Synopsis: In the spring of 1899, Henry Rochester boards a ship on the docks of New York Harbor and sets sail across the Atlantic. Desperately seeking freedom and adventure, Henry fails to anticipate the violent ocean storm that will destroy the ship, murder his fellow comrades, and leave him stranded on a deserted island. However, Henry is not alone in paradise, as a beautiful young woman, named Elaine, acquaints him with the enchanting, yet evil nature of the jungle. As the two quarrel, reconcile, and bond, love blossoms between them like an exotic wildflower. But when the tide turns, bringing an unescapable wave of danger with it, Henry and Elaine must face the callous brutality of the uninvited.
Lindsay Marie Miller was born and raised in Tallahassee, FL, where she graduated from high school as Valedictorian. Afterwards, Lindsay attended Florida State University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with an English Literature major, Psychology minor, and Specialized Studies in Markets and Institutions. Lindsay is the author of the romance novels: Jungle Eyes, Me & Mr. Jones, and Emerald Green. Jungle Eyes is the beginning of a new romantic action/adventure trilogy. Emerald Green is the first installment in a four-part series of Young Adult romantic thrillers. And the New Adult romantic thriller, Me & Mr. Jones, will be accompanied by a sequel. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys singing, playing the piano and guitar, and writing songs. The author resides in her hometown of Tallahassee, FL, where she is currently working on her next novel.
It was the latter part of spring, when a party of New England men, both young and old alike, decided to depart on a voyage across the Atlantic, in search of new island territories that had yet to be discovered. The year was 1899, and with the turn of the century at hand, there was an ever-present longing to depart from New York, if just for a season, so that all the men may come back with a feeling of accomplished exploration and adventure. The more danger present, the more thankful they would all feel towards their dear city upon their return.
The party totaled twenty-six men, with the youngest being of noble breed and family, as he was the eldest heir of Philip Rochester, a descendant of British royalty, whose ancestors had traveled to the New World and later triumphed in their victory over the red coats. His name was Henry Rochester, and at the age of twenty-five, he had yet to marry, nor express a desire to do so. In fact, the women he had come in contact with often bored him first, then drove him to leave the room without saying a word. His mother had made a point of arranging several young beauties to call upon the family nearly every week. In response, Henry made sure to have prescheduled fishing and hunting trips with his close companion, Charles Gallagher.
Charles was nearly thirty, though also remained a bachelor. With his red-orange curls and honey brown eyes, he looked exotic, his face bearing the resemblance of a striking wild fox. It was this mysterious, attractive aesthetic of Charles’s appearance that allowed him to persuade many others so very easily, which had been the exact method he used when convincing Henry to join him in the first place.
“Let’s go on this grand adventure,” he beckoned to Henry, while they shared a bottle of wine after dinner on the eve of the Atlantic voyage.
“What’s the point, Charlie?” Henry placed his fingers around the wine glass, bringing the red liquid to his lips, merely because there was nothing else better to do.
“Oh, are you too busy? Some prior engagement holding you back?” Charles rose from the table and began to pace the floor. Henry rolled his eyes, swallowing the drink in his mouth.
It had been often said that when Henry sat still on a night such as this, that he looked remarkably similar to a painting. His dark, smooth hair hung down, nearly touching the length of his neck, to better frame his face. He had a strong jawline, high cheekbones, and altogether a face which looked as though it had been sculpted by an artist instead of being the natural result of procreation. A painting he was, indeed.
“I just think it will be a waste of time, that’s all.” Henry studied the playing cards spread out on the table before him. What was first intended to be a game of poker, now seemed more akin to solitaire, as it was Henry, sitting alone with the ace of spades, while Charles spoke just to hear himself talk.
“A waste of time?” Charles shot back. “What has ever been so important to keep you in this place every minute of every day? New York will be right here when you return, just as you left it.” He filled another glass of wine, sipping at it cheerfully, as he surveyed the fine globe sitting on the table nearest the window.
“And if there is no me to return?” Henry relaxed into his chair, pressing his back against its soft cushioning. Eyeing his friend very carefully, Henry held a strong gaze, though the older companion, more equipped with skills of persuasion, had won from the very start.
Charles placed his free hand on the globe, a golden ring shining on his shortest finger. “Men all over this world have given their lives dying,” he spun the globe around, as he went on, “not afraid to sacrifice for the cause.” Charles looked out the window into the night. “And all of their lives have meant something, because they were noble enough to be remembered.”
