by Erinn Ellender Quinn
Touch the Wind Book One
Christiana Delacorte’s father is languishing in prison. Accused of desertion and piracy, he’s being held without trial while the British and French fight over who will hang him.
Determined to rescue him, Christiana approaches the one man she knows who might help: her father’s old friend Justin Vallé, the object of her adolescent fantasies, her first, most terrible unrequited love, when he was a prize for any woman and she sailed disguised as a boy. She can only pray that the French privateer doesn’t recognize her as the child who marked his face for life.
Mistaking her for a prostitute, Vallé fulfills her heart’s desire but shatters the mood by offering payment, forcing her to reveal her identity as well as her purpose. Vallé agrees to break her father out of prison, but his price is the gold she’s brought and her willing presence in his bed.
Justin has suffered a woman’s betrayal, and Christiana has lived most of her life in deceit. But there are forces at play beyond their reckoning, unseen enemies, and time is running out. The success of their mission—and any chance of a future—depends on whether they can learn to trust each other…before it’s too late…
Genre: Historical RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon
Content/Theme(s): Pirates, Intrigue, PTSD
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Publisher: Long Branch Books
Excerpt & More
Ignoring his leather jack of ale, he finished her wine and handed her the emptied glasses along with the corked bottle, then on second thought gathered a cloth napkin full of bread and cheese to sustain their strength through the night ahead. He tucked his knife into its sheath, caught in a crimson sash worn over the waist of his fashionable but damnably snug new breeches. He added his pistol, then slapped his tricorne on his head, robbed a candle from the brace that lit the wall behind him, and headed for his room, one of the few private ones to come by in Charlotte Amalie and a welcome respite after weeks at sea.
Justin shortened his stride when the wench fell behind. Listening to her clunking footsteps, he paced himself and took the stairs one at a time. Opening his door, he thrust the candle past the threshold. Satisfied that the room was as he left it, he stepped back and allowed her to enter first.
She stopped just inside the door. Moving past her, Justin crossed the scrubbed wooden floor to the far side of the room. He lit a pair of tapers on the bedside table and blew out the flame of the first, ignoring the burning sting of wax that dripped on his hand. The silver buttons on his deep cuffs glinted in the precious light as he set down the food and withdrew his sheathed knife and pistol, laying them by habit within reach of where he’d sleep.
If he slept. The black haired wench had aroused more than his curiosity.
Hanging his hat upon the bed’s corner post, Justin glanced at the blue woven counter-pane, smoothed over a thankfully new mattress. Filled with straw and herbs, it was worth the coin he’d gladly paid rather than suffer the sharp scents and unwelcome pests left by a hundred others. He was about to remark on its pleasing fragrance when he noticed that his companion still hovered by the door like a female Ganymede, clutching the wine bottle and glasses, listening to the hounds baying below.
Unless he missed his guess, she was relatively new to this—or someone had abused her. The thought chilled him, especially when he looked at her fine-boned face and saw how small and delicate her hands were, even unfashionably gloved.
Aware that he’d frighten her with a grim look, Justin offered his softest, most beguiling smile and motioned toward the bedside table. “Set them here, mademoiselle—and rest assured that any business between us tonight will be to our mutual satisfaction.”
Brushing past her to bolt the door, he heard the bottle of wine thunk heavily and the crystalline clink of glasses as she did his bidding. When he turned around, she was removing her cloak to reveal her strumpet’s gown. Tawdry and somewhat large on her lithesome frame, its vulgar cut exposed more than she was comfortable with, judging by the way she tugged at the neckline with one hand. The other was weighted down by a heavy réticule dangling from her wrist. Once she’d succeeded in covering her modest amount of cleavage, she carefully extricated the purse from her arm and hung it on the room’s single chair.
Justin returned to stand by the rope bed, but she made no move to join him there. Instead this intriguing fille de joie remained where she was, her bare head bowed and her gaze lowered, her black hair gleaming with red highlights, like midnight fire, her fine green eyes seductively shielded by a brush of thick, dark lashes.
Something in the girl’s pose touched him as genuinely self-conscious, as if she felt naked without a proper head covering. My, but she was new, he thought, determined to show her that nakedness was beautiful and that not all men were to be feared.
The resonance of Vallé’s baritone voice was unbelievably enticing, unbearably seductive, a whisper of velvet on Christiana’s skin that made her pulse leap, her every instinct come fully alive. She felt Vallé’s beckoning gaze on her but dared not meet it, lest he see the power he wielded over her with mere words.
