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Windmera-Desperation by Claudy Conn (1)


Youth rambles on life’s arid mount,

And strikes the rock and finds the vein,

And brings the water from the fount,

The fount which shall not flow again

Matthew Arnold

 

 

~ Prologue ~

 

1782

 

GODWIN, LORD OF RAVENSBURY, STOOD, a lone figure on the craggy cliffs of Land’s End in Cornwall, England.

Before him lay the ocean, its whitecaps foaming as they crashed into the jutting rocks. Those jutting craggy rocks, harsh in their greatness, looked much like weathered turrets of castles of long ago.

He loved this scene. He belonged here. He supposed he must look to any passerby as a rough figure of a man against such a wild background. He was proud that he was much like his father had been, of imposing height and broad shoulders. Enough to make a quarrelsome chap a charmer, and his mien…he knew was a buck in his heyday and fiercely honest in his beliefs.

His red hair swept over his eyes, wild in the wind, and he pushed it away from his face. He held his cloak with his free hand close to his chest as it whipped around him.

A pool of water had collected from the night’s rain and he gazed at himself in its shallow depth. Aye, he thought, could she love such a devilishly looking man with such black eyes and brows? Could she?

He had come here to his favorite place to be alone. He had to make a decision. He was young, too young, at only one and twenty, to have to make this decision, but he had no choice. He was lord and master of his home, and his home was empty and lonely.

He had lost his parents while he was at school, when he was seventeen. Still a boy, he lost his older brother a year later, when his brother sailing a rough sea had been found with the wreckage of his sloop on the rocky beach.

At eighteen, he was alone. He had no other family to claim as his own.

Aye, he was Godwin, Lord Ravensbury, and with all his wealth and position, he knew deep sorrow.

Now, though only one and twenty, he knew he wanted a family to brighten his home. He needed a family, and although he was still so young, he was quite (he told himself) grown up. He was a man. He had taken charge of his father’s prosperous holdings, of the estate, and he had done well with those responsibilities.

Now what he needed was to keep the name alive. He loved children. Aye then, children running around his house, making it a home was what he wanted—what he needed. He could picture them dashing about, laughing, arguing, playing, and how he wanted them. They would breathe life into his stale home. The notion of fathering such a pack made him delirious with pleasure.

A bride? Oh, but he had one in mind. She was lovely, a gentle being whose full youthful body was something he dreamed about making his own. He wanted the lovely Lisa…no, no, what was he thinking? It could never be Lisa. Lisa was lost to him.

It would be the lovely Sara, Sara of Farenday. She would be his bride. She was a beauty, with hair the color of sun-ripened wheat and eyes the color of a clear sky. She was an innocent, so very different than Lisa.

He would take Sara for his own and teach her what pleasure could be had in the bedroom. Hot blood raced through his loins, but a nagging voice, a voice that would not be stilled, asked if he loved Sara.

He must love her, he answered himself. How could he not?

He had made up his mind to take the hand of Sara Farenday and he would bring his bride to his castle and they would make it a home!

* * * * *

Sara Farenday sat alone on a hilltop not far from her home. Heather filled the air with sweetness as it swayed in the wind and she absently ran her hand through it, picked a few sprigs and breathed deeply.

Her long blonde hair blew across her face and she pushed it away. She was only seventeen, and her family was forever telling her that with her beauty she could have anyone she wanted as a husband.

So then, why didn’t they let her choose the man she wanted?

She gazed back at the modest Tudor home in the distance. She loved her home, but her mother had inspired her to want more. Jewels and beautiful clothes, her mother had said and wagged a finger. That is what you need, what you deserve.

Indeed, she grew up believing this was true.

She liked those things. She liked having servants to take care of her every whim, and the only way to achieve her goals was through marriage.

She needed a wealthy and noble peer of the realm. She would settle for nothing less and the thought of such a life became an obsession.

Godwin of Ravensbury made her smile and though she did not love him, she felt she could endure his touch and his company, at least for a time.