“And they’re all dead now too,” Henry retorted.
Charles turned away from the window, facing Henry with a look of disappointment. The globe continued to spin behind him in the background. “Do you mock the men whose blood was shed just so people like you could have a chance?” His face had turned red, matching the curly tendrils of his hair, which shared the same hue.
“No, sir,” Henry replied, remembering his place by the older fellow.
“Then don’t speak of such people as if you never knew them,” Charles commanded.
“But I didn’t know them,” Henry grew bold enough to say. “Besides, this is no war you’re speaking of. You just want to go abroad.” Henry collected the cards on the table and shuffled them into one large deck.
“The men who embark on this voyage will be remembered in history, for all time.”
“I don’t believe it,” Henry interrupted with a sly smile. “The New World has already been discovered. Whatever minuscule territories you collect from the sea are of no importance. It is land, vast undivided land. That is what matters now.” Henry stood, finishing the last bit of wine from his glass. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ll call it an evening.”
Charles nodded towards him and set his wine glass down on the table. “Fine then. Remember, I won’t be able to go fishing with you for some time, nor hunting neither.” He approached Henry, taking his hand to shake when it was offered to him. “If you should change your mind,” Charles said on his way towards the door.
“I won’t.” Henry was firm, growing aggravated with the current degree of tension between the two friends.
“I must tell you, dear Henry, I fear that you are making a mistake.”
“No,” Henry said, “you are.”
With an apathetic glance, Henry nodded at Charles, asking for his departure. Charles shrugged, placing a top hat over his head before stepping through the door. He walked the length of the vast floor that led him to the front entrance. There, he stepped across the threshold and into the warm night, leaving Henry at the family estate to think for himself.
The next morning, Henry woke to find his mother bombarding him with inquiries about his present disposition. “Abigail Ellis is a fine girl. Perhaps you should call on her today.” She spoke like a mother bird feeding her biddies, wanting the words in her mouth to suddenly appear in his.
“No, Mother.” Henry only looked at the plate before him, his main focus to eat the meal at hand.
“Oh, what about Emmaline Winters? She was quite lovely when I saw her last.” Mrs. Rochester always behaved in such a manner when Henry’s father was out of town on business, as he was presently.
“No, Mother,” he repeated, inhaling his tea with one resounding gulp.
“Henry,” Mrs. Rochester scolded, “I do not know what is the matter with you. Are none of the ladies to please you in New York? What’s wrong with Emmaline?”
“She is too pretty,” he quickly rebutted, without even meeting her eyes.
“Too plain.” He smirked at her, the light golden color of his eyes brightening at the small victory.
Mrs. Rochester threw her cloth napkin down, covering her plate of uneaten food. “Why you take pleasure in defying me, I will never know. My only son!” She threw her hands in the air, lifting her face to the ceiling in disgust. “If only I’d had another.”
Henry smiled at his mother without showing any teeth, for although their family fortune was large, indeed, it was up to the sole discretion of his father as to how it should be allocated. And since Mr. Rochester had been in no hurry to enter into holy matrimony when he was a young man, he saw no need in pushing Henry towards a woman he did not love, nor wish to hear speak.
“Find me a lady who will disagree, and I’ll call on her every day.” Henry rose from the table, acknowledging Mrs. Rochester. “Mother.” He nodded, then headed upstairs to his room.
“Uh,” she whined to the servants, fussing at them about matters which were of no importance to Henry.
Upstairs, he looked through the long, sweeping view of the town offered by his bedroom window. Down below, he saw Charles and the others headed for the docks. His eyes followed them with curiosity, as he had imagined them to have left hours ago. He had never anticipated the opportunity to still be alive.
When he heard his mother shouting at him from downstairs, Henry left his bedroom just for the sake of his own amusement. But Henry froze when he reached the banister at the top of the staircase, for both Abigail and Emmaline were standing in the doorway. His eyes widened in terror, as his mother made playful, nice conversation with the girls.