“Oui, capitaine,” she murmured. “Je parle un peu français.” Actually, she spoke more than a little French, plus English, Gaelic, and a smattering of Dutch, Spanish, and German, but she hesitated to reveal too much.
Vallé blew out softly. “Bien.” Hearing the pleasure in his voice, she cleared her throat, intending to discuss O’Malley’s rescue. At that moment, a raucous shout rang out below, followed by a chorus of laughter and an announcement that burned her ears and warmed her cheeks.
The swallow-cock had surpassed her old record and was still going strong.
Flustered, Christiana tore her gaze from the door—and immediately wished she hadn’t when she saw Vallé’s intense blue eyes focused on her own mouth. He lifted one hand. Long, strong fingers, as elegant as a magician’s, motioned her to come closer. She remained rooted, torn, knowing she should speak, should tell him what she’d come here for, but frozen by hesitation. Vallé tilted his head and smiled a little. The curve of his mouth was both sensual and tender; the beckoning warmth in his gaze melted her resistance. He’d always possessed infinite patience; now he exercised it, clearly wanting her but waiting for her to come to him.
As if she had a choice. After all these years of wanting him, it seemed a shattering miracle that he should want her, too.
Christiana felt the passion she’d suppressed so long rise up to meet his own. Sensing it, his eyes burned with blue fire, startling in its intensity. He held her captive in his gaze as he pulled off his justacorps. He laid the coat aside, then reached for the buttons on his sleeveless vest. One by one, they fell away while her mouth grew drier and drier. She swallowed hard and wet her lips. Swallowed again when the vest came off and he smiled wider, sending a hot surge of molten fire that flooded her veins and pooled in her loins.
“Come, chérie,” he crooned, a sweet, dark promise in his eyes. He was temptation personified, a fallen angel cast down to earth to lead lesser mortals astray. Knowing what he wanted, thinking of what he would ask, Christiana fought to stay where she was, beyond his reach. Acutely aware of her vulnerability where Justin Vallé was concerned, she had wondered if she were strong enough to say no after years of dreaming of him; now she chided herself for ever thinking otherwise.
He was handsome then and handsomer now, a man who lived by his wits and daring and was still a prize for most any woman. But time had taught her that the game was all, that men enjoyed the thrill of the chase as much as the final conquest. To give in too quickly was to invite defeat, and although she might not be a quaking virgin, neither was she a fool.
She watched him, sensing motion within his stillness. His gaze grew languorous. His respiration deepened. His nostrils flared, as if inhaling her essence might draw her to him, but in truth, it was his scent—clean, male, uniquely Vallé’s—that made her lean towards him.
Ah, but the joys to be had along the way…
Vallé kept his piercing blue gaze fixed upon her, a silent question in his eyes. Desire, sharp and certain, arced between them. Slowly, slowly, he reached for her, touching her gloved hand, sliding his fingers up to encircle her wrist. He held it, simply held it, loosely enough that she could draw free but silently asking her to put herself into his hands. To trust him.
She nearly smiled—not at him, but at the irony of it all, that she should come to him, hoping he would not recognize her, and now she nearly wished he would, instead of devouring her with his eyes and stealing her breath, rendering her helpless to break the spell he still had the power to weave around her. A master storyteller, always with a marvelous tale on the tip of his tongue, he’d brought a touch of enchantment to the grim reality of her life, had shown her beauty around the most beastly of men.
Christiana closed her eyes, feeling robbed of breath, unnerved by her body’s response, and torn by mixed emotions. She was afraid of disappointing him, but—worse—she was fearful that he’d stop, that he’d recognize her despite all the years that separated them, that he’d finally have revenge for the day she’d marked his countenance.
But she’d never been a coward. Slowly she opened her eyes, lifted her gaze…and saw neither judge nor juror but a man who’d been to hell and back, each tortuous step etched in the lines that creased his ruggedly handsome face. He stood by the bed, watching, waiting, ready to take her to the only paradise she might ever know. Life was short, death around every corner. She couldn’t imagine meeting it without knowing what it was like to be loved…and she couldn’t imagine giving herself to anyone other than Vallé.
“Ma belle,” he whispered hoarsely, and suddenly there was only Justin Vallé and all the years of unrequited love she felt for him, all the years of fantasies, when she’d dreamed that he loved her, too.
Purchase link(s): Amazon
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as You Want
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Be on the lookout for Erinn Ellender Quinn's future release(s): Reap the Wind coming February 2017, Dare the Wind coming April 2017, Chase the Wind coming June 2017 and Catch the Wind coming November 2017
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