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This Stuff Will Sell Papers

Clemens, Editor
The Teatime Tattler
Fleet Street, London

Sam,

I don’t know if you can use this, but one of the Jarratt & Martinson tea clippers is leaving Macao in the morning. I’m coming back to London, but I can’t afford the clipper so I’m sending this ahead. It’ll get there faster. You know that favor I owed you? Consider it paid.

Your hunch was right. The Duke of Sudbury’s cub wheedled his way into the East India Company Factory in Canton. By all accounts, the worthless oaf spent more time prowling the flower boats where they provide all the delights he chased in London along with plenty of exotic local depravity tossed in. He either quit the Company or was tossed because he’s supposed to be working for Jarratt, though “work,” may not be what he’s doing. I know you don’t care about politics but Jarratt may be trying to use the pup to get to Sudbury. Bears watching.

Now you owe me because there’s more. It isn’t just the boy that washed up in Macao. A girl followed him—Sudbury’s oldest girl, the uppity one too proud to so much as dance with any gent lower than a duke, the one with the weird Arabic name. Superintendent Eliot and his wife put it out that they’re hosting her on Sudbury’s behalf, but I doubt Sudbury even knows where she is. I saw her myself going in and out of Eliot’s house as swanky and stuck up as ever she was in London, every inch the duke’s daughter, but I heard rumors.

I got myself an invitation to dinner by one of the China traders, Harold McIlroy.  It cost me a pretty penny in drinks at the club where they all congregate, but it was worth it. The ladies of Macao dig dirt with the best of them. I got an earful, I can tell you. I don’t see how it can all be true, but where there’s smoke, there has to be at least an ember or two.

Ingram, Dennison, and Dean’s ladies between them told me the girl:

~wears men’s clothes
~escaped torture and worse for her crimes by convincing some big Chinese official to let her off as the ladies said, “in the way of light skirts everywhere.”
~wormed her way into Jarratt’s house with nothing but a Chinese servant. The Dennison woman said Jarratt actually admitted he had his way with her.
~threw herself at the Duke of Murnane, a married man whose “poor abused wife,” lives in a dumpy little house in the native quarter
~uses opium tar
~sneaks into the house at night even with the man’s wife in residence

The Chit has nerve. All Macao knows what she is, but she parades around town while a little servant hops along behind her holding some fancy parasol on a bent handle to keep the sun off her like she’s some short of rajah’s female.  I cornered the little weasel, a Chinese boy who looks like at least one Portuguese tomcat got at his great-grandfather’s tabbies. Name’s Filipe. The boy talked about the trollop like she’s the queen herself. Calls her “Lady Zamb.” I think he’s half in love with her. Wouldn’t say a bad word. Talked about her like she’s some kind of saint, and I know for fact she isn’t that. He told me to ask the woman who runs the mission school. One of the Quakers. He had to be lying. I can’t see a prune-faced female missionary tolerating the sort those women at McIlroy’s described.

I’ve had enough of the mission crowd myself. That job my cousin promised in the newspaper here? Turned out to be the mission rag. Can you see me writing for some chapel-goers? They print it at a place they call Zion’s Quarter. Bunch of tea totalers. No thanks. I’m for home.

I hope you can use some of this because I need the money. If you print it you owe me. Just send the cash to Greaves at the Horse and Gander in Southwark. He’ll hold it for me. Sudbury will make your life hell if you do it though. I remember what he did to you years ago when he came back to London after he was trapped by the Barbary corsairs. He had a wife and suspiciously well-developed baby in tow. Wait, wasn’t that the one with the Arabic name? Apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Don’t let him bully you. This stuff will sell papers.

See you in six months.
Garrett Mullins
___________________________________________

About the Book: The Unexpected Wife
Children of Empire Book 3

Crushed with grief after the death of his son, Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane throws himself into the new Queen’s service in 1838. When the government sends him on an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China, he anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his frustration. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters a pair of troublesome young people that need his help. However, the appearance of his estranged wife throws the entire enterprise into conflict. He didn’t expect to face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale, much less to encounter profound love at last in the person of a determined young woman. Tensions boil over, and his wife’s scheming—and the beginnings of the First Opium War—force him to act to rescue the one he loves and perhaps save himself in the process.