Abigail was sixteen, with soft, white blonde curls, powder blue eyes, and a fine complexion, though her wit could be equated to that of a frog’s. He had yet to have a single conversation with the girl, without her snorting at his remarks, even when they were not funny. Emmaline, on the other hand, was two years older, with a much lovelier face and figure. Her features were dark where Abigail’s were light, as Emmaline’s hair and eyes were a shade of dark brown. With the exception of their ivory toned skin, the two girls looked nothing alike, and even though Emmaline was the fairer of the two, she was much too agreeable to be really so.
Instead of laughing at every word Henry said, Emmaline agreed with it wholly, so that an entire conversation would pass without her uttering a single thought of her own, other than, “You are so right. I agree with you immensely.” She often interchanged the two phrases, every now and then adding, “I never thought of it that way before,” to soften the monotony. It rarely helped.
“Oh, Henry.” Mrs. Rochester smiled when she saw his figure nearing the staircase. “Come down, you have visitors.” She winked at Abigail, causing the girl to snort with giggling laughter.
“Give me just a moment, Mother.” Henry quickly turned on his heel and scurried into his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him, startling his mother when he did so.
“Come now, girls.” Mrs. Rochester grinned, directing the ladies into one of the sitting rooms. “Let us have tea.” She eyed Henry’s bedroom door, suspicious of what he could be up to in there.
In his room, Henry had begun hurriedly packing a trunk with clothing and toiletries. With his father away on business and his younger sister, Louisa, traveling abroad, Henry knew that there was no way he could endure staying with his mother alone. She was determined to have him married off by the season’s end, but Henry would have nothing of it.
Checking the window, Henry noticed that the party of men bound to go island hunting was preparing to depart. Quickly sliding into his overcoat, Henry grabbed the well-packed trunk and barreled down the staircase. Once at the front door, he grabbed his hat and placed it over his head.
“My Henry, good God!” Mrs. Rochester shouted from the bordering room where she was seated with Abigail and Emmaline, having tea. “Where are you going?”
“With Charlie, we’re headed out across the Atlantic.” Henry felt the chains unbinding as he said the words.
“With that party of men? That’s dangerous to be out there at sea so long. Something could happen to you,” she added, just to be melodramatic. “What if I never see you again?”
Henry looked at the two girls, who were in such a state of shock, that for the first time in his presence, Abigail was incapable of snorting. Then, turning to his mother, Henry quipped, “So be it.” With a devilish smile on his face, he offered a modest bow. “Good morning.”
And so he left the women crying over their tea as he raced out into the street, arriving at the vessel just in time. “Charlie!” he yelled out, noticing his good friend loading from the docks.
“Henry!” Charles was exceedingly glad that his young friend had arrived. “So, you decided to join the party after all?” The two hugged, slapping each other on the back.
“I’m afraid so.” Henry smiled, glad to be so well-received.
“Hey, Worthing!” Charles yelled across the way at the gray-haired man who had orchestrated the whole affair and was overseeing the entire party for the duration of the voyage. “Look who decided to show up.” Charles grinned, wrapping his arm around Henry’s shoulder.
“Glad you finally decided to join us, Henry,” Worthing spoke. “I know this one will be more content with you around.” He nodded towards Charles.
“Thank you, sir.” Henry let go of his luggage as Charles took it from him, moving it below deck where he was storing his own belongings. “How long can I expect to be gone on this grand adventure?” Henry looked out at the blue sea and breathed in her fresh, salty air.
“One year,” was Worthing’s cold reply, while he shuffled past Henry, giving orders to remove the anchors and untie the ropes.
Suddenly, it dawned on Henry that he may very well never see New York again. He had not anticipated the journey to last so long. Looking out from the harbor, Henry began to wonder if he had made a terrible mistake, all out of rash desperation and longing. He had not even been able to tell his father goodbye, nor his sister, Louisa, for that matter. Swallowing his fear, Henry turned his back on the harbor and looked out on the shining waters instead. He could only hope that this voyage would not end as others he had heard of in the past had – with a watery grave.
Once departed, the men felt triumphant, for they had succeeded in leaving the rest of the world behind. Most of the party consisted of married men, already with several children. But Charles and Henry were of the few who remained unwed. Nevertheless, all the men got on remarkably well with one another, sharing old stories over whiskey and gin. The ship’s esteemed captain even took to the relaxed atmosphere, once they had been at sea for nearly a week.
Henry and Charles stayed below deck, sleeping on cots that had been arranged like bunk beds. Every man kept his belongings on a separate shelf, though most were storing common goods in the large closet down below.
