Book 3 in the Songs of the Mages series but may be tread as a stand-alone novel.
Lady Jennivere has inherited powers from Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. She heals with her unusual empathy and abilities, often absorbing some of her patient's pain herself. Zach Rendell is a historian whose latest book is an expos� of charlatans who claim supernatural power. Jenny's beauty thrills Zach, but he's convinced she's a fake.
Jenny wants to start a vineyard at her property near Dover. Zach is enthralled by Jenny's intelligence but questions her claim of healing abilities. Yet every time he sees her caring success another chink in his armor falls away. He finally accepts her magical gifts, but now thinks he's not good enough for such an empowered person. And Jenny can't bring herself to tell him her own secret guilt and why she needs him so badly.
Both must give in order to secure their love. But are the lovers capable of so much?
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Jennivere's Journey by Jean Hart Stewart
"There's life out there someplace waiting for me. I'm not quite sure where to find it but I know it won't be here where I'm so comfortable."
Jennivere watched her parents' faces carefully as she elaborated on her plans. She knew the Earl and Countess of Sinclair, Damien and Toria Townsend, would support her request. She wanted more than consent. She wanted them to approve her decision in their hearts.
"I love you both more than I can ever tell you, as I know you love me. You've shown me unstinting love through the years. You understand and helped me deal with my sometimes agonizing sensitivity to others' thoughts, even when I don't want to know them. Although I'm learning to block some of the stream flowing through my head."
Toria nodded. The whole family knew Jennivere inherited some traits from her ancestress, the Lady of the Lake. These included the ability to involuntarily see into a person's mind. Jenny had long struggled to control her gift and use it wisely. Her unusual empathy was both a blessing and a curse. When her sensitivity proved too burdensome it worried them all. And they helped if they could.
"I want to take over as steward of Blue Meadows, Papa."
There. She'd put her desire into definite words.
Damien stared at her.
"Blue Meadows? The smallest of my estates, the one next to Hunter's Haven? Certainly Gareth and Morgana would be delighted to have you move closer to them. But as steward? You've never shown any inclination to manage property before. And Blue Meadows is not terribly productive, you know. It breaks even and sometimes not quite that."
Jennivere smiled with such pleasure her parents couldn't help but realize how much she cherished this idea.
"Exactly why I picked it. And I want a free hand to try some ideas I have to increase productivity, at least in the long run."
Jennivere waited in silence, deliberately turning off the sensory part of her mind so she wouldn't know what her parents were thinking. She wanted this to be a free decision on their part.
Damien finally spoke. Slowly, as if he were still formulating his thoughts.
"Well, Evans is near retirement age and I think will be glad to have someone else take over. He's not been a bad steward, just not a particularly good one."
Jennivere still said nothing.
Toria rose and went to her daughter, hugging her tightly.
"We will miss you more than you can imagine, Jenny. But a part of me's so happy you're coming back to the real world in a meaningful way. You've certainly mourned Mason long enough. It's been over two years since he was killed. I applaud your decision, Jenny. Good for you."
Damien still looked thoughtful.
"You know I'd be glad to deed you the estate if you're sure it's the one you want. I'd have given you your own property anytime since you turned twenty-one but you didn't seem to want it. Would you like to own Blue Meadows, Jenny?"
She looked startled, frowned and then smiled.
"Silly of me but no. I want to earn it. I think I will if you give me time."
Her father beamed at her.
"You only give us more reasons for loving you. Let us know any way we can help, Jenny."
* * * * *
Six months later, Jenny stood on the terrace looking proudly over the broad expanse of fields in front of her. Blue Meadows was the name both of the property and of the manor house. Today, with the sun blazing on the green land, the name seemed strange but last night she'd understood just why a former owner picked this melodious name. A mist had come up from the ocean, rising over the cliffs rimming the eastern border. The moon was full and in its silvery light the fields shone blue and glowing.
With a beauty thrilling her heart.
She'd grown to love the name as well as every inch of Blue Meadows.
The last of the thousands of grapevines she'd ordered from Burgundy were now planted. She'd even captivated her father with her theory the chalky soil and milder climate along the coast could produce wine of the same quality as France. She possessed all the elements necessary for superior white wine. Certainly many of the conditions were the same. Damien was watching her progress with fascination and, she thought, with a little pride.
The low wine production across the British Isles was owing to several factors that Jennivere felt she could improve. It would take time to prove her theories but in her heart she knew she was right. She was using funds left by a trust from her grandmother, refusing to accept help from Damien to transform Blue Meadows toward a direction all her own. She had little need for the personal luxuries money could buy. Surely using it for something so engrossing was what she was meant to do.
