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Authors: February Grace

Godspeed

BOOK: Godspeed
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Copyright 2013 February Grace

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Attribution
— You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Noncommercial
— You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works
— You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

Inquiries about additional permissions should be directed to:
[email protected]

Cover Design by Greg Simanson

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.

PRINT ISBN 978-1-62015-149-5

EPUB ISBN 978-1-62015-245-4

For further information regarding permissions, please contact
[email protected]
.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013942794

For those I love, both present and absent.

CONTENTS

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

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1

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MORE GREAT READS FROM BOOKTROPE

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

My heartfelt gratitude and affection goes out to everyone at Booktrope…especially those on my team who have worked so tirelessly and rapidly to launch this book.

Thank you, Katherine Sears and Kenneth Shear, for believing in my story exactly as I wrote it.

Thank you, Jesse James Freeman, for endless patience and the putting out of many and various fires.

Thank you to Greg Simanson, for patience and incredible attention to detail in design.

Thank you, Adam Bodendieck, for going above and beyond and helping so much where my eyesight failed.

Thank you, Victoria Wolffe, for making my words look so beautiful.

Thank you, amazing Wendy Logsdon, for being the Book Manager of my dreams. I will forever count myself lucky that our paths crossed.

Thank you, to my dear Jennifer Gracen, not only for the extraordinary skill you showed in copy editing this book but for believing in it, and in me, enough to make magic happen. I am so grateful.

I must also thank my friends, family, and those who have believed in my writing enough to publish it in the past.

Thank you again to Jennifer Gracen, also Paul Brand, and especially Matthew Irvine, without whom Godspeed would still be a file on my computer.

…and thank you to Jarrod, for making it possible for me to do what I can day in and out, whatever that may be on a given day. I know it isn't easy. I am grateful.

My love to all,

FG

C
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1

I WAS RAISED
in and among the beautiful, well-tended gardens just beyond the city of Fairever, though the residence in which I lived was never mine.

My earliest memories are of spring… of days spent contentedly hiding amidst graceful, gossamer willow branches as they curtsied in the afternoon breeze.

As I grew older, I was often included in activities taking place around me, even to the point of being educated by a proper governess. Not once, however, in all my life, was I allowed to forget or exceed the limits of my station. Never were the consequences of doing so clearer than they became on one particularly freezing Tuesday afternoon, late in my seventeenth winter.

It was on that day, and in a single instant, that life as I'd known it broke into thousands of glimmering pieces, destroyed beyond recognition to the accompanying sound of shattering glass.

My hands shook with such ferocity they slipped from the tray, and the resultant noise proclaimed more clearly than any words that I would pay for my show of weakness.

The slap that followed came as a surprise, but it was no shock. Nastasia Argent glared at me with such disregard — no, a deep, loathsome hatred — that I realized she had wanted to strike me for some time. It was only then she found a reason that would excuse her from the burden of politeness and feigned regard expected of her by society, and imposed upon her as lady of the house.

She shrieked. Fingers barbed by sharpened claws grasped desperately at silk. Finally, she held up the dripping wet skirt of her dress.

The decanter of brandy had bled out its contents after crashing to the ground, spattering them upward across the front of her imported gown, and leaving stains no easier to remove than the lifeblood she seemed to wish she could wring from my shivering form.

“Idiot!” she cried. “Look what you've done!”

My heart raced and throbbed so that it seemed to cease any understanding of how to function. I was dizzy, and I wobbled upon unsteady knees.
Not here, not now
, I thought.
Not in front of such important guests…

In that instant, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to die.

My heart stopped just long enough to deprive me of consciousness. The last thing I heard before I fell to the ground was the sound of her shrill voice, as she growled through gritted teeth and twisted my name as a knife in my back.

“You are worthless, Abigail Courage, and you no longer have any place here.”

*   *   *

Slowly, I opened first one, and then a second drooping eyelid. The room faded in and out of focus as my mind tried to connect to some sound, some fragment of an image that it could understand. I barely remembered the moments that led up to such unwelcome sleep, and had no idea how much time had elapsed since I had drifted into it. To me, it seemed merely seconds.

Soon I would learn that it had been more than a day.

A short, round figure of a man hovered over me, and startled me when my mind finally cooperated with hazy senses to complete my return to the present.

“Hello, Miss,” the old man said, craning his neck to look me over. “I didn't think I would ever see those eyes open again. Such sweet eyes.” He moved closer with great effort, huffing a little. “They've always put me in mind of cornflowers.”

I recognized the face and voice as belonging to the Argent family physician, Trevor Andrews. He had been called in on many cold and snowy nights in the past, most often during my childhood, when I thrashed and burned with fever. He always had a kind word and a smile for me, and even though I was nothing more than the butler's daughter, he never treated me any differently than the children who rightfully called the estate home.

As the years went by, I had learned to read his features, to gather from his expression just how sick I was. As a younger child, this always brought reassurance that the fever would pass, and I would soon be walking again among the flowers in the garden, helping to weed the beds, even as I imagined taking my coloring pigments to paper and recreating each petal, each leaf, each ray of sun shining down from cloudy blue heavens.

That look of reassurance was markedly absent this time. Just as it had been the first day, not long before, when the worst fever I'd ever known seized me and refused to relent.

It came upon me after I tended to the Argent children for a day, in place of the stricken governess. Within hours of watching their oldest son, Liam, wither and crumple to the ground with his schoolbooks still in his hands, I too was taken to bed, and heard through my delirium the hushed whispers of those who expected that this would carry us all to an early grave.

No one had expected that it would first take my father, instead.

It was now three months since, and with the exception of my father, all survived. Two of us never fully recovered, however.

Dread Fever, the great plague of our time, left its mark upon Liam and I in completely different ways.

It left me weak and prone to fainting spells; from Liam it claimed his sight.

It had done so in a most curious way, dimming it to the point of near uselessness, though his family refused to accept it. My heart ached at the sight of his pained frustration, more deeply engraved into his countenance day by day. Such sadness and overwhelming helplessness as he strained to see even in the brightest of light, often injuring himself as he tried to navigate the house with all its ornate furnishings and fine, fringed rugs.

The loss of his sight made his impairment from Fever obvious to all but those most determined to deny it.

My problems were much more difficult for anyone to dismiss. At least Liam, sightless as he was, continued breathing without being aware of the effort.

The fatigue would overcome me, and soon the world would begin to spin as if thrown into a reverse course on its axis. My eyes would dull, my hearing would diminish, and my chest would ache. Finally, I would feel an unearthly sensation far beneath my ribs before I succumbed to overpowering darkness.

At first, I thought my suffering was the result of sheer grief over the loss of my father. The doctor told me that it was ‘purely a malfunction of the pump within my chest’. A physical, mechanical disconnect, as he asserted that it was impossible for one to ‘truly die of a broken heart’.

I heard my name now and looked up. It was not the doctor who was speaking, nor was the person who had said my name addressing me directly. It was the master of the house. He and his wife were standing in the dimly lit doorway of the room, and as their quarrel heated, I could not help but overhear.

I was the subject of the argument.

He wished her to be merciful; she would have none of it.

I closed my eyes, and as I felt the inescapable clutches of exhaustion overtake me again, I knew that my fate in this house was sealed.

BOOK: Godspeed
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