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Remember Me  "Preview"
by Kimberley Comeaux
© Copyright 2005    ISBN - 1-59310-548-7

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Chapter One


Trevor “North” Kent, the Duke of Northingshire, breathed in the fresh sea air as he relaxed against the smooth railing of the ship that was carrying him to America. His blond, wavy hair, which he’d allowed to grow longer during the voyage, was blowing about his face, tickling his nose as he focused on enjoying his last day aboard ship. They would be pulling into port in the morning; and although the voyage had been a long one, it had been one of much-needed peace and relaxation, something North hadn’t even realized he required until he was away from England.

            For four years, he’d been planning to make the trip, where he was to join his cousins on the sugar plantation that he’d invested in with them. But because of the war with England, travel had been made impossible. Then there had been a personal matter that had caused him to want to reschedule his trip, also, but it had since been settled to his satisfaction.

The delay had also let him go to the aid of his two best friends: Nicholas, the Earl of Kenswick, and his brother, Lord Thomas Thornton.

            The two brothers had been through war, the death of their father, a shipwreck, and, through all that, raising Thomas’s motherless son. North had been there for both of them, giving them advice or just being a friend when they needed it. But now both of them were happily married to two wonderful women, and North was glad to leave the men in their capable hands.

            All North wanted was to spend time on the plantation and be free from anyone’s problems, except maybe his own. His two cousins were married and hopefully didn’t need his advice or support with anything dealing with the state of one’s mind or happiness.

            Now his own happiness was another kettle of fish altogether, and North had high hopes that he, too, would be able to find love and happiness in his future.

            But at the moment, his only concern was how he was to travel and find the plantation, which was located some forty-five miles southwest of New Orleans. He’d sent a message to his cousins telling them of his impending arrival, but the captain had told him that because of the war, mail was slow. It had to be routed through ships going to other countries since there was no travel directly from England. His own journey had been made longer when he’d had to travel to France to board one of their ships.       

“The captain has just informed me a storm is headed our way.” A Scottish-accented voice spoke beside him, stirring North from his thoughts.

            North turned to Hamish Campbell, the minister who was traveling to Louisiana to be the new pastor of a church there. They’d become friends during the long voyage, and North wondered at the troubled look in the older man’s eyes. “Well, it is too early in the season to be a hurricane, so I would imagine that it’ll pass over us quickly. We are very close to the port, so I don’t think there is cause for too much worry,” North tried to assure him.

            Hamish gripped the railing in front of him as though it were a lifeline. “I know you might think me daft for saying this, but I’m not sure I’ll make it to Louisiana.”

            North stifled a sigh as he felt the need to comfort yet another friend. He knew God was the compelling force in his life that urged him to reach out to people, but he sent up a quick prayer that the Almighty would see fit to give him a little break during his stay in Louisiana.

            “Hamish, my dear fellow, these ships are built to withstand storms. Are you sure you are not just experiencing a case of nerves about your new post?”

            “Not at all,” Hamish insisted as he reached into his plain, brown coat and pulled out a small, worn Bible. He held it against the rail in both hands, his thumbs stroking the leather cover reverently. “It’s. . .it’s more of a feeling, I suppose. I’ve been sensing for some time that my time on earth is almost at an end.”

            Hamish’s words put a chill in North’s heart as he struggled to understand. “You are not so old that you will soon die,” North reasoned. “And, too, why would God send you all the way over here if He did not mean for you to become the pastor of the church at Golden Bay?”

            Hamish didn’t answer for a moment. The slightly balding man, who was near North’s size and height, just stared off into the now choppy sea as if contemplating his next words. Finally he muttered something that North couldn’t decipher and turned to him, his eyes serious. “I think it has something to do with you.”

            North raised a dark blond brow. “I beg your pardon?”

            Hamish nodded his head. “Yes, that must be it! I have felt compelled to befriend you ever since I boarded the ship.” He held up his Bible in a strange moment of contemplation and then thrust it toward North, hitting him in the chest. “Take it, please!”

            North’s hand automatically caught the Bible, but he immediately tried to give it back to Hamish. “What do you mean, ‘Take it’? Will you not need this to construct your sermons and what have you?”

