UPDATE: 100+ reviews...ALL POSITIVE! Thank you! I took your advice...and I did it! I officially published John & Margaret: Coming Home With Me! I have added so much to the storyline and more "raised eyebrows" and "jaw dropping" moments. Yes, more intimacy as well. I went from 55,000 words to 83,000+ words.
You can find it on Amazon for print and Kindle and at Smashwords for other types of downloads!
Thank you for all your encouragement! I know you will think it is so much better!
MY INTRODUCTION IN THE BOOK
Dear Readers –
It was a few years back when I first heard about BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's classic, North & South. In reading the online reviews, virtually all of which were positive, I had to see it without delay.
It being quite late at night, I endeavored to find the entire four episodes—233 minutes worth—available online to download in short ten to twelve minute segments each. Once I started watching, the characters captivated me, endearing each into my heart. I could not stop.
Several hours later (slow internet connection), I reached that breathtaking reunion of John and Margaret at the train station. The used tissues piled up as I replayed the scene repeatedly; it was the most sincere and genuinely romantic four minutes and fifty seconds I had ever viewed in my lifetime. I have yet to see one to come even remotely close to replacing it.
Like most viewers, my heart sank when the credits began to roll right after. I wanted more of John Thornton and Margaret Hale's story! That day (for it was daylight when I finished), I went out for the sole purpose of finding and purchasing my own copy. It remains the top on my list as the most "DVD worthy" movies in my vast collection.
Some time after, I learned of a new writing genre called Fan Fiction. This is where amateur fiction authors write continuations of their favorite characters in literature, movie, and television productions. Inspired, I authored a rough draft of John & Margaret – Coming Home With Me on a period drama blog. After its completion, I posted it on a Fan Fiction site where readers are able to write reviews. Except for the mention of the grammatical errors and misspellings, out of over 100 reviews, all were positive.
Some of the reviews suggested that I publish my fiction. I do love writing, especially the dialogue, and there was much more I wanted to add to my Fan Fiction. Moreover, I have read many of the other attempts to continue with their story and found that the true essence of the characters were rarely captured, leaving me either extremely dissatisfied or disappointed.
With self-publishing hitting an all time high in the Fan Fiction genre, I set upon publishing my continuing story of John and Margaret; thereby, making it much improved, with an enriched plot adding more twists and turns, tears, deep sighs and smiles. As I finished the last chapters, I knew that I have done well when I found used tissues, once again, littering the floor and me sobbing out, "Oh my…they're gonna love that!"
I hope you enjoy my laborious work of love.
With warmest regards,
Mary Jo Schrauben
NOW A TEASER
From Chapter 2:
Margaret lost interest in the passing scenery and turned her head enough to glance shyly at the man next to her. She caught only the lower half of his face. He must have noticed her looking because his mouth upturned into a grin. A wave of awkwardness of what to say or how to act caused her to bow her head to stare at his hand clasping hers.
The same hand moved up to direct her face up to his. His striking blue eyes met hers causing her lose her breath.
She never had been this close to him. Previously, his eyes seemed to cast a stormy indigo that often matched his mood. In the light of the cabin, his facial features changed considerably; his face became softened and youthful. Believing him handsome before, she now clearly saw that he was striking as well.
"What are you thinking?" he asked while his thumb glided over her slightly opened mouth.
His touch coupled with his voice exuded warmth and tenderness, which she had yet to familiarize herself with.
"Your black leather gloves," she answered.
"My gloves? I mislaid them some time ago."
"No, you didn't…I mean, I have them." His questioning look invited her to continue. "You left them behind that day," sounding apologetic she clarified, "the day I refused you."
He took in a deep intake of breath. Margaret knew she was stirring up unpleasant memories.
"I had every intention of returning them but they seem to have found a place in my bedside table." She looked down a little embarrassed with the confession. "It doesn't make any sense me keeping them. I believe that I didn't like you at that time."
"You had me convinced."
