Please welcome Rea Renee author of the Cheyenne series – Native American Historical Romance.
Many writers debate having a prologue or not. When I first wrote Cheyenne Storm, it had one. However, at the advice of a few beta readers, I cut it from the manuscript.
However, I’ve had many readers asking for more and deleted scenes from my novels, so here’s one:
Prologue France 1805
Sylvie clung to the maple branch. Her fingers dug into the bark, wedged splinters underneath her nails. Squinting, she peered beyond the slanted rain to the raging sea.
Wind slew the waves, breaking them against the rocks below. White foam spewed and drenched her. The salt water burned her eyes. With the back of her hand, she rubbed them.
Lightning struck the ocean, illuminating the darkened sky in eerie flashes. She searched the whipping waves for a glimpse of her father’s ship.
As the sea plastered her blond hair to her head, she tasted the salt water in the rain, as the sea plastered her blond hair to her head. The thunder resonated and shook the earth. Even the leaves on the maple tree trembled.
Her father’s ship should have arrived before now. Every day for two months, she searched the waves.
Shifting her weight on the tree, she saw a flicker of lantern light from her bedroom window. She had left her room dark before sneaking outside.
“Zut Alors.” She climbed down the tree.
At the bottom, she hiked up her nightdress and splashed through puddles of mud.
When she reached her home, her mother frantically called her name from inside the mansion. Sylvie opened the wooden door and cringed from the squeak.
Her mother whirled around. “Why were you out in this storm?”
“Looking for Papa. He was to come back before now.” Sylvie gazed up at her mother who dabbed her eyes with a lace handkerchief. The color reminded of the pale sky at dawn when she looked into her mother’s eyes.
“You’re certain?” Her mother smoothed down her yellow muslin with shaky hands. “That he arrives soon?”
Sylvie’s grandfather spoke up from the top of the stairs. He waved a hand dismissively. “Sometime this month or next.” His white mustache twitched and Sylvie saw the hint of red on his round cheeks. “That’s the information from my company’s letter,” he huffed. The top of his head reflected in the mirrored ceiling. “But he’s as mad as King George to come back here.”
“He’s my husband.” Her mother straightened.
“Jacqueline, you didn’t marry under my consent. Nor in the church.” At the edge of the stairs, he gripped the decorated banister.
“You know very well that Father Dermer married us in the church courtyard before Joseph left with the army.”
Thunder boomed and the crystal chandelier rattled as if to answer her.
“I demanded that you annul the marriage when I discovered the truth months later, but my damned luck, you were with child in only one night by a man of no title.”
Sylvie clenched her fists at her sides. “Don’t speak that way about father.” In the ceiling mirror, she saw she glared up at him with her tongue sticking out like a gargoyle.
“Change before you ruin the rug.” Her grandfather returned her glare as he descended the stairs.
Sylvie shook her head and sent droplets of water spraying.
“Pray go and change into a dry night-shift before you catch influenza,” her mother scolded.
After a roll of her eyes, Sylvie stomped up the stairs.
At the top, she rounded the banister, then paused. Leaning forward, she continued to listen.
She bit her lip to keep from screaming at them to stop. Her father would be home soon. Why did her Grandfather speak so ill of him all the time?
He grasped her mother’s arm and led her into the foyer. But with their angry tones, Sylvie still heard them.
“God seems to answer your prayers as of late. He ignored mine to kill the man in battle years ago.” Something hit the wall and shattered. “At least, he would’ve died for his country. I could’ve negotiated with the Marquee into marrying you even with a child. Now you must listen to re—”
“If he had died and I didn’t have Sylvie, then I’d leave and join the army disguised as a man, like Angelique Brulon. Even after they discovered she was a woman, they allowed her to fight openly without disguise because she’d proven so valuable in the defense of Corsica. I’d have fought France’s enemies until I died too.”
“The Marquee’s a good match,” he huffed.
“I’m already married.” Her voice sounded clipped.
“Your damn husband is a commoner and charlatan.” “Joseph only seeks your blessing.”