            Hamish ignored North’s attempt to return the small book and turned back toward the railing. “I will not be needing it, I fear. I beg you to take it and—”

            Hamish’s plea was interrupted when one of the ship’s crew ran over to them and gave a brief nod to North. “Your grace! The captain’s askin’ all to clear the deck.” He pointed out to the increasingly rough waters. “We’re lookin’ at some rough weather ahead. You could be washed overboard.”

North agreed with the young sailor, but when he motioned for Hamish to begin walking toward their cabins, his friend shook his head and pointed to one of the chairs a few feet away from them. “I must retrieve my spectacles. I left them lying on the chair,” he insisted as he began to head toward the chair and away from shelter.

The wind was picking up, and North could hear large waves hitting against the ship’s hull. It seemed as though the noonday sky had gone from sunny to almost dark in just a matter of minutes. North knew he could not leave Hamish alone, so he tucked the Bible inside his coat and began to walk quickly to him, although the swaying of the ship was making the task very difficult. The ship jolted sharply, and Hamish stumbled and then fell. North was able to grab hold of a deck chair and steady himself before moving to where his friend had fallen.

“Are you all right?” he called loudly over the wind.

Hamish nodded as North helped him stand back up. “I didn’t realize the weather could change so fast,” he commented as they again steadied themselves against the swaying deck.

North focused on getting them to the chair to retrieve the small wire-framed spectacles. Once they were finally in Hamish’s possession, North led him to the railing. “Use the railing to steady yourself and follow me,” he yelled as he looked back to make sure the older man was holding on. Together they began the trek back to their cabin.

A large wave slapped hard against the ship, spraying them both with water. North found it hard to hold on with the chilling wetness making both the railing and the deck slippery. Finally, they were mere steps away from the door that led to their cabins. North glanced back to see how Hamish was faring, but his attention was caught by the vast wave that was several feet above the ship and heading straight toward them.

He tried to yell for Hamish to hold on, but there was no time. The water hit both men with more force than either could withstand. As the water swept over the ship, North could feel his body being picked up. Panicked, he tried to keep his head above the water while at the same time looking for his friend. But then pain exploded in the back of North’s head. Though he tried to fight unconsciousness, the pain was too great.

His last thought was a prayer that Hamish had somehow managed to keep from being washed overboard.


Two Weeks Later in Golden Bay, Louisiana

The large and rather bored-looking alligator barely glanced in Helen’s direction, despite her yelling and waving a broom about like a madwoman to shoo him away from the house. After about five minutes of this, Helen finally gave up; plopped herself down on the grass, not even giving a care of her dress as she would have months ago; and glared at the huge reptilian beast.

            Before coming to America three months earlier, Helen Nichols had not even heard of an alligator, much less thought that she might stand so close to one.

No, Helen, a gentleman farmer’s daughter, had been gently brought up in her native England with no more cares than what pretty ribbon she’d wear for the day. It had sounded like such a grand adventure when Claudia Baumgartner, granddaughter and heir to the Marquis of Moreland, approached her with the offer of paid companion to her little sister, Josie, in America. Claudia had explained her parents wanted an English girl to provide not only companionship to the lonely girl who lived on her parents’ plantation, but also to instruct her in the proper ways of a lady.

            But adventure was not the only thing that compelled Helen to leave her family and friends behind. It was the same reason she ventured often to her best friend Christina’s home when she heard a certain person had arrived. It was the reason she allowed Christina, who was also the Countess of Kenswick, to provide her a whole new wardrobe for the London season, even though she was mostly snubbed by those who were of much higher class. It was the first thing she thought of in the morning and what she dreamed of at night.

            Helen Nichols was in love with North, the Duke of Northingshire.

            And the duke was traveling to America, just twenty or so miles from where she was living in Golden Bay.

            Helen knew it was foolish to believe that she would even see North while he was staying at his plantation. Yet she knew the Baumgartners, her employers, were acquainted with North’s relatives and held out a small hope they would at some point socialize with one another.

