The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned,
faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…
Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between
her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing
truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?
Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her
faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to
keep her marriage from falling apart?
Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain
and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then
Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering
the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways.
Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation
Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating
challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to
her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he
But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…
Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the
cause before time runs out?
Her fingers slipped from the captain’s
grasp. “Papa!” she shouted, but her voice was caught in the din of voices on
the pier. She experienced an odd sensation in her stomach and her heart raced wildly.
On impulse, she crouched down, trying to crawl out of the crowd. “Papa!” she
A big hand
clutched her small body, jerking her to her feet. A sense of relief swamped
over her, until the hand shook her.
little pickpocket!” a man ground out.
shrank back at the unfamiliar, booming voice, but glanced up into the man’s
face, which was red from the sun. His clothes were tinged with dirt and she
detected a strange odor upon him. She glanced around for her father. She’d been
taught to avoid strangers unless her parents were present. His insult did not
go unnoticed, however.
“I am nothing of
the kind, sir,” she declared. “I am a lady. My father was—”
hand tightened on the back of her dress. “Is he a thief as well?”
Why, no, he is an honorable man, a captain, and you must unhand me or he’ll do
you harm, I swear.” Panic swept through her at his hold, and a shout tore out
of her. “Papa!”
one can hear you, scamp. And you stole my money.” He grasped her arm.
am not a scamp!” she cried. “I am a lady.” She stamped her foot on the ground.
Fear threatened to choke her, but she knew it wouldn’t solve a thing. Her
father was gone. She had to rely on herself. Her gaze swept the pier until her
attention was caught by a quarrel nearby. A boy, perhaps about eleven years
old, attempted to wrest a blue reticule from a young girl, who was screaming. A
few bills stuck out of the boy’s side pocket. “Sir, I do believe that is the
rascal you’re looking for.” She pointed across the pier. “Now, if you’ll be so
kind as to let me go….”
eyes followed hers. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He glanced at her clothing. “I
suppose you don’t look like a pickpocket.”
released his hold on her. His brown gaze softened, and he swept a hand over his
dark hair. “How old did you say you were?”
“Well, I didn’t. I’m nine,” she proudly announced with her hands on her hips.
This brought a laugh out of the man, but she couldn’t see why.
“We must find your
appreciate it, sir, but it looks as if your money is getting away.” Even now,
the boy was yanking the reticule out of the girl’s grasp and Adrienne gasped as
the girl, dressed in a dark blue gown, fell head over heels into the water by
the dock with quite a splash. “Mon Dieu!
We must help her!” Adrienne said.
She grasped the
man’s hand, tugging him over to the scene.
Her mouth gaped
further as the man shook his head, dropped her hand and took off after the boy
who’d stolen his money. Adrienne had no time to remark on his actions, and
moved to her stomach, leaning over the pier. She took hold of the girl’s hand
as she thrashed in the water, desperate to stay afloat.
she cried, fearful she might drown before Adrienne could save her.
took a deep breath, realizing she was still on her own. The girl didn’t appear
to see her on the dock. She whistled hard, just like she’d seen her brother do
on occasion. “Miss, can you swim?”
girl’s tears mixed with the water on her face as she shook her head.
“Are you able to
find a footing on the pylons below?”
I think so,” she said, her teeth chattering now. The girl struggled more, and
an odd look crossed her face. “Yes, I think I found it.”
“Good. I want you
to grip my hand tight, and then take my other hand, all right? On the count of
three, I’m going to pull hard and you will push off the pylon. Do you have that
girl nodded, grasping Adrienne’s open hand.
we count. One… two… three!” Adrienne yanked as hard as she could, and the girl
clutched at the pier. She pulled her over the rest of the way, and they both
rolled, collapsing hard on their backs, breaths labored as the setting sun
shone down on their faces.
came from her companion. Adrienne hugged her until she stopped crying, and then
looked into the girl’s face. She had damp, dark blonde hair, at least from what
she could tell of the wet mop, and pretty blue eyes. “You did well.”
you. Oh my Lord, I think you saved my life!”
smiled. “My pleasure. May I have your name, Miss?”
she said, though her teeth continued to chatter, and the girl rubbed at her wet
smiled. “Let’s get off our backs, shall we?”
managed to stand upright. Adrienne saw a bit of dampness on her own gown, but
didn’t care. She was more concerned about the girl. “Are you all right?”
think so,” she paused, then declared, “You don’t sound English.”
frowned. “I am American. Well, my father is half English, and my mother is
French. But, we live in the states.”
lifted a brow. “A strange combination, to be sure.”
way the girl proudly lifted her chin despite her bedraggled appearance made
Adrienne laugh. “In any case, we will have to do something about this….” She
gestured to the dirty water soaking through the girl’s dress and dripping at
soulful blue eyes darkened. “Oh, my dress is ruined. My mother will be so angry
all right.” She considered the girl for a moment. “I do believe I have a dress
that might fit you.” Elena was a bit shorter than her, though.
mustn’t go to the trouble.” Her blue gaze searched the harbor. “I got turned
around. My driver is gone. I took pianoforte lessons in town, and then he was
to stay with me on a stroll I usually take at this time of day.” The girl bit
her lip, and Adrienne thought she caught a hint of fear in those eyes as they
“Don’t worry. I do hope the man
taught that ruffian some manners, however.”
“How can you tell me not to worry? I
am at the harbor, and my family lives in the country. And without money—”
“We’ll help you.”
She frowned. “You don’t even know
Adrienne shrugged. “I will still
help you. Come, my family is nearby. We’re visiting England.” Surely, she could
locate La Voyageur again. Perhaps George, Papa’s second-in-command,
could help? Or, maybe she could find the hotel they were staying at, and
her father could find her there.
“Oh, I suppose it would be fine if
they took me home.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
She turned her head. “Papa!” she
shouted, unable to express the pure joy of hearing his deep voice again.
The broad shoulders of her father
came into view, his full head of dark, wavy hair swirling in the breeze as he
stood in his gray day suit. He scowled down at Adrienne, clutching her
shoulders as he shook her gently. He was stern just like on La Voyageur, in charge when he stood with
his hands crossed behind him at first, waiting while the men lined up in two
in one day? Chére, how many times
have I told you that you must not run off?”
She stuttered as she replied, “Papa,
I got caught in the crowd, torn away from you. I couldn’t help it.”
“Are you hurt?”
He nodded, and then glanced over at
Elena. “Oh. What do we have here?”
Adrienne frowned at him. “That’s a
His lips twisted. “Oui, I can see that. Who is your friend,
“Why, I…,” she frowned. “I do not
know her surname.”
Despite her disheveled state, the
girl managed a curtsy. “I am Elena Wyndham. Pleased to meet you both.”
Adrienne couldn’t figure out why her
father looked so amused as she glanced at him, then back toward Elena. “A
pleasure, of course. My name is Adrienne Bellamont Hill and this is my father,
Captain Hill. Papa, Elena got herself into some trouble. A ruffian stole her
reticule and pushed her! I saw it all. And I would have taken him to task if
the man who found me hadn’t rushed off after him. I also had to pull her out of
The girl’s teeth chattered as she
crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s true, sir. Your daughter saved me.”
“I see. Those are unfortunate
circumstances, to be sure, Miss Wyndham. May I ask the whereabouts of your
parents as you seem quite alone?”
“They are at home. I… got lost
somehow, and I don’t know where my driver is.”
He nodded. “Well, we shall take you
to them at once.”
FROM CHAPTER ONE
Adrienne stood on
the dock, waiting as the stevedores unloaded cargo from the ship, La Voyageur. She strained to see, but as
of yet no one had appeared, at least not who she waited for. Her father could
have arrived two possible ways at New Orleans, either through the internal
port, heading straight up the Mississippi River, or the external port, which
would have brought him past Florida through the Mississippi Sound and Lake
Borgne. This time, he’d chosen the latter. She scrunched her hands in the skirt
of her bright pink day gown, wrinkling her nose as the smell of fish and hard
labor wafted over to them. The matching, velvet bonnet on her head provided
some protection from the sun high over her head but, in truth, it was a
nuisance. At her Maman’s insistence,
she’d put one on, but couldn’t bring herself to drag along a parasol.
She refrained from
following the dictates of society, a fact which caused her contemporaries to shy
away from her at times. As a child, she’d been more likely to wrestle in the
dirt with her brother Gabriel instead of having tea parties with dolls and her
nursemaid. She still wore gowns and didn’t mind dressing up now and then, of
course, but she cared not for paying much attention to her wardrobe as most
ladies did. Adrienne dressed as she did because her maid gave her little
choice, and she would hate to disappoint her mother and Tante Lina. She knew her place, knew how to act in society. She
just hadn’t had the heart to attend to such things in the past two years.
had lost her joie de vivre. Losing
her fiancé, Robert Morel, to a needless war nearly two years ago had taken its
toll. About three months back, her mother had urged her to start wearing colors
again rather than those black or gray silk costumes she’d worn for some time.
It was a relief, in a way, for even she, who didn’t usually care what she wore,
had grown to detest them.
When she learned
her longtime friend Elena would visit her here in New Orleans, she had felt a
new thrill, a kind of excitement which she found refreshing after her
listlessness. Now, she could barely keep still even as Eric Caron, her father’s
valet and a close family friend who acted more like an uncle, stood beside her.
As soon as the messenger had come with that letter, she’d left the house as
soon as possible. Of course, the message had been from her father, addressed to
her mother, stating that though he was in port, he’d be in for dinner at the
latest. She would have taken horses for the journey, but Eric had convinced her
“Why have they not
appeared?” she grumbled, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. “This
is not Papa’s usual behavior.” Eric had already asked a man from the crew to
see if the captain would meet them on the dock.
“I have to agree, Mademoiselle, but we must be patient.
Your father would be cross with you if you set foot, unescorted, amongst that
group of men. With me as well,” he muttered.
She eyed him. Even
now, he put a hand to the sword strapped to his waist and carefully scrutinized
every sailor who passed them on the dock. She knew he also carried a concealed
pistol. She wanted to laugh at his overprotectiveness, but suppressed it. He
knew her humor well but his duty was paramount to him as he was charged to
protect the ladies of the household. He’d been appointed long ago, around her
tenth birthday, but he’d always been under her father’s employ in some
capacity. She lifted a shoulder and glanced away. “I know most of them, Eric.”
Sailors had already waved to her in greeting. Some she did not recognize and
she thought, by their obvious appraisal, he might be right about their
“You have not been
at sea enough, Mademoiselle. After a
long journey, the only thing a man wants more than a good drink is a woman.”
He cleared his
throat, crossing his arms over his chest. “I am not a young man anymore.”
“Ah, but you were
He shrugged. “My
duty was first to your father. I had time for nothing more.”
She wasn’t so
sure. Eric took his position seriously, that was true enough. However, she had
caught one of the new maids furtively glancing at him before. Claudette, was
it? The woman always blushed when Eric came into a room or looked her way. He
might not be a young man, but there were no age limits placed on love. Or
desire, she thought as she suppressed a laugh.
No more than a
couple of years past her father’s age and still attractive, Eric had kind brown
eyes with corners that tended to crinkle when he smiled, and he also had aged
dark hair. She wondered if she would have to meddle a bit to get Eric and
Claudette together. There was nothing more she wanted for Eric than to see him
content and settled with a wife. She was sure her father would agree with the
Adrienne groaned. “I
cannot stand this any longer. Either you go on board with me or I go alone.”
With a shrug, she marched up the gangway and boarded La Voyageur.
“Mademoiselle!” Eric called after her.
through the madness on deck, ducking to avoid a collision with sailors carrying
goods from the ship. The ties of her bonnet pressed uncomfortably into her
throat. She reached up, undid the pink, silk ribbons on the hat, pulled the
contraption off her head and flung it aside. There, that was better. She shook
her head and the pins she’d haphazardly put in came down as well. She jerked a
few out and shoved them in the pockets of her dress. The dark waves of her hair
rested freely around her shoulders, then began to lift with the strong winds
off the sea.
“Holy hell,” a man
swore behind her and whistled in an appreciative tone.
pinned the sailor with a raised eyebrow and then took off in the direction of
her papa’s cabin. Her steps became carefree as she got closer. When she reached
the heavy door, she knocked twice.
“Enter!” a familiar
voice said after a moment.
Adrienne smiled, turned
the knob and pushed into the room, observing that it looked as it always had.
Sunlight spilled over a masculine cabin with dark wood, numerous shelves and a
bed. An oriental rug was thrown down for comfort as well, and a massive desk
sat nearby, where she saw her father leaning over and gathering up some papers.
She gave herself a moment to inspect him for changes. It was always some time
before she saw him again when he went away at sea.
Capitaine Grant Hill was a tall man, just a bit
taller than her as she was fairly tall for a woman. His once dark hair now had
a more aged appearance, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, but he was still a
handsome rascal. She could see why her mother was so enamored of him. He wore a
white shirt and black trousers with tall, black, leather boots. More sailor
than gentleman now, he could just as easily transform into a captain or master
of the estate, a versatility that had always fascinated her.
As he finished
arranging the papers, he glanced up. She saw surprise flare in his dark gray
eyes before it was replaced with joy. He broke into a wide grin, sidestepping
the desk as he strode to her and embraced her, lifting her clear off her feet.
Adrienne laughed as he kissed both of her cheeks before setting her back down.
“Bonjour, chére. What a sight to come home to.” The smile didn’t leave his
lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Papa, I thought
you’d meet us on the dock. Someone was to inform you, but nevermind. You don’t
imagine I’d really let Elena be without me as an escort to the plantation, do
He lifted a
shoulder. “I hadn’t thought of it. And I assure you, I was not aware you’d come
to the harbor.”
“Then you would
have escorted Elena?”
“Oui, of course. What am I, a scoundrel?”
Her Maman thought so sometimes, but she
imagined she’d only said it in a jesting manner. Adrienne took a deep breath
before she began, “I wanted to meet her here. I simply can’t wait to see Elena.
Where is she?”
He leaned back
against the heavy desk, crossing his arms over his chest. “I imagine she is
still in her cabin. I believe she’s resting.”
“There will be
time enough to rest once she is ensconced in her own bedchamber back at home.”
He shook his head.
“Leave the girl alone, Adrienne.”
“You sound like
Gabriel,” she frowned at his scolding tone.
Her father lifted
a dark brow. “You shouldn’t make her a puppet to your whims.”
“That is unfair. You know me better than that.” She crossed her arms in a
defensive gesture and took a deep breath. “It is different now. Everything is.”
“What do you
mean?” he grimaced.
“Papa, I don’t have
many friends anymore, not since…” She tried hard not to think of Robert. “Since
what happened. I see Chloe occasionally, of course, but not too often. Most of
my amies have deigned to leave me
alone to grieve.” In truth, the women who were in her social circle before had
all but abandoned her once she’d left society. And she imagined they’d only
tolerated her because of her family’s position. She was too different. Of
course, gambling against one’s hostess and chatting with the lady’s son about
target practice was considered odd.
“Do you blame
“No, of course
not. But, Papa, Elena means a lot to me. I have missed her so. We still pen
letters but, you see, I was greatly anticipating her visit.”
He leveled her
with a steady gaze. “Forgive me, chére.
I suppose I did not realize you needed a friend so much.”
She managed a
shrug, and then briefly took hold of his hand. “I want to thank you for
fetching her from England, Papa. It’s very kind of you.”
“You’re welcome,” he
smiled. “I just want to see you happy again, bébé.”
but felt the press of tears nonetheless. She hadn’t been lying. Until now, she
hadn’t realized how isolated she’d become. She cocked her head when she heard a
“Papa?” she asked,
as she looked at him uncertainly.
“Were you not
escorted aboard? Surely, you would not be so careless.”
She frowned at the
change in his mood. “Papa, please. There is no danger. I am the captain’s
“And you believe
they all know that? You know nothing of how men think.”
“Don’t fret about
something so silly—”
He grabbed her arm, scowling. “Silly? You
don’t realize how dangerous it is, my girl.”
“You must be more careful.” His dark eyes
She did not see him angry very often at
all. She began to understand why his crew respected him so much, or perhaps
feared him. If this was the other side of him, she was certain she preferred
ignorance. “I, I… but, Eric brought me to the docks.”
“And he allowed you to come on board
alone?” His hand tightened.
“Well, I suppose he hadn’t a choice. I
wanted to see Elena.”
“It’s as I suspected. Any man who didn’t
know you could have cornered you or done worse.” He dropped her arm, but caught
her chin as if lifting her face to the light which spilled into the room from
the sturdy windows placed astern of the ship. “You’re far too headstrong,
chére. Just like your mother. Why can’t you be responsible like Gabriel?”
“Headstrong, am I? Like you?” She didn’t
relish the comparison. Her father had never been so unfair before.
A brief smile crossed his lips and he
dropped his hand from her face. “Perhaps. I imagine your husband will have a
time of it with you.”
She scowled then, crossing her arms over
her chest. “I want no husband.”
“So you say now. You may change your
mind,” he shrugged.
That wasn’t likely. She never wanted to go
through what she had again.
“You must indulge me in this, chére. We
cannot watch you constantly. You must protect yourself as well. You shouldn’t
She nodded, relenting as she could hear
the love and concern in his voice. “Oui,
Papa. I understand. I will try to be better.”
Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and
23 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the
"Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed
contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in
the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers'
Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest.
The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red
Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of
the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice
Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on
AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has
been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in
progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24
books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic
suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller,
literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author
anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick
Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.