouble with gout. On account of being so plump and drinking more wine than water "Mr. Sinclair!" Jane's hands fisted and she seethed like a teapot boiling over. I. Am. Not. Plump ," she said in a menacingly low voice. "Nor do I overindulge in spirits. As for


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 97 you daring to p ublicly comment on the state. .the shape. the weight of my my person." She practically choked on each word. "There is nothing more to say, than that your manners, sir, are atrocious!" "Aye, that they are, my lady Disgraceful manners." He chuckled, and held up his hands in surrender. "I have eyes, Lady Jane. I can see that you're no plumper than you should be. And if it weren't for that spicy temper of yours, a fellow might find your proportions somewhat pleasing." He gave her a roguish grin. "Althou gh, I have to admit, it was worth the breach of etiquette to watch you color up like red flannel and flap about like a flustered banty hen." "A banty hen!" Jane made a gurgling stuttering noise that I supposed was her version of a growl. A very un Jane li ke noise. Jane never growls. "Yes, my lady. It's a small fussy hen "I know what it is," she said through gritted teeth. "You're impossible! The rudest, most exasperating, insulting She waved him away, shaking her head. "Insufferable! I don't see how we can be expected to assist you with your inventions and prototypes. Not only that, but why we should put our lives at risk protecting you, when you are clearly the most obnoxious He grabbed her shoulders. "Hold on there. No one asked you to protect me." "Oh yes. Yes, they did. Lord Wyatt did exactly that in his letter." She glanced down at his hand on her shoulder. He instantly let go. It was his turn to shake his head and step back. "Begging your pardon, my lady, but that's stuff and nonsense. More of yo ur fancy lies. Lord Wyatt is a perfectly rational fellow and there's no way he would expect a passel of females in a girls'


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 98 school to protect me from the likes of the Iron Crown. That would be pure foolishness. I reckon he sent me here because this place i s so unlikely, so far removed from anywhere the Iron Crown might expect me to be housed, that it is one of the last places in England they would look." "That's where you're wrong. Dead wrong ." Jane crossed her arms and cocked her head having finally caugh t him in an error. "This is one of the very first places they'll look." "I don't believe you." He shook his head. "No. Lord Wyatt would no more expect a little mite like you to protect me than he would expect a horse to do math." "I am not a little mite, Mr. Sinclair. I'm taller than most women, and it might surprise you to learn that I could flip you over my shoulder and break your arm in three places before you had a chance to say begging your pardon, my lady in that ear scraping American brogue of your s." Jane couldn't really do that. Not yet. She was out and out bragging. If our practice sessions were anything to go by, she might be able to tug him over her shoulder. Maybe Jane had skills, but combat wasn't one of them. Mr. Sinclair shared my skeptic ism. "Care to place a wager on that." Fortunately, she was spared answering. Miss Stranje burst through the garden door at the end of the hall and strode toward them. Mr. Sinclair greeted her with an almost passable bow. "Ah. I see you are both getting an early start. Good. Lady Jane please show Mr. Sinclair the workroom, where the paper is kept, the ink, the drawing instruments, and so on." Miss Stranje briskly opened the workroom door for them. "Madame Cho will be


Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 99 along shortly to chaperone. Mr. Sincla ir, should you need to mix chemicals, we have a well stocked stillroom just down the hall. Miss Fitzwilliam will assist you there later. However, for obvious reasons, I would ask that if you mix explosives, you do so out of doors well away from the house." She marched past them with a curt nod. "Breakfast will be served at nine." She strode down the corridor, and headed upstairs. I remained hidden, holding my breath, lest she might turn and see me sneaking about the house, eavesdropping instead of sleeping.

PAGE 100

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 100 Chapter 8 I gave up on the idea of sitting with Jane and returned to the dormitorium thinking I might rest for an hour or so before breakfast. Not sleep. Not that. I'd stay awake and simply rest my head. "You're back." Georgiana sat up in bed, yawning, and stretching, her red curls a tangled but charming mess. Sera leaned up, propping herself on one elbow. "How is Lord Ravencross?" "Healing." I remembered the peace on his face as he slept and smiled to myself. "Barring an infection he should re cover." "Good." She flopped against her pillow. "We were just about to come find you." "So you say, sleepyhead. Jane beat you to it." "Jane?" Georgie's gaze shot to Jane's empty bed. "Where is she?" "Downstairs. I think you might want to hurry to the work room. When last I saw her, she was threatening to break Mr. Sinclair's arm in three places." "What? Why? Besides, Jane is no good at hand to hand "I'm well aware of Jane's combat limitations. Unfortunately, Mr. Sinclair provokes

PAGE 101

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 101 her so thoroughly that I think she might give it a go." Georgiana threw back the covers. "I wouldn't want to miss that." I chuckled. "I rather think it is your job to keep that from happening. Lord Wyatt asked you to protect our guest, did he not?" "Fiddlesticks! What sport is th ere in that?" She grinned at me and hurried toward the water closet. Sera was already pulling on her morning dress. I helped her tie her tapes. "I'm tired. I need to rest for a few minutes." She pointed to the sleeping draught. "Madame Cho left that for yo u. She was furious with us for letting you go last night I imagine we will pay for that in our lessons today." "I expect you will. I'm sorry for that. I don't want to rest for long. Rouse me for breakfast, if you would? I'm famished." She agreed and hurri ed off. I removed my shoes, propped my feet up on the bed and leaned back against the headboard. Punch and Judy scampered across the covers and leapt into my arms. Chittering, and sniffing, their little whiskers tickled my cheeks. "I've no food for you tod ay. No, not even a morsel." Clever little devils, their pink ears perked up as if they understood what I'd said. Judy gave me a whiskery kiss of forgiveness, but Punch scampered onto my shoulder and poked about behind my neck and into my hair, checking to see if I might be holding out on him. I shooed him down and they tumbled and wrestled in my lap for a moment, then coiled up next to me to sleep. "You rascals needn't settle in. I'm not going to sleep." Punch stuck his pink nose in the air. His whiskers twitched as he scrutinized me

PAGE 102

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 102 intently. Then with a cynical little pip, he curled up next to my thigh. "Scamp." He swung his tail and gave me a light swat in answer. "I suppose I might close my eyes. Not to sleep, mind you. Not that. Only to rest for a m oment." Only a moment. I would not sleep. Nor would I dream Yet, even as my eyelids drooped, the world shifted. I knew, as it spun and whirled me into the void, that this would be one of those dreams not so very unpleasant at first, but dangerous late r.

PAGE 103

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 103 Chapter 9 Ghosts I found myself plunged in a sea of swirling images, some I understood. Others were too outlandish. Impossible. Then the dream whirled me to a place I knew. The dungeons of Stranje House. I recognized the smell of mold and damp ness that pervades that place. T hick dark ness nearly suffocated me. I heard someone crying It struck me that Lady Daneska must have captured Georgie. The sound of my friend weeping echoed through the dark corridors of my dream world but no matter how hard I tried to find her, she eluded me I ran as fast as I could in the tangled underbelly of the house and yet her sobbing only got weaker and more desperate. Chasing the sound through the murky fog I raced around a corner and collided with Lucien Lord Ra vencross's older brother. He looked as shock ed to see me as I was to see him. H is expression flashed from alarm to violence He aimed a pistol at me I've no idea why he didn't fire In a blink he vanished into the darkness. Often in dreams, a scream is a wispy desperate cry that no one hears. I awoke in a panic, gasping, a hoarse shriek trapped in my throat as if there had been many screams proceeding it. M y heart thump ed like a terrified rabbit, and Georgie's

PAGE 104

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 104 cries still rang in my ears. Except, it co uldn't be Georgie was here, shaking my shoulders "Wake up!" I recognized her voice "Tess, you must wake up." Slowly, she came into focus, her red hair glow ed like fire in the sunlight that poured in from the dormitory window s It had been a dream O nly a dream. And yet, she looked frightened. She signaled franticly for Alice our housemaid. "G o g et Miss Stranje. Hurry! Run!" Then she called to Maya. "Do something. She can't breathe. Look. She's turning gray." Maya moved Georgie aside and blew softly on my face. "Tess, you must listen to me. Breathe." All I could do was gasp. It's over. You are safe now." When Maya spoke it was low and resonant, it sounded almost as if she purred. "Let the air out. You have taken in too much." She exhaled slowly, showin g me exactly what she wanted me to do. I tried to follow. "Yes, that is the way. Very good. Slow even breaths." It was then that I finally understood Maya was like a cat, a silken exotic cat. One of us and yet not. After that, I trusted her more. At least as much as anyone can trust a cat. "Thank heavens." Georgie sank onto the end of the bed and sighed. Her color is returning. She'll be all right, now." But she would not. "Georgie, get behind me," I surged forward. "Hide. They're here "Who? Who's here? Jane leaned in from the other side and pressed me back against

PAGE 105

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 105 the pillows. Her brows pinched up with worry. "There's no one here but us." "What is it?" Miss Stranje rushed into the dormitorium. What did she see?" Thank goodness she was here. Now someon e would listen to me. "Daneska! She's here. Or she will be. She and her henchmen. I looked at all of their faces to make sure they understood the threat. "And Lord Ravencross's brother, Lucien. Except, no I shook my head trying to clear it. "That can't be. He's dead. I never dream about the dead. The dying yes. But not someone who has already passed." Yet, I felt certain it had been him. He had looked different somehow, older maybe. But that was impossible. Maya stood, and edged away from me slipping q uietly behind the others. Georgie and Jane glanced at one another, exchanging th e same worried look they had earlier. More secrets? Or the same secret? Sera sat beside me and clasped my hand, even though I had tightened into a fist gripping my bedcovers. "You know that we have the deepest resp ect for your dreams. But it sounds to me as if this one might have been nothing more than an ordinary nightmare the kind any of us might have after the awful events of yesterday. You knew Daneska was behind the atte mpt to kidnap Georgie. Could it be that what you saw this time was simply your worries emerging in your dreams?" "Ordinary. I repeated, astonished at the thought, so much so I very nearly laughed. If only it were true Perhaps it was. I wondered if anyo ne else would welcome an ordinary nightmare with such open arms.

PAGE 106

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 106 "What other explanation can there be? Sera asked softly. We know Lucien is dead. Lord Ravencross killed him at Mockern." Yes ," I said and m y heart stopped beating quite so fast. My fist s began to relax. "That could be it." But then I noticed Georgie and Jane said nothing. Under any normal circumstances Georgie would have offered an opinion. And so would Jane. Instead, both of them kept their eyes averted, looking anywhere but at me. Tha t's how I knew that whatever it was they were hiding it had something to do with Lucien. My stranglehold on the sheets tightened again. Miss Stranje stood at the foot of my bed like a captain steering a ship. "What else did you see?" "Nothing of any con sequence. No Captain Grey. No Lord Wyatt. It was another worthless jumble. Explosions. Smoke. Water. Napoleon "Napoleon?" She tilted her head narrowing in on me. "It was of no consequence." "Perhaps not. Indulge me." "I saw myself in a prison of some kin d except I was surrounded by soft cushions and had grapes to eat. I was dressed in fine silk, and yet I was chained and t here were bars on the door. So you see, i t makes no sense. And then Napoleon came in carrying a n ornate silver bowl filled with swirli ng green water. I was to drink b ut when I refused he grabbed my head and thrust me face first into the bowl It felt as if I was drown ing except the n the dream changed and suddenly I found myself in the dungeons beneath Stranje House."

PAGE 107

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 107 "Hhmm," Our headm istress scrutinized me as if I was an errant pupil. Y ou're quite certain it was Napoleon you saw ? How did you know?" I refused to meet her gaze, carefully folding the edge of the sheet over the top of the coverlet. "He wore the emperor's gold laurel leave s on his head and yet he was dress ed like a general. My stubbornness returned and I looked up defiantly I knew ." Yes, o f course Miss Stranje placed her hand on the spindle of my bed. "A most curious dream ." "That part of it can't possibly mean anythi ng It was absurd. Perhaps Sera is right, maybe it was an ordinary nightmare, I don't know. What I do know is that I saw Daneska here. Inside Stranje House. And that part felt real. I thumped the feather ticking with my fist. That portion of the dream uns ettled me most because s ome childish part of me liked to think of Stranje House as impenetrable, my personal fortress. And the thought that I couldn't protect one of my friends from her vicious schemes twisted my insides until I felt like a wrung out rag. W ater in a silver bowl ?" Sera quizzed. "What do you suppose that means?" I had no answers n othing more than a hair hanging shake of my head. I sat forward, suddenly struck by a hopeful notion. What if it wasn't Georgie I heard crying out after all mayb e it was Daneska ? Jane snorted derisively. "I doubt it. Daneska doesn't cry. She doesn't have it in her. "No, of course not. My heart sank again and I peeked up at her, wincing, wishing the wretched dream would evaporate. Then it must have been Georg ie screaming for help ." Jane crossed her arms. "It could've been your own screams you were hearing. They were loud enough."

PAGE 108

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 108 I pressed my face into my hands, hiding my turmoil from them. But in so doing I saw Lucien's face again, as I had in the dream, coming at me from the darkness and then vanishing around a corner. It didn't make sense. I'd had enough mysteries for one day, for one lifetime. "Enough games. What is it about Lucien you aren't telling me?" Georgie sat on the end of the bed, pensively t racing her finger over the embroidery on the coverlet. She cast a scowl up at Miss Stranje. "I told you she'd find out." "Find out what?" I demanded. They all stayed mum. "I swear, if you don't tell me what's going on this very instant, I will never tell y ou another thing about my dreams. Not a word. I don't care if they predict the assassination of Prince George, or if Napoleon himself appears to me in one of them." Sera jumped up at the violence of my demand. And yet my outburst seemed to convince her th at Jane and Georgie were hiding something from me. From us Because, clearly, Sera didn't know either. She scoured each of their faces, hunting for clues. "Whatever it is. We've a right to know." The hurt vibrating through her words seemed to land on them with more force than my anger. Without a sound Maya retreated deeper into the shadows. Jane, on the other hand, looked squarely to Miss Stranje for guidance. So, our illustrious headmistress and even Maya had a part in this tight lipped conspiracy. I cou ldn't blame them for their silence, not entirely. Everyone has their secrets. I have mine. Besides, secrets were our stock in trade. But I meant to bite my

PAGE 109

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 109 teeth into this one and drag it out into the open. Now I met Miss Stranje's hawk like stare with a white hot blaze of my own. "Hhm ph ." She did not look displeased with me. It was rather more as if I had passed some sort of test. She abruptly turned and dismissed Alice, our maid, with instructions to tell Greaves that we would be down to breakfast a fe w minutes late, and to go ahead and serve our guest. Our headmistress gave Jane a curt nod of permission. Jane exhaled. "Thank goodness. We "I wanted to tell you right away." Georgie quickly scooted closer to me. "And a hundred times since. But we a nd here she glanced over her shoulder at Miss Stranje. the thought was, that it would be better if you didn't have to keep a secret this important from him from Gabriel. Because if we tell you, you will have to keep this from him. Do you still want to k now?" "Yes. Of course. It isn't as if we're betrothed." I emphasized my point with a great deal of heat. "Why should it be difficult? Lord Ravencross and I are no more than neighbors to one another. Acquaintances. Not even friends. Not really. If you must know, he finds me irksome. He said so himself only last night. Despite what you may think, Georgiana, I have no future with him. For that matter, with any man, least of all him." During this rather forceful protestation Miss Stranje pressed her lips into a thin exasperated line and cast her gaze to the ceiling. I didn't care if she believed me or not. It was nothing less than the truth.

PAGE 110

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 110 Nevertheless, I brought my strident pitch under control. "What I intended to say, is that I care about him, of course, but I would not wish to make him suffer because of the my dreams, not the way my father and grandfather did." "Very well, then I'll tell you." Georgie caught her lip, as if she was loathe to spring the truth from its hiding place. Miss Stranje rolled her hand, indicating that Georgie should get on with it. "That fact of the matter is, well, you see, Lord Ravencross didn't actually kill his brother." I shook my head. "But Jane cut me off. "He thought he did. Everyone thought he had. But somehow Lucien s urvived." Georgie gave a somber recitation of the facts. "Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt snuck in and carried Gabriel out of the farmhouse to safety. Both men were certain Lucien was dead. But the French surgeons are reputed to be the best in the world. Sinc e he was the leader of Napoleon's Iron Crown, they must've done everything within their power to save him." "I saw him." I reminded her. "He fell down dead. There was no bringing him back from that." "Yes, well, we don't actually know how the man survived, only that he did. Like you, Sebastian assumed Lucien was dead. He saw no signs of breath and there was enough blood on the floor to warrant that conclusion. Although, how much of that blood actually belonged to Gabriel rather than Lucien, we can't know." "I saw his eyes. They were lifeless," I muttered.

PAGE 111

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 111 "Yes." She took a deep breath and pressed on. "But we saw him, too Jane, Maya, and I saw him the day we rescued Lord Wyatt from the Iron Crown's stronghold. And the former Lord of Ravencross, was very muc h alive." I could scarcely breathe. "If that's true, it means that Gabriel is not..." "Strictly speaking, you are correct. He is not rightfully Lord of Ravencross." "Gabriel should be told," I said with flat finality. "He would want to know." "Would he?" M iss Stranje's icy tone silenced everyone in the room. "What do you suppose he will do once he knows? I didn't answer. It was one of her traps. Georgie responded for me. "He would report it to Whitehall." He would. He would feel it was his duty. Jane finish ed closing the door on the trap. "And then the title, his lands, and his family honor would be stripped away. Not to mention the disgrace that would be brought down on his head given the fact that his brother is now quite aptly named The Ghost ." I sucke d air. My stomach shot straight through the feather ticking and crashed against the floor boards. It fit. Lucien was dead but now he'd come back to life as The Ghost, illusive shadow leader of the Iron Crown. Ruthless. Brutal. And extremely efficient in his treachery. I closed my eyes, cringing as I thought of the shame this would heap upon Gabriel. When I could breathe again, I made a feeble protest. "But he's miserable because he

PAGE 112

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 112 thinks he killed his brother." Miss Stranje shifted to her instructive mannerisms and voice. "And so you must ask yourself, would he be less miserable knowing the truth?" A traitor to the crown." She still glanced frantically about the yard. "Gabriel's loyalties may even come into question." His own brother, leader of the Iron Crown? It couldn't be. And yet, it made perfect sense. Naturally Daneska would have allied herself with a murderous traitor. The gnawing betrayal I'd felt because of her, Gabriel would feel a hundredfold. His own brother Gabriel's brother hid behind the mantel of the Ghost. I would make an honest man of him and turn him into a real ghost. I would kill Lucien. Georgie was right. "Gabriel must never find out." The words echoed from my throat, hard and commanding. My soul turned to that of an assassin, dark as midnight and as calculating as sharp steel. "No one must ever know." Georgie looked at me, suddenly guarded. "But won't he" She hesitated, wary of the hardness in me. "I will stop them before they come." "We," she said, her voice shaking. We wi ll stop them." We No, I shook my head. Georgie was too good and kind. I would never let death stain her as it had me. Yes. No.

PAGE 113

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 113 Who was I to decide his fate? "I don't know." I collapsed into my hands again, burying my face, uncertain of either path. B ut they were all waiting for some kind of decision. I had no right to decide. Suddenly I felt angry again. No, I wanted to be angry. I wanted a distraction. I needed the heat of rage to wrest the icy misery settling into my veins. "Why is it that I haven 't dreamed this? Why! What good are these infuriating visions of the future if they don't even reveal something as important as that?" Miss Stranje, still playing at being our teacher, cocked one brow imperiously. "I believe you just did, don't you think?" "Hardly," I grumbled. Then, out of nowhere, a wry thought occurred to me and I smirked as aptly as I am able to smirk, which isn't much at all. It is Jane and Miss Stranje who can successfully pull off irony. Nevertheless, I took a stab at it. "And here I'd thought Lady Daneska had taken up with someone new." Jane was the only one who thought it funny. Georgie slumped and propped her chin in her hand. She seemed to be pondering something in a completely different direction. "You said you dreamed of fire and water. Do you suppose that means they might have gotten the plans for the warship out of Mr. Sinclair?" "It's quite possible." Jane's jaw tensed. "For all we know, he could be in league with them." She started to pace. "What do we really know of Mr. S inclair other than the fact that he is vulgar and ill mannered?" Georgie shot up. "We know that Sebastian thought him worth rescuing."

PAGE 114

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 114 Miss Stranje intervened. "Ladies, we must not leap to conclusions one way or the other. Let us simply discover what infor mation he gave them before he was rescued and proceed from there. The Iron Crown may have forced his hand. We are all too familiar with the cruelty they are capable of inflicting upon their prisoners." Jane stood very stiff and guarded. "How can we find ou t without tipping our hand? He's more clever than he lets on. Too clever by half. It is quite possible he was never a prisoner at all. That he is one of them sent here to infiltrate our ranks." Georgie fumed at her. "Don't be ridiculous." "I'm not. France allied with the Yanks when they fought us for independence. Have you forgotten, the Americans declared war on Britain in 1812? Last year they burned York to the ground." Georgie rushed to his defense. "Yes, but the attack on Canada was not a popular action in his country. Many of his countrymen rioted against the war. He may not sympathize with "We're still at war." Jane stiffened and elevated her chin. "He is our enemy. And don't forget it. He has far more reason to swear his allegiance to France than En gland." "Yes, but it is highly unlikely." Sera stood to the side watching and observing as she always does. "He appears to be straightforward to a fault." "Oh yes. He's excessively straightforward when it suits him. Rude, I should say." Jane bristled. "Bei ng blunt does not make him honest. Nor does it mean he's on our side. He's still an American. Who knows where his loyalties lie. He might very well be a spy." "That's preposterous." Georgie propped her fists on her hips and I rather expected

PAGE 115

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 115 she would sta nd by him to the death, because in so doing she defended Lord Wyatt's decision to send the engineer's apprentice to us. "His uncle has not taken either side in the war with Napoleon. Fulton offered his inventions to both sides. Surely, Mr. Sinclair is as n eutral as his uncle." "There is nothing neutral about him," Jane grumbled. Maya stood back by the curtains and laughed softly. I love Maya's rare waves of laughter. They bubble up from a place of complete contentment and it warms the soul to hear it. Miss Stranje moved between Jane and Georgie and clapped her hands together ending their debate. "I suggest we go down to breakfast and ask him. If he is as straightforward as Sera believes, he will tell us exactly what designs he gave the Iron Crown. However a word of caution. There must be absolutely no mention of Lady Daneska or The Ghost until we are absolutely certain of this young man's loyalty. Agreed?" We all nodded in response, but she turned and singled out Jane. "Lady Jane?" "Me?" Jane's hand flew t o her chest. "Why would you doubt me? I'm not the one. It's Georgie who trusts him. Not I. If it were up to me, I would never speak another word to the man." She sniffed and stuck her chin higher. "For any reason." "Very well. You may all go. But wait to q uestion him. Tess and I will join you shortly." She dismissed them and turned to me. "I'll help you change into a morning gown. But first I would like to hear your answer. Do you intend to tell Gabriel about his brother?" I looked down at my bare toes, and with a deep sigh, answered. "It's not my place."

PAGE 116

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 116 "Hhmm. I wonder." We were a few minutes late to breakfast. As it turned out it might have been better to skip it all together.

PAGE 117

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 117 Chapter 10 Breakfast The breakfast room is my second favorite roo m at Stranje House. It always smells of bacon and toasted muffins. The walls are painted butter yellow and, no matter the season, sunlight drifts through the broad windows and warms the soul. There is a secret passage through the cupboards along the south wall. I often sneak in here at other times of the day just to breathe in the homey scents and bask in its lovely warmth. I'm like a cat that way. I prowl and roam where I will. But today the breakfast room felt decidedly sullen, and it had nothing to do wi th the light. We found it filled with silent brooding occupants. Maya was the only one who didn't look disgruntled. She hummed to herself and cheerfully peeled an orange. Jane looked as if she planned to saw off someone's head and not the one belonging to the hapless fish under her knife. Georgie stirred the contents of her plate into an unrecognizable smear. Sera studied everyone at the table with nervous intensity. Upon our entering, Mr. Sinclair hopped up out of his chair almost knocking it over. Miss Stranje greeted him and asked how he was getting on with his morning's work. He bowed his head before answering, and proceeded with cautiously chosen words.

PAGE 118

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 118 "I thank you for your hospitality, Miss Stranje. Your accommodations are generous and comfortable." Then, rather more coldly, he added. "Lady Jane tells me you have some questions for me." Miss Stranje sent a wordless scold in Jane's direction. "He goaded me. Jane sputtered with indignation. "Tell her." She nudged Georgie. "Tell her how he tricked me into saying something." Georgie shrugged at Jane's outburst and appealed to the two of us. "They are like fire and oil." Sera leaned across the table. "I think you might mean like fire and water. Opposites." "No. If that were true they wouldn't keep burst ing into flames, now would they?" Georgie turned to the food on her plate and began slicing a kipper. "You may be seated." Miss Stranje nodded to Mr. Sinclair, and took her place at the head of the table as she always does. A footman presented her with a silver tray containing the day's notes and letters. She didn't go through them right away as she usually does. Instead, she clasped her hands in her lap and addressed our guest. "Jane is right, Mr. Sinclair. I do have a few questions about your sojourn in France, if you would be so good as to indulge my curiosity?" "At you r service, Miss Stranje. Ask away." "I appreciate your candor." She motioned for the footman to bring her a boiled egg. This she dealt with as she always does. A swift swipe of her knife, and the egg, shell and all, was split cleanly in two. She scooped out each half with a spoon, and pressed it atop her buttered toast. I have attempted her method and sent my egg flying halfway across the room.

PAGE 119

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 119 She dispatched egg and toast, wiped her mouth and turned to Mr. Sinclair "I would like to know exactly what information you gave the French." "Ah. So, that's it, is it?" Mr. Sinclair nodded and his normally amicable expression turned serious. "They asked me a great many questions about my uncle's stea mships. I found it odd considering Uncle Robert presented the idea to Napoleon himself and had been turned down flat." He warmed to his subject and forgot for a moment his indignation at being questioned. "If I remember correctly The high and mighty empero r said something along these lines, Fire is the great fear of all sailors, Mr. Fulton, and yet you would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I have no time for such nonsense.'" Mr. Sinclair forked a slice d potato and drew it through the egg yolk on his plate scrawling something before continuing with his story. "And yet here comes a half dozen of Napoleon's finest engineers with a flurry of questions for me about how to connect the paddlewheel to the steam engine and the like." "And did you tell them how to do it, Mr. Sinclair?" He set his fork down with a plunk. "No, Miss Stranje, I did not. And it isn't because I fancied myself a great friend of Britain at the time. Because I'm not. May I remind you, tha t we are at war with your fine country." He held up his long tapered fingers forestalling her reaction. "Before you sound the alarm and have me arrested, let me assure you I am no longer a friend of the French, either. I am, however, loyal to my uncle. If I had given Napoleon's engineer patented information about the steamship mechanisms, I would be robbing Uncle Robert of the price he asked Napoleon to pay. That would make me worse than a thief. Whatever else you may think of me, and I

PAGE 120

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 120 gather from some of your students that the general opinion of me here is rather low "Jane does not speak for all of us." Georgie fumed. "Whatever the case," continued Mr. Sinclair. "I would not do such a disservice to my uncle. A more generous man does not exist. Uncle Rob ert bought my mother a farm and handed the deed over to her and my Da without strings of any sort. He did the same for my grandmother and aunts. He undertook my education, and brought me to work alongside him as if I were his own son. I would not betray hi m." He picked up his fork and gave the potato on the end a shake. "Not for any reason." Miss Stranje acknowledged his devotion to his uncle with a squaring of her shoulders and one of her rare expressions of respect. Mr. Sinclair's speech pleased her, but she pressed on. Her voice held no inflection that might indicate her deep concern, no current of condemnation or approval. "When you refused to help their engineers, what happened then?" Mr. Sinclair's countenance fell. His lips pressed together and he sta red at the fork as if he'd like to stab it into something besides a potato. "They hauled me off to that house outside of Paris. The one where your friend, Lord Wyatt, found me." Despite his sudden dark mood, our relentless headmistress gave him no quarter "And is that all?" He stared at her as if she had all the diplomacy of a wide mouthed cannon. "No, Miss Stranje, that is not all. They tried to persuade me." He abandoned his fork for a swig of apple juice. "Here's where I'm faced with a dilemma." He rai sed the glass as if to toast us. "I was given to understand you all found my conversation coarse and unfit for the drawing room. Begging your pardon, I meant to say unfit for your workroom So you

PAGE 121

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 121 can understand why I hesitate to regale you at your breakfa st table with the details of my torture." He lowered the goblet and tugged down his cuff, just enough that she could see a scabbed line of cuts and the purple bruises marking where he'd worn heavy irons on his wrists. Georgie set her spoon down with a dec ided plunk and glared at Jane, who turned white with shame and stared at her plate. "I apologize, Mr. Sinclair. You must forgive me for having asked these questions. I would not have intentionally stirred such unhappy memories. You need not say more. We k now firsthand the sort of cruelty one may expect from Napoleon's secret order of knights. The Iron Crown is Loud pounding at the main door startled us. The thumping got louder and more insistent until Greaves scraped the door open. After which, we were treated to a booming Scottish brogue ordering our butler to "stand aside, man, afore we chop ye down." An even louder and more agitated voice, belonging to Lord Ravencross, carried into our breakfast room. "I don't care if they are in the middle of tea wit h the queen, you'll let me in. Where are they?" "Not that way, yer lordship." MacDougal called after his master and sniffed loudly. "Unless m' nose deceives me, they'll be at breakfast. I smell sausage and it's straight down this way." Greaves is sturdy a s a pike, but he is an old man and no match for MacDougal and Ravencross. Greaves shuffled after them maintaining a dignified tone despite repeating

PAGE 122

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 122 numerous times, "I'm warning you, my lord. I shall summon a footman." Our only footman, Philip, was already trailing along behind Greaves, no match for the burly Scot and Lord Ravencross who was a great bear of a man, even though he was down to the use of only one arm, the other being in a sling. At that point, Lord Ravencross had already charge like a bull int o our breakfast room. Philip and Greaves, made a desperate lunge to apprehend him. I stood abruptly and shouted, "Leave him be." They turned to me in alarm. Miss Stranje rose and nodded permission for her servants to stand down. After that, my wits went begging and all I could do was gape at Lord Ravencross like a foolish besotted schoolgirl. He was still rumpled from sleep. He wore a simple cambric work shirt, which hung open at the throat, buckskin trousers and riding boots. This was not a social call. Miss Stranje indicated a chair. "Lord Ravencross, perhaps you would care for some breakfast?" "No. No, I..." His eyes did not leave my face. He appeared to be completely astound ed to see me standing there looking back at him The breakfast table was lin ed with spectators, but Lord Ravencross didn't give them even a cursory glance. "II thought you were hurtthat is to say... I heard a scream. Several screams." Miss Stranje sighed heavily and muttered, "I must remember to make certain those upstairs windo ws are shut tight." Georgie squinted up studiously. "I don't see how he could've heard

PAGE 123

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 123 Miss Stranje cleared her throat and in a tone that demanded attention she said, "My lord, clearly, you've not had your breakfast yet. Won't you please have a seat?" M acDougal spoke up in place of his tongue tied master. "Right you are, miss. He hasn't had a bite to eat since yesterday. Even then, it weren't no more than weak broth. Not near enough by my way of thinkin'. Came roaring up from his bed as if the devil were jabbing im wi' a pitchfork. Shoutin' and carryin' on, saying as how the young lady must be in trouble. On account of he could hear er screaming, y'see?" MacDougal scratched at his side whiskers. "Tried to calm him, miss. I did. Me and the doctor held i m down for as long as we could manage. Told im as how I'd been awake the whole time an' not heard a peep, save the cock crowing. But it weren't no good. He fought us and flung the covers at me, demanding his clothes and boots. And here we are." He gesture d at me as if I was the source of all the commotion. "And there she is wi' not a scratch on er just as I promised." A blush climbed up Ravencross's neck. He rubbed at his forearm, the shoulder still wrapped in bloody bandages. "I feel a fool." "No, my l ord. You were concerned, and rightly so." Miss Stranje sounded surprisingly conciliatory. "Miss Aubreyson did, indeed, scream this morning because of a particularly bad nightmare. The sound alarmed me as well. As you know, I am not easily alarmed." She ges tured to a chair at the end of the table. "Won't you please sit down? Miss Aubreyson will explain it all to you after you've eaten. You, too, Mr. MacDougal." The burly Scot backed away, waving his hands. "No, miss. Couldn't do that. T'wouldn't be proper fe r the likes of me to sit at yer table, what wi' me being his

PAGE 124

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 124 lordship's servant an' all." He eyed the warming pan full of crispy fish on the sidetable. "But I wouldn't say no to takin' one of these kippers with me to the kitchen. I'll just wait for you the re, shall I, sir?" Sir. Lordship MacDougal's wobbly forms of address would leave the listener confused as to whether Lord Ravencross was a duke or a commoner. Miss Stranje waving her fingers and the footman took the hungry Scot away to the kitchen with a heaping plate dressed with fried fish and potatoes. Lord Ravencross remained standing where he was. "I wouldn't want to impose." "Sit, my lord. You are more than welcome at our table." He continued to stare at me, as if staring reassured him that I was tr uly alive and well. "You're all right then?" I nodded, still astonished. "It was just a bad dream?" "Yes." Jane muttered under her breath as I took my seat. We are nothing to each other." Her sly remark jarred me from my stupor. No more than neighbors She mocked only loud enough for me to hear. "Enough." I pinched her as I she sat down. A trick I'd learned from Daneska, how to pinch while pretending to smile and be polite. Had I'd truly screamed so loud he heard it all the way across both parks? I sh ook the idea away. It seemed i mpossible. Or had h e dreamt of me ? Perhaps he'd had a worry nightmare like the one Sera accused me of having Was he worried about me just as I was about Georgie? I felt absurdly pleased at the prospect I shouldn't be happy t hat

PAGE 125

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 125 he'd had a nightmare, and yet the thought that I might be that much in his thoughts made my blood gallop and my heart dance The footman brought him a plate heaped with food. Lord Ravencross glanced with little interest at the bacon, curried eggs, sli ced oranges and toast. He looked around the table, moving from face to face until he landed with a jarring thud on the personage of Mr. Sinclair. "Who the devil are you?" Lord Ravencross did not say this with the gentility one might expect from a guest. H is tone made it clear he expected a prompt answer. He issued his demand with the force of a man having discovered a gentleman caller in his wife's bedchamber instead of finding a perfectly civil male visitor seated across the breakfast table in a girl's sc hool. "Apparently, I am the fox in this hen house." Jane groaned and rolled her eyes. Miss Stranje performed the introductions but Lord Ravencross continued to frown at Mr. Sinclair. We concentrated on our breakfast, eating in silence, save the scraping o f forks and clicking of spoons. In the relative quiet, Miss Stranje perused her morning post. She squinted at the address of one of the letters, flipped it over and broke the seal. If it had been a letter from the captain or someone in the diplomatic affa irs office she would have slipped it into her pocket and read it later. I watched with curiosity as her pallor increased and she pinched the bridge of her nose as if the contents pained her. At length, she held the missive out to me. "From your Aunt Lydia ," she said cryptically.

PAGE 126

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 126 My knife clattered to my plate, the marmalade meant for my toast splattered. In all these four years there had been only a handful of letters from my aunt and those were usually short. By the grievous look on Miss Stranje's face th is lengthy missive could only mean that my uncle had succumbed to his injuries and died. Injuries that were my fault. I closed my eyes tight against the memory of my tumble from grace, willing it away. But it would not go. The sound still thundered thro ugh my head of my uncle stomping up the stairs to my attic bedroom, cursing my name "Tess, you worthless she demon. I know what you've done. You've turned my horse against me." Willful child that I was, I had slammed my door and shoved the bureau in fron t of it. Admittedly, i t hadn't been a very clever way to escape a whipping. I had trapped myself. Except there was the window. That day was how I first learned to scale walls. I 'd thr own open the window and crawled out, planning to climb down and escape to woods. Or fall But at thirteen I had little care for caution. I'd hung from the moldy sill, dangling three stories above the ground, my skirts flapping madly in the wind as I struggled to find a foothold. Finally, I was able to wedge my toes into the n arrow mortar grooves between the stones. I'd clutched the window frame and scrambled my fingers across the rough limestone searching for a protrusion to hold. I found a thin lip on a block beneath the window but my leg trembled stupidly as I'd lowered my self down onto the wall. I remember taking a deep steadying breath and telling myself, don't look down. Concentrate

PAGE 127

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 127 Breathe. The cold reliable certainty of rock beneath my fingertips helped calm me. Stone walls and falling these things I 'd understood They were dependable truths. Fall. Die Hold on. Live Simple. Understandable. Unlike my uncle he 'd baffled me. Why would my riding Orion without a bit upset him so much? And anyway, why had he insisted on using such a cruel type of bit on an animal a s obliging as Orion? Didn't he see that the thing was tearing up his horse's mouth? If his beast revolted against that, it was his fault not mine. But Uncle Martin had liked to be in charge. He'd kept my aunt completely under his thumb. Back then, I used to wonder if perhaps I was more wild animal than human. I had always been able to figure out horses and dogs, all manner of creatures, even the illusive foxes that hid in our woods behaved in ways I 'd readily understood. But my aunt and uncle had been impo ssible to comprehend. So, I'd climbed to freedom one handhold, one toehold at a time, down the side of the house. He leaned out of my window and hurled the tin water pitcher at me. It clanged off the stones above my head. "First, you spoil my horse. Now a broken door. You'll pay for what you've done!" The ground lay more than a story away, but his scarlet rage made the distance seem short. I 'd dropped and tumbled downhill, away from the house, rolling and rolling, skirts flopping, until I stopped, scramb led up from the wet grass, and took off in a dead

PAGE 128

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 128 run. Uncle Martin came after me. I had been fast even back then. Very fast On foot, he never would have caught me, not even if he had a hundred lifetimes in which to give chase. But Uncle Martin was craft y. He came after me on horseback. His stallion's hooves thudded against the soft soil, flinging clods of earth, thundering behind me louder and louder. I pushed harder and faster. My lungs burned and I prayed the wind would lift me up and sail me on its current. Only I 'd had no wings, only frightened rabbit feet. So I 'd raced for the woods. In the forest I would ve had a chance. The trees would 've hid den me. After all, hadn't my mother taught me I was part of the forest ? Almost to the woods, I 'd glanced over my shoulder. He rode at a mad dog pace, whipping Orion into a lather. What a fool I was to have looked back. I stumbled. A hole hidden in the grass. Ironic. Me, the rabbit, tripped up by a rabbit's lair. Stupid! It had been a stupid mistake. I should never have looked back. My ankle snapped. Pain, hot and sharp, shot up my leg and brought me down in a crumpled heap. I drew up my knees and clutched my ankle. Uncle Martin jerked Orion to a sudden stop, leapt off, and marched toward me, slapping his ridi ng crop across his hand. "Not so high and mighty now, eh, you little witch?" I remember shaking my head and scoot ing backward, uncertain how to ward him off. He'd slapped the whip again, this time against his thigh. Orion shied. Martin should've known bett er than to threaten me in front of that horse It was because of that very

PAGE 129

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 129 stallion that my uncle hated me with such passion. He should've known. How could he have not known what would happen? He raised the crop intending to thrash me. Orion reared. My un cle turned. There were three screams that day. Mine. My uncle's And Orion's Right before his hooves struck my uncle's head. When a stallion screams it blots out all reason. It plunges the hearer into a dark echoing cave of fear. When I 'd regained my senses, the big brown horse stood beside me snorting, stamping and shying like a confused child. My uncle lay unconscious on the ground a few feet away from me. "Shhhhh." I'd crooned, beckoning Orion to me. "It's all right, boy." He tossed his head, agitat ed, afraid. "You didn't mean it. I know you didn't. You were just trying to protect me." Even as I said it, I knew the sad truth. When Uncle Martin awakened, he would shoot Orion for his actions today. It wouldn't matter that the horse was a superb hunting mount and a valuable breeding stallion. I d struggled to my feet somehow and limped to the agitated horse, smoothing my hand down his neck to quiet him l eaning my head against his withers. I'd murmured words from the ancient Welch language my mother had taught me, telling him how much I loved him for trying to save me. My guardian still hadn't roused. "Uncle Martin ?" I edged toward him. Any second, I'd expected his hand to flash out, snare me, and I would 've be en in for the beating of my life.

PAGE 130

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 130 Only, he d idn't move. Apart from the wind ruffling his hair and neckcloth, he lay completely still. His mouth gaped open, a silent echo of the scream he'd uttered before Orion kicked him. I saw then how his head rested at an odd angle against a small boulder. Sudde nly dizzy, my stomach spun through empty air, falling like a baby bird from the nest. "No," I whispered. "No. Don't let him be dead. Please. Not dead." I knelt beside him. "Uncle Martin?" Blood had pooled at the base of the rock, a thick burgundy ooze, sta in ing grass and soil. "Uncle Martin, wake up!" His chest lifted ever so slightly. He was alive. Barely I ripped a strip of cloth from the bottom of my underdress, and wrapped his head to slow the bleeding. Then I 'd hobbled back to the grazing stallion, h eaved myself onto his back. "Run, Orion." I'd shouted. The stallion's ears flicked up sharp. Rhedig ," I'd said in the old tongue and he took off, racing for the house, galloping across the field so fast that half the time his feet scarcely touched the g round. "Lydia!" I cried out for my mother's sister. Praying she would hear my call for help. As soon as I'd explained, she'd sent servants to unhinge a door and they'd used it to carry him back to the house. Martin still breathed, but the doctors could no t wake him. "Any day," the doctor had said, and then he'd shown Lydia how to squeeze broth from a cloth and let it drip down my uncle's throat. But as the days past the doctor's expression had grown more solemn. His words, "any day," had changed to a dea th watch.

