Authors: Sabrina York
By Sabrina York
Copyright © 2016
Editor: Kelli Collins
Proofreading by Scott Moreland
Cover Artist: Dar Albert
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Call of the Wild Wind
By Sabrina York
Though the world is convinced that Lady Britannia Halsey’s fiancé perished on the fields of Waterloo, she is certain he is still alive. And she is determined to find him…before her twenty-fifth birthday.
When the Earl of Wick sees a portrait of her beloved Peter, and claims he looks just like a wounded warrior working on his highland estate, it only seems logical to hie off to Scotland and meet this man.
Included with permission from the author
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Call of the Wild Wind was originally published in Ever My Love, a collection of stories following the Lore of the Lucius Ring through time. Thank you to Kathryn Le Veque for allowing me to include the prequel, telling the tale of how it all began…
By Kathryn Le Veque
The Junii Villa, 8 miles northwest of Rome
It was a strong breeze that swept of the Tyrrenhian Sea, a breeze that was a breath from the gods, from Poseidon as he bellowed angrily at the land which he could not dominate. This summer season had been unusually warm and the sea breezes reflected that unnatural heat. The locals said that it was because Hades had left the gates of hell open and what they were experiencing was the great belches of infernal fire, but Theodosia dismissed the native dramatics as she usually did. Moreover, she had no time for such things. These days, she had little time for anything other than her own grief.
On the placid morning, Theodosia sat upon a cushioned chair in the
, a garden area that was towards the rear of her parents’ villa outside of Rome. It was a villa that had been in her family for generations, as her family, the Junii, were long-established nobility among the patrician society of Rome. Along with respect and wealth came privilege, and Theodosia’s entire life had been one of advantage and pleasure, and when it came time for her to marry, her father (much the slave to his daughter’s wishes), allowed her to select her own husband. Select she did, a young and dashing Roman officer from a good family named
Lucius Maximus Aentillius.
The mere name entering her mind used to bring torrents of tears, ever since the letter from the governor of Londinium, addressed to her father, had been received those six months ago.
It is my sincerest regret to inform you that the
Twentieth Victorious Valerian Legion was discovered to be overrun upon the great Vallum Aelium. All within the legion were lost.
Now, Theodosia pretended to be numb to the mention of her husband’s name because her constant tears frightened her young daughter.
. Whenever she looked into that little face, she saw her husband within in the depths; dark and curly hair, hazel eyes… all of this was Lucius. Mostly, she cried for the child that would never know her father and for the father who never knew he had a child. These days, Theodosia cried many tears for many reasons.
She also cried for herself.
Twenty-three years of age was quite early to be widowed, but that was the position she found herself in. Her family, as well-connected as they were, and with her father being a senator, she knew she would not be able to remain a widow much longer. Already, her father’s friend, Proculus Tarquinius Geganius, was filling her father’s ear with a stew of poisonous suggestions that would see his son, Marcus, married to Theodosia. Marcus didn’t like girl-children, however, so Theodosia’s young daughter, Lucia, would have to remain with her grandparents. In spite of the girl-child, however, Marcus was willing to marry the beautiful Theodosia.
Theodosia, however, was unwilling to marry him. Her life, void of joy and cast into a sea of turmoil those six months ago, was threatening to become worse with the axe of marriage hanging over her head. Despair and sorrow were her constant companions. If her parents had anything to say about it, she would marry Marcus and little Lucia would no longer be welcome to live with her mother, but Theodosia would not let that happen.
Above all else, she and Lucia would remain together.
On this warm morning, Theodosia watched Lucia play in the pond in the middle of the
, her thoughts lingering on the day she and Lucius had met. It had happened along the sea shore where she had been walking along with friends and collecting lovely shells. Lucius and some of his cohorts had rowed onto the sand from a Roman warship that had been anchored off shore, invading their shell-gathering, but no one seemed to mind at that point. Theodosia and her friends had been laughing, enjoying life and enjoying the sun, when six brawny soldiers disembarked from their cog.
It was a moment that changed Theodosia’s life forever.
The soldiers were quite interested in the women along the beach, but Theodosia’s friends fled, leaving Theodosia standing on the beach with her apron full of sea shells. Realizing she was alone, she had tried to flee but the sea shells had fallen to the sand and the next she realized, Lucius was helping her pick them all up. She gazed into the man’s gentle, warm eyes and she was lost.
A brief courtship followed in the usual fashion except she discovered her lover to be quite prolific with prose – Lucius would write her poetry, in secret of course, because if his cohorts in the legion caught wind of the fact that Lucius would write songs of love and beauty, he might have been laughed at. But, oh, the prose! The beauty of his words! And the last line, in anything he wrote her, was always the same:
Cum cogitationes solum de uobis.
With dreams only of you.
Words that had such great meaning to them, in fact, that Lucius had them inscribed on the wedding ring he gave her. It was a family ring that had come through Lucius’ very wealthy mother whose family had descended from the Greek gods centuries before. It was said that Silvia’s family was half-divine, descended from Mars, and when Lucius gave Theodosia his mother’s family ring, he told her that the ring had come from Aphrodite herself. The ring, a very dark gold with a crimson-colored ruby, appeared old enough to have perhaps truly been forged by the gods.
But it was a beautiful ring of great sentimental value. With her parents’ permission, Theodosia and Lucius had been married a scant six weeks later and at the reception following their wedding, Lucius’ mother, the elegant Lady Silvia, had pulled Theodosia aside. Although the woman had been gracious and affectionate, her attention was not on Theodosia – it had been on the ring.
As I have no daughters, I asked my son to give you this ring meant from my family,
she had said.
As you wear it upon your finger, I must tell you the legend behind it. Now the ring is a part of you and you are a part of it, and you must pass it down to your daughter, and your daughter must pass it to her daughter.