Zambak Hayden seethes with frustration. A woman her age has occupied the throne for over a year, yet the Duke of Sudbury’s line of succession still passes over her—his eldest—to land on a son with neither spine nor character. She follows her brother, the East India Company’s newest and least competent clerk, to protect him and to safeguard the family honor. If she also escapes the gossip and intrigues of London and the marriage mart, so much the better. She has no intention of being forced into some sort of dynastic marriage. She may just refuse to marry at all. When an old family friend arrives she assumes her father sent him. She isn’t about to bend to his dictates nor give up her quest. Her traitorous heart, however, can’t stop yearning for a man she can’t have.

Neither expects the epic historical drama that unfolds around them.The Unexpected Wife, will be released on July 25.

https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B07FGGC918/

Here’s a short video about it:

The Unexpected Wife

Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, beloved secondary character in books 1 and 2 of Caroline Warfield's Children of Empire Series, runs to the other side of the world only to find his problems—and true love at last—waiting for him in The Unexpected Wife.

Posted by Caroline Warfield, Storyteller on Saturday, April 14, 2018

About the Author

 

Carol Roddy – Author

Traveler, would-be adventurer, former tech writer and library technology professional, Caroline Warfield has now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, and divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy. In her newest series, Children of Empire, three cousins torn apart by lies find their way home from the far corners of the British Empire, finding love along the way.

She has works published by Soul Mate Publishing and also independently published works. In addition, she has participated in five group anthologies, one not yet published.

For more about the series and all of Caroline’s books, look here:
https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

Duke Buys Widow

This morning the Teatime Tattler received reports that the Duke of Ravensmere—in an unusual gesture—outbid a salacious rogue for the lunch basket of Lady Samantha Winston, a merry widow, who has captured his interest and his pocketbook for the outrageous sum of one thousand pounds. One gathers it was all for a good cause, but one has to wonder what other plans the noble duke has for this lady? Follow this column for more information tomorrow. Tonight they attend the fancy dress ball where under our reporter will reveal all that transpires under his curious eyes. Is it possible the duke is smitten with the beautiful green-eyed copper-haired lady?

A Later Update:

DukeYour reporter fears that Lady Samantha Winston gazed over the Duke of Ravensmere’s shoulder and caught sight of said reporter leaning against a tree scribbling on my small pad of parchment. She was heard to whisper to a friend,  “Who was he and was he a friend or enemy? If a foe, what evil intent did he have? And who was the victim?”  Forced to move away, I gave up. What indeed happened at the so-called charitable auction? And what will be the outcome?

An excerpt from ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

Her attention returned to the Reverend Carlson who stepped to the podium and announced the auction of ladies lunch baskets would begin for the Winston School Foundation’s charitable event. The Reverend read the individual menus and managed to make each sound like a gastronomical feast. One hundred pounds would not be an uncommon sum to be offered and accepted. When it came to Lady Samantha’s turn, she twirled a curl around her finger perhaps to calm her uneasiness.

The Reverend pounded his gavel again and asked for the first bid. Sir Roger Dudley, a well-known libertine, offered one hundred pounds. A silence thundered through the crowd. To the Raven, the Duke of Ravensmere, it appeared a moment of uncertainty crossed Samantha’s sweet face. Their conversation about rakes and disreputable men came to his mind. Her worst fears were now at her doorstep. He gazed upon hands that clutched the handle of her basket with whitened knuckles. Raven took note of this and perceived Samantha as vulnerable. An impossible urge to protect her came over him. She’d placed herself in this position. Damnation.

Anyone who looked as she did in that dress should expect men to offer for her and the picnic lunch. Beautiful and seductive, mere words would be insufficient to compliment her….

Samantha’s wide eyes seemingly implored Raven to help. How could he not come to her rescue?

He raised his walking stick and caught the attention of the minister. He spoke out with deep clarity, “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley peered at the bidder, nodded, and raised his sum to two hundred pounds.

Raven lifted his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley appeared amused and raised the bid to three hundred pounds.

Raven raised his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.” The guests stopped their conversations to watch how the challenge would end.

Lord Dudley raised the bid to five hundred pounds.

The audience gasped at the extravagant sum.

Raven nodded. He stole a glance at Samantha, enjoying the experience. He raised his hand, and silence befell the group.

The Reverend asked, “And five pounds, Your Grace?” with a chuckle.

“No, good Reverend,” answered Raven. He engaged Samantha’s eyes. Her expression was one of blatant terror as her hand lay at her throat. He bestowed a knowing smile to calm her.

