She never imagined she would find him like this: confined to a wheelchair on the island of Alderney with no memory of her or their turbulent past. Now, the brilliant painter who once loved her is a hollow shell of the man she once knew.
But Katherine is determined to restore Trayten’s memory, uncover the mystery of his disappearance, and obtain absolution for her calamitous past mistakes. She will contend with his resistance to recovery and also with Marian, the possessive caretaker who is unwilling to let him go.
Convinced she can find restoration, Katherine will try to bring Trayten back, clinging to the belief that love, like the spring, will unfailingly conquer the coldest of winters.
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Genre: Historical Romance
A Pink Satin Romance
Battling westward from the coast of Cherbourg, Courier II braved Le Raz Blanchard, the Race of Alderney, where wind and wave rioted in concert. The tremendous display of tidal fury caused the ship to dive and leap, riding the rolling sea. Set upon her course, and well acquainted with the tempestuous attitude of the strait, she endured every knock and slam with resolve.
Pallid hues overwhelmed the view, hanging from low lying clouds and rising from foam frosted waters. They enclosed the vessel in whiteness and shortened the foreseeable distance, until a splatter of gold made known the before imperceptible horizon. The promise of land fueled hope for a lady with anxious eyes. She withstood the turbulent sea and clung to the life rail of the bow.
Stark against the paleness surrounding her, she was clothed in only black. A silhouette, a shadow. Her soft wool coat was trimmed with mink, from the Medici collar that framed her neck, to the hem that dusted the deck. Beneath the shade of her colossal chapeaux, her chestnut colored hair conformed with the ensemble, and appeared black as the feathers of a crow.
The biting wind painted a blush on her porcelain complexion, and her eyes were blue and deep as ocean water. With the steamer she rode the waves, bearing the billows and facing the assault of polar gusts. A sigh escaped her. A shudder expelled in a thin cloud of warmth. Though unmoved, her poise could not cover the agitation running rampant beneath her skin. Fixated on the little shore ahead, her feet rooted restlessly on the slick wooden planks of the bow.
Farther along the deck, a young couple meandered with their arms encircling one another. Their laughter skipped carelessly across the air. The girl beamed, innocent ambition alighting her features. The gentleman upon whose arm she dangled kissed her cheek and kept her close.
As she perceived them from the corner of her eye, the lady in black was afflicted with a menacing mixture of envy and annoyance, for their innocent delight was to her, like laughter at a funeral. She looked away, forcing their joy from her perspective. Still, their voices reached her ears, carrying the same tone of bliss that shone in their faces.
Turning back to the sea, she attempted to concentrate on the sprays of water splashing against the hull of the ship.
“Mrs. Koryn?” A voice startled her.
She pivoted and the young crewman appeared apologetic to have disturbed her diligent study of the water.
“Pardon ma’am.” He bowed. “We’ll be weighing anchor at Braye Harbour in a moment.”
“Yes.” She faintly smiled. “Thank you.”
“Would you like me to have the steward ready your things?”
He offered his arm to escort her across the deck. Her hand drifted from the rail to follow her footsteps forward. With troubled shadows darkening her eyes, Mrs. Koryn glanced over her shoulder, first to the young couple in their rapture, then beyond them to the island of Alderney.
* * *
The Courier II was received into the stillness of Braye Harbour, embraced by the arc of the bay on the east side and the breakwater extending from the northwest. Mrs. Koryn stepped onto the causeway and considered its length, a granite path rising high and stretching toward Alderney across the bay.
Treeless, the land sloped gradually from the northern coast, the blonde beach of Braye giving way to a meadow of tall grasses, busy bending with the breeze. The sky reigned and dominated the scene, limiting the land. Fort Albert imperiously guarded the eastern headland of the bay. It was one of eighteen similar forts and batteries spotting the coasts of Alderney. An angular, sprawling mass, the fort looked like an ice castle sculpted to crown the mound of the snow-strewn eastern point.
The muttering of the crewmen hovered cloud-like; a deep, sluggish murmur as they pulled back from the shore to leave her. She shifted her weight, swaying to balance a bag in one hand with a suitcase in the other, watching the steamer slide into the fog and take with it all human sound. The silence left behind was deafening.
