Authors: Vanessa Riley
A Port Elizabeth Regency Tale: Episode IV
Dear Beautiful Reader,
The Bargain is a serialized story or soap opera told in episodes. Each episode averages three to eight chapters, about 15,000 to 30,000 words. Each episode resolves one issue. Emotional cliffhangers may be offered, but the plot, the action of the episode, will be complete in resolving the main issue.
My promise to you is that the action will be compelling, and I will tell you in the forward the length of the episode. This episode, Episode IV, is nine chapters long, 32,000 words. Enjoy these Regency Tales set in South Africa.
Coming to London has given Precious Jewell a taste of freedom. Now, she will do anything, bear anything, to keep it. Defying her master is at the top of her mind, and she won't let his unnerving charm sway her. Yet, will her restored courage lead her to forsake a debt owed to the grave and a child who is as dear to her as her own flesh?
Gareth Conroy, the third Baron Welling, can neither abandon his upcoming duty to lead the fledgling colony of Port Elizabeth, South Africa nor find the strength to be a good father to his heir. Every look at the boy reminds him of the loss of his wife. Guilt over her death plagues his sleep, particularly when he returns to London. Perhaps the spirit and fine eyes of her lady's maid, Precious Jewell, might offer the beleaguered baron a new reason to dream.
In this episode:
Time is running out for Port Elizabeth. A missing chief and his daughter, tensions among frightened colonists, and the trembling of a difficult labor threaten to break the fragile bonds of its survival.
Precious Jewell will do what is right to protect those she cares for, even for the man she won't admit to needing.
For Gareth Conroy, death doesn't matter anymore. He purposes that his spilt blood will bring the salvation of the colony, but will he realize too late that no single man of flesh and blood can bring redemption?
Will the burgeoning hope of two stubborn, wounded souls fray or smolder in this exciting conclusion of The Bargain, Season I?
is the first Port Elizabeth Regency Tale.
A portion of the Portrait of Catherine Worlée, Princesse de Talleyrand-Périgord (1762-1834) inspired the portrait of Eliza Marsdale set on the cover. The work of art, Portrait of Catherine Worlée, is in the public domain and can be found at Wikicommons.
The cover is an inspired work of Sanura Jayashan commissioned for this book.
I dedicate this book to my copy editor supreme, my mother, Louise, my loving hubby, Frank, and my daughter, Ellen. Their patience and support have meant the world to me.
I also dedicate this labor of love to critique partners extraordinaire: June, Mildred, Lori, Connie, Gail.
I give special thanks to Piper, the lady who held my hand and led me to discover Precious Jewell's fire.
Love to my mentor, Laurie Alice, for answering all my endless questions.
I am also grateful for my team of encouragers: Sandra, Michela, Felicia, and Rhonda.
Books by Vanessa Riley
Swept Away, A Regency Fairy Tale
The Bargain, A Port Elizabeth Tale, Episode I-IV
Unmasked Heart, A Regency Challenge of the Soul Series
Unveiling Love, Episode I-IV
Sign up at VanessaRiley.com for Vanessa's Regency Starter Collection and to learn about upcoming books, contests, and events.
Copyright © 2015 Vanessa Riley
Published by BM Books
A Division of Gallium Books
Suite 236B, Atlanta, GA 30308
All rights reserved. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Cast of Primary Characters
Baron Welling (
the second Lord Welling): the late uncle of Gareth Conroy.
a slave brought from South Carolina in 1815 as the personal maid of the late Eliza Marsdale Conroy.
of Charleston, South Carolina, married Gareth Conroy. The (2nd) Baron Welling and Eliza's father, a wealthy cotton plantation owner, arranged the marriage.
: the third Baron Welling, succeeded to the title upon the death of his uncle. He has been commissioned to lead the colony of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
the son born to Eliza Marsdale. She died shortly after childbirth.
the butler for Gareth Conroy. He runs the staff at Firelynn Hall.
a groom employed by a neighbor to Firelynn.
Gareth Conroy's typical first mate.
Mrs. Clara Narvel:
wife of Mr. Narvel.
A member of the War Department.
Gareth Conroy's first mate on this voyage to Port Elizabeth.
Godson of the Xhosa Chief Zifihlephi. His name means men dominate.
He is the deposed Chief of the Xhosa. His name means where can you hide?
Daughter of deposed Chief of the Xhosas. Her name means to be reliable.
The new chief of the Xhosa. His name means first, he has come.
The owner of a brothel two miles from Port Elizabeth. Also known as Madame Neeltje.
Blacksmith and Colony Preacher
Widow and prostitute of Madame Neeltje.
Prostitute of Madame Neeltje.
Prostitute of Madame Neeltje.
Her mistress's groans pierced the air, breaking Precious Jewell's heart again. The birth had gone all wrong. Eliza wasn't going to make it.
Precious coddled the newborn in her arms, smoothing linen about his tiny body. He looked mighty content for all the ruckus his early comin' caused.
