A Savage Exile

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English
129 pages
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Isabelle, a young French maid, follows her notorious mistress to the island of St. Helena after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. She discovers quickly that a “beast” roams this remote island, and people are vanishing or found drained of blood. She falls in love with Saint-Denis, Napoleon’s valet, but this enigmatic young man hides a deadly secret. Hudson Lowe, the island’s governor—a vampire himself—plans to destroy the French. Isabelle rushes with her lover to stop the vicious outcome, and save her own life.

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Publié par
Date de parution 04 octobre 2014
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781773621968
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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A Savage Exile Vampires with Napoleon on St. Helena
by Diane Scott Lewis Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-196-8 Kindle 978-1-77145-308-0 WEB 978-1-77362-197-5
Amazon Print ISBN 978-1-77299-282-3
Copyright 2014 by Diane Parkinson Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book This novel is pure fantasy; any true historical per sonage is presented in an entirely fictitious manner. The timeline of actual events ha s been compressed for dramatic purposes.
Chapter One October 1815 After a sailor shouted, sighting land, Isabelle rus hed to the ship’s rail. The island of St. Helena slid into view—a black volcanic lump spe wed from the ocean. Her heart clenched. They navigated closer. Splintered cliffs rose like sabers from the South Atlantic they’d sailed through for an interminable two and a half months. A cloud of dark mist hovered like gray moss on the peaks. Parbleuelf at the slick rail, her,” she hissed under her breath as she steadied hers knuckles white. More grumbling people gathered near her. A myriad of sails slapped above, fighting against the yardarms. The breeze ru stled the skirt of her muslin lavender gown. “What a craggy, severe-looking place . I should have begged to stay in Paris.” She spoke to no one in particular, and wide ned her stance to balance with the ship’s rocking. Saint-Denis, one of Emperor Napoleon’s valets, sque ezed through the gawking people and up beside her, as others in the French c ontingent moaned and whimpered. “Behold our new home,” the young man said as he sti ffened his lanky frame against the rail. At twenty-four, he was two years her seni or, though the melancholy she’d sometimes noticed in his gaze made him look older. “These English fiends have made certain His Majesty will never escape again.” He gl ared over at the British soldiers who appeared to fill every corner ofHMS Northumberland like splashes of blood in their crimson coats. Isabelle looked up into his sooty eyes. “Well, let’ s pray it’s prettier farther inside. I hope we won’t have to stay here long. This must be a mistake.” She twisted a loose strand of hair around her finger, the light-blonde color dull—her hair stiff with salt. She feared it was no mistake; they were to be banished forever. Her pulse skittered. “My mistress was too eager to follow the emperor. I bel ieve she has less than decent designs on him. She might be an embarrassment.” “I have no doubts. The Countess de Montholon is a w oman of…dare I say… frivolous morals.” The valet smirked and tugged his hat lower over his slick black hair. “And her husband never seems to mind. He was one of her affairs.” Isabelle had worked as personal maid for Madame de Montholon for two years, after her previous mistress—a sweet elderly woman—h ad died. She had a difficult time respecting her new employer, but the countess paid well. The loamy scent of land wafted over them, replacing the stink of bilge water and fish. The volcanic island’s cliff’s appeared to separate as the ship rocked closer, sails billowing. A few red roofed buildings and palm tree s peeked out from the harbor. “The port of Jamestown doesn’t look too decrepit,” she said, desperate to bolster her spirits. Her saltwater-washed gown chafed under her armpit, but she refrained from scratching.