“Yer that lady come from Portsmouth, yea? The one’s wrote to Miss Boley saying she’s arriving today and expecting an escort to the Inn?”
Mrs. Koryn might have tripped on the short, portly maid who appeared in her path.
“Miss Boley, yes. I wrote to her requesting accommodations, indeed. I am Katherine Koryn.”
“I figured. Follow me.” The girl swept the suitcase from Katherine’s hand and started shuffling toward a road at the end of the breakwater.
Between breaths she said, “It’s exciting to have a person from Portsmouth come stay with us. It’s been a while, to be sure. What did ye come all this way for anyhow?”
“Ah.” Katherine nodded, swallowing hard. “Well, special interests I should say. A local physician, Doctor Danby informed me that there’s a man living at the Inn—”
“Ye mean our cripple?”
Katherine stumbled on the smooth brick pavement and stammered, “Crip...cripple? Is he?”
“Don’t ye know? Didn’t the doctor inform ye?”
Katherine inhaled to collect her composure. “I received very few details about him. You see, Doctor Danby merely indicated his existence here.”
Slinging the suitcase onto her back with a swift thrust, the maid said, “Round here he’s quite well-known. Marian, ah, that’s Miss Boley, she and me, we take care of him and we’re delighted to do it!” Raising her voice with the declaration, she stopped momentarily. “I never thought anyone beyond Alderney would know of him.”
“I had sent letters to hospitals and asylums across England and throughout the Channel Islands inquiring after persons who were lost, those who had gone missing.” Katherine broadened the scope of the search as she described it to the maid, withholding the fact that she had inquired after one person in particular. Instinct begged her to protect the desperation of that search and shield her emotional investment in its prize.
Quickening her pace to catch up, Katherine continued, “Doctor Danby responded to one of my letters and said that a man, a stranger, was found at sea and brought here. He gave me the post address of Miss Boley and she confirmed such a man lived at the Inn with her.”
They reached the end of the breakwater and continued west along a sandy road. To the north was the sea and inland, a cluster of buildings formed the town, St. Anne. They ascended a hill as the road narrowed. Smoke coiled into the sky from the chimneys of houses beyond the road. Golden grass covered the ground, rooted in sand and a light dusting of snow. The raw quiet was a foreign phenomenon to a lady from the congested boroughs of Portsmouth.
They ventured north into a smaller road toward Fort Doyle, then followed Platte Saline Road west. At last they drew upon a large house on a small rise over Platte Saline Beach. The cracked yellow siding and broad, tall windows glowed in the pale winter light. Shutters, once the color of the sun, hung worn and bleached on bent hinges. Three stories high against the empty sky, it turned its back to the water. There, a rounded tower was set in the crux of two short wings and capped with a round cupola. A boardwalk extended from the back portico to the beach.
With a thundering heartbeat, Katherine followed the maid up the shallow, snow-packed steps and directly into the house. The warmth of the hallway burned her face after so long in the frigid air.
“I’ll have ye wait in the parlor.” The maid directed Katherine past a narrow staircase and through the polished mahogany arch of the front room. Then she disappeared, racing up the stairs in a clamor of creaking.
Katherine held her bag and remained concealed in her coat. The room was small and paved with plush burgundy carpet. The walls were lined with glass-faced curio cabinets. Every square foot was occupied, with a settee at one end, and a small, upholstered armchair and pianoforte at the other. In the center of the parlor, a low tea-table served to fill the last possible reach of open space.
She made a careful lap around the room, gazing through the glass at shells, statuettes, pictures, and figurines of crystal. Decorative plates and pottery of varied designs filled the shelves. An impressive number of collectable objects crowded into the cramped enclosures. Katherine traced a gloved finger along the textured wallpaper, where burgundy cherries dotted creeping vines in endless repetition.
Voices sounded from upstairs. A thump startled her, followed by muted yelling. She froze, her gaze darting to the low ceiling. She could discern nothing more distinct than a murmur. Her heart beat fiercely, vibrating through her bones. In order to subdue the excitement that threatened her tenuous self-possession, she focused on breathing slowly.
Setting her bag near her suitcase in the archway, she removed her trembling hands from black leather gloves. The ring on her left hand glittered, a flash of diamonds covering the top of the band. Examining it, she stiffened, troubled by the sight of them. Her jaw tightened.
