The Forgotten Marquess ~ Prologue
For three long and lonely years, Tristan Trent, the Marquess of Hopkins, waited for his wife Elaina’s return. Eyewitnesses insist no one could have survived the storm that swept her overboard, but Tristan refuses to give up hope—even when he is trapped into a betrothal he doesn’t want and forced to declare Elaina dead.
Elaina Trent has no memories of her life before waking in Alderney surrounded by strangers, and three years of trying to recall an elusive history has left her life in limbo. Determined to have a future even though her past is gone, she accepts a marriage proposal and a promise for a new life. But when a man claiming to be her brother-in-law stumbles across her, Elaina has no choice except to end her engagement and return to a husband she no longer knows.
When Elaina and Tristan are finally reunited, she still cannot recall what they once shared. Can she begin anew with a gentleman she doesn’t even know and hope that love grows once again, or will they remain strangers forever?
Cornwall, March 1812 “I forbid you to go!” Elaina Trent wheeled around, hands on her hips and pierced her husband with a glare. “Forbid me?” Tristan Trent, Marquess of Hopkins, knew immediately he’d said the wrong thing, but Elaina was not accepting reason. “It’s too dangerous. It’s bloody France, for God’s sake.” “It’s where my family is,” she argued. “Your family lives at Wyndhill Park, outside of Farnham, Surrey, England.” Elaina blew out a sigh. “My brothers live at Wyndhill Park. I wish to see my grandmother.” A grandmother who also happened to live in Dinan, France, currently ruled by Napoleon and at war with England. “Elaina, please understand, it’s too dangerous.” “Not for me.” “What of my children. It’s dangerous for them,” Tristan continued to argue. “Our children, and I’ll protect them. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to Paris or Calais. I’m sailing into Saint-Malo and will travel to Dinan from there.” “Elaina, please delay your holiday. I have a feeling…” “You just hate that I wish to do something for myself. Something that is important to me that doesn’t meet with your approval.” Tristan sucked in a breath. Was he really so controlling? Certainly not. Since their marriage, Elaina had been free to do what she wished, and go where she desired, such as visiting her brothers or off to London or Bath with her friends, often without Tristan, as he couldn’t always get away. However, none of those places were France in the middle of a war. “If this is so important, why aren’t your brothers going?” “Lucian can’t be pulled away from the estate at this time. Xavier cannot leave his studies in Edinburgh, Micah is with his regiment, Asher is in his last term, and Silas is at Eton.” “If this is so important, at least one of them would accompany you.” “They don’t know her,” Elaina screamed back in frustration. “Of course, they know her. She’s their grandmother as well.” Elaina rubbed her temples as if a headache was coming on. “Not like I do,” Elaina ground out. “They have met our grandparents twice in their life. Twice.” Tristan took a step back at her anger. “When our parents died, Lucian was still at Eton and my younger brothers were allowed to remain at Wyndhill Park with their tutors until they could also attend Eton. I, however, was sent to my grandparents in Dinan because the guardian wasn’t certain what to do with a girl. After all, it was the sons, more specifically, Lucian and Xavier who mattered.” Tristan knew that Elaina had been sent to her grandparents and lived there from the time she was thirteen until she was seventeen. He’d just never realized the impact the separation had on her, or that her relationship with her grandparents was different from that of her siblings. “Grandmother took the place of my mother.” Tears welled in Elaina’s eyes. “She was all I had after my parents were gone and I’d been taken from my home.” A tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and for perhaps the first time, Tristan realized how painful that time of her life must have been, and why being with her grandmother before she was gone was so important. “I couldn’t go back when grandfather died because it happened so quickly, and now that Grandmother is failing, I need to go.” Tristan took her hands in his. He understood. He truly did. And in any other circumstance, he would have moved heaven and earth to grant his wife this request. Except in this instance, every part of his being warned that Elaina should not sail to France. A feeling of foreboding, the likes of which he’d never experienced before, had settled into the pit of his stomach at the first announcement of her intentions and it wasn’t something he’d been able to push aside. He couldn’t even explain it to himself, and he could not allow his wife and children to board a ship. “She’ll understand why you can’t attend her and she’d not wish for you to put yourself or the children in danger. I am certain that once you explain in a letter...” Elaina yanked her hands from his. “I will not simply write a letter.” She wheeled away, her arms gesturing madly toward the ceiling. “What do you suppose I write? I’m sorry you are dying, but unfortunately, I’m not allowed to take a holiday at this time. I’ll remember you fondly.” Now she was screaming, which was very uncharacteristic for his wife. They’d had arguments in the past, several actually, but not to this extent. “You are not being reasonable,” Tristan ground out. “You are being a tyrant. What else must I have permission for, my lord?” “I only want my family safe.” Now he was yelling, and this would get them nowhere. If anything, it would cause Elaina to dig her heels in further. She was the most stubborn woman he’d ever met. “Tristan, I need to see my grandmother,” her tone softened. “I want her to meet my children before it’s too late.” A tear slipped out of the corner of her eye. Elaina wasn’t one to cry unless she was truly upset, usually angry, and she’d never been one to use tears in a manner to get around him, so he knew how important this trip was to her. He just couldn’t allow it, no matter how much she pleaded or begged. “They are infants. You can’t take them across the Channel. You might encounter the French, storms, pirates.” “And you believe I’m fanciful,” Elaina snorted. “When was the last time pirates sailed between here and there?” Elaina laughed. “Privateers, then. They are a serious concern. Harrison has written of them, Elaina. It is not a fanciful notion.” “Harrison’s ship is the one giving us passage.” Harrison, his younger brother, had taken to sailing once he’d completed his education. Instead of joining the navy, Harrison gained a position on a merchant ship to learn the trade with every intention of owning his own ship one day. That was nearly five years ago, and Harrison had been saving his earnings for the day he’d captain a merchant vessel. Shock rocked through him after her words sank in. “You are traveling on a merchant ship?” The very idea was outrageous. “And the captain of Harrison’s ship agreed to this? Can a merchant ship even get within sight of France without being shot at?” Except, Tristan was fairly certain that the ship was a smuggling vessel more than a merchant ship. Regardless, if stopped by the French, it would be confiscated, detained…anything could happen and who was to say the French wouldn’t try to sink her. “The trip is short, and we will be safe with him,” Elaina insisted. “Until you’re not.” Tristan thrust his fingers through his hair. As soon as his brother returned, Tristan intended to have a long talk with Harrison because Elaina was not getting on that ship. “Forget Napoleon and privateers, they are dangerous enough. Have you forgotten smugglers?” The dangers of making this voyage were endless, especially if his wife and children had gained passage on a smuggling vessel, except he was certain Elaina didn’t know the true purpose of Harrison’s employer. This time she looked at him as if he was insane when he was quite certain that it was Elaina who was not in her right mind. Then again, Elaina had a way of driving him to Bedlam. “It’s not safe.” “So you’ve insisted, but I still intend to go. With or without your permission.” He knew she was stubborn when they married, but he’d never seen Elaina fight so hard for something she wanted. And, if he were being honest with himself, Tristan usually gave into her requests. However, this time he would not. There was no way he was going to allow his wife and children to sail to France. Not in the middle of a bloody war or across a body of water where they could encounter a French ship. The clock in the foyer chimed. “We’ll discuss this when I return. I have a meeting with my solicitors. I should only be gone a fortnight at the most.” As his trunks were already packed and loaded onto his carriage, Tristan stomped out of the parlor and prayed that his wife would come to her senses before he returned. Except, when he returned home, she was already gone. Having defied him, Elaina and the children sailed for France the day after his departure to London. She never returned.