“At least we found land. I feared we’d drop off the edge of the sea before we reached this wart.” Saint-Denis shifted his long le gs incased in white stockings. He cut a fine form in his frock coat and breeches of green l ivery with gold-embroidered collars and cuffs. He leaned down from his impressive heigh t. “I imagine we’ll find time to know one another better while we’re here.” Isabelle laughed, to hide the ripple that traveled along her spine. She knew she filled out her classical-style, high-waisted dress well—she’d had plenty of compliments —and she did find the valet handsome; but, unlike h er mistress, she was not one for casual affairs. “I think you overstep yourself. I d o have my standards, monsieur.” At that moment, the emperor strode out on deck. The French swept off their hats and bowed. The British hats remained in place. Napo leon’s face, rounded and plump as he neared fifty, was pale under his cocked hat. His belly pushed out the front of his green jacket with red collar and cuffs. Raising his field glasses, he scrutinized the island. He grunted in disapproval, spoke with his o fficers, then turned and went back below decks. “His Majesty has the same reservations that I do.” Isabelle tightened her shawl about her shoulders, her white cap fluttering in th e wind. Their emperor looked pasty and overwhelmed. Since his defeat at Waterloo, four months ago in June, an event that had sent them from Europe to this island, she saw h im fading from his once glorious career. She shivered, her future caught up with Napoleon’s since her mistress’s husband decided to leave Europe with the exiled ex-ruler. I t was rumored that the Count de Montholon was evading money problems back in France . Eh biencliffs.” Saint-Denis, I only hope there are fresh pickings beyond those seemed to say this to himself as he scrutinized the island’s strange, crumpled landscape. “What do you mean?” Isabelle had often wondered at the young man’s enigmatic behavior. She’d discovered him wandering the ship a t night, his expression overly brooding. His dark hair and thick-lashed eyes gave him an exotic look—someone hiding secrets filled with mischief, and something else sh e couldn’t define. “It’s not important. I should go below and attend H is Majesty.” Saint-Denis forced a cocky smile. “I’m not certain the countess requires your services as yet.” He winked, stroked her shoulder, and walked off down the deck. Isabelle quivered. Why had his touch felt cold and enticing at the same time? To the left, the Countess de Montholon could be see n flirting with a handsome British officer as the alien Union Jack flapped abo ve their heads. The countess flashed her cobalt blue eyes at the officer as she flicked white fingers through her brassy hair. Isabelle stifled a sigh of dismay. Trapped into service at the age of eleven, after her parents’ death from a fever—her heart weighed heavi ly at the thought—she wished she had enough money to break free. She’d have enjoyed training as a milliner—she always had a flare for hats—in a shop on a pretty Paris street, rather than having to rot here. Dusk started to fall as the ship neared the port. T he Southern Cross began to glimmer in the sky, the island far south of the equ ator. Sailors spread through the
rigging like spiders to trim the sails on the seven ty-four-gun man-of-war. She studied the port while the ship’s planks heaved beneath her. Cannon, along with watchtowers and sentry boxes, dotted the two h uge peaks that squeezed in on both sides of the town. A church steeple and a buil ding that resembled a castle came into view. “Napoleon’s self-aggrandizement has forced us out h ere.Ma foi!” Countess Bertrand, the wife of the emperor’s Grand Marshal, pushed to the rail. A tall woman with a strong nose that gave her an air of dignity, she looked about to throw herself overboard in despair. “This island looks like a pil e of dung.” Count Bertrand, a quiet, handsome man in blue unifo rm, put his arm around her. “As I’ve explained, it’s my proud duty to accompany my emperor wherever he must go.” “That’s our entire problem, your loyalty to a madma n.” His wife swept apart from him —her dignity forgotten—and shoved her way through the sailors, who snickered. Both the countesses were going to be a problem, Isa belle surmised. A shot fired, announcing the ship’s arrival, but pe ople had already gathered on the wharf, no doubt curious about the infamous man on b oard. Shadows lengthened over the land mass. Another man stood on the quay, separate from the islanders who crowded to stare. A line of soldiers marched over a drawbridge and, with rifles raised, ordered the gawkers back. The lone man was thin, his long coat draping loosel y around him, his shoulders bunched in what appeared to be intense anger. Isabelle shuddered. Though she couldn’t see his eye s, a strange, reddish aura seemed to radiate off him. She sensed a danger that made her want to plead for the ship to turn around.
