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Pistols & Parasols

The Hyde-Hamilton Book Series : Book One

By: Kitty O'Shea
Published By: Kitty O'Shea
Copyright: Published by Kitty O'Shea
22 chapters / 85,000 words
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"Witty, Warm and Deeply Moving…”

Since the bloody murder of her beloved papa, Lady Florence Hyde and her twin sibling, Lord George have struggled to move onwards with their mother bed bound and the twins separated, with George off to university. Left by herself and having to overcome the awful events of her father’s demise, Florence’s behaviour takes a turn for the worst and having lost sight of herself, she becomes wild and unchecked, refusing to adhere to the rules of society and the education of her tutors. Living in breeches, riding astride and taking a unusual and if not slightly unhealthy liking to hunting, Florence alongside her best friend and maid Beth have created a world of their own upon the estate of St. Ives, that is until Florence comes across a letter hidden within her very own cave, its contents revealing a treasonous plan to overthrow the British government by the American government, a plan involving the beastly Lord Hamilton, her neighbour and nemesis…

Returning from a mission in Paris, Lord Hamilton has returned to St. Ives on point of business, now an American agent to the President, James Madison. With America and Britain entangled in a bitter war, Theodore, being a born American citizen, has been commissioned to oversee the arrival of two American Senators who are on their way to St. Peterborough to take part in an important meeting which will decide the fate of the war. Having planned to meet the senators upon Cove Bay under cover of night, Theodore unexpectedly finds himself in a mess, as he discovers his secret meeting sabotaged by two unsuspecting nuisances, who happen to be twins. Afraid that his cover and the plans ahead to be blown, Theodore undertakes the most frightening role a man can, a role he has for as long as he can remember, managed to stay divorced from…

Marriage!

What Florence thought to be a great adventure, greater than any she had thus previously been a part of, turns out to be a disaster, an unimaginable disaster. Her cover blown by the beast, Florence finds herself betrothed to Lord Hamilton and entangled in a very dangerous game of espionage. With the great and formidable British agent ‘Black Eye’ on Theodore’s heel, Lord Hamilton must make for London, in order to protect the American senators who intend on spending the week in ton before sailing to France. Hating one another on sight, both Theodore and Florence are thrown together as a terrible plan to kill the American Senators unfolds, with Black Eye looming ever closer to the American agent and his fiery, stubborn and adventure seeking fiancé, who refuses to act accordingly and decides to take matters into her own hands with unimaginable consequences turning her world upside down.

Chapter One

 

1813 


 

Miss Florence Elizabeth Hyde of Ives Manor paced the length and breadth of her room; a large roll of parchment in her left hand and a burning candle in her right. Stopping before the mantle of her fireplace; she set the candle down and peered into the mirror. Her long auburn hair had been tied back under her lofty black velvet hat, the striking colour sizzling under the glow of her flickering candle. With her free fingers, she caught a stray strand of hair and pulled it behind her elf-like ear. Looking down at the long length of her frame, she let her sherry-coloured eyes run over her controversial attire. She wore a pair of tight cream breeches; which stuck to her legs in such a way that she believed were she to ever find the need in which to bend, they would inadvertently rip. Her rather small and dainty feet where engulfed within thick black leather riding boots that elegantly framed her long legs, resting beneath her knees. Lifting her eyes away from her lower body, she swept them over the top-half of her long frame; a rebellious brow furrowing with satisfaction. Tucked into her breeches, she wore a crisp white linen shirt; the thick collar turned down sharply. Beneath the shirt, she forewent her normal everyday undergarments; being without the abundant feminine curves often gracing the magazines in which her brother liked to ogle over in the dark hours of the night. Straightening herself before the long mirror, Florence smiled deeply, pleasantly surprised with her apparel. Turning from the fire she strode over to the foot of her large four poster bed; now neatly made up, but for the black tailcoat which lay strewn across the end. Reaching for the tailcoat, she draped it over her petite frame effortlessly. With a quick glance across the room and paying attention to the small grandfather clock which stood by its lonesome; hidden beneath the shadows of the night. She watched in fascination as saw the hands struck midnight; a soft chime heralding in the new day. Tucking the roll of parchment into the inside pocket of her tailcoat, Florence went over to her ebony chest of drawers and pulled open the top drawer. Her heart racing, she began to flick through her rather outdated undergarments, coming to find her heavy pistol which once belonged to her father; hidden between a rather large pair of bloomers. Picking up the glistening pistol and eyeing it, in a manner not unlike her fathers, she turned it about slowly before tucking it deep into her tight breeches. Her chest tightening with excitement Florence stole over to the large Georgian window and looked down into the moonlit gardens of Ives Manor. All was quiet and still as the moon cast its coruscating light across the distant sea.

