The Shipping Heiress – Lisa Higgins

Jade clutched her mother’s ankles as tears choked her words while pleading on her knees. “Please, Mother, I’m begging for you to understand and listen to me! I don’t want to move to London, and I will do anything to remain here where I belong!” Bending down to rub the hair out of Jade’s eyes, Bella lifted her daughter’s chin and declared, “Jade, we must go there is nothing left for us here, and stand up. You are not a child but a grown woman. I dare say your father, bless his soul, spoiled you. I will not give in to your dramatics,” she announced calmly. “This behavior reiterates that you have much to learn and are not ready to make such decisions for yourself.” Standing with resolution and defiance glistening in her swollen eyes, Jade added, “I’ll even marry him if we stay here, and then father’s legacy will be secure!” Bella stood up to face her troubled daughter, and in a kind yet stern voice, replied, “no, you shall only marry for love, as did I.” In a tender gesture of maternal affection, Bella grabbed Jade’s hand before continuing, “darling, this is not a punishment, and you will thank me one day. We must go home to our family! With your father gone, they are all we have left.” Bella released her daughter’s hands and lamented firmly, “this is for the best, my darling. Going home will help mend my heart and yours. It will be the fresh start we need, and I’ve made up my mind.” Realizing this was it, Jade felt her life was over. With tears streaming down her face, she dropped her head in defeat and turned away from her mother. Knowing Jade must despise her, at the moment, Bella couldn’t let that deter her from doing what was best.

With kindness, she spoke to her daughter’s retreating form. “We depart in a fortnight, darling, so use the rest of your time here wisely.” Fighting the temptation to flee, Jade raised her head high and slowly quit the room. In a daze, she headed to her bedchamber, where she could lick her wounds. I need privacy and time to figure out what else I can do. There must be another way. Her stubborn mind refused to believe that this was it. Once alone, Jade threw herself on the bed and wept. Feeling lost and bereft, she sobbed until there were no longer any tears left to cry. A soft knock sounded on her door, and Jade called out, “come in.

” Abagail, Jade’s closest friend, who liked to play the part of a lady’s maid, companion, or whatever role she deemed fit, cautiously entered the room. Noticing how small Jade looked crumpled upon the bed, Abagail rushed to her side. Abagail was used to the strong, outspoken, and spirited girl, and she hesitated before seating herself on the bed. As Jade rolled towards her, Abagail noticed her red, swollen eyes, wet cheeks, and disheveled ruby locks. However, the anguish and fear in Jade’s eyes hurt Abagail’s heart. She couldn’t stand to see Jade like this. At Abagail’s concerned look, Jade cried, “oh Abby, what shall become of us?” Remaining silent, Abagail embraced her dearest friend, and while rocking back and forth, she whispered, “shh shh shh, everything will work out just as it should. You will see, and if it doesn’t, I will be there with you every step of the way.” Feeling a measure of relief, Jade declared, “I can’t do this without you, Abby!” Hugging each other, they vowed that day that nothing would ever come between them. Their friendship, though created from a tragedy, only made their bond stronger.

She is the sister of my heart, Jade mused to herself. Abagail knew she would follow Jade and Bella to the ends of the earth if they asked. After her parent’s unexpected death, Abagail was welcomed into Lawrence and Bella Fulton’s family and raised as their own. They are my family. Leaving Jade to rest, Abagail said, “no more tears, love. I shall return and attend to you before dinner.” “I look forward to your delightful company, but Mary is perfectly capable of attending me, Abby,” Jade announced as a slow smile spread across her face. This was a long-time jest between the two friends, who were as close as sisters, and raised together for almost sixteen summers. They were indeed thick as thieves. ∞∞∞ Dinner turned out to be a quiet and uncomfortable ordeal, and Jade barely uttered a word.

Typically, the room was filled with chatter and laughter, as the three women always enjoyed each other’s company. Bella prayed that Jade would come around, and at this point, she would welcome her daughter’s outspoken and often outlandish behavior. The silent treatment was agony. Although unsuccessful, Bella was grateful to Abagail for her attempt to draw Jade out of her shell. My darling Abagail, sweet, loyal, kind Abagail! I thank God for you; Bella thought as they made their way out of the dining room. Once in the drawing-room, Jade walked straight to the bell cord, while Bella and Abagail took to their favorite chairs. Upon entering the quiet room, the butler stood expectantly. “Cedric, would you be so kind as to bring me a glass of brandy to the library?” Jade asked. Trying to hide his confusion and shock, Cedric bowed and turned to Bella and Abagail. “Would either of you care for anything?” “No, thank you, not tonight, Cedric,” Bella said with a small smile as she tried to hide the hurt settling in her chest.

