Instagram Twitter Facebook Amazon Pinterest Lisa Kleypas is one of the most popular historical romance authors out there, and with good reason. Her Victorian and regency stories are charming, with strong heroines and to-die-for beta and alpha heroes. But what forgotten, moss-covered tales pave the beginning of her path to success? Phillipe runs off, giving Celia his goodbyes and a pistol. Why a pistol?
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In the long days since they had set sail from France the cabin had become a safe cocoon to her, a place she did not want to leave. A different world awaited her in New Orleans, one she was not at all certain she was prepared for. The muscled surface of his back rippled as he stretched. We should be home this very night. Sensitive to the lack of enthusiasm in her voice, Philippe turned and looked down at her, bracing his hands on either side of her slight body.
Modestly she rearranged the ruffled neckline of her nightgown and pulled the sheet higher over her breasts. You are going to love New Orleans. You are going to love my family. His father, Maximilien Vallerand, was a powerful man, a Creole aristocrat with vast wealth and political influence.
In addition to his plantation he owned a small but profitable shipping business. In fact, the vessel they were on, the Golden Star, was a Vallerand merchant ship. After I finished my studies in France and returned to New Orleans, I could talk about nothing but you. Emotions had always been difficult for her to express. He was the only man who had ever been able to reach beyond her shyness.
Gentle and patient, he made allowances for her that no one else did. In the past men had been attracted by her looks but were always discouraged by her withdrawn manner. They had no way of knowing it was fear, not indifference, that made her so awkward and quiet.
But for Philippe it was unimportant that she was not flirtatious or seductive. Philippe laughed. You have no excuse for being so shy. Extraordinarily beautiful. He brushed a kiss over her lips. Sometimes it was difficult to believe he was really hers. He was so handsome, with his thick black hair and blue eyes. She had never thought a man could be at once as strong and tender as he was.
In the Vallerand household it is used at least as much as French. Carefully he pulled the sheet from her hands and eased it down to her hips. She stiffened and he laughed softly, his hand skimming over her meagerly clad body. You know me well enough by now to be certain I would never hurt you. Trembling, she slid her arms around his neck, forgetting what she had been about to say. His lips curved with a smile.
I want you, Celia. It has been torture, sleeping in the same bed with you and not making you my wife in truth. The vows have been said, and you belong to me till death do us part.
I want my wife. She shivered at the scratch of his unshaven jaw, and turned her mouth to his. Suddenly there was a loud rapping on the cabin portal. There was no mistaking the terror in his voice. Celia stiffened in alarm as Philippe leaped from the bed.
Not bothering to put on his breeches or even a robe, Philippe opened the door a few inches. Beyond the door there was an explosion of noise and movement.
The ship was under attack! Startled, she lifted a hand to her throat, feeling her pulse thrash underneath her skin. Philippe did not deny it.
She had heard of the privateers who sailed against Spain with letters of marque from Cartagena. They prowled the waters of the Gulf, the Bahama Channel, and the Caribbean. She had heard the stories of their robbery and cruelty, how they tortured their victims, the horrible things they did to women.
Fear rose in her throat, and she swallowed hard to keep it down. It is just a nightmare…oh, let it be a nightmare! Philippe was yanking on his breeches and boots and shrugging into a white shirt.
Teeth chattering, Celia hopped from the bed to the floor, abandoning her modesty in favor of haste. Feverishly she searched through the trunk where some of her clothes were kept and found a blue damask gown. She nearly ripped her nightgown as she pulled it off, then yanked the damask over her body, not bothering with undergarments. Her pale silken hair flew in wild locks, falling over her face and neck, trailing down to her waist.
While she searched for a ribbon to tie it back with, she heard bloodcurdling yells from above, and she quivered violently. He had given her a dueling pistol, a flintlock made of blackened iron! Slowly she raised her eyes to his. There was a strange look on his face…alert, urgent, fearful. She supposed she must have appeared dazed, because he shook her gently, as if to bring her to attention. The gun will fire only once. She accepted the pressure of his lips docilely, still numbed by the realization that it was all really happening.
It was too fast—there was no time to think. Stepping back, he turned to leave the cabin. As he walked away from her, the shadows in the companionway enveloped him in darkness. He did not look back. She was seized by a horrible premonition. Stumbling to the door, she bolted it with shaking hands, then backed into the corner of the room, the pistol cradled against her breast.
Chapter 1 Before ten minutes had passed the sounds of combat died away and hundreds of footsteps seemed to pound the deck. Celia remained in the cabin, longing to open the door and see what had happened. But all she could do was wait with terrified anticipation. She stiffened with alarm as heavy feet walked the length of the companionway and the door rattled. Celia jumped as a blunt object crashed against the other side of the door, splintering the fine paneling.
Swiftly she readied the gun to fire. Another sharp blow, and the hinges creaked in protest. Celia used her palm to wipe at the cold sweat on her face. She raised the barrel of the pistol, pressing it to her temple.
At the touch of the metal to her skin, thoughts raced through her mind. If Philippe had died, she would not want to live. And if she did not use the gun on herself now, she would face a horrifying fate at the hands of the sea bandits. But something inside rebelled at the thought of pulling the trigger. She took a deep breath and steadied her hands. The door crashed open. Frozen, she stared at the two men who stood there, both swarthy and unkempt, their matted hair held back with kerchiefs, their faces sunburned and stubbled.
The shorter of the two held a cutlass in his hand, while the other clasped a bloodstained boarding pike. Dropping his cutlass, the small but sturdily built man stepped over the sill at the bottom of the doorway. He licked his lips and watched her with keen eyes.
Now, her mind insisted, end it now…But her arm lowered to her side. In a flash of self-hatred, she realized she was too much of a coward to take her own life. His mouth split in a yellow-toothed grin as he walked toward her. Automatically Celia raised the gun and squeezed the trigger, feeling as if some force outside herself was guiding her actions. A crimson flood spread over his unwashed shirt.
Blood spattered everywhere, and Celia heard herself scream as the body crumpled at her feet. The pistol fell from her hand and clattered to the floor. Her head hit the hard surface, and she half-fainted, sinking into a world filled with gray mist.
She moaned as she was dragged through the companionway and up to the main deck, where she was dropped to the yellow planking. The ship rang with the sound of voices, and barrels and boxes being moved across the deck. There was a strange smell mingling with the scents of salt water and sea air. Blinking hard and pushing herself up to a sitting position, Celia saw one of the pirates drop a crate of chickens, some of the live cargo taken aboard to allow the crew of the Golden Star occasional rations of fresh meat.
The crate broke open and the frightened birds scuttled in every direction, causing an outbreak of laughter and swearing.
Only Vallerands Series
The young man dragged her away, seeming not to hear her. Realizing he could not understand her, she switched to English. My husband is maybe still alive…He…he will make you rich if you help us. They own the Gulf. Celia scrambled to a body slumped over the railing.
Only With Your Love
In the long days since they had set sail from France the cabin had become a safe cocoon to her, a place she did not want to leave. A different world awaited her in New Orleans, one she was not at all certain she was prepared for. The muscled surface of his back rippled as he stretched. We should be home this very night.
Lista carti – Lisa Kleypas