Authors: Lynn Wolfe
Tags: #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #Romance, #Literature & Fiction, #Historical, #Historical Romance, #Romantic Suspense
By Lynn Wolfe
Copyright © 2013 Lynn Wolfe
Cover art by Brooke Gazarek
Tangled Betrayals is a work of fiction. The characters and incidents in this book are strictly a product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to any actual event is purely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my
daughter, Brooke. Through her guidance and delicate prodding she’s encouraged me to fulfill my lifelong passion of writing.
I would like to give a special thanks to: Ann, Chris, Jo, Marty, Wendy, Gloria and my wonderful husband, Tom.
England Spring 1830
The door flew open to Miss Minnie’s Dress Emporium with a bang as the dirty faced lad with the torn pants and un-kept blond hair quickly entered. He was the young messenger, known as Silas, Mary Ball had hired weeks earlier. He stopped abruptly, stood straight and brushed off his dirty pants. He whipped back his tangled hair as he gave Mary and her employer, Miss Minnie Baker, a huge smile that showed teeth that had been neglected for many years and then grandly announced, “
Mary almost laughed out loud. He reminded her of
how she pictured an actor stating lines for a play. She kept her composure though, not wanting to hurt his feelings, and smiled as she handed the young lad the coin she had promised knowing he would be able to eat at least one good meal this day.
ary’s sullen mood, which had dampened the atmosphere of the store for the last several days, had changed dramatically. In fact, she was elated! Her American fiancé, James Parker, had returned to England!
“I shall have another coin for you
, Silas, if you will quickly fetch a carriage to take me to the docks. How does that sound?
grinned broadly as he answered very dramatically, “I shall gladly fetch your carriage, Miss Mary!” and turned and raced out of the shop with both he and Mary knowing this might be his best paying job of the week.
Mary turned to Minnie with joy in her heart.
“He’s here, Minnie, he’s finally here!” She continued to shout this over and over as she swirled around the room not caring how silly she might appear. Mary knew it would take Silas a few minutes to hail a carriage and forgot Minnie had been standing next to her when the announcement was made.
and shaking her head, Miss Minnie responded to the young woman she had grown to love, “Yes, Mary, I heard. Now you’d better be quick about getting ready to receive your emerald ring. I can’t wait to see it! I’m sure it’s as lovely as James has said. I’m happy beyond words for you, Mary! James is one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met-----especially since most gentlemen I know wouldn’t have waited in a woman’s dress shop just to walk her home if their life depended on it! That gesture could only be done by someone in love!”
Mary smiled and nodded
in agreement. James did do some wonderful things. Not only had he waited in the store on several occasions for her to finish her work, he also brought her flowers every time he came for dinner and he’d taken her on long walks when the weather permitted. These were things rarely done for someone who lived in a small cottage in an area where the likes of James Parker are seldom seen.
She had never had a beau before
. She was a simple seamstress who had caught the attention of a wealthy American due to the fact he’d become a friend of her brother, Thomas.
was grateful to have Minnie in her life to guide and encourage her. It was Miss Minnie who had allowed her to work in her store, Miss Minnie’s Dress Emporium, after her mother passed.
tried to impress upon Mary to be kind, loving and forgiving. Mary thought the wisdom and advice given her would have been very close to what her mother might have told her had she lived.
gave Minnie a huge hug. She owed her so much. She had been her mother’s best friend and confident and now she did the same for Mary. Minnie had lovely red hair that now showed a touch of gray, she stood fairly tall and had a good figure for her age. She could easily attract men but never showed any interest of having a man in her life.
My time has come to finally be reunited with James! I promise I shall be back by lunch. I know James won’t be able to take leave of his ship until after the cargo is unloaded. It will probably take most of the day. I can’t believe my year long wait is over and I’m about to be married! This is the happiest day of my life, Minnie!”
Mary held her hand in the air as if the ring was already
adorning her finger as she pretended to admire the beauty of the sparkly emerald stone. “Oh, what a lovely ring you are wearing,” Mary said and giggled.
Minnie shook her head and laughed at the silly antics of her young employee and felt great relief James had returned safely.
“James has promised I
’ll understand the beauty of my ring once he gives me the matching band on the day we marry. It also has emeralds adorning it. Yet, I wouldn’t care if the rings were made of paper.
In a few short days I will become, Mrs. James Parker, but Minnie, I must confess, I’m nervous, too, for what being married means.”
As Mary talked she
quickly primped her dark curly hair which was pulled up at the sides which allowed the remainder of her hair to flow down her back. She tried smoothing out her yellow dress, which was fitted at the waist and had delicate white lace trim on the edging of the skirt. She knew this dress was James’s favorite. She had already hung up her sewing apron and was hanging up the skirt she had been working on; the hem now finished.
Minnie, the magic you described when you’re with a man makes me wonder if I’ll be able to do the right things to please James. Then, when you add starting a life sailing for a new country to which I’ll only have James and my brother, Thomas, to help me through the difficult times, I wonder where I’ll be able to turn to if I have any womanly questions. Hopefully, James’s mother will be kind enough to guide me. That is, if I won’t be too embarrassed to seek her advice. I hope she likes me and I feel comfortable with her.
seem to have such a warm feeling in my stomach whenever I’m with James and my heart races whenever I think of him. I believe I want him as any woman should want a husband physically. When we last parted we had difficulty pulling away. We wanted so much more but I knew I wanted to be married before I took that next step. He makes my body respond in a way I can’t explain.”