“I fear I have a megrim and will retire soon.” “I’ll take a glass of sherry if you don’t mind, Cedric,” Abagail announced as she narrowed her eyes at Jade. Both women were astounded as Jade followed their butler, Cedric out of the drawingroom. Sipping lightly on the brandy, Jade was curled up comfortably in her favorite chair in the library. Wretched stuf indeed, she admitted to herself. However, the warm tingle throughout her chest and arms was unexpected and quite lovely. It almost made up for its horrible taste. With her glass empty, Jade was immersed in the romance and intrigue of her gothic novel and jumped as Abagail burst through the door. Panting and breathless, Abagail struggled to say, “thank goodness, I found you.” Collapsing in the opposite chair, she took a moment to catch her breath.

Looking at Abagail with a concerned frown, Jade asked, “what, pray tell, have you been doing, Abby?” Jade struggled to sit up and with wide eyes said, “you look as though you have seen a ghost!” “I dare to say it wasn’t a ghost!” Abagail announced through ragged breaths and eyes as wide as saucers. Dropping the book, Jade sat up even straighter. “Tell me what you mean by this, Abby!” “I was helping cook in the kitchen after dinner, you know she is such a kind soul, and—” Interrupting her speech, Jade demanded, “Abby, please get to the point! You have frightened me!” “I am sorry, Jade, but I was sure I saw someone as I looked out the kitchen windows, and I felt a chill crawl up my spine!” Abagail wrung her hands and then ran them up and down her arms as if to ward off the cold. “And did you?” Jade asked from the very edge of the chair. “Did you see anyone?” “Well,” Abagail whispered and looked around the room before continuing. “At first, I thought mayhap, it was a shadow, and my mind was merely playing tricks on me,” she declared earnestly. “Abagail,” Jade admonished. “Do tell!” “Beg pardon, but I’m very nervous. Nevertheless, I decided to investigate.” “Tell me you didn’t go outside alone, Abby? That sounds utterly foolish, and like something I would do!” Hesitantly, Abagail said, “I didn’t want to alarm anyone, so I went out the kitchen door to take a quick peek, and that’s when I heard a rustle in the bushes near the garden.

” Jade’s face paled, as she waited with bated breath for Abagail to continue. “I crept along with the shadows, but my foot hit some twigs, and the sound must have startled him.” Jade’s blood turned to ice, yet she asked in a calm and steady voice, “did you get a good look at him, Abby?” Tears formed in Abagail’s eyes as she shook her head and answered, “no, but I knew you were in the library, and I fear he was trying to look in at you!” Chapter 2: Stolen Glances 19th Century, 5th Avenue, Manhattan Alexander Winferd crept through the trees surrounding the Fulton Mansion on 33rd and 5th Avenue. It was a sight to behold. However, at the moment, he cursed his impromptu decision to spy on the object of his desire. There wasn’t enough foliage to conceal him properly, and he felt utterly foolish ducking around the trees and bushes in the small garden. However, Alexander felt he didn’t know Jade well enough, and knew his time was running out. She was an enigma, and this was enticing to Alexander. Women were strange creatures, but he had never met one like Jade Fulton. Aside from her fortune, she was heavenly, and he longed to have her and everything that entailed.

Jade was also a challenge, and that urged him on. Alexander, not used to rejection from the fairer sex, could claim most women’s hearts with a mere look. He prided himself on his dashing good looks and debonair style. Jade rebuffed him and every effort to woo her, yet, instead of backing off, he endured her aloofness. Alexander was used to women flocking to him and blushing beneath his stares. Jade was different, and Alexander was in awe of her. His male pride wanted to believe she was being coy and playing hard to get, but he knew this wasn’t the case. Jade was always polite, but she made it clear that she was not interested, nor did she fall prey to his outlandish charms. She was an amiable girl, and although gently bred, she had a fire within her. Therefore, Jade did not succumb to what Society deemed appropriate.