Enough reflecting. With always too much work waiting for her, she donned her gardening gloves and walked around to the front of the house to prepare two new beds. She planned to plant healthy feverfew seedlings here. Just for an hour or two, she'd forget about the larger crops and concentrate on her supply of herbs. The people of the countryside counted on her for advice and relief and feverfew was one of her standbys.
Her beloved herbs were doing well in the Blue Meadows garden where she nurtured her transplants from her father's estate of Tregaron. The older feverfew was starting to bloom so she'd leave those more mature plants alone for now. She'd plant the newer seedlings, waiting 'til evening when the fading sun and cooler air would give the young herbs a better chance. The small daisy-like flowers boasted their own charm but she treasured the leaves from the young plants for treating arthritis, stomach cramps and headaches. Since the best results came from chewing fresh leaves she was delighted her main patch was thriving. Now she wanted to transplant some to the front of the manor house so people in pain could easily collect what they needed.
Jenny pushed her loose blonde hair into the crown of the gardening hat she wore. When riding around the estate she usually threw the mass back over her shoulders but sometimes she worried it might fall forward and obscure her vision. Cropped hair seemed to be the style but she'd never been one to follow fashion.
She permitted no one else to weed her herb garden, although the head gardener kept begging permission. She'd been polite in her refusal but some herbs looked so much like weeds she didn't trust anyone else to cherish her plants. Perhaps when she found time she'd train him to know the difference.
She settled down happily near the front of Blue Meadows Manor. Poplars lined the curving driveway leading to the house and flowering shrubs banked the huge double doors. She'd put a small bed of feverfew and perhaps other herbs on each side of the walk.
She worked happily in the soil, quickly breaking up the clumps of dirt and adding mulch. She knelt, trowel in hand, starting to outline and then prepare one of the beds where her herbs could grow.
She had no idea how long she'd been working before she felt another presence. Sitting back on her heels, she looked up and drew in her breath, glad she was nearly seated. His masculine beauty was enough to knock any woman to the ground. Long-limbed and lean and possessed of an undeniable physical prowess. Dark hair and bronzed skin, although she couldn't at first tell the color of his eyes. Surely a gray. Silvery gray might be the closest to the name she sought.
He loomed over her, a simply gorgeous man. She'd thought no living being could match her secret criteria for the perfect male. She'd never told anyone, not even Mason, of her secret standard. Mason had been a wonderful, darling man but just looking at him never stopped her in her tracks. Mason was always smiling, always adoring, always the sweetest man she'd ever known. With a guilty pang, she realized she'd never thought of him as gorgeous.
Studying this newcomer she suddenly felt a little better. One eyebrow arched higher and looked slightly off-center. He wasn't her perfect man after all.
The fact she found this man so unexpectedly attractive made her seethe with resentment. To top it off, this physical paragon didn't even see her as a female. He merely looked at her as he might a servant. Wrapped up in his own secret agenda and seeking something as yet undetermined. For once her prescience deserted her and she felt lost. A most unusual feeling. She had no idea know what he wanted.
His deep baritone resonated to the soles of her loam-caked boots.
"I'm looking for Lady Jennivere Sinclair, miss. Can you tell me where I might find her?"
Jenny paused, knowing in her heart she was about to make a mistake. She simply couldn't avoid trying to tease him a little. He seemed oblivious to anything except her kneeling in the dirt like a scullery maid. She assumed an almost Cockney accent and answered him, although she was careful not to raise her head so he'd see her clearly.
"And why would you be seeking milady, sir?"
He frowned and then changed to a small grin.
"You're a cheeky little thing, aren't you?"
His amused voice irritated her but after all she'd led him on to this mistake. Although he didn't have to be so easily convinced she was a servant, did he?
"Aye, milady is kind to us all. We endeavor to return the favor."
His eyes widened as she realized she'd given herself away. Servants simply didn't speak the words she'd just used. And definitely not with patrician modulation. She'd been looking at him and forgot her accent.
Stupid, stupid. But why should I care? Just because this man affects me far too much and I make mistakes?
She rose gracefully to her feet, sweeping off her gardening hat to reveal the full beauty of her shining hair. A color lighter than wheat and glowing with its own luminescence in the rays of the summer sun, it fell around her shoulders like a golden cloud. As she heard him suck in his breath, she felt both triumph and surprise. She was fiercely glad he was impressed, although why should she be? Why should she care what he thought? And why should her hair seem to matter to a discerning person? She found him not quite so tall as he'd seemed from the ground, although still tall enough. Maybe not intimidating but impressively tall.