* * *
Hudson Lowe entered Plantation House, his Georgian residence in a pretty hollow, up the cliffs from Jamestown, and removed his coat. A servant dashed forward to take it. Lowe entered his parlor and poured a glass of p ort, the sweet wine a poor substitute for what he really desired. This new prisoner he was saddled with—a scoundrel h is country had been at war with for twenty years—would only make things compli cated. The world, as much as they could in this remote location, would now intrude on his privacy, his coveted getaway. Saint Helena was now under martial law. Lowe gritte d his teeth. “I suppose you saw him?” His wife entered, wearing one of her preferred low-cut gowns. A little too “flaunting” for his tastes, but she carried herself well. Lowe smiled, smoothing over his frustration at thes e startling events. With the slowness of news here, they’d only had a few weeks to prepare. “No, I arrived too late on the wharf. He was below, I was informed.” “He’s a hideous man, I’m certain.” Susan smiled in return. A tall, attractive woman, she’d been previously widowed when he’d married her the year before being assigned as colonial governor of St. Helena. “I’ve heard he has horns and a tail.” “We’ll soon see. I’ll visit when Bonaparte is given his permanent dwelling.” Lowe poured her a glass of wine. He admired, as always, her thick, brown hair, bright eyes
and very pretty neck. “I suppose you must be polite to the rogue.” She to ok the glass and sipped, her pinky raised. He’d heard the servants whisper she w as a prima-donna who, at age thirty-five, wore too much rouge. “I must play the diplomat, of course.” Lowe caresse d her shoulder, watching a vein throb in her throat. His innards clenched, but he b reathed deeply. “They wanted to give him Plantation House, but I objected. The air is pe rfect here, and I look out for your health.” “Put him somewhere dismal.” She waved a hand in the air as if she conducted a choir, leaving a scent of Jasmine. “On the other side of the island if possible.” Lowe glanced around the well-appointed room with it s richly paneled mahogany walls and green velvet drapery. The furniture was s hipped from England, and expensive. “As far from us as I can manage, my dear.” “Excellent. You must always put me and my daughters first.” Susan finished her drink, kissed him on the cheek, and left. Lowe appreciated his wife’s daughters from her prev ious marriage. They kept Susan occupied and not so nosey in his affairs. His wife was a self-involved woman, which also helped. He swallowed down more of the sw eet beverage, his taste buds unsatisfied. He fisted the delicate glass. Back to his current c onundrum. Why did his government have to ship the scourge of Europe to hi s island? A firing squad for the Corsican ogre would have been better. Lowe’s career had led him to many islands, includin g Elba and Corsica, as if he’d followed in the footsteps of General Bonaparte. Now Bonaparte followed him here. Outrageous! He’d managed his business on the other isles, but St. Helena was perfect for his needs. So remote, a thousand miles from the nearest land, and the abundance of slaves here never counted in any ledger. Lowe licked his thin lips. He returned his glass to the sideboard, avoiding the cheval mirror that hung over the mantel. He knew his visag e wasn’t handsome, not that he’d be able to view himself clearly. His hair was rusty co lored with streaks of gray, his face long and bony. But he’d wooed Susan, hadn’t he? Eve n if she’d been penniless, she did have fashionable connections. However, more important matters churned in his mind . He must curtail these French invaders before anyone discovered his secrets.
* * *
“Our emperor thought he’d be received as an honored guest.” The Countess de Montholon huffed as she sat before her rickety vani ty table at their new residence, Longwood House. “But aren’t we surprised in our del usions. Look where we’ve ended up, in a farmhouse not much better than a barn.C’est la vie.” Isabelle rearranged her mistress’s hair, twisting i t up in the back the way she preferred. The confining room closed in on her, sta le and damp. “This is not an acceptable house, I agree, Madame. But the carpente rs from the ship are enlarging it.”