Confident that the house was without prying eyes, Florence turned on her heel and exited her room with a skip. Quietly, her eyes darting this way and that, she made her way through the long dark hallway, passing by the grand portraits of her ancestors who looked down at her with twinkling eyes. Quietly she came upon the grand staircase. Sensing all was as it should be, she swept back her tailcoat and swung her legs over the smooth banister; turning her face away from the foot of the staircase and in the direction of her grandfather’s portrait; the largest of the gallery. Saluting him grandly and  holding herself still, assured that her body was in the right place, she let go of  her hands and with a slight gasp, she spun around the banisters with speed and skill until she came to the foot of the staircase. With elegance and decorum, she jumped into an upright position and smiled wilfully to the Gods above; making sure to give thanks to the Goddess Tyche. Turning, she made for the great entrance doors, her footsteps light. Grasping the heavy handle of the door, she swung it open with a lack-lustre groan. Instantly the light of the moon met with her body, and for the briefest of moments she felt unbalanced as her eyes miraculously adapted to the sudden invasion of light.

“You took your time!” a deep male voice hissed from close by. Her sherry eyes now adapting to the moon-light, Florence looked about unevenly until she met the gaze of her twin brother, Lord George Hyde. He stood but mere feet away from his sister; dressed in the same attire, but for a black necktie which he had bound about his face, but for his blazing brown eyes, which sparkled with the same ferocious excitement. Standing with a semi-arrogant posture, George ran his long fingers through his thick red hair.

“I am right on time actually,” Florence exclaimed, her pointed nose in the air. With strength she closed the large door behind her and strode over to her brother, hands on hips. Together they turned away from their ancestral home, making for the stables.

“Does the house sleep?” George whispered which piqued brows, there impatient steps turning into a competitive charge.

“Would it matter if they were awake? Mother barely leaves her room and the servants are so worn out; no doubt due to our bad behaviour. I would lay a guess that they would be overcome with eternal happiness if they knew what the devil we were up too!” Florence answered with bated breath, as the siblings entered the stables; both falling upon one another, a flurry of hay erupting into the cool air above. Wriggling about like new-born pups, Florence unhinged herself from George and with a soft punch, brought herself to her feet and walked directly over to her mare ‘Wind’. Quietly she readied her mare with nimble fingers, a secretive smile upon her lips. Her eyes cast over the curved back of Wind, Florence eyed George suspiciously. Now upon his own feet, George was attending to his black stallion, ‘Destination’. With an unbalanced jump and a mischievous smile, George tilted his head in arrogance, stuck out his tongue and seated himself upon Destination. His hair now incumbent with strands of hay, George sat upright and took his reigns; his gaze daring.

“Sister dear, I spend most of my year at university. Any bad behaviour lies firmly at your own feet!” he declared, watching on with marked impression as his sister jumped up onto her mare, bits of hay stuck which had woven themselves into her hair, now free.

“What a Banbury story if ever I heard one!” Florence declared grandly, as she flung back the tails of her coat with a determined grin of satisfaction. “You may very well reside at University George, but it is you from whom I take instruction, and I have all of your mischievous letters to prove it!”

“Flo, I may write and instruct you on how to behave and fill that head of yours with a great many dangerous ideas, but my dear, for one so smart and agile it is indeed baffling that you never refuse!” George replied with a light laugh as they made their way out of the stables. The spring air at her face; a mixture of sweet-pea and salt, Florence turned her wide eyes to her brother and shrugged.

“Life is so dull around these parts that any inkling of mischief to be had I must embrace!” Florence smiled with mirth as she picked out the strands of remaining hay from her scalp.

“Our adventures border on the serious sister, perhaps we should consider early retirement?”

