Book 2 – Pirate’s Prize
Available for Preorder – Ready to Read July 4
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. . . .
He squeezed past the door into the shadowed space. Simone’s fragrance surrounded him, the musky undertones muddying his brain.
She sat on the floor in the corner, grains, seeds, and berries to her side, spread out for the pigeons. They poked their heads through the metal slats in their cage and ate like gluttons. Chickens strutted freely, pecking their food.
Simone stood. The hens scattered. “Are you all right?”
Exhausted and aroused. “Fine.”
“You’re bleeding again.”
“Not much. You shouldn’t be doing this.”
Her chin trembled. “What? Speaking to you? Asking questions? You want me to be silent and unseen?”
He longed to be in her arms, comforted and warmed. Anchored to all the good he’d never really known. Her words proved true. This island had wonderful people. The best life had to offer. Nothing he deserved. “You’re a healer, not someone who tends chickens and birds. Peter should be doing this. Is he a lazy boy?”
She lowered her face, hiding her smile. “A surly one. He thinks he knows everything. Too many times, Diana has promised to thrash him.”
“Good for her. A proper man needs manners. Let me help you.” Eager to reach her, he strode recklessly.
A hen flapped its wings, going right and left to escape his crutch, its squawk ear-piercing. The other chickens scattered, many getting in his way. He twisted to keep from falling.
“Take care.” Simone slipped her arm around his waist, her precious breast pressed to his side.
Surrendering to loneliness and enchantment, he leaned in, his face to her hair. The English countryside couldn’t compete with her blessed scent. Nature had met its equal in her. He nuzzled her glossy tresses. No matter how wrong and irrational his desire, for some reason he’d found home at her side.
Pity he’d managed that too late.
He should have moved away but hadn’t the will.
She guided him to a bed nearly as large as the one in his chamber. This lavish room, like his, boasted a marble floor and whitewashed walls. A lovely place for a new life to take its first breath.
She laid his crutch to the side. “Sit before you fall.” Gently, she pushed him on the silk-covered mattress.
He made a show of falling down.
Her laughter pealed through the room.
Royce feigned insult. “Are you making light of me?”
His laugh produced happy tears. “Have you no pity for a poor cripple?”
“I have never seen a stronger man.” She held her hands behind her, breasts thrust out, and swayed her hips slowly.
Aphrodite in the flesh. “Is that what you think of me?”
“What I know. You survived a storm that nearly tore our isle from the earth and flung it into the sky. You are no mere man. You are close to a god.”
He was a liar when honor demanded he do nothing to ruin anything here. He was a besotted fool when duty required he see to his family. His mother and sisters had no power to liberate themselves. Without his help, Katie, especially, would know nothing except a life spent in hard labor, cowering at harsh words, dreading the next beating or something equally horrible.
Simone cupped his face. “What is it? Is the pain bad again?”
The worse a man could face. Having to choose between angels: the one in here now with him, or those in his family who he’d been trying to save.