(available for preorder – ready to read July 4, 2017)
In a pirate’s lair, nothing is as it seems . . .
Shipwrecked! When Royce Hastings is found washed up on the shore of a verdant tropical island, he tells the natives he is a merchant headed for Mozambique. The truth, however, is far more mercenary. Noble by birth, the once favored Royce has lost his fortune and family; now he is a hired henchman on the trail of an elusive pirate. His “shipwreck” was a fake. He’ll stop at nothing to infiltrate the island and capture his prey. His mother and sisters’ lives depend on it.
The last thing Royce expects is to be captured himself. But the lovely young woman who tends to his wounds in the tropics quickly takes hold of his heart. Simone is the island’s healer, and her skilled ministrations not only awaken his soul but disturb his conscience. His path has been predetermined; his identity must remain concealed at all costs. Yet the passion he feels in Simone’s sultry, loving arms cannot be denied. With his loyalties torn, Royce must make an agonizing, unthinkable choice. . . .
“The story is brimming with risqué retorts and searing sex scenes.”
—Publishers Weekly on Passionate Pursuit
Of all the people to discover him, Royce hadn’t expected such a beautiful young woman. Simone the other native had said.
She couldn’t have been older than twenty. Her light brown skin complemented her dark hair. The ends grazed her waist. He detected a bit of European in her exotic features, and island custom in what little she wore. Simply a red silk cloth tied about her hips. Her breasts were full and lush, begging for a man’s touch.
Wary that she might scream, he’d released her quickly and had expected her to run.
She checked his arms, hands, and head. He supposed for injuries.
At last, she finished and peeked at him.
Cautiously, he pushed up, hoping she wouldn’t bolt.
She sat back on her heels.
Needing an ally here, he tried a smile.
Hers was wondrous, broad and carefree, no deception or caution in her soft brown eyes.
His arrival would eventually change that. No better way to destroy a woman’s trust and happiness than wresting her from an island Eden to imprisonment, lifelong slavery, repeated rape, and birthing children only to have them torn away.
Guilt and shame churned in his gut. Fear for his family competed with the other emotions. “Are you the only one here?” Besides, Tristan, his crew, and the other island woman. Their conversation had mentioned Tristan, but not Diana or Peter.
Simone tilted her head. A tress fell across her breast. Confusion swept her lovely face.
Royce had deliberately spoken English so she wouldn’t know he’d heard her speak French earlier when he’d feigned unconsciousness. He next tried Portuguese and received her same bewildered reaction. At last, he used her language.
Her eyes lit up. “My people live here. Once we have you in the stone house, I can see to your injury.” She touched his thigh. “Does it hurt?”
Not as much as when he’d arrived on this shore. “My head is worse.”
She brushed back his hair, her touch as light as an angel’s.
Despite his callous intent here, and what prudence demanded, his lids slid down, his heart pounding as hard as it had when she’d stroked his ribs.
She explored his wound carefully. “I can make a potion to take your pain away. As soon as the men arrive I—”
Voices and footfalls interrupted.
Tristan led the way, his manner and appearance precisely as rumor had described: tall, golden skin, blond hair, and light eyes that offered naught except challenge and possibly death if anyone dared threatened him or those he loved. Following him was an equally tall man with long red hair, his face and chest freckled. Had to be James Sullivan, Tristan’s friend and former quartermaster during their piracy.
An adolescent boy, fifteen or so, brought up the rear. Gangly, as youth were prone to be, he had long dark hair streaked with blond, his skin brown from days outdoors. Diana’s brother, Peter. His features matched Bishop’s depiction.
Tristan, James, Peter, and island men trained their pistols on Royce.
The land to their side jutted out, rocky and reddish as those found in Madagascar. A white woman stood there, wind whipping her dark hair and simple sheath-like gown in violet silk. Her slightly rounded belly didn’t prove pregnancy, though Royce would have staked his life on it. She wore a choker about her throat, the diamonds glittering in the light.
Royce’s pulse pounded. Diana was here, as Bishop had predicted. Along with too many armed men, as Royce had feared, though all islanders, not pirates.