“Codswallop!” Florence said loudly, bringing back her reigns and kicking Wind into a gallop. Letting out an agitated sigh, George followed suit, annoyed with his twin’s sheer excellence upon the saddle. Together the siblings galloped through the grand park of the Ives estate, riding east towards White Bay. Florence relished in the majesty of the experience, the light, the salt merging into perfection as she guided her mare across the lush fields; long strands of grass grazing her legs. The sea wind growing steadily as she made her course east, she observed how the distant beach stretched out before her.  Slowing to a halt upon the crest of a sand-dune, Florence turned about, spotting George in the distance. He looked magnificent upon his stead, strands of his auburn hair ablaze under the light of the moon. Coming to the hefty halt before her, George caught her amused gaze. “That would be entirely suicidal! For what should become of us if we were to become like them?”

“Soon you shall be upon the marriage mart Flo,” George said in the manner of an older brother as he brought his sunken tie up about his face once more. “Which in truth, isn’t so very bad,” he said with a sympathetic gaze, watching Florence wriggle about in her saddle with irritation marked upon her face. “My only worry is that no sane man would want a prying, ninny piny for a wife? I fear he would most likely end up throwing you into Bedlam as a wedding gift!”

“It is quite simple George, I have the perfect antidote to your worries!” Florence said with disgust, turning her nose up into the air with defiance; an act she had perfected at a very young age. “I shan’t marry. Ever!”

“I cannot but feel a deeply embedded sadness at the thought of you being saddled to some old and out Lord,” George said with such a glint of sadness in his eyes that Florence felt the flickering of empathy cast upon her. “Maybe you could marry an out and outer? That way you could do whatever you wished?”

“I would rather be hanged!” Florence declared aloud, her eyes betraying her defiance as buds of salty water formed upon the rim of her eyelids, wetting her long eyelashes. “I shall lead a solitary life of seclusion; in which I can partake in whatever mischief I conjure! But upon my honour, I shan’t be bound to a man.” With a firm kick, Florence jested her mare into a fast-paced gallop once more, racing away from her brother and down the long ridge of a sand dune and onto the white beach below. With watering eyes, Florence guided her mare through the long grass until Wind’s hooves met with the golden sand of White Bay. Halting a moment, she scanned the length of the beach, strays of her auburn hair flying about her gently; the salty air filling her lungs like a much-needed drink. It was still and glistening; the great blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the soft white sand with a lull. The beach, a good two miles in distance gently curved outwards, rolling up into great cliffs at either end. Upon the right, to the very end of the beach, a great cove lay in hiding beneath an even greater and formidable arch of rock. It was known as Smugglers Cove and over the last year and a half, both Florence and George had been consorting with their good friend John Merriweather, the son of the stable master, as to the strange activities taking place upon the beach. Many of the trio’s previous adventures had been in comparison to this: dull and childish, especially now as they were soon to mark their eighteenth birthdays.

“May I see the letter again Flo?” George asked his sister as he came to an abrupt stop at her side, his thick red curls out of place. Without a word, Florence took from her tailcoat pocket the roll of parchment and handed it to her brother, watching on as her mare neighed away the advances of a rather forward Destination. He was, she had to agree this time, right. This was no adventure founded upon idleness and childishness, no, this was a very real adventure that reeked of danger and trouble. Flo’s inapt need for gravely dangerous adventures had only heightened since the terrible passing of her most beloved father, the gentle-spirited Lord Alan Hyde of Ives Manor, in 1810. Worse yet was the removal of her best friend and brother, George to Eton and worse still University. She could not find the courage to openly tell her brother how she missed him and felt his parting more so now than ever, for he was despite everything having a great deal of fun and she…she was desolate. With her mother bed bound and her friend John spending more of his time in the fields, Florence had become isolated and lonely, and spent much of her own time at Smugglers Cove, in which a secret cave resided under the great arch of rock to the northern side of the bay. There she stashed away her brother’s letters and made a small home for herself, making use of the space by dividing it into sections. The cave was one of several that were connected, all of them resembling ancient chambers. Fearing smugglers would use the cave; smuggling being a capital offence but lucrative pass time, Flo used a chamber which lay to the back of the cave system, away from any prying eyes. It had been during a rather dismal afternoon a year past that Florence had escaped from the suffocating walls of the manor and her pre-historic tutor, that dear fortune had granted her a gift of carved rock. The day had been fine; the golden orb delicately adorning the lands and sea below with a familiar lick of springtime. The waves did not crash but so much as graced the warm sands of White Bay; Florence racing across the lapping water; free, and without the constriction of the depressed manor and its occupants. The diaries of Captain Cook tucked beneath her arm, she had quite literally fallen upon the caves. Her book lodged within the waves of sand, and strands of her loose hair now moist from the salty water, she had arisen from the shore, her gaze catching sight of a cave. Strange that an empty tomb of time had instantly filled a cave of her own making. Gone were the insufferable days of collective silence, arbitrary sorrow and boredom.