Hurried, heavy footsteps alerted her, and a new voice snapped, “Get that mess cleared and fix another plate!”
“Heavens! Well, I see she let you in,” exclaimed the boisterous creature as she swung around the corner from the staircase, catching Katherine by surprise.
Katherine opened her mouth to speak, however she was outdone.
“I’m Marian Boley. This is my house. Rather grand for Alderney, I’m sure you noticed, but of course I let rooms out upstairs. Sorry, I misplace minor details, your name is?”
“Mrs. Katherine Koryn of Portsmouth.” She held out her hand. “I wrote to you—”
“Mrs., yea?” Marian withheld her hand. “And you travel alone? Not the behavior one expects from a lady of Portsmouth, or of good society, at least.”
“My husband has been dead for eight years.”
“Oh, I see. Well, pardon that. Have a seat. I’ll take your coat.” She peeled the garment from Katherine’s shoulders before an objection might be made. Her velvet town dress was black like the woolen paletot.
Katherine sat down, crossed her ankles under the settee, and studied Miss Boley carefully. She had billowy, bright red hair that waved, frizzed, and refused to lie flat despite being cinched tightly into a severe knot on the top of her head. Her features were sharp and wild, with hazel eyes and white, freckled skin.
Marian’s dress called to mind the bygone fashion of the nineties, with its enormous puff sleeves and tight, banded collar in gray ratine fabric. She chewed at her lips and moved without the grace found in other women. Her mannerisms, as she scooted around the tea-table and plopped into the armchair, were careless, masculine, and unrefined.
“Well, here you are, as you forewarned in your last letter. You said you were coming and here you are. But what business do you presume to have here, Mrs. Koryn?” Marian raised her chin.
Imagining that if she spoke, her voice would break and falter, Katherine stared back in silence. She took as much time as possible to blink while that instinct to protect her true plight returned. First, she needed to be sure that it was him.
“I would like to meet this man the doctor told me about,” the words finally manifested. “And talk with him, evaluate him.”
“Well, you might have saved yourself the trip if you had the forethought to ask that in your letter. I would’ve told you not to waste your time here. He’s not friendly and despises meeting people.”
“Consider it more of a clinical evaluation than a social call,” Katherine offered.
“I should tell you straight away that I’m very much opposed to psychoists.” Marian waved her hand as though declining an invitation.
“I’m not a psychiatrist.” Katherine assumed she meant psychiatrist even though she said it wrong.
“Well any sort of psycho-ist. I’m strictly opposed. All are alike in my estimation; scheming, manipulative snoops with pompous ideas, thinking they know people, when one can never really know.” A feral light flashed from Marian’s eyes.
“I’d really only wish to talk with him. Manipulation has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Why don’t you tell me more about him?”
“I can’t say much, and neither can he! He has no memory. I suppose the doctor called it...retrograde ambrosia, something or other.”
“Retrograde amnesia?” Katherine gasped. Suddenly, the room seemed to spin.
“That’s what I said. Fishermen pulled him from the water somewhere up north and brought him to me, yes to me. They fish in my bay and stay here often. They love my cooking so much they go out of their way to stay here.” Marian beamed with pride.
“And what condition was he in when he arrived?” Katherine closed her eyes tightly and folded her trembling hands to restrain them.
“He wasn’t doing well! He was wounded, apart from his feeble mind. He was unconscious when they brought him in. When he woke, he didn’t know his name, which is how I discovered he couldn’t remember what had happened to him. I tried to help him with his memory. Nothing. Not even his own name.”
“Are you quite sure he remembers nothing? Not any person from his life? Not anything that he did?” There was the crack in her voice that she had hoped to avoid.
“Quite sure, of course! I’m not a liar,” Marian snapped.
“I would not have presumed such a thing,” Katherine replied twice as sharply. She fell back into silence and after studying the carpet asked, “Did you give him one?”
“A name. A person is no one without a name. A name is...it’s—” Katherine straightened. “Did you give him one?”
“There were initials, etched inside a tin we found on him: T.B..”
Katherine caught and held onto her breath. The room around her burned fiery red, and Marian’s sharp appearance stoked the flames. Those piercing hazel eyes pinned Katherine with a heated stare.
“Are you sweating, Mrs. Koryn? It’s not too warm in here.”