PAGE 131

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 131 My uncle's family had arrived already wearing black. It was not long after that they exiled me to Stranje House. Not Aunt Lydia, she'd wept when they carted me away with my hands bound. It was Uncle Martin's prune faced sister and his fat sweati ng father's doing. They 'd sent me here to be punished, to be beaten into submission, to learn to conduct myself in a manner befitting a proper young lady. Beneath their fine words and stiff speech, i t was as if they had thought I truly was a demon child. A nd Miss Stranje had the perfect reputation for being able to exorcise the devil from unmanageable girls like me. Or so they had thought. I glanced at the headmistress I'd come to respect and with shaking hands reached for my aunt's letter I had no desire to read it, but just as traitors must face a firing squad, I knew I must face the sad truth that another death would be laid at my door Lydia's handwriting is challenging under the best of circumstances, as it is small and fraught with a great many deco rative flourishes. Add to that, dread and guilt blurring my sight, and as a consequence I stumble d along, scarcely able to make out the words on the page. Upon the second reading, my disbelief settled and here is what it said. My dear Niece, I have news. My husband's family has given up hope that Martin will ever recover. What black thoughts his people have. They persist in ignoring the fact that he is greatly improved. I was not sorry to see them pack up their belongings last month and leave. They have gone home to Middlesbrough saying they will not return until

PAGE 132

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 132 Martin's funeral. The good Lord willing, that occasion shall not take place for a great many years. Now that a month has passed, I believe they are well and truly gone. That means you may return here without fear of being locked in a closet, ti ed to a bedpost or anything else. I feel simple wretched about all the horrid thrashings they wrought upon your person. You must understand, it is simply their way. They are rather stern folk. I confess, it has been duller than old porridge and twice as sticky having them so frequently underfoot during the past few years. Especially his sour tempered sister. They have been constantly in and out, arriving unannounced, staying for weeks on end, and bringing all manner of physicians with vile treatments to inflict upon poor Martin. His father's parting words were unbearably cruel. He lamented that there is nothing left of his son save a sniveling useless child. He refused to even kiss Martin farewell. "My son is dead," says he. It isn't true. In point of fact, I find my husband's company quite pleasant these days. What does it matter if I must wipe spittle from his chin now and again? Martin no longer yells, nor does he drinks too much, and he no longer brood s. It is miraculous how he seems to delight in the simplest things. He will sit for hours in the yard playing with the kittens. He would never have been content to do so in the past. In my opinion, he is vastly improved. You will see for yourself when you return home.

PAGE 133

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 133 There are a few minor problems which I must explain. For instance, I cannot allow him to go near the stables. He seems to have forgotten which end of the horse is most likely to kick. Sometimes even the sight of a horse will throw him into a terror and we find him cowering in a corner. We must also watch that he doesn't wander off into the woods. These problems are not usually burdensome because most days his legs will not support his weight as they ought. I had a bath chair constructed for hi m so that we might roll him around with ease. Martin quite enjoys riding his chair. After another week or two I think we can be fairly confident his family will not return unexpectedly. At that time it will be safe for you to return to my house. Surely, y ou are longing for release from that horrible school to which his sist er exiled you. Nor have I forgotten my promise to your dear mother that I would take care of you till the end. I mean to keep my word. Aside from that, Martin's father has decided he wi ll not send any more funds for your tuition at Miss Stranje's establishment. So, as it stands, there is no alternative but for you to return here to Tidenham. I will arrange with Miss Stranje for your transportation. Fond regards, Lydia My chest felt heav y. I couldn't sort my thoughts. They tumbled and rolled and collapsed in a chaotic heap. Martin was alive Not dead. That much filled me with relief. Lydia was making the best of it, but my uncle had been reduced to a helpless child because of me.

PAGE 134

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 134 My faul t That turned my relief to remorse. Lydia had promised my mother to take care of me till the end I knew what she meant. She would take care of me until the madness swallowed me up and I died. My mother had known that would be my end, just as she had kno wn it would be hers. Lydia wrote of my death. Not Martin's. I was to return home until I died. Remorse changed to fury. Home That had never been my home. The forests of Wye Valley, maybe. The trees and brooks where I'd played as a child. But not the man or. Not really. Not now. It belonged to my uncle now. I had no home except Stranje House. My stomach lurched, fisting up around breakfast. I dropped the letter on the table as if it burned my fingers. They were all watching me. All of them. Gabriel, too. I needed to run. I wanted to spring up that instant and dash out of the room. If I run fast enough none of this will catch me. Instead, I choked out an answer to their unasked question. "There's no more money. I am to return to Tidenham." To await my deat h. "You can't go!" Georgie surged up from her seat. Sera snatched the letter from my plate and was reading it. "Georgie's right. We need you." Jane reached for my arm but I pulled away. She whirled on Miss Stranje. "You have to stop her." "Sit down, Lad y Jane. You, too, Georgie." You will all control yourselves at my

PAGE 135

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 135 table." She lowered her voice, but I did not miss the fact that she continued on with a small uncharacteristic tremor strangling her words. "Miss Aubreyson must be allowed to make this decis ion for herself. It is not our place to make demands." "It isn't as if I have a choice in the matter. My uncle's family will no longer pay for my room and board." Miss Stranje sat very straight and stiff in her chair. In a cold no nonsense voice, she said, "There are always choices." She adjusted the table linen beside her plate. "Always." She looked up at us and the room got deadly still, as if we were all afraid to breathe. "Tess has been invited back to her home. This ought to be a moment of celebration for her. You will not harry her. Or get maudlin. Nor will you put undue" She caught her lip. It took a moment for her to gather herself, but she flexed her jaw and stood with backbone befitting a queen. "Tess, after you have had time to consider your aunt 's offer if you would like to discuss it, I will be in my office. Now if you will excuse me, I will join all of you in the small parlor in two hours hour's time to discuss the matter of a possible invasion." "Invasion? From whom? Napoleon?" Mr. Sinclair sh oved back from the table. Both he and Lord Ravencross rose, as gentlemen must do when the lady of the house leaves the room, but long after she hurried away both men remained standing. Lord Ravencross looked limp and white faced, as if he'd just found hi mself standing on a gallows facing a noose.

PAGE 136

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 136 Chapter 11 Death Awaits Gabriel turned to me with a devastated expression twisting his features. It ripped what remained of my composure to shreds. I couldn't think. All I could do was rush out of the breakfast room skirts flying. "Wait!" He strode after me and caught my arm in the hall. "Go away." I jerked free. "I need to run. If I don't, I'll lose my mind." Not the obedient sort, he didn't go away. "Very well, if you need to run, I'll run alo ngside you." "You can't." "Don't let my lame leg fool you. I can keep up as well as any man ." It wasn't the old wound in his leg I was concerned about. "Not without t earing open the stitches in your shoulder His posture stiffened "I'm willing to take th at chance." Well, I'm not." I backed against the paneled wall and pressed my hands over my face, roaring with frustration. He would've done the same if matters were reversed. I flung my hands down. "If you insist on accompanying me, my lord, I suppose I w ill have

PAGE 137

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 137 to settle for a brisk walk." "Gabriel," he said. "For pity's sake, call me Gabriel." He motioned for me to lead the way. "You've been in my bedroom. I believe we can dispense with the formalities of my title, don't you?" I groaned. "I was there se rving as your watchman, not your lover. So, no, my lord, I believe the formalities are still very much in play." We left the house by way of the garden. "You will call me Gabriel." He said this with a firmness that brooked no argument. "I never wanted the blasted title in the first place. Such things belong to men like my father. Men born to rule. It suited my brother. Not me." His words evoked memories for both of us. Gruesome images of the last time he saw his brother alive. And undoubtedly their violent duel. The secret haunted me then. It was harder than I thought not to relieve his pain. Except that would only bring a new torment. So I changed the subject and walked faster. "Perhaps you should sit here on this chair beside the garden and rest. It's too soon for you to be walking after losing all that blood." "I find I am much improved this morning. I was surprised to find that I rested quite well last night despite having so many people in my room." He was baiting me, but I could not joust with him. Not today, not when my future was crumbling faster than I could run. I chose a path on the opposite side of the property, as far from Ravencross Manor as possible. We walked in silence until we were well away from the house. My thoughts fluttered about like fr antic geese being chased by a dog.

PAGE 138

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 138 When he finally broke the silence, it startled me. "Why were you screaming this morning?" My scream ? That's what he chose to discuss? Not what is all this talk of invasion? Or when will you leave? Or please don't go "It was a bad dream. That's all." "But your scream sounded real. Not like, well, not like something from a dream. "I've no idea how you heard it, all the way from your house ." I glanced over my shoulder across the distance to Ravencross manor trying to sound casual. "Yes, that is peculiar. At times, s ound carries oddly along the cliffs." "I suppose." Why didn't he ask about my leaving? "What did you dream about that upset you so badly?" "It isn't important." I mportant enough to send me tearing over h ere like a complete fool." "I apologize, my lord. You should've stayed in your bed. I shall endeavor to scream more quietly in the future." "Are you going to tell me, or not?" "Not." "And if I insist." "I'm told I can be rather obstinate." "I can attest to that. But I would like to know what upset you. You are not the screaming sort." If you must know, it was Lady Daneska."

PAGE 139

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 139 He stopped walking. Suddenly quiet. I turned and waited for him to catch up. "I dreamed she was here, at Stranje House, with her band of assassins, and that she had captured Georgie." "Then, do you mean to say it was she who was behind the attack yesterday?" I wasn't sure how to answer him without revealing too much. "Who else could it have been?" "This is a very odd girl's school." He rubbed at the stubble on his jaw. At length he glanced at me and I saw in his eyes that he was leaping to all sorts of dangerous conclusion s "It was just a bad dream." I lengthened my stride. He matched mine. "And because of this dream of yours you and Miss Stranje think she is actually coming here again? Is that the invasion she mentioned? Surely not. I didn't want to discuss this now. Not when I faced having to leave Stranje House and abandoning Georgie and him to deal with Daneska's murderous intenti ons. I came to an irritated halt, and balled my fists at my sides. Why didn't he have the decency to ask about me leaving? He could at least act as if it troubled him. But no, he must bring up Daneska and the dreams. I didn't know what to say, or how to s ay it. After numerous false starts, I blurted "I can't leave. Not now. Not when you when they" I pointed back at Stranje House at Georgie and the others "You're all in danger." D o you want to leave?" Gabriel gently took hold of my elbow, squinting a t me, trying to decipher my muddled speech. "If it weren't for all this other trouble, Tess, would you want go home to your aunt?"

PAGE 140

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 140 "Don't make me answer that." I folded my arms and huddled over them. What difference does it make? I've no choice in the mat ter ." He let go and I wished he hadn't. "It makes a difference to me." "There are far more important things to consider at the moment, my lord, than whether or not I want to go back to Tidenham. Georgie is not the only one in danger. You are, as well ." It was all I could do to keep from shouting. I tried to tell you last night Daneska sent those men to abduct Georgie, but she offered to pay them extra if they kill ed you He nodded and strolled ahead as if I'd said nothing of importance. I hurried up bes ide him. "And a fter that dream, I am convinced you are in far more danger than I thought ." For reasons I couldn't tell him. Even though I itched to know why his brother hated him so much? Surely Lucien hadn't tried to kill him that day in Mockern simply be cause they were on opposite sides of the war. "This was no idle whim on Lady Daneska's part." At least I didn't think it was, with Daneska, one could never be too sure. "I don't see how I can leave in the middle of "Hold!" Gabriel stopped in his tracks his eyes widened and his nostrils flared Am I to understand that y ou actually think you must stay here to protect me ?" His eyes slowly narrowed until the dark slits resembled glinting daggers. I swallowed, suddenly very sure I should not answer that que stion. I slid my foot back preparing to skate away. "Tess?" A low warning rumble from deep in his chest, made gooseflesh rise on my arms, but I stood my ground and didn't bolt.

PAGE 141

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 141 With a disgusted growl, he said, "I can take care of myself." It was the way h e said it that made me mad, as if I was a foolish girl to have even thought such things. "Oh yes. How silly of me. Of course, I should've known you are used to dealing with murderous henchmen It's an every day thing for you I suppose ? I should think I' ve a great deal more experience with it than you ." There he was sadly and quite utterly mistaken B ut I couldn't correct him not without revealing Miss Stranje's school for what it really was. So, I scoffed wordlessly. He exhaled in a frustrated burst, filling his chest with stern bravado. His face became an unyielding mask and it brought to mind the paintings of his father I'd seen hanging on his staircase wall, grim and cold. "You're impossible. Besides, all of this is conjecture. You can't know Lady D aneska is going to return here for certain." I said nothing "You dreamt it. Dreams can be false." I sighed. "Not mine." "You took a blow to the head. A bad one. More than likely, this is nothing more than wild imaginings brought on by your injury." Wild imaginings. "I wish it were so, my lord. I refused to call him Gabriel. We were no longer friends. My dreams were many things. Frustrating. Horrifying most of the time. Wretchedly inscrutable usually. But they were not wild imaginings. You may think w hat you wish. But m y dreams are not the ordinary variety." Ordinary. If only they were. What must that be like? Perhaps it was the sadness in my voice that made him lean in as if he was trying to

PAGE 142

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 142 understand. "How is it they differ?" I bowed my head. Not w ishing to watch his face as I unw ou nd the ugly truth. Like my mother, and her mother before her, I am the first born daughter. In our family the eldest daughters are cursed with dreams of things yet to happen It has been so for generations, clear back t o when the druids inhabited the forests in my part of the country. We are inflicted with confusing visions, flashes of the future, inscrutable bits and pieces of terrible things d eaths and h orrors All of which I would give anything not to witness ." When I dared look up at him, I saw by his eyes he was troubled by what he'd heard. "These things you see, do they..." He was afraid to ask. "Yes." I sighed heavily. "Eventually, the se fragments these little bits and pieces of the future, prove true." Doubt lingered on him, plaguing me. I could have told him about seeing the fight between him and his brother. But I couldn't do that without bringing up things I would have to hide. So, I flung down my last card. "That's the reason we went to London. I'd dreame d about what would happen if we didn't take Georgie's new ink to Lord Wyatt. He would die. You helped us because you believed me. And you saw what happened there." "You only told me that Lord Wyatt's life was in danger. That's why we went. I didn't know we were going because of a dream." "If I'd told you, would you have taken us?" All of Gabriel's beautiful golden color drained away. He turned ashen white. "You've done too much, my lord. You must sit." I checked for telltale bleeding

PAGE 143

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 143 coming through his band ages, but there were no fresh stains. Even so, I tugged him to a large overturned log. Do you mean y ou actually saw Lord Wyatt die in a dream?" "No, my lord, that's not how it works. I live d it. It was as if I died with him." I could've told h im that on ce upon a time, I'd nearly died with him, too B ut I didn't. "Good Lord." He rested his head in his hand. A few moments later, he looked up to the cloudless sky and then back to me. "If what you say is true, if Lady Daneska is coming her e bent on murder an d kidnapping, then you must go home to your aunt. You'll be safer t here." He would send me away? A way from him? Away from my friends? I shoved my fists against my hips. "I'm touched, my lord, that you are so eager to be rid of me." He snared my arm and je rked me onto the log beside him. "Rid of you? Are you daft?" He held me close and I watched his pupils widen into dark chasms. "You told me once you could see how I felt about you. Have you suddenly gone blind?" No, his hunger was still plain to see. But t here was something else, something bricking up in his heart I decided to try chiseling it free with the sharp edge of my tongue. As I recall, f or my honesty on that occasion you called me a witch." "I did." His voice dropped to a low whisper. "Because y ou were right." My lungs filled in a jubilant rush. His grip on me softened, he stared at his fingers wrapped around my arm and loosened them so that his hand barely grazed my skin. "Truth is, to keep you here I'd drop to my knees this instant and beg f or your hand T hat is if I could stomach being

PAGE 144

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 144 that cruel to you. I want you Tess, b ut you deserve a better man than me. A man with some semblance of a heart left. A man who would coddle you, and treat you as you deserve. Not someone as worthless and la me, and scarred "Stop! Stop saying such things about yourself. You are worth ten of any other man I know. He let go of me and the absence of his hand made me feel unnerved, as if an important article of clothing had been stripped away and I sat there ha lf naked But I could hardly grab his hand and slap it back on my arm So, I settled on words. "Do you think so little of me? Can you honestly believe I have my sights set on a man who would coddle me? What do I care about fine jewels, or carriages, or tri ps to the theater? Look at me. Am I a china doll to be petted and cosseted?" I waited, but he didn't answer. "Now who is blind?" I asked. He stared at me, his lips parted as if he meant to say something and then he closed them Lost Gabriel is normally a powerful man. Even though he bears a limp from the wound his brother gave him, it only proves his strength. He is a man who could not be cut down, even by a death blow. But all this, h is height, his bearing the powerful muscles in his shoulders and arm s, only made that lost expression on his face all the more heartbreaking. I ached to throw my arms around him. Instead, I clasped my palms together as if praying at an altar. You can't truly believe your scars bother me How can you? When, God help me, I yearn to trace each and every

PAGE 145

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 145 one with my lips." Color returned to his face in a blazing crimson flood. He looked away as if the sound of my declaration pained him. I stood, careful to keep my gaze from his ashamed of my boldness but not yet finished w ith my confession. "Here is the saddest truth of all, my lord. My feelings are of no consequence We have no future Gabriel Because there is only death ahead of me." I gave his cheek a sorrow drenched kiss and ran. Ran away, back to Stranje House. I di dn't run elegantly like a deer, or fierce like a wolf, or even like a frightened rabbit. I ran with no grace at all. Like a lost girl. A stupid foolish, lost girl. Half blind with wild thoughts, I stumbled on the stairs. I never stumble. Only death ahea d of me I slammed through the garden door, and practically flew through the corridors, up the staircase, down the hall, and flung wide the doors to the ballroom. She was there as I knew she would be. Madame Cho Waiting. Sitting beside the mats where we practice grappling and throwing one another. The ballroom is the best of all the rooms in Stranje House. Better than even the dark maze of secret passages and deep hiding places. This is my favorite room. My haven A climbing rope dangles from the two stor y ceiling. Miss Stranje had it installed especially for me. I knew every knot intimately. Off to the side, stood a full size cloth man stuffed with sand and wadding, built so that we could learn to throw our punches and kicks more accurately. I remembered the day Sera inked a face on him. I passed the case of sabers, a pile of bamboo swords, the throwing knives, and the rack of foils we used for

PAGE 146

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 146 fencing lessons. Only death lay ahead of me I clenched my fists. I didn't want to leave Stranje House. And I d idn't want to die. Not because death frightened me. It didn't. Not anymore. I'd died a hundred times in dreams and visions. Death had lost its mystery long ago. No, I wanted the one thing I could never have a life with Ravencross. I wanted to live My te acher sat, calm as sunlight, waiting for me, watching, as if her ancient dark eyes saw centuries beyond my pain. In a desperate childish rush, I ran and threw myself into Madame Cho's lap. Dry heaving choking sounds came from my chest. I wasn't crying. I n ever cry.

PAGE 147

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 147 Chapter 12 Fight Once my wretched heaving subsided, Cho lifted my shoulders and although there was kindness in her eyes I saw no pity. "You must fight." With that she dumped me off her knees and stood. I don't know how old Cho is there is no way to tell. She has only a few gray hairs but there is an ancientness about her that stretches beyond the years she may or may not have. I believe she is old. But there is still a formidable hardness about her that speaks of youth. There is no weak ness in her. I can tell she has been hardened by too many difficulties, where some women might have broken Madame Cho's difficulties have turned her sinewy and tough as dried leather. She picked up her bamboo staff and struck the mat with it. "Practice." I blinked away whatever water remained in my eyes knowing from experience that if I did not get up, I would soon feel that bamboo on my backside. She tossed me a staff of equal length and gave me time to tuck my skirts up. "I don't feel like fighting." "Ye s, you do. You have been fighting since you came out of the womb." She swung

PAGE 148

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 148 her stick and I met it in the air. The clash of wood against wood awakened the heat inside me. I whirled and swung a sweeping arc where she stood. She leapt over my stick as if sh e was a girl of twelve, and brought hers down over my head. I dodged but it grazed my arm, and the sting made me grit my teeth. "See," she said triumphantly, and swung around for another blow. "Practice clears your mind." I barely deflected it with my s taff. "No. It only makes me angry." "Too bad." She shifted her pole to parry my strike. Our staffs collided with a ripple that I felt all the way up my arm. She whirled and hooked her foot around my ankle, sending me sprawling across the mat on my back. "A nger is not good. It makes "I like being angry." I raised my staff in the nick of time to stop her staff from chopping down on me. "It feels like power, but it makes you reckless. Sloppy," she said, backing off for a minute. "Makes you forget where you are. What you are doing." I rolled to my feet and brought my staff up with me in a jarring clash against hers. "Maybe I want to forget." "To forget is not possible." She flipped the staff around her shoulder. "You can only focus on something else." She cau ght the bamboo with her left hand and rapped me on my shoulder so hard that I dropped my weapon. "Like how to block my staff." She stood patiently waiting for me to collect myself. "Where did you learn to fight like this? Who taught you?" I dared ask my oft repeated question, expecting the same answer she had always given me over the years, a sharp rap with one weapon or another.

PAGE 149

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 149 She stared at me, contemplating, a whisker of sadness flitted through her dark eyes. Without answering she picked up my pole t hat had rolled to the edge of the mat. "I learned this in my village, near where the Xi and Tan rivers meet." I saw pride in the set of her chin, and an ache for something lost. "My father taught me." She tossed the staff to me and I knew that our time f or speaking had come to an end. And so we fought. Again and again, until I was red faced, tired, bruised, and the ache in my heart was no longer the only thing I could feel.

PAGE 150

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 150 Chapter 1 3 Schemes A half hour later I slipped in to the small parlor t o meet with Miss Stranje and the others at the appointed time. I arrived late. They were all there. Somehow Madame Cho had gotten there before me. Even Lord Ravencross was there. Why had Miss Stranje allowed him in? He did not look at me at first, even tho ugh I know he saw me come in. He'd probably taken a disgust of me after my brazen declaration. Good Now that he knew the truth he would pull back from me, and guard his heart. How very wise of him "Ah, good! I'm glad you are here." Miss Stranje did not s cold me for being late as she would normally have done. Because she knows I'm leaving and that she will no longer be training me In the time it takes to snap one's fingers the dull ache returned to my heart. I looked around at the inhabitants of Stranje House, at the people I cared about, storing up each movement, each word for the long dreary years I would spend without them. Lady Jane leaned over the table watching Georgie sketch a diagram of Stranje House and our grounds with a charcoal stick on a lar ge sheet of paper. Sera pointed out the location of a copse of trees on the drawing that required correcting. Jane trailed the end of a watercolor brush over a section of the map. "I doubt Lady

PAGE 151

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 151 Daneska will bother coming in by the main gate. We ought to post sentries here, here, and here." She tapped handle of the brush on the garden door, the servant's entrance, and the underground passage through the sea cave. "What of the secret exit on the side?" Georgie asked, and placed another X on the drawing. Mr Sinclair glanced over Jane's shoulder. "It might be easier and more efficient to batten down those sneaky entrances and make them inaccessible." When Jane turned and glared at him, he added, "Temporarily, of course." She acted as if he had insulted her personally. "What do you mean, sneaky entrances?" "Well, that's what they are, aren't they? Entrances for sneaking in and sneaking out." "Of course not." Jane practically vibrated at his callous assessment of her beloved Stranje House. It didn't matter th at he was exactly right. "And what's more, I'm not at all certain you should even be allowed to look at this map." He had the audacity to grin at her. "Don't fret yourself, Lady Jane. Your precious diagram is safe with me." He jabbed at his temple as if th e information was stored there. "Like a bear trap. Besides, I already know my way around the house fairly well. And I knocked on enough walls to figure out there might be a hidden staircase or two." "Ladies and gentlemen." Miss Stranje clapped her hands on ce softly. "We really ought to return to the matter at hand. How might we best protect ourselves against possible intruders?" Maya hummed quietly and looked on. This might've been any other afternoon in our workroom. Except there were two

PAGE 152

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 152 men here workin g among us, and this wasn't simply a fictitious strategy problem our teacher challenged us with today T his was a painfully real discussion about Lady Daneska stealing into Stranje House with her band of French assassins. Sera stood up abruptly, and glance d self consciously about the room, avoiding the men who were present, but her shyness did not deter her from speaking. "Before we can settle on the best way to protect ourselves, it seems to me we must first figure out exactly what it is Lady Daneska and h er ..." She caught her lip, glancing nervously at Lord Ravencross. "And the other members of the Iron Crown are after." "Georgie's ink, of course." Jane blurted. I frowned, I knew Daneska too well. "I think it is more than that. Lady Daneska does not like t o have anything taken from her. She wants revenge." Lord Ravencross rumbled. "That would explain why she wanted me killed as well. Retribution for my brother's life." No one said anything. Even Mr. Sinclair, who knew nothing of The Ghost, kept respectfully silent. Maya broke the silence. "We have stolen two of her prizes. She will want them back." "Yes," Sera breathed. "The information Lord Sebastian would have provided and Georgie's formula. But we cannot forget about Mr. Sinclair and whatever inventions t hey wanted from him." We all turned to stare at our American inventor. "Tess is right. The attack yesterday reeked of vengeance." Miss Stranje pressed her knuckles against the edge of our work table. "It was brutal and slipshod. Lady Daneska's hand was a ll over it, but it certainly wasn't one of her more organized schemes. I suspect

PAGE 153

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 15 3 she may have been acting on her own." Almost as if she intended for it to fail But there was no room for me to say so. Everyone started talking at once. "Precisely," Georgie rose. "The men were poorly trained. Some were French, some English, it's as if they'd been thrown together on the spur of the moment." Sera shook her head. "No, Mr. Chadwick is convinced they must've had someone watching the house for days. Otherwise how would they have known exactly when it was your habit to go for your run, er, your brisk walk?" "It's the Iron Crown," Georgie defended her point. "Surely, they always have someone watching the house." Mr. Sinclair shot an alarmed look at Lady Jane. Under his breath he muttered, "Then they will be looking here." Jane answered with a cocky lift of her eyebrows, clearly saying, I told you as much "No!" I burst into the fray. I am not good at arguing points. I lowered my voice to a more respectful pitch and a ttempted to make my case "That can't be true. I'd have known if someone was in the woods. I would've seen them. At the very least, I would've sensed their presence." I could see by their skeptical expressions they were not persuaded. I exhaled with consid erable irritation. "Oh, for pity's sake, Phobos and Trobos would've warned me." Upon my mentioning the dogs, they all nodded, convinced. A fine thing that is They doubted me, but immediately believed the dogs would have known. Perhaps it was just as we ll I was leaving. At least at home they would have believed me. They

PAGE 154

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 154 wouldn't have been comfortable about it they might ve accused me of being a witch, but they would've believed me. Jane's face screwed up as if she'd bit ten down on a lemon. "That means t hey came by that information some other way. But how?" We looked about the room at each other, shifting from foot to foot, and I felt distrust slowly creeping into all of our minds. After Lady Daneska's betrayal the possibility of treachery was never far from us. Miss Stranje put a hasty end to our suspicions. "They could've gleaned that information any number of ways. It could even have come from Lady Pinswary. She is forever peeping at us from her windows with her opera glass." This we knew for a fact because we had observed her doing so through our telescope. Although from clear across the fields I wasn't sure how much she could've seen that early in the morning. Miss Stranje mumbled under her breath. "I've been meaning to plant some taller trees on that side of the grounds." Georgie brightened at this idea, relieved that she didn't have to think one of us had betrayed her. "For that matter, Lady Daneska could've observed it herself last month when she stayed with Lady Pinswary." I glanced guiltily a t Lord Ravencross hoping the time he had kissed me hadn't been observed by the neighbors. "Yes, any number of ways," Miss Stranje concluded with a cluck of her tongue. "Given Tess's dream this morning, I think we must expect the Iron Crown will be more i nvolved in the next attempt. That being the case we should expect a far more organized

PAGE 155

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 155 approach." Lord Ravencross raked a hand through his hair and pushed forward. "We ought to contact the authorities. I'll send a note to Lord Castlereagh and explain the situation." And tell them what, my lord? That based on the dreams of a seventeen year old girl we have reason to believe a band of ruthless cutthroats may try to gain entrance to our house. And what do you think they would do, my lord? Send a troop to sta nd guard?" "Might do." Georgie remained bent studiously over her drawing. "After all, France went to war over Joan of Arc's dreams." "Don't be ridiculous." Jane flicked Georgie's arm. "No one in Britain would move troops on the say so of a dream." Jane ha d her back to me. When she saw the others glancing worriedly past her shoulder at me, she flushed a guilty pink and turned. "I didn't mean that as it sounded, Tess. You know I have complete confidence in your visions. I am merely being practical." Ravencro ss stared in my direction. There was sureness in his gaze, a steadiness, and a warmth that made heat race into my own cheeks. No. He mustn't do that. Hadn't he listened to me? We had no future. I looked away. Down. Sideways. Anywhere but at him. "What ab out contacting Captain Grey. Or Lord Wyatt surely they would come to your "Yes." Miss Stranje rarely interrupts anyone, but there was a sideways fist in her even tone. "I intend to send word as soon as possible. But we have not heard directly from either of them for a number of weeks. Mr. Sinclair's arrival was the first inkling we've had that they are even alive."

PAGE 156

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 156 Georgie's sharp intake of breath, hushed all of us. "As matters stand," Miss Stranje continued in a much softer tone. "We must conclude that we are on our own." A pall fell over all of us. Even Maya stilled, not so much as even the whisper of a hum. I fancied I could even hear the clock tick in the main hall. Georgie scratched the graphite in shading lines where the ocean sat on her diagram. J ane cleared her throat. "Very well, we are on our own. It won't be the first time." She said it proudly, and with a catch in her voice that forced us all to remember who we were. We were the same five girls who crossed the channel and dared bre a ch the Iro n Crown's stronghold. We freed Lord Wyatt from his chains and set the place on fire. Miss Stranje squared her shoulders and smiled at her pupils. Jane rallied us further with a clarion call. "This only means it is even more important that we determine exa ctly what the Iron Crown wants. And how they might try to get it." She sat down with a fresh sheet of fool's cap and her quill. "Shall we begin the list with Georgiana and her ink?" Sera looked round the room at us, paler than normal, the seriousness on he r elfin features seemed so out of place. "You all realize, of course, that we are not the only ones in danger. She lifted Georgie's drawing and set it aside. It had lain atop a map of England and France, which outlined the new borders on the European cont inent. Borders Napoleon had recently established. This was the very map Mr. Sinclair had been so eager to see, and now he viewed it with a grave expression.

PAGE 157

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 157 "There is a larger problem at work here." Sera pressed forward, forgetting her shyness for a moment Sera set a tin cup filled with sticks of graphite on the map near Hanover. "The bulk of our army is cornered here. What troops do we have left to guard Britain 's coast ? A battalion stationed at Chatham? Another at Dover? Five hundred men? A thousand? Wh at would happen if Napoleon decided to invade in the fortnight ?" Jane gasped. "They would be slaughtered." Mr. Sinclair cast an anxious look in her direction. I tried to swallow my trepidation, but it left a dry lump in my throat. "And then what?" Sera is normally kindness itself. But today, even though she spoke gently, her matter of fact tone chilled the air. Call for the Yeomen and leave the monarchy defenseless? They might try to raise the Fencibles again. And call out the volunteer militia. Wales and Ireland might send troops. But all these measures would take time. I have it on good authority that Whitehall is trying to transport our troops home for this very reason." She caught herself, and having recalled exactly how she'd come by this authoritativ e tidbit, turned a guilty sheepface to Miss Stranje. "She knows ." I said. "Go on," Miss Stranje urged. Sera's alarm faded as she continued. "At best it w ould take several weeks, more than likely a month or more to transport enough of our troops from Hano ver, especially given the fact that a great many of our ships are engaged in the conflict across the Atlantic, several weeks away." She glanced apologetically at Mr. Sinclair who merely nodded his understanding that she meant the war the America ns had b rou ght against us in 1812. She picked up several of the small buttons that we normally used to symbolize ships "We must face facts. Napoleon is no fool. England sits at her most vulnerable at the

PAGE 158

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 158 moment. Helpless." She placed the ships in the channel between Britain and France. "I believe the Iron Crown may be paving the way far an invasion of England. With that in mind, yes, Georgie's ink would be a prize worth taking. But assuming he told us the truth at breakfast and that he has not already given them pla ns for his uncle's warship, I believe they will be hunting most ardently for Mr. Sinclair." We turned as one to our American guest It was the first time I'd seen Mr. Sinclair without even a trace of humor on his sunny features. His lips blanched and form ed a round soundless whistle. He jammed his fingers into his mess of golden curls. Looks as if I'm in a bit of a pickle. None of us argued the point. Jane looked particularly pensive. "Yes sir ee." He thrust both hands into his coat pockets. If I were a betting man, I'd say I'm done for." "Nothing of the kind, Mr. Sinclair. We've been in far worse fixes than this." "You may have been in tighter squeezes Miss Stranje but not I. I'm tinkerer, pure and simple." He turned to Jane. "And regardless of what y ou may think of me, my lady, I'm a damn fine engineer." He edged back from the table Apparently the map he'd been so eager to look at no longer held any appeal. "What I'm not, is a soldier. Oh, I know which end of a gun to hold when it comes down to it, b ut I'm not the killing and fighting sort." No, he was an otter. Playful and smart. "Do you want to make a run for it then ?" Georgie tilted her head taking his measure. "You could try to make your way to a port town. I'm sure if you're willing to work for your passage..."

PAGE 159

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 159 "The thought did occur to me," he admitted. "Run if you like." Jane sniffed. "Of course with impressments being as rampant as they are, it is more than likely you'd be put in service and then it would be a handful of years before you'd ma ke it back to your home in the colonies." "United States," he corrected reflexively. "She's right you know." This came from Lord Ravencross. I'll take you to a port myself, if you wish. B ut chances are you'll get thrown straightway into a crew. Then, whe ther you like it or not you'll find yourself in the middle of a battle at sea." "Aye, I'd figured as much ." Sinclair scuffed at the Turkish carpet with the toe of his borrowed shoes. "A piece of bad luck, this. I'm caught between a grizzly and a rattlesna ke. "Take heart, Mr. Sinclair." Georgie chirped, just as if her life weren't in as much danger as his. "There s an alternative. In Lord Wyatt's letter he explained that O ur foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, believes he can get approval for funding for your uncle's steam powered warship if you will but create a drawing and working model. We could help you in this endeavor. If we move with all haste, and you r plans will be safe with Whitehall, and if you succeed you would be doing both your uncle and us a great service" Miss Stranje faced him squarely and without any discernable emotion. "It is, of course, your decision Mr. Sinclair." She placed large sheet of sketching paper over the maps on our work table. If you chose to stay with us, I assure you, we will protect you with our very lives until such time as we can guarantee your safe passage home. That is no small promise."

PAGE 160

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 160 "You should see her with a pistol." Georgie nodded vigorously. "And if your warship and one of your other inventions proves useful I 'm sure the government will conduct you safely to your home. T he war between our countries can' t last much longer." "Then I suppose we'd best get to it." Mr. Sinclair sat at the table, picked up a charcoal stick, Georgie's protractor, and began sketching a diagram of a steam powered warship. Georgie leaned over the table watching with interest. Jane stood between them arms crossed watching him draw. I envied this boldfaced American. It was quite possible the Iron Crown would capture him when they attacked a nd torture his uncle's secrets out of him, but at least he would be staying here with the people who mattered most to me in all the world. Some things were worth the risk.

PAGE 161

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 161 Chapter 1 4 Inquisition While Jane, Georgie and Mr. Sinclair worked on his warship plans, the rest of us tackled the problem of how to fortify Stranje House against intruders. Mr. Sinclair's suggestion to seal up the sneaky entrances met with mixed opinions. Miss Stranje wasn't fond of the idea. "We can't block the underground door. If Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt return by way of the sea cave and find their normal passage into the house blocked, they'll be forced to use the path up the cliffs to gain entrance. At night it is too hazardous a climb." I'd been up and down those cli ffs a number of times and not by the narrow path that wound up the side. "They're more than up to that task," I tried to reassure her She remained unconvinced. "Not if one of them is injured. I don't like it." I didn't either but for other reason s It m ade me furious to think of my fortress being invaded by Dani and her murderous thugs. But the thought of our escape hatches being boarded up made my palms sweat. Then when I considered the fact that I would not be here, I'd probably be halfway to

PAGE 162

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 162 Wales whe n they tried to sneak in, I panicked even worse. "God forbid, if Lady Daneska and her men are successful getting into the house, how will you flee if all your secret escape routes are blocked off?" Lord Ravencross suggested we might block the secret doors by devising a method that could easily be removed from the inside. His clever idea set us to working on a list of what must be done to fortify Stranje House. We worked for more than an hour. Miss Stranje stood and perused the progress Jane Georgie and M r. Sinclair were making on his warship plans "I ll send Philip to town first thing to purchase the supplies you will need ," she said studying the diagrams. Although some of these items you might find in my storeroom. There is copper piping in Miss Fitzwi lliam's laboratory that might work." She tapped his drawing, thinking and turned to Jane. "Don't we have an extra copper tub stored in the garret ? I'm certain I've seen one. I'll check." Miss Stranje was referring to the long narrow storage attic above ou r dormitorium, where the five of us often liked to gather at night long after we were supposed to be sleeping. It has a lovely window that extends out over the roof. Our spyglass comes in very handy in the garret. That's where through our spyglass, we'd c aught our first glimpse s of Lord Ravencross after he came home wounded from the wars Jane jumped up. "You needn't bother. Georgie and I will fetch it for you. I believe I saw just such a tub last time I went up to retrieve something out of my trunk." Jan e knew exactly where that copper bath was. We all did, because we'd flipped it over to use as a table in our secret room. Our makeshift lantern sat atop it. "Thank you," Miss Stranje said and I thought she hid a smirk. "I must attend to other matters now, but we will consider what other safety measures must be taken, later

PAGE 163

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 163 today." Miss Stranje tapped me on the shoulder. "A word with you, Tess, in my office." I nodded silently, unable to answer because my throat felt as if someone was squeezing it shut. This was it. She would arrange my travel and just like that I would be dismissed, and sent out of their lives, back to Tidenham where my aunt would await my death. Just as I thought my legs might fail, Greaves entered the workroom. "Your pardon, Miss. But yo u've several more visitors." He cast a disparaging look at the two men in our workroom as he addressed Miss Stranje. "Mr. Chadwick senior and junior, and a Mr. Griswold, who I gather is coroner for the crown. They asked specifically if they might speak wit h Miss Aubreyson. I have situated them in the blue parlor." I whirled to Sera. "I thought you told him not to come?" She flushed oddly. "I did my best. He is exceedingly difficult." "Sera, I think you ought to accompany us to the drawing room." Miss Stran je took me by the arm. "It will be all right. Stick with short answers as close to the truth as possible. You might try being a bit shy. That is always excused in young ladies." "I'm coming, too." Jane hurried to my side. "That Chadwick fellow is too sharp for his own good." "I'll come with you as well." Lord Ravencross appeared to be deaf to my protestation that he should stay here. "I'm coming. That's my final word on the matter." Mr. Sinclair blew frustration through his lips. "Then, I shall join you as well, and see for myself what manner of man this Chadwick is that he would distract you all from so grave a purpose."

PAGE 164

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 164 "No!" Jane and I blurted as one. "I see." Mr. Sinclair adjusted his coat and sleeves. "You think I'm not a fine enough gentleman for suc h exalted company." "That's not it at all," Georgie insisted. "Please, try to view it from our position," Sera gently explained. "We're concerned that the local Justice of the Peace and his son might find it a bit odd that a young man is staying as a gues t in a school for young ladies. Add to that, the fact that you are an American, and do you not think it might make them even more suspicious?" "Put like that, I see where my presence might be a bit sticky to explain." Sinclair raked a hand over his clean s haven jaw. "But what is it you think he'll be suspicious of, exactly?" "Nothing in particular," Jane said brusquely. "But with the attempted kidnapping and all, it will be difficult enough for us to explain what happened yesterday. And Lord Ravencross be ing here complicates matters. But then, he is a neighbor and that is a bit more expected. Perhaps it will distract Lord Ravencross interrupted Jane with an exasperated breath. "We ought to just tell them the truth about the entire matter." "The truth?" Georgie stared at him as if he'd just asked us to paint London Tower pink. "You mean, that we suspect the attempt to kidnap me might have something to do with Bonaparte's secret organization and his plan to attack Britain. That truth?" "Yes." He grimaced a nd adjusted the bandages on his wounded shoulder. Sera didn't like opposing him. She stared at the floor and said. "Rather a lot for them to take in, wouldn't you say?"