For many days, Florence had sought out the pre-historic caves, her inquisitive nature getting the better of her. Her initial fear of the darkness and cunning sea slowly faded as she came to understand the world into which she had entered, soon bequeathing it to herself. Seeking out a small cave which lay to the back, she soon began to bring provisions and busied herself into creating a home of sorts. Having sussed out the times of day in which she could enter, she had familiarised herself with the layout of the caves and the tunnels which bound them together. Upon such a day, she had noticed a strange boat from afar as she made her way along the shoreline. It had been empty and was perched near a lower formation of rocks. Afraid, Florence had scooped down low behind a jagged rock and scoured the area with her bright eyes, her heart thudding so loudly that her pulse caused her ears to ring. Keeping herself hidden, she could hear raised voices above the crashing of the waves.

“It is impossible to get through the blockade Mr. Hamilton,” an American accent said with authority. “Even if the orders of the council have been revoked, I doubt the British will allow my men through.”

“Captain, this letter must reach the president. It is of great importance!” an aristocratic voice returned in strained desperation. Florence flinched uncomfortably behind the jagged rock, buds of salty water falling upon her forehead. For the briefest of moments, she simply closed her eyes and processed the voice. As the words echoed within her mind, an image arose before her and she gasped inwardly. She flinched with confusion, but soon confusion transformed to anger. Of course, she had heard the snarky voice before, for it belonged to the newly titled Lord Theodore Hamilton, the son of the late Lord Geoffrey Hamilton and his American wife, Lady Isabella; the daughter of a wealthy American merchant who wielded great influence in Washington. It belonged to her nemesis and godforsaken, toffee-nosed neighbour.

“The British are too concerned with Napoleon, especially now as his forces march on Moscow!” the American said aloud, slicing through Florence’s moment of enlightenment. Shaking her head, she opened her eyes and flung herself forward, lifting her head ever so slightly until her eyes came into contact with the men below.

“Only a fool would underestimate the British,” Lord Theodore returned severely as he paced about, a hand upon his forehead. Florence could not see his face very well due to the lack of light, but she felt him, she felt him like a bolt of lightning, striking her at the very epicentre of her soul.

“We are no fools Lord Theodore, our country has suffered magnanimously due to the British and we had hoped the assassination of your prime minster would have scared the government into submission, but alas it has only fuelled the war further,” the American responded, his voice quivering. Florence strained her eyes and was surprised to find that the American man was finely dressed, too finely dressed for such an occasion. “To think that they so lightly swept the assassination under the carpet, what with their outright lies about the assassin being a former merchant imprisoned by the Russians is a complete farce!”

“Captain I understand your anger, but surely a man of your intelligence can not be surprised?” Lord Theodore retorted with a sigh. Florence, her fingers clinging to the hard rock, carefully tilted her head, her gaze filling with the forms of three men. They stood huddled together, under the light of a fiery beacon which was held high by the third man, who stood quietly, his small eyes on the tall and formidable form of Lord Theodore. Florence felt a slither of fear roll over her as she took in the terrifying Lord Theodore. He might have only been five and twenty years old, but to all those who were acquainted with the young Lord, he seemed to have the gaze of an ancient Greek God; his eyes of a vivid blue so deep that those in his presence felt violated. It was known that his family were American sympathisers, but the government turned a blind eye due to their great fortune. After finishing school in London, Lord Theodore had been sent across to Harvard University, where he had studied history and politics, bringing what Florence thought to be an everlasting peace to the country. For a year he had worked under the now president, James Madison and flourished. At the outbreak of war between Britain and America, unfortunately for Florence and Britain, Lord Theodore returned to the Hamilton estate, his father’s health taking a sudden and somewhat ghastly turn, which shockingly sent him to his grave. Her lips twitching, Florence looked down at Lord Hamilton, running her gaze over him. He stood a head taller than his American companions and was dressed finely in navy blue and black, his raven hair neatly waxed behind his ears. His legs seemed to go on forever, and Florence wondered sheepishly to herself if they grew roots. She remembered him as a young man on the cusp of adulthood, his shoulders lean and determined, his eyes sharp and all seeing and his left brow always slightly furrowed. He was arrogant, conceited and dashed handsome, which was entirely unbeneficial to her prolonged cause of hatred towards him. She knew not why he had riled her so, maybe it was the freedom he enjoyed, the liberation and endless opportunities thrown his way and his inconvenient social graces, which Florence lacked, greatly. She couldn’t but help stare into his angelic yet fearful face; chiselled so that even the great Michelangelo looked down with envy.

