Hello again! And, welcome to Monday. In anticipation of my next release, Valiance, The Abcynians Book V, I thought I’d introduce readers to Gabriel Blakemore, first introduced to the series in Redemption, The Abcynians Book III. He’s also the heir to a dukedom haunted by a horrific childhood and hellbent on being disowned by his father. In truth, he just needed some space to find peace and he’s found it in Dare, Arizona, especially now that he’s met Izzy Patterson.
To learn more about Gabriel Blakemore, check out an excerpt:
Leaning back in his chair with one booted foot hooked over his knee, Gabriel kept watch over Valiant as he slept. Granted, rest was necessary for healing, but he didn’t envy the memories his charge would wake up to.
“Still not sure what a cowboy is,” Valiant said, bringing Gabriel’s head up.
“Guess that’s what I am, even if it’s not an accurate term. After the Civil War, I went West to a town called Dare. Became a cattle rancher,” he answered, relieved to see Valiant awake.
“I’d like to learn more about that,” Val insisted, struggling to sit up.
Getting up from his chair, Gabriel grabbed a pitcher of wine with sustenance and took it to the bed. Fortunately, the frame was sturdy enough for him to perch on the edge without fear of the damn thing breaking in half.
“Here, drink slowly or you’ll be sick.” Holding the pitcher, he tipped the end into Valiant’s mouth to give him a taste, letting him swallow and keep it down before offering another. After a bit, he drew back, noticing he’d managed to spill some of the wine down his friend’s chin and neck. “Sorry, pal, tried to be gentle.”
“It’s all right, thank you.” Settling back down, Valiant closed his bloodshot, blackened eyes, his face an array of bruises too numerous to count. Fortunately, his broken bones had already mended, but the former marquess had a hard row to hoe ahead of him.
Getting up, Gabriel retrieved a pitcher of water, a basin, and a washcloth then returned to the bed. “What do you want me to call you? Valiant, Val, Valentine? How many names have you had now?”
“To be honest, I lost count. Val will do. Tell me more about Dare, what drew you there?”
“Mary and Michael were already out there, and it seemed fitting to join them,” he said, soaking the cloth to wash Valiant’s face. “Spent time as a marshal and bounty hunter handy with a Winchester until I could procure land, build a house, put down roots. What started out small has become quite successful. Even in England, I’d wanted something to call my own and now I’ve got it.”
“Sounds like you found peace,” Valiant said.
“There’s nothing quite like sleeping under a canopy of stars, listening to cattle lowing and horses neighing. There are hardships, mind you, but unless my parents need me in Boston, Dare’s where I belong.”
“Mary Ainsworth’s really your sister?”
He nodded, smiling at the thought of her. “She’s Mary Campbell now. Before you ask, she’s a widow with a teenage son.”
Valiant’s gaze lowered, his mouth flat. “I’m sorry about her husband. What happened?”
“William was killed during a bank robbery.”
“That’s a shame. Why did Mary leave Boston?”
“Her life was being threatened for standing up for the rights of those who’d been enslaved in America and William took a job as the town marshal to keep her safe,” Gabriel admitted.
“Slavery? Was it the Saturians?” Panicked, Val sat up too fast, sending the basin of water to the floor.
“Easy, Val, they weren’t responsible, but Abcynians did our part to oppose, abolish, and assist freedmen and freedwomen whenever we could. Especially Mary, who doesn’t let anyone scare her away from what she believes in.”
“She sounds like an amazing woman, Gabriel.”
“Amazing, brave, loyal, and determined to raise Will to be a better man than her husband was,” Gabriel said of his sister.
“You didn’t like him, did you?”
“At first I liked him just fine. After they came to Dare, Michael and his wife, Sarah, noticed that something had changed between them, but she’s chosen to keep her own counsel about the matter.”
Valiant struggled for a moment, then lifted his chin. “What of her son?”
