Her Grace of Haverford smiled at the strangely-dressed young man who has suddenly materialised in her private sitting room.
¿Como? ¿Donde estoy?” he said, staring around himself. “I was just locked in a gaol on a ship, en route to New Zealand, and…???”
Her Grace nodded. Such things often happen on a Monday, and the duchess has learned to take them in her stride. “Then I daresay you would like a cup of tea. Or perhaps coffee?” She repressed the urge to sniff. He didn’t smell too fresh, but undoubtedly the chair cushions could be cleaned.
The young man blinked. “Dios mío, but I would die for a coffee,” he said, grateful tears filling his eyes. “I wondered if I’d ever have any again…or if I’d get out of that gaol stateroom alive”
“I am Eleanor Haverford, and you are temporarily in 1811, in England. I do not know how it works, señor, but you will be here long enough for some refreshments, so please, make the most of the opportunity.”
He stared now, then remembered his manners. “Your Grace,” he bowed over her hand. “My Aleksandra told me of you,” he shook his head, “and of your wondrous mansion, and of ‘taking tea’ with you. I’m so pleased to be here…much better than where I was. So to what do I owe this,” he gazed over the spread on the table before him, “unexpected pleasure?”
“I am always At Home on a Monday, my dear. I seldom know who to expect or where or when they will come from, but someone always arrives. It is most fascinating. And some are even hungrier than you!” (And less fragrant, she thought, and did not say.)
“That is hard to believe,” he said, as he stayed his hand from reaching for the little cakes.
“Please, help yourself,” the duchess pours him a coffee and hands him a place. “I hope and trust the food will remain with you on your return, but even if it does not, you will have had the flavour.”
“I apologise for the state of my clothing, I’ve been on a ship for nearly three months. And I’m sure,” he gave her a twisted grin, “that I smell atrocious.”
“It is of no matter. You are Xavier, of course! How is dear Aleksandra?”
Xavier bit his lip. “I was hoping you could tell me. If you can pull me into the past, can you tell the future? I’ve just left 1863.”
An elegant shrug of one tiny shoulder. “I do not control who visits or how, my dear. I am so sorry. You and she are not together then?”
“If together means being together somewhere in the Pacific on the same barque, headed for New Zealand, yes, we are. Unfortunately, the scoundrel of a first mate has likely killed the captain and locked me in the brig for something I didn’t do. I worry about that madman Brockhurst out there, with my wife.”
“Oh dear! But your wife is a very resourceful woman. I expect she has plans of her own.”
“She is fantastic with her shashka, but even she can be overcome by a stronger man or two…especially if they’re armed with laudanum, as well as whatever else they had to hand.”
“You are now many years in her past, my dear,” the duchess said, topping up her coffee. “If I understand how this works, you will be returned to the time you left. Aleksandra will use her wits, and you must trust her. Tell me, what are you doing on a ship? Have you left California for good?”
“We’re headed for a new life in the peaceful country of New Zealand.” Xavier took another sip, and helped himself to one of the little pies from the plate she put before him, before continuing, “My newspaper friend Gustavus von Tempsky says New Zealand is a wonderful place to start a new life.”
The duchess was fascinated. “I know little of New Zealand, except that a savage chieftain from there visited the Court several years ago.”
“We’re heading to meet von Tempsky in the town of Coromandel, where he’s offered us a share in his gold mine. He says the natives of the place, the Maori, and the settlers live in peace and harmony.”
“A town! Things must have changed in the last fifty years! Are there many towns in New Zealand?”
“Ah, yes, there are, and the missionaries have apparently been there since the 30’s. Apparently, the Maori have wonderful crops and farms… it is said they even supply most of the wheat for the settlements in Australia, on their own ships!”
Her Grace leaned forward, her eyes shining. “It will be very different to my England or your California. How exciting for you and your family.”
“It will,” Xavier agreed. “It is meant to be so very green!”
The duchess passed the plates of sweet cakes, each individually iced and topped with a candied flower. Xavier took one.
“Take another,” the duchess recommended. “My chef purchases them from M. Fournier’s , and he makes the finest in London.”
Xavier grinned and put too more on his plate. “Oh, thank you! I’ve not seen a petit four since my graduation from high school in San Francisco!”
He took the first tiny cake in a bite and continued, “So our new life will be wonderful. Once we find von Tempsky, we’ll settle in and have the quiet life we’ve both wanted, which seems to have escaped us in the past, and start a family…” silence…”again,” he adds, in a whisper.
The duchess patted his hand. “You will, I am certain, overcome your challenges and find the happiness you seek. You and Aleksandra deserve it.”
“Thank you. I can only hope you are right.” He stared pensively at his hands.
Her Grace broke the silence. “And how will you and Aleksandra support yourselves in New Zealand?”
“We have adequate funds to support ourselves.” Xavier grinned, suddenly, and added “and we will, of course, strike it rich in the Coromandel mine, like every other miner.”
“Of course!” The duchess returned his grin, then added, her eyes twinkly, “My son would say that the best way to become rich in a gold rush is to sell shovels.”
“Ah, an enterprising son you must have. My mother would have said the same.”
At this description of the Marquis of Aldridge, the duchess laughed aloud. “Enterprising. Yes, some might describe him so. Have some more to eat, Xavier. I am delighted to see your excellent appetite.”
Xavier filled his plate again. “Thank you, Your Grace. It’s been a while since I’ve had anything but hardtack and stale water.”
In the multiply-awarded A Long Trail Rolling, Lizzi Tremayne told the story of Aleksandra Lekarski, a trapper’s daughter who finds herself alone—and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. The tale continues in The Hills of Gold Unchanging
The third story, A Sea of Green Unfolding,picks up Aleksandra and Xavier in the San Francisco Bay Area.
1862, Rancho de las Pulgas, San Francisco Bay Tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly-found paradise on their California Rancho. Their friend, von Tempsky, invites them on a journey to adventure and a new life in peaceful New Zealand, but change is in the wind. They reach Aotearoa, only to discover the place is a turbulent wilderness—where the land wars between the European settlers and the local Māori have only just begun.
This is the third novel in the series of historical romantic suspense sagas following Aleksandra and Xavier from the wilderness of 1860 Utah to Colonial New Zealand.
With Book One, A Long Trail Rolling, Lizzi Tremayne was: Finalist 2013 RWNZ Great Beginnings; Winner 2014 RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award; Winner 2015 RWNZ Koru Award for Best First Novel plus third in Koru Long Novel section; and finalist in the 2015 Best Indie Book Award.
In the story, tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly-found paradise on their California Rancho de las Pulgas. Von Tempsky invites them on a journey to a new life in peaceful New Zealand, but change is in the wind. When they reach Aotearoa, they disembark into a turbulent wilderness—where the wars between the European settlers and the local Māori have only just begun. It will be released in May 2017 and is available for preorder on the regular sites.