Tall enough for what, my girl? Have you lost what little sense you possess?
"Truly a child's game for me to try to trick you, sir, but you pricked my vanity. Although that's no excuse. Of course I'm Lady Jennivere. What can I do for you?"
She realized her confession was unnecessary at he'd already seen through her paltry disguise. Holding herself regally, she met his eyes without flinching.
His deep voice sounded again. No levity this time but a regret seemingly sincere.
"The apologies are mine, my lady. I should have guessed sooner."
He was apologizing to her? This confident male? She laughed. Another surprise. She couldn't remember the last time a man made her laugh. Perhaps not since Mason.
"I tried to trick you, sir. Shall we start over? Will you follow me into the parlor? I'm not dressed to receive a visitor but I'm sure you'll excuse my gardening clothes."
She walked swiftly and with grace to the door. Fortunately Hansen, her omniscient butler again seemed to appear when needed. He opened the door with a gesture and a bow. Jenny motioned the stranger in but he declined to go first. Smiling but definite in his refusal, he stood to one side and waited for her.
She stripped off her gardening gloves and threw them down on a table as she entered. Although they were far too dirty to bring in the house, she generally treated them with more care. She wondered if she should excuse herself to tidy her hair and put on more ladylike clothing. The work boots she wore were hardly attractive. Again she flushed. Why on earth would she want to appear other than as she was?
She settled herself on a chair backing against the light. The little smile on the stranger's face suggested he realized she'd placed herself so her expressions would be in the shadow, while his would be fully exposed to the light from the window.
"If I may, my lady?"
He selected a small chair and carried it across the room to seat himself almost beside her. She applauded his acuity even as she hoped the chair would bear his large frame.
"Much more comfortable than talking across a large room, wouldn't you say?"
"Definitely," she murmured. "And now, would you like to introduce yourself, sir?"
She had the satisfaction of seeing his bronzed skin flush with chagrin.
"Good lord, I really have been remiss. I'm Zachary Rendell. I'm a writer. I'm extremely interested in anything reputing to be supernatural. Of course I don't believe in extraordinary abilities but I've started a book about how such reports come into existence."
Jenny stared at him. What was this gorgeous man saying?
Suddenly her innate powers flooded her mind with unpleasant sensations from his thoughts.
You're reported to heal people with your mind and your unusual powers. Nonsense. I don't believe in such powers for one minute but you're gorgeous to look at and I'm not sorry I came.
She sat perfectly still. This was going to be tricky indeed. He completely confused her. He admired her only for her beauty? Otherwise, he thought her useless? Probably worse than useless, a charlatan or an idiot. She suddenly didn't want to know another one of his thoughts. With a powerful and conscious effort, she put a shield between their minds. He squirmed just a little in his chair but then sat still.
Wonderful. She hadn't been sure she could do this. For some reason it seemed important she deal with him as the woman she was. Not as a girl with supernatural abilities that sometimes helped her and sometimes left her desolate. Her powers as a descendant of the Lady of the Lake were impressive but she'd never use them on him. For some reason it repelled her to use her ability to know what he was thinking.
She couldn't completely turn off her own prescience since others might need to reach her. Still she wanted to understand him without any help from her unusual ability to discern thoughts. Although there were times she wished her gifts would just vanish and leave her in peace. Sometimes it hurt too much to feel what others were feeling.
She'd formerly only used her powers to shut off another mind when dealing with a twisted or evil personality. There'd been times she knew she must distance herself or become too ill to cope. This was different. Zachary Rendell held no evil in him, although he certainly seemed chock-full of prejudice.
Why she suddenly had such an extraordinary desire to deal with this man strictly as a woman puzzled her. Could this be another benefit of finding the courage to strike out on her own and come to Blue Meadows?
Zachary Rendell shook himself somewhat like a dog coming out of the water.
"Is anything wrong, sir?" Her tone showed nothing but polite solicitude.
His baffled look amused her.
"I felt a definite chill, which isn't at all like me. I must have stayed up too late last night writing."
She smiled a secret little smile.
"Doubtless, Mr. Rendell. Late nights can be quite debilitating. Although I believe I should say Dr. Rendell. Your degree is in psychology, is it not?"
His eyes narrowed.
"Are you trying to prove your psychic abilities, Lady Jennivere?"
"Nothing psychic about the fact I've read most of your books, Dr. Rendell. We must discuss them sometime. We might have some interesting arguments about your unwarranted prejudices."
