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CHAPTER ONE

 

London Harbor, July 1817

Only three steps. Only three steps separated him from the map. It was there, laying on the rickety wooden table in the captain’s stateroom aboard a ship aptly named Le Secret Francais. The only sound in the cramped space was his own breathing. Sweat beaded on his brow. He’d come this far. Braved the murky, cold water, swam out to the ship moored at the London docks. Climbed aboard silent as a wraith, dressed all in black. Wrung out his clothing to keep it from dripping so there wouldn’t be a trail. Managed to steal into the captain’s quarters as the man slept, and now, now only three steps remained between him and the priceless map.

One water droplet fell to the wooden plank floor like a hammer against steel. The sound of his breath echoed to a crescendo. The blood pounding in his head became a distracting whirring noise.

One step forward. The ball of his foot ground onto the plank. Stealth and silence. Always. The calling cards of the best thief in London.

The captain stirred slightly in his bunk and began to snore.

He froze. One leather-clad foot arrested on the wooden plank. A pistol rested on two nails directly above the captain’s bunk. If the man awoke, he might shoot first at any noise. The captain well knew the value of the treasure he carried.

He counted to ten. Once. Twice. He had long since mastered the art of keeping footing on a ship. He waited until his heartbeats became steady again before taking the next step. A slight creak in the wood floor. A hint of movement from the captain. Another endless wait. Impatience was a roiling knot inside his belly.

Out of the shadows now, he stood only one step away from the table bolted to the floor. The moon shone through the window above the captain’s bed, shedding light on the man’s balding head. The map lay spread out, anchored by pins in the four corners. He would have to remove those pins. Ripping the paper would be too noisy.

Another interminable wait as the captain turned away from him in his sleep. His snores subsided.

He glanced over at the bunk. The pistol shone in the moonlight. One hard swallow. He never carried a pistol. Too loud. Pistols brought the crew, the wharf police, and anyone else interested in such activity. The only weapon he carried was a knife, tucked in the back of his breeches. A weapon of stealth.

Another count to ten before taking the final step. There was no time for an in-depth study of the map now, but a quick glance revealed the destination. The island of St. Helena, off the western coast of Africa, circled in bold scrawl. The map of the route planned for Bonaparte’s next escape. That bastard in the bed had been planning it.

All ten fingers itched to snatch the paper and run, but he forced himself to take a deep, silent breath. Carefully, he dislodged the first pin at the top right corner. It popped out easily. The top of the map rolled toward the center, making a slight flapping sound. Breath held, he glanced toward the captain again. No movement.

He stuck the pin back into the table to keep it from rolling, then his hand darted to the next pin at the bottom right corner. It also popped out easily. He quickly stuck it back into the wood. With two sides free, he carefully rolled the map toward the center. Reaching up to the top, he grasped the third pin. No movement. It was lodged deeply into the wood. Must pull harder. With one black-gloved hand, he clasped the pin between a thumb and two fingers, pulling upward with as much strength as he dared. His own breath in his ear was the only sound … that and the water lapping at the sides of the ship.

The pin finally gave way. He pressed a hand to the top of the map, to keep the freed top left corner from curling and making a noise. His chest and torso flattened against the map and the table, he pressed the third pin back into the wood.

Click. An unmistakable sound. One he had heard too often before. Another hard swallow. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with keeping quiet, he hadn’t realized the captain’s snores had subsided.

Half-splayed across the table, he contemplated his options. The door was ten paces to the left, the open window five paces to the right. Would he fit through the window? It’d be a hell of a time to learn the answer was no.

“Step away from zee map, if you don’t want a bullet through your back.” The captain’s voice was harsh and angry.

He slowly rose from his position hunched over the map, arms braced upright at right angles near his head to show the captain he had no weapon. “Ye wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, now would ye, Cap’n?”

“I’d shoot a thief without thinking twice,” the captain replied with a sneer, nearly spitting the word thief.

He glanced down at the map. Studying it in case he was forced to leave without it. He had been in worse situations, more times than he could count. He considered the knife in the back of his breeches hidden beneath his shirt. It would be simple, easy and quick to snake it out and whip it into the bastard’s throat. But a voice in his head reminded him … justice must be served in proper course.

“Turn around,” the captain ordered. “Slowly.”

“Why?” he asked, trying to garner some precious time.

“Because I want to see zee face of zee man who would steal my secrets.”

He began his turn. Slowly. So slowly and so quietly that he could have sworn he heard a drop of sweat from his forehead hit the wooden plank of the floor. He finally stood facing the older man.

