Unlocking the Secrets of a Duke’s Heart – Abby Ayles

The boy had spent every moment looking over the side of the ship and into the depths of the waters below. He was a big boy now, a man, even. He was big enough to go on this journey with his uncle. He was seeing the world. He was getting the chance to look out at creation and enjoy all that was before him. It was a great adventure, with the sky above marred only by the sails, which acted as a reminder that this was quite an impressive, magnificent journey. He had been journeying for weeks now, and had almost reached the New World, where he and his uncle would spend some time before returning to England. It was going to be a great time; he was sure of it. After all, adventures were the key to any young boy’s heart, were they not? At least, that was what his mother always said. His uncle had promised him that he was going to see amazing new places. They would have a splendid time! He could only imagine what it was going to be like. He could only imagine everything awaiting him. The boy watched as land came into view, growing larger and larger, along with his own excitement. He was really going to see it all! He would get to experience the adventures he had been promised. “Well, it looks as though we will be arriving soon enough,” his uncle said, a grin spreading across his face.

An hour of watching the land draw near went by in only the briefest moment. As they disembarked from the ship that had been their home for weeks, the boy could hardly contain his joy. Urged forward by his uncle, he took his first steps on the land of the New World and felt a great, sweeping feeling of pride run through him. Not one of his playmates had ever traveled outside of England. Then again, most of them were a mere five years of age, so they would have time to go somewhere when they were bigger and older. They were not like him, getting to experience so much at his age. “Ah, there they are,” the boy’s uncle said. The boy saw a man and woman rushing up to them, appearing very eager and excited. “Good afternoon! We are so happy that you have arrived. I trust that it was a pleasant journey?” the woman asked.

“Oh, it was amazing! You can’t imagine what it is like to be at sea. It was the greatest thing in all the world!” the boy said. The woman cheerfully laughed, and the man appeared delighted, too. He returned her smile with a grin of his own, looking up at his uncle and then back at the two strangers who had come to meet them. He could see that they were rather nice people. His uncle handed the man a piece of paper, folded neatly. “In this letter, I have disclosed everything you need to know. As well as some rules…,” he said. The boy looked on inquiringly, as the paper was handed over. He did not know what sort of rules were being given, but he was glad that these two grown-ups also had to live by rules.

It was not fair when only children had to do that. Unless, of course, those rules were meant for him. But he didn’t think there was any reason his uncle would be handing those over. Curiously, his uncle shook both the man’s and the woman’s hands, nodding as though settling some agreement. The boy did not know what kind of agreement it was, but he could see that it was very important. “Thank you both,” his uncle said, before turning to the boy and giving him a sharp nod. With that, his uncle turned to walk back towards the ship. “Uncle?” the boy called. But his uncle did not turn. The woman took his hand and held onto it firmly.

The boy suddenly felt fear course through his veins, as though something was very wrong, and he was completely alone. “No! Wait, Uncle!” he cried out. The boy began to sob as his uncle left without a backward glance. He cried out in despair, not knowing what was happening. The woman wrapped an arm around his waist before he could go running after his only living relative, the only person he had left in the world to look after him. But now, he was left with two strangers, as though he was merely a stray animal, a creature without a soul to care for him, without anyone at all to care. He let out a deep moan, unable to stop himself as the sounds of mourning came from him. “Shhh,” the woman said, as if to comfort him. But there was no comfort. A hard, cruel coldness began to creep through the boy’s veins, as though everything he had ever known was now lost to him.

The boy would not be moved, although the woman tried to pull him away, holding tightly to his hand. “There’s nothing for it,” she said to the man. “He won’t leave on his own accord until that ship is halfway out to sea again,” the man replied. Finally, the boy felt the man’s arms scooping him up. He screamed and fought with all his might, but he was overpowered. There was no chance that he would be able to get the man to put him down, to let him go, to give him the freedom to run back onto the ship and be with his uncle again. It had to be a mistake. His uncle would not do this to him. It had to be a mistake. But the man carried him from the dock, and soon the boy could see the water no longer.

His uncle was lost to him. Chapter 1 Amelia Shenton was relaxing in the parlor, enjoying the sun’s rays slanting through the window. She heard a shuffle, and her grandmother, Beatrice, entered the room with a flourish. “Oh, good! Your brother will be arriving from Scotland tomorrow,” she said, her light green eyes gazing upon a letter in her hands that seemed to sway with each of her own motions. Amelia tried to hide the amusement that was reflected in eyes the same color as her grandmother’s. Only Beatrice was capable of turning the simple act of reading a letter into a form of dance. “That is wonderful, Grandmama!” Amelia exclaimed, with genuine excitement. She had not seen her brother in several months, and she missed him terribly. It had been difficult to be separated from him for so long. He was truly a friend, in addition to being a brother.

And yet, Amelia understood the importance of his time away. Her poor, dear brother needed to grieve. He had been through so much and had barely been hanging on by the time he had previously returned to England. She hoped this visit to Scotland would be a breath of fresh air and open the doors to his heart being healed. However, she had also enjoyed this time with her grandmother. Just the two of them. It had been such an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, although she had always enjoyed living with Beatrice. Without the seriousness and the tension that had existed between Jacob and their father, there had been nothing but games, and walks, and enjoyment. Her grandmother’s wit and humor, all of it was just delightful, and Amelia imagined that anyone would envy her the opportunity to spend time with a woman like Beatrice Shenton. “You ought to wear something nice.

And we shall have to contrive something to do with that hair of yours. Oh, it is so long now. I wonder if we ought to trim it a little,” her grandmother said. Amelia reacted defensively, tugging at the length of her black hair, and holding it close. It was one of the few things that gave her an intense pride, and she had no intention of having it hacked away to a more manageable length. “Oh, stop it. I shall not chop it off, even if I think it could do with a fair bit of shortening,” Beatrice said. “You have no taste at all, Grandmama,” Amelia said, shaking her head.

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