“I am sure that you sir are aware of the disastrous events in relation to the John Henry letters?” the American accomplice said, his hands upon his hips. Florence could not see the face of the man, but knew that he was of importance in whatever secretive mission he and Lord Theodore were involved in. He was possessed of an aristocratic voice unlike the man who stood between the pair of conspirators, short, slightly puffy, poorly dressed and grumpy to behold. Florence would pray for him.

“Unfortunate affair indeed, yet not entirely in vain if you ask me,” Lord Theodore returned, placing a firm hand under his chin, his eyes upon the boots of his American friend. “Madison will put forward another war bill in a week or so and he needs for this letter to reach him, he needs to understand what exactly this bill will mean. His enemies are closer than you would think.”

“The federalists do not side with Madison, if this bill goes through and war is declared, it will not only be the British we end up fighting, it will be our own people,” the American said with a grunt.

“As much as I understand and sympathise with Madison on this matter, Britain will not allow the northern colonies to fall into his hands. That is why you must get this letter to him at once, Lord Castlereagh intends on suspending the council orders,” Lord Theodore said as he took from his pocket a thick envelope and handed it to his correspondent. “America does not have the capital to go to war, and if he declares war then the British will indeed place another ban on American trade. Not just on Britain trade but on trading with France as well.”

“It is rumoured that Napoleon will stand alongside Madison if such bans are to come about,” the American answered as he took the letter and put into his own coat pocket.

“That would indeed be a ruinous act on Madison’s behalf, for it will only cement Britain’s already agitated view of America and will surely enflame the already deep division between those loyal and disloyal to Britain and the states of New England?”

“I hate to agree with you on this, but you are right. Madison has no real ties with France nor does he wish to,” the American said with a wave of his hand. “Napoleon is a loose cannon.”

“Then insure this letter gets to Madison,” Lord Theodore said darkly as he rested a hand upon his correspondents shoulder, leaning in closely. “My ship is awaiting you, the British will let you through.”

“As you wish my Lord,” the American said, turning on his heels and making for the small boat, closely followed by the grumpy companion. Florence hid once more behind the rock, her body cold and her mind racing. She knew little of the American and British grievances, but understood enough to know that war was brewing. A part of her was shocked to find that Lord Theodore was an American sympathiser, but was it all that surprising considering his heritage? What shocked her more was his insistent need to stop a war from happening. Had his love of America somehow faded away? She did not understand and if truth be told, she was too darn cold to start contemplating the conversation. Florence waited in silence for a good hour before Lord Theodore, who had sat for some time upon a rock, gazing out across the sea, left the caves. When she had eventually returned to the manor, she flew to her room and wrote forthwith to her brother.

For some months the siblings had endeavoured to find out all possible intelligence of the war between America and Britain and in particular of Lord Theodore’s family. After that day, Lord Theodore and his correspondents never returned, Lord Theodore removing himself to London. During a school break, George had chosen to spend his time in London alongside a good friend of his, a Lord James Blyth who was the son of a prominent minister within the House of Lords. During his time in London, George kept a close eye on the elusive Theodore, who after being sent to war a year past, had returned, this time a markedly changed man. In finding him so altered, George had sent a letter to his sister detailing the physical difference in the fearful Lord’s demeanour.

 

April, 1813.