The auction appeared over and dreaded silence followed. The Reverend set about to announce the winner until Raven spoke in a resonant tone with the utmost alacrity, “I bid one thousand pounds.”

The hushed assembly looked almost in unison to Lord Dudley, who laughed. “Enough of this

amusement. No damn lunch is worth that kind of money,” he grumbled and walked toward the duke. “I capitulate, Your Grace. Good sport, don’t you think?”

Raven rose from the chair, handed the appropriate bank voucher to the Reverend, and stepped lively to Samantha and her picnic basket. “Shall we?” He extended his arm. Samantha clung to his left arm, and he became cognizant of her quaking. He took her expensive picnic basket in his right hand. “Stay calm. I’m here and you are under my protection. No harm will befall you.” Raven escorted her to a secluded table, which he had prearranged, and his name appeared on a place marker. It adhered to propriety while offering privacy.

“You did want me to offer, didn’t you?” Raven shook his head and grinned since he now admitted he had every intention of offering for her costly basket. He much wanted to be with the enchantress. Samantha enriched his life in ways he dared not imagine. He couldn’t remember a day he enjoyed more and looked forward to the evening.

Samantha flushed and said in a cool utterance,

“Thank you, Your Grace. You’ve saved me from a horrible fate and I am grateful.”

She lifted the lid of the basket, but he grasped her gloved hand with superb gentleness.

“Allow me. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed the outlay of so much money before. Of a

certain, there are no dull moments when you’re around. I do believe you are a sorceress. I couldn’t allow Lord Dudley to attempt to compromise you in any way.” To protect her at all costs became a necessity to him.

“As you have stated, it’s for a cherished cause, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Your Grace. Congratulations. However, I would remind you, I cannot be purchased with such ease.”

“Perish the thought. I’m well aware of the fact. I bid for a few hours of your time. Don’t read anything into my actions and let it discomfit you. If lunch with me is so distasteful, I am prepared to leave you alone.” He realized he was a bit curt, but it appeared with her, the conversation always held a challenge. Raven rose from the chair…

The gentle hand that restrained him relieved Raven. Samantha removed her gloves and placed them in her reticule. “I fear you might have misunderstood me,” she said with a sly smile. “I’m happy to be with such a handsome man at this event. Because of you, its success has exceeded any expectations. There will be sufficient funds for the school. I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

He made sure to use a soft tone of voice. “For a few hours, can we cease the verbal barbs and enjoy this repast?”

“Is it your intent to call a truce, Raven? We will be the talk of the ton. Harbinger tongues will wag and link our names together. I hope that doesn’t distress you.” She paused and gifted him a smile. “I want to enjoy this special moment with you and gaze into your amazing dark gray eyes. Yes, I would like a truce.” Her reached out to his.

About the Book: ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

dukeWhen a spirited woman disrupts the world of a duke who follows the rules, sparks fly, passions ignite and planets collide.

   Reclusive, cold as ice, the politically powerful Raven, Duke of Ravensmere, denies love after the tragic deaths of his duchess and baby. He is bound by his vow never to allow love to enter his heart again. Samantha Winston permits him to seek refuge in her carriage in a time of need, and what started as a kiss in the name of safety, becomes something more pleasurable and not so safe after all. In spite of every caution, his interest escalates into unexpected desire.

   Samantha, a young widow with a secret, irreverent and high-spirited, has constructed impenetrable walls against all men. When she and Raven meet again, strong wills clash. Political intrigues and a dreaded nemesis place his life at risk, and Samantha finds herself in a dire predicament. All the while, passion soars.

   Can Samantha’s barriers fall with more kisses?

   Can Raven be released from his deathbed vow?

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Wild Rose Press  and order direct any of the five books.

About the Author, SANDRA MASTERS

From a humble beginning in Newark, NJ, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the boardrooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, I have always traveled with pen and notebook. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. I’ve traded boardrooms for ballrooms, left my corporate world behind and never looked back. It was nothing I expected, but everything I dreamed. My current occupation is Living The Dream.

I am a storyteller. Gather round me, sip some chocolate cocoa, and allow me to transport you to where you never been. I have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I am a woman who has known many things content to look through a lens of make-believe to bring you romance.

WEBSITE

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

An Ill-Fated Wedding

March 1826

Lady Bleakmore, well-known leader of society, attended the Duke of Murnane’s Wedding to Miss Julia Barrett of Cambridge, on Friday and has graciously sent our beloved newssheet a report of the festivities. 

