Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Marie Lavender's Upon Your Love

The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.

But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…

Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?



July 18, 1882

            Harwich, England

Her fingers slipped from the captain’s grasp. “Papa!” she shouted, but her voice was caught in the din of voices on the pier. She experienced an odd sensation in her stomach and her heart raced wildly. On impulse, she crouched down, trying to crawl out of the crowd. “Papa!” she tried, again.
A big hand clutched her small body, jerking her to her feet. A sense of relief swamped over her, until the hand shook her.
            “You little pickpocket!” a man ground out.
            She shrank back at the unfamiliar, booming voice, but glanced up into the man’s face, which was red from the sun. His clothes were tinged with dirt and she detected a strange odor upon him. She glanced around for her father. She’d been taught to avoid strangers unless her parents were present. His insult did not go unnoticed, however.
“I am nothing of the kind, sir,” she declared. “I am a lady. My father was—”
            His hand tightened on the back of her dress. “Is he a thief as well?”
            “Thief? Why, no, he is an honorable man, a captain, and you must unhand me or he’ll do you harm, I swear.” Panic swept through her at his hold, and a shout tore out of her. “Papa!”   
            “No one can hear you, scamp. And you stole my money.” He grasped her arm.
            “I am not a scamp!” she cried. “I am a lady.” She stamped her foot on the ground. Fear threatened to choke her, but she knew it wouldn’t solve a thing. Her father was gone. She had to rely on herself. Her gaze swept the pier until her attention was caught by a quarrel nearby. A boy, perhaps about eleven years old, attempted to wrest a blue reticule from a young girl, who was screaming. A few bills stuck out of the boy’s side pocket. “Sir, I do believe that is the rascal you’re looking for.” She pointed across the pier. “Now, if you’ll be so kind as to let me go….”
            His eyes followed hers. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He glanced at her clothing. “I suppose you don’t look like a pickpocket.”
            She nodded.
            He released his hold on her. His brown gaze softened, and he swept a hand over his dark hair. “How old did you say you were?”
Adrienne frowned. “Well, I didn’t. I’m nine,” she proudly announced with her hands on her hips. This brought a laugh out of the man, but she couldn’t see why.
“We must find your father.”
            “I appreciate it, sir, but it looks as if your money is getting away.” Even now, the boy was yanking the reticule out of the girl’s grasp and Adrienne gasped as the girl, dressed in a dark blue gown, fell head over heels into the water by the dock with quite a splash. “Mon Dieu! We must help her!” Adrienne said.
She grasped the man’s hand, tugging him over to the scene.
Her mouth gaped further as the man shook his head, dropped her hand and took off after the boy who’d stolen his money. Adrienne had no time to remark on his actions, and moved to her stomach, leaning over the pier. She took hold of the girl’s hand as she thrashed in the water, desperate to stay afloat.
“Someone help!” she cried, fearful she might drown before Adrienne could save her.
            She took a deep breath, realizing she was still on her own. The girl didn’t appear to see her on the dock. She whistled hard, just like she’d seen her brother do on occasion. “Miss, can you swim?”
            The girl’s tears mixed with the water on her face as she shook her head.
“Are you able to find a footing on the pylons below?”
            “I, I think so,” she said, her teeth chattering now. The girl struggled more, and an odd look crossed her face. “Yes, I think I found it.”
“Good. I want you to grip my hand tight, and then take my other hand, all right? On the count of three, I’m going to pull hard and you will push off the pylon. Do you have that straight?”
            The girl nodded, grasping Adrienne’s open hand.
            “Now we count. One… two… three!” Adrienne yanked as hard as she could, and the girl clutched at the pier. She pulled her over the rest of the way, and they both rolled, collapsing hard on their backs, breaths labored as the setting sun shone down on their faces.