"I never wanted to cause you pain John. I wanted to take back many of my actions and words."
He took her hand into his. "That is the first time you called me by my Christian name."
"I daresay you grow tired of hearing Mr Thornton, Mr Thornton."
"From your lips, it is a caress no matter what context it is said. As for those two days, I have regrets as well. Can we put it behind us, Miss Hale?" he asked, putting emphasis on her formal name.
"Gladly and if you are asking for permission, I give it."
John leaned in close. "Maggie," he crooned while smoothing his jaw softly across her check, "why keep the gloves?"
He watched for her reaction and became pleased by what he saw; she beamed. In his dreams, he addressed her affectionately in that manner. Speaking it for the first time in reality gave him the confirmation of their togetherness. Margaret was now his Maggie.
Recovering from the intimacy of his question, she found her voice to answer.
"I confess I am a miserable thief who is not sorry. There must have been something wanting. Then in London," she said wistfully with her head bowing, "when I realized what I'd done in refusing you, I found myself clinging to the gloves like a priceless treasure. That is when I knew."
"You loved me?"
She nodded. "I wanted to return to Milton…and to you."
"Now that is irony working," he spoke with amusement. "Which brings up the next question. Mind you, I'm not fishing for compliments, merely understanding."
"Ask me anything and I will be truthful."
She rested her head on his shoulder, "I found that you had all the qualities of the man I needed from the start. Unfortunately—"
"You said you were going to be truthful," he snickered.
Raising her head, she looked at him with forged annoyance. "Would you allow me finish Mr Thornton?"
"I'd like to hear you get yourself out of this one Miss Hale."
"As I was saying...unfortunately, you disguised these qualities exceedingly well. I believe it is unconsciously done." Laying her head back on him she continued, "They only began to reveal themselves after it was too late. You captured my attention but all too slowly captured my heart."
"Someday you'll have to tell me of these qualities because I don't know them myself."
"If you like, I will speak of one now."
"And what is that?"
Tilting her head up, his neck turned down, brought their faces close that breathing mingled.
"Your passion is often mistaken for anger…or ungentlemanly behaviour. I find that it is excusable now, at least in my eyes."
"If that be the case, I am, indeed, a deeply passionate man."
"After this day, I can confir—"
John did not allow her finish as he took her mouth heartily, trailing up he kissed the bridge of her nose and then her forehead whereon he rested his head, satisfied in providing the passion she accused him of having.
Margaret released a deep gratifying sigh as muscles relaxed throughout her body. Only minutes before this man had her feeling shy and awkward. That had all gone.
Arm around her waist, he squeezed her closer to his side, enough that his fingers were able to touch the buttons on her coat. He locked her intimately to himself, which she cared not if the key was lost forever.
His head cradled hers and she heard him whisper her name against her forehead as if to test the sound of it again.
As a child, she disliked Frederick calling her Maggie but hearing it from John, in his low, soothing baritone voice; he sanctified her as his cherished own.
Breaking the respite, he asked her when her feelings had changed for him.
"I believe when I handed over father's Plato and thought I'd never see you again. There was such a sharp feeling of loss in leaving you." Her face took on a pained expression. "It continued and then after some weeks in London I began to understand that it wasn't only my father that I was mourning but loss of the man I loved as well."
Her admission struck at his heart and his entire being. She could not have known how seeing her for what he believed to be the last time, had crippled him emotionally.
John tried to keep in control but the turmoil raging inside tore at him. As Margaret and her aunt readied themselves to leave, he slipt away to battle his emotions privately. He would not watch her go!
Only seconds later did his resolve shatter. Like a powerful magnet, the ache of never seeing her beautiful face again brought him to stand rigidly on the large delivery dock.
Agonizingly he watched her walk to the waiting carriage; frustration chewed at him because he could only see the back of her. So much so, that as she climbed into the carriage he willed her to look back at him. He needed her to see him and give him a shard of hope that she cared even the slightest. He vowed that if she turned, he would find some way to have a part in her life.