First let me say that while one hesitates to speak ill of another, particularly in regard to so auspicious an event as a wedding, and one so well attended by the cream of the haut ton, one cannot but choose plain speaking.

In spite of the unseemly rush to the altar, the couple chose a formal church wedding at Saint George’s Hanover Square, rather than the private ceremony one might have expected under the Unfortunate Circumstances (more about that later). Given the bride’s déclassé origins one might have expected something less grand, but of course the wedding of a duke requires the attention of his peers, and Murnane, a young man of kindness and great promise, is much beloved by all.

Saint George’s Hanover Square, John Salmon [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The church, festooned with roses and ribbons, provided as rich a setting as one might want for such an event, although orchids have been known to add a certain panache to other ceremonies. The Rector, Mr. Willers, managed a dignified service and restrained his unfortunate tendency to ramble on for the most part.

 

by Sir John Soanes

The Earl of Chadbourn, the groom’s guardian and uncle, attended him at the altar. One might have expected Randolph Wheatly, his cousin, the younger brother of the countess, to take that role. The other cousin, the wild one, might have stepped in as well, but his regiment posted to India two months ago. Never one to report hearsay, I took a moment to speak with the sacristan about a rather nasty rumor. He confirmed that a loud quarrel tool place during the rehearsal, with the two young men closeted in an office, after which Mr. Wheatly stormed out not to return. Unfortunately my source did not overhear the reason for the conflict. I can only report that the cousin did not attend church, nor was he seen at the breakfast. One speculates about the impact the Unfortunate Circumstances may have had on this conflict.

The earl and his countess hosted a perfectly adequate wedding breakfast at their London town house, a much-admired edifice for all it is overrun by unruly children. Among those in attendance, the Duke and Duchess of Sudbury took precedence. The Duke’s sister (who chooses for reasons that no person of correct thinking understand to be plain Mrs. Mallet) sat along side with her husband, the schoolmaster’s son. The bride’s family, of gentry stock, were surrounded by no fewer than two dukes, four earls, three viscounts, and several barons. One felt sympathy for the people who were quite out of their element, though the manners of the parents were well enough.

Murnane, known to many as Charles—the Wheatlys being an unrepentantly informal family— greeted all guests graciously taking little notice of rank, as is his habit, one learned, no doubt, from his uncle the earl. A graceful and handsome young man, his subdued yet fashionable clothing enhanced his dignity. The repast made up in abundance what it may have lacked in extravagance; the countess can hold her head up. The groom, of course, didn’t notice the lack of finer tidbits, busy as he was sharing champagne and every appearance of joy with all and sundry.

What can one say of the bride? For all the correctness of her parents’ manners (they obviously understood their place) she is a pushing little thing. She flirted shamelessly with Viscount Corkinwall and several of the rakish young men during the wedding breakfast while her new husband appeared not to notice. One was forced to recall rather vile rumors Lady Elsbeth Willknott had from Cambridge regarding the young woman, rumors not to her credit. It appears she had been close to both of the young dukes cousins, one after another, rather too close. I suppose one cannot blame her for nabbing a duchess’s coronet, the cousins being plain misters, but the stories of her behavior lead to Rampant Speculation that breach among the young men resulted directly from her machinations.

Julia

One would like to assume that her behavior might settle and the conflict resolve itself, but for the Unfortunate Circumstances. I warn those of sensitive natures my plain speaking may offend. To say it with no embroidery, the bride appears to anticipate a Happy Event. While it is said this is often the case with rushed weddings, this one appears to be coming sooner rather than later. Coupled with her outrageous flirting and bold behavior, one is forced to fear for the success of this marriage. Pity. The duke is such a charming young man. He, of course, has the support of well-titled relatives and will always be received everywhere.

Lady Eunice Bleakmore

_____________________________________________________

Readers who’ve read The Renegade Wife and The Reluctant Wife will know the fate of Charles’s marriage and the fate of his relationship with his cousins. Those waiting anxiously for Charles to find his own happily-ever-after will be delighted to know the book is finished and on target for its May release. In the meantime, read books 1 and 2 if you haven’t already. A Dangerous Nativity, which is always free, is prequel in which the three heroes appear as boys.  You can find them all here

weddingAbout The Unexpected Wife

Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, accepts an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China on behalf of the queen. He anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his grief over the death of his young son. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters the troublesome offspring of his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury, but the profound love he discovers for the determined young woman is unforeseen and untimely. Charles certainly doesn’t expect to also face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale. The appearance of his estranged wife in the company of their enemy throws the entire enterprise into conflict, and tensions boil over when the woman he loves is put at risk by his wife’s scheming—and the beginnings of the First Opium War.