            She didn’t even know if North had arrived in Louisiana. So day after day, she’d keep a keen ear out to hear any news about the Kent plantation. So far, though, she’d heard nothing.

            “What are you doing?” A young voice sounded behind her. Josie Baumgartner, Helen’s precocious thirteen-year-old charge, skipped around and plopped down in front of her. With wildly curly brown hair, freckles, and a mischievous gleam constantly glowing in her hazel eyes, Josie looked just like the wild child that she was. In fact, Helen despaired ever turning the young girl into anything remotely resembling a proper lady. She liked to ride astride horses, fish while wading in the swamp, and climb trees. Those were the semi-normal things she did. The other activities consisted of playing practical jokes, collecting every creepy crawly thing she could find, and voicing her opinion about every subject her father and mother would bring up at the dinner table, usually expressing an opposing view.

            But despite her incorrigible behavior that would likely leave most of English society agog, she was an extremely likeable girl with a personality that made it hard to reprimand or be angry with her for long.

            Helen sighed as she answered Josie’s question. “I am trying to get this big lizard to move away from the front door so I can go into the house.” She pointed at the ugly beast. “But it seems he is determined to ignore my commands.”

            Josie giggled. “We have five other doors, you know. Why don’t you just go through one of those?” she reasoned in her drawn-out American accent.

            Helen sniffed. “It’s the principle of the thing, my dear. I will not be ruled by a slimy green creature!”

            Josie jumped up and crept closer to the alligator, though still at a safe distance. “Did you know they eat small animals? Dorie LeBeau said one ate her cat once.”

            Helen shivered with disgust. “Well, that’s just uncivilized, isn’t it?”

            Josie turned back to Helen with a look of longsuffering. “You think everything is uncivilized if it’s not from England.”

            Helen stood and brushed off the skirt of her gown. “Well, of course I do,” she stated matter-of-factly. “We’re the most civilized people in the world!” She had a brief recollection of Christina and she running about the countryside with dirty dresses and faces. They were forever rolling about with puppies and kittens and trespassing on others’ property to climb their trees. Not a very civilized way to behave for a couple of young ladies.

            Helen wisely kept the memory to herself.

            “Well, we can go get Sam to come over here and kill it. They make for pretty good eating, you know,” Josie said, interrupting Helen’s thoughts. Sam Youngblood was a Choctaw Indian who lived on property adjoining the plantation. He also fancied himself in love with Helen and was forever trying to barter horses or cows with Mr. Baumgartner for her. He said it was the Choctaw way.

            Helen told him the practice of bartering for a woman was just plain barbaric!

            Helen shivered again as she got back to Josie’s comment. “Ladies do not eat—”

            “I know, I know,” Josie interjected. “Ladies do not eat anything that crawls around on their bellies. It’s quite uncivilized!” she mocked, using Helen’s higher-pitched English accent.

            “Scoff if you must, but you will do well to—”

            “Miss Helen! Miss Josie!” a male voice called out from behind them. They turned to see George, the Baumgartners’ house servant who usually ran their errands in town, running up the dusty drive.

Though the Baumgartners owned many slaves to run the vast plantation that consisted of thousands of acres, a sugar mill, the slave and servant quarters, not to mention the huge three-story white mansion, they had freed many of those who worked in the house and the higher-ranking field hands. The Baumgartners were good people who treated every worker and slave fairly, but Helen secretly felt the whole slave system was unjust and inhumane.

            “What is it, George?” Josie asked as he stopped before them and tried to catch his breath.

            “The preacher. . .” His voice cracked as he took another deep breath. “They found him. He ain’t dead like they thought.”

            Helen and Josie exchanged a disbelieving look. “You mean he did not drown as we were all told?” Helen attempted to comprehend. Just over a week ago, the people of Golden Bay had been informed that the preacher for whom they’d been waiting had fallen overboard with another man and had drowned. The Baumgartners, LeBeaus, and Whitakers were all distressed and saddened, since it was these neighboring families who had gotten together to build a church and then pay for his voyage from Scotland.

            If this news were true, they wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of searching for another minister!