My Dear Flo,

It strikes me that much has happened to Lord Theodore. He seems withdrawn and his figure, once athletic and I admit with a sombre envy, agile is now thin and frail, and upon his face a terrible scar runs across his cheek. Not surprisingly the young debutantes seem to flock to his side; the romantic notion of a wartime soldier overriding the reality of the man’s marked difference in character and appearance. I am sure the death of his father has affected him greatly for they were close. But when upon seeing him at his club, he mostly sits alone, smoking on his pipe. I have had it heard that he intends to return to his estate, so I urge you to keep your eyes open.

I shall be returning home for the remainder of my holidays in two weeks hence. Do not act until I return, until then seek John’s advice.

Yours,

 

Indeed, Lord Theodore soon returned to his estate, but as much as she had tried; spending a great deal of time coursing through his private estate, Florence’s ambitions of spotting the now reclusive Lord were dampened, even when perched within trees or under disguise as a kitchen maid. All had seemed lost until fortune had struck one day as she made for her cave. Upon her arrival, as she hitched her way over the dangerous rocks, she spotted a lone letter lying close to the harbour, settled within two slabs of rock, high enough to keep out of reach of the sea. With intrigue she retrieved the letter and made for her chamber. Upon lighting her lamps and making herself comfortable, she opened the thick roll of parchment.

Sir,

I send word from ‘M’. You are to await further instructions. Under the agreement of the Russian diplomat, Romanzoff, ‘M’ will be sending Gallatin and Bayard to St. Petersburg in order to partake in mediation efforts to bring about an end to the war. Both Gallatin and Bayard will be stopping at Dover and spending a week in London before sailing to France and thus journeying to Russia. I shall journey with the American diplomats. Our ship the ‘Neptune’ shall bypass Ives on June, 21st. We shall stop overnight and make for smugglers cove. You are to meet us at six in the morning sharp and ensure that you are not followed. I need not warn you of the British agents who shall be working against us at this point in time, I especially warn you of a man known to us as ‘Black Eye’’, of whom I am told you are acquainted during your time in France.

Stay vigilant.

‘A’

 

Upon reading the letter, Florence had made a copy and retreated to the manor, speaking only to John of the details.

“I wonder who this Black Eye is?” John had asked whilst pacing the length of the library, in his work clothes.

“I have no idea, but if he is aware of Lord Hamilton’s activities he would I presume be close by?” Florence returned, her body slouched back against the settee as she smoked on her pipe, her long legs crossed over before her as her eyes stalked the farmer. John, tall and sturdy turned his sea green eyes to Florence.

“Yes, he would be close.”

“We should send word to the village and see if there have been any new visitors?” Florence asked as she let out a cloud of billowing white smoke. Her auburn hair flowed loosely down her back and over her shoulders. Her feet were bare and over her she wore a thick dressing gown, the copy of the letter laid open upon her legs. It would have been a scene most horrifying for any lady of the ton to behold, but John and the rest of the manor were so very accustomed to the rather unladylike Florence, that had she been sitting up straight and elegantly dressed, they would have thought her possessed.

“I shall go there myself as I have a few messages to take care of in the morning,” John returned as he drank the remainder of his brandy. Eyeing Florence heavily, John put down his glass. “Our neighbour is playing a dangerous game.”

“I believe he may be in want of an end to this war and god knows we need it,” Florence said with a sigh. “The activity of local smugglers has greatly increased due to the trading bans, and our seaside villages and towns are greatly suffering. If Lord Hamilton wishes to bring about an end to the war then we must ensure that he is protected, without giving away our own identities; opinion toward him be damned!”

“When is George arriving?”

“Tomorrow evening,” Florence returned as she watched John put on his tweed cap, covering his golden locks.

“Well until then, stay away from the caves, they are unsafe,” John ordered as he made for the heavy oak door. Turning about, he eyed his old friend. “Flo, I understand you have an undeniable knack for adventure, but this is serious and that means you have to be careful. Understood?”

“Don’t worry John, I shall stay away from the beach until George returns.”

*

Florence felt the gentle morning wind upon her skin as she shook away the memories of the last two years and focused once more on the mission ahead.

“Come, John said he would meet us in the caves,” George said as he handed the roll of parchment back to Florence and guided his horse onwards. Florence followed dutifully, feeling the wisps of sea moisture fly against her face as she galloped across the beach. Artfully, she made sure to gallop through the water to not leave any footprints behind, least Lord Hamilton became suspicious. It did not take the siblings long to reach the cove. Jumping down from her mare, Florence turned to her brother. She stole a look at Wind, her stomach slightly swollen. Had George noticed that Destination had had his way with her beloved mare?