Zambak Hayden seethes with frustration. A woman her age has occupied the throne for over a year, yet the Duke of Sudbury’s line of succession still passes over her—his eldest—to land on a son with neither spine nor character. She follows her brother, the East India Company’s newest and least competent clerk, to protect him and to safeguard the family honor—if she also escapes the gossip and intrigues of London and the marriage mart, so much the better. She has no intention of being forced into some sort of dynastic marriage, and she may just refuse to marry at all. The greed and corruption she finds horrifies her, especially when her brother succumbs to the lure of opium. She determines to document the truth and save her brother from falling prey to drugs and sinister forces. When an old family friend arrives she assumes her father sent him. She isn’t about to bend to his dictates nor give up her quest. Her traitorous heart, however, can’t stop yearning for a man she can’t have.

As an epic historical drama unfolds around them, both Charles and Zambak must come to terms with a love that neither expected.

About Caroline Warfield

Family, faith, love of travel, and love of history drive Caroline’s life and writings. You can read about her here.

 

Visions of what could be…

Kenna, the healer for Clan MacLaren, pushed her cart of herbs towards the lists where the Knights of Berwyck were training. They had not yet called for her aid but she knew from the vision she had this morn they would have need of her skills. The men would be training far into the night if their master was not pleased with their performance this day. ’Twould not be the first time such a happening occurred, nor would it be the last.

Once reaching the outer baily, she continued onward through the postern gate and gazed out to the wide field where the lists could be found. She saw her liege lord sitting upon his black steed inspecting his men. He was a formidable foe and known as the Devil’s Dragon of Berwyck. Not many could best this man on a field of honor nor upon the battlefield, or so the stories went.

Her own eyes scanned the men ’til she found the one her heart continuously sought. Geoffrey… even thinking his name brought a smile to her lips and when he saw that she neared, he gave her that lopsided grin she had come to cherish. He was a cocky one and knew what he did to her with just one look in her direction, the rogue!

Geoffrey continued to occupy her thoughts as she pushed her cart up near the wall of the castle. She had barely gotten the wagon in place when she felt herself slipping into another vision. A mist rolled over the mountains whilst she watched the images swiftly pass afore her eyes. Berwyck Castle and war, a red haired woman who played with fire, women who were not of this world coming to the castle gates, along with seeing far into the future of what the world would someday become. 

“Kenna…”

Her name being called brought her out of trance-like state. She rubbed at her eyes ’til she was at last able to see Geoffrey leaning over her.

“What happened?” she asked, although she already knew her answer especially since she was propped up against the wall.

“Kenna, you gave me such a fright,” Geoffrey murmured with green eyes filled with concern. “Can you stand?’

Kenna clutched at his sleeve. “You must needs prepare yourself for war, Geoffrey,” she warned.

His chuckle rumbled inside his chest. “War? We have secured Berwyck in the name of our king. There will be no war.”

“Said every man too sure of themselves and their ability,” she returned with crossed brows.

He laughed again causing her frown to deepen. “We are the Devil’s Dragon’s men and remain victorious. Have you not heard that no man or beast can defeat us?”

“You make light of a situation when you should be heeding my words instead,” she replied but could not hide the smile that turned up the corners of her lips. He was just too handsome for her to resist his charms.

He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “You care for me, admit it,” he crooned softly.

Laughter bubbled forth from Kenna’s lips. “Never!” she cried out playfully. “You are already too sure of yourself. I shall not be the cause of your ego growing any larger, good sir. However would I deal with you then?”

“I am certain we could think of something, my lady,” he said afore placing a quick kiss to her cheek. He held out his hand for her to take but she hesitated knowing what could possibly happen if they were to touch.

Too late, he reached out to grasp her hand and vision’s once more swam afore her eyes with images of her and Geoffrey naked and kissing by a pond in a secluded cove. Just as quickly, she returned to the present. Her face flamed scarlet wondering if what she had just witnessed would come to pass. Afore she could make any attempt at speech, Geoffrey helped her gain her feet and placed a kiss above her knuckles.

“I must needs return to my training. You will sup with me this eve,” he stated, apparently sure of himself that he already knew her answer.