When that did not happen and the carriage disappeared into the snowy distance, the complete emptiness without her settled in like a starvation and a big part of him died.
Now he learnt that it had been the same for her but perhaps, not with as much intensity.
Margaret pulled out of his embrace and affirmed, "Your mother once accused me of not knowing the man that I refused, and I said that she was right. I suffered because of it." Her hand gingerly reached up and touched his rough, whiskered face. "I over-idealized the south and held the north in contempt for not being the same. I reserved much of that contempt for you because you defended it so."
John's eyes fixated on hers not believing what he was hearing.
Dropping her hand, she concluded, "I was mistaken about everything."
"Margaret, look at me." When she would not he made her by placing his hand on her far cheek and directing her attention back to him. "Your world collided with mine, not mine with yours until this morning when I placed myself there in Helstone. If I had taken the time to learn about where you came from, I would have understood and been gentler…kinder. I am the one who is at fault here." He got a faraway look and muttered, "It would have been different if I'd seen it from your—"
"We're here now," she interrupted softly, "and by God's grace been given another chance. I am determined to not let it pass me by." Her eyes rose demurely to his. "That is why I am on this train with you."
"You'll have me?"
Her delicate lips curved up into a modest smile. "I daresay, Mr Thornton, that you know the answer."
"I do Miss Hale, but I'll ask for it all the same." His eyes focused on her lips to watch for her reply.
"Then sir, my answer is yes."
John's chest pounded out his elation. Looking deeply into her eyes, he brought her face forward and shared his joy by joining their mouths. He wound his arm her waist, while his other hand moved up and found the back of her head, pressing it more into his possession, kissing her powerfully.
Every nerve under his skin registered every contact with her from the cool tips of the pins that held her hair in place, soft brush of eyelashes, and the smooth pearl buttons of her striped over coat.
Before Margaret Hale came into his life, he was a rock, solidly built and unbreakable. Pleasant feelings rarely surfaced. From the first moment his iced-blue eyes fell upon her face, she began chipping away at him.
John's hands slipt to the sides of her arms as he broke to see if what he was feeling had been imagined. Moisture filled eyes roamed her face and then down her frame. Hoarsely he asked, "Are you real?"
Her mouth went to answer but no words came out. He drew her back into his arms and confessed, "I needed you, Maggie."
As God breathed life into man, this woman breathed life back into him. In the span of less than an hour, he experienced more exhilaration, harmony, contentment, and being wanted as a man than he had in years. The magnitude of all these joys crashed down upon him crushing the remaining pieces of rock into dust.
END OF TEASER
Part 01 Her Mr. Thornton
The rhythmic and steady clanging of the train's steel disks on the tracks could not keep pace with Margaret's racing heart as she gazed out of the window at the passing landscape. Her lips still tingled slightly from the kisses of the man that now sat so intimately next to her, thigh touching thigh and his warm hand covering hers.
Outwardly her countenance gave the appearance of poised serenity but inwardly the enormity of what just occurred was slowly registering like an incoming thunderstorm, gaining strength and momentum with each passing minute.
With that first flash of lightening, came the thunder in the form of Mr. Thornton. The differences being, the storm had not been unwelcome and the thundering Mr. Thornton had just become her Mr. Thornton.
It had been an impulsive and probably imprudent decision to leave on the north bound train with him, but she felt no regret. Regret had been a constant companion to her ever since that day she had refused him; slowly growing inside of her until she realized with great despondency that the man she rejected had become the man she loved.
For over six long months the tall, dark-suited man standing dominantly over the workings of his factory had occupied her thoughts both day and night.
Since arriving in London, she had become alarmed when the man and his deep assertive voice started to fade like a phantom into the night. Her voracious need to see him grew stronger with each passing day but there was no valid reason to go back to Milton to see him. So she suffered in silence in the knowledge that it was all her own doing in her refusal of him.
