on February 8th 2018
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After building a fortune amid the splendor and dangers of the China seas, American adventurer and merchant prince Gavin Elliott is sailing for London, where he intends to establish himself in the society that forced his family to leave in disgrace when Gavin was only a child. But fate intervenes on an infamous island in the East Indies when he tries to save a European woman being sold at a slave auction. By the sultan's decree, the woman can only be freed if Gavin wins her by enduring an ancient tribal challenge that may cost him his life. Yet Gavin cannot refuse to help a woman who touches his heart and soul with her indomitable courage.
Alexandra Warren ventured to Australia as a young bride eager for adventure. A dozen years later she is returning home as widow and mother when a pirate attack separates her from her beloved daughter and condemns Alex to a life of servitude. Then a miracle arrives in the form of a steely-eyed Yankee captain willing to risk everything to set her free.
A shocking turn of events brings an unexpected alliance with her rescuer, and Gavin and Alex arrive in London as intimate strangers joined by too many painful secrets. Yet attraction and affection soon overcome the trial of their first meeting. Until the past reaches out to change Gavin's life - and threaten the passionate love he has found with his irresistible bartered bride.
Alex had finally dozed off in a corner of the cage, but she jerked upright at the sound of footsteps. Slavery had taught her that changes were seldom for the better, and she’d been frightened ever since guards brought her to the palace to confine her in this triple locked cage in a strange, luxurious chamber.
At first, the dim light of the single lamp showed only the arrival of a tall, intimidating male. Then she recognized the European who’d visited the slave market. She’d begun to wonder if he was a hallucination, but he was real enough—a tall, powerful man with an air of command. Those grey eyes and the fair hair sun-bleached to gold had to be European. Involuntarily she rose and crossed the cage, pressing against the bars as she studied him hungrily. The gaudy uniform wasn’t British—perhaps German or Scandinavian.
She clamped down on her longing by reminding herself that being European didn’t mean he’d help her. Though she had instinctively pleaded for his aid at the market, now that they were face to face she reminded herself that Westerners who frequented the far corners of the world were often adventurers and renegades. Perhaps this one had asked the sultan for the use of the European slave woman.
No matter. Even if his motives were vile, he was her best chance for freedom, and she’d do whatever necessary to ingratiate herself so he’d help her.
The man halted with shock when he saw her. Glad that he probably wasn’t responsible for her presence, she asked, “Do you speak English? Parlez vous Francais?”
“Both,” he replied in English. “How did you come to be in my rooms?”
“I have no idea.” Unable to repress her bitterness, she added, “Slaves aren’t usually told why things happen to them.”
His expression tightened. “I’m sorry—that was a foolish question.”
Though she’d repaired her battered cotton shirt as best she could, she was uncomfortably aware of how her breasts strained against the thin, worn fabric. She was larger than most Island women, and there had been no kebaya her size.
When his gaze reached her breasts, he looked away in embarrassment. She found that reassuring—a man with a sense of the decencies might be more likely to help her.
He stepped into the bedroom and returned with a neatly folded shirt. “Would you like this?”
“Oh, please!” He passed his shirt through the bars and she immediately pulled it over her head. The garment fell almost to her knees. Before rolling up the sleeves, she rubbed her face in the crisp white fabric. “This smells so good. So clean.”
He glanced around the cage, which contained nothing but her and a brass chamber pot. “Do you need anything else? Food or drink?”
She moistened her lips. Not having eaten or drunk since early that morning, she’d spent her first hour in the cage staring longingly across the room at a bowl of fruit on a low table. “Water, please. And then…could I have some fruit?”
“Of course.” He set the fruit bowl on the floor so she could reach through the bars to help herself.
While she peeled and ate a juicy local orange called a jeruk manis, the man collected pillows from a bench and pushed them through the bars. Gratefully she sank onto one. The last months had made her appreciate even the smallest of comforts.
“No water, only rice wine, I’m afraid.” He settled on another pillow outside the cage, holding a bottle and two glasses. “Drink with caution. This has quite a kick.”
“Thank you.” The rice wine went rather well with the banana that she chose, and she welcomed the spreading warmth that unknotted tight muscles. She closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the company of her own kind. “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten proper behavior. My name is Alexandra Warren, and I’m English.”
“I’m Gavin Elliott out of Boston, and master of a merchant ship.” He noted her gaze. “Ignore the uniform—it was designed only to dazzle.”
An American? Not quite as good as a fellow Briton, but close enough.
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