PAGE 165

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 165 Even Maya offered up an opinion. "Do you not think they will question why these things are occurring at a young ladies' finishing school" Jane crossed her arms. "Yes, and if a handful of young women at a finishing school were the first to bring The Iron Crown to their attention, what conclusions do you suppose they would draw about Miss St ranje's establishment?" "The obvious." Ravencross glanced at me. That you are not ordinary young ladies." Mr. Sinclair pounced upon these observations. You see, t hat's the real fly in this particular ointment, isn't it ? You are a rather peculiar lot. N ot exactly a typical finishing school, are you?" The five of us turned to him in alarm. He couldn't possibly have deduced the whole truth. Not this quickly. "Don't look so surprised. He chuckled. I just watched a roomful of girls strategiz e about out h ow they might divert a possible attack from one of the world's most sinister organizations. Do you think I'm a complete idiot? Did you really think I wouldn't notice that you're studying more than dance steps and embroidery at this school ?" We all stepped back. I pressed my lips together, waiting for him to reveal exactly what he had guessed. "Not only that, but this morning when I was making my way down to the workroom, I happened upon your ballroom. Such rooms are usually the showcase of grand old house s like this. I merely intended to have a gander at the architecture, but" I sucked in my breath and held it, fearing the worst. "Not the usual fare for a girl's school, is it?" He watched our expressions carefully. "Now that I think on it, I doubt you us e that mannequin with the roguish moustache for

PAGE 166

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 166 dancing practice, do you? Not with that impressive assortment of cutlery lining the walls, and his stuffing coming loose in key places. And then there's Lady Jane here" He winked at Jane as if she was in on the joke. "Only this morning, she threatened to toss me over her shoulder and break my arm in several places. It all begins to add up rather curiously." Jane groaned. Georgie cursed under her breath. Maya began to hum. Sera shot a look of pure desperatio n at me, turned to the wall and surreptitiously studied a rather gruesome painting of a dead pheasant laid atop a table beside fruit and a silver goblet of wine. "You practice on a mannequin?" Ravencross stared at me. I decided I might have to kill Mr. S inclair after all. He'd trespassed into my private sanctum. With gritted teeth, I said, "Jane, be so good as to take your meddling American elsewhere while the Chadwicks are here." "He's not my meddling American "I don't care," I warned. "Take him and g o. He must not appear anywhere near the Justice of the Peace. While you're at it, explain to our guest that if he ever steps foot in my ballroom again, I will be forced to use some of that cutlery on his throat." He should've had the good grace to be frigh tened, but he wasn't. He bowed. Pax Miss Aubreyson. You needn't fear. Your secret is safe with me." "I doubt it." Jane scowled at him. "Audacious rogue."

PAGE 167

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 167 "Guilty as charged." He tried to disarm us with that teasing grin of his. I was immune. "That's th e problem, Mr. Sinclair. I am the only person here at Stranje House allowed to be audacious." I turned to Jane. "Take him for a walk on the grounds, if you must. But for pity's sake keep him away from any windows that look out from the blue parlor. Maya an d Georgie, you'd best go with them and keep our overly inquisitive house guest from getting into any more trouble." I dismissed the four of them with a flick of my hand. "Well, done." Miss Stranje said quietly, and patted my arm Then she and Sera headed f or the blue parlor. Reluctant to face the Justice of the Peace and his son, I trailed behind with Lord Ravencross. I indicated his wound "How is it feeling?" "Like the very fires of hell are burning in my chest. Thank you for asking." But still he held ou t his arm to conduct me down the hall as he would a proper young lady. I rested my fingers possessively on his forearm, brash I know, but it felt good to touch him and all too soon I would be leaving him "I'm concerned about your welfare tonight, my lord "You need not scale my wall tonight. I have the matter in hand. I've sent MacDougal to see if he can hire a man from among my tenants to stand guard in your place." "Oh. Very good." It was good Wasn't it? A comfort that he would be safe. Yes And y et, part of me felt robbed of the duty. I would miss it. Miss him. I pulled my hand from his arm, but he covered my fingers with his and moved them to the crook of his arm to continue escorting me. "Shall we go?" I stopped and extracted my hand from him. "I w ish I didn't have to."

PAGE 168

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 168 I did n't want to speak with anyone just then, least of all men who intended to riddle me with questions about yesterday's carnage. I wanted to stay here with him. Or else dash back to my ballroom and make certain it was untouched, un sullied by outsiders. I needed to punch something and the moustache dummy would do. Except I couldn't run off like that duty tugged at me as if I was a dog on a chain. So, I stalked toward the parlor in a mood to bite. Ravencross matched me stride for st ride. I warned him, "You may accompany me, my lord, if you choose. Although, I don't see why you would want to subject yourself to this inquisition." There, I'd said it aloud inquisition. "It is my duty to make sure that charming Chadwick rascal keeps his distance." "Don't be ridiculous. He asks too many questions to be charming." He growled "I am not the ridiculous sort." "You're not the jealous sort either." He grumbled something unintelligible and then answered crisply, "You could do worse than young C hadwick." "You can't have it both ways, Gabriel. You can't play the jealous suitor, and then sing his praises. Aside from that, I have no interest in Mr. Chadwick. You're worth a dozen of him." His posture swelled at that and I cautioned myself to stop pu tting his ego to the bloom. It wouldn't do. So I tried to counteract my hasty words. "That wasn't meant as a compliment." "It wasn't taken as one," he said gruffly. Then, with a sideways smirk, he added, A dozen eh? So many. Poor fellow. Mr. Chadwick m ust hold a painfully low position in

PAGE 169

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 169 your esteem. I'll wager earthworms have a higher status." "Not quite that low my lord." I was surprised at Lord Ravencross. Normally he snarls like a wolf at everyone, and yet here he was, trying to coax me out of my t emper. "I think of Mr. Chadwick more along the lines of a squirrel, clever, overly inquisitive but a pest all the same ." "Ah, a squirrel I see." He sounded excessively grim. "Then it i s a lucky thing I came along with you. Squirrels can be criminally end earing." I almost smiled despite my mood. "Have a care, my lord. I'll not have you shooting any rodents in the blue parlor today." "Then it is also a lucky thing I left my pistols at home." I was not used to him making light of anything. It both pleased an d baffled me. "I suppose the real reason you are accompanying me is because you know they'll be knocking at your door directly after they finish here?" "I suppose they would," he said as we entered the blue parlor. The younger Mr. Chadwick was amazed to see Lord Ravencross enter our drawing room. He bowed dutifully and inquired after Ravencross's health. "You were so badly wounded yesterday, my lord. It surprises me to see you have left your sick bed this soon." He's n ot squirrel like at all ." Lord Raven cross said under his breath to me, and his good humor seemed to have flown. He answered Mr. Chadwick with all the warmth of a statue in winter. "I heal quickly." It was true, although, I'd seen Gabriel moving gingerly earlier in the day and guessed

PAGE 170

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 170 he mus t still be in considerable pain. "There was a great deal of blood, my lord. I'd just assumed..." Ravencross took in the curiosity on Chadwick's face and realized he was not entirely believed. "If you must know, my doctor was not pleased about my getting o ut of bed, either. But yesterday I witnessed one of th os e brutes strike Miss Aubreyson over the head with a cudgel." He drew up to charming Chadwick like a wolf with his teeth barred in warning "I'm sure even you can understand why I could not rest comfor tably until I was satisfied she was not gravely injured." Mr. Chadwick's father took up the reins of the conversation. "Yes, yes, quite understandable, my lord. Good lad. Would've done the same myself." He slapped the arms of his chair. "A horrible busin ess th o se ruffians. Bad business, indeed. What do you suppose they were after?" We all took our seats and Gabriel said, matter of factly, "It seems to me they were intent upon abducting one of these young ladies a nd after I interrupted their plan upon ki lling me." The Justice of the Peace unconsciously combed his fingers through his bushy side whiskers. "Then I take it they didn't ask for your purse? No, stand and deliver sort of speech?" "Nary a word." Lord Ravencross adjusted the bandages beneath his co at and sling "Of course, I didn't give them much of a chance for speeches. I saw the brigands accosting Miss Aubreyson and flew into action." Mr. Griswold, the coroner, was a painfully thin middle aged man He wore a vivid apple green silk coat and breech es like those of a Georgian dandy from the previous

PAGE 171

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 171 decade. At Gabriel's statement, h e drew back, aghast. "You saw you were out numbered three to one and yet you rode straight into their midst ? A lone ?" "Yes." Gabriel frowned at him. "What would you have m e do? Abandon the young lady to her fate?" No, but it was a brash choice, to be sure muttered the coroner. "Foolhardy, some might say." It looked as if Lord Ravencross was biting his tongue to keep from bashing the fellow. At any rate, the muscles of hi s jaw tensed before he answered. "To be fair, I thought there were only two men. I didn't see the other s until I rode past the tree s." His jaw flexed again and his hand balled into a fist atop the arm of his chair. "But it would've made no difference." "O f course not." The elder Chadwick harrumphed, and cast a disapproving frown at the fastidious coroner. "Would've done the same myself. You're a military man. Been an officer in his majesty's service. It's only natural you would've thought you could settle accounts with a handful of misbegotten thugs." "Miss Aubreyson," Young Mr. Chadwick slipped in to the conversation when his father took a breath. "Miss Fitzwilliam mentioned yesterday that as soon as you saw the first man come riding out of the trees, you immediately told her to run back to the house, to safety?" The question sounded casual enough, and yet I sensed he put more stock in its relevance than he let on. I nodded and did my best to pretend I was shy. "Why did you not run with her?" This I could answer without hesitation. It was the way he looked at her. I guessed he

PAGE 172

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 172 was after her, not me. And then the others came out of the woods. O bviously we wouldn't have been able to outrun men on horseback. I hoped I might be able to block their path. Or a t least slow them down so that Miss Fitzwilliam would have time to escape ." The Justice of the Peace slapped his palms together. "Brave girl! Well done. He magnanimously congratulated all of us. "You are all to be commended." Sera smiled politely but kep t a keen watch on his shrewd son. "She put herself in harm's way to protect her friend." Although Lord Ravencross spoke to the room at large, he gazed steadily at me. "There is no greater love than that." And Gabriel had done the same for me. I turned colo r. I know I did, I felt heat scald my cheeks. Mr. Chadwick spoiled it all with another question. Why do you think they would be after her and not you?" "Who can say why a man picks one woman over another?" I shrugged. "Hhhmm." He was not pleased with my a nswer. I was told you became aware of the men in the trees before they showed themselves, is that so?" I couldn't tell them about being overcome by a daydream or a vision not unless I wanted to be hauled off to a madhouse. Miss Stranje says when one mus t conceal facts it always best to stick to as much truth as possible. My own philosophy is that it is much better to run away rather than to talk. I would've preferred to do exactly that right then run But I couldn't. So, I settled on something close to the truth. "I realized something must be wrong, because the insects and birds were too quiet." "Remarkable observation," said his father. "Asto nish ing. Not many gels would've

PAGE 173

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 173 noticed so subtle a clue." What could I say to that? "I daresay, you would've noticed too, sir, as you must be familiar with the woods here about." I hoped flattery would divert them from their questions. The Justice of the Peace preened a bit and then waved the compliment aside "Yes, of course. But one doesn't expect a young lady to pay attention to such things." He was like a great tame bull, used to being king of his little pasture. I smiled. The Chadwicks were a good lot. I would not like to see Napoleon's soldiers force them to kneel in submission. But for just a minute that ve ry image flashed before my eyes in all of its ugly truth. The father refusing to comply. The mother running for her hunting musket. And the son I closed my eyes to it. No! No visions of death. Not now. Not here. "Miss Aubreyson?" Young Chadwick was snap ping his fingers in front of my face. "Miss Aubreyson, are you all right?" Lord Ravencross sprang up and shoved him out of the way. "She's not well. Leave her be." No, I'm quite all right. But my breath sounded shakier than I would've liked. Truly, I a m." I held up my hands blocking their attentions. "I'm sorry. For a moment, I" "It's the trauma," droned the coroner, straightening the lace at the cuffs of his green silk coat. "Oversets the ladies every time." Young Mr. Chadwick scooted his chair close r to mine but well out of Lord Ravencross's reach. "Did you remember something just now? Something about the men

PAGE 174

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 174 who seized you?" "No," I blurted. Miss Stranje called them all to order. "Gentlemen, I beg you to proceed gently. Miss Aubreyson received a s evere blow to the head. Is it any wonder she doesn't recall the incident?" I studied my hands in my lap. "I'm sorry. Most of that dreadful morning seems to be completely blotted out." I tossed up my fingers as if they were the ashes of my memory. "I simply can't remember much of anything." Except for the horrific bits. And everything in between. "A pity." Young Chadwick was not easily deterred. "I can understand your memories being affected after such a blow. But before that, when the men first came from t he woods, did you happen to overhear them speaking?" I maintained a studied look of ignorance on my face. "I may have. It's all so very fuzzy." The coroner sighed. "I warned you, gentlemen. This is a waste of our time. Young women are never useful as witne sses." Sera broke her silence to protest. "That can't be true." Young Chadwick held up his finger, calling for more forbearance on the coroner's part. "What about before you threw the knife at the man coming to assault you? Do you think perhaps they might 've been speaking French?" "French?" I blinked, lowering my lashes, trying my best to look innocent and

PAGE 175

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 175 probably failing miserably Must have, because t he nosy squirrel did not tumble to my ploy Mr. Chadwick sat back and squinted at me. "Excellent throw by the way. We have determined you saved Miss Fitzwilliam from a most unpleasant fate. But I' m curious as to why you would carry a knife with you on a morning walk? I daresay, i t is n't a common practice among the young ladies of my acquaintance." More vexa tious than ten squirrels. I tried to bite my tongue. Truly, I did, but I couldn't stop myself. "And are you acquainted with a great many young ladies, Mr. Chadwick?" A laugh burst from Sera. His father joined in with a hearty guffaw. A bit of a elbow to the ribs there, eh Quinton m' boy." Poor Mr. Chadwick, his skin flushed to a vibrant shade of rose, and he turned a sidewa ys glance at Sera. She pressed the smile from her lips. I took mercy on him. Besides I'd finally figured out how I might answer. It is my habit to carry a knife with me always. I was raised in the north, sir. The forests there are far more treacherous than these tame woods you have along your coast. And before you ask, yes, I was trained to throw the knife as well." In a booming vo ice, his father congratulated me. "Thank providence! For it may have saved your life, young lady. Or a fate worse than death." Chadwick ignored this and yanked me back to his questions. "You're certain you didn't hear them speaking a foreign language of a ny kind?" I lowered my eyes not wanting to hold back the truth. "I may have overheard a word

PAGE 176

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 176 or two. As I said, it is all so hazy." His father dove in to help. "My son is only asking because we've determined two of the killers were Frenchmen. Their clothi ng caused us to suspect such might be the case. Upon closer inspection of the erthe remains He ran a finger around his collar and looked apologetically at Miss Stranje. "Pardon my indelicacy, ladies. Mr. Griswold found that the dead men bore identifyin g marks. Both men had tattoos from a French prison." "Oh dear," I said, feigning alarm, and not doing a very good job of it. "What do you make of that?" I'll wager they couldn't possibly guess those were Lady Daneska's henchmen, hired by Napoleon's Order of the Iron Crown The Justice of the Peace paced to the center of the room, a large man obviously unaccustomed to sitting in one place for longer than three or four minutes. "We don't know what to think, yet. Suspicious doings. N o question about it. Tro uble is, we can't assume that just because they bore the prison marks they were French. Could've been English fellows locked up for a time in a French prison. Now, if you'd heard them speaking French it would be a different matter." I tried again to appeas e them. "There may have been an accent or a word here and there. If only I could remember." Then, with the intention of distracting them, and nursing the wild hope that they might offer some support after I left Stranje House, I stepped cautiously into new waters. "Your honor," I pleaded. "What if those awful men return? I'm terribly frightened they might come back." Miss Stranje cleared her throat as a warning to me that I'd gone too far "You needn't worry, miss." The Justice of the Peace strode to the f ireplace and placed

PAGE 177

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 177 an arm on the mantel. "We've no reason to think they will return. I expect it was a random act. A handful of criminals in search of a young woman they might sell into, er..." He stopped nervous about how to phrase his indelicate assumpt ion. Meanwhile, the younger Mr. Chadwick frowned at the carpet and muttered, "I'm not too sure." His father paid no heed. "Searching for a young lady they might sell into trade. Yes, that's it. Take my word for it, those cads won't be back. Have no fear. Y ou and Miss Stranje put paid to that." He slammed his fist into his palm. "Well done, ladies. And, by the bye, that was a fine piece of shooting." Miss Stranje inclined her head, accepting his compliment. I massaged my forehead and said, "I'm beginning to recall little snippets here and there. Perhaps in a day or two, when my head feels better, I might remember more." "We can only hope." Mr. Chadwick nodded thoughtfully. "The fellow you dispatched, Miss Aubreyson, also had the gold earring and tattoos of a sailor." "Proves he was a sailor." Mr. Griswold sat forward and smoothed his shiny green lapel. "Gold earring is an old tradition, worn by sailors to cover burial costs. As for his tattoos. They were from countries known for French trade." He preened, sm oothing back his thin hair and adjusting his brocade waistcoat. "I've made an extensive study of tattoos. It comes in handy when the odd body floats ashore, which happens more often than one might think." Instead of being appalled at this impolite topic of conversation, Miss Stranje praised Mr. Griswold on being so thorough and committed to his esteemed profession. Thus with his feathers fluffed up, the coroner then treated us to a history of how

PAGE 178

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 178 these ink markings came into being, complete with a narrativ e of the coroner's visit to London to meet firsthand Captain Cook's famed tattooed Tahitian warrior, Omai. Young Chadwick lost patience with this lecture and drew the conversation back to his interrogation. "We have additional evidence. My Lord, the knife we found in the blood begging your pardon, ladies where you engaged in a struggle for your life, is of French craftsmanship." Lord Ravencross forgot his dislike of young Chadwick for a moment. "How in heaven's name could you tell where the knife came from ?" "Ah." Sera perked up, keenly interested in this new evidence. "You found the knife maker's mark, didn't you?" "Exactly." Quinton Chadwick beamed at her. "How did you guess?" "I did n't guess ." Sera was offended at first, then she lowered her eyes, sudde nly shy, but still unwilling to let him think she had merely guessed. "A knife of any consequence bears the stamp of its maker. A small mark near the base of the handle that can be traced to its origin." "Just so." The Justice of the Peace's son should've been impressed with Sera's knowledge. Instead, I watched his eager expression turn from solving one puzzle to intense curiosity about another. She'd said too much. Our Sera, who is normally so shy that one must coax her to speak, had given him too intrigui ng a glimpse into the workings of her mind. And that would lead to more curiosity about her and in turn about Miss Stranje's school. This interview needed to end before he cracked open too many of our secrets.

PAGE 179

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 179 Chapter 1 5 Promises I sighed loudly "My apologies, gentlemen. But unfortunately my head is throbbing abominably. I'm far too tired to discuss this dreadful subject any further. I pray you will excuse me." All of the gentlemen stood. Mr. Chadwick bowed with precision. "Yes miss, off cours e. Rest up. We can come back in a few days when you're feeling more the thing." No! I screamed in my head. Don't come back ever. I calmly tilted my head. "I'm afraid that won't be possible. You see, I will be leaving Stranje House The stricken look on M iss Stranje's face made me stop mid sentence. "Then you've decided s he said, as if I'd stabbed her. What choice did I have? "I'm afraid it's a matter of necessity," I answered weakly, wondering why she should have thought anything else. Lord Ravencro ss strode behind my chair and placed a hand on my shoulder. "What Miss Aubreyson is trying to say, gentlemen, is that she has, this very day, agreed to a

PAGE 180

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 180 betrothal." Betrothal? "To me he announced grandly. My mouth dropped open but words failed me. He 's gone mad I finally stumbled upon something to say "I did no such thing!" "She's just being modest." He patted my shoulder. She did." I sprang up from the chair and turned, astounded that Gabriel would say such a thing. My mouth still gaping open and floundering with unintelligible utterances. The Justice of the Peace cleared his throat and interrupted my stuttering. "I, um, that is to say, felicitations to you both." "No," I finally said and ree led back to them, blinking "There's no need for felici tations I assure you I didn't, we aren't "We ought to be leaving." Young Chadwick's face was a study in discomfort. He edged toward the door "Yes ," his father agreed emphatically "J ust so. Must be going. A pleasure Miss Stranje. Lovely to see you again." He nudged the coroner. "Time we took our leave." "Must we?" The coroner still stood in front of his chair enthralled with Lord Ravencross's bizarre performance "Finally getting interesting." "Aye. We must The Justice of the Peace gave Mr. Gri swold a pointed frown with his great bushy eyebrows "Past time. Come along then." The coroner reluctantly accepted his hat from Greaves and my three inquisitors left the room escorted by Miss Stranje. Sera slipped out behind them.

PAGE 181

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 181 Betrothed? I whirled on Gabriel. "What are you about, saying such a thing?" "I was explaining to our magistrate that you would be leaving Stranje House to become my wife. I see nothing extraordinary in that." Extraordinary? It is a complete and utter lie. The laudanum must be playing tricks on you, my lord, or the pain has twisted your reasoning, for I agreed to no such thing. In fact I clearly told you the very opposite. Th at we have no future "Ahem." Miss Stranje had returned and stood in the doorway. Gabriel turned very s tiff and formal. "You must be overtired, my dear. I distinctly heard you consent to become my wife. Surely you remember telling me that you did not find my scars at all repugnant I n fact I can recall your exact words. Y ou said "Aaa rgh! I roared to st op him from talking and flung myself in the chair. "He's gone completely mad ." "What is all this, then?" Miss Stranje did not sound angry, but she did not sound pleased either. "Lord Ravencross did you propose to Miss Aubreyson, or not?" "He did not." I sm acked my hand down on the arm of my chair and whipped my attention back and forth between the two of them You didn't And even if he had, which you most certainly did not do, there are at least a dozen reasons why I could not accept." "Only a dozen?" Ga briel made a pretense of incredulity. So few I had thought you would say a hundred or a thousand." Then he turned gravely serious. "You wish to stay at Stranje House, do you not? I have just delivered the means by which you may do so." He turned to my h eadmistress. "Miss Stranje, as her fiancÂŽ I will gladly pay whatever outstanding tuition she might owe. And when the next bill comes due, you may send it

PAGE 182

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 182 directly to me." For the second time in the last three minutes my mouth dropped open. Then it closed b ecause I thought I finally glimpsed an explanation for this absurd charade. "That's why you said "Not entirely," he snapped. "But it'll have to do, until you come to your senses." Miss Stranje intervened. "That will not be necessary, my lord. If Miss Aub reyson wishes to stay I will find the means to keep her here." Again I gaped but this time at Miss Stranje She would? "Excellent." He winced and opened the flap of his coat to check his wound "Nevertheless my offer stands. Do whatever you must to keep her here. And now, if you will excuse me? I believe my bandage is beginning to leak." There was, indeed, a scarlet bloom spreading on his shirt. You've over exerted yourself my lord Pray, s it down. I ll send for my kit and change that dressing." Miss S tranje hurried to the wall and yanked on the bell pull. "Philip!" But Lord Ravencross did not sit. He yanked a handkerchief out of his pocket and stuffed it between his shirt and his coat. "Nonsense. You needn't fuss. The sawbones is waiting at my house. He can attend to it. I'm paying him well enough to do so." He was almost out of the room when Philip rushed in. Miss Stranje issued orders to her footman with the steely authority of a Field Marshal. "You will accompany Lord Ravencross home. All the way h ome mind you, and m ake certain he is in the hands of his physician before you return." Philip pulled on his forelock, signaling obedience and dashed after Lord Ravencross, who was already striding down the hall.

PAGE 183

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 183 I stood My instinct was to run after the m, to make certain he made it home to the doctor, but for the first time in my life I found my legs would not move. I was frozen in place, still stunned by what he'd said. I t occurred to me I might be in the midst of another dream. I stood blinking. "Sit down, Tess." Her sharp command brought me back to reality with a thud. She pulled a chair next to mine and sank into it, hands folded calmly in her lap. "Now then, what is all this business about marriage?" I groaned. "Then he really did say all those thin gs. The betrothal? "Most assuredly. And he did so quite publicly." "Oh dear." "I take it you are not pleased s he said flatly. Pleased? Was I? Suddenly, I grinned. Not only that, I could not keep from grinning. I tried to stop, because I never grin. I don't. I really truly don't. I put a hand over my mouth and tried to wipe the silly thing off my face, but it simply wouldn't budge. I felt wickedly and enthusiastically happy. Truth be told, even though it was dreadfully wrong of me, I was pleased Exce ssively pleased "Hhhmm." She crossed her arms and contemplated me. "I see." "No. No, you don't." I shook my head, ignoring the discomfort this brought because of the bump, which truly was now beginning to throb. "I'm not pleased. Not really. Oh, I suppos e some stupid part of me feels absurdly happy that he would do such a kind thing

PAGE 184

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 184 for me, but "I sincerely doubt kindness had much to do with it." My foolish grin vanished and I sat back. "Then, why?" "You know why." The lightness of being I'd felt a mome nt ago disappeared entirely. In its place a millstone from heaven thudded down atop my chest. "No," I gasped. "He can't be. He mustn't be Surely, he isn't in love with me ? There's no future in it." She didn't argue with me. No, Miss Stranje is far too cle ver for that. She never argues a thing directly. She always goes around the corner from an obstacle and attacks it from the side. "If you say so," she said with a dismissive flick of her eyelashes as if it was something as unimportant as the weather we' d been discussing L et us turn to the matter of your aunt. If you want to stay at Stranje House and, I gather now, that you would prefer to do that rather than going back to Tidenham Although, for what reason I'm not certain ..." She waited, letting her half spoken question hang in the air, and I sank deeper into the chair without answering. "We can always find a position for you here. I'm certain your assistance with diplomatic matters will, of course, prove extremely valuable to your country in the comi ng years. If, o n the other hand, for various reasons you would prefer to stay nearby she paused again, but being m et with only silence from me, she pressed on. "Madame Cho believes your fighting skills are excellent enough that you might begin instructin g the younger girls."

PAGE 185

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 185 I took a deep breath and let it out. "Thank you. I cannot tell you what a relief that is. I did not think my aunt was truly looking forward to my return." Agreed. I sensed reluctance in her letter as well. But rather than her not des iring your company, I believe her reticence has more to do with that cryptic promise she made your mother. The promise that she would watch over you until The end ," I murmured. Miss Stranje probed artfully. "Yes. What a very odd thing for her to say." Not really "Tess, you've been here for how long?" She was coming at me sideways again. Emma Stranje is not the prying sort, she respects secrets more than most, but when she decides to f i nd out something she goes at it like the hawk that she is. She circ les her prey until the exact right time to dive down for the kill. So, I hesitantly answered her question, wary of where it would lead. in October I will have been here four years." Four years. Hhmm. A nd in all that time with me, you've never once spoke n about what happened to your mother." For good reason. I try everyday not to remember No, I haven't ." It came out soft as a whisper. "I believe it's time you told me." She didn't say it as if I was a field mouse caught in her claws. There was softnes s, and a directness, that spoke only of concern. When I searched her eyes I nearly cried at what I saw there. I thought only mother's looked at their children that way. I bowed my head.

PAGE 186

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 186 It was time "For generations in my family the oldest daughter has b een inflicted with the dreams. The dreams took my grandmother early, and her mother. They tormented my mother so badly that she stopped sleeping. Fear of the dreams kept her awake. Days she would go, without eating or resting, wide eyed, talking incessantl y. Then the visions started coming even when she was awake. With each passing day, they got worse. Until one afternoon, moaning and crying, she bolted from the house and ran barefoot into the woods. We thought she'd come back. She always came back. Three d ays we hunted for her. All of us searched, Lydia, Uncle Martin, my grandfather, our servants, even me." Especially me "I was nine at the time, but I knew my mother's forest haunts better than anyone else. My grandfather tried using the hounds to track he r, but they lost the scent. We combed the nearby woods. Hunted through the forests. Scoured the riverbanks. All of us did." Especially me I couldn't bring myself to tell Miss Stranje how panicked I'd been. How I'd searched with the frantic desperation onl y a child knows. Grief from my father's death had still pressed heavily on me. I couldn't bear to lose her, too. I needed my mother. I had to find her. "On the third night after she was missing, I had my first dream. I saw her death ." "No." Miss Stranje co vered her mouth with her hand and pressed her lips tight. The lone sound had come out of her mouth like a breath, a feary wisp of anguish for the girl

PAGE 187

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 187 I'd once been. I swallowed hard and tried to tell her the rest as best I could. She might as well hear i t all. "I'd hoped that dream was a simple nightmare. Except it wasn't. I'd seen flashes of the place. My mother falling. Just glimpses. But it was enough. I'd recognized that ravine and led my grandfather and uncle there. We saw her l a ying at the bottom. My grandfather shouted at me to stop, to not go down. Come away, child!' he'd shouted." "But you went down, didn't you." I nodded. "I had to. I scrambled down the steep incline and crumpled to my knees beside her. I think I knew she was dead. But my fool ish child's mind thought surely she would awaken to her daughter's plea. I begged her to wake up." Miss Stranje murmured, "I'm sorry, Tess." I took a deep shuddering breath and stared at my hand gripping the arm of the chair and remembered how my fingers h ad trembled that day when as I reached out and brushed decaying leaves from my mother's beautiful hair and cheek. I'd touched her brow, it was smooth as ice. I remember noticing that her fearful creases were all gone. A rare softness curved her lips. That' s when I knew she'd truly left me. Her eyes were finally closed. Asleep. "She finally found peace," I said a bit too loudly and looked squarely at Miss Stranje, just as if it wasn't ripping me up inside to remember all this. "And left me to deal with her n ightmares." Alone. Miss Stranje probably wondered why I was able to tell her this story without crying.

PAGE 188

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 188 Perhaps I should've explained that I don't cry. My last tears fell beside my mother's body, lost forever among the withered leaves in that ravine. I have not cried since. Not until today. Except that didn't really count as crying. She rubbed her chin, studying me. "That's why you told Lord Ravencross no, isn't it? You believe you will suffer the same fate as your mother. And clearly, so does your au nt." "Yes. I mean, no. That is to say, Lord Ravencross didn't actually ask me to marry him. Not really. But yes, my aunt and I talked about this at length We both want the dreams to end with me. The whole idea of my marrying anyone is out of the question ." "I see." But her face remained pinched up as if she was still scrutinizing the matter. "Aside from all that, I am committed to the work we do here. It gives what's left of my life purpose. Besides, what sort of wife would I make, scaling walls and thro wing knives?" The small lines beside her eyes crinkled up. "A very dangerous sort, I should think."

PAGE 189

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 189 Chapter 1 6 Dangerous A very dangerous sort "Precisely," I said. "Very well. Since you would rather stay here "I would. Except what will you do with me when the dreams get bad and turn my mind?" "That is still a very long way off. Let us tackle that problem closer to the time, shall we? At present, we must deal with your aunt. I shall write to her and explain that her very generous father in law c overed your tuition for another year and a half "He did?" "Oh, my dear, I always overcharge abominably." "Of course, you do. Because our families are willing to pay an exorbitant fee for you to take us off their hands." She didn't answer that, there was no need. We all knew it was true, even if it did still sting. She chirped on about what she would put in the letter to my aunt. "And then so that she won't worry, I will tell her that you are quite happy here. You might want to

PAGE 190

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 190 write and tell her the same ." "No, you can't say that." I sat up and shook my head. "It would be doing it up too brown. She'll never believe I'm happy. I'm not the happy sort." Oh ." She seemed to take me seriously but I couldn't tell for certain. There was a little twist to her mou th that made me wonder. "Quite right." She tapped the arm of the chair thoughtfully. "Then I shall tell her this; that your embroidery and sewing skills are wretched and still require considerable work, your watercolours are deplorable, and your French les sons are coming along rather slowly. But to encourage her, I will add that your nightmares appear to be less severe than they once were. I wonder if I ought to speculate that perhaps the further you reside from Tidenham the less the dreams seem to intrude upon your peace." "Oh, yes, brilliant! That would do it." I stared at my teacher, amazed. Almost every word she planned to say was true, almost except the part about the dreams, and yet it had nothing to do with the important facts of the matter. "That se ttles that then." She stood and shook out her stiff black skirts. "Come. I need to make haste and compose a message to Captain Grey. We'll stop by my study to write it and then you can accompany me to the dovecote. The pigeons always behave better when you are there." "Because I feed them." "Hhmm." Georgie's favorite room in the house, apart from her laboratory, is Miss Stranje's study. It is my least favorite room. I feel trapped in that small room. The bookshelves tower to the ceiling and every inch is fi lled. Even with shelves lining all three walls, there

PAGE 191

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 191 are still books stacked on the floor. She claims there is an order we cannot see to her office, and I believe her Ask her for a book, and Emma Stranje knows exactly where the tome can be found. Her pap ers, however, are a different matter. They are arranged meticulously in slots along the wall behind her desk and in three bins atop her desk. A cunning woman, Miss Emma Stranje, to have laid a trap so subtle that something as insignificant as a cut pen nib falling out of place would tell her that we had rifled through her papers. She indicated a chair for me, and proceeded to sit at the desk and cut a long thin strip of velum. She possessed two ink wells, the regular variety of India ink and the invisible i nk Georgiana had created. First, she would compose a message in India ink and then, when that dried, she would follow with more sensitive information written in the disappearing ink. While she was doing this, I fidgeted with the fringe on my chair and the n started perusing the books on the shelf nearest to me. One in particular caught my attention, a collection of geographical information and maps of China, and next to it stood a book with Chinese characters etched on the spine. Curiosity overtook me, and I interrupted her writing. "How long have you known Madame Cho?" She didn't look up from blotting the vellum. "A great many years," she said. "She came to live with us when I was seven." She glanced up and smiled. "Cho was not much older than you are. "How ?" I blurted. "How did she come all the way from China to here?" Miss Stranje snapped out of her reverie and frowned. "What has she told you?"

PAGE 192

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 192 "Only that her father taught her the fighting skills she teaches us. And that she lived in a village where two ri vers meet." "Ah yes, the Xi and the Tan." She bent again over the small slip of paper, and concentrated on making very small careful strokes. I scooted my chair closer and folded my arms on the edge her wooden desk, watching her work. "Why did she come to live with you?" "My father adopted her. We were raised as sisters." "If she was my age she was rather old to be adopted. How did he come by her? Did he steal her away from her home in China?" "Good heavens, no!" She glanced up at me astonished by my quest ion. "Whatever gave you that idea?" I smoothed my fingers over the soft quail feather on one of her extra quills. "It's just that Madame Cho looked excessively sad when she spoke of the place where two rivers meet. Which made me wonder why she would have l eft her family and a place she loved to come to England." "What a horrid hypothesis, to think my father would do something so reprehensible. When n othing could be further from the truth. My father was an honorable caring man." Miss Stranje bristled at me a nd waved the small scrap of paper to make the ink dry faster. "You will have to ask Madame Cho. It is not my story to tell." You know perfectly well s he won't tell me It took almost four years before she would tell me about the two rivers, I muttered, r eflecting again on how close mouthed everyone was in this house. "Probably not. Miss Stranje suppressed a sly smirk. But you might ask if she knows

PAGE 193

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 193 any good stories about pirates. Pirates? I blinked, more curious than ever. And knowing full well that if Madame Cho had pirates in her history she would keep mum about that unto death. She dusted the paper with drying powder and the two of us went downstairs T he whole way I stumbled along, heavily preoccupied with t rying to figure out how in blazes pi rates might fit into Madame Cho's background. W e turned the corner into the first floor hallway and saw one of our two household maids Alice coming out of the workroom. She held a dust rag and a jar of lemon oil and beeswax in one hand Miss Stranje hai led her "It's awfully quiet down here, Alice W here have they all go ne off to?" Alice bobbed a curtsey. "Well, miss, I'll tell you f or I know exactly where they all are, seein' as they've had me running in and out and to and fro. Bring a pitcher of lemo n water, Alice says Lady Jane. Take that dish back to the house says Miss Wyndham Where are they, miss? They're way out past the garden and beyond the roses working with that odd gentleman from the Colonies, Mr. Sinclair. But as to what they're getting up to, I cannot say. Building something by the looks of it. Whatever it is, more'n likely it's dangerous, because the young ladies shooed me away with strict orders to shake my rugs elsewhere. Miss Georgiana tells me, I'd best take my rugs and go on over to the far side of the garden or I might get myself blown straight to kingdom come. Although what danger I could be in from that old copper tub is beyond me. Now, if anyone were to ask me, a young lady ought not "Thank you, Alice. We don't mean to keep you from your work. You've been most

PAGE 194

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 194 helpful. And you needn't run any more errands for the young ladies while they are out of doors. They've legs of their own." "Just so, miss. I have dusting and polishing to do, that's what I told them. Dusting, dusting, and more dusting." Alice glanced guiltily over her shoulder, and reached back to pull the workroom door shut as if she didn't want us to notice it wasn't quite as dusted and polished as her diatribe suggested. We left through the side door and saw that, indeed, they were all out beyond the kitchen gardens, gathered together on the far side of the patch of roses. All of them were there, even Lord Ravencross He sat stretched out, sleeping in a chair. Sera perched on a bench nearby working intently on a sk etch of some kind. I suspected it was a sketch of Ravencross and experienced a twinge of jealousy. Maya was plucking a small finger harp that lay flat in her lap, while Georgie, Jane, and Mr. Sinclair huddled over some sort of tangled heap of copper and ti n At any other country house this would have been a perfectly idyllic scene. The weather was fine. Bees hummed. Roses perfumed the air. There was even the odd butterfly fluttering about. Except at any other manor house the gentry would have been engaged i n a companionable game of nine pins or shuttlecocks, whereas here at Stranje House, the young people were building a weapon. Or a prototype for one. Sera was sketching Gabriel. "Must you?" I whispered. She said noth ing, intent on rubb ing her finger over s ome shading on the drawing. I strolled quietly next to Lord Ravencross and stared down at him, unable to resist thinking what an intriguing looking man he was The contrast of the scar against the Greek god like perfection of his

PAGE 195

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 195 features and the strength of his jaw, well, I couldn't blame Sera for wanting to draw him. At my approach his eyes blinked his open. And whatever beauty his face contained, was nothing to the soul melting glory of his eyes "You came back," I said, swallowing my embarrassment for h aving been caught gawking at him. "Thought I ought to give Sinclair a hand with his invention." He leaned up and squinted at the young inventor. "Yes," I nodded in mock seriousness. "I see you are hard at work." "I am." The corner of his mouth twitched e ver so slightly. I'm overseeing the work. Can't you tell? He flopped back against the chair and closed his eyes. Sinclair appears to have all the manual labor he needs at the moment. What's more I have donated two skiff s to the project. He pointed at t wo boats resting on the grass next to the conglomeration of copper. "It's a catamaran design." Georgie popped up from behind the metal heap wi th a screw driver in her hand. Thank you, my lord, for the loan of your boats. It speeds the work along consider ably not having to build the pontoons from scratch. You really must come see what we're doing it's quite brilliant." She waved me and Miss Stranje over excitedly. I was not impressed. It looked as if a perfectly good tub had been cut apart with tin snips and reshaped into a small furnace. There were screws and bolts of various sizes sitting in dishes on the ground around them, and Mr. Sinclair was tapping through the metal with a hammer and punch. I didn't understand Georgie's enthusiasm for this pile of disassembled copper

PAGE 196

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 196 sheeting and tubing. So, I turned to Jane for an explanation. "What is it?" "A small steam engine O r at least, the beginnings of one." "Why are you constructing it out here in the open?" I glanced with worry toward the woods and then in the direction of Lady Pinswary's manor. "And why shouldn't we?" Mr. Sinclair asked still thumping the hammer against his metal punch. "Because, Mr. Sinclair "I do wish someone around here would call me by my given name." He huffed and straightened f rom where he'd been hunched over his work. "It's Alexander, and I confess I am lonesome to hear the sound of it, and heartily tired of hearing mister Sinclair this and mister Sinclair that." "Very well then, Alexander." I began again. "I am concerned about your constructing it here out in the open, because there is a distinct possibility one of Lady Daneska's spies will see it?" Oh well then," he swatted my concerns away with the metal punch as if shooing away a gnat. In that case, you needn't worry. Ther e's nothing sacred about a steam engine, miss." Sinclair stretched his back and strolled over to tower over me "The se engines have been around since before either of us were born. Why back in 1770 a fellow in France made a steam powered wagon for the army Trouble was, the folks with the guillotine s threatened to chop off his head because they decided science was evil and they hated progress." Alexander gave his blonde curls a brisk rub knocking lose a shard of copper "Interesting folks, those French. On the one hand, some are s marter than a pack of

PAGE 197

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 197 hungry foxes O n the other hand, you've got a passel of em who are crazier than a badger s in heat. Badgers in heat ." Jane exhaled loudly and rolled her gaze to the small fluffy clouds flitting across the s ky. "R eally Mr. Sinclair ? A little civility would not go amiss. P lease." He ignored her. As far as I'm concerned, if someone from the Iron Crown wants to stand out here and take notes rather than torture me I'm more than happy to let them have a go at i t." Jane leaned in and whispered in an aside to me, "When I charged him with th at very same question, he told me not to worry, that he is a practical ist W hatever that might mean As near as I can tell, it is a philosophy held by American gentlemen who w ish to find the easiest way out of a pickle." "Ah," I said, surprised to hear Jane refer to him as a gentleman when his manners were so atrocious T he American gentleman had definitely captured Miss Stranje's attention, although not for his uncouth speech "Are you saying, Mr. Sinclair, that this is not the contraption the Iron Crown is interested in." He stepped back, jammed his hands in his pockets, and glanced down nervously before answering. "N o miss this i s no t exactly the piece they're after ." "And what exactly are they after?" "Well, you see, it's not so very difficult to build a steam engine. Not if you know what you're doing. Oh, sometimes the se boiler s blow up now and again. But after you 've put one or two together it 's not as risky." He stopped and rubbed the back of his neck. "However, i t is a mite trickier to make a steam engine actually do the work you want it to

PAGE 198

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 198 perform. Like say, for instance, turn a wagon wheel or paddle a warship." "I see." Miss Stranje chewed her lip for a moment. So t hat is the information they wanted from you? The connections that will make it turn properly. "Among other things. What in particular were they interested in Mr. Sinclair." "Alexander he corrected. She waited. "From what I could gather, miss, Napole on did some reading while he was cooped up on Elba island H e read all about Uncle Robert's commission to build a steam powered warship for the U .S. Navy a couple of months ago. Why Robert's had a steam ship running up and down the Hudson since 1807. Appar ently Napoleon g ot letters from one of his French engineer s who had a gander at our Clermont when we had her dry docked in the New York So, you see, they' ve already seen all this and more." "Hhmm." She said, tapping her forefinger nervously and waiting fo r him to continue. "Turns out o ne of the first things Napoleon did once he got back on his throne in Paris was commission his engineers to build a steam powered warship like the one my uncle tried to sell him back in 1 797 ." Miss Stranje groaned. Not to w orry Miss Stranje Turns out Bonaparte should've had Uncle Robert build it for him back in 97 because you can bet your best bonnet Robbie won't do it now. T he French went ahead copied his design, and built something, all right, but apparently it's dea d in the water. A great hulking tub and no way to propel her. Seems all those French engineers can't figure out how to get the moving parts moving faster than one of those

PAGE 199

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 199 fancy snails they like to eat so much His eyes danced with mischief. I take it, you do know how ." "Aye, miss, that I do ." He smiled crookedly and blushed slightly as if bragging made him uncomfortable. Miss Stranje glanced down at the note in her hands and back up at our American guest. You must be perfectly candid with me, Alexand er. No one knows better than I how brutal members of the Iron Crown can be. Did they when they questioned you, were they able to make you tell them anything that would help with this warship of theirs ? His mouth quirked up and dimples formed in his cheeks. I'm an affable fellow, miss. I told those fellows a great many things. None of which will do them any good." Jane studied his dimples with considerable consternation. "Excellent." Miss Stranje's posture relaxed just a trifle. "I should like to dis cuss this in more depth later, Mr. Sinclair. I have the distinct impression you are holding back a few items that may be important But for now, I beg you will excuse me. I must send this message off as soon as possible. She g lance d over her shoulder at me. "I can manage the pigeons without your help Tess. You may stay here if you like." Instantly, Georgie's interest shifted from tightening bolts to Miss Stranje. "You're going to send the message to Captain Grey ? She set down a ratchet and stood up cl asp ing the pocket watch that hung around her neck Lord Wyatt's pocket watch. She had an unconscious habit of closing her hand around it whenever she thought of him. "Yes." Our headmistress backed away. "But I can attend to it alone You may go back

PAGE 200

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 200 to yo ur work." Georgie couldn't help herself, she trailed after Miss Stranje and so did I. Not that there was any need. It certainly woul dn't take three of us to send a pigeon. I knew why Georgie was following our headmistress, because a note to Captain Grey wa s a note to Lord Wyatt, and anything that had to do with him drew her like a lodestone I, on the other hand, came along to avoid Lord Ravencross's unsettling gaze. Even when he wasn't looking at me I could feel his thoughts next to me. Good heavens the man may as well stand up and wrap his arm around my shoulder. It was outrageous the way without a word or even a touch, he was making me feel caressed, like an over warm caramel, all weak and gooey and soft inside. Once again Gabriel reminded me of my wolves, the way they could communicate without so much as a yip between them. But Phobos and Trobos were mates Lord Ravencross and I were definitely not mates, nor would we ever be. We were barely friends. Ours is not a real dovecote, not like the grand stone turret cotes at many manors. It is a small simple coop that stands across from the henhouse. Miss Stranje shoed the chickens out. The clucky hens were always invading pigeon territory. It seemed as if they liked showing off to the caged pigeons, boas ting that they were allowed to roam free. Had I known how to communicate with those blustery hens I might've pointed out that our pigeons often had the glorious task of flying clear across the channel and that not a one of them would ever end up stuffed an d roasted for dinner. But chickens are a thimble headed lot. Miss Stranje pointed to an occupied cage. "That one."