Minnie smiled and nodded
as she remembered what love had been like for her at Mary’s age. “Yes, Mary. That’s the way of love. When you meet the right man, your feelings stir within you. You’ll be very glad you saved yourself for your wedding night. James is the luckiest man I know. Trust me when I tell you this, I’m certain you’ll not only please him on your wedding night, but for many nights to come. Now get finished primping so you can be off. And Mary, be careful once you arrive at the docks. Go straight to
I shall, Miss Minnie, I promise. Wasn’t Silas adorable when he announced
had arrived? He was trying to be so grown up. I almost laughed out loud.”
efore Minnie could respond Mary was already lost in her thoughts. She had longed for this moment for over a year and now she would be in the arms of the man she loved more than life itself. How many times had she envisioned this day greeting James. Too many to count, she thought. She wondered if James would look any different and if he was as anxious as she was to be together again.
“Your carriage is here, Miss Mary,”
Silas said, before he stepped out of the shop to wait for his coin.
“I’ll be right out!
” Mary replied, realizing she had not even heard Silas enter the shop.
, I won’t be gone long. Once I have those precious minutes with James and receive my engagement ring, I shall come straight back.” Mary then left the shop still trying to tie her yellow bonnet and rambling on about James, as her voice trailed after her.
She hadn’t seen
Minnie’s look of concern. Mary only knew she wished everyone could be as happy and excited about life as she was this very moment!
s Minnie waited for the first customer to arrive after Mary left, she thought back upon Mary and her life. She had started to work in the shop when she was eight; right after her mother had passed. Minnie was pleased that Mary had grown to be as beautiful as her mother, Jane Ball. Even their mannerisms were identical. The way they waved their hands as they spoke, their wonderful sense of humor, and their willingness to help others were traits passed down from mother to daughter.
was tall like Jane, reaching about five foot eight. She also had the same curly brown hair that matched her large brown eyes. Her eye lashes were thick and long and they made her eyes appear much larger. Minnie had told Mary on several occasions if she ever wondered what her mother looked like; she should look in the mirror.
t amazed Minnie that Mary never thought of herself as pretty. But Minnie saw the envious looks from women of all ages who entered her shop and first spotted her. Any one of them would have paid a large price to have the natural beauty of Mary Ball. Minnie knew Jane would have been proud of the way her daughter had not only grown into a beautiful woman, but was also beautiful on the inside. That combination was damn hard to beat, as far as Minnie was concerned.
checked the time. She was anxious for Mary to return. She knew this would be one of the happiest days in Mary’s life. A day Mary will treasure forever. Yet, Minnie still had an uneasy feeling that had grown more prominent with each day that passed. It was two weeks past the day James had left a year earlier and not until Mary returned with her ring would Minnie feel better.
had prayed Mary would be able to fulfill the dreams which had been lost to her mother so many years ago and even longer for Minnie. Minnie’s joy in her early life had been cut short by a man who had wrongly used her. And Minnie knew Jane Ball’s dreams had been altered by not only her untimely illness, but by facts Minnie had so far been able to withhold from Mary.
As Mary left the dress shop she paused long enough to give Silas the extra coin she’d promised and found she couldn’t help but laugh as he quickly scampered away to seek additional customers.
noticed Minnie had been amused by the way she had flitted around the store today. She couldn’t help herself. This was the most exciting time in her life. Mary wondered if it could be possible to feel any happier than she was at this very moment.
he driver of the carriage made his way to St. Katherine’s dock, he informed Mary the London dock had been completed in 1828. Mary shook her head and wondered where the driver thought she came from, for she already knew that information, having a father who worked there. Yet, she was aware the driver wouldn’t have any knowledge about where she lived or who her father was. She listened to him ramble on about the docks of London and the future they held for England.
After a twenty minute
ride, the driver found a place to drop her off past the Baggage Warehouse building. Mary then offered the driver extra coin if he would wait for her return and he readily agreed to her terms.
which took her to the ships was crowded with all types of people being jostled, not only between each other, but by the carts coming to and from the ships. It seemed to Mary the various colors amid the loaded-down carts made like a festival atmosphere which only added to her excitement to reach
She had no idea the docks would be so crowded
this morning. No wonder she was never allowed to come here, since one could easily get lost in this mass confusion. Now she wished she had asked Minnie to come along, realizing she was uneasy about being alone, for she had quickly felt overwhelmed.
he kept her mind focused on finding James and receiving her ring and knew that knowledge seemed to make her braver with each step she took as she navigated through the crowd.
