[BookStrand Historical Romance, HEA]
When Emeliese Alexander, a student at an elite Parisian finishing school, boarded a yacht bound for England, she never imagined she would be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Devastated by Robert Montclair's betrayal and doomed to live in a pirate's harem in the Republic of Bou Regreg, Emmy vows to create a life for herself and her unborn child—whatever the price. Freed during a daring rescue, she finds security and peace at her family's island homeland.
After mourning her death for seven years, Robert Montclair discovers his Emmy living in the Bahamas with the son he had never seen. The determined Earl of Ashford lures her to Ashford Hall to begin his passionate courtship to win the love of the woman who has always been his obsession. If they are to begin a new life together, however, they must share painful secrets, confront old enemies, and overcome new challenges.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Emmy opened her eyes to find her captor staring at her, his eyes traveling up and down her body, assessing her like the merchants examined the cargoes of her family’s ships when they came into port.
“You are a beautiful girl, all golden. Small for my taste, perhaps, but perfect. Some men find that very desirable. My son does have good taste in his women.”
“You are Robbie’s father?” A silly question. He had just said that, but she was still a bit groggy. She must put her fear aside and gather her wits, then discover his intentions. His men had thought nothing of murdering Jacque. Was he toying with her before she met the same fate or worse?
“I admit my guilt.” He saluted her with his snifter. “Jonathan Montclair, the seventeenth Earl of Ashford, at your service.”
“Robbie is from a noble family?” Robbie had introduced himself as Robert Montclair, never mentioned that his family was noble. The English nobility were very particular about who their offspring could and could not marry. She would almost certainly fall into the “could nots,” and Robbie knew why.
The earl cocked a brow. “Baron Montclair. The heir. He did not tell you? I thought you were a fortune hunter looking for a wealthy protector.”
“No, I am a student at Madame Foret’s Academy for Young Ladies. I am not looking for anyone. I will return home to my family next year.” At least, that had been her intention until she had met Robbie. Her future was neither bright nor secure now. The man was evil or insane or both. And he controlled her fate.
The earl threw back his head and laughed, then gulped his brandy. “No, my dear, you will not. Your existence is inconvenient, a liability to me. Did you really believe that my son loved you?”
His laughter was like a slap in the face. Robbie had courted her, proclaimed his love, and won hers in turn. He had sworn that he loved her. She had been sure that he meant it—then. He could not have lied. But his father planned to murder her because she was an inconvenient liability?
“He does love me.”
He dismissed her with a negligent wave. “My son wants nothing further to do with a mulatto wench that he took as a mistress. No matter how beautiful you are, he has tired of you. He left Paris because he did not wish to dispose of you himself.”
Her heart sank. Maybe he had betrayed her after all. The earl knew about her heritage, or at least a distorted version of it. Robbie was the only one who could have told him. But had he told him everything? He had never spoken well of his father. She must tread carefully.
“You are mistaken. I would never become any man’s mistress. A girl of my class should expect nothing less than marriage. I accepted the invitation to visit your estate only because Robbie had told me he planned to introduce me to his family soon.”
She caught a flicker of interest in his eyes.
“No, my dear, I am not mistaken. But you would have me believe that you are a virgin?”
How dare he imply that she was a strumpet! “I do not care what you believe.”
He grabbed the lacy fabric that bound her and twisted. The tie cut deep into her wrists, but she could not escape him or the pain he inflicted.
He leaned close. She pulled away, nauseated by the stink of the brandy on his breath.
“A warning, girl. You will answer me with respect, or I will have Nick take a whip to that pretty golden skin of yours. Understand?”
She nodded, terrified as she had never been before. No one had ever threatened her like this. If his intent was to murder her, would he not have done it by now?
“Answer my question.”
If she responded with her customary irreverence, the consequences would be dire. She sucked in a deep breath. “I vowed to my parents before leaving home for Paris that I would remain chaste until I married. I would never break a promise to them. Robbie was content to wait. He promised to return to Paris when his mother recovered and escort me to his home to meet his family.” There, she had told him the truth. At least, for the most part.
“It was never his intention to return to Paris or you. He is preparing for his wedding to his betrothed.”
“No!” Could everything Robbie said have been lies meant to seduce her? Was she really only his mistress, his whore? No, it could not be true. “I do not believe you.”
She twisted away, but his slap landed hard. Her head reeled, and her vision clouded. She rubbed her cheek as best she could with her hands tied. Tears welled in her eyes. No one had ever struck her before, but the earl’s smile was cruel, his eyes glittering. He had enjoyed hurting her.
“It does not matter what you believe. Robert marries Charlotte Graham within the month. You are not invited to the nuptials. You will be engaged elsewhere.”
“What do you mean?” God only knew what this madman intended for her.
The earl leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “The earldom has numerous sources of income. We occasionally have business with smugglers in a small village on the French coast. They trade with buyers of special merchandise in North Africa. You, my dear, will be the cargo this trip. I am disappointed that the other young ladies were unable to accompany you. It will cost me, but a beautiful virgin will bring a high price.”
My God! He planned to sell her. Robbie could not possibly have intended this fate for her. She struggled to tamp down the terror that was building inside and swallowed to hold back the screams.