Because of this, Jade was often the victim of gossip mongers. Alexander’s main goal was Jade’s fortune, but he couldn’t deny that having her as his wife would be a bonus. She was more attractive than most, and her womanly figure did not go unnoticed. He had to have her and the life she would offer him. Because of her father’s death, it was no secret that the Fulton’s were packing up and heading back to London. Jade’s mother, Bella Fulton, was born in England; and was the daughter of a duke. Rumors circulated that Bella had defied her father and disappeared in the night to elope with Lawrence Fulton. The only son of a business magnate, Lawrence, built his extreme wealth in shipping and now railroads. The Fulton’s were a very wealthy and influential family, and Alexander had made it his personal goal to marry Jade, the heiress of this empire. He had less than a fortnight to break through the wall that Jade built between them, and he was determined to change her mind about him.

In his desperation, he had found himself on her property, sneaking around like a common thief in the night. He needed to be near her, but Jade made that almost impossible. So, Alexander deemed the next best thing would be to study her from afar. He moved with stealth-like ease behind a rose trellis and crouched down to crawl over to the nearest tree that was approximately ten feet away from the lighted library. He grinned like a Cheshire cat when he peeked around the tree and saw the object of his desire curled up in a chair reading a book. Just as he relaxed, Alexander heard a noise and immediately ducked down to peer around the base of the tree. Panic seized him when he saw Jade’s closest friend creeping along the back of the house. Without thought, Alexander did the only thing he could do and ran! Damn! Damn! Damn! Jumping into the waiting hackney cab, Alexander exhaled a long shaky breath. With a million thoughts running through his mind, he felt the need for a stiff drink. Alexander needed to be sure the chit didn’t see him.

But how? If she had recognized him, his plan would surely fall apart. What possessed him to do something so stupid and reckless? He would be more careful in the future, but he was running out of time. He yearned for things he felt were right within his reach, and among one of those things was his desire to have a club. He was envious of the group of select gentlemen that belonged to the Union Club, which was similar to London’s great clubs, and this was the type of life Alexander wanted. He would not allow anyone to stand in his way. Jade was vulnerable since her father had died; however, that wouldn’t be the case in England. He needed to speak with his father and figure out his next move. He sincerely hoped Jade’s friend had not seen him. It was dark, and hopefully, he was too far away for her to recognize him. Regardless, he was sure everyone in the house had been alerted to the intruder on the property.

All the servants would now be on high guard. Alexander mentally cursed the silly girl for being outside alone, but he remembered that she was more to Jade than a mere companion and friend. Alexander knew it wasn’t all gossip and rarely saw Jade without the chit. Miss Abagail was part of the family, not a servant. There were even whispers that the late Lawrence Fulton was in the process of legally adopting the girl. He made a mental note to ask his father about this. His father had worked for Lawrence Fulton for as long as Alexander could remember. The hackney cab stopped on South Street, known as the “Street of Ships,” and Alexander entered his father’s office. He paced back and forth in front of the desk occupied by his father, Harrison Winferd. “They are leaving for London soon, and I must do something to stop them!” Alexander barked immediately as he paced in front of his father’s desk.

Harrison looked at his son, and with an exasperated sigh, shook his head. “Alexander, you have made your wishes known, and the lady does not share those wishes.” Walking to the cabinet, Alexander grabbed a bottle of brandy, and poured a generous amount into a dusty glass, he swirled the amber liquid around before downing the entire contents. He growled as the drink burned its way down his throat and took pleasure in the warmth that seemed to spread through his body. As he started to pour another, his father stood to face him, and said, “go, easy boy, getting foxed will not change a thing.” “Father, I am old enough to know when I have had enough. I also know that you have worked too long and hard for Miss Fulton’s father, and now everything has been left in the hands of a mere woman for God’s sake. You do realize that your employment could be gone at any moment!” Since the death of Lawrence Fulton, Harrison had endured many sleepless nights over this possible dilemma. However, he had not heard whispers or even gossip regarding the family selling the Fulton Empire. He did know: Jade Fulton was not going to marry his son and hand over her legacy willingly.

“So, what do you intend to do, Son?” Alexander’s smile was cold and calculated when he said, “I shall do whatever I need to do.” He gave his father a curt nod and made for the door. Harrison poured himself a drink and downed it quickly. Feeling a deep-seated dread weighing him down, he knew his son well and knew Alexander would stop at nothing. He would claim the chit at any cost

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