            “A couple of fishermen fished him out of the gulf and took ’im back to they cabins ’bout thirty or so miles from here,” George explained. “They sez that he didn’t wake up fer about fo’ days, but they found a Bible on him that had his name on it. They sez he didn’t know who he was when he finally woke up, but after they told ’im his name and that he was a preacher headed for our town, he seemed to remember.”

            Josie clasped her hands together. “Why, that sounds like a bona fide miracle!” she exclaimed. “Is he in town? Can we go see him?”

“Yes’m, Miss Josie, you sho’ can. That’s why I ran back lickety-split.” He ran the back of his sleeve across his beaded brow. “They’s wantin’ the mastah to come out and give ’im a proper welcome with any food or house gifts to help ’im get settled.”

            “Oh, this is exciting, isn’t it?” Helen whispered eagerly as she looked from George to Josie. “It will be so refreshing going to a proper service again instead of waiting for the circuit preacher to pass by. It will be just like it was in—”

            “England! We know, we know,” Josie finished for her with exasperation. “Let’s just hurry up and tell my parents so we can meet him!”

            It didn’t take long for the family to assemble the goods they had set aside for the new preacher and to load their wagon and carriage. Ten or so minutes later, they pulled into the small town that consisted of the blacksmith, a general store, and the newly built church. The town was actually owned by three plantations, unlike many others along the river that were self-contained. The three families signed an agreement that they would share the profits from the businesses as well as the labor to keep them running.

            There was already a small crowd in the tiny yard of the church, with its small parsonage on the side. Mr. and Mrs. Baumgartner stepped out of the carriage first, followed by Josie and Helen.

            As they drew nearer, Josie walked on her tiptoes, trying to see over everyone’s heads. Helen, herself, tried to see around them but could only see the top of a man’s head. In fact, the hair was such a pretty golden blond, a person couldn’t help but notice through all of the dark heads gathered around him.

            Helen was finally close enough to see better, and as the crowd parted, she was disappointed to see the man’s back was turned as he spoke with Mr. Baumgartner. She studied his longish, wavy hair then the width of his broad shoulders for a moment. He seemed almost familiar to Helen, as if she had met the gentleman before, yet she was sure she had never heard of a Hamish Campbell until she had arrived in Louisiana.

            “Oh, I wish Papa would turn him around so we could see him! I had imagined he would be an older man, but he appears to be younger than I thought,” Josie whispered as their neighbors chatted excitedly around them.

            “Indeed,” Helen murmured as she tried to inch her way closer to him. She noticed he was quite tall. Though they seemed to be a little ragged and faded, his clothes were very well made, cut like those worn by the nobility.

            When she finally was able to hear him speak, Helen suddenly realized who the preacher reminded her of.

            He was the same height and build and sounded just like. . .North, the Duke of Northingshire.

            Helen briefly rubbed her brow, thinking that of course she must be mistaken and perhaps had been in the sun too long. The preacher was supposed to be a Scottishman, and the accent she thought she heard was clearly a cultured English one.

            “Ah! Here are my wife and daughter,” Mr. Baumgartner said, motioning toward Helen’s direction. “Let me introduce you.”

            As she began to turn, Josie bumped her as she scrambled to go to her father, and then Mrs. Baumgartner stepped in front of her, again blocking her view. She heard the man speak to her employer and daughter and again was struck by his rich voice.

            I just miss North. I am clearly hallucina—

            “And this is Josie’s companion, Miss Helen Nichols, who has come from England and been with us for two months now,” she heard Mrs. Baumgartner say as she stepped back. For the first time, Helen got a view of the tall man’s face.

            For a moment Helen said nothing, frozen by the sheer shock of seeing the man before her.

            It was North!
            And he was smiling pleasantly at her without so much as a gleam of recognition shining in his light blue gaze.

            “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Nichols,” he responded smoothly with a nod.

            Helen was horrified that he did not recognize her. She had spent many hours in his presence in the past and thought it humiliating that she didn’t seem familiar to him at all. But then she had a second thought: Why was he pretending to be a preacher?

            Confused, she found herself blurting, “North? Do you not remember me?”


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written by: Kimberley Comeaux 2005 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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