PAGE 201

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 201 I unlatched it and lifted out a large male pigeon, stroking his purple and blue gray plumage. "We've only three carriers left." She sounded worried. "Two after today." Ten pigeon coups lined the wall. On the top row, two coups were occupied by birds pecking loudly at their wooden cages. They tapped so insistently, I could almost hear them demanding to be let out so they could fly home. Each em pty cage represented a message sent. On the row below, three nests held cooing pairs. Their mates had come home, carrying with them a message for us. Next to them on that same row, two lone birds sat in nests quietly awaiting their mate's return. I felt s orry for them and opened the grain bin, tossing an extra portion of seed into their dishes. I held out my palm to allow the bird in my arm to peck up a few grains. Georgie viewed this tableau with barely contained anxiety. "What did you tell them?" Miss St ranje answered patiently. "I explained the situation, of course. Although, I was mindful not to say too much lest our pigeon goes astray and lands in the wrong hands." "Did you tell Captain Grey we suspect an invasion?" "I'm sure he is already aware of tha t possibility." "Of course." But that didn't stop Georgie from ticking off a list of things she thought ought to be included in the note. "and you told them that Lady Daneska and the Ghost are probably here in England. They may even be in Sussex." She sto pped talking and her eyes widened. "You don't think Daneska might be staying with her aunt, do you?" "Absolutely not." Miss Stranje took the pigeon from me. "Daneska wouldn't be that foolish. Not after Calais. She knows we could have her arrested and that Lady Pinswary's

PAGE 202

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 202 servants can't be relied upon not to gossip." Georgie was momentarily appeased. "Did you send my regards to Lord Wyatt? It also might be good to mention that Mr. Sinclair is respectful and that there is no danger there." Miss Stranje look ed askance at her prize student. "It is a very small piece of paper, Georgiana. There is very little room on a pigeon's leg to write long narratives about kidnappings and Mr. Sinclair's behavior in the workroom, but yes, I did my best." "I see." Georgie lo oked crestfallen. "Did you at least assure them that I am all right? I wouldn't want Lord Wyatt to worry." Miss Stranje sighed loudly. "Oh very well." She thrust the pigeon back into my hands. "Hold him." She opened a small ink well kept on the shelf bes ide the grain bin, and dipped her quill. She studiously scratched a few more words along the very edge of the narrow strip of vellum. Georgie tried to peer over our teacher's shoulder. "Are you calling Captain Grey home?" At this, Miss Stranje left off wri ting and frowned at Georgie. Calling him home? Why would you say such a thing, Georgiana? He's not mine to command." "But" Stung by Miss Stranje's reprimand, Georgie lowered her eyes and kicked softly at the straw on the floor. "I thought "You though t with your heart, not your head. Begging him to come home would be overstepping my bounds. I'm simply apprising him of our latest suspicions. I suggested he might be able to find proof on his side of the channel that Napoleon is building a fleet

PAGE 203

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 203 in prepar ation for an attack so that we could alert the admiralty. Although what Britain would do about it now challenges the imagination." She brusquely took the pigeon from me, tucked him into the crook of her arm and wound a folded strip of vellum around his le g. "Here." She handed me a silk thread. "Tie this on. Not too tight. That's it. Again, and now double the knot." The bird's trepidation was obvious as we secured the message around his leg. The moment we finished, however, I felt his flutter of eagerness. He knew that soon he would be winging once more across the wide sky, homing for his nest in France. With one finger Miss Stranje lifted Georgie's chin. "I used your ink, Georgiana, for the more sensitive bits. And I didn't mean to be harsh with you. I un derstand how hard this must be for you." She sighed and glanced out of the window. "I miss them, too." Georgie left off sulking and asked, "How long will it take for the message to reach them?" "Pigeons fly surprisingly fast." Miss Stranje gently smoothed her finger over our courier's breast feathers. "He could get there in a matter of only a few hours. Or it could take a full day. Maybe more. It depends upon the faithfulness of this little bird, how often he diverts from his path and whether his sense of direction holds true. Then there is providence. He might meet with a storm and have to seek shelter. Or he could be shot down. Everyone is suspicious of a pigeon during war. And even if he makes it to his nest, there is the question of when, or even if Ca ptain Grey will be able to retrieve the message." Georgie wilted under the dismal odds of our message getting through. Miss Stranje straightened her posture and took a deep breath. "But I see no other

PAGE 204

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 204 alternative, do you? If we were to dispatch a messenge r, by the time he sailed the channel, and snuck across enemy lines, if he was able to sneak across, and located Captain Grey to deliver our message, it could be several weeks." She held the bird tenderly for a moment longer, stroking its iridescent neck f eathers. "It is all up to you, my little French friend. I envy you, in a few hours you will be home with your mate." Miss Stranje never spoke of missing Captain Grey. But her wistful sigh said what she would not. "Fly fast and true, little one." She kisse d the pigeon's head and sent him winging away. I knew Georgie well enough to know that she watched all this and swallowed hard against the longing in her own heart. There was a catch in her voice when she said, "I'm certain when the captain learns of the danger we are in, he'll come home." Although I rather thought she was thinking of Lord Wyatt, and imagining the two men rushing home together. "You must not hang your hopes on it." Miss Stranje gave Georgie's shoulder a sympathetic pat. "We may be best he lped if they stay where they are and do the job they were assigned. They must do what is best for Britain, not what is best for those few of us at Stranje House."

PAGE 205

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 205 Chapter 1 7 Guard ians When we returned to the group, they were resting from their lab ors and discussing alternatives to Mr. Sinclair's torpedo design. Georgie and Maya were especially animated. Georgie was fairly bursting at the seams. "Maya's right about using a powerful bow and arrow. Harpoons go through the water. Consider using a harpo on with an explosive on it. Georgie explained to him the mechanics of her grenade filled with Greek fire. Jane described the eff ects she'd witnessed in Calais, and they debated methods to house this volatile mixture and yet get it to explode on its target MacDougal arrived a few moments later with news that he had been successful in hiring not one but three sentinels to watch the house and sit guard over Lord Ravencross. Gabriel met this news with a modicum of surprise. "What did you do, offer them a kin g's ransom?" "Nay. Told em yer life was in danger. Yer men are more'n willing to work for laborer's wages. Save farmer Jason's oldest boy, the lad wouldn't accept e'en a farthing

PAGE 206

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 206 for his trouble. Says he'd be pleased to come along an' watch over ye, on ac count of his family wishes to thank ye for the new thatch roof and milk cow ye gave em. More'n one man said as how neither of the other Lords o' Ravencross ever done nothing fer the tenants as do ye. They'd just as soon keep you on as lord." Gabriel's eye s widened as MacDougal continued to describe how willing his tenants were to come and stand guard over him. He sat down listening intently as if the idea anyone should care about his welfare were a completely fascinating turn of events. "Fact is, m'lord, a dozen men stepped forward at the pub. I picked these three because they were accounted best able to handle a firearm." "Remarkable." Gabriel blinked at this revelation. "My father always described them as He stopped and rubbed absently at the stubble on his jaw. "But I suppose he would, wouldn't he?" he said under his breath. "Well done, Mac." Gabriel stood and clapped his servant on the back. "Excellent news. Allow me to say my farewells and I'll accompany you back to the house." I should have been re lieved at the news that Gabriel would be amply protected. Except, it meant my services would definitely not be needed. There would be no late night rendezvous in his room. No watching him sleep. No gently smoothing back his dark curls. I sighed and tried t o press a smile on my face. He could've at least had the good grace to look a little bit disappointed. Instead he stood beside the garden chair still looking a bit dazed. When he finally did turn to me, he didn't utter a long fond farewell. No. He bowed cu rtly and asked if he might call the next day. Biting back my disappointment, I asked, "Whatever for?"

PAGE 207

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 207 "To do whatever it is gentlemen do when they call upon young ladies." He held his shoulder and I guessed it must be aching like the very devil again. "Y ou needn't trouble yourself, my lord. I have no interest in entertaining callers." An apricot colored butterfly meandered past. The ridiculous creature didn't know I was in no mood for prettiness. "Nevertheless," Gabriel said sternly. "You are my fiancÂŽe a nd as such it is my duty to make certain you are quite well "Duty?" I said as if the word itself had a stink "I misspoke." He back. "It is my pleasure." He didn't sound as if it would be a pleasure. "The least I can do is make certain you are being pr operly cared for, after you so bravely risked your life for your friend and then valiantly conducted me home during my hour of need the other day." I answered with a pinching frown and a counterfeit smile. "Very prettily said, my lord, but we are not betr othed, as you well know. And what's more, I am quite capable of looking after myself. You're the one who needs looking after. Go home and take care of your shoulder." He took a few steps closer to me, away from the others, flexing and unflexing his jaw bef ore answering. "Did I say you bravely risked your life? Begging your pardon, I meant to say foolishly ." That's better. I would much rather joust with him then have him bend his knee to me out of a sense of duty. I cocked my head at a flirtatious angle an d smiled my broadest. "The charming Mr. Chadwick had quite a differently opinion." And then I shamelessly batted my eyelashes.

PAGE 208

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 208 God forgive me I wanted to make him pay for not wishing it would be me guarding him tonight instead of some smelly old farmer. I don't know what came over me to taunt him. He took a deep breath and moved even closer, so close that I could smell his shaving soap and found myself staring at the cleft of his chin. His breath tickled my cheek when he spoke my name. "Tess, I worry that lump on your head is playing havoc with your memory. First our betrothal slips your mind, and then you forget it was his father who said those things, not his sprout." I wished I had a fan. The day had turned suddenly warm. "You know perfectly well that I could have young Chadwick eating out of my palm if I chose. You are becoming tedious, my lord. Perhaps it is time you toddled along home." The grinding sound he made caused me to smile. But then, he leaned even closer. And I swallowed some of my arrogan ce in a breathless lump. His lips spread in a devilish smirk. In a husky whisper, he said, "Fine talk from a young lady who claims she wants to run her lips over my scars." My mouth flew open. I drew in a sharp breath. How dare he mention that! Again. I o ught to have slapped him. I seriously considered knocking that self satisfied grin from his face. And I would have, too, if it weren't for the fact that he was already in pain. I am not good at hiding my feelings. Not good at all. And right then, standing that near to him, I could not decide between slapping him or kissing his rude lips. Hard I swallowed and stepped back. "Scoundrel." "I gave you fair warning about my character."

PAGE 209

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 209 "Yes, I remember. Right before I told you that I could never marry you. I t hink you had best take yourself off, my lord. Before I finish the job Daneska's henchmen began." He smiled as if he'd gotten the upper hand, and inclined his head in a nod of farewell. "Until tomorrow, Tess." He walked off, his usual limp barely noticeabl e, and left me standing alone beside the roses. Breathing in their sweet fragrance, as I huffed and puffed like a dragon who had lost her fire. The stupid butterfly swooped around me in a set of drunken curling loops. Ridiculous thing She was as confused as I was. After Lord Ravencross left I was in no mood for conversation. Dinner was a dismal affair that night. Indifferent to the discussion of gears, boiler tanks, warships and torpedoes that dominated the evening, I ate in broody silence. I picked at m y chicken pie, and during dessert, stirred my nutmeg and peach custard into an unrecognizable mess. I begged to be excused, and went directly to bed. I fully expect ed my bad temper to produce a torrent of ugly dreams. I didn't care. I was too tired and to o confused to care. I curled under my covers and found myself drifting into that same curious prison, full of comfortable silk cushions of scarlet and amber, and a coverlet made of the finest damask. Despite the lavishness of my surroundings there were iro n manacles on my wrists and legs Napoleon did not carry in the silver bowl. It was Lady Daneska. I noticed odd runes worked into the silver filigree around the rim. I refused to drink. If I would not for Napoleon I most certainly would not for her. She me rely laughed and plunged my face into the green water holding it there until breath fled my lungs in a flurry of

PAGE 210

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 210 bubbles and I flailed for air. Except, I didn't drown T he green water flung me through the mists and I found myself standing on the cliffs o f Stranje House Georgie, Jane, Sera, Maya, all of us were there A ll of the people I cared about, Madame Cho Miss Stranje, even my aunt Lydia and right beside me stood Gabriel They all stared out to sea fascinated by some phenomena But w hat I saw the re made my heart thunder and my legs turn weak the sea tumbling and rising in a great swell Rising higher and higher, like no wave I had ever seen, it rose until it was a great wall. Run! I screamed, Run! I turned dragging Gabriel with me a nd scoop ing my arm around Georgie's waist to help her go faster. Run! I shouted to the others. But when I looked back they were all falling behind. Jane stumbled. Madame Cho stopped to help her up. Emma and Sera were lagging too far behind T he wave was a mount ain about to tumble upon us and I couldn't save them. I couldn't save any of them. They were all going to be dashed to pie ces I awoke with a start, gasping for air. Fear. It was only my fears, like Sera had said the day before. Surely there could be noth ing prophetic in that dream. A wave of that proportion was too fantastical. Impossible. "It was nothing," I whispered and looked at all of them sleeping in their beds. My breathing settled and my heart slowed to a less frantic gallop. Nothing If it was no thing why did I have this overpowering urge to sob like a stupid baby? There was only one thing to do about that. I turned back the covers and slipped into the dress I wore for running.

PAGE 211

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 211 I left the house before dawn and tore like a charging bull along the cliffs. I stopped at one point and glared at the expanse of water below. It reassured me to see the ocean behaving exactly as it ought. I took off again running a little less like a mad bull and a little more like a proper wolf. Phobos and Trobos seemed mo re content with that. When we finally stopped I noticed how much more swollen Trobos's belly looked. She was growing fast. I patted her and gave her a little more food that morning. I hoped this time her pups would make it. Although Phobos was bigger in s ize, Trobos obviously had more wolf blood in her than he did. P erhaps that had something to do with why they'd not yet had any luck producing cubs. Maybe this time. I scratched them both behind their ears and let them wrestle with me, before leaving them Trobos gave me a farewell nudge with her nose as if she understood the turmoil brewing in my heart. I couldn' t help myself I wrapped my arms around her for just a moment. Luckily she tolerated my ridiculous show of affection and did not bite me. She did s hake out her fur the minute I let go; reminding me that she was a wild animal and not one of my tame pets to be mauled whenever my emotions got away from me. Phobos watched all this with an amused expression dancing in his eyes. That day, Georgie and the o thers worked on constructing their steam engine, and Miss Stranje and Philip set to work blocking up the secret entrances. She settled on adding a simpl e latch that could only be removed from the inside. It might work. Although, I couldn't imagine a latc h keeping Daneska or the Ghost from finding a way to sneak in once they set their minds to the task I decided the best way to protect all of them, Ravencross included, would be for me

PAGE 212

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 212 to find Daneska and The Ghost before they snuck into Stranje House. It would also mean killing Lucien, a n undertaking that made prickles rise on the back of my neck every time I thought of it. It wouldn't be easy, but I had to do it. M y best chance of succeeding in this endeavor would be to use a long range weapon which mean t knife, arrow or gun. And since Miss Stranje had not yet devised a way for us to practice with firearms without alarming the neighbors, it would have to be done with either the bow or a blade. But which one? I swallowed, and decided th at was a bridge I would cross when I got there. Although I suspected my proverbial bridge might be made of rotted rope and missing quite a few planks It didn't matter, because f irst I had to find the happy couple. All morning I poured over maps, trying to deduce Daneska an d The Ghost's whereabouts. Guessing the henchmen had ridden out on the same morning they attacked us, I drew a circle that took in everything within a day's carriage ride from Stranje House. Then I reasoned that they had to be hiding somewhere no more than three hours away. I narrowed my circle to a generous twenty mile radius. Miss Stranje stopped in the workroom. "You seem very busy. What are you working on?" I looked up from the map. "Do you suppose you could send a note to The Justice of the Peace aski ng if they've determined from where the horses were rented?" "I will ask, but those men could've exchanged mounts from any posting house." "Yes, but it might give us a clue as to their direction." "Hhmm. I suppose." She traced her finger over the map. "Cle ver. Hunting for her,

PAGE 213

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 213 before she comes to us." She tapped on one particular side of the circle. "I've given their whereabouts considerable thought as well." She drew a line across the inland part of my circle. "It seems to me they would favor a location f airly close to the shore. Some place easy to slip in and out of, making it more convenient to communicate with their cohorts in France." We drew smaller circles around key villages, focusing on those closest to Calais. We discussed all of the possibilities In the end, we concluded we required more intelligence. She had two local men she could trust to investigate discreetly. "I'll send word tomorrow, asking them to visit each of these areas to see if any strangers have taken up residence recently. They'll need to be cautious. It won't be easy. People will be reluctant to talk with them. Most of the villages in that area are deeply involved in smuggling activities." "Precisely the kind of village they would seek out." I sat back and crossed my arms against the turmoil in my stomach. "You can only call upon two men? With so many places to check, and the caution they must take, it could be a week before we get word." "I'm afraid that is all I have at my disposal at the moment." She stood and tilted her head s tudying me with her sharp hawk's eyes. She sees too much. I looked away, pretending to study the maps again. "There's something else troubling you. Are you unwell?" she asked. I shrugged. "When you didn't come to practice this morning Madame Cho worried that your head must still hurt." "No, I was practicing with the bow." My head hurt, not from the knock the

PAGE 214

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 214 kidnappers had given it, but from thinking about the task I had ahead of me. "If you see her, please tell Madam Cho I will to come around later and p ractice knife throwing." She rested her hand on my shoulder. "Tess, obviously there's something else bothering you. If it is that business with Lord Ravencross and if you would like to discuss "No," I said too quickly. "II would rather not speak of it." Any of it. "When you're ready, then," she said, and left me. I stared in silence at the map. It would be nearly impossible to find them this way, like finding two particularly slippery needles in a very large haystack. I groaned and shoved it aside, rest ing my forehead in my hands. If only I could have a dream that would help me find Daneska and the Ghost. But no, I must persist in dream ing of silken prisons and Napoleon's silver bowl filled with lime green water. Of w hat use was that? None at all. Greav es intruded on my angry introspection with a nasal announcement that, true to his word, Lord Ravencross had come calling that afternoon. I sent Greaves back with a terse message that I did not wish to be disturbed. Harsh. Indifferent Well, and why not. I needed to be harsh and indifferent if I was to hunt down his brother and kill him. I shivered. And not because I was cold. Ten minutes later Alice came strolling through the workroom on the auspices of

PAGE 215

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 215 replenishing the oil in the lamps. She peek ed over my shoulder at the maps "My but aren't you busy." "Studying," I grumbled. A chatty sort, Alice, she mentioned that Lord Ravencross had indeed gone. "A peculiar sort that Lord Ravencross. Odd, how he lives alone in the great big house with only two serva nts," Alice said and prattled on, while I brooded silently. "I can tell you this, he stomped away in a great gray sulk. Almost expected a thunder cloud to appear over his head, he was so furious. Acted quite put out, he did. As if he had been sorely mistre ated." He had been "I doubt he'll be coming back any time soon." The re was a tinge of spite in her twangy voice, and I was heartily glad when she finished filling the lamps and took herself off. He wouldn't be coming back. I don't know whether it was my heart or my stomach, or maybe both, but some part of me sank. Nay, part of me slid down like spilt lamp oil dripping all the way through the floorboards, straight down into roiling sea in the caves beneath Stranje House. Apparently, I was not as indif ferent as I'd boasted to myself, and not nearly cold blooded enough to do the job ahead of me. We had no future, I reminded myself I had no future. Not with Gabriel, or anyone. Unfortunately, the heart does not care about logic. I warned myself there was no sense prolonging the pain. He was bound to abandon his chase sooner or later. But even as I cautioned myself with this fist of wisdom, a dull ache started in the pit of my stomach,

PAGE 216

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 216 spread to my chest, and then journeyed on bruising a path to my head. I missed him

PAGE 217

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 217 Chapter 1 8 Saints & Traitors Late t hat night, the five of us tiptoed up the narrow passage behind the oak paneling in our dormitorium climbing up to our secret room in the attic. I perched in the window seat, studying Ravencross manor through our telescope. The two men MacDougal hired were traversing the grounds around the perimeter of the house. I guessed the third man, farmer Jason's son, would be sitting in the chair where MacDougal had slept the night I'd slipped through the w indow. I wondered if he would be able to stay awake and alert to intruders better than MacDougal had Perhaps I might just check. If I timed my approach carefully, the guards on the grounds wouldn't see me. I could scale the wall and Sera came up beside m e and whispered in my ear. "That would be an excellent way to get shot." "Are you a mind reader now?" "No," she grinned. "But you've trained the spyglass on his sentries' movements and tapped the seconds between their rounds with your forefinger. I've kno wn you long

PAGE 218

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 218 enough to hazard a guess at what you were contemplating ." Sera was right. If these men were any good at their task I could get shot. Still it might be worth the risk. She shook her head. "You're happy about it aren't you? You are. Don't try t o deny it. You're smiling." She looked genuinely stricken. "I'm not. Why should I be happy about something that brings you pain." "Because you've always had a tend rÂŽ for him." "Oh, perhaps I did once. But your happiness means more to me than any infatuatio ns I may have foolishly woven about him. I see clearly that you two are more suited." Saint Seraphina She would be good like that. Why couldn't she be vicious and mean. I needed someone to squabble with not someone gentle and tender and kind. And because I remembered how Mr. Chadwick made her blush, wicked child that I am I decided to point out her failing where it concerned him. "You must be more careful around Mr. Chadwick. I've seen the way you look at him." I collapsed the spy glass. "He may seem che erful and innocent but don't let him fool you. He's a clever one, and he suspects something isn't normal here." I already know that. You needn't scold me. I'm scolding myself enough. I don't know why I behave so foolishly in his presence." She sat down o n the opposite side of the window seat, making me scoot my feet out of the way. "Whenever I'm around him, I feel so unsettled. I lose my way. As if the world suddenly tilts sideways ." Oh, that feeling.

PAGE 219

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 219 I looked across at her with genuine empathy. "That bad ?" No. That's not it," she protested. "I can tell what you are thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not attracted to him. He's nothing like Lord Ravencross." "No one is like Ravencross." I said curtly, fuming a little. It still bothered me whenever she said things like that "No one is," she agreed too readily. "He's so brutish and manly." I rolled my eyes. That's what you like about him?" "Well" She glanced sheepishly at me. "That ... a nd the fact that he's such a wounded soul M y hear t nearly breaks every time he "Stop! I don't want to hear any of your moonstruck fantasies about him. You read too many books, Sera. We all know how you've idealized Ravencross. You've painted him as some sort of gothic hero. He's not. He's just a man w ith flaws and virtues. A man like any other. Y our Mr. Chadwick for instance ." "That's just it! Quinton Chadwick is not like that at all." She curled her knees up and hugged them. Moonlight caught on her hair and she looked exactly how I imagined the fairy princesses of old must've looked. "He hasn't a battle scar on him. Anywhere He's led a perfect life hasn't he? His parents are kind and understanding. They've encouraged him in his education. Hired tutors. I'm certain he has never been locked in a close t with only bread and water." I shouldn't have said anything to that. It was grossly unfair how abysmally her parents had treated her And yet she was being far too hard on Chadwick. "I'm surprised at you, Sera." I shook my head softly. "Usually you are the one who notices every little speck. You see the tiniest thread out of place and deduce where

PAGE 220

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 220 someone has been and what they were doing. Except, when it comes to Mr. Chadwick you seem to have covered your eyes when it comes to him." I twisted the spy g lass extending it out again "We all have battles within ourselves. Can you not see his?" Sera stared at me for a moment, then laid her head atop her knees. "I admit he confuses me. One minute I would like to give him a good shake, and the next minute I f ind myself wanting to impress him. It's all very unnerving." She turned to stare out the window. "Even though it's not true, I tell myself I never want to see him again, and that I hope he never darkens our door again The shutter caught on the breeze an d banged shut. Suddenly I saw myself in the entry hall downstairs and Mr. Chadwick pounding on our door, shouting for admittance. The door flew open Panic distorted his features panic, terror, and pure a nguish. The vision vanished and my hands fell ope n with shock, t he telescope rolled from my lap. Sera lunged and caught before it could fall to the floor. "Tess w hat is it?" I clung to her arm and stared into her worried face. "You saw something, didn't you?" I couldn't tell her. Not yet. I wasn't su re what I'd seen or what it meant "I just got a little dizzy, that's all." Her eyes narrowed. She knew I wasn't telling the truth. I left the window and gathered with Maya, Jane and Georgie in the circle around our lamp. I told them of my hunt for Danesk a and The Ghost and about Miss Stranje's plan to send men to nearby villages and neighborhoods in search of newcomers.

PAGE 221

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 221 But I did not tell them of my plan to kill The Ghost before he had a chance to haunt us at Stranje House. Jane calculated our odds of fi nding Daneska before she made her move at roughly two hundred to one. Bleak odds. I resolved to myself that if I couldn't find The Ghost before he attacked us I would have to settle on putting an arrow in him the minute he showed up at Stranje House. The d iscussion turned to what we ought to do once we captured them. No one mentioned the obvious. Not one of them suggested we put a bullet into The Ghost's treacherous heart. Why should they? They were good and kind. Unlike me. I was ruthless and hard as sto ne. I kept silent and let them make their feeble ineffectual plans. Punch and Judy tumbled and played in my lap, chasing one another up and over my shoulder and down again. I fed them extra bread, since I wasn't certain whether or not my hunt during the n ext few days would take me far from home Perhaps forever if I failed There were risks to my plan, but I couldn't allow Lucien to ruin Gabriel's life. No matter the cost. What was death to me, if it arrived now rather than a few years hence? The moon su nk low and Jane blew out our flickering oil lamp. We climbed the crumbling hidden staircase back down to bed. I laid my head on the pillow awaiting a dream that would show me my enemy. A dream more useful than impossibly giant waves. Sleep was slow to come When one watches the pot it is always slow to boil. I closed my eyes, willing myself to dream about that traitor Daneska. Hoping for anything that might give me a clue to their whereabouts. Except, after tossing and

PAGE 222

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 222 turning for what felt like hours, dre ams did not come. Only sleep. Fitful, restless, uninformative sleep. On any other night, I would've rejoiced, but I awoke in the wee hours of the morning troubled by all the peacefulness. The clock chimed four on the hour. In that drowsy state I accepted m y temporary defeat and told myself to return to the comforts of slumber, but no sooner had I sunk under the covers when noises downstairs aroused me again. I opened my eyes, uncertain if I was in the midst of a dream or simply waking. I heard voices. Dist ant and soft. They sounded real. But then, my dreams always feel real. It's the mind snapping horror of them. The deaths I experience are not weak imitations. I sat up and walked toward the sound. Tiptoeing out of our bedroom, I saw candlelight flickering downstairs and went to the railing that overlooked the foyer. Greaves, garbed in a wrapper and his nightcap, stood in the hall holding aloft a branch of candles. Miss Stranje looked much the same, obviously freshly disturbed from her night's rest, and ye t she was greeting guests. I blinked focusing on the dim scene below. It was Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt. They'd come home. My heart surged up happily until I saw the third guest. My blood turned to fire. I could scarcely breathe. My fists turned to hot st eel. I ran down the stairs heedless of the fact that I wore a nightgown. Daneska! She was bound and had a gag in her mouth. But there was no disguising the laughter in her eyes when she saw me. She was caught, trussed up like a rabbit for roasting and yet Daneska still wore that same haughty expression, as if the rest of us were simply fools placed on earth for her entertainment. Daneska has eyes the color of winter ice.

PAGE 223

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 223 They reflect her heart. I used to think her coldness was born out of the loss of her m other like my own anger. But no. She'd been born cold, this one. A bloodless reptile. She would murder the man I loved without a second thought. I charged straight at her, grabbed her throat, and rammed her into the oak paneling. I squeezed her perfect wh ite neck and growled, "Where is he? Where's Lucien?" It didn't matter that she had a gag in her mouth. Nor that I was squeezing the life out of her. She still managed to smirk at my pain. Miss Stranje grabbed my arm and wrenched it away. Hard. "She can't tell us anything if she's dead." She and Captain Grey held me back. "Calm yourself, Tess. I'm certain Lady Daneska will be delighted to tell you everything she has been up to and catch you up on all the latest gossip about who has gone where or done what in the morning." I had no time for Emma's headmistress nonsense. I turned to Captain Grey and begged for answers, "Ghost he was with her. Did you catch him, too?" I bit my tongue to keep from asking, did you kill him. Oh, please God, let him be dead. The Captain looked tired and worn. There was a cut on his left cheek and his knuckles were bleeding. He looked over my shoulder at Emma. There was an apology in his eyes. Regret. Shame. "He got away." I moaned. "Why did you bring her here?" I could barely ke ep from crying. But these were not tears of sadness. My eyes watered with rage. "Why isn't she at London Tower with her head chopped off?" I spun back to her. "That's what they do with traitors, you know. They'll put your wicked head on a spike."

PAGE 224

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 224 Daneska' s perfect composure broke for an instant. Only an instant All too quickly her cold smug confidence returned. Like a beady eyed albino adder. After all, a snake does not worry that the rats might conspire against it. Take care, Daneska, I shall be your m ongoose. I would end that pride that burned in her eyes. Miss Stranje was speaking openly to Captain Grey just as if Satan's half sister wasn't standing right there listening. "Then you must've gotten our pigeon?" "Yes." He glanced at his prisoner. "We t racked the two of them along the north coast of France into Belgium. A week ago, we lost their trail in Antwerp. It made perfect sense that they had snuck back into Britain to lay the groundwork for an invasion." When he said the word invasion, Daneska's g aze shot to him. Suddenly alert. Alarmed Then she whipped her attention back to me. "You," she uttered around the gag. I lifted my chin, pleased that even though her assumption wasn't true, I had partially undone her arrogance. "We brought her here for questioning." Captain Grey set his hat on the entry table. "I thought it would be best. With her being a young lady, the government might be reluctant to... question her as thoroughly as the situation requires. I'll take her on to London in a day or two. W e thought it best if you were toer..." "House her," Lord Wyatt offered. "Yes, of course." Miss Stranje glanced at Daneska. "Oh yes." I crossed my arms. "I suppose we have a moldy dungeon below stairs that ought to do for her. She won't mind the rats."

PAGE 225

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 225 Daneska laughed. She couldn't help herself. She thinks everything is so blasted amusing. "Tess!" Miss Stranje sounded as if she was scolding me. Me. When there stood the criminal. There! Scold her "Ungraciousness does not become you, Miss Aubreyson. Lad y Daneska is a guest here at Stranje House. Royalty. As such, we will treat her with as much hospitality as she did Lord Wyatt in Calais." A flash of panic washed over Daneska's impenetrable mask. "A dungeon is too good for her." I brooded. "She can rot in her own excrement for all I care." For some reason that cheered Daneska up. The words were a bit muffled from beneath her gag, but I knew exactly what she said, "Ah, Tessie, mon cher You still care." Miss Stranje was not impressed with either of us. "Gr eaves if you will please locate our irons. I believe you will find an extra set in the discipline chamber. Then prepare the small guest room in the chambers belowstairs." That got Daneska's attention. Not alarm, but fury twisted her features. She deserved better than the dungeons. I smiled. At the top of the stairs, a very sleepy Georgie emerged from the dormitorium rubbing her eyes. "Who's here? I thought I heard" Lord Wyatt saw her on the landing and his face brightened, so much I thought for a moment our candles must have flared.

PAGE 226

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 226 "Sebastian!" Georgie flew down the stairs and, completely ignoring propriety, threw her arms around his neck. Miss Stranje ought to have scolded her. And when they kissed, she ought to have demanded a marriage proposal out of him. Instead, she looked on with a melancholy so full of soft sorrow that my own chest began to ache. Her gaze drifted to Captain Grey and immediately fluttered to the floor. "A hem." The captain cleared his throat. Lord Wyatt and Georgie remembered the mselves and pulled apart. Georgie stood back, shyly studying her naked toes. "Welcome home Lord Wyatt, Captain Grey." Then she took stock of our other guest. "And Lady Daneska." She bobbed a curtsey and glanced pointedly at the ropes binding Daneska's wris ts. "Lovely of you to call. I don't believe I have ever seen you in better looks." If I had said that, Daneska would've laughed at my attempt to humble her. But because it had come from Georgie, her eyes narrowed viciously. She had a particular dislike of Georgie, having been robbed by her in Calais of two coveted prizes. Miss Stranje ordered the two of us upstairs to dress appropriately. "Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt have been traveling all night. I'm certain a rest is in order." She clasped Daneska's arm "Come along. You young ladies may enjoy one another's company after breakfast."

PAGE 227

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 227 Chapter 1 9 Plotting Daneska was here. Here Everything had changed. Long before dawn I went for my run, far too early for Georgie to come with me. Wind blew up from the sea bringing a salty chill to the air as I traversed the cliff tops. Wispy silver clouds skirted through the dark sky, racing me. The tide was high and every time the surf crashed against the rocks I would burst forward as if some invisible hand pushed me faster and faster. I loved the salt air whipping against my face and the feeling that nothing else mattered but running. The simple act of flinging one foot in front of the other and speeding past stones and cliffs and trees, all the things that had s tood for longer than I had lived that simple act washed away the turmoil in my mind in a way that a thousand baths could not. I rounded the east side of the house and loped in long legged strides toward the pasture and the woods, where I'd killed a man. My feet slowed as I neared the spot where I'd thrown my knife. I saw his face. A

PAGE 228

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 228 phantom of t he man I 'd killed. Saw him falling. Not in a dream O r a vision. A memory. My feet still ed completely. I saw it all again. The first death by my hand I cr ouched, shivering, and hushed Phobos and Trobos who wanted to keep running. I drew them close for warmth, and dropped to my knees. Trobos whimpered and laid her wet nose over my shoulder. She remembered, too. Soon very soon, I would have to add one more killing to my account. I shuddered and looked away, burying my face in Trobos's dark fur. I should not have stopped here. I should've kept running. I couldn't banish the cold prickl es climbing my arms Would I be able to do it? I sprang up and took off at a furious pace, trying to outrun those thoughts After exhausting myself in a ragged race around the sheep pasture, I walked back toward Stranje House. When I arrived at the gap between the two properties, I slowed down, watching the guards MacDougal had h ired taking their patrols around Ravencross Manor. That ought to discourage his brother. Except I knew better. The Ghost was cunning and sneaky. Even worse, the man was patient. He would bide his time and strike when least expected. As the leader of the Ir on Crown, the Ghost was as relentless as Napoleon himself. I wondered if Gabriel might try to ride out that morning, which would leave him vulnerable. Naturally, I waited. The sun peeked over the horizon and shot pink and orange streaks across the sky, an d there was still no sign of him, no movement about his house and no big brown horse in the distance. S o I gave up. His shoulder must not be

PAGE 229

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 229 healed well enough for riding. Maybe tomorrow I dawdled walking back to the house, sighing and kicking stones along the way. Georgie sat on the garden step, waiting. I knew she wasn't waiting for me. "Lord Wyatt won't be along until much later." "I know," she sighed. "It's just that I can't bear it, knowing he's only a short distance away, when I "Yes, yes, I know. You've missed him fiercely all these weeks Come along." I pulled her to her feet. "Watching won't make the time go any faster." "As if you weren't doing the same. I saw you down near the place where he rides." Her voice had a chastising scrape to i t. You shouldn't have turned Lord Ravencross away yesterday. I would never send Sebastian away without seeing him." I said nothing to that. She didn't understand. How could she? It was different between her and Lord Wyatt. I envied her. They had a future it might not be a perfect one, but at least they had the hope of one. Eager to find out more about how Lady Daneska was faring as our prisoner, w e roamed the house in search of Miss Stranje O ur illusive headmistress was nowhere to be found. Odd, how Em ma always shows up at the most inopportune moments, and yet when one wants something she seems to vanish entirely. Breakfast arrived at the same hour it always did, but for me it felt as if time had ticked by slower than an old woman's cane. Georgie and I were the first ones seated. The other girls filed in shortly after, as did Mr. Sinclair who seemed particularly buoyant at that hour of the morning. At exactly nine o'clock Miss Stranje took her seat at the head

PAGE 230

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 230 of the table. I frothed at the bit, waiting to find out how Miss Stranje planned to extract the information from Daneska. Except we couldn't speak of it n ot yet, not with the servants and our American guest listening. So, we ate in strained silence. I contemplated various methods of interrogatio n in my head. Confining Daneska with only bread and water would never work. She was made of sterner stuff. I stabbed a potato drenched in rosemary and butter. How? How could we get her to talk? Mercifully, Mr. Sinclair broke through the tension and div erted us with his enthusiastic plans for building a small prototype of his warship engine. "We'll need to find something to serve as the piston rod. But we've nearly finished the steam cylinder. Now if I can fabricate a sturdy crank out of something ." He twirled his fork around his fingers while he was thinking. Judging by the look on Jane's face I thought she might grab it straight out of his hands. But he set in down with a plunk and brightened. "Perhaps I might have one or two of your pokers?" Miss Stranje followed his covetous gaze to her fireplace tools stored on the hearth. "You may, if that is what is necessary." "I noticed you've other sets on most of your fireplaces." "Yes," she nodded drawing back. "But do try and leave one or two behind so th at we have something with which to tend our fires." "Yes, miss, certainly. And of course I shall need to visit a wheelwright to have a small flywheel constructed."

