Authors: Teresa DesJardien
A Heart’s Treasure
Copyright © 2016 by Teresa DesJardien.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
A Heart’s Treasure/ Teresa DesJardien. — 1st ed.
To: LaJuan Donaldson — For the decades of fun: multiple bike rides to find the best meal between households, heartfelt talks, many late night hokey monster movies, hysterical airport laughter, and haunted hotel elevators that persisted in sending us to different floors. Thanks for always being there for me. Love you, girl.
Table of Contents
The Treasure Hunters (brother and sister):
XAVIER AND PENELOPE:
Family surname: Grenwaite
Title names: Warfield (courtesy title for Xavier.) The Earl of Fenworth (his father.)
, Lord Warfield – Son and heir of the Earl and Countess of Fenworth. Has worn a patch on his blinded left eye since the age of seven, a perceived flaw of which he is too acutely aware. His good eye is gray. His hair is dark with a bit of wave to it when it grows out. He has only one sibling, a sister.
Hunt partner: Summer
, Lady – Xavier’s sister, daughter of Lord and Lady Fenworth. Her father turned down Mr. Kenneth Manning when the latter asked for Penelope’s hand, as not being worthy of her in terms of marriage/rank. Her eyes are gray-green, depending on the light. Her hair is light brown, with gold accents when sun-struck.
Hunt partner: Kenneth
MICHAEL AND GENEVIEVE:
Family surname: Burnham.
Title names: Earl Yardley (courtesy title for Michael), and the Marquess of Galton (his father.)
, Lord Yardley – Son and heir of the Marquess of Galton; his mother is ten years deceased. He is betrothed for over a year to Summer, and in no hurry to marry. Often affects an attitude of ennui. He and Genevieve have one younger brother. Michael has brown eyes. His hair is darker brown, but a bit lighter than his sister’s, and is worn down to his collar.
Hunt partner (and sister): Genevieve
, Lady – Michael’s sister, daughter of Lord Galton. Has brown eyes. Has deeply brunette hair; peachy skin; is curvaceous. Her father has not remarried, perhaps in part because Genevieve never took to any of his lady friends. Has nursed a secret attraction to Xavier for years.
Hunt partner (and brother): Michael
KENNETH AND LAURA:
Family surname: Manning
Title names: Kenneth has no title. His father is: Sir Roger Manning, a knight. Sir Roger’s wife is called: Lady Manning.
, Mr. – Eldest son and heir of Sir Roger Manning, the latter of which who, although he is extremely wealthy, often disapproves of Kenneth and therefore keeps a short rein on him by often cutting his quarterly allowance. Kenneth has sandy hair. Has brown eyes. He is bookish, and the originator of the treasure hunt on which they venture forth. He once asked for Penelope’s hand, but was esteemed by her father as being unworthy of a viscount’s daughter.
Hunt partner: Penelope
, Miss – Eldest daughter of Sir Roger, Laura is two years older than Kenneth. There are six siblings in their family, with Kenneth and Laura having four younger siblings, two boys, two girls. Laura has light brown hair, tending toward red. She has brown eyes. She is sometimes too observant for her companions’ comfort.
Hunt partner: Hadrian
HADDY AND SUMMER:
Family surname: Dillonsby
Title names: Earl of Moreland.
, Lord Moreland – His father is deceased; Hadrian is the head of the family. His hair is dusty-blonde and thinning. His eyes are blue. Shortest man of the group, with a bull-like build. Is a bachelor, but knows as the earl he must marry one day. He and Summer have an older, married sister.
Hunt partner: Laura
, Lady (Lady Rose) – Betrothed to Michael for over a year; she is madly in love with her fiancé, and quietly pines for the day they’ll marry. She has white-blonde hair, and sky-blue eyes. She has a delicate build and nature, and is always soft-spoken yet somehow commands everyone’s attention and concern.
Her given name is Rose, but the pet name “Summer Rose” has long since been shortened to Summer. Her intimates have called her Summer for so long, the name has spilled over to a more common usage, wherein those who claim a longer acquaintance with her oft call her (incorrectly, but affectionately): Lady Summer.
Hunt partner: Xavier
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The summer heat was oppressive, causing the five occupants of the room to languish less for effect and far more from cause. Only Penelope moved at all, plying her needle, without however any real enthusiasm. Her brother, Xavier, looked upon her with his one good eye, the other covered by a black eye patch. He didn’t stare from interest, but languor. The day’s great heat had killed any keenness and dulled everyone’s brains.
Still, listlessly leaning his six-foot frame against the mantelpiece, Xavier was content. Despite the heat, his world was just as he would have it be: he was at home, with his few friends gathered to him, and no strangers to try his patience by staring at him.