Zach grinned in appreciation. This lovely little tigress owned sharper claws than he'd expected.
Discussions with her should be more than just interesting. Fascinating, perhaps even infuriating and he intended to find out.
He was anxious to start.
Although just watching her emotions flit across her transparent face enthralled him. Right now she was intrigued but wary. As he was.
With shock he realized he'd been silent and watching her for too long. His beautiful hostess had risen and was speaking words of dismissal. He was a damn idiot.
Her tone held the cool polish of an elegant lady.
"I prefer to continue our interesting encounter when I'm not grimy from gardening. If you could come to tea in two days' time, perhaps?"
His lips curled in amusement. The words and tone were polite but still he'd just received as definite a command to depart as he'd ever heard.
He rose and touched his lips to her outstretched hand. If she wanted to play lady of the manor he'd be glad to oblige. He couldn't resist turning her hand over and pressing a warmer kiss onto her palm.
"I'll look forward with great pleasure to our tea."
He smiled into her eyes, wheeled gracefully and left.
Jenny stood looking after him. Drat the man. He'd thoroughly cut up her peace. Although his errant eyebrow hitched even higher than its brother as he smiled and walked from her. Her palm tingled. In fact, all of her tingled. Even her bones quivered.
What in the name of Merlin's magic had come over her?
* * * * *
Jenny sat finishing her coffee, eating the last bite of the delicious coffee cake her cook provided but not really tasting it. Engrossed, she leafed through Zach Rendell's last chapter of his book, Myths and Legends of the British Countryside.
A small smile curved her lips. He'd effectively marshaled his arguments as to why such a thing as a mage never existed. Merlin was a product of the times when such images were essential to explain natural phenomena to the citizenry. No one then disputed the speaker's claim. The common people were without the education to do anything but fall in line. They found it consoling to believe in figures like Merlin who could calm their fears and give them hope.
The whole premise was logical, well reasoned and well presented. She had not a doubt this was his conviction. Never mind he never guessed how mistaken his precise logic could be. He wrote with eloquence and persuasive reasoning.
She could hardly wait to introduce him to her twin brother Gareth. Perhaps even to her parents. If she could persuade Dr. Rendell to stay in the area for long enough, something would certainly happen to cause one of her mage relatives to use their power. Something even his coldly analytical mind could not refute.
And how interesting that could be.
She grinned at the thought.
In the meantime, she meant to enjoy his brilliant mind. Current times were bursting with problems created by the Great War and she wanted to thrash out recent events with him. Granted, she and her parents and her brother often discussed all the current topics but she would relish opinions from an outsider. She'd give him full marks for native intelligence, even though he had no idea of the facts of the world she lived in.
She didn't intend to try to convert him to the truth. That would be useless before he was ready. She just wanted to know his thoughts on the world and its current terrible condition. He was superbly educated but actually fairly na?ve. And quite sure his way was the only way to look at matters.
And she certainly wouldn't ever let him suspect how her entire being came to tingling life when he came near.
She found her gloves in the gardening shed where Hansen must have put them after she'd discarded them by the front door. She tucked them in her pocket and went out to celebrate a glorious day. The rays of the rising sun still showed a little color as the sky grew ever more blue. Pink and lavender showed palely now but would soon disappear in the mounting morning light. She drew in a slow breath of the air of Blue Meadows, her own precious home.
She had plenty of work to do. The day would be warm and she should check if the melon plants had been shaded in the planting beds. She knew better than to insult her gardener by offending him with a probably unneeded suggestion. She'd just glanced at the beds on her way to find Smithers, the head man of the new workers she'd hired to plant the grapevines. She wanted Smithers to start digging soon to the caverns in the chalk soil where she meant to store future wine. So many ideas to set in motion. Surely she had enough to do to keep her mind well occupied for one measly day until the intriguing Dr. Rendell came to tea.
Perhaps Smithers would have some ideas of where to store the excavated dirt. The caverns must be spacious and well braced. The vineyards of France must have long ago solved such problems. Perhaps she should visit some of the wineries there but first she'd talk to Smithers. He seemed an intelligent man and she counted on him a great deal.
Surely she had enough to do she'd not need to waste another thought on the disdainful Dr. Rendell. He might have the charm of the angel Gabriel but his prejudices were regrettable. And probably ingrained at this point, so he'd be a man forever flawed. At least to a daughter of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. Two from such disparate backgrounds could never find a common meeting place.
She wouldn't even think of him until he arrived tomorrow afternoon for tea. Not even once.
Although probably she couldn't expect him before three at the earliest.