PAGE 231

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 231 Her face puckered momentarily. "I do not think that wise, Mr. Sinclair "Alexander." "Yes, all right, Alexander A journey to the village would place you in too much danger. If you will make a drawing and a list of the exact dimensions I shall send Philip to the wheelwright. It will attract far less attention if the order comes from one of us ra ther than a stranger." "Excellent! In that case, we'll be whistling right along." He grabbed up his fork as if it was a pitchfork. "I should also like to try out Miss Barrington's and Miss Fitzwilliam's contributions to my torpedo." He smiled broadly at G eorgie. "Using Congreve's compression trigger was pure genius. It will be sensitive enough to explode upon impact but not so sensitive that it blows up while we're loading it." Jane gaped at him. "Egad, I should hope not." He glossed over her concerns wi th a cheery wave of his hand. "Don't fret. It's all in the spring pressure." Jane did not look mollified. He aimed his next request at me. "Do you think Lord Ravencross might lend us his assistance in building today?" My only answer was a shrug. "No matt er." Sinclair wolfed down a helping of eggs and sausage. "I'll send a note requesting his help. I'm certain he'll oblige us. Then, if we are industrious and finish construction on the prototype tomorrow or the next day I would like to attempt a test shot. "A test shot?" Miss Stranje set her spoon down with a sudden and uncustomary clink. "What, exactly do you propose to blow up?" "That's the question, isn't it? To test the weapon properly, we'll need to aim at

PAGE 232

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 232 something some distance from the shore Ou r headmistress snapped a piece of toast in half and dropped both halves on her plate. "Wouldn't it suffice to set up a wooden target out in the north pasture? There are trees there to hide the "The blast. No. Wouldn't work." He shook his head, set down his fork, and blotted his mouth with the table linen. "A dry inland test proves nothing. We must see how it performs in water." Sera spread marmalade on a muffin and mumbled, "Let us hope Mr. Chadwick is not visiting in the vicinity on the day of your test ." "Ooh, yes, I see the problem. Might alarm the neighbors." He drummed his fingers on the table cloth briefly, and drank down the last of his pear juice. "I have it." He set the goblet down with a plunk and grinned. "If we test it at night, it's bound to make for some picturesque fireworks. If anyone asks, we could simply say we we're celebrating." "Celebrating what?" Jane looked at him as if he was completely balmy. "I don't know. Anything ." Quite jauntily, he added, "My birthday for example." "Is it yo ur birthday?" she asked. "No. I spent that day locked in a room in France. But I wouldn't say no to a delayed celebration. My mother usually bakes a spice cake for the occasion. Delicious. A thick layer of sugar icing, like so." Holding up two fingers he s howed us exactly how thick. His normally lively countenance turned melancholy for a few seconds. "Don't know when, or if, I'll ever taste it again. But no matter." Sera looked at him quizzically. "Ordinarily, we don't make that much ado over our natal days ."

PAGE 233

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 233 "Ah. More of your English stoicism, I suppose." He studiously mopped up egg yolk with a wedge of toast, as if giving the problem some consideration. "Perhaps, this once, if the question arises you might make an exception." Finished with the last of his eggs and sausage he pushed back his plate. "Although, it may not be necessary. You are fairly isolated here. It's quite possible no one will notice our little experiment." "No, and why should they?" Jane spooned clotted cream on her raspberry scone, and s pread an equally ample serving of sarcasm over the top of her comment. "Surely, no one will notice bombs bursting along the shoreline." "Good heavens." Georgiana glanced up in alarm. "If Mrs. Pinswary sees flames, you know full well she'll march straight over here and accuse me of trying to set fire to the whole county ." "Very well. A birthday celebration it is." Miss Stranje laid her spoon down carefully. "We shall simply explain to anyone who asks that you are my American cousin and it is your custom to celebrate with fireworks. Advise us when your equipment is ready to test, and we will have Cook bake a cake." "Excellent." He beamed. "Cake and fireworks. I like the sound of that." "I'm happy it pleases you. Now if you would be so good as to excuse us, Mr. Sinclair. The young ladies and I have a few private business matters to discuss." She inclined her head, indicating the door. I see Business matters." He rubbed his chin. "And you want me to make myself scarce." The corner of his mouth curled up mis chievously. "I reckon this is your equivalent of when the gentlemen excuse themselves so they might enjoy a glass of

PAGE 234

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 234 brandy and discuss horseracing and pugilism, isn't it." "Not at all, Mr. Sinclair." Miss Stranje smiled genially. "I assure you we won't be discussing anything so important as which horse to back at the races. Ours will simply be a dull conversation about embroidery threads, watercolor lessons, and whatnot. You know the sorts of things young ladies like to discuss in private." He laughed then out loud and quite heartily. Rising from his chair, he treated us all to a regal bow. "Then I shall leave you to your discussion of embroidery threads, ladies. My only request is that you do not land us all in a tangle." He winked at Jane, who turned qui te red, and chuckled to himself all the way out of the breakfast room. At a signal from Miss Stranje, the footmen and Greaves followed him and closed the doors, giving us our privacy at last. Miss Stranje did not mince words. "I suppose by now you all know we are holding Lady Daneska prisoner?" I rushed to ask, "You looked in on her this morning to make sure she hasn't escaped?" "Yes. You may set your worries aside. She's well secured. Although, it troubles me that she appears so contented with her accommo dations." I frowned at that. "Did you use the irons?" "Of course." "Then she's pretending. Underneath her bravado, Daneska is seething. You have my word on it." Some devilish part of me felt eager to see her wearing iron cuffs and chains instead of her cu stomary diamonds. But first, I needed to know how best to interrogate the prisoner. "How are we going to get the Ghost's whereabouts out of her?"

PAGE 235

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 235 Sera shook her head. "If you are thinking of torture, it won't work. You know she would simply lie. Not only t hat, she would do it so effectively that we would be following false trails for months." "Yes." Miss Stranje carefully sliced a strawberry into four sections and cut away the greenery. "Captain Grey and I came to the same conclusion." "What then." I slamm ed my hand against the table rattling the silverware. It startled even me. "Sorry." I glanced at them apologetically. "We have to find him. Before" Before he comes here and murders his brother. "We must approach this logically." Miss Stranje meticulously wiped strawberry juice from her fingers. I groaned. She was going to use this moment to exercise her role as our teacher. I wanted to scream, not now but bit my tongue to hold back my impatience. "We must ask ourselves, what is it we want?" I kept my voice level and steady, even though I felt like shaking her. "We want to know where the Ghost is." "True. Finding the leader of the Iron Crown is of vital interest. But at the moment we face a problem of even greater significance." I stared at her, not l iking the direction she was leading us. Jane nudged me with her elbow. "Napoleon might invade ." "I haven't forgotten." I understood Napoleon's attack took precedence. Except there'd been other matters pressing on my mind. Matters such as protecting Georgi e and Lord Ravencross. Except he wasn't Lord Ravencross anymore p rotecting Gabriel And there was only one way to do that.

PAGE 236

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 236 Kill the Ghost "I think we can all agree that is our highest priority." Miss Stranje speared one of the bright red sections with h er fork. "With Lady Daneska as our captive, we have a unique opportunity. If we can convince her to get word to Napoleon, warning him that England is prepared for his invasion and that he would be ill advised to proceed, there is a strong likelihood he wil l change plans. At the very least, the emperor might postpone his attack." "But we aren't and Daneska would never do that." I stared at Miss Stranje, blinking, unable to comprehend her thinking. "Why would she? It's not true. And anyway we couldn't force h er to do it. Are you thinking of sending a letter in her name. I noticed last night she has her signet ring with her, so I suppose "A letter would be too suspect." Miss Stranje took her time, delicately consuming the last of her strawberry. "I agree with you, that she would never willingly cooperate with us. And I believe I know her well enough to say, she cannot be coerced." Sera had been sitting quietly, studying our headmistress, drawing with her finger on the tablecloth. "You're thinking of misleading her, tricking her into carrying false information back to Napoleon." "Exactly." Miss Stranje tilted her head respectfully at Sera. "If Daneska thinks she alone possesses critical information, she will view it as a prime opportunity to distinguish herself further in Napoleon's esteem." Jane appeared to be deep in thought. Her crystal goblet hummed as she played the edge with her forefinger. "I daresay, she might be even more motivated, if she thought giving him this information would sabotage us."

PAGE 237

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 237 "How? Thi s is all impossible," I said impatiently. "How do you propose to accomplish any of this with Daneska imprisoned here in our I stopped, suddenly afraid of Miss Stranje's answer. "You wouldn't." Miss Stranje clasped her hands in a tight fold. "Escape!" I turned to the others. "She's suggesting we let Daneska escape." I could see Jane and Sera had already tumbled to this idea. Maya, too. But Georgie looked as horrified as I felt. "No, you can't." Trembling, I grabbed the edge of the table to steady myself and pleaded. "She's too dangerous. She's a traitor. She is" My enemy All the air seemed to have left the room. All my hopes paled to a silent frozen whisper. I hated that Miss Stranje waited patiently for me to calm down. I hated the sad expression on her face as if she understood my agony. Most of all, I hated that she was right. Jane gently laid her hand on my arm and I finally drew a breath. "It might not be so bad," she said somberly. "It's possible we'll catch two birds with this one dreadful st inking stone. Think, Tess. She'll probably go straight to him as soon as she escapes. This way, she'll carry false information to Napoleon, and at the same time, she might lead us to the Ghost." She might. Still, it turned my stomach sour to think of letti ng our betrayer go. Miss Stranje spoke in an oddly subdued tone. "We must proceed cautiously or she will see through our plan. We all know how exceptionally clever she is. If this is to work,

PAGE 238

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 238 Lady Daneska must believe that she gleaned this information from of us. Not that we fed it to her." My hand shook as I reached for my glass of lemon water. Georgie suggested that we accidently let her see us constructing the ballista. Jane shoved a ragged kipper head around her plate with the tip of her knife. "It sho uld be fairly easy to make certain she observes Mr. Sinclair's fireworks. At the very least she'll hear the noise from the explosions." Sera cleared her throat, trying to get our attention. "Lord Ravencross might increase the guard around his house. That w ay she might catch a glimpse of what appears to be an army building up." Jane "A rather ramshackle army, wouldn't you say." Sera ignored Jane's criticism and charged bravely forward. "Additionally, if we were to bring Mr. Chadwick and his father into our confidence, we may be able to convince him to call for the local militia and post them at either Stranje House or Ravencross Manor." "Splendid idea, my dear." Miss Stranje leaned forward, with eagerness practically shooting out of her fingertips. "The soun d of troops training is bound to convince her that England knows of the threat and is preparing." She sat back. "Although, I would prefer we did not bring the Chadwick's all the way into our confidence." By this she meant she didn't want them to know that she was coordinating a spy ring from her girl's school. "And how do you expect us to do that?" Lady Jane sniffed, carefully setting her silverware at exact angles across her plate. "The younger Mr. Chadwick will not be easily

PAGE 239

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 239 duped." "He need not be duped. Maya's gaze floated gracefully around the table to each of our astonished faces. "Tell him the truth, with a few minor adjustments, and his curiosity will be appeased. Indeed, it will place him in the position of a hero. Something, I daresay, he would re joice in." "Minor adjustments?" Miss Stranje's eyes glittered with intrigue. Maya rolled her palm to me. "Tess might recall something her abductors said about murdering Lord Ravencross so that a French landing party could be housed at Ravencross manor. Pe rhaps, she heard Napoleon's name mentioned." Maya tilted her head questioningly at me. "Everyone is afraid of invasion anyway. If Tess were to deliver this news with sufficient terror, as if she had just awakened to these suppressed memories..." "He would believe her." Sera finished. Maya smiled. "Just so." Miss Stranje all but clapped. "Well done, Maya." Jane set her plate away from her. "A pity Mr. Chadwick must be used so falsely by us." "Nonsense." Miss Stranje corrected her sharply. "He may well be saving his country. At least, we may hope that he will be helping to stave off invasion for the next month." Sera stared at her water glass turning the stem. "He'll like being a hero." "Exactly," agreed Miss Stranje. "I shall send an urgent note this very morning." I shook my head. This was not what I had in mind. None of it

PAGE 240

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 240 The pulse in my neck throbbed. "Even if we accomplish all this. How would you let her escape? If you make it too easy, she won't believe it. She'll know she's being set up." Miss S tranje's features softened, and she leaned towards me. I backed away. Her expression frightened me. I'd a thousand times rather she came at me with her hard disapproving frown. Not this. Not this caring look, drenched with worry. This one made me want to r un. "Your question brings me to the most difficult part." I swallowed. More difficult than it already was? She leveled that statement at me and I'd rather she'd aimed a knife at me. I could dodge a knife. "It is my considered opinion that it will be more believable if one of you helps her escape." "None of us would do that. She'd never believe it." Georgie protested before I'd even fully absorbed Miss Stranje's words. Miss Stranje stared at me, dripping with reluctance. And yet she pressed forward, comin g at me like a surgeon who must hack off the leg of an unlucky soldier. "There is only one of you that she was close enough to believe would help her." The food in my belly turned to jagged stones. My arms fell to my sides, suddenly heavier than lead weigh ts. "Me? You can't mean me." Except she did "No!" I gasped. "I won't do it. I can't." Yet, even as I said it. I knew that I had to. I must. I swallowed against the bitter taste of bile in my mouth. I could hardly breathe. If she had asked me to beat a confession out of Daneska I would've gladly done that. If she'd

PAGE 241

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 241 ordered me to ride out and keep riding until I found the real Lord Ravencross, and then thrust a sword into his heart I could've done that, too. But not this. She expected me to pretend I care d about Daneska, enough to help her escape. "It won't work." I shook my head. "I'm no good at lying." "No, you're not." She took a deep breath and launched into a sermon. "It's quite possible this opportunity is best for you as well." It isn't. "It is unh ealthy for you to harbor ill will towards another human being." Make no mistake about it; I do not harbor ill will. My ship of ill will rides boldly across waves of hatred in glorious billowing full sail. "Forgiveness can bring peace." Peace? I almost la ughed. Didn't she know? I was not made for peace. I was made for unrest, for sleepless nights, for dreams of unspeakable terror. I was made for death. "I know Lady Daneska hurt you. She betrayed all of us, you most of all, because you were closest to her. But she knows, what we all know deep inside" Miss Stranje waited for me to meet her gaze. Waited to see if I was actually absorbing any of her sermon. She reached for me, but my arms stayed where they were, wrapped tight around my middle, too busy holdi ng me together. She silently pleaded with me to listen. "Hatred and anger are not the opposites of love, Tess. They are the backsides of the same playing cards. It is easier to flip hostile feelings over, and find the love and forgiveness that has been hi dden there all along, aching to be found, than it is to produce new feelings."

PAGE 242

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 242 I threw a question at her. "Then what is the opposite of love?" Because whatever that is, that's what I feel for Daneska "Indifference." One word One word and it hit me in the gut so hard I almost doubled over. Because I didn't feel indifferent toward Dani. I couldn't. Miss Stranje pitied me then. I could see it. So I closed my eyes. "Do you see why you're the only one here who Daneska would believe could soften their hear t towards her and help her escape?" I sank back. Curling into the chair. Massaging my forehead. Scarcely able to keep down breakfast. It was too much. I covered my face with my hands. I had only just accepted the fact that I must become a murderer and kil l The Ghost. Now, Miss Stranje was demanding I forgive my greatest enemy and become her friend, so that ultimately, I could betray her. I wondered briefly, which of these two; murder or forgiveness, would prove more treacherous. Miss Stranje broke into m y whirling thoughts. "Will you do it?" "No." Sera stood abruptly. "We can't ask this of Tess. Look at her. This is too painful for her. I'll do it." "She'd never believe it of you, Sera." Jane sounded mournful. "Remember how she used to call you a useles s mouse. She never really liked the two of us. Only Tess." Jane reached for my shoulder, her touch was gentle, but her pity pressed more weight atop it. "I'm sorry," she said. "You know I'd take your place if I could." I stared at my plate.

PAGE 243

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 243 "I might be abl e to help you." Maya said, in a soothing lyrical voice. Surprised, I looked up. "How? What do you propose to do? Mesmerize me into not hating Daneska." I hadn't meant for it to sound as biting as it did. "Not exactly. Although music and meditation might h elp you forget some of the anger you feel towards her." Did I want to do that? Forget Daneska's betrayal. Georgie sat across from me, watching my every move with worried eyes. "We'll all help you." "Good." I said with more enthusiasm than I felt. "Help me by strangling her." "As to that," Miss Stranje said cryptically, drawing our attention. "We will need to make genuine attempts to get information from her. I'm afraid we must use some ratherer persuasive methods, even though we know it won't work. If we don't, Daneska won't believe it when Tess helps her escape." Sera kept staring at me, her brow squeezed up in worry. "This is going to be very difficult for you. Perhaps I should try "No, Jane's right. Daneska and I were like sisters before you came." I pushed away from the table and stood. Somehow, I would have to find a way to stop hating her. "God help me, it will have to be me."

PAGE 244

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 244 Chapter 20 Deception Scarcely a half hour went by after Miss Stranje sent the note before Mr. Chadwick and his fat her rushed into Stranje House in a state of great alarm. They were shown again into the blue parlor where Miss Stranje laid the groundwork. I was some moments later ushered in, after having pinched my face almost to the point of bruising it and drizzling s altwater down my cheeks. I did my best to produce tears, but after so many years of resisting them, the ruddy things wouldn't come. I relied upon an attitude of utter panic to carry my part. "Oh sirs! Thank goodness you've come." I collapse into a chair a nd feigned such wide eyed distress that both men drew back nervously. When I clutched at the elder Mr. Chadwick's hand and told him my dreadful tidings and begged him to do something his weathered pallor whitened. "Good heavens child." "If only I'd remem bered this horrible news sooner. The very name Napoleon fills me with terror. That must be why I forgot. And to think, that those awful men were sent to

PAGE 245

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 245 kill Lord Ravencross so that they might clear the way for Napoleon to launch his attack." He rubbed his chin deep in thought. "Makes sense. No fortresses to contend with like there are at Dover or Chatham, and it's a straight road from here to London." How this speech was supposed to comfort me I could not tell. "So you can understand why I am speechless wi th fear. Please, sir, tell me you can do something, I beg of you." "Yes, my dear. Rest assured, we will do something." He patted my hand, huffled and puffled, floundering for speech. "These are bad times. Bad times, indeed." He glanced desperately about th e room. "I'm not entirely sure how these things work," Miss Stranje spoke with an innocent hesitancy that did not come naturally to her. "But since you are the Magistrate, can you not call up our local Militia?" At this he leapt up and began to pace with great agitation. "No, miss. That would be our Lord Lieutenant, a good friend, and the very man who appointed me magistrate. My son and I shall ride with all haste to his estate where we will explain the situation. He will immediately do all that is require d to protect our country, of that you can be certain." Thank you." I answered quietly. The younger Mr. Chadwick bowed elegantly to me as they were taking their leave. "Are you certain there is nothing more you would like to tell us, Miss Aubreyson?" Ther e was such genuineness about him that I almost faltered. In a hushed voice he asked, "If there is something else Miss Stranje rushed to my aid and put her arms about my shoulders. "I'm afraid this

PAGE 246

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 246 whole experience has overtaxed her, Mr. Chadwick. We are so very grateful to you for handling these dreadful matters for us. I confess we were beside ourselves trying to figure out what ought to be done." "'Course you were," boomed his father. "Far too grievous a situation for the weaker sex to manage. You need a man about the place, Miss Stranje. You did right sending for us. Now we must be off to advise the Lord Lieutenant of these grievous circumstances. I've no doubt but what he will muster up the militia as quickly as can be done. You and the young ladies w ill have protection Miss Stranje, even if I have to load up my musket and come guard the place m'self. Come along, Quinton ." Miss Stranje seated herself in the chair beside me. "Sharp eyes, that young man. I shall have to watch him." I wasn't sure what she meant by that, whether to watch out for him or to put him to work in her little family of spies. "You performed admirable, my dear." "I feel guilty." "I see no reason why you should. Everything we told them is dangerously close to the truth. England is in peril at the moment. You and I are simply trying to preserve the country we love the best way we know how." She leaned back in the chair and sighed. "I sent word by courier to Lord Castlereagh's office. But with the wars stretching our military to the bre aking point the political climate shifting and French sympathizers in the House of Lords making so much noise, unless an attack actually does occur on British soil, I fear the foreign secretary's hands are tied." I liked climbing walls and throwing knives but just then I didn't like the other parts of being a spy, or as Miss Stranje preferred to call us, a diplomatic assistant.

PAGE 247

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 247 "You know what must be done now?" I must face Lady Daneska. More deception. I nodded. "I think you should hand me your dagger fo r safe keeping." "You're afraid I'll use it on her." "Hhmm." She held out her palm. I lifted my skirts and unsheathed my newest weapon and handed it over. "Shall we be going." Miss Stranje decreed that I should be the one to bring Daneska her food. Something about how food softens the heart. If she planned to soften Daneska's heart she was going to have to offer better fare than gruel and crusty bread. She led the way down stairs to the underbelly of Stranje House, giving me a few instructions along the way, but most of the time we walked in awkward silence. When we reached to the bottommost floor, she pressed a large brass key into my hand and whispered, "Thank you for your bravery, Tess. I wish I could spare you this task." I folded my finger s around the key. "She can no longer hurt me." Even though we both knew it was a lie, she didn't argue with me. She simply brushed my arm sadly and pointed the way. "The cell is down this hallway. Turn to your right after you pass the discipline chamber. It is the door at the far end." She stepped into the shadows. "I shall wait for you here." Stranje House had dungeons leftover from the Tudor years when there were enemies

PAGE 248

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 248 around every corner. Even back then Miss Stranje's ancestors were involved in politi cal intrigues. But as dungeons go this one wasn't as bad as one might imagine. There were no dead rats or skeletons. Not yet, anyway. I unlocked the heavy oaken door and the hinges groaned as it creaked open. The small chamber was shadowy but not as dim a s the hallway. At the top of the wall there was a small window, about the size of a cutlery box, providing some light. The glass was crusted with a salt glaze from the moist sea air, which made it difficult to see through. The gray stone walls held in the damp and cold even though it was summer. Mold crept through cracks, and a slow dark sludge like moisture seeped through, leaving black trails to the floor. Greaves had laid a pallet on the stones along with a woolen blanket. "So, the noble Countess Valdik auf is reduced to sleeping on the floor." She sat up atop the pallet looking as regal as possible consider there was no throne and she was chained to the wall. Although, they had given her a generously long leash. I'd have much rather seen her arms stretch ed between two iron rings. Instead, he had ample chain and looked altogether too comfortable. Gruel sloshed in the bowl and the crust of dry bread tumbled about the tray as I carried it into her cell. I wrinkled my nose. Her chamber pot stunk, but I was n't about to empty it for her. Despite the stench, she smiled up at me, still as confident as if we were meeting in a grand parlor. "I'm surprised Miss Stranje trusted you to be alone with me." I stood by the door with that stupid tray and didn't know wh at to say. "What makes you think she did?"

PAGE 249

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 249 She smirked. "Because I'm not already dead." I laughed at that. I don't know why. It seemed enormously funny to me. Funny that Daneska knew how murderous I felt toward her and yet Miss Stranje supposed I could t urn this relationship around and convince the bloodless Countess Valdikauf that we were such dear close friends that I would help her escape. In that moment I realized how utterly absurd this plan was. I decided to stop pretending because it was useless. "Maybe I poisoned your food." I glanced menacingly at the gruel. "You never know." "Oh, but I do know, my dear Tessika. Poison is not your style." "Don't call me that," I snapped. She shrugged. "You are most assuredly the knife type. If you decided to k ill me, you would use that lovely blade you have strapped to your leg." She pointed to my calf. "That isn't to say, that you wouldn't strangle me given enough provocation." "True. About the strangling, I mean." I glanced down at where the sheath was hidden beneath my dress. "But Miss Stranje made me remove my dagger." Mon Dieu ." She clucked her tongue. "Tessie without her blade." She chuckled at this. "Do you think our Miss Stranje was afraid I might grab your leg and seize your trusty knife?" She shook he r head, golden curls dancing. "Surely, she knows you would best me in a fight. Especially, because I am forced to wear these charming bracelets." She held out her wrists admiring the iron manacles as if they were encrusted with jewels. "No. I believe she c onfiscated it so you would not run me through when I irritated you sufficiently." "You've already irritated me sufficiently. Do you want this food or not?"

PAGE 250

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 250 "That is a silly question. How could I possibly want that?" she sneered coldly at the meager offer ing on the tray, all the amusement gone. "But I suppose this swill is all she will give me." She waved her hand and turned away. "Leave it. Set it down. Unless you plan to stay and feed me by hand." "Hardly." I plunked it on the floor beside her, spilling some of the weak gruel. "I rather thought I'd dump it over your head. But only if you said you wanted it." "Tessie, Tessie." She grinned and reached for the porridge. "You haven't changed a bit." "That's where you're wrong." I gripped the key tight in my fist. "I've changed a great deal. I know better than to trust the likes of you." Having been denied the luxury of a spoon, Daneska drank watery porridge and peered at me over the lip of the bowl. "Why must you always take things so personally? You had no thing to do with the decisions I made." She didn't look so haughty now with gruel smeared on her upper lip. "That's just it," I said. "You didn't care about anyone else's feelings when you made those decisions." C'est le vie ." She shrugged. "I did what wa s necessary. The Germans, they have a saying, in der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen In times of trouble, even the devil eats flies. One must do, what one must do?" "Perfect. Then you should be very comfortable down here so close to hell. Although, I'm not sure how many flies you'll be able to catch with no windows." It had always annoyed me that she mixed her languages so readily, but now it made sense. Daneska felt no allegiance to any particular country. TouchÂŽ See, you haven't changed." She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "I've missed

PAGE 251

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 251 you. We must catch up. Tell me. How are your dreams these days?" I grimaced and turned away so she wouldn't see. "You have no right to ask about something so private." Never mind that she already knew more about my dreams than most people did. I'd been a fool to trust her so easily back then. "Oh but, Tessika, I like talking about your dreams." "Well, I don't. "I told him about you, you know." "What?" I spun around. "You heard me. Yes I told Emperor Napoleon himself abou t you that you see the future in your dark dreams. He was most intrigued." I shivered. "Why would you do that?" Ahh, well you see, the emperor, h e is quite fascinated with dreams. He showed me one of his prized possessions. A most interesting little book that he found in the tombs of Egypt or somewhere or other. Red leather, about so with celestial symbols etched across the cover. He calls it his Book of Fates and said it allows him to interpret dreams. "How can a book do that?" With a casual lift of her shoulder, she feigned ignorance. "How would I know such things? It contained a great many charts and numbers, and a list of symbols. All very complex and scientific, he assured me. Naturally, he w ould be able to explain it to you much better than I." "Hhm m. But since that will never happen "It could. She sat up much straighter, like a snake rearing up because it sees a

PAGE 252

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 252 mouse within striking distance. "It could happen. He is most desirous of meeting you. And I have always known you were bound for greatne ss." Greatness ?" I scoffed. Madness, yes. Greatness, no. Bound for hell, judging by the way my fingers itched to grab her neck. F latter ing me is pointless. You are just trying to get me to help you escape. "I would not flatter you, mon ami We know e ach other too well for that." She tore off a piece of bread and held it up contemplating it. "Me, I do not need visions to know the future. I have eyes and a mind. These dreams of yours, they come for a purpose. It must surely mean there is something of co nsequence you must do." I had a purpose all right. It was to stop her and The Ghost. But I bit my tongue and aimed for sarcasm always a safe place to hide one's feelings. "And the great Emperor Napoleon, I suppose he told you to invite me to court." Brav a Brilliant guess." Her chains clinked as she raised her hands in mock applause. He did He invited you to his palace. "You jest." "No. I am quite serious." All the mocking ice melted from her face. She was telling the truth. Still I found it impossibl e to comprehend. "But my dreams are filled with nothing but inscrutable horrors why would he have an interest in those ." Aah, but tha t is the very reason you must come with me to Paris so Napoleon can help you interpret them." "But I hate my dreams," I muttered shaking my head. She had to be lying. Hush you must not say this. Why would you despise such a gift? Napoleon says our

PAGE 253

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 253 dreams teach us that which we must know. It is for us to discover what the fates wish us to learn. I crossed my arms, refusi ng to take second hand instruction from a pompous despot like Napoleon. "If his fates serve him so well why did he fail so miserably in Russia. How come he was defeated and exiled on Elba. No, you and you emperor can keep your fates or your dreams if that' s what these are. It is no gift to close my eyes and watch men die. "Perhaps, you will change your mind." She said softly, as if she planned to do the changing for me. I wasn't sure how all this fit into Miss Stranje's scheme to help Daneska escape. I ma y have played my part incorrectly I suppose I ought to have capitalized on her offer, but the thought sickened me. Especially, when I considered the silver bowl and swirling green water from my dreams. So, I said nothing and the silence thicken and hung heavy between us until h er gaze darted to the small window. "I hear hammering, and the sound of metal being pounded. What are they building?" "Nothing." I made a show of trying to distract her from the window by shoving her tray with the toe of my shoe. Eat your food or I'll take it away." She sopped the bread in her remaining gruel. "You needn't be so ill mannered. That temper of yours will spoil your pretty face." "And why shouldn't I be angry? Your henchmen almost killed me." She shrugged. Idiots The y were sent to do a simple task and botched it completely." "A simple task? By that you mean you sent them to abduct Georgie and kill Lord Ravencross."

PAGE 254

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 254 I intentionally used Gabriel's title, and she flinched. I leaned against the heavy wood of the door, which was the cleanest part of the chamber. "I understand why you wanted Georgie, for the ink. But why kill Lord Ravencross?" "Don't call him that." "Why not, he is the rightful Lord of Ravencross." "Don't play coy, Tess. You know he is not." I baited her further. "Even so why do you hate him so much that you would have him murdered?" "Hate is too strong a word, mon ami It is more that he is an irritation, like a gnat at a picnic. The troublesome one that buzzes and buzzes and no matter how often you swat it, it keeps coming back and annoying everyone." How dare she liken him to a gnat? I wanted to swat her. "I suppose it is like the rats that crawl through these dungeons at night. Running every which way, snapping and nibbling on fingers no matter how man y traps we set." Daneska hated rats. She'd abhorred Punch and Judy when I discovered them as babies in a nest and took them to raise as pets. She tried on several occasions to feed them to the stable cats. "You can go." She tried to dismiss me, shooing me away with a wave of her hand, but her clinking chains spoiled the effect. "I'm supposed to stay and take the tray when you are done. Miss Stranje doesn't want you fashioning a weapon with it." She chuckled at that, even with a mouthful of bread. She ate with her fingers and

PAGE 255

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 255 somehow managed to make it look elegant. "And I suppose she gives me only this scratchy wool blanket and denies me soft sheets because she is worried I might wind them together and make a rope with which to hang myself." I scoffed at t hat. "We all know you would never do anything so convenient as hang yourself." Her face pinched together in a rare frown, but she quickly banished it. "No more fussing. Come Tessika, sit down. You must tell me all about your life here since I left." She p atted the pallet but I remained standing. "You have fallen in love, I think. Oui? I couldn't help it I drew in too quick a breath. She tittered, her fake laugh, the one that sounded like breaking glass. "So you like him, this young pretender who lives at Ravencross." She would not call him lord. I refused to let her pull me in to her web. "There's no sense denying it," she teased. "I see it on your face." "How? It's so dark in here, you can't see anything clearly." I walked to the window and stretched u p on my tiptoes, attempting to clean off a spot. The grime of several years wouldn't give way easily, but I was able to rub off enough that it provided a filmy portal. There was that jingling laugh again. "I can see you well enough to know." "Hand me the tray. You've had enough." "Why him, Tessie?" She snatched the last of the bread and set it in her lap. "You're so beautiful. You can have other suitors. Better ones." I'd forgotten how sincere she sounded when she tried. In a soft caring voice, she lament ed, "Why him?" "It doesn't matter." I grabbed the tray from her.

PAGE 256

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 256 "Doesn't it?" "No." It had the horrible ring of truth, because it didn't matter why I liked him, or even why I loved him. Gabriel and I had no future. "It's just as well." She sounded oddly subdued. Relieved. Almost as if my feelings truly did matter to her. Impossible Nothing ever mattered to Daneska beyond her own desires. She studied the vastly uninteresting floor, and I knew she was contemplating the fact that The Ghost planned to kill his younger brother. "You're not going to kill Gabriel. Neither of you are. I won't let you." I left the dungeon, and Miss Stranje awaited exactly where I'd left her. We climbed the stairs in silence. Not until we stepped out on the main floor did she speak. "Well?" "It's done. I cleaned the window as well as I could without being obvious, but I only managed to clear a small circle." I heaved a sigh and shook my head. "It's so high. She'll have to climb the wall. If her chains don't reach, she'll have to jump if she's to see anything at all. Even then it will be very little" "She's resourceful. She'll think of something." Miss Stranje stopped to adjust a painting hanging on the wall of the back gallery. "Do you think she suspected anything?" "No. But I did nothing for her to suspect. We bickered mostly." "Good." She picked up the pace. The soles of her shoes clicked decisively against the

PAGE 257

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 257 floorboards. "Exactly as I expected." Good? I caught her arm, and one of her ancestors glared down at me f rom a painting. I let go. "Don't you see? Resurrecting our friendship could take a very long time. Ages If ever." "Of course. I understand. These things take time." She continued down the hall with me tagging along side. Time yes. But we don't have fo rever to work with here." How long did we have, I wondered. "Very well, I see your point. Tell me exactly what the two of you said. If you are right, we may need to change plans. Unfortunately, we have very few options." I walked beside her, telling her a ll that had transpired between Daneska and me. Most of it anyway. I left out the part where Dani accused me of being in love with Ravencross. I was so absorbed in the telling of it, I hadn't realized she'd led us to the side door that opens onto the garde n. She stopped with her hand on the knob. "Nothing you've told me makes me think we should abandon hope. On the contrary, it went better than I'd expected. Well done." She clapped my shoulder. "I will leave you here. They're all out there, working on the ballista. The day is quite fine. After that dreary dungeon, perhaps you ought to enjoy some sunshine." She was up to something. I could tell. What's more, she knew I could tell. She tilted her head indicating what lay beyond the door. "Go on then. He won't bite." Gabriel She meant Gabriel. I swallowed. Me, I'm not afraid of anything. I've leapt from a pier to catch a moving ship. I've stood knife draw n in a field facing a gang of

PAGE 258

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 258 murderers. In London, I fought hand to hand with Daneska's henchmen. But the thought of meeting Gabriel made my legs weak. I've listened to the other girls talk enough to know this wasn't the silly weakness love produces. It couldn't be. I thought of a hundred excuses for my nerves. The strain of having dealt with Daneska. The pa rt I had to play with the Chadwicks. Yes there were a myriad of other reasons. But the pure and simple truth was I didn't trust myself to not want to run to him and wrap my arms around his neck as I'd seen Georgie do to Lord Wyatt. It was unfair that Miss Stranje should foist this situation on me. I lifted one eyebrow, intentionally trying to appear severe. "I'm surprised at you Miss Stranje. What kind of girl's school are you running where the gentlemen are allowed to run tame among your students?" "Wicke d child." She laughed and turned the handle, leaving me standing there with the door swinging open in full view of the hoard of people out in our garden. It might have been an y other private garden party, except all the sawing and hammering and pounding o f metal somewhat spoiled the effect. Ravencross looked up at me and my foolish knees melted. I told myself I would simply speak with him to make certain he was healing properly. That's all. Except someone needed to convince him to hire more men. I could d o that. I ought to find out if farmer Jason's son was able to stay alert through the night. Oh yes, these were dandy excuses. Perfect reasons to stand next to him and watch his mouth move as he answered. First rate lies every one of them. Truth was I want ed to be near him.

PAGE 259

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 259 What harm would there be in just being near him? So long as I remembered, it was only in passing. A fleeting moment of pleasure. Why not eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If only there wasn't the die part. My heart dropped. It felt as if the darn thing tumbled down the steep stairs of Stranje House, and sank past Daneska's cell, past hope, into a dark bottomless dungeon. He stared at me and his face was glorious to behold. I had no idea no, that's not true I'd always though t he would be that beautiful when he smiled, really smiled Except it was more than that. He looked like his namesake, a glorious heavenly being who had no business loving the likes of me. I've always said I don't cry. And I don't. Heavens above, I'd just tried my hardest when the Chadwick s were here, and couldn't produce a tear to save my life. So, this wasn't crying. It's possible a droplet of water leaked out of the corner of one stupid eye, because I felt the salty wetness burning a trail down the side of my cheek and dashed it away. The breeze lifted his dark locks as he walked toward me. All I could do was watch, envious that the wind could run her fingers through his hair and I couldn't. He had the good grace not to bow. Instead, he tilted his head and watched me descend the garden stairs. I tripped on the third step. Tripped. Me who could dance better than anyone else here, could run without falling across sheep pastures riddled with obstacles, and perform Madame Cho's defensive movements flawless ly. I stumbled. He reached for me, clasped my hand to keep me safe and suddenly I felt grateful for

PAGE 260

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 260 my graceless moment. I held his hand until I reached the last stair. "Will you walk with me?" he asked. Would I walk with him? Tongue tied and stupidly shy for no reason at all, I nodded. Except I didn't want to walk here, in the park, not where they would all be watching us. And especially not if Lady Daneska had found a way to peek through her dungeon portal and spy on the goings on in the yard. He mus t have noticed my reluctance, because he offered an alternative. "The day is warm. We mig ht take the path along cliffs."

PAGE 261

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 261 Chapter 2 1 Symbols I liked walking with him. I liked the even rhythm of our steps as we crossed the gravel drive, and the easy way we navigated rangy mounds of green thistles and clumps of sea grasses waving gently along the cliffs overlooking the sea. The tide was in, splashing hard against the rocks below, sending cool spray up every third or fourth wave. Yes, I liked walking wi th Ravencross. Except he wasn't Ravencross. "What was your name before you became Lord of Ravencross?" "Helmsford." He scooped up a handful of small stones and threw one of them, side armed, out into the ocean. "Simple, uncomplicated, Gabriel Helmsford. A nd I'd give a considerable sum to go back to it." I bit my tongue holding back the secret that wanted to come rushing out. I steered the subject to a less volatile topic. "I suppose you know that Lord Wyatt and Captain Grey captured Lady Daneska. We're hol ding her at Stranje House." "So I heard." He sent another stone soaring out over the water. "Why wouldn't you see me yesterday?" "I was working." I said defensively. "Trying to figure out where Daneska had set up her lair. Trying to keep you safe."

PAGE 262

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 262 He tu rned to me, gripping the last of his stones in his fist. "When are you going to stop this absurd quest to protect me?" "When I'm convinced you're out of danger." "It's a dangerous world. None of us are ever safe." He threw the last stone, sent it sailing s o far out, that neither of us would be able to see it fall into the sea. "It's foolishness, Tess. Tilting at windmills. As far as I'm concerned there are worse things than death." "Not to me." "Anyway, they caught Lady Daneska, so you wasted your time." He stepped in front of me, bringing me to a halt. "Time you might better have spent with me." A decision I'd regretted, but I had my reasons. Perfectly sound reasons. "I told you "I know what you said You can't marry me because there's only death ahead of you." He leaned over me, frowning. "That makes every minute we have even more valuable, wouldn't you say?" Even though his nearness warmed me to my toes, I backed up. Afraid I'd selfishly forget how loving me would destroy him. "You don't understand." "No I don't." He pressed forward. "Enlighten me." The ocean lapped in and out, crashing against my frantic thoughts. I didn't want to tell him about the madness that awaited me. I couldn't bear to think of him pitying me. The thought of him viewing me as a b roken creature to be locked in an attic, sickened me. But he deserved at least some of the truth. "My mother died." It sounded vague and flat, but it felt raw and naked. I gathered the fabric of my neckline, clutching it, looking up at him, uncertain. H is

PAGE 263

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 263 brown eyes held a tenderness that warmed me like morning cocoa. His hair hung loose by his cheek. So near. Mere inches from my hand. I could almost reach up and "Tell me about her," he said. My lips parted in surprise. No one had ever asked that of me. People had asked how she died, and about her dreams. Sad details. No one had ever asked me about her A thousand scattered memories of her rushed to mind good, happy, wondrous moments. My mother was more than her madness. Salt stung my eyes. Yes, that wa s it, not tears, it was the salt air. I blinked the stinging away. "She... she was kind and gentle. Loving. Not like me. I'm more like my father. Mama was small and delicate. She reminded me of a wood sprite." I caught my lip and looked away, at the grass blowing along the cliffs, embarrassed at having exposed such a childish thought. "Mamma loved the forestand animals. Especially animals. I remember her teaching me to recognize the high pitched cry of a baby hedgehog, and showing me where the foxes hid t heir kits. She understood the language of trees and grasses. Songs she called them. All creatures, even the insects and butterflies sang songs. She taught me to recognize the songs of the woods, and so I did. The tune the wind plays through the leaves when a storm is coming. The ripple of the brook drumming on stones, and how she roars just before a flash flood." I felt a flush of excitement as I told him these things, things I kept buried for years. "She used to tell me how the vales and forests were our t rue home." I stopped talking. My chest began to squeeze too hard. I swallowed and bit down on my lip. I miss her.