Lowering her gaze to the sweat-dampened bed sheets, the spatters of crimson swaddling the blanket by Eliza's stomach, only questions remained. Why Eliza? Why now?
The doctor shifted from his post at the door. "There's nothing more to be done."
His starched tie fell asunder. He looked very different from the know-it-all who'd arrived hours earlier. If the man had only listened and taken the babe sooner, Eliza wouldn't be so weak now.
"I'll get the vicar." The cowardly man left the bedchamber.
The butler stalked away from the bed, and passed Precious as if she wasn't there. He rounded to the window. Palmers's old stone face looked broken. "How will we tell His Lordship?"
Useless menfolk. Thinkin' of other men, not Eliza.
They should be encouraging her mistress, not counting the seconds for the reaper to appear. "She ain't gone yet. Maybe you should send prayers to that Sunday God of yours."
Palmers returned to the canopied bed. "Watch your tongue, Jewell. There's no need for your opinions."
"Stop you two." The weak cry slipped from Eliza. "Let my final moments be of peace."
Tears pressed on Precious's eyes. Oh, how flushed her poor friend looked. "Let me give you something to drink, Miss Eliza. You might get strength from water. Don't you want some…?"
Eliza's head slowly shook. Her pinkie shifted and waggled. It was her way when she wanted to appear demure, but still show disapproval. "Not now. Something more important."
Precious moved to the head of the massive bed frame. "Open your eyes and see your son. You gotta fight for him. Your husband needs you too."
The lady's pinkie started to shiver like it would fall off. "He's made his choices." The kitten-like voice bore a sharpness, a biting pain. "Let him burn for going off to his uncle. Tell him that."
Palmers spun and clutched his dark mantle. "He's to be the baron tonight. He had to be at his uncle's last breath. Duty claimed him, ma'am. You will be the next Lady Welling."
At this, Eliza's eyes opened. Red-rimmed pupils flashed before settling on her son. "For a few minutes, I have a title. Write my father of it. He's paid for it."
"Hush now, Miss Eliza. You should save your strength. In a few days, we'll be getting you styled for another cluster of parties. You'll be the new Lady Wellin'. I mean Welling."
Gasping, as if her lungs leaked, Eliza closed her eyes. "What's that worth? No more promises on things…can't touch." She clenched her teeth together as her body vibrated, her fingers latching onto the mound of bedclothes.
Precious turned. The babe shouldn't witness his mother's passing.
"It's fine, friend." Eliza's voice became softer. "Let me see him one more time."
Wiping a tear on her emerald sleeve, Precious rotated the babe to a secure position within the crook of her arm, and slipped back to the mattress. "He's beautiful. Your son's beautiful."
Eliza's hand moved as if to touch the boy, but then dropped to the bed. "Promise me, Precious. Love him for me. You must do this."
"I'll do what I can for him. Now hush with this fever talk."
"I free you, Precious. Let everyone know that I freed you. And you will mother this child for me."
Was this one of Eliza's jokes? She needed to be careful. That Sunday God might be watching. "Do you want to try to hold him? Maybe the warmth of his little body would keep warmth in yours--"
"I'm serious. You're free if you will love my son."
The solemn vicar and the doctor stepped into the room. The clergyman started reading from his Bible.
Eliza screamed, then took a breath. "Precious Jewell is a free woman. No more my slave. She will care for my son, Jonas."
Palmers stepped backward and moved to the window. "His father should name him, and as his heir to the barony, perhaps he should be Gareth, the lord's namesake.
"It shall be Jonas." With a shaking limb, Eliza lifted a weak hand and brushed the foolscap on the baby's crown. "Promise me. I've done some bad things. Giving you freedom is a good thing. Promise, P."
Even as Precious nodded, Eliza's hand fell with a slap onto the bed sheets.
Her eyes closed, never again to see the morning.
The baby squirmed, then started to cry.
Tears leaked from Precious's eyes too, for Eliza would never hear Precious yell, "Yes!"
Precious pushed on the door to Jonas's bedchamber to peek at the sleeping fellow.
The little boy had rolled up in his bed sheets with his blonde head poking out. His sweet little snore sounded like birds chirping.
No one would guess that his stupid governess or maid or whatever Precious was had put him in such danger. If not for finding the noble Xhosa, Jonas, well both of them could've been so hurt. Why had she been so foolish? What would she have done if the boy, this lovely little person who depended upon her had been injured?
Would Gareth have proposed to her if Jonas had hurt himself?
She put her hands to her thick hardheaded skull and pressed her thumbs into her temples. "No more being careless. Grandmama didn't raise a fool."
Or did she?
A lazy chirp croaked. Wide blue eyes, blinked open, then offered a smile. Oh he was his father's son with that smile. "Mama, fine?"
"It's…Yes, I'm fine." She crossed the room to tuck in the wiggling boy. He reached up and slapped a big juicy kiss on her cheek.
She let a smile grow on her face. "Now go on back to the land of fairy's that Mrs. Narvel read us about."