It has been in my family for centuries; some say it was worn by Aphrodite herself. The ring possesses the greatest power of love and when the owner of the ring knows true love, the stone will turn crimson. But if owner of the ring fails to find true love before she has seen twenty-five summers, the stone will turn to dark ember and the owner shall be alone for eternity.
Theodosia had looked at the ring and it was indeed a lovely crimson color. Puzzled, she had spoken freely.
The stone is crimson upon my finger,
she had said,
but I fear you have gifted me with a generous burden. I fear to tell any daughter I may have that if she does not know love by her twenty-fifth summer, then she shall be an old maid.
Silvia had laughed.
You needn’t worry,
she had said.
Any daughter you and my son will have will surely be beautiful and know love.
Theodosia still wasn’t convinced.
Have you ever seen it actually turn to ember?
Silvia lost some of her humor.
she had said,
on my spinster aunt. The stone was black and she died old and alone. But before she died, she gave it to me and I soon wed Lucius’ father. The stone turned crimson and has been crimson ever sin
Even now, in the sunshine of her parent’s
, Theodosia recalled that conversation and looked at the ring upon her slender finger, which had turned darker shades since the missive from Londinium those months ago. It wasn’t exactly a dark ember color, but it was no longer the rich, red crimson it used to be. Odd how she hadn’t noticed that before. The ring, before her eyes, was darkening.
Curious as to the changing color of the ring, Theodosia thought on her age;
I have seen twenty-three summers.
Only two more years to find love again or the ring would darken for the rest of her lifetime. What if what Lady Silvia said was true? What if she would never love again if she did not find it in the next two years?
But her thoughts quickly settled; she had loved once before. She and Lucius had shared a love that mortal men could only dream of. She didn’t want to find love again; she wanted to remember Lucius forever as her one and only true love. She didn’t want another man’s touch to erase that memory.
If the ring turned to black, so be it.
“A beautiful morning, my glory.”
Theodosia was rocked from her thoughts of the ring by her father, who came up behind her and kissed her on the head. She covered the ring on her finger, putting her hand over it, as she forced a smile at her father.
“Good morn to you as well,” she said politely. “Where is mother?”
Tiberius Junius Brutus threw a thumb back in the direction of the
, or kitchen. “There is some crisis regarding a roasting pig, I think,” he said, pulling up a chair. “The truth is that I do not know. I try not to involve myself in your mother’s affairs because she will pinch me.”
Theodosia giggled. “Pinch her in return.”
Tiberius shook his head. “Then she will strike me,” he said with fear, watching his daughter laugh. “Nay, daughter; I will remain happily out of your mother’s affairs. I have come to see you and Lucia this morning.”
Theodosia looked over at her daughter, now picking some of her mother’s precious pink flowers.
“Lucia!” she called. “Do not pick those flowers!”
The little girl looked up at her mother, grinned, and moved on to the next bush to pick those flowers. Theodosia sighed.
“She is so much like her father,” she said softly. “She knows that her smile will ease everything with me. I cannot become angry when she smiles.”
Tiberius laughed softly. “Nor can I,” he said, tapping his daughter affectionately on the arm. “When you were young, it was the same way with you. I could deny you nothing when you smiled at me.”
Theodosia looked at her beloved father, smiling at the man. “Does it still work?”
He grunted and looked away, aware of her attempt at manipulation. “More than likely.”
She chuckled, turning her attention back to her daughter. “That is good to know.”
Tiberius cleared his throat again, eyeing his granddaughter as she ripped yellow posies off the vine before returning his gaze to his daughter. His focus lingered on her, his titian-haired daughter that he loved so much. Her heartbreak had been his heartbreak but, as a father, he had the ability to see the bigger picture in her life. He knew she was still grieving for Lucius but to allow her to wallow in that anguish forever would not be a good thing. Theodosia deserved better things in life that to weep over a lost love.
“You seem happier these days, Theo,” he ventured. “You are at least smiling again.”
Theodosia knew what he meant and the familiar pangs of grief began to come over her again. “Sometimes,” she said. “It comes and goes.”
Tiberius continued to watch her, noting the expressions of pain upon her face. “It does not have to be like this forever,” he said softly. “The time will come again when you are happy. Sometimes the best thing to do is to find another source of happiness.”
Theodosia rolled her eyes and stood up. “I do not want to find another source of happiness, Father,” she said firmly. “If you are going to bring up Proculus and his pompous son, do not bother. I will not marry Marcus. He means to separate me from my child and I will not have it. It is barbaric.”
Tiberius remained calm as his daughter’s ire rose. “He is a man who has never been married,” he said evenly. “He does not understand the attachment between a mother and her child. I am sure that in time he will come to understand it. He is not an unreasonable man; in fact, he has a very bright future ahead of him. Some say he is to be the next proconsul of Byzantium. He is in much favor with Caesar. You could be his wife, Theodosia, and command much wealth and power. Does this not appeal to you?”
Theodosia was looking at her political-savvy father in horror; she knew the man saw her match to Marcus as a great political marriage that would bring both families prestige. But she wanted no part of it.
“And I must sacrifice my child in order to attain it?” she asked, aghast. Then, she shook her head firmly. “Nay, Father; I will not sacrifice Lucia simply to gain a new husband. I do not
a new husband. I thought you understood this.”
Tiberius understood it all too well, but he also understand that he, as Theodosia’s father, knew what was best for her. He and his wife had been given over to many long discussions about their daughter’s future and Theodosia’s mother was also in agreement. They had to do what was best for their child, whether or not she realized it. Lucius was dead and he was never coming back. Theodosia, with or without Lucia, had to move on. But the difficulty would be in the doing.