PAGE 264

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 264 A tendril of hair blew across my eyes, and he tucked it behind my ear. "What about your father?" I fought the urge to lean my cheek into his hand. "They'd known each other since they were children. When he died, I thought her heart would remain broken forever. Maybe it did. Her dreams got worse after that. Except it's hard to know, Napoleon's conquests grew worse then, too. During the Peninsula r wars, she would wake up sweating and gasping for air." I had to tell him the rest of it then, the ugly part. "The dreams drove her mad. She ran crying into the woods and fell to her death in a ravine." A blast of sea spray sent the two of us dashing aw ay from the edge of the cliffs. "You may as well know the whole thing. Dreams killed my grandmother, too. T hey t errified her so much, that o ne night her heart stopped. I can still hear her screaming. That's why I can't" I pressed my face into my hands. Gabriel, this curse... I couldn't burden you with it. I won't." He gently pulled my hands down and forced me to look at him. "You are like your mother. You have her passion for nature and living things." He ran his fingers down the side of my face. "Tess, there's a warmth about you. It's as if you radiate love. It's almost unexplainable. Whenever I'm with you my pain lessens." "In your shoulder?" He shook his head. "Not just there." He laid a fist over his heart. "Don't you see, your curse is loving too muc h. You try to hide it. You cloak it beneath a flimsy veil of anger. But the truth is y ou care so deeply it puts the rest of us to shame." I pulled from the comfort of his hand, and looked away, feeling even more naked

PAGE 265

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 265 than before. My thoughts fluttered in a hundred confusing directions. He caught my shoulder, not allowing me to escape. "I've seen it time and time again. Like the day you risked stealing my horse to help Georgie. And in London, the way you fought Daneska's men to protect her. You would've wil lingly died to save her. I saw it then, and even that time you dared me the day we kissed. Do you remember?" I did. I would remember that day until my last breath. "I knew what you were doing. Some people might've thought you were brazen. I knew better. Yo u were so brave, the way you tried to break through to me. I saw even then, how deeply you cared. Although why you chose to care about me, I cannot fathom." He let go of my hand. "There are far worse curses, Tess. We all live under one kind or another." He raked a hand through his hair and turned to stare at the churning sea. "My father Dear God, if you'd known him you'd understand. Just being his son was a curse. Your mother cared too much. Whereas my father beat us for being too soft. Nothing we did was ever good enough. Sometimes he thrashed us just to ensure we would harden up." He glanced back at me, shame distorting his features. "We were to be lords, you see. Rulers And rulers must be feared if they're to maintain order. They must be r elentless in administering justice. Poachers must be hanged. Rents must be paid on time, regardless of the harvest. Never let the tenants think you're soft or they'll take advantage." I saw then, in his haunted eyes, the lost forlorn boy. "My brother Lucien, suff ered even more than I. He was the heir. Father never let

PAGE 266

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 266 him forget it. He insisted Lucien must be forged of iron if he intended to take his place as Lord of Ravencross. God how I hated that title. It stood for cruelty." I w ished desperately I could take his agony away. But how could I save him from these things that had already happened. He was Gabriel, my beautiful scarred Gabriel, in spite of or maybe because of all those wretched things that had happened to him. He pointed at Ravencross manor. "Those m en..." He bowed his head. "Tess, do you know why those men have come to stand guard?" I shook my head, waiting for him to tell me the answer. "It's not because of the coin I offered to pay. No, my tenants heard rumors that I was in danger and they are sen ding their old men and young boys, anyone they can spare from the fields, to protect me I've had to send dozens of them away with my thanks and a loaf of bread for their trouble. But do you know why they come? It's b ecause I am not my father. They are ter rified that whoever inherits the estate after me will be as unyielding as my brother was, or my father, and his father was before him." Gabriel's shoulders sagged, his head bowed in shame. "All my life I tried to please him. A tyrant." He looked up then, r age sparking like flint in his brown eyes. "My brother and I learned to bear his whippings without flinching, and yet, Father still thought I was too weak. It's not good enoug h to have muscle on the outside," he would say. One must have steel on the insi de. The army was his idea. He thought b attle would toughen me up bought a commission for me and sent me packing." A sad, caustic laugh jarred Gabriel's shoulders. "Battle was a reprieve as far as I was could see. Until..." The familiar remorse twisted hi s features, and I knew he was thinking of that day with his brother.

PAGE 267

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 267 I felt sorry for Lucien, too, knowing that the monster he'd become was not entirely of his own making. I ached to tell Gabriel the truth, knowing it might ease some of his pain, but know ing it would only generate new anguish. There must be right words somewhere in the world to comfort him. But I couldn't find them. Even the old language deserted me. Empty, I had nothing to give but myself. So, I wrapped my arms around him and pressed my cheek against his chest. His heart pounded and crashed as violently as the surf. When he finally surrendered and rested his arms around me, I felt him ease. Warmth washed through me. And peace He held me and I felt his lips kiss my hair. He asked, "Do y ou understand now?" I nodded. Wishing this small miraculous moment of peace would last longer. I had so few. But it couldn't. It mustn't. "I understand," I whispered, sadly letting go. "Even so, I could never let you suffer through my madness. You don't k now what it's like." He held me away from him, gripping my shoulders, and frowned. "You would rather make me suffer without you?" Peace evaporated like the ocean spray and left me dry lonely and hurting. I lowered my eyes, unable to answer his question, and so I dodged it with a query of my own. "About those extra men your farmers wanted to send..." I laid out our plan to trick Lady Daneska, and he agreed to begin drilling a small troop on the grounds at Ravencross. We stopped and stared out at the sea It was fair and calm, today, no ominous swells rising from her balmy blue depths. The breeze was light and gently blew through our hair. I could've stood there relishing that moment for a great long while except for a bee that buzzed annoyingly close to my head. Bees and wasps hav e never bothered me in the past. I've never been stung. Indeed

PAGE 268

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 268 they've been known to crawl on my hand and leave me as unscathed as a rose petal. That's why it surprised me to have one flit so menacingly close. A large bee, too. La rger than most. L ight glinted off it's wings, and the bee shimmered gold. I stared open mouthed I t was a n entirely golden bee, both wings and body. Then there was not one bee, but three, then five and all of them angrily darting to and fro about my head. I waved my arms trying to shoo them away. Gabriel frowned. "What is it? What's wrong." "The bees," I said, swatting to defend myself as one of them buzzed toward my mouth Five bees turned to a dozen and then a swarm. I ran, calling to Gabriel th at we mu st run for shelter. I worried when I heard no answer and didn't see him running along side me. T hrough the swarm of golden bees encircling me I saw Gabriel still back on the cliffs. He was kneeling over me holding my unconscious body. Calling my name. Tr ying to rouse me. "I hate these dreams ," I said and ceased running. Why should I try to escape the inescapable? I allowed the golden bees to batter and sting me They swarmed over me, crawling into my nose and up my skirts, a great stinging suffocating bl anket.

PAGE 269

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 269 Chapter 2 2 Day Dreams I awoke to find Gabriel holding me, his fingers stroking my cheek. Relief washed the distress from his features. He hugged me close and sighed. "You're back." Not dead? At least, not dead yet. I grimaced. My s kin burned from where the golden bees had stung me over and over again. I rubb ed my arm, but did not feel the welts I'd expected. I inhaled fresh air, and let go of the scorching heat that had filled my lungs. As I did, the searing pain began to fade. Rene wed worry furrowed his brow. "What's wrong?" he begged. "Tell me." This was the very thing I meant to spare him. Waking dreams. Mad visions. I couldn't talk about it, not yet. Wisps of sunlight shown like a halo around his dark curls. I looked away, unabl e to bear his anxious expression and saw Miss Stranje and Captain Grey running toward us. Emma must've been using her spyglass again. Breathless, they reached us and Gabriel answered their questioning gazes. "I don't know what's wrong. We were talking and all of a sudden she collapsed. I think she's in pain."

PAGE 270

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 270 Miss Stranje knelt beside me and brushed my hair away from my forehead. "What was it, Tess? What did you see?" Nothing. Pure lunacy Bees. Not even real bees. They were made of gold. A swarm of them attacking me for no reason." What would she make of that? Gabriel tightened his grip on me. "She's not well." Captain Grey placed his hand on Miss Stranje's arm. Exchanging of grim glances they came to some sort of silent conclusion. Captain Grey took charge. "We will discuss this later, Miss Aubreyson. For now, I think it would be best to take you back to the house so you can rest. Do you think you can walk?" "I'll carry her," Gabriel started to lift me. "And rip your stitches? No, thank you." I felt stronger with every passing minute. "I can manage on my own." I struggled to sit up, but Gabriel, glower ed stubbornly h olding me in place with his good arm. "Oh, for pity's sake. I'm much better. Truly ." I smiled to reassure him. He didn't believe me. Kindly stop frowning at me and help me up. Please ?" Grumbling, he released his vice like hold on me. He and Captain Grey helped me to my feet, and with my arms draped over their shoulders, as if I was a cripple instead of a madwoman, we made our way back to Stranje House. They set me down on the divan in the blue parlor. Gabriel immediately began to pace, his limp more pronounced than normal. "Tell me what happened out there. One minute you were swatting at something in the air and the

PAGE 271

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 271 next" He shook his head. "You fainted." Miss Stranje sat on the chair nearest me. "We're all still learning how her dreams take hold." That's what that was?" Gabriel stopped and raked his fingers into his hair. "A dream?" "I warned you." I closed my eyes, hiding, feeling u tterly exposed, and humiliated. "You didn't know what the madness was like. Now that you've had a taste of it, perhaps you will finally understand why I can't I couldn't say the rest of it, not with Miss Stranje and the Captain leaning on every word. "Wh y we don't have a future." "I already explained how I feel." Gabriel blurted. "Why won't you listen to me?" "Because I have lived it with my mother and my grandmother You haven't" "I'll not having you thinking that way, Tess." Miss Stranje sounded irritat ed. "These are dreams. Not madness." "It's only a small leap from one to the other." I fiddled with a loose thread on the fabric of the divan. And then a short hop to death. "No." Miss Stranje leaned in wearing her sternest teacher face. "Dreams and vis ions are merely that, dreams and visions. Madness lies only in how one reacts to them." I massaged my forehead, which throbbed as if there were still bees banging around inside of it. "I don't expect you to understand. How could you?" "It doesn't matter." Gabriel stopped pacing and crossed his arms. Madness. Dreams. Visions. Whatever they are, w hether they are a gift or a curse, I don't care. They make no difference to me." So, these were his words of love? A cloaked pledge of his undying

PAGE 272

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 272 affection, deliv ered with all the gentleness and affection of a great scowling brown bear. "Well, it should matter," I snapped. "Attacked by golden bees. That's madness pure and simple." Captain Grey clapped Gabriel on the shoulder. He meant it as a comforting man to man I know how difficult women can be gesture, except it startled Gabriel. Surprise whipped across his features. I wondered if such claps on the shoulder had meant something entirely different when his father had delivered them. The captain noticed it, too, and removed his hand. He went to stand next to Emma's chair and addressed me in soldier like tones. "Perhaps not, Miss Aubreyson. Napoleon's royal crest bears a liberal application of golden bees. Even the flag he commissioned during his exile on Elba disp layed golden bees across every field. They are considered a symbol of resurrection and immortality. So you can see why they are of particular significance to him." I glanced with uncertainty at Gabriel. "Very well. But what were they doing attacking me." That I'm afraid is a bit of a mystery. But I think it is safe to guess that it is linked to Napoleon somehow." I turned my head and studied the silk painting hanging on the far wall, a pair of long legged storks standing beside a placid pond. Right now, I felt anything but placid. I risked a sideways glance at Miss Stranje. She scrutinized me with pursed lips. "There's something more. What aren't you telling us?" "Something Daneska said today. It's all flummery of course."

PAGE 273

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 273 "And yet it troubles you." I took a deep breath and told them everything she'd said. Almost Apparently Napoleon is quite superstitious about dreams. Daneska told him about mine. The Emperor showed her his Oraculum a prized tome he called his Book of Fate, which he uses to interpret dre am s and thus guide his decisions Dani said it appeared to be very scientific with number s, and charts, and an interpretations of dream symbols ." And? she pressed. Gabriel paced while he listened h is limp worsen ing with each turn around the divan. I sank back as far as I could against the cushions wondering if it would be better to keep it to myself Finally, I conceded to her searing scrutinization. If you must know, Napoleon told her to invite m e to his palace to, um, discuss dreams with him." Miss Stranje leaned very close, not so hawkish this time. No, this time she peer ed at me with the ferocity of an eagle honing in on a helpless rabbit. I will admit to feeling just a little bit afraid. "You mean, Napoleon asked you to come and dream for him ." When Gabriel heard what Miss Stranje said, he came to a sudden halt, and stood very still at the end of the divan. "What did you tell her?" Some perverse part of me wanted to point out the advantages. "Perhaps it would be the best place for me. Locked i n a room where I can't hurt anyone that someone being Gabriel and with Emperor Napoleon eager to interpret these maddening dreams of mine." "Don't be a fool," snapped Ravencross. "There are far worse situations in the world." I thought his glare might be hot enough to blind me.

PAGE 274

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 274 Miss Stranje sat back and crossed her arms, wearing a smug half smile "You needn't concern yourself, my lord. She told Lady Daneska no." "Of course, I did." Gabriel's shoulders relaxed. "Well, why didn't you say so?" Miss Stran je answered for me. "I should think it was to get a reaction from you, my lord. She turned to me and patted my shoulder. At least now we know what the silver bowl meant." "Still doesn't explain the confounded bees." Captain Grey rubbed at the stubble on his jaw and stared out the window. That night I couldn't face going to see Daneska in the dungeon. My encounter with the bees still had me too flustered. She was bound to sense my agitation, and knowing Lady Daneska she would needle me until I accidently gave something away, or broke her arrogant nose with my fist. Either way, I simply couldn't take the risk. For those reasons Miss Stranje assigned Jane the task of bringing our prisoner her supper, but not before I discussed with them an idea th at might assist with our current dubious plan. After much debate, we chose to implement both ideas simultaneously. The next morning, I brought Daneska her breakfast. The hunk of dry bread looked smaller than the day before, and the porridge much thicker t han it had been yesterday. "More wine, I see." She flicked her finger against a glass of dark red port. "I had wondered why Lady Jane brought such a generous portion last night. To help you sleep

PAGE 275

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 275 she said. But now, here is an equally generous portion wit h my breakfast." "Be grateful it isn't gin." I set the tray down, not caring that some of the wine splattered her. Merci ." She did a mock curtsey without getting up from her pallet. "I am most appreciative that you are using a wine, albeit an inferior on e, to induce a drunken stupor rather than gutter swill." She laughed at her own quip. "But if you suppose I will tell you where the Ghost hides you must try harder than this." She clucked her tongue and turned away from the tray in disgust. "As if one cup of wine would loosen my tongue." "I told them as much." That wasn't true, but I hoped flattery might lull her into overconfidence. The wine had been entirely my idea. I knew from experience how Dani relaxed and became far more talkative after a glass or t wo of liquor. "At least you knew better." She lifted the glass and turned it, until the slender rays of light that shone through her window caught on the ruby liquid. "There's nothing else in it?" "You're worried about poison?" I suggested. "No, silly. Lau danum. One stupor is as good as another, non ?" "It's just wine." "How disappointing." She stared into the cup. "This is because Miss Stranje, despite her elaborate discipline chamber, she does not have the stomach for torture." She took a swig of the wine "I would not have thought her so soft." "She's not soft," I shot back. "Far from it. She wouldn't have any qualms about clamping you on the rack and giving it a good turn. And I'd have helped her. No, you have Sera to thank for this. It was she who obje cted."

PAGE 276

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 276 "That one." Daneska exhaled with disgust. "Seraphina, little mouse, she was always so weak." I noticed she slurred the word always "Shut your mouth, Dani. Better yet, drink up or put some food in it. I don't have all day to watch you eat." I cross ed my arms and leaned against the door, brooding. "And anyway, you're wrong. Sera's not weak. Shy, perhaps, but she's not weak at all." Daneska nipped at her bread crust ignoring me. Irritated, I blurted, "That girl is more intelligent than you, or anyon e else I know. In fact it was Sera who convinced us that no matter what we did to you, you would simply lie and send us on wild goose chases. She was right." Oui but I was so looking forward to it." She pretended to pout. "Cursed little white mouse, I sh ould've stepped on her when I had a chance." She ripped the hunk of bread in half. "But you are wrong, Tessie, mon cher Intelligence and strength, these two have nothing to do with each other. How do you say" Daneska's speech lurched awkwardly, and despi te her affected French, I noticed her Slavic accent becoming far more dominant. "Oh yes, now I remember. These two are not bedfellows." The chains on her cuffs clinked as she raised both hands, weighing each attribute. "It is possible to have cleverness w ithout courage." The manacles clinked and she winced. I grabbed her arm and inspected it. "Blast. These irons are cutting into your wrists." She jerked out of my hold. "Why do you care? You said it yourself; my head will soon be on a spike. What are a few scrapes on the wrist compared to that?" "I don't care. I shouldn't. You've done the same to others. And much worse." I tore a strip of cloth from my underskirt and stuffed it between the rough iron edges on the

PAGE 277

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 277 inside of her wrist. "I saw Sebastian after you were done with him, and I've seen Mr. Sinclair's scars I flinched, having let his name slip out. "Ah! The young protÂŽgÂŽ of Monsieur Fulton." She brightened, all of a sudden too keen, too sharp. "So you are hiding him here. That explains all the ha mmering and sawing I hear. He is building something, a weapon perhaps?" I dropped her wrist. "It explains nothing." She twittered, a high plinking sound that plucked at my nerves. "Oh, but it does, mon ami It explains all." She leaned back against the wa ll. The wine relaxed her guard at least that much. "So, your young Ravencross, is he helping with this project, as well?" "Enough talk about my friends." I brushed my hands off trying to remove the grime of her blood and the rusting irons. "You haven't tol d me anything about your illustrious paramour. How fares the Ghost?" She smirked. "What you really want to ask is where fares the ghost." I frowned. She was not nearly drunk enough. Dani crooked her finger and leaned forward, pretending to tell me a sec ret. I knew better than to go along with her. "Come," she cajoled. "I shall tell you where he is." When I didn't fall for her gambit, she threw her hands into the air in a noisy clatter of chains and another brief grimace. "Here. There. Everywhere He is a Ghost, n'est pas ?" This was all a grand lark to her. Miss Stranje had forgotten to confiscate my knife this morning. I whipped out my dagger and lunged at Daneska. Yanking her to her feet, I growled, "This is not a joke, Dani. If the wine doesn't loos en your tongue, perhaps this will."

PAGE 278

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 278 I aimed the tip of the blade directly at her eye. She quivered in my grasp. For an instant, she looked afraid. Then fear vanished and, once again, Lady Daneska cared for nothing. "Put down your blade, Tessika. I will te ll you the truth." Even though her voice lost its malicious pitch, I didn't lower my knife. I inched it closer. "Before you cut my eyes out, look into them and see if I am telling you the truth." She didn't even blink. "I have no reason to lie, Tess. I do n't know where he is." She didn't, I could see it. "But you know where he might be." Ja a thousand different places. Enough to keep you running to and fro for the next century. But I can tell you this I know where he will be." She continued to meet my g aze steady and unflinching. "He will come for me. Soon ." I let go. She leaned against the wall a moment longer. "Whether it is to kill me, or set me free. That I cannot tell you." She slid down the wall, and sat stiff backed on her pallet. "He will not allow me to remain here. It is too dangerous for him. And for our emperor." She shrugged and put her Countess of Deceit mask back on. "It is possible I may know a few things of interest to Lord Wyatt and his persuasive friends in the British Government. On e way or another Le Fant™me the Ghost, he will never let them take me to London." "Lucien wouldn't kill you. He's your lover, your paramour for more than two years. He wouldn't." "Ah, but he would." She chuckled quietly. "The Ghost, he is a man who weig hs all things against what must be done. There is no room in his world for idle sentiment."

PAGE 279

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 279 I sheathed my knife and sank onto the pallet beside her. "If that's true, how can you love him?" Her perfect brow pinched. She turned up her nose at me as if I had the plague. "Who said anything about love?" "But..." "Ooh. I see your confusion. You thought I went away with him out of some foolish romantic notion. Love ." She spat the word. "Fah! It weakens the mind. Poor Tessie, you are so hungry for the stuff. Me, I would rather eat this gruel." And she did. She picked up the bowl and let the thick gray paste run into her mouth, like a snake swallowing a rat whole. I stood, needing to get away from her. "I don't believe you. I remember all those nights, how happy yo u were when you talked about him. How desperate you were to sneak out and rendezvous with him." She blotted her mouth on a corner of her skirt. "How else was I to convince him to make me part of" She suddenly realized what she was about to admit aloud. As if I didn't already know. "The Iron Crown," I said flatly. Bon ." She answered with a slight lift of her brow. "Then you understand. Love has nothing to do with it. I do not believe in such paltry nonsense." Love, paltry? "How sad for you," I said, a nd meant it. What a barren existence life would be without love. I'd seen love transform my mother's face, her love for my father, for our forests, for me, and in those moments graced by that paltry sentiment, she'd found freedom from the horrors of her vi sions. I'd witnessed the joy in Gabriel's face when

PAGE 280

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 280 he'd looked up at me in the garden. Nothing would ever take that shining glimpse of love away from me. Not even death. "No," she sneered. "Stop! Get that hideous look off your face. You will not pity me." She slammed her fist against the dungeon wall, and through gritted teeth roared, "Don't you dare feel sorry for me." I turned away, staring at the window, any place but at her. Because I couldn't stop pitying her. I reminded myself how cruel she was, wha t a vicious liar, a traitor, even a murderer, and yet, all I could see was how broken she was. Daneska calmed her anger, as if a cooling breeze wafted through the stifling air of her cell. She took a long swig of her wine. "My dear gullible Tessika. It is I who feels sorry for you This feeble thing you call love, reality burns it off as the sun does the morning fog." She lifted the wine glass silently toasting the walls of her cell. "Love weakens you. It impairs your judgment. And worst of all, it forces you to sacrifice things you should not sacrifice." Daneska tapped her forehead. "If you must love something, love yourself. Trust in your own wits, not a man. You and your wits, these two things can be counted on not to betray you." I sighed. "And they won't kill you in the night." Exactement ," she whispered, and grabbed what remained of her crusty bread, turning it round and round in her fingers. "They will not kill you in the night." She sat very still, still enough that I heard her shallow breaths, a nd a drip of moisture slide from a blackened crack and plunk on the floor. C'est le vie He must do what is

PAGE 281

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 28 1 necessary." "Will you fight him?" She met my gaze, sober as a hanging judge. "But of course." "Truly? You would kill him, your lover, the Grand K night of Napoleon's Iron Crown?" "I don't understand this question." She tilted her head, squinting at me, sincerely confused. "But of course, I would. What else is there? I do what I must to survive." She would. I saw Daneska differently then, like a stra nge mythical beast I didn't understand. Dangerous, treacherous, but she also looked fragile, friendless, and so utterly alone. "Then I will help you." She scoffed at me. "And how would you do that?" "I could kill the Ghost." "Impossible." She shook her head. "Besides, there is still the chance he may decide to help me escape." She looked down, studying the bread she had now torn into bits in her lap. Hesitation didn't sit comfortably on her features, the muscles and pathways for it had never fully deve loped. "He might." Might Which do you think it will be?" I asked. She masked her uncertainty with sangfroid, and weighed the two invisible answers in each hand, chains clanging as the scales tipped one way and then the other. "It is too difficult to gues s. I would not place a wager on either one." I planted my hands on my hips and smirked. "I know you better than that. More than

PAGE 282

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 282 likely you would place bets on both." "So I would," she laughed, not her high, fake, ear shattering titter. She laughed honestly and the sound nearly broke my heart. Time to leave I picked up the tray. "Decide, Dani. Which shall it be? Do you want me to help you kill him? Or are you going to take a chance that he will help you escape?"

PAGE 283

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 283 Chapter 2 3 Trespassers Jane and Miss Stranje waited for me around the corner from the discipline chamber. I handed Jane the tray, and confessed to Miss Stranje, "You were right. About the two sides of the same card, I mean. I don't hate her anymore." I didn't. I felt sorry for her. "I'm sor ry." Miss Stranje sighed, and then she did something she rarely does. She hugged me I pulled away in surprise. "I don't understand. I've forgiven Dani. I thought that's what you wanted me to do. Why are you sorry that I still care about my friend?" "I'm n ot sad about that, Tess. I'm sorry that the love you have for your friend still causes you so much pain. And that it will most assuredly continue to do so." True, Daneska could hurt me, now. Now that I cared about her again, I was vulnerable. But then I re alized whatever bad thing Daneska might do in the future, would've hurt whether I forgave her or not. And I could certainly count on her to do something bad. We walked up the stairs without speaking, until Jane asked, "Did Lady Daneska say anything of use ?"

PAGE 284

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 284 "Yes, she swears the Ghost will come for her. Here ." I pressed my hand against the wall to steady myself, suddenly unnerved as I remember the dream of Lucien in these very passages. It made my chest burn to think how vulnerable Stranje House was. If Da neska was right, he might show up any day. Any moment. "She's convinced he won't allow her to be taken to London for questioning," I explained. "I believe her. She also said, it is just as likely that he'll kill her as rescue her." "Good heavens." Jane rub bed a chill from her arm as if the shadow of the Ghost was already upon us. "And this is the man she ruined herself for." Miss Stranje continued up the stairs, slower than before, as if contemplating one fact on each step. "Daneska has a point. The Ghost will need to solve the problem one way or the other. Regrettably, killing her may prove more expedient than rescuing her." "We can't let that happen," Jane blurted. "Not here. I mean, I don't like Daneska any more than you do, but we can't let him murder h er under our very noses." "We won't." I didn't tell Jane that if it came down to it I would help Dani kill Lucien. "How? Stranje House isn't fortified well enough." Jane squeezed forward pressing up beside me on the narrow stairs. "Yes, we've put latches on the secret entrances but there are any number of windows. And as Tess can attest they are often the easiest access points. We can hardly post a guard at every window. "Calm down, Jane." Miss Stranje opened the door out into the gallery. "We will arran ge her escape before he comes. We should be able to manage that before much longer. Did you let it slip that Mr. Sinclair is here?" "Yes. And she tumbled straight way to the idea that he's helping us build a weapon of

PAGE 285

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 285 some kind." "Wait." Jane grabbed my a rm. "If she knows he's here, doesn't that put him in danger? The Ghost will want him out of the way, too, or recaptured." Miss Stranje answered for me. "It's a risk we have to take. It was the perfect opportunity to plant a clue that we are preparing defen ses against Napoleon." Jane rushed out in front of us, set the tray on a side table and stopped us with her arms out wide. "But don't you see, if the Ghost could slip in here to murder Daneska he could do the same to Alexander, I mean, to Mr. Sinclair." Unaffected, Miss Stranje passed around her and kept walking. That's highly unlikely, Lady Jane. He has protection. He's almost always accompanied by one or the other of you." "I don't know what good that is." She followed after her. "Tess is the only one of us with enough skills to do anything to save him if something should happen." "And whose fault is that?" Miss Stranje scolded. "I suggest you pay more attention in defensive arts class in the future." "Tess, wait." She turned to me. "You have to protect him from the Ghost. Anything could happen. And then then he wouldn't be able to finish his warship. We've got to keep him alive. Don't you see, he has ideas for other things, too. Steam powered plows. All kinds of marvels. Think what a loss it would be t o England the world." She grabbed my sleeve. "You have to keep him safe." "I thought you didn't like him." "I don't. It's progress I'm thinking of you know, the general well being of mankind." Ooh, yes, I see. In that case, since you love mankind so dear ly, you play nursemaid

PAGE 286

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 286 to Mr. Sinclair. I 'v e other things to do." That evening at dinner, Mr. Sinclair announced that his miniature warship was ready for a test voyage T o see how the pontoons perform and if she's sea worthy." Or if she sinks like a stone?" Jane asked innocently. "She won't. But if she did, let's hope it's not too far from shore, for I'll need a crew aboard, to shovel coal and tend the furnace while I steer." He looked directly at her. "I?" Jane's hand fluttered to her breast. "Sh ovel coal ? I think not." "I'll do it I'll be glad to be aboard. Lord Wyatt saluted as if Sinclair were the ship's captain, which I suppose he ought to be by rights. "I'm coming, too." Georgie grinned. "I'm not so certain that's wise." Lord Wyatt looked g enuinely concerned. "I remember your last excursion in these waters." Oh but Tess has been showing me how to swim Not that I'll need to, but I'm fully prepared to swim Although, I'm certain it won't b e necessary I worked on those pontoons myself, and t he mechanism that turns the paddlewheel is pure genius." I interrupted before she could wax poetic about flywheels and crankshafts Not fully prepared. Showing you how to swim, is a far cry from actually practicing in the water. There is a great deal of d ifference." "Perhaps, we might Sera tried to squeeze a word in but her soft voice was easily overlooked. Maya tinked her finger against her glass goblet ever so slightly, and for some reason the sound caught our attention I think we should listen to Se ra 's idea."

PAGE 287

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 287 Sera blushed when everyone hushed and turned to look at her. "I, uh, thought you might bring a something aboard that floats so that in case of an emergency those of you who don't know how to swim might cling to it. She swallowed, because they all continued to stare. Just in case." Excellent idea ." Miss Stranje raised her glass to Sera. Georgie rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Something like a pig's bladder filled with air. Only that wouldn't be large enough to keep a whole person afloat. Perh aps several pigs' bladders, strung together "Egad, Georgie. You're getting as bad as he is." Lady Jane shot a scolding look at Mr. Sinclair. "You 'r e making me quite nauseous with all this talk of pig entrails ." Captain Grey cleared his throat. "I've hea rd stories of sailors surviving shipwreck s owing to a barrel that floated by. Any sort of buoyant wood ought to serve." "I'm sure I have some waterproof kegs in the cellar. Would that do?" Miss Stranje queried. Cook will object but I'm sure we can borrow two or three of her pickling barrels with the promise of returning them to her the next day or two." Pickling barrels will work splendidly That's settled then." Mr. Sinclair rubbed his hands together eagerly. Although it s hould be entirely unnecessary as we won't be that far from shore in the first place. Well, I like the idea of a contingency plan, since I'll need to come along to navigate. Mr. Sinclair straightened and turned in surprise to Lady Jane. "You will? I had thought Captain Grey would m ost likely handle that chore." Naturally, I must defer to Captain Grey's expertise ." She sniffed. But I did work rather hard on the building of this monstrosity. I should like to be aboard her maiden

PAGE 288

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 288 voyage in some capacity ." "I see." He laid two finge rs over his lips suppressing a grin "What do you think Captain? Might you require someone to assist you with the telescope? Captain Grey nodded gravely "I believe there will be plenty of room for an assistant Mr. Sinclair." There you are Lady Jane. You will be our chief telescope holder." Mr. Sinclair pronounced this as if she'd just been given the post of the Queen's lady in waiting. Jane cast her gaze to the ceiling. Mr. Sinclair skimmed on with the rest of his plan. While we are out in the water I would very much like to test Miss Barrington's ballista. I've just about got the cranks ready to be installed. Miss Fitzwilliam's modification to my torpedo have me frothing at the bit to see if it works. The resourcefulness all of you demonstrate still h as me in awe. I would never have thought of using a grenade filled with Greek fire in combination with Congreve's compression switch. Georgie beamed with pride at his proclamation. Mr. Sinclair rubbed his palms together excitedly. So during the HMS Mary Isabella's maiden voyage I believe we are ready to make those test shots we discussed a few days ago, the ones involving fireworks and cake. His eyebrows lifted as if cake were the most exciting part. Miss Stranje's shoulders slumped ever so slightly and she shared an apprehensive exchange with Captain Grey. "Oh, yes, of course, the test shot." Mary Isabella? Jane sat up, her spine suddenly rigid, and she was so piqued she nearly came out of her chair altogether "You named OUR boat after your sweethe art

PAGE 289

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 289 back in the colonies?" "Ship, Lady Jane. S he's a s hip, not a boat. I will admit s he's small, and naught but a prototype to be sure. But she's a pint sized warship sure as anything, and a fine one at that. As to the name, my lady ." He blushed and r an a finger around his collar. "Well, I would've named her after my Uncle Robert, but I didn't think it fitting, she i sn't quite grand enough to carry his name. So I named her in honor of my mother Mary and my grandmother Isabella. Two fine, s trong wome n B oth of them, feisty and with more endurance and fight in them than ten men." "Ooh." Jane sank back against her chair. "I see." She remained fairly quiet throughout the rest of dinner. There was a lengthy debate about whether it would be best to exper iment with the explosives during the day or the night. Captain Grey pointed out that at night most of our neighbors would be fast asleep and far less alert to any noises or bombs bursting in the sky. Lord Wyatt and Mr. Sinclair insisted that it would be im possible to site their test targets properly in the dark. At length we decided to set lamps afloat on floating wood and that would allow the more explosive portion of Mr. Sinclair's birthday celebration to take place in the early evening, before it became pitch black. A fterwards we would hold a late supper on the bluffs That way, the fireworks display would occur while most of the inhabitants of Fairstone Meade had settled inside for their evening meals. Normally, after dinner, Lady Jane would've taken he rself off to the library to read until bedtime, or to work on the estate account books, or draw out her crop rotation plans B ut tonight she traipsed after me to the ballroom and asked if I would help her

PAGE 290

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 290 practice learn ing how to actually throw someone ove r her shoulder, rather than just bragging about it. Jane doesn't admit to anything so humbling as having bragged, nor does she ask for help very often, so I couldn't very well say no. Madame Cho joined us on the mats, assisting Jane with the correct moves After several tries, Jane managed to heave me over onto the mat, but then she immediately leaned over me to make sure I was all right. "Jane," I grumped at her. "You're supposed to lift your foot above my neck and prepare to stomp my throat if I move." She dropped to her knees on the mat beside me. "I'm not sure I could do that." "Then you'll be dead," I said, flatly. "And whoever you're trying to protect will be dead." Madame Cho thumped her bamboo staff on the floor and barked, "Again." After four mo re attempts, Jane's shoulders sagged and she plopped down in the center of the mat. "This is hopeless. Let's try something else." She brightened. "We could work my knife throwing." I exhaled loudly and sat beside her. "I watched two days ago, when nine tim es out of ten, you missed the target altogether. That target i s twice as broad as a man. If you can't even strike the straw, Jane, you won't be able to hit an attacker. Not without a great deal of practice." "What about swords?" I almost laughed, it was ha rd not to, so I simply shook my head. She threw up her hands. "Then what am I to do?" Madame Cho and I exchanged worried glances. I crossed my arms and stared at the

PAGE 291

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 291 wall of knives. "What about close combat with a dagger?" Madame Cho nodded. Excited that we might have found a protection that would work for her, I tried to explain the thinking behind it, "It's all about trickery. Like this" Madam Cho and I demonstrated. "You must make your attacker think you plan to move this direction, but at the last min ute you spin to the side and thrust. Do you see? Surprise is our greatest defense." Lady Jane nodded eagerly. "Except, that seems rather more like an offense than a defense." I ignored her argument not wishing to get pulled into a debate about definitions "For instance, you could pretend to be helpless, and when the attacker gets close enough you could pull a blade out of your pocket, like so." She clapped. "I like that idea. I could do that. Teach me more. Tomorrow I'll cut holes into the pockets of my day gowns, and I'll wear a knife strapped to my waist. I can reach in and voila! She aimed an invisible dagger at me. I laughed. It was difficult to picture Lady Jane as dangerous, most of the time she reminded me of a prim and proper governess with a b iting sense of humor. But I have to admit, she took to close combat like a baby duck to water. By the end of the night, she successfully mastered three close combat moves. She bent to catch her breath and I clapped her on the shoulder. "You're a natural." "Won't Mr. Sinclair be surprised." She planted her hands on her hips and glistened with hard earned pride. "Poor fellow." I rubbed my side where she'd jabbed me with a wooden knife. "You're

PAGE 292

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 292 not planning to use these moves on him, are you?" "No silly. W hen I save his life."

PAGE 293

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 293 Chapter 24 Fairly Tricky The next morning I ran in the early dawn. The horizon promised a clear day, but low lying mists snaked across the grass and fields and all the world was still iron gray. I wished it would hurry up and turn light, because I couldn't shake the dream I'd had that night. No silver bowl or silks. No green water or golden bees. I dreamed of thrashing in the cold sea, struggling to keep from drowning. The water had been dark and gray like the charcoal sky was now, and I only saw split seconds of their faces, but Daneska was there, and Gabriel. Through the dark I'd seen his hair drenched in seawater and his mouth open, clamoring for air, as he came up from a wave. I awoke thrashing in my tangled sheets. S o I did what I always do. I got up and tried to outrun the terror. Spent, after having raced across the field like the very devil chased me, I slowed when I neared the edge of the sheep paddock, and came to a stop near a raspberry bush tucked in the hedger ow. In the dim light I plucked one. But I knew by the way it didn't let go of the stem that it wasn't yet ripe. None of the berries were. Like my dreams they

PAGE 294

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 294 only promised fruit but in reality there was nothing to bite into except sour inedible stones. Maybe I did need Napoleon to interpret my dreams. I shook the thought away. Napoleon's interest would n o t be in helping me. No, he would only be concerned about dreams that bespoke his future victories. I also knew that being locked in a room with a silve r bowl would drive me to madness faster than all these inscrutable nightmares with which I battled nightly. And one more thing I would not want to be that far away from Gabriel. I looked across the paddock, and there, as if I'd conjured him rode Rav encross. Zeus cantered with proud high steps as if he carried a duke or the Prince. I watched him ride as unerringly as an arrow straight toward my heart. He rode up beside me and doffed an imaginary hat. Gabriel is not inclined to wear ing hats, even thou gh he ought to do so for propriety sake and to keep his head warm, and to cover all those lovely errant curls of his. But I said nothing I had no right to scold I seldom wear a bonnet, preferring not to have my vision restricted like a dray horse weari ng blinders Not only that but I'm quite fond of the feel of the wind on my cheeks Zeus pranced prettily beside me as I walked down the pasture toward the house. "I'm surprised to see you are riding, my lord. Are you sure that is a good idea Your stitc hes cannot be healed." It all comes down to a matter of choices Miss Aubreyson He sounded so very formal. Surely you have noticed the tents encamped on my lawn ?" I wasn't sure what one thing had to do with the other, but I played along. I did. I

PAGE 295

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 295 tak e it some members of the Militia have arrived. Yes. They began arriving yesterday with letters from the Lord Lieutenant saying that I was to give them succor and see to their training There are men bivouacked inside the house as well. Mrs. Evans is boun ding about the halls like a great flapping goose, opening rooms and trying to prepare enough food. It would appear the manor is being turned into a makeshift fort. Hence, you can see the necessity of my riding out. "To escape all the commotion ? No, G abriel look ed down at me quizzically and Zeus sidestepped "Of course not. I wouldn't have argued with the doctor so bitterly if that were the reason." "Why then?" I fancied he might say it was because he missed me, or because he longed to see me, or that he yearned for these few stolen moments we had together. Instead he chided me as if I were a dimwitted child. "I should think it is perfectly obvious. There are at least a dozen men encamped on my lawn. You should not be out here alone and unchaperoned. I may have sputtered. I know some sort of unladylike noise blew through my lips. "Don't be ridiculous, my lord. I can take care of myself. You should ve listened to your physician and stayed in bed. He grumbled something I could not quite hear because Z eus danced forward. He reined in his horse and groused I detest l a ying in bed. And it is even more intolerable if I imagine you out here running by yourself at the mercy of any one of these randy jackanapes who might decide you are fair game. Hands on hip I frowned hard enough that it should've pulled him down from his high horse. Now you're just gammoning me. You know perfectly well, t here's not a man

PAGE 296

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 296 among them who could outrun me. He relented under my ferocious stare. "Very well, th ere may be so mething to that N evertheless you are a fairly fine looking female and far more vulnerable than you think. Fairly? If he'd been standing on the ground instead of sitting all pompous and arrogant atop his big horse, I would've socked him square in his so re shoulder. "Fairly?" He twitched in his seat and gave me a rascally smirk Yes, fairly Didn't I just say so?" I m overcome by your flattery my lord Silver T ongue Yes, well, I worried you might be so I kept it to a minimum. Wouldn't want to spoil you. Zeus had the audacity to whinny and toss his head at that very moment, as if he thought his master's jibe was particularly amusing Oh, no, we wouldn't want that," I sulked. And glared at Zeus too, the mangy traitor. "A nd now why don t you an d your snickering horse take yoursel ves off home. As you can see, I am unaccosted Apart from that, except for the sentries, y our troops are all sound asleep at this hour. He ignored my request that he leave. "Fortunately for you, I g a ve those sentries or ders not to shoot my fleet footed neighbor. I don't mind telling you, Tess, it is fairly ticklish trying to explain to these soldiers why there is a young lady running up and down the se fields in the wee hours of the morning." Fairly I brooded at hearin g the word again.