“I’ll never give it. He can’t pay my interest against his debt of the Raducanu name.”
“You promised,” she choked out.
“Did I? I only promised his return when I was satisfied.” He snorted. “And that won’t happen unless he comes cold in a coffin.”
“Why are you so heartless?” she sobbed. “If mother were alive she’d spit—”
A slap sounded. Sylvie cringed as the echo set her teeth on edge.
She peeked around the corner and saw her mother’s cheek spotted red. Her grandfather shook his back to the stairs.
“Do not disgrace me so. She’d have asked a midwife to concoct a potion to remove the vile child from your womb. And demand that you beg for the Marquee’s forgiveness. Lord knows she realized her mistake too late.”
“But you loved each other.”
“That does not matter. She’d tell you the same.”
Upstairs a maid saw Sylvie near the stair ledge with her hair matted. A pool of water surrounded her bare feet.
“Mademoiselle, you’ll get sick.”
“Shh.” She pushed away the woman’s hands.
The maid left but returned with a bowl of warm water, washcloth, towels and a clean nightdress.
Even after the maid washed the mud off as Sylvie’s teeth chattered. Finished, Sylvie snatched up a towel and dried off. She changed in the hallway while the maid mopped up the water and mud from the floor.
Her ears itched to hear their words.
“My daughter and I will join my husband and sail back with him to America.” Jacqueline, her mother, paced the floor. “With or without your blessing.”
“You will not! Leave and you’ll no longer be my daughter,” her Grandfather bellowed.
“So be it.” She held up the edges of her muslin and maneuvered around him to the stairs.
“I’ll leave my estate w-with my brother, neither you nor your daughter will receive anything from me.” He stopped at the base of the stairs.
Jacqueline ascended. In between the crook of the stairs and the banister, Sylvie froze.
As he watched her mother, the vein in his forehead enlarged. “Joseph will be forever in debt.”
“I don’t care, I love him.” She wiped at her tears with the back of her hand.
“And you’d sacrifice your daughter’s life, her prestige?”
As Sylvie realized her mother would spot her soon, her legs unlocked and she crept to her own bedroom. The maid followed with Sylvie’s wet clothes in her hands. Sylvie ducked behind her door, but still in view of the staircase.
“The moment you step onto that boat,” her grandfather called up to her mother. “I’ll arrange for his death. Do you understand?”
“Oui.” Jacqueline paused and held onto the railing with one hand at the top of the stairs. Her shoulders slumped. “I believe you would.” She turned and disappeared into her room.
The maid tugged on the tangles in Sylvie’s hair.
“Ouch. Don’t pull so.”
“I doubt I hurt your hard head.”
Once the maid finished, Sylvie waved her away.
It was quiet, so she glided to the end of the hallway and stopped at the edge of the stairs.
The fire crackled in the marble fireplace in the foyer. She saw the edge of her Grandfather’s shoulder.
On her tiptoes, she leaned forward and observed him with a cigar. With a piece of kindle from the fire, he lit it.
Smoke puffed out as he strolled into the library. She glided down the stairs. So he would not see her, she nestled against the massive vase and banister.
The scent of tobacco lingered in the air as she followed him down the corridor.
Inside the library, she ducked underneath the couch designed with red, purple, and blue flowers. From underneath she peered up at him.
He reclined in the plush leather chair.
The butler, Louis placed a silver tray on the mahogany table beside him. It held a glass of red wine and a crystal pitcher filled with more. “Sir, another letter arrived late yesterday for Madame Jacqueline.”
Her grandfather frowned and downed his wine in one gulp. “From Joseph?”
“A young boy brought it by.”
He waved his hand. “Add it to the others.”
Their butler, Louis, stood still. Sylvie thought he pretended to be a statue, but then he shifted his weight.
Instead of answering, Louis stared at the floor.
Her grandfather grumbled and grabbed the letter. Across the marble floor, his heavy footsteps echoed. At the bookshelves, he snatched a book from the shelf. Once more near his chair, he flopped down. His teeth clenched the cigar as he placed the letter inside.