“What are we to do with the horses?” Florence uttered breathlessly, the dots connecting. She had misjudged their plan. Severely. George, sun-kissed and clearly still reeling from his previous night’s taste of St. Ives, rolled his eyes and shrugged.

“Well that’s a nail in the eternity box!” he declared with a nonchalant groan, clearly uncaring. Florence flung her arms in the air. George was never too sharp, add a few bottles of brandy and a local lass and he was positively low-brow. Florence had instead spent her night fumbling through endless books on colonial history, having finally settled upon a delicate little gothic romance. She was committed to this mission, she was desperate to lay eyes on the mysterious Lord Hamilton. It was true, he had finer legs than she and his perfectly sculpted face was rather exquisite from a distance. Clearly, she lacked in company and her imagination was severely lacking in inspiration.

“How could I be so stupid!” Florence declared with agitation. Walking about in distress and muttering under her breath, John entered the caves. Taking off his cap, clearly also suffering from acute sickness due to his escapades with George, he took a seat upon a rock, his gaze lifting to Florence. Looking to George, he failed to raise a brow.

“What’s the matter?” he asked quietly, a hand upon his forehead. The young Lord simply turned his gaze to the horses. “Ah, a flaw in the plan I see.”

“You could say that,” George said with a sarcastic smile.

“Well what is to be done, we have twenty minutes before anyone arrives?”

Florence turned to her brother and friend. Both individually in conflict with their physical beings. Florence had always placed hope in John’s capability to hold his drink, but held nothing but feigned desire for her brother to hold his. Each it had seemed, had failed. They were but mere illusions of real men. Wiping away stray strands of hair, her feet turning about in the sand with irritation, she looked to her male companions.

“Is it possible to hide them in the fields yonder?” she asked as she took off her velvet hat and fixed her hair.

“Well I suppose that could be done,” John returned, his brow finally furrowing in submission. His sleeves rolled up, he wiped away the beads of sweat from his sun-beat brow and looked to George.

“Right no time in which to meditate over the idea, myself and John shall go and hide the horses, whilst you Flo will go and get into position,” George ordered as he flung himself up onto the back of Destination, who had been intimately nuzzling at Wind’s stomach. Florence wondered if Destination knew about his bastard child? Would he elope with Wind or make off with Jupiter? John observed the strange look which passed over her face as he jumped onto Wind’s back. Taking the reins, he looked down into Florence’s eyes; now clear and focused.

“Flo, if anyone should come before the clock strikes six, stay put do you hear me?” John said with authority, his golden curls dancing about against the wind. With ease he placed his tweed hat upon his head.

“Of course, you beard splitter!” Florence said with a smile. John choked on his words, the sheer audacity of his young friend simply astounding. Turning to a struck George he murmured under his breath.

“That lass has too much time on her hands…”

“I quite agree, she must away to a nunnery!”

With a laugh, John guided Wind in the direction of the fields yonder. Standing with her hands on her hips, Florence watched George and John ride away into the distance and with a flick of her hair, she turned on her heel and entered the cave. It was - as always reassuring and calming to return to the caves of Smugglers Cove and without much need for her eyes, Florence found herself edging her way over the familiar rocks; the sea water now only as high as her knees. The morning rays gave light to the great caves and with gloved hands, Florence made her way to a spot some distance from the little harbour and made herself at home. From within the pocket of her tailcoat, she took out her father’s golden pocket watch and sat in wait for her brother and friend to return. Looking down at the ticking watch, Florence found as always the ticking a soothing relief. Her heart beat wildly, for she knew not what would happen in the next hour or what grave secrets she would learn. Was Lord Theodore a good man whose sole intent was to prevent war? Or was he taking part in treason and selling information to the Americans? It all seemed rather grey and serious. As she sat in wait, she heard the sound of footsteps and drew in a sigh of relief. The steps grew louder and without so much as a thought, she lifted herself up from the ground and looked down to find not her brother nor John entering the cave but Lord Theodore Hamilton himself. Instantly their eyes met and as though of the same mind, they both, in the blink of an eye produced their pistols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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