Then yesterday morning, Henry informed her of Marlborough Mills shutting down and that she had lost her tenant. Mr. Thornton had failed.
Her heart had plummeted and she had become desperately concern for him knowing what failure had done to his father. Back in the solitude of her room she cried softly for him, for Higgins and the orphans, and the other workers who once again had to find means to survive.
Then it happened. Lying on her bed with closed eyes she drifted into a snowy white void. All was silent in that void for the longest time but then an authoritarian voice cut through the silence; it was lace deeply with desolation. Look back at me. Look back at me. Then silence again. In the dream she turned her neck sharply in the direction of his voice while calling out to him to see only his tall, straight form slowly fading in the distance. Sitting up quickly in bed she had one overwhelming desire. To find him.
Minutes later she found Henry to ask for his aid and make arrangements to travel north to Milton. And then the next morning, on the train, she had convinced herself that she wanted only to reassure herself he was well and she would immediately return to London leaving Henry to speak on her behalf about becoming a silent investment partner.
To see him. To hear his voice. That would be all.
Mr. Thornton made it quite clear that his affections for her had dissipated and he would not be renewing his offer; not that she could reproach him after all that transpired. So, she never could have imagined that this day trip to Milton would change the course of her life so irrevocably and spectacularly.
John had disappeared.
Margaret was besieged with a rush of concern and disappointment after seeing and talking to his mother earlier while walking the emptied floor of the mill. She didn't remember much after that; lunching with Henry, what was said and returning to the train station, boarding and the train leaving to return to London. Mr. Thornton's whereabouts and welfare occupied every aspect of her thoughts.
Henry took up her hand and patted it, "I'll come back Margaret and speak to him when he returns. I'll handle everything."
Alone. He meant he would handle everything without her. Her chance to see him again had come and gone. She gave him a forced smile and slowly pulled her hand from his and rested it on her lap as she turned her head back to look out the window.
She was in such low spirits traveling back to London that afternoon that tears were a constant threat and she had to fight to not let them fall in front of Henry. Where did he go? Was he well? What if he…no, she didn't allow herself to think of that. Would she ever see him again?
Then their south bound train came into a temporary delay to allow a northern train to pass. She was grateful to be able to escape the company of Henry for a few moments to better manage her plagued composure.
Stepping out of the train's passenger car she glanced up to see the northern train pulling up on the tracks. Brushing a tendril of hair away from her face she caught a glimpse of a man from inside a cabin's window
Her eyes did not blink and breath left her as he, the tall, evaporating phantom; clearly and suddenly materialize before her which left her in a state of such astonishment that she just couldn't acknowledge it in no other way but as a day dream.
When he had open the door to let other passengers' exit and he glanced up and saw her standing just a few feet away, disbelief immediately registered on his face as well.
Next thing she knew was that she was standing nervously before him on the boardwalk in the middle of the parallel tracks not knowing what to say or how to act. To her, it couldn't possibly be happening.
Even when he broke the stunned reunion with his deep voice and asked where she was going, she was still convinced she was seeing and talking to a figment of her imagination.
Somehow she ended up sitting closely on a bench with him. She was so aware of his arm behind her and him leaning and listening intently as she nervously tried to explain to him her reason for going to Milton.
Unable to show him her face in fear he would read her overwhelming range of emotions in seeing him, she nervously stared down at her fingers fumbling with the hedge rose he had given her.
She had started to stumble over words as she watched in amazement as his hand appeared before her lowered eyes and took hold of hers. It was that touch of his hand that jolted her to into the realization that the phantom was truly flesh and blood. He was real and he was here with her now.
The flood of emotions she had hoarded inside erupted causing her to take up his hand and put it to her lips. This small gesture spoke of everything that was in her heart to say.
What followed, his adoring look as she coyly raised her eyes to his face and felt his hand gently cup her cheek as his lips descending in on hers, was the seconds that would define the rest of her life.
As his strong lips moved over hers in his silent declaration of his feelings for her she knew that she never wanted to be far from him again.