This book is indistinguishable from any other. What makes it so special? Sylvie thought. Maroon cover and thick width, but when opened held no pages, only a compartment full of letters.
“Shouldn’t Ms. Jacqueline read one? She weeps in fear he’ll never return.” Louis spoke quietly. “And the storm—”
“That’s the idea.” He slammed the false book closed, then tossed it on the table. The empty wine glass vibrated at the intrusion. “God provided an excellent touch, though.” He held up his crystal goblet, which Louis refilled. “Better he die at sea, so she’ll have no reason to chase after him. He claims he turns into a wolf after one bit him and lives among the savages. His motive is money and I intend to have my daughter cleansed from this infatuation and remarried before I die.”
“But sir. You’re Catholic, we don’t believe in divorce.”
“But if Joseph dies or she thinks he’s dead—well, I’ll allow her time to mourn. She’ll reject the idea if the Marquee precedes t—”
A sneezed tickled her nose before she could stop it.
Her grandfather reached underneath the couch and hauled her out.
“You’re not to tell your mother any of this.” His green eyes narrowed and his cheeks blotchy. “Do you hear me?”
“But why?” Her lip trembled. “Papa’s good to us.”
“No, mon chére. Your father writes that he loves another.” His fingers warmed her shoulders. “He confessed to me that he wants our money. You and your mother’s money. This story of him and wolves is a ruse.”
“But he loves us. I-I’m his—.” Tears caught in her lashes as she glanced at the hollow book.
“He has another wife in America. They’ve a newborn son.” Her grandfather hugged her tight. “He told your mother how disappointed he was that you were a girl.” She cried into his shoulder, her sobs shaking her. “Now, your father’s letters would crush your mother.” He nudged her chin up. “We must be strong for her.”
She bit her lip but nodded.
“Let me handle things. I’ll give your mother the letters later.” His smile faltered. “Maybe your father will come to his senses and return to us.”
She rubbed her nose and sniffed.
Her father would come, he promised. He always kept his promises. Didn’t he?
“Don’t tell your mother about this.” Her grandfather gestured for her to go upstairs. “She’s not strong enough and this will kill her. You don’t want to kill your mother, do you?”
She shook her head and dipped into a curtsy. Rising, she then kissed her grandfather’s cheek.
Sylvie was sure her father would come.
Afraid to stay for further punishment, she scooted out and went to her room.
The next morning, Sylvie crept towards the veranda. Already, her mother and grandfather ate breakfast. Her grandfather sat at the head of the table, her mother to his right.
She stopped at the archway when she heard her mother sobbing. “I prayed….”
“I know.” He patted her hand. “But the storm last night broke their ship apart. Dead bodies litter across the beach.”
Was it true? Father was dead? Sylvie’s stomach clenched like she would be sick.
“I…I can’t live without him.” Her hands wrung each other as tears fell down her pale face.
“Hush. Don’t speak nonsense. Think of Sylvie.”
Her mother nodded. “She’s fatherless.”
Sylvie ran her tongue over her mouth where she had bit her lip before and tasted a trickle of blood, hot and metallic.
No. He could not be dead. Then she remembered her grandfather’s words. Perhaps God punished her father for his sins. For loving a son more than her. Tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them away.
“She won’t be,” he soothed. “You’ll marry again.”
Her mother’s head snapped up. “Never.”
“After a sensible mourning,” he grabbed a roll, and sliced it opened, smearing butter inside, “you’ll marry the Marquee.”
“I’ll never marry him or anyone.”
“We’ll discuss this later.” He took a bite.
“There’s nothing to discuss,” she whispered.
“Enough.” He spotted Sylvie pressed against the archway and motioned for her to join them at the table. “Louis, these rolls are cold.”
Rea Renee is pen name of self-published author of historical romance. Always love, but sometimes history is darker than sugar-coated stories.
Rea’s stories are dark, adventurous, and captivating.
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