            Sobs came from her companion. Adrienne hugged her until she stopped crying, and then looked into the girl’s face. She had damp, dark blonde hair, at least from what she could tell of the wet mop, and pretty blue eyes. “You did well.”
            “Thank you. Oh my Lord, I think you saved my life!”
            She smiled. “My pleasure. May I have your name, Miss?”
            “Elena,” she said, though her teeth continued to chatter, and the girl rubbed at her wet arms.
            She smiled. “Let’s get off our backs, shall we?”
            They managed to stand upright. Adrienne saw a bit of dampness on her own gown, but didn’t care. She was more concerned about the girl. “Are you all right?”
            “I think so,” she paused, then declared, “You don’t sound English.”
            Adrienne frowned. “I am American. Well, my father is half English, and my mother is French. But, we live in the states.”
            Elena lifted a brow. “A strange combination, to be sure.”
            The way the girl proudly lifted her chin despite her bedraggled appearance made Adrienne laugh. “In any case, we will have to do something about this….” She gestured to the dirty water soaking through the girl’s dress and dripping at her feet.
            Her soulful blue eyes darkened. “Oh, my dress is ruined. My mother will be so angry with me!”
            “It’s all right.” She considered the girl for a moment. “I do believe I have a dress that might fit you.” Elena was a bit shorter than her, though.
            “You mustn’t go to the trouble.” Her blue gaze searched the harbor. “I got turned around. My driver is gone. I took pianoforte lessons in town, and then he was to stay with me on a stroll I usually take at this time of day.” The girl bit her lip, and Adrienne thought she caught a hint of fear in those eyes as they darted around.
            “Don’t worry. I do hope the man taught that ruffian some manners, however.”
            “How can you tell me not to worry? I am at the harbor, and my family lives in the country. And without money—”
            “We’ll help you.”
            She frowned. “You don’t even know me.”
            Adrienne shrugged. “I will still help you. Come, my family is nearby. We’re visiting England.” Surely, she could locate La Voyageur again. Perhaps George, Papa’s second-in-command, could help? Or, maybe she could find the hotel they were staying at, and her father could find her there.
            “Oh, I suppose it would be fine if they took me home.”
            She nodded. “Of course.”
            She turned her head. “Papa!” she shouted, unable to express the pure joy of hearing his deep voice again.
            The broad shoulders of her father came into view, his full head of dark, wavy hair swirling in the breeze as he stood in his gray day suit. He scowled down at Adrienne, clutching her shoulders as he shook her gently. He was stern just like on La Voyageur, in charge when he stood with his hands crossed behind him at first, waiting while the men lined up in two opposing rows.
“Twice in one day? Chére, how many times have I told you that you must not run off?”
            She stuttered as she replied, “Papa, I got caught in the crowd, torn away from you. I couldn’t help it.”
            “Are you hurt?”
            He nodded, and then glanced over at Elena. “Oh. What do we have here?”
            Adrienne frowned at him. “That’s a girl, Papa!”
            His lips twisted. “Oui, I can see that. Who is your friend, chére?”
            “Why, I…,” she frowned. “I do not know her surname.”
            Despite her disheveled state, the girl managed a curtsy. “I am Elena Wyndham. Pleased to meet you both.”
            Adrienne couldn’t figure out why her father looked so amused as she glanced at him, then back toward Elena. “A pleasure, of course. My name is Adrienne Bellamont Hill and this is my father, Captain Hill. Papa, Elena got herself into some trouble. A ruffian stole her reticule and pushed her! I saw it all. And I would have taken him to task if the man who found me hadn’t rushed off after him. I also had to pull her out of the water.”
            The girl’s teeth chattered as she crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s true, sir. Your daughter saved me.”
            “I see. Those are unfortunate circumstances, to be sure, Miss Wyndham. May I ask the whereabouts of your parents as you seem quite alone?”
            “They are at home. I… got lost somehow, and I don’t know where my driver is.”
            He nodded. “Well, we shall take you to them at once.”


