This is the first of my new Portal Worlds series. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.
On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.
Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.
With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life. To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017
Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni
Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 13 No Glass Slippers
SAMUEL dumped Emery on his bed in the suite Ira had rented. He was pulling off his brother’s boots when his father spoke from the doorway.
“Is he alive?”
“Yes,” Samuel answered curtly. He set the boots beside the bed and threw a light blanket over his brother.
“Let’s talk a minute,” Ira said, gesturing to the sitting room.
Suspiciously, Samuel watched his father pour whiskey into two glasses. When he was offered one Samuel shook his head. “No thanks.”
Ira sat down in a chair and made a gesture for Samuel to do the same. Samuel did so, his eyes wary.
“I saw you and St. Vyr’s daughter out in the garden tonight. How come you didn’t tell me we didn’t need the older girl anymore?” he asked.
His son gave him a straight look. “Because it’s none of your business what goes on between Jeanne and me.”
“None of my business!” his father exclaimed. “Of course it’s my business. We can go forward with the plan, just using her instead of the other girl.”
“We still need to get rid of that gunfighter and—what did you say?”
“I said no,” Samuel’s voice was quiet, but Ira could hear the steel in it. “You will not use my relationship with Jeanne to hurt her family. I won’t stand for it.”
Ira glared at him. His first instinct was to backhand the boy for sassing him, but he was smart enough to realize he couldn’t bully Samuel into submission this time. Samuel wasn’t a boy anymore either. While Ira wasn’t looking, his son had grown into a man and he could sense Samuel was prepared to fight him over this. He looked his son over the way he would a potential adversary and abruptly came to the shocking conclusion he wasn’t sure he could beat Samuel in a fight. It didn’t change his plans for moving in on St. Vyr, but it changed how he would have to do it. He would have to make sure Samuel didn’t find out what he was doing.
“All right, son,” he said soothingly. “I didn’t realize you had deep feelings for the girl. You don’t want to hurt her kin. You concentrate on getting her to marry you. Nothing will happen. You have my word.”
Samuel said, “Sure Pa,” reflecting bitterly that Ira had just lied to him again. He stood up, went to his room, and shut the door, where he stood indecisively for several minutes. Finally, he nodded to himself and slipped out the open French doors to the outside landing. He slid over the railing and dropped softly to the ground. When he reached the gardens, he saw Jeanne with her arm around a weeping Iris heading for the inside stairs.
“What happened to her?” he asked.
“She and Carlos had a fight,” Jeanne said. “I’m going to take her upstairs and I will probably stay there. I’m sorry, but—”
“That’s okay. We need to talk though. Dad saw us kissing this evening.”
“Come up with us. You can wait in the sitting room until I get her settled.”
Jeanne put Iris to bed with a cup of tea laced with whiskey and tucked her in. As soon as she saw her sister had drifted off, she returned to the sitting room. She found Samuel staring moodily at the landscape painting over the fireplace.
She sank down into a chair with a sigh, accepting the glass of light wine he brought to her.
“This hasn’t been a good night for your sisters, has it? It was a good thing they had you to handle stuff like this for them tonight,” he said.
She shrugged. “I did very little for Bethany, and all I’ve done for Iris is put her to bed.”
“What were she and Madonna fighting about?” he asked curiously.
“Well, Papa made Carlos the same offer he made Alec except he wants him to marry Iris.”
“She doesn’t like Madonna?”
“No, I think they do want each other but neither of them believes the other one does, and that’s what’s causing the problem. Carlos has a jealous streak—he accused her of flirting with Jeramiah Lutz and then with Max Franks tonight when they asked her to dance. She accused him of acting like a dog with a bone. If Carlos wants her he will need to convince her it’s her he wants and not the third interest in the mine and ranch.”
He regarded the love of his life curiously. “Considering the way my family is acting, how come you never worried about that?”
Jeanne sipped her whiskey and a chuckle slipped out. “Oh, I think I was born knowing what a man really wants. In your case honey, all I had to do was take a gander at the front of your pants when we met on the train coming out here. You didn’t even know who I was.”
“Yeah that day was magical, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was,” she agreed smiling. “So your father saw us tonight. I suppose we couldn’t keep it a secret forever. What happens now?”
