A Colonial Intrigue
Caroline Stone has spent the spring of 1741 dodging the suitors her eldest brother has tossed in front of her. Hammond is determined she will be engaged before their mother returns from London. Rejecting each potential husband, everything changes when Ashe de Visser sails his sloop into Wilmington Harbor and Caroline recognizes the handsome seaman from one of her notorious sightings. She brazenly pursues the captain but things quickly become complicated. Ashe disregards her visions of the future until Caroline is snatched off a quay in Barbados in broad daylight. Soon, the news of her mother’s daring abduction during a trans-Atlantic crossing reveals a larger plot. Ashe capitalizes on his notorious past as a ruthless privateer to unleash an army of cutthroats to search across the Caribbean. An infamous pirate surfaces to intervene in events and the wreck of a legendary sixteenth century treasure ship draws new focus. Just when life seems to resume its normal pace, the location of the shipwreck is deciphered.
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Read an excerpt:
Hammond waited at the foot of the stairs. “A moment, Caroline.”
She searched his face, her complexion paling as she took in his stern features. Of all her brothers, Hammond was the one she least understood. She murmured a greeting.
He schooled his face into the lines it wore when he was preparing to lecture her.
The sight made her cross. Her eldest sibling worried about decorum and proper protocol, yet failed to recognize the same streak of wildness simmering in himself. Never mind his outrageous scene the previous evening. From Hammond’s point of view, he probably thought he was protecting the family.
She realized he’d said something. “Pardon?”
He looked at her oddly. “I asked if you would join me in the study before breakfast.” A sweep of his hand indicated she lead the way.
Continuing down the hall, she pushed open the door. Time to finish this. She entered the room, coming to a stop in front of the desk.
Hammond circled around her to sit down, clasping his hands together and staring at her with an expectant look.
Random ideas passed through her mind as she debated blurting out the words.
He began speaking in a low firm voice but his words took several seconds to penetrate her concentration. When the meaning at last filtered in, she went blank.
Hammond frowned at her. He repeated the sentence.
“What did you say?” Caroline’s voice cracked on the whisper. She had difficulty processing his words. She focused on his mouth and tried to follow, but her mind kept repeating a negative refrain. This couldn’t be happening. Not now. She’d risen from bed, filled with determination to clarify matters with her brother, but now her resolve lay like the shattered remnants of a porcelain platter on a flagstone hearth. She could not recall any other such devastating announcement.
Hammond frowned and said for the third time. “I have accepted a betrothal on your behalf.”
Caroline saw his lips over-enunciate the words. His mouth moved and the consonants echoed in her ears, but she couldn’t seem to align the words, the sounds, and the gestures.
His expression took on a crease of wariness, furrowing his brows together, the same way it did when he understood the recipient did not want to hear his news.
She struggled to create sense of what he was telling her. After these many long months of threats, he’d suddenly determined a life-changing decision. On her behalf.
Caroline understood he’d taken on the role to assume charge during their mother’s absence. She even acknowledged Hammond felt he was responsible for her welfare, but she’d never dreamed he would commit her to marriage without her input.
“No.” Her voice came out soft and firm. It surprised her since utter bedlam was breaking loose inside.
Hammond eyed her with caution, not deceived by her mild demeanor.
She knew he expected a more volatile reaction but her mind was a whirling mad disorganized jumble. A question materialized out of the confusion creased her brow into a fierce frown. Which suitor had finally breached his resistance?
“May I inquire to whom, I am about to be… sold?” Her voice carried a flat poisonous timber of vibration, eyes narrowed and gaze locked on his face.
He stared back. “You’re not being sold, Caro.” He continued in a quiet voice. “I feel a decision must be reached before your bold and reckless behavior causes a scandal even we cannot weather.”
Her stomach flopped over. Her hands felt icy. “You don’t know what you’ve done.” She said. Her voice no more than a whisper, the color drained from her face.