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When you read “Gem City Gypsy” you must conceptualize a whole world.
The Wright Brothers.
Industrialization leading to WWI.
So many vivid elements. The story is about a gypsy girl who must leap over bodies to survive the sinking Lusitania and escape murderous Germans who kill her mentor in Ireland. She later returns to her hometown, recreated as a wealthy woman trying to meld into the upper class. Neci Star captures our imagination and heart as she claws her way out of one class and into the abyss of another.
She didn’t like the way he looked at her.
Nineteen-year-old Neci Stans scurried around the small cottage, tidying things that looked out of place, and trying not to make eye contact with Graham Moore. She tried to pretend he didn’t make her nervous or self-conscious, because she knew that was exactly what he was trying to do.
He gave her looks. Those looks. Neci had seen gazes like this before, from men just like Graham Moore. Perhaps she was even used to them. She knew what they meant; what they wanted. But unlike other times in her life, Neci felt safe; protected.
She knew this was because of Lord Pool, and how he treated her. The whole reason she was here, safe, and living in Kinsale, Ireland, was because of Lord Pool. She owed him everything. He’d rescued her from more than death, when they both survived the sinking of the Lusitania after it was torpedoed by a German sub. He’d rescued her from a life she didn’t want to live, teaching her to be a proper young lady, to speak correctly; dress correctly; act correctly.
She’d already been on her way, traveling with the Hubbards–as a maidservant–on the Lusitania to what she was sure was a new life and bigger and better things. Things didn’t end up the way she planned. While at first it was terrifying, the end result was even better than she could have planned. Neci was no longer just a “wild gypsy” girl. She had become a proper lady. It was all she had ever wanted.
Lord Pool lost his family in the horrible event. He watched them die, and was helpless to save them. Then an explosion knocked him overboard and he awoke on a small fishing boat to find Neci caring for him.
Neci knew she’d become a substitute for his lost wife and daughter. But she didn’t mind, or care. She was all he had, and he was there to help her achieve her dreams. She had him and her beloved dog, Theda, and they took the place of her family back in the States.
For the past two years they had lived peacefully in Kinsale, Ireland. Neci had escaped the gypsy camp—a rather dramatic escape, she thought ironically, remember her time floating in the water escaping the sinking Lusitania–and now she had learned the finer things in life from the elegant, refined, and kind-hearted Lord Pool. Graham Moore wasn’t going to change that, even though she was pretty sure he wanted to do just that.
She didn’t care what she had to do. This man she did not trust, with his quick tongue and his fiery eyes, had an agenda. Even though he was ruggedly handsome, despite the horrible war trench scar that ran from his left eye to his chin. It made him look very dangerous, which was appropriate, because Neci knew he was not to be trusted. She could sense it. She had, after all, been born a gypsy girl with a gypsy heart.
“He was in love with my daughter,” Lord Pool had explained one evening soon after Graham arrived, and after he had retired for the evening and Neci was left alone with her mentor. “That is why I allowed him to come visit. He and I have her in common. I never really considered him appropriate for Nelly, as it seemed he was more interested in the family estate and the family money more than my lovely daughter.”
“So why let him stay? And why did he come now?” Neci asked.
“I let him stay because seeing him brings a little bit of her back,” Lord Pool explained gently. “It’s not much, but it’s all I have. And I suppose he thinks he will inherit from me now that I have no family left.”
“But that’s a horrible thing to do,” Neci had proclaimed. “To just show up so he can get in your good graces and inherit your money.” She wanted to cry out, “But you have me,” even though she knew this was not appropriate. She bit her lip to keep from talking.
Lord Pool only laughed. He looked upon Neci as an innocent. She knew this.
“Don’t you worry, Neci. I am a smart man, and I know people. Graham Moore will not be getting any money from me.”
But what could he get–or try to get–from Neci?
She didn’t dare tell Lord Pool about the night before, when Graham had followed her into her bedroom, long after Lord Pool had retired for the evening.
“I beg your pardon,” she said. “What are you doing in here?”
“Just came in for a little visit,” he said, a devilish grin edging up the corners of his sensual mouth.
“This isn’t proper, and you know it. Please leave my quarters.”
“Proper? Let’s be honest, here, Neci,” he said, moving toward her. She backed away until she was trapped by the wall, and could go no further. He continued to advance toward her. “Proper? You’re anything but proper. Underneath that exterior, I sense a hunger in you. A wildness. You’re no lady. You’re a wild girl…no, not a girl. You’re a wild woman.”
He pushed his body up against hers, and she could feel his desire, pressing through his trousers, hard. Strange emotions raced through her. She didn’t like Graham. Not at all. She sensed he was greedy and selfish, but he was a handsome man with a fine physique. Neci didn’t like the way her body reacted. It seemed a betrayal of all she had been through and struggled to learn.
“I know you want it,” he said, bending forward toward her. He reached a hand up to raise her chin, tilting her head backward until her lips were almost perfectly aligned with his, the back of her head against the wall. “I can see the desire in your eyes.”
Neci shivered and tried to push him away. “I am a lady,” she said vehemently. “If I scream, Lord Pool will hear and come throw you out.”
“But you won’t scream, will you Neci? Because I would tell him that you lured me in here. Tried to seduce me. And who would he believe? You? Or me? I think we both know the answer to that.”
He leaned in closer, and his lips grazed hers. All sorts of fireworks went off inside her stomach, and Neci wanted to scream at her body for the betrayal. She did not like Graham. She did not want to react to him.
“I. Will. Scream,” she whispered.
“Yes, of course you will.” He took his right hand off her chin and moved it to her breasts, running his hand across first the right, then the left, then cupping the firmness of the right one, touching her in a place that no man had ever touched.
He tried to push aside the material covering her breasts, and he stepped back. Neci took advantage of the temporary distance between them and raised her knee hard, connecting with his groin.
Graham went to the ground, quickly retreating into a fetal position, groaning in pain, and she quickly moved around him and out the door.