By Lyn Horner
Don't miss the giveaway at the end of the post!
INSPIRATION and RESEARCH
I was inspired to write MY VOYAGER by a writing class project and my desire to set a romance in Galveston at the height of the island’s glory, before the devastating hurricane of 1900. I thought what fun I’d have pairing a proper Victorian woman with a bedraggled man who falls out of thin air dressed like a pirate. Including a precocious child would make it even more fun.
While researching the 1890s era, I grew fascinated by the historic Tremont House, a grand hotel now in its third incarnation. In its heyday, the second hotel of that name hosted presidents and celebrities. It’s the main setting for MY VOYAGER and inspired me to turn this into a series of Old West hotel romances titled Legendary Rendezvous. I’m working on book two, which features the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, said to be the most haunted hotel in Texas.
Galveston, Texas; February 1895
Julia Reynolds stepped out of the Tremont House’s steam-powered elevator, clutching her six-year-old daughter Olivia’s small hand and her own fragile composure. Heels clicking on the hotel lobby’s marble floor, she pasted a smile on her face and tried not to think about the letter she’d received a short while ago.
“Mama, you’re hurting my hand,” Livvy complained.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.” Julia immediately loosened her grip. “I didn’t mean to squeeze so tight. Is this better?”
“Uh-huh. Can we go to the ice cream parlor after the doctor? Please.”
“Yes, if you’re a good girl for Doctor Harmon.”
“I’ll try, but I hate when he puts that stick in my mouth. It almost makes me throw up.”
“I know, honey, but he needs to hold your tongue down so he can look at your throat. Remember how sore it was the last time we saw him? We want him to make sure it’s all better now.”
“But it doesn’t hurt anymore. He doesn’t have to –” Livvy shrieked just as a thud and a cry of pain sounded nearby, off to their right. “Mama, that man fell out of the air!”
Julia pivoted and gasped at the sight of a man lying curled on the marble floor several feet away. He wore strange clothes and his face was hidden by long, tangled black hair. And he was sopping wet.
“Stop pointing at him, Livvy. That’s not nice,” she said absently. After a pause she asked, “Mister, are you hurt? Do you need help?”
Through a pain-filled haze, Raphael realized the female voice was speaking to him. Groaning, he struggled to sit up, holding his sagging left arm against his chest. He raked hair from his eyes and lifted his aching head. Brilliant light stung his eyes, making him blink fast as he struggled to see. When he was able to focus on the strange woman and girl staring at him, he returned their stares, struck by the woman’s odd attire.
She wore a narrow, bell-shaped gray skirt and short black velvet coat belted in at her slender waist and flaring over her nicely rounded hips. The coat sleeves were hugely puffed from shoulder to elbow and tight from elbow to wrist. A high-necked white bodice showed at her throat. These garments were nothing like the women’s gowns he was familiar with.
She was quite lovely, he also noticed, with upswept blonde hair and a tiny hat perched above her heart-shaped face and wide blue eyes.
Then his gaze swung to the little girl. Dressed in a sky-blue coat over a frilly frock, white stockings and shiny black shoes, she was blonde like the woman – her mother, Raphael assumed. She was also very pretty like her madre, with long, bouncing curls, pink cheeks, and a rosebud mouth, open in an “O” of astonishment.
She made him think of his own small daughter, lost to him along with her mother, his dear Louisa, murdered by MacKenzie and his bloodthirsty pirates. His throat tightened at the memory.
“Do you need help?” the woman repeated. When he didn’t answer, because he did not trust himself to speak, she crossed her arms beneath high breasts and frowned impatiently. “Do you not understand English, sir?”
“I speak your language,” Raphael said, voice raspy from emotion and sea water. In truth, he found her accent as odd as her appearance. It sounded nothing like the English he had learned as a child while living in his mother’s homeland. “I do not need your assistance,” he added, levering himself onto his knees and pushing to his feet. He swayed but managed to remain upright, again cradling his arm.
She eyed him critically. “Then I suggest you go to your room, or wherever you came from and change into dry – less bizarre garb. Come along, Livvy, let’s go or we will be late for our appointment.”
While Raphael glanced down at his wet shirt and breeches, the child – Livvy – resisted her mother’s effort to draw her away. “But how did he do that, Mama?”
“Do what?” the woman asked, forcefully dragging her inquisitive offspring away from Raphael.
“How did he fall out of the air?”
“Don’t talk nonsense. The man tripped over his own feet and landed hard, that’s all. Alcohol does that to a person.”
She believed him drunk, Raphael realized, offended. He wanted to storm after her and deny her false assumption, but his head and shoulder throbbed unmercifully, and he was still somewhat unstable on his feet. He watched her and the child walk toward a set of heavy doors that evidently led outside. Only then did he pay attention to his surroundings.