Kenna nodded and watched Geoffrey leave her side to return to the field. She was glad she had not mentioned the women from the future who would one day come to Berwyck to claim the hearts of the very knights who trained afore her. Geoffrey would surely think she was daft and, considering what she had just seen, she would not want him to think ill of her. Change was in the air and Kenna would look forward to what the future had in store for her and, of course, Geoffrey.

This is an original piece with Kenna and Geoffrey who are secondary characters in Sherry Ewing’s debut medieval romance, If My Heart Could See You available in audio book, eBook, and paperback.

When you’re enemies, does love have a fighting chance?

For Amiria of Berwyck, defeat does not come easily as she watches her home and clan being ripped asunder. When the very enemy who has laid siege to her home demands her fealty, she will do whatever it takes to protect her people including a hastily concocted ruse that quickly begins to unravel. All too soon, she starts to question whether she can forgive herself for betraying those she has sworn to protect.

Dristan of Blackmore, champion knight of King Henry II, has a reputation to uphold as the Devil’s Dragon. After his invading army conquers Berwyck castle, he sets out to manage the newly claimed estate by training its knights in the art of proper defense. At first, everything appears as it should be, or is it? Betrayed by those he believed he could trust, he must first set aside his anger before he can make room in his heart for love.

Together they are tied by an unspoken bond. As they begin to rebuild the land and unite their people, forces beyond their control attempt to tear apart their fragile truce and only time will tell if love will forever bring them together.

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Sherry Ewing is one of the Bluestocking Belles. You can learn more about her on the tab above or on the following social media outlets:

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The Pirate’s Baby

Dear Qiao,

I hope this missive finds you and yours happy and healthy. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother. You make a fierce pirate leader, yet I think this baby will find you to be an easy conquest. Please tell me how it feels to hold the child of your child in your arms, since I have nothing to compare, alas.

I am happy for you, my dear, although it means our mid-sea rendezvous will become less frequent, am I right? Please tell me that at lea

st you haven’t given your heart to anyone else but that grandchild.

I write to you today heavy-hearted. Andre and Sophie arrived the other evening, proclaiming they want to spend Christmas with me. You cannot imagine how excited I was. I was sure they were going to tell me I’m a grandpapa. Instead, Andy pulled me aside and told me he’s afraid Sophie is dying. Dying!

Granted, she looks thinner than usual, and has shadows under her eyes, but her personality is still vibrant. I find it very hard to believe that she is wasting away, unless she has been overtaken by some unknown virus. Andre is beside himself with worry, which gladdens my heart to some degree. I never thought I’d see that ungrateful pup settle down and take a wife, let alone fall in love.

Sophie wants to throw a Christmas masquerade ball, the likes no one in New Orleans has seen in years. She is so excited to do so, I can’t tell her no. And if she is ill, I can’t prevent her such a small happiness. So, here I am, stepping out of the way while the long gallery is swept, and dusted, and polished, much like when my dear wife was alive. My reward is the brightness of Sophie’s smile.

Pirate Masquerade

Of course, Andre is not on board with this celebration. He would much rather spend Noël on the open sea, gathering his form of Christmas gifts from unsuspecting merchant vessels. Yet, even my bullheaded son can’t help but notice the transformation in his wife. There is a renewed twinkle in her eye, and a bounce in her step that wasn’t there when they arrived. And, even though they think I don’t notice, I’m aware that they disappear into their room most afternoons.

PirateI hope against hope that, instead of some deathly illness, dearest Sophie is with child. You would think it possible, would you not? They are newlyweds, after all. I hold my breath daily for the news, and in the meantime, my home is readied for the ball.

I toy with the idea of wearing a pirate mask for laughs, but my daughter-in-law doesn’t find that amusing. She tells me I should at least make an attempt at anonymity. I know you see the humor in that request, as well. It has been a long time since you or I have been anonymous.

Sophie wants dancing, about which Andre also complains. Honestly, now that he’s been home for a few days, I’ve noticed he complains a lot. I don’t believe I was ever that vocal during married life. For example, he doesn’t like the minuet; says it’s a prancing dance that makes fools of the men.

Have you ever danced it, dearest Qiao? Or is there something similar in your culture? I tell my son to shut his mouth, and be happy his wife is happy. This younger generation doesn’t know how to get along in the matrimonial sphere. Hopefully, your daughter and son-in-law are managing better.