The four others in the room were persons who’d long since forgotten to note Xavier’s eye patch; to them he was no curiosity. His compatriots surely gave little thought to his one blinded eyed; due to that and many other attributes, Xavier cherished their company above all things. With precious few additional exceptions—two of whom were out in the garden—he’d allowed these four inside his small and carefully guarded circle of intimates. They saw the man, not the injury, and not a one of them pandered to or even thought to pity him. With these few he felt very nearly whole.
In a world replete with injured sailors and broken soldiers, Xavier knew he’d no right to host a dire sensitivity to the stares of others, especially for so small a thing as an eye patch—but it was one thing to know a thing, another to live it.
Michael, Kenneth, and Haddy endured the heat with him, and his sister, Penelope—with whom Xavier was never uncomfortable. When at age seven he’d taken the dire injury to his left eye, her five-year-old self had tried to kiss it better. She’d then promptly treated him as she ever had, never thinking to let him make an excuse nor use his maiming to avoid some duty or blame—and he’d been devoted to her ever since.
Xavier slumped into a seat next to Michael, who was Lord Yardley, the Marquess of Galton’s eldest son. As had the rest of the gentlemen in the room, Michael had doffed his coat against the day’s warmth, but he’d also gone so far as to remove his cravat. Granted, Penelope didn’t seem to take such casual disrobing amiss, so Xavier said nothing against the shocking informality, even toying with the idea of taking off his own.
Michael’s brown hair came down to his collar, but not from lack of the ready to keep a valet to trim it. His pockets were lined with a generous quarterly sum, certainly greater than Xavier’s own, which was no pittance. Alas, Michael’s purse and position too oft bought him the liberty of a barbed tongue and too frequently a cavalier air. If Xavier were to be candid, he would say Michael was more than a bit indulged, and the worse for it. A case in point: Michael was promised to the sister of one of their friends: Haddy’s youngest sister. Which was all well and good, except Michael’s wooing of Lady Summer was glacial in its pace. Well over a year had passed between their betrothal and this day, and there was still no wedding date set. His advance toward matrimony moved just like the window breezes: scarce to be noted. Lady Summer clearly pined for her wedding day…and yet Michael’s widowed parent said not one word to hurry him along.
Equally without a coat, but his drooping cravat in place, Kenneth sat upright directly across from Xavier and Michael. He was the eldest son of a knight—his social status steeply reduced compared with the other friends, a fact perhaps noted by others but scarce at all by his three long-claimed associates. Kenneth had brown eyes, and sandy hair that often seemed wind-raked as he was wont to pull his hands through it in distraction. He was a little shorter than Xavier, and narrower through the shoulders. Kenneth was bookish in look and inclination, but he was also clever and keen—attributes that seldom shone when he was in the company of his bluff father. Sir Roger, a man bursting with energy and short of temper, little understood his scholarly heir, often finding fault with small offences Kenneth had made or Sir Roger had considered he’d done. Kenneth’s parent regularly showed his displeasure by restricting his heir’s quarterly allowance. The family was in possession of an astonishing fortune (which had financed more than one Royal speculation and thereby earned Sir Roger his knighthood, and possibly future honors to come) but, alas, Kenneth was seldom in funds, his purse too often a strangled, gasping thing.
Of the men present this day, Kenneth alone seemed mentally engaged; he stared at the empty fireplace grate, his brows drawn together as he pondered some private thought. Xavier was relieved the man didn’t look to Penelope, as Kenneth so often surreptitiously did. The sadly lovelorn gentleman was probably unaware how regularly Xavier caught him at it. Xavier sighed to himself. Theirs was an attraction that had been crushed before it could even flower on the vine.
Last of the men, and nearly prone on the divan, was Haddy. He insisted on the nickname, detesting as he did his given name of Hadrian. He was the Earl of Moreland, head of his family these two years since his father passed. He was the shortest of the four men, with the solid build of a bull, powerful and intimidating despite his lesser inches, and despite what was an otherwise generally genial temper. His hair was a darker blond than Summer’s and was thinning at the crown. He liked to watch his expenses, not that he needed to, and he openly enjoyed being a bachelor even while he wistfully confessed he knew he must one day marry for the sake of the earldom.
The four men had found one another in their youths. First Xavier and Haddy, and then the latter had drawn in Kenneth and Michael. It had taken but a few rounds of sport, a flurry of fisticuffs, a half dozen punishments shared—and the four lads had fixed a bond. So constant was their camaraderie, that at age thirteen they’d contrived to all attend Harrow, with even poor beleaguered Kenneth managing to secure his father’s approval. Then it had been on to Oxford.
Without his three stalwart friends at his side, Xavier had no doubt he’d have been permanently sent down from one school or the other, those battlegrounds where an eye patch had been so obvious a target, goad, and training ground for ill wits and ready fists.