The large space was brightly lighted by peculiar devices hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. They held no candles that he could see. Turning in a slow circle, he gaped at the opulent room. Obviously the antechamber of a prestigious residence, it was lavishly appointed with marble, dark polished wood and potted palms. A sweeping staircase climbed to a curved balcony that must lead to inner rooms.
He also noticed several people standing around, staring at him. A middle-aged couple eyed him in disapproval and crossed the room to a tall mahogany desk. Behind it stood a soberly clad man, el portero – the concierge – Raphael deduced.
Like Livvy’s mother, everyone Raphael saw wore outlandish attire, increasing his suspicion that he had landed in some strange, unknown land. Dios! He could not believe the whirlwind had carried him aloft and set him down in one piece, much less in such a place. How could this be?
“It is so because the Madonna wishes it this way, you dolt,” he muttered. She had sent him here, causing him to “fall out of the air” as young Livvy said. Thinking of her, he heard her high-pitched voice and wheeled toward the outer doors, growing dizzy with the sudden movement. He stumbled, nearly falling, and gasped as fresh pain shot down his arm. Clasping it to his body, he managed to regain his balance.
“See, Mama? He hurt his arm. We have to help him,” Livvy declared, tugging her mother’s skirt, attempting to lead her toward Raphael.
Lips set in a thin line, the woman walked back to him. “Sir, my daughter is correct, you are clearly injured. I will call for a doctor. Meanwhile, you need to get out of those wet clothes and lie down. Are you staying here at the hotel?”
Raphael opened his mouth to say no but realized she would insist on knowing where he was staying. Before he could concoct a reply, el portero marched up. “I am so sorry if this man has offended you, Mrs. Reynolds.”
The scowling fellow looked Raphael up and down. “Mister, I don’t know what happened to you, but you cannot stand here dripping in the lobby. Are you a guest of the Tremont House?”
In a quandary, Raphael stammered the only thing that came to mind. “I-I do not know. That is, I do not remember.”
“You don’t remember!” Mrs. Reynolds exclaimed. “I suppose you don’t remember how you got here or why you’re all wet either, hmm?”
“I am sorry, I do not.”
“I know how you got here,” Livvy blurted. “You fell out of the air.”
“Livvy, stop saying that,” her mother reprimanded. To him she said in a caustic tone, “Are you asking me, I mean us – she gestured at the hotel man – to believe you have amnesia?”
He frowned. “I do not know this word. What does it mean?”
“It means to lose your memory.”
“Ah, I see. Perhaps I do suffer from this amnesia.”
She studied him closely, one hand on her hip, the other wrapped around Livvy’s small hand. “Did you hit your head when you fell?”
Raphael knew it was possible to lose one’s memory after a blow to the head, and so did she, it appeared. He touched a tender spot on the back of his head. “I must have. It aches,” he said, wincing involuntarily. His fingers came away coated with blood.
She sighed. “Well, I supposed Doctor Harmon can determine if you are being truthful. For now, let’s get you a room.”
“Wait a moment. He can’t stay here looking like that,” el portero protested, shaking his hand at Raphael. “Our guests would be scandalized.”
“Of course, Mister Bagly, exactly why you must see him to a room right now and find some decent clothes for him to wear. While you do so, I shall call Doctor Harmon and ask him to come and tend the man’s injuries.”
“B-but, Mrs. Reynolds, I really cannot –”
“Need I remind you who my father is, sir?” the lovely Mrs. Reynolds asked with an imperious lift of her chin.
Bagly’s narrow jaw tightened. His thin brown mustache twitched. “No, Madam, I know who he is.” He stiffly bowed his head to her. “I will show the gentleman to a room immediately.”
“Excellent.” Raphael’s benefactress smiled and turned to him. “Bagly will take care of you, Mister . . .” She laughed. “Goodness, I don’t even know your name.”
“Uh, I don’t –”
She waved him to silence. “I know, I know, you don’t remember it, correct?” She cocked a slim dark blonde eyebrow.
He shook his pounding head and stared uncomfortably at the floor. He had trapped himself in a lie, a position he might live to regret.
Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” – with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor before she took up writing. She loves crafting passionate love stories, both historical and contemporary. Lyn also enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.
The author’s Texas Devlins series blends authentic Old West settings, steamy romance and a glimmer of the supernatural. This series has earned multiple awards and nominations, including Crowned Heart reviews and a Rone Award nomination from InD’Tale Magazine.
Lyn’s paranormal-romantic suspense series, Romancing the Guardians, combines her trademark flashes of psychic phenomena with Irish folklore, chilling apocalyptic prophesies and captivating, far-flung settings. Along the way, readers are treated to thunderous action, terrifying suspense and sizzling romance.
Lyn Horner is giving away an e-book of HER VOYAGER to one person who leaves a comment on this post.