PAGE 297

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 297 "Yes, but it had to be done. Otherwise I worried you might end up with a bullet lodged in your lovely person ." Lovely ? I stopped walking away from him quite so fast. "Thank you for asking them to hold their fire. I hadn t thought of the fact that I might look like a shadow running between the trees He dismounted then, and fell into step beside me, both of us silent. Zeus stopped to graze on an inviting tuft of grass and as we waited Gabriel broke the uneasy silence between us "The mi litia will begin training today MacDougal was a s ergeant in my battalion and as such, he has agreed to run the men through their drill s He is in high spirits at the prospect. I hired him away when I sold my commission because I knew I could count on Mac b ut I believe he misses the army. It made sense, now, Gabriel's gruff Scottish man of all work. "He seems quite devoted to you, my lord." A good man Mac Loyal as the day is long ." He paused and I wondered if he was thinking about his brother who wa s so wretchedly unloyal. I ve instructed the men to practice on the grounds nearest Stranje House, which means they'll be marching and practicing their drills and formations as close to Lady Daneska s prison cell as is possible. Excellent ," I said and skimmed my hand over Zeus's sleek neck. "Aye, now if I could just settle Mrs. Evans He rubbed his neck. I hired two girls from the village to help her in the kitchens and yet she still carries on as if I've asked her to feed Wellington's entire army. I shall have to hire two more girls or I won't hear the

PAGE 298

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 298 end of it." "Serving girls?" I turned to him in alarm. "And village maids at that. Then it is you who needs guarding, my lord, not I." He chuckled at that, and I wasn't sure in that light but I though t he might ha ve turned a bit pink No, Tess. You're the only lass with enough courage to look at me squarely. The two girls she hired cower like mice against the wall if I so much as walk down a hall. With these scars and this confounded limp he s watt ed at his thigh most women find me as frightening as one of those beasts in the Grimm brothers' tales. F righteningly beautiful My beast. J ust as well ," I muttered. "See that they don't find out exactly how beautiful you are, be cause if one of those chee ky girls dare s flirt with you I will march straight over and throttle her." I quite liked it when Gabriel smiled. It was a glorious thing not unlike the sun dawning. Which it did just then, in brilliant pink and orange streaks that chased away the gray. I must be going in now." "I'm serious about being circumspect while the troops are here." He tucked my hair behind my ear, letting his fingers graze my cheeks a few moments longer than needed. Promise y ou ll guard yourself around them, s o that I needn't w orry? I wanted to tease him but he looked so very earnest that I couldn t bring myself to do it. I couldn't, not with his fingers barely touching my cheek, just enough to completely muddle my senses, and melt my wits down to the wick. All I could do was

PAGE 299

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 299 nod. After breakfast that morning Stranje house was as noisy and busy as the troops drilling next door at Ravencross manor. Fortunately Lord Ravencross lent us four of his strongest men to help carry the bits and pieces of Mr. Sinclair's warship down to beach where the remainder of the construction would take place. Our shoreline is particularly rocky, especially near the caves, so we had to traverse some distance to a sandy outcropping beyond the rocks. The hike up and down the cliffs was too n arrow to carry anything bulkier than one of Lord Ravencross's skiffs which had been made over into pontoons. They would've been bulky enough if they'd still been skiffs with open hulls. But the mouths of each of these long boats had been tacked over with o il cloth and covered with pitch. Each boat had become a gigantic drum. It took two men, Captain Gray and Lord Wyatt, walking in careful alignment to carry down each pontoon. Gabriel's men carried down the boiler and the furnace in two pieces. Sinclair and Georgie planned to connect them later. There were several stacks of lumber which were to be used to build a platform across the pontoons, crankshafts, gears, and flywheels. The entire mess had to be hauled down narrow winding paths. Georgie, Lord Wyatt, the captain, and Mr. Sinclair started right away on construction while Lady Jane and Sera took careful notes. I carried down the last of their copper piping and one of the pickling barrels we'd pilfered from our cook, Magda, to use as floats in case the sh ip sank. Georgie was ecstatic that our miniature warship so closely resembled Robert Fulton's

PAGE 300

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 300 pontoon warship, the Demologos. "Except our steam engine won't fit below deck as it will on his, but ours will fit quite tidily suspended between the pontoons whe re the paddle wheel can turn un impeded. "And we have no cannons," observed Jane dryly. Georgie did not like anyone criticizing their creation, not even Jane. "Naturally, our prototype is too small to bear the weight of a cannon. But we have our ballista. "Hardly comparable to the thirty two guns Fulton's ship will hold ." Lord Wyatt teased. Mr. Sinclair sprang to Georgie's defense. Last I heard The Demologos won't bear up under the weight of those two 100 pounders. Had to leave em off." He twirled a scr ew driver pensively gazing off in the distance. "Still with thirty guns she be a beauty." "I like ours," muttered Georgie tightening a fitting. Unbeknownst to Georgie, Lord Wyatt smiled fondly at the back of her head. "Aye, she's a beauty all right ." I to ok my leave, as it was well past time to bring Lady Daneska her breakfast. Cook filled Daneska's bowl of gruel while I poured the wine for her and I hurried to carry it down the stone steps to the dungeon. When I opened the door she seemed startled to s ee me and quickly pulled the blanket up to her neck. Mercurial as ever, her surprise changed to a pout. "I thought you weren't coming." "I'm late, I know. But look, I've brought you a peace offering. A dried plum. I had to slip it out of the pantry without Cook noticing Y ou know how she watches over every grain of rice ."

PAGE 301

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 301 Daneska's iron bracelets rattled when she snatched it from the tray and tore it in half with her teeth, chewing the leathery fruit, while she sneered at me "I suppose you expect me to th ank you for this one measly prune." "No. I merely felt bad for my long delay in bringing your food." "Ooh yes, you are so very concerned for my welfare." She held out her manacled wrists. "If that is true, unlock these and let me go." I said nothing, but b acked away and leaned against the wall. But no, y ou would rather let The Ghost slit my throat, n'est ce pas ? She gulped down half the wine and wiped her mouth with her sleeve. Voilˆ no more trouble from the Lady Daneska. All of you will rejoice. She l ifted her goblet in a toast. "I offered to help." She rolled her eyes at me and guzzled the rest of the wine. Tell me where he is and I will end him." You? She slammed the cup down. Fah He is not your straw mannequin that he may be so easily slain." She took the hunk of bread and shoved the tray with the bowl of gruel untouched back to me T he pewter goblet cli n k ed onto its side. "Take it and go." "As you wish." "Wait." She leaned and grabbed the edge of the tray smiling slyly up at me as if she ha d a secret she wished to share "Did you think about what I said? Did you think about Napoleon's offer? We could escape, together, you and I. I know where there is a boat. We could return to Paris Think, Tessika, you would be a national treasure, feted an d cosseted. Fine wines. Divine food not this bland English fare, and I knew what she would say next. "The richest silks..."

PAGE 302

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 302 "Yes, of course." She leaned back, realizing that somehow she'd gone too far. She didn't wait for my answer she shoved the tray again, this time with her foot sending it slopping across the floor. "The rats will like that." "Go away. I have a headache. All that shouting and thump thump thumping of soldiers' feet, that is your doing, I suppose?" she snarled. "I had nothing to do with that. T he Lord Lieutenant call ed out the militia. Not I ." B ut you tricked him into doing it, didn't you ? "You had more to do with it than I did ," I snapped. We know why you're here to prepare the way for Napoleon to attack Britain. Did you think the government wouldn't do anything about it? Of course, they called out the militia. Here, and all along the coast." I snatched up the tray and left her cell before she could tell that I was lying. The next morning I refused to speak to her. I deliver ed her tray and said nothing. "I don't hear any more hammering in the yard," she said almost cheerfully. When I didn't answer she conjectured on her own. "Perhaps they have finished work on Mr. Sinclair's project?" I crossed my arms and pressed my lips t ogether. "How very clever you all are to help him. What is it I wonder?" She ate very daintily that morning, dabbing her mouth when it needed wiped and instead of gulping everything down as if it were her last meal she dawdled "Could it be his uncle's famous underwater boat what is it they called it?" I kept mum and stared at the window, wondering just how much she had seen of

PAGE 303

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 303 Sinclair's warship Daneska took her sweet time sipping the wine and soaking little hunks of bread in it. "Or perhaps it is just a copy of one of his uncle's gunship, the one that runs on steam ." "Are you quite finished?" I snapped up the tray and jerked the cup from her hand. T he next day was wors e. I trudged down the dark stairs down into the chilly bowels of Stranje h ouse carrying Daneska her food thinking I would have to agree to go with her if, according to our plan, I was ever going to help her escape I unlocked the door and she didn't look up. She sat holding her knees staring glumly at the wall across from her. She didn't greet me, didn't say anything, no clever insults, no biting remarks, not even so much as a sneer when I set the tray down. "Are you ill?" I asked. "No." Daneska's listless response was devoid of her normally vibrant accent. Straightway she reac hed for the port and gulped down half the glass. "I am as good as dead." Don't be silly, I said E ven though she was my enemy I hated seeing her like this. "I told you, I won't let Lucien kill you. We' ve post ed a guard. One of us stands watch in the corr idor at all times." Oh yes, my guards, s he scoffed. "Ha! Ten men couldn't stop him, let alone one little girl? No, I am doomed." She slammed down the empty glass and shoved the gruel across the tray. "Take it away. I haven't the stomach for it today." At least keep the bread. You may feel hungry later."

PAGE 304

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 304 "What does it matter?" She rested her head on her knees. I will die soon. I know because I saw him last night." You can't have." Stupidly, I looked about the cell as if he might still be here. Ghost? Here? How? We saw no one coming or going. Without making an effort to move her arms, she turned her head and pointed a finger. "There, at the window." "It can't be. You must've dreamed it." She smiled as if I'd said something funny but she didn't have the strength to bother laughing. "I'm not like you, Tessika I have no dreams. Besides, did I imagine that new streak on my little peephole to the world?" "You're only saying that to trick me into believing you ." Except the window did look different. I hurri ed to the wall and hoisted myself up to have a closer look. "You put that there." "To what end?" "How should I know? Another of your schemes." I inspected the new mark, and saw right away it wasn't a smear at all. "Think what you will." She leaned her head on her knees again. "It's on the outside." With my palm, I scrubbed a wider opening which only proved that the smaller circle had indeed been cleared from the outside. Someone had cleaned off a small circle on the glass outside. Just large enough to see into her dungeon. I let go of the sill and dropped to the floor. "I told you," she said without looking at me. "Did he say anything?"

PAGE 305

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 305 At least that won a sneer out of her. "Don't be daft. How could he?" "Lovers have many ways of communicating. His eyes. A hand gesture. Something He must have given you an indication of his plans ." She just shook her head. I slapped my hand against the wall. "What do you think his intentions are?" "The same as they were yesterday." I roared with frustration. "For once, Dani I wish you would give me a straight answer." "I have no answer to give." It was just plaintive enough to be the truth. "Then at least tell me what you decided about my offer to help you? Together we might be able to kill him ." A shrug "That's it?" I w anted to shake her. She didn't look at me. She swept her hand over the woolen blanket on her pallet smoothing out the small lumps and ripples. "Very well, have it your way." I snatched up her tray and tossed the bread in her lap. "I've decided without yo u. In fact, the truth is, I decided a long time ago. You may stop your worrying. I'm going to kill Lucien." I tromped out, slamming the heavy door with a deafening clunk, and locked her in. Chains clattered as she got to her feet. "No, Tessika. Wait! You d on't understand what you're up against. You cannot do this." I wheeled around and stared at her through the bars. Watch me ." "He's clever. And strong. Almost inhumanly so. He'll kill you, Tessika. Mark my

PAGE 306

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 306 words. Don't go after him or you'll die." I igno red her and took off down the hall, charging upstairs ahead of Sera and Miss Stranje. They pattered up behind me. "What's wrong? What happened?" "The Ghost. He's been here." At Stranje House. I took the risers two at a time. "He knows she's here." And he' d violated my sanctuary I rushed into the gallery, plopped the tray on a side table, ran the length of the hall and burst out the garden door and dashed to the side of the house that held Daneska's dungeon. I wasn't sure what I meant to prove, or why I'd come out to the spot where Daneska said Lucien had trespassed. Breathing in short heaves like a furious wolf, I stared at the narrow rectangle of glass that looked in on Daneska's dungeon Sera ran up beside me. Dani said she saw him out here." I poi nted at the smeared glass and started to walk toward it. "Maybe she lied." There was a chance she lied. Daneska was the daughter of lies. And just this once, I hope d she remained true to her birthright. Please be a lie. Sera caught my arm and yanked me back. "Look." She pointed at the ground and I saw I was about to trample a footprint. "And the grass has been flattened here, where he knelt and wiped the window to see her more clearly." "Then it's true."

PAGE 307

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 307 "Yes. I'm afraid so." She scoured the ground fo r more hints. I wondered, nay I hoped, this might be only a bad dream. "I'm sorry, Tess, but this is most definitely a man's boot print." "How did he know she was here?" "It's possible he followed Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt after they captured her. Or he may have had one of his men follow them." Sera wandered to some nearby bushes and found a broken branch. She searched the ground beneath it. Following what few scattered prints she could find. "Or he may have simply guessed this is where the captain and Lo rd Wyatt would bring her." "What of Phobos and Trobos? Why didn't they raise an alarm?" She glanced sympathetically at me, "He lived across from Stranje House. He's familiar with the dogs. Not only that, he would've dealt with them in the past when he and Dani had their assignations. I'm sure he had a simple solution." Sera searched through nearby bushes and lifted out a soiled oil cloth. She sniffed it. "And here it is. He came prepared. Meat." "Those traitors!" I spun around looking for my shadow dogs. "I 'd wondered where they'd gotten off to this morning. They weren't there for my run. They've feasted on his bribery and now they're hiding from me. As well they should." Miss Stranje had caught up to us. "You mustn't be so severe on them. They're loyal, yo u know they are. If they realized we were being threatened they would protect us with their lives. But I'm afraid when it comes to fresh meat they're easily distracted." Sera found more signs that had seemed completely invisible to me until she pointed the m out. She spotted another partial boot imprint here, an overturned stone there, and

PAGE 308

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 308 another broken twig. "It is too bad we haven't had rain," she mumbled. "It would be much easier to follow his trail." We tracked him to the secluded side of the house that hid our knife throwing targets and the panel I used to slip in and out of Stranje House. She stopped and spent several minutes checking the ground around it and the edges of the small opening. At length Sera stood and turned to me, her brow puckered and her lips pursed. "Do you think it's possible that when Lady Daneska lived here, she showed the Ghost our secret passages?" "Yes." I swore silently. My fists flexed open and shut. "And for all we know, he could still be in there now." Miss Stranje's hand fl ew to her temple and she rubbed it as if in pain. "Surely he wouldn't be that bold." Sera said. Emma glanced at me, her expression grim. "Bold? Yes. I wouldn't put it past him. He would take pleasure in the audacity of hiding here in the bosom of his ene my. But he's not stupid, and this may be too risky, even for him." "One way to find out." I lunged for the panel. She grabbed my arm. "That would be suicide." "Not with this." I yanked my dagger out of the sheath. "Even with that." She gave my arm a shak e. "Think Tess. He'd hear you coming. There are too many crevices and corners for him to hide in those dark passages. And that little knife is hardly enough to protect you against the likes of him." I clamped my teeth together. That was the second time tod ay someone predicted I'd lose against him. I gritted my teeth and ground out, "But he might be in there in

PAGE 309

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 309 mymy places ." My fortress. He has invaded my refuge I wanted to howl my anger. Our places." She held my shoulders firmly. "And if he isn't in th ere, you will waste a lifetime trying to prowl all those passages alone. No, we must approach this sensibly. Methodically. Rationally." She gripped my shoulders tighter and leaned close, bearing down on me with her fierce hawk face. "Mark me, Tess. I'll no t have you dead. Do you hear? I will not." I yielded with a nod and she let go. "Have it your way." I whistled for the wolfdogs. "They'll run him down." When they didn't come, I whistled again. "Where are those two beggars?" Normally Phobos would have gal loped to me in less than a heartbeat. But that morning he came around the corner at a weak trot, much slower than usual. He stepped sideways and lurched slightly, almost stumbling. Trobos followed behind him at a dragging pace, head down, and her tail droo ping at half mast. My heart slowed almost to a stop. "No," I whispered and knelt to greet them. Their glassy eyes confirmed my suspicions. "The bastard drugged them." "Good heavens." Miss Stranje stooped beside me stroking Trobos's neck. "It's a mercy he didn't give them enough poison to kill them." "He may have thought he did." "Poor Trobos." She felt Trobos's nose for moisture and heat. "I hope her pups weren't harmed. Poor girl. She's had so many lost pregnancies." "Sera, hand me that meat cloth. Let's see if they can find him." I held the soiled wrapping up to Phobos nose. He jerked away, recognizing the scent of the meat that had made him sick. "Find him," I commanded. But Phobos sat down. I raised the bloody

PAGE 310

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 310 cloth up to Trobos nose, hoping she would u nderstand. "Hunt," I asked. Trobos tilted her head and sniffed the cloth again. "That's right. Good girl. Helfeydd Hunt. I used the old language. Her ears perked. "Find him. Darganfydd ." I pointed toward the secret panel. She put her nose to the ground scanning from right to left and followed the trail back to Daneska's cell window. She yipped and pawed the glass. Phobos joined her then, and the two of them went to work sniffing the Ghost's path through our grounds. They increased speed and followed the scent away from the house and into the park. My heart clenched when both dogs seemed particularly interested in the tall brush next to where the trees gapped between Stranje House and Ravencross manor. "There are more boot prints here." Sera pointed to th e soil next to the tall underbrush. "These impressions are fairly deep. He must've stood here for a long while." I crossed my arms and pressed them tight against my middle, knowing exactly what Lucien had done. "He hid from this vantage point and yet he ha d a clear view of the guards making their rounds at Ravencross manor." I pictured him standing here, calculating when he might best sneak in and murder his brother. "I should go and see if Gabriel is all right." "There's no need." Miss Stranje laid her han d on my forearm. "We'd have heard, if he wasn't. He'll be arriving here in an hour or so. You must learn to trust him." "It's not him I don't trust. It's his brother." "I understand. But do remember, Gabriel bested him once, he can do it again if the need arises." Maybe. "But what if he sees the Ghost and the shock of seeing his brother alive

PAGE 311

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 311 overcomes him?" "Don't underestimate him. Besides, you cannot worry every time he is out of your sight. Life is fraught with peril. The mind can conjecture any numbe r of deadly scenarios. What if he should fall down the stairs, or his horse throws him, or his ship sinks? Such speculation will do you no good." I turned away, realizing that every time Captain Grey left her, Emma didn't know if he would return or not. Sh e tugged me away from the spot where Lucien had skulked. "Come, the dogs are heading toward the road. It looks as though the Ghost left and returned to whatever hole he is hiding in." Phobos and Trobos stood at the gate barking, wanting to get out and fini sh running him down. I patted them and assured them they'd done an excellent job. "You shall have extra bones today. And plenty of water to wash the poison away. I will see to it." I scratched Trobos's favorite spot behind her ears. "The bad man is gone." But he'll be back.

PAGE 312

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 312 Chapter 2 5 Traps Miss Stranje spoke as if she read my mind. "We must carry on with our plan as if everything is normal. This may be our chance to trap him." She hurried off to tell Captain Grey what had transpired. The rest of the day we worked on preparations for that evening's celebration. Some of us labored on the warship while others helped Cook prepare for the birthday feast. Jane insisted the cake be done to Mr. Sinclair's specifications and made the frosting herself That afternoon, after I'd taken my turn at guarding the corridors outside Daneska's cell, Miss Stranje sent me to cut some roses for the table. Lord Ravencross insisted it was his duty to assist me in this onerous task We strolled out to the roses and he watched the militia running through their drills. He chuckled at one point and shook his head. "They're a motley bunch Mac is on the verge of pulling his hair out trying to get them into shape. He's determined to run them through practice formations twic e as many times as they did yesterday."

PAGE 313

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 313 I studied him as he spoke and wondered if it wouldn't be better for him to know the truth about his brother. Perhaps he could be persuaded to keep it a secret and go on as if he didn't know. Except that would be dish onest. Gabriel would never keep the title, knowing it still belonged to his brother. If he told the House of Lords the truth, he would be forced to surrender his lands and home, his tenants would be in peril of a new overseer, and Gabriel's own loyalties m ight come into question, there c ould be a trial and then his life would unravel I sighed. Trapped by the truth on both sides. He carried the basket while I cut blooms from Miss Stranje's towering rose bushes. "Smell." He lifted a perfect white blossom to my nose. "Lovely," I said, trying to look pleased. "You're being awfully quiet. Are you well?" He stroked the soft petals against my cheek. I turned away to clip another rose. I'd asked Daneska that same question this morning. As it turned out, the same shadow hung over both of us. "Quite well, my lord. Worried, that's all. So much lives or dies on today's venture being a success." "You worry too much he said flippantly. Perhaps, in this instance y ou are worry ing too little." He laid the rose in the b asket. "How can I worry when I'm happier than I've ever been?" I caught my lip, unwilling to snatch that happiness away from him even though his brother could appear at any moment and shatter his joy to pieces. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we

PAGE 314

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 314 I hated the end of that blasted couplet. Why must it always end in death? A little too viciously I cut another stem, ending another rose's life. I consoled myself that even if I hadn't cut it, the blossom would've died soon. "Tess." He stilled my hand. "W e're alone. They've all gone inside." I glance around. T he garden was e mpty. T he militia had marched across to the far side of the field. "And what does that signify?" He set down the basket of roses. "I've had this idea that I can't seem to escape. It's the darnedest thing. I keep imagining you kissing me." "I? Kiss you? Shouldn't it be the other way round?" "Last time that's how it was. I kissed you." He came closer, trapping me between him and the rose bush. I jutted my chin. "Yes, and rather roughly as I recall." "Exactly. I made a mess of it." I wouldn't say that. I was quite fond of that kiss. Heat flooded my cheeks. Unable to meet his gaze, I studied the weave of his linen shirt. "Now, it's your turn." "Oh, but I already kiss ed you, a few days ago. Don't tell me you have forgotten?" "I remember, on the cheek, after that stunning declaration. But I've been thinking about lips." "You may think about them all you want, my lord," I said shaking my head looking down. Afraid to meet his gaze. "I don't th ink it would be wise." "Wisdom is for old men." I felt his breath on my forehead warm and inviting.

PAGE 315

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 315 "But this isn't the time. Nor the place. I'm quite certain Miss Stranje is up there with her telescope at this very minute, and she'll have it trained dir ectly" He tilted my chin up, and when I met his gaze, my excuses faded. Gabriel's eyes are soul soothing brown, and his lips make me long for him in ways I should not. The sweet smell of summer roses wrapped us in a honeyed cloak of euphoria "It will be all right," h e said, his voice husky with the promise of bliss. If only that were true "But tomorrow or the next day, or maybe the next, it won't be all right," I argued, trying to break free of his spell. "Any day Napoleon may" He brushed his palm ac ross my cheek, melting the last of my defenses. "I don't know what the next day will bring, but so long as I have breath, I'll not waste another minute without you. Tess, I I didn't need to hear his professions of love. What good were words? I read the l anguage of his soul and knew what he was about to say better than he did. I leaned up and pressed my lips against his. Gabriel pulled me to his chest and covered my mouth with his. He kissed me back, gently at first, but then his kiss deepened, filled wit h the hunger of a lifetime without affection. And that same devastating force that bends mighty trees in a hurricane and sparks lightening in the storm surged through us. I have never felt so weak as I did in that moment he held my mouth captive. Nor as p owerful When he let go, my legs wobbled and I clung to his arm. "Good God," he said.

PAGE 316

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 316 At least he could speak. I could only smile. And I never smile. Very late in the afternoon we all gathered down on the shore and prepared to launch the Mary I sabella. It turned out that Jane was needed to navigate after all because it was decided that Captain Grey should row out ahead of them to place the targets for the bombs that Mr. Sinclair Maya and Georgie had designed. W e stood on shore rehearsing who was to go aboard the Mary Isabella and who was to stay ashore Lord Ravencross stood beside me drumming with excitement. This has the air of a momentous occasion. I believe I would like to ride out with them." T he dream I'd had of him drowning in dark g ray water flashed before my eyes "No!" I gulped down some of my fear and in a calmer voice advised him against it. "My lord, you must believe me, there are very good reasons why you must n o t go out on the water Not tonight. In fact, w e should both stay a shore. Both of us. It must've been the desperation behind my plea because he looked askance at me and then relented. "Ah." He pursed his lips and nodded gravely. "I wondered why you didn't insist on going with them." Then he had a sudden thought. "But th e others, will they be al l right?" I sighed and shifted uncomfortably, digging the toe of my shoe into the sand. "I don't know. I told you these dreams are next to useless. I only know for certain that you and I did not fare well in the water at night ." Th ere was no more time to discuss it. Mr. Sinclair gave the order and w e helped

PAGE 317

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 317 shove the Mary Isabella into the sea T he tide carried her out a short ways from shore as Lord Wyatt lit the furnace At the first puff of smoke we all cheered. A few moment s later and the piston rod lurched into action, and the paddlewheel began to turn. "Huzzah!" The shout went up, both aboard ship and on shore. The wheel turned as if by magic, slapping the water with a soothing rhythm as it carried them further from the be ach Georgie jumped up and down, clapping. Lord Wyatt tried to nudge her a little further from the edge of the flat deck while she jumped. Maya waved merrily at us. Even Miss Stranje looked quite pleased. I couldn't help but dance a little myself. Gabriel was right, if it weren't for the terror of that dream I would've very much liked to have been on that ship. Sera and I hugged each other with delight and waved back to the sailors aboard our very own little warship. "Come ." Sera tugged my arm. We'll be able to see when they fire the bombs at the target s from up on the cliffs." The three of us dashed up the cliff trail to the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I pulled our telescope out of my pocket and trained it on the Mary Isabella, watching her chug out to sea The evening was fine and fair as the sun lowered to the horizon kissing a few scattered clouds with brilliant halos. Before the launch Miss Stranje had instructed the servants to carry a table to the bluffs. Maya had spread a cloth over it and the rest of us laid out plates of cheese and bread, bowls of early strawberries and glasses for the wine Lord Ravencross contributed. Everything was perfectly assembled so that we looked

PAGE 318

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 318 very much like a group of friends gathered for a perfectly in nocent seaside picnic. One of Gabriel's soldiers helped Captain Grey row out several furlongs where they place d two buoyant slabs of wood T hen they lit two large Chinese lantern s which lifted like glowing kites, and tethered them to the floating wood. L a ntern s had been Madame Cho's idea. She helped us construct them and told us how when she was a child, she and her brothers used to make them out of papers dyed bright colors Our white silken globes looked beautiful floating just above the waves. They gl owed like giant firefl ies in the early evening sky and created a perfect target for Miss Stranje to aim Sinclair's bomb harpoon as I'd taken to calling the ballista they built to fire their spears with explosive noses. Through the glass I watched Mr. Si nclair carefully lift from the munitions rack a spear rigged with the bomb he and Georgiana had constructed. They hadn't been certain how volatile the bombs might be and had thought for this test voyage, it would be prudent to only bring aboard two of the four bombs they'd constructed I could tell from here Jane was nervous as she watched him carry it. He motioned with his head for her to move back. "Farther," I saw him gesture. He steadied himself on the rocking ship, and made each step with all the cauti on of a father holding a sleeping infant he was terrified of awakening. Not until he cradled the spears in the groove running down the center of the ballista did he step back and take a deep breath. "He's loaded the arrow," I told the Sera and Gabriel Let me see," he wanted a turn with the spy glass, and I could tell by the way Sera strained up on her toes to see, so did she Gabriel took a look and then handed the glass

PAGE 319

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 319 to her. "That ship is a marvel." Lord Ravencross had dressed with care for the occa sion. In a proper coat and everything. The effect on me was rather embarrassing. I could not keep from looking at him. He turned and caught me staring at him. I blushed and looked away, unable to keep from thinking about the way he had kissed me. So, I bus ied myself slicing cheese, and if the ruddy knife would've stop shaking I might've done a half decent job of it. He strolled over and placed his hand atop mine. "I fear for the cheese." I couldn't help it, I laughed. Something I'm not accustomed to doing. Fortunately, just then a flock of curlews flew overhead. Their odd rippling song always sounded as if they were injured. Lucky for me, it covered the even more awkward bark of my laughter. "They're getting ready to shoot the first one," Sera shouted. May a stood on the starboard deck hold aloft a large red swallow tail signal flag waving it back and forth to let Captain Grey know they were ready. Captain Grey replied by waving a white striped flag, giving them the go ahead to discharge the explosives. Mi ss Stranje is sighting the ballista." Sera gave me a turn with the spyglass and I sighted it on our headmistress lining up the giant bow. Miss Stranje had insisted that she be the one to handle the weapon. "If Captain Grey is anywhere in the vicinity of y our targets I simply will not allow anyone but me to aim that thing. It's too dangerous." She'd taken several practice shots from shore using unarmed spears, but ruminated on the fact that the weight of the bomb would have considerable effect on the traje ctory. Captain Grey and the soldier were rowing mightily to get as far away from the target as possible. I swung the glass back to the Mary Isabella. Georgie was bouncing up and

PAGE 320

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 320 down on her toes. Lord Wyatt appeared to be leaning over Miss Stranje giving her added instructions. She shooed him away. Mr. Sinclair seemed to be concentrating on steering the rudder. And I knew from experience that in the middle of all that chaos Maya would be humming softly to herself. With a snap and jolt, the arrow whizzed across the horizon. It raced across the sky faster than any gull and when it dipped to go underwater, the sound of the explosion made me jump. We didn't need the telescope to see the burst of flames as the bomb exploded and sent a fountain splashing up in the ocean Gabriel whistled and took the telescope dangl ing from my fingertips. He adjusted it. She missed the target. It won't run through the water like we thought it might. That compression switch is too sensitive. "Sinclair is reloading," Gabriel app rised us. I expect now they won't try for a shot through the water." Maya waved the red flag and Captain Grey responded with the all clear signal. We were so preoccupied with the first explosion and anxious about the next test arrow that we failed to no tice the gentleman walking out to join us on the cliffs until he hailed us. "Good Evening!" Mr. Chadwick called. We all turned. All except Lord Ravencross who was busy staring through the telescope. Good evening." Sera turned quite red. Or perhaps it was only the sun changing to rose and gold on the horizon. "There it is," Gabriel reported. "She's fired the second one. It's headed straight for the Chinese lantern.

PAGE 321

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 321 "I say!" Mr. Chadwick took off his hat and shaded his eyes with it watching our spear's pr ogress. The trajectory was promising. The arc looked nearly perfect. It hit the lantern and exploded in a burst of fire and sparks. "Magnificent Gabriel lowered the spyglass "Fireworks?" asked our Justice of the Peace's son, still holding his hat starin g at the smoke fading from the explosion. "And what sort of craft is that they're firing from?" He pointed at the smoke puffing from our steamship. Sara, Gabriel and I, looked at each other uncertain of how to respond It was Sera who turned to him with a n unusually broad smile. "Aren't the fireworks splendid, Mr. Chadwick? You must join us for our celebration." "Celebration?" He looked confused and tucked some of his cherubic curls back behind his ear. "Lord Ravencross's men mentioned you were having some sort of festivities. Is it a royal jubilee of some kind? I hadn't heard." "Oh no, nothing quite as grand as that." She told him about Miss Stranje's cousin from America, and how he liked to celebrate his birthday with explosives. Mr. Chadwick bowed cordia lly to her. I d id n't mean to intrude. I'd called on Lord Ravencross on a business matter and his men told me I might find him here." He turned briefly to Gabriel. "The militia appears to be getting into fighting order, my lord. Your man, MacDougal, is doi ng a superb job of it." Gabriel muttered his agreement, and turned back to watch the last of the explosion burn out "You must join us for supper, Mr. Chadwick," I said, thinking that his company might be good for Sera, and besides it would've been booris h not to ask him to dine with

PAGE 322

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 322 us. "We'll have a festive supper and there will be cake to follow, cake with frosting. Or so I'm told. The more the merrier." I directed him to the table. "You must be parched after your ride over. A glass of wine, perhaps?" S era stood beside the table, fidgeting with the cloth. She attempted to keep our guest distracted from looking at the steamship puffing back to shore. "Do you enjoy fireworks, Mr. Chadwick?" "I suppose everyone must. How can one not?" Mr. Chadwick kept tryi ng to glance over his shoulder toward the sea. "My father took me to London to see the fireworks display at Vauxhall Gardens. T hese did n't appear to be the same sort of explosions as those." "These are a special type." Lord Ravencross assured him. Mr. Chad wick nodded genially to me. "A pleasure to see you again, Miss Aubreyson. I see you are getting along better with Lord Ravencross." I have no idea why, but my cheeks warmed foolishly at his comment "I He" Mr. Chadwick rocked on his heels. "And have you consented to be his wife?" Heavens no ," I gaped at him. "What I mean to say is, there has been a misunderstanding That's a brash a question, Mr. Chadwick." Gabriel pushed himself between me and Mr. Chadwick. "Begging your pardon, my lord. I had though t that you announced ... but she..." He realized the pickle he'd gotten himself into and backed away turning to look for Sera. There was little chance then of our keeping the warship a secret, for when he turned he had a first rate view of the steamship puf fing merrily toward the shore. By the stars It's

PAGE 323

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 323 a steamship." "So it is, Mr. Chadwick, so it is. said Sera quietly. "We call her the Mary Isabella. The setting sun cast a mellow orange glow over everything, while the sky above us darkened to a deep Sp anish blue. I'm going to go help pull her ashore I dashed away from them, taking the path down the cliffs. Gabriel wasn't far behind. They waved at us, as they chugged toward shore. "Did you see it?" Jane shouted to me. "Wasn't it glorious?" "It was," I shouted back, racing along the beach to meet them. Mr. Sinclair grabbed Jane by the waist and gleefully spun her around. She swatted at his shoulders. "Put me down this instant, Mr. Sinclair. Do try to be civilized." "I can't help myself, Lady Jane. I' m just so blamed happy I feel as if I might burst." He set her down, still grinning broadly. But then, what do you expect? After all, I am a heathen from the colonies." Lord Wyatt jumped onto the beach and Gabriel and I helped him tug the craft as far on shore as possible and then he tied the dock ing line around a sturdy boulder. "Well done everyone." Miss Stranje applauded. "Well done." Lord Wyatt sl apped Sinclair genially on the back. "First rate, Sinclair. Your uncle would be proud." I warned them tha t Mr. Chadwick had surprised us with a visit and that he would be along shortly with Sera. A few moments later the two of them walked up the beach toward us. Mr. Chadwick's eyes were enormous, and for once he seemed at a loss for words.

PAGE 324

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 324 Sera turned to hi m What do you think ?" It's a marvel." He twisted his hat in his hand and smiled hesitantly as if he wasn't quite sure what he'd stumbled upon. "Yes well, that it is, But now I confess, I'm famished." Miss Stranje tugged him away from our prototype. Shall we all adjourn to the house for some supper and cake?" She looped her arm through Mr. Chadwick 's towing him away from our ship but he continued trying to peek over his shoulder. Mr. Sinclair had the same problem. He couldn't stop fussing over his ship inspect in g the pontoons for damage, and smoothing his hand over the connecting rods and the flywheel. "Come along, Alexander." Jane called to him. The furnace is out and she's snug and secure in the cove Your beautiful Mary Isabella He walked up the beach beside Jane, turning around and walking backward every once in a while to gaze at the Mary Isabella "She's a beauty, isn't she?" "Indubitably." Jane caught him before he tripped on a rock. We had all climbed up to the bluffs. Miss Stranje croo ked her finger at Sera. "Miss Wyndham, perhaps you would like to show Mr. Chadwick to the house. He must be positively famished after his long ride over here." "It's not so very long a ride," Mr. Chadwick assured her. "We're only a few miles up the coast." "I'm well aware of the distance." Miss Stranje patted his arm as if he was ten years old instead of twenty. "I've been to your estate, and had tea with your lovely mother on several occasions. An extraordinary woman, your mother. I'm fortunate to count he r a

PAGE 325

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 325 friend. That is a ll the more reason why you must join us for a bite of supper and cake. I wouldn't dream of sending you home hungry at this hour." "I oughtn't impose. Although, I do have some news for Lord Ravencross, about the incident." He turned in search of his subject. "My lord, the coroner has concluded his investigation. He and my father are convinced th e men who made an attempt on your life were indeed hired assassins. But we cannot seem to figure out who hired them. Do you have any French relat ives who might want to do you in?" "None." Gabriel's answer was flat and didn't invite speculation. It is so very perplexing. I find it particularly puzzling that these same men would also attempt to abduct the young ladies. My father and the coroner ha ve closed the matter, but we are still left with a great many unanswered questions." Miss Stranje clicked her tongue in a mild scold. "Come, Mr. Chadwick, we must not speak of such distressing matters tonight." She handed him off to Sera. "This is a birthd ay celebration. We shall be happy for Mr. Sinclair's sake. He is a very long way from home." "My apologies. I promise to set the mystery aside for the evening." Mr. Chadwick bowed. "But if I'm to stay, you must all call me Quinton. Please, I insist upon it ." He was a nuisance, an obstacle to be sure and altogether too curious about everything, but I have to admit it was difficult not to like Quinton Chadwick. "Are you a fifth child, Mr. Chadwick?" Sera asked as he strolled with us back to Stranje House. "O h you mean because my name is Quinton H e smiled at her. "No, my mother named me after her father. He was the fifth child. I, on the other hand, am an only

PAGE 326

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 326 child." "Of course you are Sera sighed "No wonder they doted upon you." "They did," he admitted cheerily. "I am most fortunate." You are. I envy you Sera quietly admitted the sad truth She said it so softly I doubt anyone but me paid any heed Mr. Chadwick regaled us the rest of the way with stories of how his intrepid mother taught him to ride and jump hedges as a youngster, and how his father taught him to play chess at six, but when at seven he bested his father their chess playing days came to a close. We entered the dining room and all of us murmured approval at the sight. Greaves instructe d the footmen to set an extra place at the table. The spectacle of the dining room was all very grand and elegant. The silver shone in the candlelight, the crystal goblets glistened, and my roses graced the center of the table in a large vase. I could sca rcely look at them E ven the fragrance of those blossoms reminded me of Gabriel's heated kiss in the garden and caused my cheeks to burn. Gabriel, on the other hand stared at them quite steadily and with a jovial curl of his lips. It was not like him to b e jovial. Cook had prepared a feast for us. Of course, most of us had assisted in the preparations. That is when we weren't busy mixing gunpowder or building bomb casings. The result was a banquet suitable for a duke's birthday, and we hoped passable for o ur American He praised Miss Stranje and seemed genuinely delighted. We took our seats around the table and were treated to a first course of white soup. After which, Greaves and our footman paraded in carrying platters of roast chicken, new potatoes

PAGE 327

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 327 and c reamed peas, crab soufflÂŽ, mutton roasted with turnips and carrots, and hot steaming freshly baked rolls slathered in butter. Best of all, throughout the entire meal, the biggest, most splendid cake I have ever seen sat on the sideboard tantalizing us. Cak e I'd heard stories of such cakes served at the Prince Regent's palace in Brighton and at great homes in London, but I'd never seen one in person. Cook had out done herself. Not only that, but our cake was coated with a thick glistening sugar icing. Afte r tucking away a hearty portion of mutton, several slices of chicken and a generous helping of crab soufflÂŽ, Mr. Sinclair set down his knife and blotted his mouth looking quite satisfied. "I must say, that cake looks extraordinary." How he would have room for it, strained the imagination. "It's twice as big as any my mother ever baked. I thank you, Miss Stranje. This is a perfect end to a perfect day." Lady Jane smiled to herself. Georgie leaned over and confided to me, "Jane made the icing. Boiled butter a nd sugar mixed with egg whites. Cook fussed at her, saying it was a sin to cover up such a fine moist spice cake with a crust of sugar. But Jane convinced her with a tale of woe about how our poor Mr. Sinclair is such a long way from home and he would be t erribly disappointed without it." Poor Mr. Sinclair raised his cup, not in a toast, but in a proposal. "What would you say to inviting all the servants in to share a piece of it with us ? That's what we do at home on our birthdays." He lowered his glass. "D o you suppose your Madame Cho

PAGE 328

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 328 would like to eat cake with us? It might help her warm up to me a mite. I'm afraid we got off to a bad start when I first arrived" I didn't hear a word he said after that.

PAGE 329

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 329 Chapter 2 6 Counter Traps An intense uneasine ss came upon me. Not as in a dream or a day vision i t was if I'd misplaced something of monumental proportion. I rose with a start. I'll take Madame Cho a plate She was standing guard downstairs but I couldn't very well remind them of that with Mr. Ch adwick sitting at the table. Miss Stranje squinted at me as if she was trying to figure out what I was up to. "Philip will take her a plate." But the footman was busy serving the fruit and cheese, and Greaves was pouring wine. "I would like to do it. I h aven't seen her much today." More to the point, my insides were gnawing on themselves. I couldn't possibly sit another minute until I checked on her and Daneska myself. I filled a plate and promised to return to carry cake to her, or perhaps I would reliev e her of her dut ies elsewhere so that she might come and enjoy cake with Mr. Sinclair in person. Ravencross s tudied me with an uneasy expression. "I'll come with you."