“What materials will they find in this isolated out post?” Albine de Montholon pouted childishly into the looking-glass. “Oh, how I will miss my modiste and the perfumers. I now wish I hadn’t come, but my husband was adamant. We must go for our emperor’s solace, he said.” “You are attending the governor’s ball tonight. Tha t may cheer you up.” Isabelle had seen Plantation House where the governor resided, b efore the narrow, twisting road that led here. She longed to glance inside the place, th e finest, she assumed, on the island. Her petulant mistress would do well to enjoy what little they were offered. “My dresses are mildewed, and we’ve only been here barely two weeks. The Count’s shoes and mine are blue with mold.” The wom an spoke as ifshewere the one cleaning off the mold. The countess checked the rou ge on her cheeks, her pretty blue eyes—her best feature—shining. “How will I impress His Majesty if I look like a wilted flower?” “I’m certain he will be impressed.” Isabelle had se en the two flirting, as she’d suspected, but Napoleon had sunk into a bleak despa ir days after taking up residence in the larger part of the house. “Will the emperor attend the ball?” Albine laughed bitterly. “No, he’s refused. The gov ernor wanted him to come with an armed British escort, an insult to His Majesty.” Sh e powdered her nose, though the powder clumped together like cotton tufts on her fa ce. She wiped them away. “I see I will have to charm this governor, so he may treat u s kinder.” The woman, at nearly forty, was past her prime as a coquette. But no one had bothered to tell her so. “I have faith in you, Madame.” Isabelle turned and hid a smile. She picked up a frothy shawl and draped it over the countess’s plum p shoulders. “The British won’t even address him as emperor. He’ s relegated to General Bonaparte.Hélas! More insults. I believe they fear him. He brought them to their knees in battle, now they have their revenge.” Albine rea rranged the shawl and fluttered her eyelashes. “I’ll make certain this government sycop hant treats me with respect. I will uncover his soft side.” “I have little doubt of your success.” Isabelle bit down on her lip as her mouth twitched. She wished the countess would stay focuse d on her husband, as a wife should. Her parents had shared a loving marriage. S he fought a sigh. Such intrigues would only cause problems. Isabelle then spoke of t he topic that was closest to her heart. “Is there a possibility of the allies realiz ing their error, and for us to return to Europe…soon?” Mais oui. That is what we hope for. But I detest to ponder these political ministrations.” Albine stood, her high-wasted pink gown snug around her full figure. Her breasts spilled out like two cow udders at the low neckline. She tugged at a sleeve. “This house’s humid air will be the death of me.” S he glanced at Isabelle and touched her hair. “You have such beautiful blonde locks. So ft with youthfulness.” Merci, Madame.” Isabelle was surprised by this genuine-s ounding compliment from such an egotistical woman.
“Ah, well, youth is fleeting.” The countess nodded and walked toward the bedroom door. “Where is my husband?” “With His Majesty, I would guess. Trying to amuse h im, as is his special talent.” Isabelle stifled a laugh as she pictured the count genuflecting before their emperor. Her mistress sauntered through the tiny parlor then out the door to the outside. Isabelle cleaned up the mess on the vanity top, fli cked away ants, and hung the countess’s dressing gown in the wardrobe. The drear y room was crowded with scratched, green-painted furniture. A closet of a r oom adjacent was where she slept— quite the come-down from the elegant chateaux in Fr ance. She battled her own sinking into despair. Stepping out for a breath of fresh air, Isabelle st ared around the desolate area where their house stood. The wind buffeted against her off the Deadwood Plain. Longwood House, a yellow wood and stucco dwelling w ith a gray slate roof, was once used by the Lieutenant Governor as a summer residen ce. Now it was late spring in November in this southern hemisphere, but the air b lew frigid and moist. A watchtower loomed up in front of her. Several sol diers marched around the property’s perimeter wall, their boots crunching ov er the clay and stone earth, all guarding the notorious captive. Count de Montholon exited from the emperor’s sectio n of the house, sleek in his high-collared blue tunic with gold braid, his simpe ring wife on his arm. The count stood slender as a reed, his small mouth in a greedy smil e. He caressed his wife’s shoulder. Isabelle walked to the low stone wall as the Imperi al retinue, minus their