Mary passed several carts loaded
down with tea and smiled as she took in their different and pleasant aromas. That was the one luxury she remembered her mother seemed to enjoy more than anything. Mary also indulged in a cup of tea each afternoon with Miss Minnie or by herself on Sunday. Her father didn’t approve due to the high cost the tea garnered.
caught herself from falling as someone from behind unintentionally knocked her off balance as she tried to find James amid this turmoil. Mary felt her heart pounding in her chest and she feared others might hear it, also. It was then she noticed her hands had become quite sweaty.
he quickly wiped them down the sides of her lovely yellow dress realizing she had forgotten her hanky. She then took the back of her hand and wiped the sweat off her brow. She knew she needed to slow down and calm herself if she wanted to look her best when she finally reached James.
No matter how hard she tried to
maneuver through the people, she couldn’t seem to make much headway. It seemed to Mary it was taking an eternity to reach
. She had already passed four ships but none of them held the man she loved.
she finally came upon the bridge, and spotted
as the next ship. She could see James giving orders as he pointed to which cargo was to go where on the docks. She could hardly contain her excitement. She watched in awe as he again pointed to a pile of wooden boxes yet to be moved. He was wearing a white shirt and black pants which seemed to give his muscular six foot five frame more definition than she last remembered.
My, was he handsome
! Mary thought, as she realized how fortunate she was to have his feelings of love be equal to hers. She was sure he must be as excited as she to finally end their year-long separation as she waved frantically to get his attention.
Realizing she was
still too far away for him to see her among the many others. Mary just kept smiling as she took in the picture of James working on the ship deck. She slowly continued to inch forward. His eyes appeared as dark as ravens and matched his black wavy hair. There was no doubt he was in charge. She felt only pride as she watched the way James conducted himself. She’d never been to his ship prior to today. It was beautiful, like her master, she thought.
had told her the dock was no place for a lady unless she was going on or coming from a voyage. She had to beg for him to agree she could come the day his ship returned to London. He’d wanted her to wait until he either met her at the dress shop or he’d go to her cottage. But Mary cried upon hearing his wishes that day, so he finally admitted it was too much to ask after a year’s time of waiting. He reluctantly agreed she could come to the ship, as long as she was very careful and she steered clear of beggars and other undesirables.
, Mary could tell it was a grand ship. She was sure the deck hands were as anxious to unload the cargo and get on land as she was to be greeted by James. She again tried to get James’s attention by waving her arms but there were still too many people in her way. Everyone seemed to be on their own mission to find someone or something to halt her progress. “Drat!” she repeated over and over.
glanced to where the passengers had been descending down the plank. Her eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Mary rubbed them quickly and took another look at the man standing at the landing. Then, Mary blinked twice more to make sure this wasn’t a dream.
“Thomas,” she whispered softly as tears filled her eyes.
Her brother, Thomas, stood his six foot two inch frame well. He was of a lean build, yet, Mary knew he was very strong and could hold his own with anyone, except maybe James.
Thomas had built up his muscular frame because of the time he’d spent working the docks. His toned muscles were what had helped him in his many physical encounters with their father, who had tried to whip him whenever he drank too much, which was fairly often.
blond hair now hung past his collar. Mary had never seen his hair so long. America had changed him already, she thought. Yet, she was pleased beyond words he had returned for her wedding.
, since Thomas had sworn he would never return to England after he and their father had such a heated argument over his starting a new life in America. Mary had begged him to return for her wedding, but he had adamantly refused her pleas. Yet, here he was, once again on English soil. Here to surprise her. What a wonderful brother! She was no longer angry that neither he nor James had written, not now, not since they had returned together.
t would only be her father not attending the event that was about to change her life. Her father had never liked James and he had made it clear he’d never attend a wedding between them. He also stated if she followed her brother to America against his wishes, he would disown her, like he did Thomas. But Mary knew her heart belonged to James and her father would just have to come to terms with her decision. She was sure in time her father’s heart would soften.
e couldn’t help but notice that Thomas was now talking to two lovely ladies, each having striking blond hair and both very elegant in appearance. One was very tall and wore a purple dress with a hat dangling a purple ribbon. Her long blond hair hung loosely around her shoulders.
lady was much shorter and obviously with child. She, too, was quite beautiful. She was wearing a mint green dress with a small hat that tied around her chin. Her hair was pulled up tight upon her head. Both women were stunning, Mary thought.
he way they were dressed told her they were most likely from America and obviously wealthy. They had much fuller skirts than those worn in London, and the hats they wore were unlike anything she’d ever seen, yet she liked them. Mary smiled, here she was to greet James and she still found time to critique these ladies’ attire. She shook her head and grinned as she continued to head where Thomas was standing, now more excited than ever.
Mary was jubilant. She couldn’t help but enjoy this wonderful surprise of having Thomas here. Today was getting better with every step she took. Wait till Minnie hears this news!
Mary couldn’t imagine what the trip from America must have been like
for the two women to whom Thomas was speaking. From what she’d heard about the voyage, it would have been difficult travel, especially for one expecting a child. She was still trying to make her way to Thomas when she caught sight of James walking down the plank.
James, James, here I am!” Mary screamed waving her arms, but once again she could not get his attention, due to the noise among the crowd. “Drat.”
o her disappointment, James was still not in her reach. Mary continued to make her way, first calling to James and then to Thomas. She was sure one of them should hear her at any moment. Her excitement kept building. She was almost there------