Alana Marks had always known she was different. From her gypsy childhood, to the way she now made her living in the movies, she'd always lived on the edge. She'd been paid to leap from a sixteenth story window, roll a car to a cliff edge, get thrown off a speeding train and dragged into a river by a runaway horse. At the moment, she was about to set herself on fire and jump out of a burning barn.
Isabel Valverde was coming home. The brief, terrible letter from her brother had brought her across five thousand miles of ocean, from the New World to the Old, and during the long voyage she thought she had prepared herself for the worst. But now that London lay just beyond the next bend of the River Thames, she dreaded what awaited her. The not knowing – that was the hardest. Would she find her mother still a prisoner awaiting execution? Horrifying though that was, Isabel could at least hope to see her one last time. Or had her mother already been hanged?
Snow crunched under the feet of three cloaked figures – a queen, her lady, and a gravedigger – as they hurried along a moonlit path in Windsor Castle's lower ward. The gravedigger pushed a cart that held a slab of marble, his pick and shovel, and some straw. When the trio reached the steps of St. George's Chapel, Queen Mary stopped. She turned her head, pushing aside the fur of her hood, and a gust of wind needled her with crystallized snow. She looked back at her attendants. Was she wrong to trust them with this night's work?
Fenella Doorn watched the unfamiliar wreck of a ship ghosting into her bay. Crippled by cannon fire, she thought. What else could do such damage? The foremast was blown away, as well as half the mainmast where a jury rig clung to the jagged stump, and shot holes tattered the sails on the mizzen. And yet, to Fenella’s experienced eye the vessel had an air of defiance. Demi-cannons hulked in the shadowed gun ports. This ship was a fighter, battered but not beaten. With fight still in her, was she friend or foe?
The night of the fireworks changed the course of many lives in England, though no one suspected the dark future as hundreds of courtiers stared, faces upturned in delight, at the starbursts of crimson, green, and gold that lit up the terraces, gardens, and pleasure grounds of Rosethorn House, the country home of Richard, Baron Thornleigh. That night, no one was more proud to belong to the baron’s family than his eighteen-year-old ward, Justine Thornleigh; she had no idea that she would soon cause a deadly division in the family and ignite a struggle between two queens. Yet she was already, innocently, on a divergent path, for as Lord and Lady Thornleigh and their multitude of guests watched the dazzle of fireworks honoring the spring visit of Queen Elizabeth, Justine was hurrying away from the public gaiety. Someone had asked to meet her in private.