leader, climbed into carts to ride over the treacherous roa d to Plantation House. Propping her elbows on the rough wall, Isabelle lon ged to be included. She recalled from the journey to this plain, the zigzagged path carved into the cliffs above Jamestown. How they’d feared tumbling to their deat hs. The road then snaked around the island’s ridges, a sharp backbone of jagged bas alt hills and knolls. The carts now started off, their wheels stirring th e gray volcanic powder as they passed scattered gum trees whose whorled trunks ben t over, their sparse foliage blown inside out in the wind. She turned when someone came up beside her. A young slave girl who worked in the kitchen stood there, her large doe eyes watching. Her skin was as dark as a coffee bean. “I fear for them, Missy.” “Why do you say that?” Isabelle scrutinized the girl. “Will the British mistreat them at a party?” The slave shifted from foot to foot, shaking her he ad swathed in a red bandana; a few fuzzy dark curls peeked out. “This be a bad pla ce. A bad place after dark. Many get lost out there. They never come home.” Isabelle wanted to scoff at the girl’s superstition , yet something prevented her. Her mother had been a superstitious woman, believing in fairies, angels, and much scarier creatures that lurked in the night. Despite her best effort, a chill rippled up her spi ne. “What is your name?” Isabelle’s English wasn’t the best, but passable. They’d had a n English neighbor in Paris, and
she’d grown up playing with their daughter. “Amanda, Missy. Don’t tell no one I said any of thi s to you.” The girl ducked her head and scurried off. Mon Dieuered as the sun. What more will we be plagued with?” Isabelle shiv disappeared into the endless mist of clouds. She mu st find a way to achieve her ambitions and get off this forgotten island.
ChapterTwo Hudson Lowe danced slowly with the Countess de Mont holon in Plantation House’s spacious ballroom. She smelled of strong perfume, a nd her flirtatious glances left him cold. “You must understand my government’s position . The prince regent denied your. . .ah, general’s asylum. The general’s staying in Eng land would have weakened Louis XVIII’s monarchy.” “I care little for the details, Governor. And I’m a fraid Louis is a sloppy dullard of a king.” She fluttered her lashes, an action pleasant on a much younger woman. “But please don’t punish us all, as for what choice did we have in this decision?” Lowe eyed her pretty, white neck. “Your entourage w as given a choice to travel with the general or stay in Europe.” Fluent in French an d Italian, Lowe’s words stayed even. Bonaparte’s ship had taken him to Plymouth, where they’d anchored, forbidden to come ashore, until forced by Britain’s government to the South Atlantic. “Some of us would have been arrested if we’d stayed . Not me, of course. I am innocent in all things.” The countess’s smile was i mpish, meant to cajole. Her small, delicate features were marred by her over-roughed l ips and cheeks. She was worse than Susan. “Tell me, what is the purpose of this t eeny island so far away from anywhere?” “Ships traveling to the Orient would stop here to r eplenish their water and supplies. The East India Company once owned it before our gov ernment recently took over.” Lowe observed the other dancers, trying not to grim ace as the French swilled his wine. But proper diplomacy dictated that he at least atte mpt to entertain them. The crystal chandelier above, lit by dozens of cand les, sparkled light around the room, heating up the perspiration and perfume of hi s guests. “India, the Orient, such exotic places. Have you ev er been?” She ran a finger down his crimson coat lapel. “I’ve been in numerous countries at various times.” He cleared his throat. She didn’t realize she might stir a desire in him of a differe nt sort. “Distances are vast out here. News takes forever to reach us. We were quite pleas ed to learn of the success of Waterloo.” The countess pouted her lips. “Now you tease me, as you can since I am your lowly prisoner.” He stiffened in irritation. “No one is a prisoner h ere, really, except for General Bonaparte. You are all free to leave, if you wish.” And he’d be relieved if they did. Lowe counted on the night ending early, for he had an errand to take care of, the need pulsing through him. His wife at least would b e lulled asleep quickly by the flow of alcohol. “It is so noisy in here. May we find a place to tal k, more privately?” The countess grinned up at him, her head tilted to one side. Lowe could see she’d be nothing but trouble, and he must restrain himself. He dare not damage his reputation, or how else could he carry on as he had?