And so, the voyage continued, for one month and then two. Before they knew it, the spring season had passed them by, as the weather began to accommodate the spirit of summer.
“Hey, Charlie.” Henry lay on his cot, while Charles rested on the one up above.
“Yes, Henry.” Charles let his arm dangle over the thin mattress. Henry noticed the gold ring on Charles’s finger, the item clearly identifying the speaker.
“We’ve been gone nearly three months now, and yet I feel as though it’s been a year.” Henry let out a deep breath.
“You wish you hadn’t come?” Charles leaned over the edge for a moment, so that Henry could see his face. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“No.” Henry shook his head, running a palm over the lines of his face that were now marked with worry.
Charles lay back, resting his head on the pillow beneath him. “Then what is it, young friend?”
Henry rolled to his side, placing a palm beneath the side of his face. “I thought we’d come for adventure, discovery. We haven’t seen a speck of land since we left New York. Have we come all this way for nothing?”
“You’re just tired,” Charles mused, rolling over to face the wall. “Get some sleep, Henry. We’ll be closer by morning.” He grew quiet, soon snoring loudly enough for the fish to hear. Henry shrugged, turning over to change the position of his body, as he could not seem to get comfortable. Eventually, exhaustion took him, and he fell into a deep sleep.
Henry woke in an abrupt manner, for someone was shaking him out of his relaxed state. Upon opening his eyes, Henry found one of the crewmen standing before him. He was wet and trembling, causing Henry to shout at him in alarm.
“Good God sir, what’s the matter?”
“We’re in the middle of a storm. It’s getting stronger and I don’t know if she can take it.” The crewman studied the wooden boarding of the room below deck.
“Who?” Henry placed his arm on the man’s shoulder.
“The ship!” He stormed off, alerting other passengers as Henry woke Charles.
“We best join the rest on deck.” Charles climbed down from the top bunk, stepping into his shoes. “I do believe you’ll get your adventure after all.” He left Henry to himself, as he disappeared to offer his help upstairs.
“You’re the one who wanted adventure.” Henry sat down on the bed for a moment, hearing the wailing cries of the ocean storm. As the tumbling waves caused the ship to jostle, Henry had trouble getting his shoes on and crashed into the opposite wall.
Henry and Charles soon made it above deck, the former’s eyes widening in terror as magnificent waves came crashing down upon the ship. Water had overtaken the vessel, subtly drowning the wooden exterior. Boards split and glass shattered, causing a panic to ripple across all on board.
The older men grabbed buckets and pales of all different shapes and sizes, trying their best to give the unwanted water back to its salty mother. However, as the storm wore on, new leaks sprang up from the bottom of the ship, turning their daydream voyage into a deadly nightmare.
“Come now, quick,” Charles declared, grabbing Henry by the collar. He untied one of the wooden lifeboats, then used the ropes to slowly lower it down over the other side. Charles climbed over and sat in the boat, preparing the paddles, though his small vessel nearly flipped in the process. “Come, Henry,” Charles yelled up at him, while Henry stood looking out at the violent waters.
“Look at these people!” Henry shouted back. “We can’t just leave them!”
“You stupid boy,” Charles barked, rowing away in the storm. Henry watched him struggle against the current, as a lightning bolt struck in the near distance, soon growing closer to the ship.
Quite a few men had already been tossed overboard, and when the captain went, there wasn’t much hope left for the rest of them. Henry could hear their wailing screams in the night, as each was taken by the unrelenting ocean storm. In no time at all, the ship’s foundation began to split in half, causing it to sink beneath rough waters.
Henry slid against the slippery deck floor, crashing into the railing before he was thrown overboard. He came down upon the water with much force, causing his arms and legs to flail outward. Kicking for the surface, Henry barely kept his head above water, still fighting against the current. He swam away from the collapsing ship, even as the crushing waves beat against his body with tremendous strength.
In a matter of moments, nearly all of the ship was submerged beneath the water, as several men clung to its wooden remains for dear life. The small lifeboat Charles had taken to escape in had now been reduced to a mere paddle.
“Charlie!” Henry drifted, searching for his friend. He was giving out with exhaustion, until a pale body with fiery orange hair floated his way. “Charlie!” Henry swam towards him, turning the body around so he could see its face. “Oh good God,” he moaned, looking down at the corpse of his best friend. “Oh no, no Charlie,” he cried out, hugging Charles’s lifeless flesh to him. “No.” He let go and watched Charlie slowly drift away.