“Well, he said he would back off when I told him I wouldn’t let him hurt you or your family.”
“Do you believe him?”
“No,” he said flatly. “Did you mean it when you said we should go away together and leave all this behind?”
“Yes, I meant it.”
He nodded. “Okay, let’s do it. I need to go back out to the ranch to pick up the money I have put away. When I get back, we’ll catch the steamer to Junction City and then take a train to either Breakwater Port or Azure City.”
“And just when were you planning on getting married in all this traveling?” inquired Giselle from the door of her room.
Jeanne jumped in her chair. “How long have you been listening?” she demanded.
Giselle shrugged. “I was already up here doing repairs to my gown after that oaf Lancer stepped on it. I heard you come in. I didn’t tell you I was here because I thought I would find out more about what’s been bothering you if I eavesdropped.”
“You won’t stop me,” Jeanne warned.
“I don’t intend to, my dear. However, I do intend to see that you’re properly married, so this is what we will do. You, Iris and I will leave for Junction City on our shopping trip for her trousseau tomorrow as planned. Samuel will go back home and get what he intends to take with him and follow us on a later steamer. He will meet us at the Rainbow Hotel in Junction City and the two of you will get married.” She gave Samuel a minatory glance. “When you get off the steamer, go to the Roman Stable. Tell Joe Wong that your name is Tom Clancy. He’ll help you get your stuff put on the train for Azure City. The pair of you will go to Lisette’s sister there. I have the deed to a farm just outside Azure City I’m going to turn over to you, Jeanne. Marie bought it in my name and has been taking care of it for me. You can move onto it as Mr. and Mrs. Tom Clancy who came to farm and raise geese.”
Samuel had opened and shut his mouth several times during this speech. All he finally said though was, “Yes Ma’am.”
“Excellent,” Giselle replied. She turned to Jeanne.
“Kiss your fiancé good night so he can leave to get his stuff. Come to my room and I will give you a letter for Lisette’s sister Marie.”
The door to her room shut behind her and Samuel and Jeanne were left staring at each other.
It was quite twenty minutes later when Jeanne entered her grandmother’s room. Her hair was coming down and the shoulders of her gown weren’t quite up as far as they should have been.
Giselle had undressed and put on a loose robe over her nightgown. She had laid out a cloth belt on the dressing table and a handful of small gemstones were set out. A large square-cut red stone sat on the table sparkling in the gaslights.
“Pull up a chair,” Giselle instructed Jeanne, “So I can show you how this works.” As she spoke, she slipped the smaller stones into pockets in the belt.
“Where did those come from?” Jeanne asked.
“I brought them with us when we left Copper City,” she said. “They were part of the stock I had left over when we closed the store.”
“But, I thought the Smiths took your entire inventory,” Jeanne exclaimed.
“They took a fair amount of it,” Giselle agreed, “But I never kept all my stock out where it could be seen or found. This is part of what I had put aside as a stake for you girls. I took these out of hiding the day we left for the Golden Tricorn.”
She tapped the cloth belt. “This is a money belt. She pushed six of the smaller stones towards her granddaughter. “Keep these where you can easily get at them. You can exchange them for money to buy supplies for the farm. This,” she held up the large red stone, “is an earth ruby and its worth around twenty thousand gold chips on the open market. Keep it for emergencies. Wear the belt under your clothes when you’re traveling. When you get to the farmhouse, you can have Samuel build you a good hidey-hole to keep these in.”
Ira Johnson wasn’t much pleased to discover Samuel’s absence the next morning, but he supposed Samuel had gone back to the ranch to avoid any further discussion about St. Vyr’s holdings. By this time, he had heard about the scuffle in the garden between Emery and McCaffey, and he held a short, pithy conversation with Emery about his behavior and sent him home. Samuel could deal with him when he got there. It was a good thing Samuel had left he reflected; otherwise he would have had to hide sending a runner to Copper City with a letter to Martin Chamber offering him three thousand silver chips to come to River Crossing. Chamber had the reputation as a sniper who “handled” situations for a price.
It wasn’t until three days later when he came back to the ranch himself that he found Emery drunk and discovered Samuel was gone.