“Will’s a good kid. Sixteen now, verging on manhood.”
“Then it’s a good thing that you and Michael are out there to lend a hand. I’d not known Michael got married. Is he happy?”
“Yeah, he is. They met when she came to help Regan give birth to Hannah.”
“That’s nice. To be honest, I wish that Mary had known such happiness in her marriage. It’s all I wanted for her.”
“That right there tells me you still care about her. Now, let’s talk about that brand on your back.”
Averting his eyes, Valiant revealed his shame, one Gabriel recognized well. It’d taken a long time to like himself enough to realize that what had been done to him when he was young was not his fault.
“Val, look at me,” Gabriel demanded, compelling Valiant to glare as he might’ve done with a servant when they were still in England. “There he is. Lord Raybourne’s still in there, even if the title is no more.”
“What do you mean? Wouldn’t it have become Adrian’s when I was considered dead and had no heir?”
“Except for Arrington, most of the titles Abcynians once held are gone.”
“Thought your father and Regan were in Boston.”
“They are. The day Hannah was born, Mary revealed her ability to see ghosts and told us Arrington Manor was haunted by the spirits of my father’s younger sister and his mother, Sarianna, who’d been his father’s mistress. Once the truth was verified, Braden Blakemore became the rightful Duke of Arrington.”
“How did your father deal with it?”
“He was grateful, for it provided my family the opportunity to move to America without subterfuge.”
“Did Regan become a doctor?”
“She did, made quite a name for herself as a surgeon during and after the war. And, despite opposition from many, my father has stood by her every step of the way.”
“I’m glad to hear you speak of them so fondly,” Valiant admitted.
“A lot changed since you were captured. For now, be assured that Mary never stopped believing that we would find you and it is because of her that my father funded every mission. Unfortunately, the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination forced us to stay closer to home for a time.”
“I am humbled and grateful. Might I ask who Lincoln was?”
“Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.”
“God’s teeth, mind telling me where we are and where we’re heading?”
“We’re sailing toward an island in the Indian Ocean where we will leave the Sea Lion II and board a merchant ship bound for England before we restock and cross the Atlantic for home.”
“Why didn’t Adrian use the merchant vessel?”
“We needed a ruse and he arranged for The Manticore to leave Boston Harbor a month ahead us with the crew and supplies needed to turn this galleon into a hospital ship.”
“That’s admirable and when I’m able, I’d like to do my part to help. Tell me about your family. Aside from Mary and Michael, how many siblings do you have?”
“Six. I’ll tell you about them all on the voyage home.”
“Your parents asked me to be Hannah’s godfather. I wish I could’ve been there to fulfill those duties and meet your siblings.”
“You’ll be able to do all that when we’re home, Val. And, you’re still Hannah’s godfather. Would you like essence?”
“Please. You never seemed to like me much, Gabriel. What changed?”
Biting his own wrist, he presented it to his friend. “Here, I’m offering. Take what you need.” Val waited until a drop of translucent essence appeared before lapping at it. Within seconds, he latched on, wisely sipping to avoid being sick.
“In answer to your question, it wasn’t you I didn’t like, it was me. It took nearly losing my entire family at Garrick’s Close to realize that I’d been behaving like the pompous rakish lords I’d professed to loathe.”
Val let go of his wrist, tilting his head. “Much as I hate to admit it, so was I, Gabriel.”
“That may be so, but because I couldn’t bear to be touched, I took to debauchery in underground hellfire clubs to a whole other level.”
“Do I even want to know what happened in those clubs?”
“Probably not, the only thing I can profess is that I have never harmed a woman or did anything that was not permitted.”
“Does that mean you’re no longer a rake?”
“I’m not, nor am I a saint. But I try my best to treat my lovers with the decency and respect they deserve. Hopefully, when we get home, I can prove it to my neighbor.”
To read more about Gabriel and what’s come before Valiance, follow the links for Redemption and Scandalous: