THE JEZEBEL is an erotic historical romance - book three in the Taskill Witches series. HQN books April 2013.
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Once ignited, a witch's carnal curiosity knows no bounds
On the run from her powerful benefactor whose unscrupulous interest in her magic has forced her to flee, Margaret Taskill has never needed a hero more. In order to gain passage from England to her homeland in Scotland, she plans to win over a rugged Scottish sea captain with the only currency she has: her virginity.
Maisie submits to Captain Roderick Cameron's raw sexuality in search of protection, but as their initial attraction grows into obsessive desire, devastating powers are unleashed within her. But the journey threatens to take a dangerous turn, forcing Maisie to keep close the secret truth about what she is, and keep the superstitious crew-unhappy at having a woman on board-at bay.
With Maisie's wealthy sponsor giving chase, Roderick must stay one step ahead of the British Navy before her seductive magic causes a full-scale mutiny. He may believe he has full command of his ship, but he's about to get much more than he bargained for.
"The Taskill Witches trilogy comes to an end with this stellar entry that entertains with its unbridled sexuality and intelligent storytelling. Love overcomes all obstacles during a rocky voyage, both on land and sea, as Maisie and Roderick find their happy ever after. The crew of the Libertas adds its own dynamic to the tale." 4.5/5 from RT Book Reviews magazine.
Billingsgate Docks, London, September 1715
Captain Roderick Cameron had just been forced to abandon his plan to procure a woman for the night, when one thrust herself upon him.
"Pardon me, Sire." Throaty and alluring, the woman's voice called to him from the misty dockyard gantry under which she sheltered.
As much as he wanted some female company, Roderick Cameron pressed on. He couldn't afford to dally. His intention had been to oversee delivery of the bespoke goods they carried, imbibe some decent ale then seek a woman's company for the night. The delivery was done, but from then on his plans had gone awry. He was currently hastening back to his ship with an excise man and a navy officer on his trail, and he was not eager to be waylaid. He'd already sent his men back to ready the Libertas for departure on the turn of the tide.
"Are you Captain Cameron of the ship known as the Libertas?"
Roderick frowned. Something about the woman's voice stating his name aloud halted him in his tracks, despite the threat of imminent arrest that loomed at his back. It was as if she had touched him to the quick. Bemused, he peered into the shadows. "What do you want with Captain Cameron?"
The woman stepped out of her hiding place and into the moonlight. "I've been told that his ship sets sail for Dundee this evening." Heavily cloaked and with her hood drawn low, Roderick could not distinguish the woman's features. Was she a penny whore with a pretty voice who had agreed to waylay him and call him out? Excise officers were in pursuit because of a prior dispute about the goods the Libertas carried.
Roderick grimaced. The navy had a network of informers and collaborators down here at Billingsgate docks, where so many ships came and went. If it were a trap he would have been jumped by now. Nevertheless, he sensed trouble and quickly pressed on, striding toward his vessel. He had no intention of confirming or denying his identity. His vessel still carried French wine that was destined for the lairds in the Scottish Lowlands. It was cleverly concealed between two false walls behind his private quarters. If the navy found out what he was carrying and where he was headed, his troubles would be doubled. Nevertheless she had caught his attention, and now it seemed as if she intended to pursue him.
"I need to speak with the Captain most urgently." She hastened along at his side. "I need to know if he truly is bound for Scotland."
"What is it to you where any ship docked here is bound?" He shot the question back over his shoulder.
"Please, Sire, I seek passage to Dundee."
It was uncanny. Her voice beckoned to him, reaching into him far deeper than words alone ever would. Roderick turned back and peered down at her. From what little he could see of the woman she did not look like someone he might expect to see here on the dockside, where only drunks and whores and lust-fuelled seamen passed by this late in the evening. Her face was still hidden by her hood, but he could see by the quality of her clothing that she was no dockside whore. Her cloak was made of dark blue velvet and beneath it her gown looked costly, with a jeweled bodice and sumptuous fabric. In one hand she clasped a small bundle, partially hidden beneath her cloak.
It felt like a trap, but Roderick found he had to know and understand it before he sidestepped it. "The Libertas does not take passengers.
Besides, why would a fine English lady such as yourself want to travel to Dundee...alone?"
She lowered the hood of her cloak, finally revealing her face.
Roderick stared at her. Her appearance defied him to do otherwise. She was a beauty, with silken black hair that cascaded over her shoulders. Delicately defined eyebrows arched over eyes that glinted brightly in the moonlight. Her lips—still parted on her plea—were exceedingly kissable.
She gave a quick and rather forced smile. "I am as Scottish as you are, Captain Cameron."
Roderick lifted his brows. She'd not only decided that he was indeed the captain, she also claimed she was a Scot. His curiosity flared, as did his wariness. "If it's true, we're both far from home. But I hear little trace of Scotland in your voice."
Her hands twisted together over her bundle. "I have lived in London since I was a bairn. I am a grown woman now and I wish to return to my kin."
The woman's strange request compelled him to listen. Her body, so feminine and so close to his, made Roderick want to help her, which was dangerous. A woman who held sway with a man of the sea was capable of breaking his bond with it. He'd seen it happen often enough, but it was not for him. Perhaps he was intrigued by her because his plan to seek a whore's company for the night had been thwarted. It had to be the reason why she made him pause on the journey back to his ship, a journey that should have been stealthy and fast.
Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw figures moving in the distance. Seamen on their way to the port, but it kept his senses keen nonetheless. "I'm afraid you must seek assistance elsewhere."
When he met her gaze Roderick found that the oddly solemn look in her eyes stalled him yet again.
"Please, Captain." Reaching out with her free hand she clutched at his coat sleeve. "You would do me a great service if you helped me." Her tone grew pleading. "I must leave London tonight."
Roderick indulged himself a moment as he contemplated making her comfortable in his cabin, imagining her there. His desire to assist her increased, as did a more basic desire. He'd planned to bed a woman that night, and a tryst with this strange beauty would be quite something, he was sure. He attempted to force the base urge away. They had rules aboard the ship and he had to be on his way. "We do not carry passengers," he repeated. "Neither do we allow women on board the ship."
"I cannot go back there."
Roderick's attention shifted. The woman had attempted to shield her emotions but now he could see that she was afraid of something or someone. It was not his concern, but he did not like to see a woman with fear in her eyes.
Shouts sounded in the distance. Unease crept up his spine.
Her eyes flickered. She seemed to sense that he was torn. "Please, Sire, I must leave this very night, for my liberty is at stake."
Liberty? It could be a tactic meant to sway him, and yet Roderick knew he would not rest easy if he sent her back to whatever it was she feared, without knowing the truth of the matter. His sense of honor on such matters would not allow it. His shipmen would not be happy having a woman aboard, but it was not a long voyage. They would be in Dundee before the week was out.
The scent of her made him hanker to get closer, while her rosebud lips seemed to beckon him to taste.
"I do not have much to offer you in payment," she whispered, stepping closer still, "but I can offer you several trinkets."
Her eyelids lowered and Roderick noticed that she was assessing him from beneath her lashes. Her hand on his arm tightened.
That touch ignited him.
When her black lashes lifted there was an altogether different look in her eyes. It was determined and alluring both.
"And there is something else I can offer you," she added.
Roderick cocked his head on one side while he waited to hear what it was.
Her gaze held his and her lips—as soft and tempting as a ripe berry—parted as she spoke, her voice scarcely above a whisper. "My virginity."
Roderick stared at her then laughed. A woman so wily and forthright was no innocent virgin, but her brazen offer fired his loins nonetheless. Could he resist having her? He'd have to deal with a barrel load of trouble if he took her on board ship, but when he looked down at her upturned face he also knew he would forever be haunted with regret and curiosity if he did not.
He cupped her jaw in one hand, admiring her strange beauty, imagining how she might look while he claimed his reward between her thighs. Heat built in his loins, his cock hardening.
Her eyes flashed. "I am yours to plunder as you wish, Captain Cameron of the Libertas," she added, and that voice of hers seemed to reach all the way into his innards and hold him to her, "in return for safe passage to Dundee."
(c) Harlequin enterprises.
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