“Go on.” Katherine shook her head. “Please, go on.”
“We call him T.B.. And he’s an ill-tempered man. Not one to be poked at and prodded. I can’t permit you to disturb him.”
“Permit? You’re right in that you cannot permit. Neither can you prevent. You’re not his master because you own his room, with all due respect, Miss Boley.” Blood rushed to Katherine’s face.
“They brought him to me.” Marian squared her shoulders. “And here he has stayed under my absolute care. He’s completely pathetic. He can’t get on by himself. He has no one. I’m the only one.”
“You may not be the only one. Have you considered that?”
Marian offered no response.
Katherine sighed, reeling her emotion back in. “If you would please allow me to stay here, I will pay of course, so that I may work with him.”
“As long as you pay you may stay. But I’ll warn you now, he’ll not be agreeable and that I can’t help with. If he refuses to allow you to see him, I will ensure he’s not disturbed. And if you do see him, you’ll understand if I supervise from time to time. I will be watching you.”
“I’m not afraid of being watched. It’s your home. May I go up now?” Katherine stood.
“No, not yet. After supper. We had a mess up there, he has these fits, the room needs cleaning, and he needs rest.” Marian rushed to stand between Katherine and the hallway.
“Very well, I understand.” With a deep sigh, Katherine put her hands back into her gloves and her excitement back under restraint. “May I leave my things here while I go into town?”
“Of course. I’ll have Suzan put your bags in a room. I’m sure if you don’t stay longer you’ll at least stay for the night.”
“Thank you. That is kind of you, Miss Boley.”
* * *
Katherine made her way along the spacious, snow laced lanes of Victoria Street. Although the buildings clung to one another, arrayed in bright and various hues, the village was not the least bit crowded. St. Anne was void of bustle and filled with unobstructed breezes.
As she walked, she traced with her gaze the spaces between the cobblestones, reviewing the meandering and painful path that brought her to Alderney. A cautious mind fought against the excitement in her heart, for she knew that her journey might not be at an end. She braced herself to accept that her search would have to continue, and yet she hoped that her mourning might be turned into rejoicing after all.
The sound of footsteps other than her own caused her to raise her eyes. Two ladies tarried in the street ahead, the shorter one waving a handkerchief in friendly surrender. Both wore bright mantels, one pink and the other striped with dark and light greens. Both wore their sandy blonde hair in plaits, and both had upturned noses and brown, wide-set eyes.
“You’re a stranger here, though we’ve seen you pass at least twice already now,” the plumper of the pair said. She grinned with a thin mouth, which was crowded between her large doughy cheeks. Through the spectacles perched at the end of her nose, she eyed Katherine.
“I’m staying at Marian Boley’s house.”
“Whatever for? A lady such as you?” the smaller of the pair gasped. “Captain Scott’s is at least suitable accommodation.” Her mouth turned upward in an easy grin.
Katherine smiled warmly, delighted by her lack of censorship. “I might be looking in on the man that lives there.”
“That delirious cripple?” The smaller one’s companion slapped a plump hand over her mouth.
“Forgive my sister Louisa. Half-sister, really. We are familiar with them. I’m Mary Saunders.”
“I am charmed to meet you both. Katherine Koryn.”
Mary let loose of Louisa, who pronounced, “We are dressmakers, and this is our shop.” She swept her arm back to present the front of their establishment. “You’re well dressed enough. Still we’d be happy to tailor something new for you.”
“I would be honored. Perhaps, another day. I’m rather anxious to return to Miss Boley’s,” Katherine said.
“Strange, indeed very strange.” Louisa shook her head.
“Never mind her,” Mary told Katherine. “You have important work to do, no doubt. Let’s not stand in her way, Louisa.”
“But Mary, doesn’t she look familiar?” Louisa asked. “Look at her face!”
Katherine crinkled her forehead.
Louisa laughed loudly. “I’m sure I’ve seen you before!”
“I’ve never been to Alderney,” Katherine admitted.
“Strange,” Mary said.
Together they stared at her until she began to squirm. When Katherine stepped back, Mary shrugged. “Course, we get a bit imaginative from time to time.”
Louisa giggled as a child would.
“I’d better get on,” Katherine said. “It was wonderful to meet you both.”