February 21, 1894

Adrienne stood on the dock, waiting as the stevedores unloaded cargo from the ship, La Voyageur. She strained to see, but as of yet no one had appeared, at least not who she waited for. Her father could have arrived two possible ways at New Orleans, either through the internal port, heading straight up the Mississippi River, or the external port, which would have brought him past Florida through the Mississippi Sound and Lake Borgne. This time, he’d chosen the latter. She scrunched her hands in the skirt of her bright pink day gown, wrinkling her nose as the smell of fish and hard labor wafted over to them. The matching, velvet bonnet on her head provided some protection from the sun high over her head but, in truth, it was a nuisance. At her Maman’s insistence, she’d put one on, but couldn’t bring herself to drag along a parasol.
She refrained from following the dictates of society, a fact which caused her contemporaries to shy away from her at times. As a child, she’d been more likely to wrestle in the dirt with her brother Gabriel instead of having tea parties with dolls and her nursemaid. She still wore gowns and didn’t mind dressing up now and then, of course, but she cared not for paying much attention to her wardrobe as most ladies did. Adrienne dressed as she did because her maid gave her little choice, and she would hate to disappoint her mother and Tante Lina. She knew her place, knew how to act in society. She just hadn’t had the heart to attend to such things in the past two years.
Truthfully, she had lost her joie de vivre. Losing her fiancé, Robert Morel, to a needless war nearly two years ago had taken its toll. About three months back, her mother had urged her to start wearing colors again rather than those black or gray silk costumes she’d worn for some time. It was a relief, in a way, for even she, who didn’t usually care what she wore, had grown to detest them.
When she learned her longtime friend Elena would visit her here in New Orleans, she had felt a new thrill, a kind of excitement which she found refreshing after her listlessness. Now, she could barely keep still even as Eric Caron, her father’s valet and a close family friend who acted more like an uncle, stood beside her. As soon as the messenger had come with that letter, she’d left the house as soon as possible. Of course, the message had been from her father, addressed to her mother, stating that though he was in port, he’d be in for dinner at the latest. She would have taken horses for the journey, but Eric had convinced her otherwise.
“Why have they not appeared?” she grumbled, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. “This is not Papa’s usual behavior.” Eric had already asked a man from the crew to see if the captain would meet them on the dock.
“I have to agree, Mademoiselle, but we must be patient. Your father would be cross with you if you set foot, unescorted, amongst that group of men. With me as well,” he muttered.
She eyed him. Even now, he put a hand to the sword strapped to his waist and carefully scrutinized every sailor who passed them on the dock. She knew he also carried a concealed pistol. She wanted to laugh at his overprotectiveness, but suppressed it. He knew her humor well but his duty was paramount to him as he was charged to protect the ladies of the household. He’d been appointed long ago, around her tenth birthday, but he’d always been under her father’s employ in some capacity. She lifted a shoulder and glanced away. “I know most of them, Eric.” Sailors had already waved to her in greeting. Some she did not recognize and she thought, by their obvious appraisal, he might be right about their intentions.
“You have not been at sea enough, Mademoiselle. After a long journey, the only thing a man wants more than a good drink is a woman.”
“Yourself included?” Adrienne glanced over, grinning.
He cleared his throat, crossing his arms over his chest. “I am not a young man anymore.”
“Ah, but you were once.”
He shrugged. “My duty was first to your father. I had time for nothing more.”
She wasn’t so sure. Eric took his position seriously, that was true enough. However, she had caught one of the new maids furtively glancing at him before. Claudette, was it? The woman always blushed when Eric came into a room or looked her way. He might not be a young man, but there were no age limits placed on love. Or desire, she thought as she suppressed a laugh. 
No more than a couple of years past her father’s age and still attractive, Eric had kind brown eyes with corners that tended to crinkle when he smiled, and he also had aged dark hair. She wondered if she would have to meddle a bit to get Eric and Claudette together. There was nothing more she wanted for Eric than to see him content and settled with a wife. She was sure her father would agree with the assessment.
Adrienne groaned. “I cannot stand this any longer. Either you go on board with me or I go alone.” With a shrug, she marched up the gangway and boarded La Voyageur.
Mademoiselle!” Eric called after her.
Adrienne eased through the madness on deck, ducking to avoid a collision with sailors carrying goods from the ship. The ties of her bonnet pressed uncomfortably into her throat. She reached up, undid the pink, silk ribbons on the hat, pulled the contraption off her head and flung it aside. There, that was better. She shook her head and the pins she’d haphazardly put in came down as well. She jerked a few out and shoved them in the pockets of her dress. The dark waves of her hair rested freely around her shoulders, then began to lift with the strong winds off the sea.
“Holy hell,” a man swore behind her and whistled in an appreciative tone.
Adrienne spun, pinned the sailor with a raised eyebrow and then took off in the direction of her papa’s cabin. Her steps became carefree as she got closer. When she reached the heavy door, she knocked twice.
“Enter!” a familiar voice said after a moment.