Just as suddenly as the storm had begun, the tide grew quiet again, and the restless night subsided. Soon, Henry saw the sun, and began counting the twenty-five bodies that were floating on the surface of the sea. With what strength he had left, Henry swam. He swam the farthest distance that he could away from the wreckage and bodies. And even as they became tiny specks in the distance, Henry soon found that his overall scenery had not changed at all, for he was still floating in the middle of the ocean on a wooden plank from the ship.
Henry did not know the length of time which passed after that. It may have been days, weeks. Yet, Henry would do no more than silently drift in the water, the image of Charles’s cold, white face constantly reappearing in his mind. He watched the sun rise and set, felt hunger and thirst, and wondered how it was that he, the youngest of them all, the last one to board the ship, had been the only one to survive.
Then, one day, when the sun was preparing to center itself in the sky, Henry felt still, peaceful somehow, as if the water had stopped moving him. Henry slowly opened his eyes to find himself lying on his stomach, his hands pressed into the sandy shore beneath him. He moved his fingers, and as they dug into the damp ground, his face lifted. Holding that small clump of wet sand in the air caused Henry to look forward, where he discovered a tropical island in the midst of the sea.
In astonishment, Henry staggered to his feet, not minding the waves that still flowed against the back of his knees. Pushing the hair from his face, Henry crawled towards the lush paradise, finding it hard to move on such weak muscles. His mouth hung open, so full of hunger and thirst that he yelped in delight once he discovered a table of food, covered with exotic fruits, leafy vegetables, and fine grains.
There was a small wooden shack, just bordering the area where Henry ate like a mad man, shoving as much sustenance as he could into his mouth at once. He closed his eyes, taking a thankful breath, as he had never felt so grateful for food in his entire life.
Except for the small shack and table where Henry had found the food, the rest of the land remained a tropical beach. From what Henry had noticed so far, a forest began where the sand ended, and if he were to walk deeper, he might find running water.
Taking one last piece of fruit, Henry stepped towards the shack, whose door frame was covered only by a transparent sheet of white fabric. He moved closer, for behind the cloth he saw a young woman sleeping, her body outstretched on a small rectangular section of bedding against the wall.
He took another step, only to make out the image of her face, framed in a glossy mane of raven black hair. However, with that step, a deep, haunting growl sounded from the border of the jungle. Just as quickly as Henry had shifted his eyes to observe the noise, a black panther, long and sleek, emerged from the woods. Fearless, the creature soared through the air and pounced on top of Henry. Before he could understand what was happening, the snarling black cat held an enormous paw over him, and then swiped its claws across his chest.
Henry wailed in panic and terror, using his arms to push the cat off him, as it pinned him to the ground by the flat of his back. The creature clawed at Henry’s stomach in protest, while the young man did the best he could to protect his face.
During the struggle, Henry had never felt so near the bottom of the food chain in all his life. He was paralyzed with fear as the great cat hovered over his body, with such a close distance that no human ever lived to talk about. But what terrified Henry the most, above the shiny, slimy white fangs, were the panther’s piercing green eyes, so alive with the greenery of the forest, that they could have been cut from the leaves of a vine for all he knew. They were so perfectly round and rigid, that they nearly looked like stones, though not the exact color of emerald. And yet it was these cat’s eyes, those jungle eyes, which made his heart stop.
“Jade,” a soft, transcendent voice called from above. The cat retreated immediately, slowly walking away from Henry.
Sunlight shone on Henry’s face as he lay flat, still on the ground. He lowered his eyes, horrified by the blood stains on his white ocean-soaked shirt. But then, the face of a lovely woman stood before the sun, blocking out its light. Henry looked up at her, taking in the long, silky black hair; golden, sun-kissed skin; and green eyes – so much like the jungle he had just discovered.
She narrowed her eyes, looking over Henry’s body as he felt her pulling him into a trance, mesmerizing him with her beauty. Then, for he had not seen it coming, Henry felt a tremendous pain enter the side of his head. All of a sudden, he noticed an object in her hand that she had just bludgeoned him with. But before the blue sky faded to black, the last thing Henry remembered was the natural hue of her glistening green jungle eyes.