He courted her relentlessly now, but it had not always been so. Once, all he could think of was Lisa, her dearest friend. Lisa of Cotham, who was friend no more.

Silently, she congratulated herself. It had not been an easy trick to wean him from Lisa. Careful thought and planning had come into play, and both Godwin and Lisa had been easily duped. She smiled to herself as she remembered just how easy it had been to trick both Godwin and Lisa.

Ah, but the first time she saw Godwin, she knew he would have to be hers and hers alone. She had been riding with Lisa across the fields, as had been their habit, and there in their sights riding towards them was Godwin of Ravensbury.

Faith, but she could still recall the wave of envy that suffocated her as she watched him with Lisa. She knew that Lisa and Godwin were in love. She saw the way they looked at one another and the way they laughed together. They were well suited.

Even so, she determined she would have him, though it would end her friendship with the only woman who had ever called her friend. Lisa was kind and for a moment, just a moment, Sara thought perhaps she shouldn’t…but the moment passed.

She sent Godwin inviting looks, she flirted and touched him whenever she could, though he scarcely noticed. It was curious she thought then, and now again, how entranced he was with Lisa.

After all, Lisa was unfashionably small, unfashionably plump, and although quite pretty with her hazel eyes and dark brown hair, she was nothing to the vision Sara knew she presented. Yet here was Godwin, a large handsome man with his title and his fortune, and in spite of the fact that Lisa was no great beauty, it was Lisa he wanted. Irritating.

It was in that moment perhaps when Sara had hatched her plan, her devious plan, and once Sara was determined, she usually got what she wanted. She was unscrupulous and cunning.

Lisa…” she had said at a cotillion that very week, “I didn’t realize his lordship was courting you.” She purposely looked towards Ravensbury.

Lisa blushed. She glanced at Sara and then hurriedly looked away. “Indeed, he is not.”

Oh, you naughty girl, to lie so brazenly to me, your friend!” Sara bantered purposely and with a flutter of her lashes.

Stop, Sara, do. ‘Tis no lie. He makes no formal court of me.”

But he does come to call?” Sara pursued.

Yes, he has paid my parents a few morning calls,” Lisa hesitantly said.

Sara eyed her friend. Lisa had never fully trusted her and that had not mattered in the past. She had been happy for the company, for the easy friendship. She could see that Lisa did not want to confide in her now. Annoying little twit.

I shan’t go around the countryside chattering about you and his lordship, have no fear of that, my dear,” Sara said, and then winked. “Besides, any fool can see you want him…how could you not? I should if I were you.”

Lisa laughed, but Sara could see that she was uncomfortable from the way she looked away and said, “Sara, you are outrageous.”

So, you do want him?” Sara prompted.

I…well, he is ever so handsome and clever and…”

Affluent,” Sara stuck in.

Sara!” Lisa was shocked. “That does not weigh with me.”

Ah, you think me calculating, and I suppose I am. What choice does a woman have in this world of men? We must marry well or suffer the consequences.”

Lisa frowned. “No, a worthy character is far more important…and he adores children. He shows so much patience when my young sisters and brothers clamor around him.” Lisa sighed. “He is a good man, with a good heart.”

Hmmm,” Sara returned thoughtfully, and marveled that he had the patience to allow her siblings to pester him when he visited Lisa. When she visited with Lisa, she couldn’t abide the little brats.

After that evening, Sara learned all she could about Godwin of Ravensbury and made it her purpose to ensnare him for herself.

She watched him with Lisa and decided his feelings while engaged by Lisa, had not yet developed deeply. He seemed as though he admired and liked Lisa, and Sara thought, in time he could love her, for he certainly was attracted to Lisa, though why…she could not tell.

Her job, Sara decided, was to nudge him while he was still vacillating with the notion of Lisa as his bride. Her job was to provide reason enough that he would be disillusioned with Lisa and thus turn to her.

Indeed, she was just the person to win Godwin of Ravensbury, and so she made up her mind to do just that. Her friendship with Lisa? Ah, she would perhaps miss that, but she would be a lady of leisure and make new and notable friends.

And so it began!

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