Adrienne smiled, turned the knob and pushed into the room, observing that it looked as it always had. Sunlight spilled over a masculine cabin with dark wood, numerous shelves and a bed. An oriental rug was thrown down for comfort as well, and a massive desk sat nearby, where she saw her father leaning over and gathering up some papers. She gave herself a moment to inspect him for changes. It was always some time before she saw him again when he went away at sea.
Capitaine Grant Hill was a tall man, just a bit taller than her as she was fairly tall for a woman. His once dark hair now had a more aged appearance, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, but he was still a handsome rascal. She could see why her mother was so enamored of him. He wore a white shirt and black trousers with tall, black, leather boots. More sailor than gentleman now, he could just as easily transform into a captain or master of the estate, a versatility that had always fascinated her. 
As he finished arranging the papers, he glanced up. She saw surprise flare in his dark gray eyes before it was replaced with joy. He broke into a wide grin, sidestepping the desk as he strode to her and embraced her, lifting her clear off her feet. Adrienne laughed as he kissed both of her cheeks before setting her back down.
Bonjour, chére. What a sight to come home to.” The smile didn’t leave his lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Papa, I thought you’d meet us on the dock. Someone was to inform you, but nevermind. You don’t imagine I’d really let Elena be without me as an escort to the plantation, do you?”
He lifted a shoulder. “I hadn’t thought of it. And I assure you, I was not aware you’d come to the harbor.”
“Then you would have escorted Elena?”
Oui, of course. What am I, a scoundrel?”
Her Maman thought so sometimes, but she imagined she’d only said it in a jesting manner. Adrienne took a deep breath before she began, “I wanted to meet her here. I simply can’t wait to see Elena. Where is she?”
He leaned back against the heavy desk, crossing his arms over his chest. “I imagine she is still in her cabin. I believe she’s resting.”
“There will be time enough to rest once she is ensconced in her own bedchamber back at home.”
He shook his head. “Leave the girl alone, Adrienne.”
“You sound like Gabriel,” she frowned at his scolding tone.
Her father lifted a dark brow. “You shouldn’t make her a puppet to your whims.”
Adrienne frowned. “That is unfair. You know me better than that.” She crossed her arms in a defensive gesture and took a deep breath. “It is different now. Everything is.”
“What do you mean?” he grimaced.
“Papa, I don’t have many friends anymore, not since…” She tried hard not to think of Robert. “Since what happened. I see Chloe occasionally, of course, but not too often. Most of my amies have deigned to leave me alone to grieve.” In truth, the women who were in her social circle before had all but abandoned her once she’d left society. And she imagined they’d only tolerated her because of her family’s position. She was too different. Of course, gambling against one’s hostess and chatting with the lady’s son about target practice was considered odd.
“Do you blame them?”
“No, of course not. But, Papa, Elena means a lot to me. I have missed her so. We still pen letters but, you see, I was greatly anticipating her visit.”
He leveled her with a steady gaze. “Forgive me, chére. I suppose I did not realize you needed a friend so much.” 
She managed a shrug, and then briefly took hold of his hand. “I want to thank you for fetching her from England, Papa. It’s very kind of you.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiled. “I just want to see you happy again, bébé.” 
Adrienne nodded, but felt the press of tears nonetheless. She hadn’t been lying. Until now, she hadn’t realized how isolated she’d become. She cocked her head when she heard a curse.
“Papa?” she asked, as she looked at him uncertainly.
“Were you not escorted aboard? Surely, you would not be so careless.”
She frowned at the change in his mood. “Papa, please. There is no danger. I am the captain’s daughter.”
“And you believe they all know that? You know nothing of how men think.”
“Don’t fret about something so silly—”
He grabbed her arm, scowling. “Silly? You don’t realize how dangerous it is, my girl.”
“You must be more careful.” His dark eyes flashed.
She did not see him angry very often at all. She began to understand why his crew respected him so much, or perhaps feared him. If this was the other side of him, she was certain she preferred ignorance. “I, I… but, Eric brought me to the docks.”
“And he allowed you to come on board alone?” His hand tightened.
“Well, I suppose he hadn’t a choice. I wanted to see Elena.”
“It’s as I suspected. Any man who didn’t know you could have cornered you or done worse.” He dropped her arm, but caught her chin as if lifting her face to the light which spilled into the room from the sturdy windows placed astern of the ship. “You’re far too headstrong, chére. Just like your mother. Why can’t you be responsible like Gabriel?”
“Headstrong, am I? Like you?” She didn’t relish the comparison. Her father had never been so unfair before.
A brief smile crossed his lips and he dropped his hand from her face. “Perhaps. I imagine your husband will have a time of it with you.”
She scowled then, crossing her arms over her chest. “I want no husband.”
“So you say now. You may change your mind,” he shrugged.
That wasn’t likely. She never wanted to go through what she had again.
“You must indulge me in this, chére. We cannot watch you constantly. You must protect yourself as well. You shouldn’t invite trouble.”
She nodded, relenting as she could hear the love and concern in his voice. “Oui, Papa. I understand. I will try to be better.”


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Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 23 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.