I feel calmer, now that I’ve voiced my concerns to you, dear friend. Mayhap I will have answers to all my questions by the time this letter reaches you. Pray for Sophie’s health, and my patience with my obstinate son. And, of course, drop a kiss for me on the head of that new grandchild. Congratulations, and know that I miss our time together.

Bon jour,
Louis Dubois

Excerpt

“Sophie? Sophie Bellard? Is that really you?”

Sophie’s head snapped up at the sound of the unforgettable voice from her past, while her purse fell to the cobbled street from suddenly nerveless fingers. Her body began to shudder and vibrate at the nightmare that was Gilbert Harrington’s silky voice.

She felt faint, in danger of collapsing, her past hurtling toward her like an out-of-control mining cart threatening to jump its track. She reached out a steadying hand against the brick wall of the flower shop.

No longer did she occupy a cobbled street of the Vieux Carré during Avent. She’d been transported, trembling and afraid, to that time, five years ago, when she’d lost her innocence. Her innocence, and her youth. Just the sound of his voice, the timbre and its cadence, was enough to catapult her into a shivering mass of fear and dread.

PirateShe had no defense, carried no weapon. How could she? Gone was her pirate garb, her protective armor. In its place, she wore silk and brocade, gilt buttons and a feathered hat. There was no hiding place for a deadly dagger or a one-shot pistol. Just as there was no devilish pirate to come swinging in on a line, clenching a curved blade between his teeth and racing to her rescue. She was his defenseless prey.

As she continued to stare dumbly at the man before her, one part of her mind, not frozen in fear, noticed that Gilbert Harrington hadn’t changed much in five years. He’d bulked up slightly, bore a man’s frame instead of a youth’s, and his eyes glittered like hardened chips of ice.

Gone was the thin, gentlemanly veneer he’d used to woo a star-struck young girl experiencing the first throes of romance. In its place stood a man used to getting what he wanted with little or no resistance; a man stimulated and aroused by feminine defiance. She recognized these traits after living in the company of men for those same five years. Recognized, but could not articulate a properly scathing response.

Like a predatory shark, he moved in, grabbing hold of her upper arm in a tight grip and leaning forward until his mouth rested mere inches from her ear. “I remember you, Sophie. I remember every moment we were together like it was yesterday. Every touch, every sound, every movement.”

His hand began to smooth up and down her brocade-covered arm in an unsettling caress. She remained statue-still, incoherent whimpers erupting from her throat. This could not be happening. He could not be standing here, in her present life. But he was, she acknowledged through the haze of fear blanketing her, as she stared straight into his smiling visage.

“I’ve never forgotten you, Sophie, though there have been plenty after you.” Here he chuckled, running his forefinger down her cheek. He laughed again, while she closed her eyes to the memories he dredged up.

Leaning in until their noses almost bumped, brows lowering and lips peeling back into a ferocious mask, he continued, “Imagine my surprise when I heard you’d become a pirate, marrying into the Dubois family, and becoming the Commandant’s darling daughter. You did alright for yourself after me, didn’t you, little Sophie?”

And then his lips were on hers, crashing against her mouth in a bruising imitation of a kiss, while both hands clasped her arms as he hauled her up against him.

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About the Author
Cathy Skendrovich has always loved a good story, and spent her formative years scribbling what is now called Fan Fiction. The current heartthrob of the time featured heavily in all her stories. Unfortunately, once she went to college, her writing took the form of term papers, written on typewriters instead of computer keyboards.

Upon graduation, Cathy took a job as an English teacher in a middle school. Along the way, she married her husband of now thirty-three years, had two sons, and moved to southern Orange County, California. She chose to work part-time in the school system there.

Now she has returned to writing. Prisoner of Love is her first published novel, followed closely by The Pirate’s Bride. The sequel to The Pirate’s Bride, The Pirate Bride’s Holiday Masquerade, is due out Oct. 1. Another contemporary romantic suspense, entitled Protecting the Nanny, is due out in 2018.

She likes writing romance because she feels it’s lacking in today’s technological world. While she enjoys writing contemporary stories, creating romance in bygone times fascinates her. She hopes her ability to write in both genres will be the beginning of a long and satisfying writing career.

You can reach Cathy at the following sites. She loves hearing from readers.

http://www.cathyskendrovich.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-Skendrovich-249667925220631/
https://twitter.com/cskendrovich
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14232546.Cathy_Skendrovich
https://www.instagram.com/cathyskendrovich/
https://www.amazon.com/Cathy-Skendrovich/e/B015JJZZOW/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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