“Do come to call whenever you like,” Mary offered. “We are always here.”
“I should be delighted.” Katherine smiled.
“Yes and tell Marian hello from the Saunders sisters!” Louisa grinned mischievously and stabbed her sister with an elbow.
Katherine waved and continued on. The laughter of the sisters bounced on the air and faded as they retreated into their shop.
* * *
“You must understand and abide by these necessary rules,” Marian warned, guarding a bedroom door in the lamp-lit hallway upstairs.
Katherine’s heart beat powerfully, while her knees weakened. Her stomach protested loudly, for she had denied it any food, unable to trust its resolve. In a housedress and robe she wavered like a waif, the gauzy fabric hanging freely from her shoulders without form. As liberated, her hair reached to the small of her back and waved incongruously. Its irregular style was the result of having been twisted and pinned beneath her hat all day. She pressed a hand to her stomach and nodded to Marian, willing to comply with anything in order to pass through the door.
Sucking in her cheeks, Marian appeared skeletal, for shadows filled the cavities of her face. “He’s sensitive to his injuries and you must be calm about him, easy with him.”
“I shall be.”
“I’ll wait out here.” Marian moved aside, waving a hand to the door.
Katherine entered, closing the door inside with her back to the rest of the room. She held her breath, closed her eyes, and opened them to the door. Shyly she turned and her heart stopped beating.
A bed below the window faced the sea. Moonlight through the glass painted squares of blue on the blanket covering his body. On a table beside the bed a candle flickered, and its erratic light splashed his cheeks with burnt orange, the brightness broken only by a thicket of black stubble. His black hair was long and unkempt, yet it was swept back from his forehead as he lay sleeping to reveal dark eyebrows and a straight nose. His lips rest, full and well-formed. His jawline was square and strong.
His arm hung over the edge of the bed, fingers dusting the floor. Drawn to his hand, Katherine there fixed her gaze. A pale, silvery scar followed the line of his knuckles. She inhaled and held onto her neck.
A chair sat in the corner, one with large wheels in front, smaller wheels in the back, and footplates hanging from the seat. The hardwood floor creaked when she moved, drawn to the edge of the bed. Katherine sank to her knees and her eyes filled with tears.
As the atmosphere thickened, she struggled to breathe in it. “Are you really here?”
Unable to resist, she took his fallen hand. Sensation raced through her at the feel of his skin. He stirred, yet she formed his hand against her own, then touched his face. Tears washed her cheeks when she blinked.
He jolted, breaking the stillness.
With an unconscious reflex his hand closed around her wrist and her response was an involuntary scream. His eyes snapped open, hazy, vacant, a glassy brown somehow bright in the dark, and he let out a terrible yell. He pulled her arm in his writhing until she twisted away and fell backward onto the floor.
As one tortured and without sense he thrashed and hollered. He flailed in the bed, his upper body fighting the air and his legs remaining still beneath the covers.
Marian burst into the room. “It’s a fit, a fit! Mrs. Koryn, go!”
Katherine was shoved aside.
Restraining him, Marian screeched, “Suzan! Get my bag!” As she was rocked and quaked by the force of his resistance, gripping his arms she said, “That will be all.”
Katherine hesitated, her eyes bright in the dimness, her face haloed by the light from the hall. Queasiness compelled her and her jaw locked tight.
Marian repeated more forcefully, “Mrs. Koryn, go now!”
On the stairs Katherine trampled Suzan in a frightful flight to the door. She spilled from the house into the night and staggered through the sandy snow of the beach, the icy air piercing her lungs and her hair trailing in the wind behind her.
When she reached the water’s edge she dropped to her knees where the tide dispersed across the sand. Her breath expanded in a white cloud, her arms tingled with the chill, and tears rushed from her eyes like the seawater sliding down the shore.
In the bitter air, as frozen breezes rolled off the water, Katherine let her head fall back, closed her eyes to the sky, and clasped her hands before her lips in prayer. A wave of emotion broke over her heart, which leapt in her chest and spread its heat throughout her body like a lightning bolt. The thrill that had slept for eight long years was revived, as though resurrected from the grave.
Through sobs, a laugh escaped. Inside a heaving chest her heart both rejoiced and grieved. In disbelief but assured recognition she cried to heaven, “I’ve found him!”