10 Years Later
Valeria Cruz stood with her head held high and her lips set in a moody pout. It was hot. Hot with heat brought in by the sea and hot with class and ceremony. England was not a country she had associated with heat. She thought it was a silly little land with uncultured people and wet weather but as she stood there and waited, she became hotter than ever and her skin shone with sweat. The umbrella was useless so she turned around and shooed the little boy away. He made himself scarce. Nobody was to cross Lady Cruz, the adopted daughter of Lord Lane, a red faced, plump man who was really rather a nice chap if you thought about it.
He had found her years ago, cowering in her nightdress under a broken door with flames all around. He had been young and naive, maybe, but he thought he should at least keep her safe. Trouble was, as soon as she entered his captain's quarters aboard the vast HMS Majestic, she had cracked open books and before long, she forgot about food or sleep.
Captain James Lane, as he had been known at the time, was awed at the girl's affinity with language and reading. She loved history, she cooked, sewed and played several instruments. So after, a long moment of staring at himself in the long mirror in his bedroom, he decided on one soggy morning to set out and adopt her fully by law so no man could accuse him of anything untoward.
Now, ten years later, at the age of eighteen, Valeria was still ragingly curious but she had also become infamous for her words. They could be buttery or they could be stinging. She didn't mince words and many young suitors steered clear or were wary at best.
So she stood, waiting in the heat for the carriage to arrive. Her hair was still jet black and her eyes still large almost like black pools. Behind her, a collection of stragglers from the household had arrived and ogled her, almost saint-like and detached outside the vast manor that was now her home. Then the serene moment was shattered by the sound of footsteps.
A young man with very blonde hair tied with a silk band swept past, his face a mask of anger. His fist around the hilt of his sword. He was muttering angrily. As he passed, he tipped his hat sourly at Valeria who smiled in return. Her whole face lit up, and the whispers began. Who was this man, who even in a fit of anger could bring such pleasure to the usually cool Valeria?
Several women who were present at a previous ball in town knew for a fact that he was a privateer, charged by the Queen to plunder treasure ships. There were still those who came from sea with tales of how he was heavy handed, brutal and cold. Some said he was a pirate on the side very openly. His name was Kellan Cole and he was slender and prone to terrific fits of anger. He had danced with Valeria and he had done it silently, even when she had glanced with him and commented.
"One is usually expected to have a mildly useful conversation during these dances, am I not correct?" her tone was painfully smooth. Kellan kept his nerve and simply smiled, which was unnerving because it accentuated the cold light in his pale blue eyes.
Nevertheless, the carriage arrived and Valeria was dutifully taken to her father's office in London to visit for the day. It was important.
Redcoats had been posted at the door and the whisper went round. "Lord Lane's daughter is visiting. She was adopted. She is very beautiful. Striking."
And as she stepped down in her dress of dark blue silk with white gloves and a certain smirk on her face, she did look striking. She liked attention. She revelled in it. She thrived on it. She was no longer Valeria. She was The Lady Cruz, officially and in reality. She grabbed people's attention by the scruff of it's neck and she didn't let go.
Redcoats gaped silently and the street seemed to have come to a standstill. A footman received her.
"Just this way, ma'am," he murmured. She smiled her condescending smile and nodded.
"Gracias," she breathed. She noted the disapproving frown which immediately vanished.