PAGE 330

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 330 "No thank you, my lord. I would rather go alone." His features shuttered closed He sus pected I was up to something. But I couldn't very well allow him into dungeons and catacombs lurking beneath Stranje House I forced myself to walk with calculated calm. That is until I left the dining room and turned the corner, then flew down the hall, a nd raced to the stairway down to the dungeons and cellars. They were dark, darker than they should be. The lamps had sputter out or else someone had put them out. I held the plate of food with a trembling hand and pulled my dagger from its sheath. I slowed my steps, not wanting careless footfalls to alert anyone to my presence. The closer I got to those cold underground corridors, the more I felt certain something was very wrong. There was one lamp at the end by Daneska's cell. That would be Madame Cho's la mp, a thin oily amber light that flickered and shivered off the gray stone walls creating shadows that unnerved me as they moved beside me like phantoms. I peeked around the corner and drew back. Cho was not at her post and Daneska's cell door hung partial ly open. I set the plate down, and crept forward. Inching toward the door my dagger poised to strike. The heavy oak creaked as I pushed it open. Daneska was hunched over Cho. She spun around. "There you are! I've been waiting for you." "Get away from her. I charged in with my dagger. But Daneska pulled Cho's limp body in front of her and held a knife at Madame's throat. I recognized the blade. It was Madame Cho's own knife. She'd been disarmed. I couldn't understand it. "How?" Daneska pressed the knife ti ghter against Madame Cho's throat. "You will drop your dagger. Now, if you please."

PAGE 331

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 331 Cho's head was bleeding heavily. I let my blade clatter to the floor. "What have you done to her?" "Kick it over here. That's right." "It's nothing. A little bump on the head, that is all." She swung one of her manacles in a circle, as if it were a mace. "At least these bracelets came in handy for something." This was all too incomprehensible, and if I didn't know better I would've thought this was a dream. "How did you ge t them off?" Daneska pursed her lips as if I was being foolish. "Did you really think I couldn't pick the lock on these old things? Phfft I've had them off since the second day." "But your wrists, I saw "Oh yes, that was so very affecting, or perhaps t he word is affectionate, when you ripped your own dress to cushion my poor torn skin." She was mocking me. "Really, Tessika, didn't you wonder why I hadn't torn my own underskirt to do that for myself?" "How did you ever get the better of Cho? She's faster than you are." "Fast isn't everything. Birds are fast. Haven't you ever thrown a rock to kill a morning dove? Did you know Madame Cho is the only one who ever empties my slops? Oh but this is not out of kindness. No. S he never even look s in my direction when she does it. Cho hates me too much. And yet she does what none of the rest of you will do. She didn't know I'd had my chains off. No, she toddled in to change the piss pot. One hard swing from the corner and she went down like a good little dove." "Y ou wretch." I breathed. "The hardest part was slipping those irritating things back on every time one of you came down to visit me."

PAGE 332

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 332 I started for Madam Cho but Daneska yanked her in tighter with the knife. "T sk, tsk Stay back or I cut her throat. I may do it anyway unless you talk sweetly to me." "What do you want, Daneska?" She exhaled with irritation. "I have been perfectly clear from the first day." When I shrugged, she snapped at me, "You." She wasn't making sense. "Go ahead, run away. E scape B ut leave Madam Cho alone. She's bleeding. Let me take care of her. I promise I won't stop you. Go." I pleaded. "Why are you being thick?" She frowned at me. Daneska doesn't frown very often. She doesn't want to ruin her pretty face. At least that's what she told me once. I think it is more likely that she is quite content being evil. "You are coming with us, Tessika. You are the prize I will bring to Napoleon. And now you must hold very still because Ghost, he is not so fond of you as I am." He stepped thro ugh the doorway with a pistol pointed straight at my head. A pisto l I had seen before in a dream. Lucien The Ghost I sucked back a gasp. He looked so much like Gabriel and yet not. He was even taller than his brother and as improbable as it seemed, he was even more handsome. But a cold hardness radiated off him that put the stones around us to shame. His father would've been pleased. Lucien had indeed, turned to steel. He moved toward me cornering me, every step deliberate and efficient. Maybe if I was very very good he would disappear as he had in that dream. "Ah, bein I see you remembered the rope." Daneska smiled at him. "Tie her hands. Mind you she is a tricky one u se a very good knot."

PAGE 333

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 333 He said nothing, as if he need not trouble himself resp onding to Daneska. "Now, Tessika, Dani began to chide me with unsettling cheerfulness. "I f you make one tiny move that I don't like while the real Lord of Ravencross secures your hands I will cut her. And just to prove I mean what I say, I will start rig ht here by her chin." Daneska drew a thin line of blood beneath Cho's chin. No! My shoulders lurched to attention, and I tried to hold in the unbidden noise s screaming up my throat a war cry a wounded moan Either sound would betray me and testify to Dan eska the hold she had over me For Madame Cho's sake, I arched my neck and choke d it back down my gullet But she saw through me. "You always were too fond of this old woman." She waggled the blo ody knife at me. "If I kill her, I'll be do ing you a favor. I tried to warn you love makes you weak." A low guttural rumble came from The Ghost It was a sound achingly familiar to me, having heard his brother utter it. But when it came from Lucien it sounded twisted and indecipherable. I couldn't tell if what Daneska had said pleased him or annoyed him or both. He slammed me against the wall and studied me closely. To o close ly H is icy gaze seared down the curve of my neck, and over the rise of my breasts T hen he glowered at me, taking the measure of my sou l Where Gabriel' s eyes are a warm melting brown, Ghost's are dark, like soil found at the bottom of deep pit. There was no light in them. He watched my face steadily as he twisted my wrists and bound them with a rough hemp rope, cinching the knot so tigh t I couldn't keep from grimacing My wince drew

PAGE 334

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 334 the faintest suggestion of a smile to his lips, but it quickly vanished. "Did you get the drawings?" Daneska asked him. Lucien pulled some folded papers out of his coat. They were right where they were suppo sed to be ." He shook them open. The first was a detailed drawing Sera had made of Sinclair's warship. The second pleased Daneska enormously. "Notes. A l ists of parts and materials. It's all here." Jane's notes. I grimaced. "You've got what you want, just go." She grinned and folded up the papers. "Oh no, my dear, you are coming with us. You're to be the emperor's new toy." "You can't make me dream for him." "Oh, but I can, my dear Tessika." She laughed and ripped a strip of cloth from the hem of her f ilthy underdress. I can ." The silver bowl Of course! The green water was probably absinthe laced with laudanum. The two were often mixed together. Once they got me to the palace they intended to keep me in a drugged stupor trapped in the madness of m y dreams. Better I die here. She twisted the torn cloth and held it out to Lucien. "Gag her." The instant he turned I kicked out as hard as I could aiming a crippling blow at his knee In one stunningly smooth motion, Ghost dodged it, grabbed my foot and flipped me to the floor My head hit the stones and for a second I thought the lantern had

PAGE 335

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 335 flickered out. Daneska laughed looking quite gleeful as she knelt over me and tied the gag in place "I told you, you were no match for him." Ghost jerked me to my feet Madame Cho was still unconscious and bleeding when they locked her in the cell. I prayed someone would come for her soon. Like a lamb being led to slaughter, Daneska and The Ghost led me out of the dungeon and down into the secret passage that wound beneath Stranje House to the sea cave. We were so far beneath the house that even if I could scream no one would hear me. Their sloop was tied to the dock in the cave. We passed the skeleton that on a lark Jane and I had dressed it in an old pink gown. I thought to myself that the gown was getting a little faded and that if I ever came back to Stranje House I might fix that. Odd, the madness that stirs through the mind, when everything has turned dark and hopeless. They tugged me into the boat and tied my lead line to the mast. The thing about that sea cave is it is rather tricky to navigate I t's not hard to row in to it especially if the tide is with you. No, i t's the rowing out that's difficult. Ghost, who up until this time remained frighteningly quiet, began to curse. "You're going to have to help Daneska." "Must I?" She grimaced at the long oars. "I bet we could make her do it." "With her hands tied? Don't be daft. Row." And so Daneska did her best and while they struggled trying to keep from ba shing into the cave walls I worked on loosening my knot. Neither of us made rapid headway.

PAGE 336

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 336 And yet, by the time they managed to row out of the cave, my progress on the knot was disheartening. Amidst all the sloshing, the rope had gotten wet and the hemp b egan to swell. Once a boat clears the mouth of the cave the sea is determined to push you back in. Especially at high tide, which it was that night. And if that doesn't do the job there are always the rocks the waves like to smash an unwary sailor agains t. "I'm tired," she complained. "Stop bellyaching and put your back into it." Unfortunately, Daneska did a much bett er job than I thought she would Soon we were moving further from the coast and my chances of escape were lessening by the second. I picke d furiously at Ghost's knot but between the hemp swelling and my fingers turning numb from lack of circulation I'd only managed to loosen one loop. My heart sank when Lucien said, "All right. You can stop. We're far enough away that we can put the sail up." It was a clear night and the sea was fairly calm. We were far enough out that I could see the lights of Stranje House atop the cliff By now, surely, they knew what had happened. My only hope was that they'd found Madame Cho and were able to tend to h er injuries. At this point I realized I had little hope of escaping alive. T he faint silhouette of Ravencross Manor drew my gaze and filled me with regrets I should've kissed Gabriel more when I had the chance. I shouldn't have fretted about the future. I should've been happier when I had the chance. Still I picked at the rope. Habit Miss Stranje required us do time d practices of

PAGE 337

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 337 getting ourselves untied Normally I excelled at it, but Ghost tied an exceptionally go od knot and the wet rope made it near ly impossible Frustrated, I growled and bit down on the gag in my mouth, working it with my teeth. They were hauling up the sail when I caught a faint sound that made me start picking at my ropes faster. The slap, slap, slap, of a paddlewheel. It was dist ant and if you didn't know what it was you might think it was just the lapping of the waves in the distance or the flapping of a bird 's wings But it was too regular. It was wonderfully regular. It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. They would see the sloop's white sail I told myself. Please God, let them see that white sail shining in the moon light The sound got louder by the minute, and I picked faster. Finally, I could see the outline of the ship and the puff of smoke rising from her stack "Do you hear that?" Daneska asked. "Hear what?" Ghost asked. I tried to make a noise despite the gag in my mouth. It drew her attention for a moment. "Hush. Be grateful I didn't make you row. I shall have blisters tomorrow." She looked around and stood up. Sit down, Dani. Ghost snarled. If the sail comes about it'll knock you overboard and I'm not going to fish your sorry carcass out of the water. Although you could do with a bath. "No, it's just that I hear the oddest sound and it's getting loud er." Then she saw it. "What's that?" she pointed. "I'm not going to tell you again Daneska. Sit down or I'll knock you overboard

PAGE 338

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 338 myself." He held the tiller with one hand and with the other reached over to adjust the boom line She plopped back down on the rowing thwart, a slat that bisect ed the port end of the boat and pointed straight at the steamship. "Look!" He looked. He stood and looked harder. "Damnation." Ghost tied off the tiller and ran to the bow. He drew out the flintlock he'd pointed at me earlier aimed and fired. The blast nearly deafened me. But I thought I heard a distant ping H is bullet must've hit metal. Please god, let that be all it hit I couldn't bear it if one of them got hurt trying to save me. I was the one who was supposed to do the saving. Not them. They had too much at risk Let it be a hole in their smokestack. The sail trapped a cloud of acrid gun smoke in the boat Dani coughed. Ghost primed his gun and fired again. My heart clenched tighter than the knot Lucien had ti ed around my hands. The warship steamed straight for us. Through the dark I saw moonlight catch on the silver tip of a spear speeding straight for the bow of our sloop Ghost dove out of the way and the spear hit where he'd stood and exploded in a burst of flame. The impact rocked the sloop and f lames crackled to life on the bow. They were trying to shoot us down. Even with me aboard the ship. It stung. But a split second later I realized they'd chosen rightly. Daneska and The Ghost had to be stopped at a ny cost. Good! And I would rather die out here under the stars and the wide open sky then trapped

PAGE 339

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 339 in Napoleon's silken prison. Although, I' d wager Jane ha d the spyglass to her eye and saw which end of the sloop I was sitting in. Either way shooting us dow n was my best chance of escape "Bucket!" Ghost shouted from where he had fallen amid ship But Dani grabbed a wool blanket from beneath the thwart and began beating the flames. Except there is oil in a Greek fire bomb and that oil spreads and latches on to things like wool blankets. "Wet it." Ghost yelled at her as he grabbed a bucket. Sh e dipped it in the sea. He hung over the side and scooped water onto the flame spreading the oil in blazing rivulets along the bow He cursed. Daneska grumbled that it was all my fault as she beat at the flames Then she changed her tune and swore that as soon as she could get her hands on Georgiana she would ring her worthless neck. "This is that little smart mouthed redhead's doing Mark me," she made sure I was payi ng attention to her rant. "I'll have her freckled hide for it ." I quietly slipped off my shoes, and hoped she hadn't noticed that I'd finally freed myself from that confounded knot. Waves lapped against the side of the boat. This was my chance. Soon the f ire would be out and Daneska would have the presence of mind to tie me to the main sail. I heard the constant chug of the steam engine getting closer. The quarter moon cast little light that night Its waning light shone gentle as doves wings on the rolli ng swells. I slipped out of my gag and silently set the ropes aside. The Mary Isabella's silhouette was black and distinct against the charcoal gray of night. The pinprick glow of a lantern twinkled on their starboard bow like a guiding star

PAGE 340

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 340 a very tiny needle in this vast watery haystack. I marked their direction and gauging the moonlit ripples of the sea, noted that I would need to cut across the current. The fire crackled quieter Dani beat at the flames less furiously. It was time. I did not mean to make a splash but flinging oneself out into the sea tends to have that affect. When I surfaced, I heard Daneska scream "She jumped Dani cursed me in one of her many languages, or maybe several. Then she tried to reason with me. "Would you rather drown than serve the man who will one day rule the world? Are you that big of a fool?" I am Although I didn't need to admit it aloud I needed to swim. My petticoats quickly waterlogged and weighed me down. I chided myself for not ripping them off before I'd j umped. The ocean was cold and salt burned my eyes. I'd expected that. What I hadn't expected was the strength of the current pulling me off course. "Lucien, do something." Despite the sloshing in my ears I heard her frantic plea. "She's getting away. "W hat would you have me do, our ship is afire." She was supposed to be my gift to Napoleon. If she's going to be obstinate s hoot her. Kill her Dani always was the sort who would rather rip something up than share it. "Don't be a fool. Help me get this f ire out. Let her go. She'll drown before they get to her anyway." "Not her. She's not the drowning sort. Give me your gun. I'll do it." Daneska usually remains calm Nothing ruffles her scales. She never screech es Why would she screech

PAGE 341

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 341 when she found coo ing so much more effective? And yet that night, she shriek ed at Ghost a s if the clawing pitch of her voice might force him to comply. "Change sail. Bring us around." I didn't look back. I swam. Swam for all I was worth T he current fought me. My waterlo gged gowns kept pulling me under. Still I swam. Give me your gun ," she screamed. The first shot seemed to echo across the waves. It sounded louder than a flintlock on land. The blast seemed to ripple through the massive sea and stir the waves. With a sp lash t he musket ball plunged through the water next to my shoulder. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid. I was. But I raced against terror almost every night in my dreams Terror and I were old friends. The galloping of my heart only made my arms and l egs pump faster. I dove under the waves thinking if she couldn't see me she couldn't hit me. But I couldn't tell direction from under the waves and underwater the current seemed to blow me sideways as if I was nothing but a feather I burst through the surface gasping and lost. Still I pulled myself forward through the sea spitting out salt water and flinging seaweed out of my eyes and mouth trying to cross the current to where I'd last seen the Mary Isabella. Desperate for air and unable to see betw een the swells I kicked my hardest and lifted my head as high as I could above the waves When a swell carried me up I spotted their lantern shining in the distance and I dove for it. Just as I plunged back into the sea a nother shot rang over my head T he ball whiz zed past and plunged through the water not more than a n arm's length in front of me. I prayed she would be slow at reloading.

PAGE 342

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 342 The warship chugged toward me coming closer and closer. Not much further I told myself. How c ould I make them see me ? They wouldn't even know I was in the water. If I tried to wave or shout, it would give away my position to Daneska. Except, then I realized Georgie would know. She would hear the shooting and guess I had jumped. Sera would know too. And Gabriel. When I t hought about it I realized every one aboard that war ship with the exception of Mr. Sinclair would be absolutely certain that I 'd jumped I flung my arms ahead, pulling and grabbing at the water as if it was a fallen ladder and I was crawling across it to save my life. Sloshing and churning in the waves, my arms burned and I'd gulped down near as much water as I had air I stuck my head up and through bleary eyes I thought I saw that there were not one but two lamps on their bow. I f I could see them so c ould Daneska. And she would know where to follow me. Another gun shot cracked through the air. This one struck the water mere inches from my head I dove under the waves spreading my wings through the water like a bird. A very weary bird. W hen I emerged f or breath I heard Gabriel His voice rang like a beacon through the night. "There! She's in the water T here." "They're shooting at her. Fire another arrow!" T hat sounded like Georgie. I heard the panic and wanted to call out to her and tell her to not be afraid. But every ounce of my strength was needed for forcing one arm in from of the other. A nother shot shook the night This one came from in front of me They were firing at Daneska. "Th is will scare them off." It sounded like Lord Wyatt. I heard the twang and sharp snap of a spear firing A n instant later, an explosion ruptured the sky

PAGE 343

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 343 No! I wanted to shout. Don't frighten them away Chase them down They must be captured or sunk to the bottom of the sea. Our warship was faster than their crippled sloop, or it would be if they didn't stop to fish me out of the water. But I was tiring out, ga gg ing on brine, and sinking lower with every floundering stroke. I would never make it to shore. Even reaching the Mary Isabella seemed an impossible feat. At l east Daneska had stopped shooting at me. Ghost was right; s he should've saved her ammunition and let me His prediction that I would be come fish food was proving true. Bitterly chilled, my arms felt wooden and numb. My fingers were so cold I couldn't fee l them. I d swallowed so much saltwater I needed to wretch. I hadn't taken a full breath for far too long. Still I flopped one hand forward and tried to drag myself through the waves as best I could. I think I see her ," s omeone shouted. But I could no lo nger discern voices. The y sounded so very faint and far away a s if echoing to me from across a great valley. I heaved up water There was no strength left None Not even an ounce. M y arms relaxed and floated wide. I bobbed on a swell. My gown felt so ver y heavy It tugg ed at me, luring me down into the blissful deep. I vaguely heard shouts arguing. "Ravencross, no! Don't. You'll never find her in those waves. Good Lord, n ot in your boots, man. You'll drown. Somewhere in front of me I heard a splash. Bu t the water around me was not stirred. They shouted his name hollering for him to come back I n the feeble meanderings of my air starve d mind it dawned on me that Gabriel had jumped in after me. The thought spiked through me, like a fiery dagger.

PAGE 344

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 344 No W it h the same certainty that Georgie and Sera would've known I jumped I knew Gabriel had dived in to come get me. I moaned. Gabriel had a chest full of stitches. T hese waves would tear them out as sure as night follows day. F or his sake I rolled to my side belched out sea water and flung my arm forward making a grab fo rward And then another. And another. A terrifying thought drove me to move faster. I remembered hearing of men who drowned because their boots filled with water and like lead weights, drag ged them under. Where was he? I swept seaweed out of my eyes and thought I saw him. At least I saw something splashing in the water toward me. It could've been dolphin or a sea serpent for all I knew. But I aimed for it, fighting to keep afloat. When n ext I chanced to look next, I saw him fling one arm forward, grasping for purchase in the rolling water He was headed in my direction, doing his best to come to me. But when it was his other arm 's turn t o carry him forward, he went sank My scream was cu t short by a surge of saltwater. I spewed it out and pushed toward where I saw him go under. He burst up several yards in front of me, flailing with one arm to stay up, h is mouth open gasping for precious air, just as he'd done in my wretched dream. Mr Sinclair shout ed "Good Lord he's going under again Ravencross, g rab the barrel. It's right behind you." He wouldn't.

PAGE 345

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 345 I was in front of him He wouldn't turn back H e wouldn't go anywhere but forward. To me. Someone aboard the warship held a lantern down closer to the water. Just enough light for me to see him pitch forward and sink. Before that night I had thought myself only a competent swimmer n ot nearly as good at it as I am a t running But the thought of him sinking under the waves set me to s troking harder than Mr. Sinclair's steam engine. I paddled with every last ounce of fire I had left in my furnace. Right there in the frigid waters of the Atlantic I decided I wanted to live I wanted to live very much. A nd the reason I wanted to live was drowning right there a few yards in front of my face. So I paddled, I paddled like an army of ang el s were chasing me through those swells. We nearly collided. He cast his good arm out trying to stroke one sided through the waves sputtering, gulping and spitting salt water. I grabbed him and shoved him high enough that he could get a clean breath. Then I bobbed up from under the wave that enveloped us. In fits and starts he tried to talk. "Should've taken off m' boots," says he. My shoulders shook at his proclamation I kicked with all my might toward Cook's pickling barrel, dragging him along wishing to heaven I could grab enough air so I could laugh. We slapped our hands on the pickle barrel, gasping. Someone tossed us a rope and as I tur ned to snatch the end out of the water I caught a glimpse of Daneska's sloop sailing away. Escaping I coiled the rope around my wrist and Ravencross wrapped his good arm around my waist. Lord Wyatt and Captain Grey

PAGE 346

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 346 quickly pulled us to the warship But w h en we reached the side of the craft, Gabriel grabbed onto one of the barrel s and insist ed they lift me onto the boat first. Captain Grey and Georgie hauled me out of the water They no sooner pulled me onto the flat deck of the Mary Isabella but what I fe lt my stomach lurch. I crawled to the side and coughed up more seawater while Georgie held my shoulders. Captain Grey warmed his coat on the furnace and as soon as I finished my indelicate business and managed to right myself to a sitting position h e wrapp ed the warmed coat around my shoulders. Jane and Lord Wyatt were tugging Gabriel aboard. I grabbed hold of the captain's arm. You must go after them. He said nothing but patted my shoulders and went to help Lord Wyatt who shouted that Gabe's ruddy boot s weighed more than an anchor. Georgie cradled my shoulder s I pointed at the sloop's sail skating farther and farther away from us. Go a fter them." I gasped, "They stole the plans." Jane squatted down beside us No, Tess. Those were red herrings." "A bit of misdirection," said Mr. Sinclair from the rudder. Red Herrings?" "Fakes." Jane's face brightened with mischief. "My idea." I blinked. She'd kept another secret from me. But we would talk about that later. What of Madame Cho?" I choked. Is she Georgie rubbed my arms trying to warm away my shiver s "Miss Stranje and Maya are with her. They sent for the doctor. We think she'll be all right." Georgie patted me. "Let's go home and see." At last they pulled Gabriel aboard Jane jumped aside as h e sl oshed up onto the Mary

PAGE 347

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 347 Isabella beside me. "Your poor chest," I rested my hand on his shoulder trying to see if there was blood mixed in with the muck from the ocean. "You've probably torn out every single stitch" He was still grappling for breath and cou ghing up seawater. He shook his head and reached for my face h is fingers skimming the side of my cheek I imagined he wanted to say something profoundly romantic like, I love you so much I would rather have died a thousand deaths than lose you. I nstead he rolled to the side and let lose with more saltwater. Even in that light I could see the purplish bloom spreading across his chest. "Jane! He's bleeding. What do we do?" But it was Captain Grey who sprang to Gabriel's aid. "For starters we'll need to cut him out of this wet shirt." Lord Wyatt threw another shovel full of coal into the furnace slammed it shut, and rushed to kneel beside us. He drew a knife out of his boot. "No need. Gabriel tried to object. He got as far as saying, I can take it off," b efore he wretched again. I smoothed his wet hair back from his face. All he could do was nod. Lord Wyatt slit the cambric so that Gabriel's shirt slid down his arms. "Gabe, I need you to sit up so we can see the wound." Gabriel nodded and flopped over. H e swiped at his mouth and sat up leaning back against me for support. Georgie hold the lamp a bit lower if you would Sebastian produced a handkerchief and blotted gingerly at the wound "You've torn it, and we've no alcohol to clean it out with." He stood and whipped off his coat, and after warming it as Captain

PAGE 348

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 348 Grey had done he tucked it over Ravencross "Keep hi m as warm as possible. Captain Grey called out the order, "Make haste to shore, Mr. Sinclair." "Aye." Mr. Sinclair saluted. Lady Jane, con sult your telescope to check our direction, if you please. Point us straight for the beach. Toss in more coal, my lord, and we'll see what she can do. Moonlight illuminated the sail of Daneska's ship, a tiny white wedge disappearing on the horizon. I s oftly kissed the top of Gabriel's sodden head as he lay against me. It pleased me that he reached for my hand and wound his fingers in mine

PAGE 349

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 349 Chapter 27 The Vow Captain Grey offered to carry me up to the house. But I assured him that would not be nece ssary. "I rather think walking might put a stop to this infernal rocking and sloshing going on in my head." "Ah," he nodded as if he'd experienced the feeling. "It might at that." It was Gabriel I worried about. He was so tall and broad, how would we haul him up the cliffs? He grumbled at me for even suggesting the idea. "My chest is torn open, Tess, not my legs. I am perfectly capable of making it up those cliffs." All the same, Captain Grey and Lord Wyatt insisted that Gabriel walk between them on the h ike up to the bluffs. We finally straggled to the top, and were making our way to the house when Miss Stranje came running out, flapping toward us like a raven in the night. She carried a blanket with her and the minute she reached me she wrapped it around me. The fact that she carried a blanket surprised me. "You knew I'd jump." "Oh, my dear sweet girl, of course I did." She pressed a kiss to my forehead. "I knew you would get away." She turned with a grateful smile to Captain Grey. "And that they would f ind you."

PAGE 350

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 350 "Ravencross needs this worse than I." I handed the blanket back. "Without him I would've drowned. His stitches are torn out, and he She was already rushing to his aid. Behind her, Sera raced up and clasped me as if I had returned from the de ad. Although she is slight, and weighs no more than air, she hugged me fiercely and didn't let go. A rush of feelings flowed from her and warmed me better than Miss Stranje's blanket. Sera shoulders quaked and in strangled fits and starts she managed to sa y, "I was afraid we'd lost you." If she were my little sister I couldn't have loved her one ounce more. I didn't know what to say or how to comfort her. So, I teased her with false bravado. "You needn't have worried. It would take a great deal more than La dy Daneska to do me in." She swiped away the tears on her cheek and grinned at that, shining brighter in that dark night than even the moon. "Madame Cho?" I asked. "How is she?" She caught her lip pensively. "Her chin required a few sutures but it will m end. But the injury to her head was quite severe." Sera guided me into the house. Miss Stranje caught up to us. "When Madame Cho regained consciousness her first words were asking after you. You can go see her as soon as we get you out of those wet clothes ." "But Gabriel She tugged me aside as Lord Wyatt and Captain Grey helped Gabriel up the stairs. "The doctor is here and the men will see to changing his clothes. There is nothing you can do for him until after the doctor has examined him and taken care of what must be

PAGE 351

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 351 done." I was dismissed. She followed the men up issuing directions as to which spare room to put Lord Ravencross in, and sending Philip to fetch t he doctor from Madame Cho's room. "Come." Sera urged me up the stairs. "What of Mr. Chadwick ?" I asked, worried he might be lurking about. "We sent him home as soon as Miss Stranje realized you weren't coming back in the time she expected. She c heck ed the clock on the mantle at least three times. Not fifteen minutes passed before she feigned a se vere headache and sent him packing." Sera's eyebrows lifted as if she found some private joke amusing. "Of course he knew she was pretending. Poor Mr. Chadwick, his curiosity about us is nearly driving him mad. Fortunately, I suspect he is far too polite t o do anything about it." "I wouldn't be too sure." Sera helped me change and we slipped into Madam Cho's room. Maya sat in a chair by the bed. She rose immediately when she saw me and hugged me gently, kissing each of my cheeks as the French do. "I knew y ou would escape." "I wish I had been so certain." I smiled awkwardly, unaccustomed to so much affection. "How is she?" The three of us turned to look at the woman I loved so deeply. Her head was bandaged and she looked so very pale. "The doctor dosed her with laudanum. Our main concern is that she holds steady through the night." "May I sit with her for a few minutes?"

PAGE 352

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 352 She nodded and I took her chair. They stood beside me for a bit longer watching the rise and fall of our patient's chest. I whispered to Maya that they'd situated Lord Ravencross in the guest bedroom. "They won't let me see him. He tore open the old wound. Can you two please see if you can find out anything?" Maya rested her hand on my shoulder for a moment. "We will. But you must not worry He is very strong." "Even strong men die of infection I said. Maya swept a lock of hair away from my cheek. "Fear will not keep infection away." I nodded, too weary to argue. They left and I leaned forward, resting my head on the bed beside Madame Cho. Too exhausted to hold it up. Only a few minutes passed before I felt Cho's hand stroke my hair. I grabbed it and kissed her palm. "You're awake." "Water," she rasped. I helped her sip from a glass rigged with one of Georgie's slender glass tube s She fin ished drinking and issued an order in a gravelly voice. "You look terrible. Go rest." "Thank you for the pretty compliment." I stroked her hand. But I'm staying right here." You don't need to stay. I do not fear death, child." She breathed heavily and c losed her eyes. "Exactly," I whispered, not sure if she still heard me. "Which is why I must stay here and make certain you don't give up on life too easily." "Why should I not?" Her old eyes flashed open, shining black in that dim light, hard and sharp, like two dagger points of obsidian. "You do."

PAGE 353

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 353 "Not any more." I clutched her gnarled hand and kissed it, and a tear slipped free and burned down my cheek, and then another. Never again would I give up without a fight "Never again." Madame Cho's lips spre ad in a contented smile "Good." H er eyes closed and she drifted back to sleep. A half hour later, Maya and Sera came back and delivered their report. "We listened at the door," Maya confessed as if the activity compromised her dignity. "They must've dum ped a great deal of alcohol on the wound because we could smell it from outside the door." Sera looked worried. "Not only that, but I heard Lord Ravencross grumble about it being a waste of perfectly good whiskey." Maya hesitated and then said, "The doctor asked for Miss Stranje to hand him his scalpel, the sulphur powder and to thread his needle." Sera shifted uncomfortably. "So they must've cut away the damaged flesh and taken more stitches. After that it was just, you know ." "Groans." I said. They both nodded. I left Madame Cho in their care and took off down the hall where I paced up and down in front of Gabriel's room. My frustration boiled up and was ready to bubble over. I raised my hand, ready to pound on the door, when Miss Stranje opened i t and stepped out into the hall. "He's asleep now. We've given him laudanum. There's no sign of infection. Not yet. The doctor will sit with him through the night to make certain he doesn't develop a fever."

PAGE 354

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 354 I let out the breath I'd been holding. "You, yo ung lady, must get some rest. We will need a full accounting of events from you in the morning. Be at breakfast. We've plans to make." I stared at her. Did she actually expect me to sleep while he was in pain? Apparently she did, because she shooed me down the hall as if I was a goose rooting around in her garden. I fully intended to sneak into his room during the wee hours of the morning. But I am ashamed to say I drowsed and fell fast asleep. My only excuse was that I was exhausted I awoke to fin d the sun was already up and it was time to go down to breakfast. Miss Stranje caught up to me in the hallway outside the breakfast room. Madame Cho is much improved this morning. Seeing you last night must've been a tonic ." "Wonderful." I smiled, grea tly relieved. "And w hen can I see Gabriel ?" Her back straightened and she turned very stiff and formal. "The doctor has confined Lord Ravencross to bed for a few days until we can be sure the new stitches will hold. And I certainly can't allow you to visi t a gentleman's bedroom. That would not only bring shame to my establishment it would put you in complete disgrace." "But I have already been in his "Hush." She held up one finger. "Regardless of what you may or may not have done in the past, in my hous e you will behave within the bounds of propriety."

PAGE 355

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 355 And so we strolled into her sunny yellow breakfast room, but it may as well have been painted a dismal storm gray, for such was my temperament. In short terse sentences I related the events of the previou s evening. When I explained that Lady Daneska had been free of her manacles since the second day of her imprisonment here, Captain Grey set down his fork and stared out the window. "I wondered why she had been so easy to capture in Rye." He spoke softly as if it pained him to admit it. At this Lord Wyatt added, "It did seem a bit too easy." He and Georgie exchanged worried glances. Miss Stranje tilted her head studying the captain. "Then Lady Daneska wanted to be our prisoner all along. Knowing Rye was cl oser to Stranje House than London she would be fairly certain you would bring her here for questioning rather than London." "I'm afraid we played straight into her hand." "No matter." Mr. Sinclair finished a bite of his blueberry scone and dusted off his f ingers. "It all turned up right, in the end. They found the dummy plans and at least they won't be hunting me for the time being." Captain Grey agreed. "Yes, and the sooner we get you, your plans and the prototype to London so Lord Castlereagh and the fore ign office can have a look at it, the better." "How soon will you be going?" Jane very carefully set down her glass, as if the lemon water were so precious it must not incur even the smallest ripple. "Tomorrow, or the next day, as soon as the craft is rea dy for travel, and the plans and notes are ready." To this she merely swallowed and stared at her plate for a moment. "Sera and I have

PAGE 356

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 356 finished the drawings and notes. They are ready," she said this in a flat listless tone. "But we have yet to determine wh o let Ghost into the house to steal the false plans." Sera, who had been aimlessly pushing bits of a kipper around her plate, added to this without looking up. "All the windows were locked tight, even in the kitchens' and servants quarters. I checked every thing. There was no sign that he forced his way in." Suddenly I remembered something Ghost had said. They knew ," I blurted. They knew where the plans would be. Ghost said. They were right where they were supposed to be As if they'd been told." I turned to Jane and Sera. "How did you know to make the misleading documents?" Jane pursed her lips. And Sera looked down at the demolished kipper on her plate. "They suspected there might be another traitor in the house." Miss Stranje slowly turned the stem of h er water glass. Jane confessed that she and Sera had made the dummy drawings and notes because they were concerned about who to trust. "Not even me?" "Have you forgotten the original plan?" Jane defended. "The plan was that the two of you would escape. If Lady Daneska should decide to turn on you we didn't want you to have to hide any more information than necessary." The rest of our breakfast was taken up with planning the trip to London. Mr. Sinclair, the captain, and Lord Wyatt would sail the Mary Isabel la east then through the channel and straight up the Thames. I begged to be excused on the auspices of needing to lie down for a nap. They were all very solicitous of my health. But I assured them I simply required a rest.

PAGE 357

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 357 Miss Stranje had forbidden me from seeing Lord Ravencross, but I knew a secret passage that led to that guest room. So I took myself off to the dormitorium and went directly to the panel on the back wall. One quick push and I was tiptoeing down a flight of rickety old stairs and around a corner with Punch and Judy scampering along side me. I tossed them some bread to keep them from scurrying through into his room with me. The opening was a narrow panel that opened up just beyond a small bureau just to the side of his bed. He wouldn't b e able to see me from where he lay facing the door. I crept ever so quietly so as not to disturb him. He lay perfectly still his dark curls framing his fascinating features against the white pillow. He looked paler that normal. "What took you so long?" He didn't even open his eyes. Wretch How did you know it was me?" "It was either a gigantic rodent climbing through the wall, or it was you. I made a lucky guess." You've such a way with words, my lord. Terribly flattering, to be compared a gigantic roden t I pretended to sulk. He ignored that. "Where have you been? I thought I would go mad wondering how you are." At last he opened his eyes, and I couldn't help but smile at the warmth in them. So, unlike his brother's. "You are the one at risk for fever, not I." I laid my hand on his forehead checking. "Gabriel, about your brother ." He grabbed my hand and pulled it to his lips. "I know why you didn't tell me. Georgie explained."

PAGE 358

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 358 I breathed out with relief. "If I'd lost you because of him, I swear I would've hunted him down and finished the job." "No, you wouldn't. You aren't that kind of man. But what do you intend to do about him being alive." "I don't know." He closed his eyes and rubbed my fingers lightly against the rough stubble of his cheek. "A t the moment, nothing." He still looked dreadfully weary. "What were you thinking to jump in after me?" He let go of my hand, his eyes blinked open, and set my soul humming like a bee to molasses. "I was thinking that I'd rather be dead than live without you." I swallowed and placed my hand on his bedside table to steady myself. "Well, that was rather foolish." "I agree. Completely insane. Someone should knock some sense into me. But, by all the stars, I would do it again." I smiled. By now I was becomi ng quite accustomed to the muscles required to do so. "Then, you may as well know, I made a vow to myself. When it looked as if I might never have the chance to kiss you again, I was filled with regret. So, I vowed to do it more often." "You made a vow?" His eyebrow lifted with curiosity. "Yes." "A sacred vow?" "Don't be ridiculous. It was just a vow, like any other old vow." "To kiss me more often?"

PAGE 359

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 359 I did say something to that effect. "You did, and yet here I am still unkissed." "You are a rather merc enary fellow, aren't you?" "I warned you about my character defects. But in this case, I am merely trying to help you keep your vow. I've been told breaking such things can be perilous to one's soul, and since I wouldn't want you to suffer in the fires of "Oh very well, if you insist." "No." He pressed back against the pillows and winced with pain for his trouble. "I shan't force you to do something that makes you unhappy." No he wouldn't would he ? "That's just the thing, Gabriel. It makes me quite hap py, deliriously happy." I bent slowly to his mouth, and as I did, the light shifted, the smell of whiskey soaked bandages and fresh linen vanished, the room shimmered away, and I seemed to fall through time and space. I felt the most glorious sensation in my palm. A small hand tucked in side mine I looked down and saw the achingly beautiful face of a little girl. I knew immediately she was my daughter because I recognized some of my distinctive features reflected back in her dear little face. And even thou gh she looked somewhat like me, it was obvious who her father must be. She had Gabriel's soft brown eyes. What an adorable dress she wore, shaped like a little velvet bell. A bonnet framed her perfect features and I saw the gift in her. One day my daughter would have dreams. Even so, I wasn't afraid. Because I would be there to guide her.

PAGE 360

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 360 I, too, wore peculiar fashions, a great round skirt nipped in at the waist with absur dly huge sleeves. And yet, I still sported daggers strapped to each calf, and oh yes Inside my absurd sleeves, I had tucked a third knife sheath. We stood on the cliffs of Stranje House. I'd untied my bonnet so I could feel the ocean breeze blow through my hair. On the other side of my little daughter stood her father his face free of anger and pain. He stared out at a calm sea and a brilliant sky adorned with a few fluffy clouds. I soaked in the wonder of that moment and j oy whirled through my chest and flew all the way through my fingertips. My daughter looked at her hand as if the sensation startled her. "Mama?" All I could say was, "Yes, darling. Yes." Anything else would've come out in a rush of tears. For once I loved dreaming. I didn't know if this was a vision of things to come, or simply a wishful daydream. It didn't matter. D reams are really nothing more than possibilities. And this possibility filled me with hope. "Tess?" He patted my cheek. "Tess, are you all right?" "Yes," I answered weakly. "Yes, I am more than all right, my lord." I finished what I'd begun and kissed him with all the sweetness and promise welling up inside me. The door flew open. Miss Stranje looked in, alarmed. "Tess! Stop that this instant, or I will force this make believe betrothal of yours to become a reality. Good heavens!" Then she echoed the quest ion I'd put to her a few days earlier "What sort of girl's school do you think I am running?"

PAGE 361

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 361 I smiled as I passed through the doorway "A most unusual sort." In answer she swatted me on the behind, and Lord Ravencross laughed. Dear Reader, As you ma y have noticed, t here is a significant departure from history in this story. Napoleon, even after his escape from Elba did not succeed as well as depicted in this story. The Stranje House novels present an alternate history based on events that happened in A School for Unusual Girls. We are speculating that i f King Louis the XVIII had been assassinated and therefore Napoleon garnered the full backing of the people of France what might he have achieved? However most of the other background elements in the story are factual. Napoleon's fascination with fate and interpreting dreams is historically accurate His Oraculum was left behind in Napoleon's Cabinet of Curiosities when he fled Leipzig He did indeed call it his Book of Fates and we still have copi es of it today. Mr. Sinclair, Robert Fulton's nephew, is a fictional character. Although, after reading Fulton's letters and several commentaries on his character, I feel certain that if Fulton had a nephew interested in engineering, he would've taken that young man under his wing. He was that sort of man Fulton was extremely generous to his mother and sisters, and even purchased a farm for his mother. Fulton's inventions mentioned in th is story are all real He actually did build a submarine for Napoleo n the Nautilus As you might have guessed Jules Verne named his fictional submarine in honor of Fulton. I n 1804, after having been frustrated by Napoleon's rejection of his work Fulton offered those same

PAGE 362

Exile for Dreamers Tess's Story Kathleen Baldwin Baldwin, page 362 ideas to Britain. The Prime Minister commissioned him to build a submarine for England and also considered buying his steam powered gunship B ut shortly thereafter Admiral Nelson defeated the French navy at Trafalgar and Fulton's projects were no longer needed He went home to the United States and bui lt a warship for the United States the famed Demologos The warship described in this story is based on that design. Kathleen Baldwin loves hearing from readers. You can contact her through her website: KathleenBaldwin.com


Download Options

No images are available for this item.
Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.