“Êtes-vous le Renard Noir?” the captain asked.

“Pourquoi veux tu savoir?”

Visible in the light of the moon, the captain narrowed his eyes. “Ah, perfect French? Why do I find zat difficult to believe from an obvious Englishman?”

“Obvious?”

“Who else would want zis map?”

His fingers ached to choke the bastard. He might not be able to kill him, but he could wound the scoundrel. Nothing wrong with a wound. He whipped his hand behind his back, grabbed the knife, and hurled it at the captain. It hit the arm that held the pistol. The captain howled. The pistol fired. Smoke filled the cabin with its acrid stench. He ripped the map and fourth pin from the table and ran to the door.

Steps sounded on the planks above the captain’s cabin. In the pitch black belowdecks, he forced himself to wait in the shadows under the stairs until the first group of rescuers filed down the steps into the captain’s cabin. He flattened the map’s scroll and folded it into a six-inch square.

“He’s escaped, you idiots! Find him before he jumps from the ship!” the captain yelled in French.

The group dutifully filed back up to spread across the decks. The captain came running out, clutching his injured arm, blood seeping between his fingers, crimson dripping down his nightshirt. He made his way up the stairs and ran off across the deck.

Springing from the shadows, he raced back into the empty cabin. He flew over to the window, said a brief prayer to fit through the tight space, hoisted up to the ledge, and pushed his upper body through. He ripped off his black tricorn, stuck the folded map to his head, and pulled down the hat as firmly as possible.

A rope swung outside the captain’s window two feet to the right. Thank God for small favors. He lunged at it and grabbed it. Noiselessly, he lowered himself down the rope, bracing both feet against the hull to rappel toward the water. Lowering quietly, he winked back at the figurehead of a saucy French woman carved beneath the captain’s cabin. As soon as he made it into the water, he let go of the rope and swam like a mackerel fleeing a shark toward the shore, careful to keep his head out of the foul-smelling drink. He counted on the black of night and the murky Thames to hide him from the searchers on the ship.

As he covered the distance between the French ship and the shore, he could hear the Frenchmen yelling and running about. He dared a glance back. Every lantern on the ship appeared to have been lit and the crew was scurrying about like a bevy of ants on an infiltrated hill.

He swam to the darkest spot on the far end of the docks, around the bend from sight of the French ship, and pulled himself ashore beneath a creaky dock using only his forearms. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back and lay breathing heavily in the pitch-black night. One hand went up to clap the top of his tricorn and a wide smile spread across his face.

He’d done it. He’d escaped from a French ship with the map detailing the planned route to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. Of course he had. He was the Black Fox.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with the permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

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Author Bio: Valerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides series, starting with Secrets of a Wedding Night, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, and Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage.

Summary: The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .

A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…

Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

Never Trust a Pirate is part of the Regency-set Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman.



Author -Carole Parkes

Author’s Dilemma

th[9]

In Appreciation of My Blogging Friends

Oh! What am I doing? I swore I never would
Broadcast my whole life in sight of every hood.
“You’ll be taking a risk,” So everybody said.
“They’ll know about you,” They’re filling me with dread.
***
“But I have to do this,” I answered in alarm.
“To promote my book I’ll need lots of charm.”
‘Tissue of Lies’, suspense thriller I created.
If I don’t act now it will be outdated.
***
Creating my blog page I made it so unique.
Not entirely true, just a bit of my cheek.
In truth, I didn’t know what topic I should write,
But I gave it my best, crossed fingers really tight.
***
What I didn’t expect was the sterling support
My fellow bloggers gave me with each effort.
They make blogging a joy and much more; a pleasure;
Likes, comments, reblogs I…

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These are FABULOUS. I love to listen to music and I wanted some headphones without a wire so that I could do my housework with out pulling the headphones out of my ears, I also wanted comfort and a good quality sound this is very important to me. They come with an auxiliary cable and charger lead (but no adapter).
Check list
1. Comfort – YES
2. Sound quality – Excellent
3. Battery life – Excellent
4. Phone talk quality – Great
5. Ease of Use – excellent

I have had these a few days now and I have used them continuously, they are extremely comfortable to wear – very light and the padding on the ear piece is very comfortable, the sound quality is exceptional ( I am very picky to sound quality) very clear and the battery life lasts for hours – I have used them for 4 hours continuously so far but then I recharged them overnight as I did not want them to run out on me while using them, I will edit my review once I have tried to see how long the battery does last.

The controls are very easy to use and you find them on the right hand side ear piece situated at the back. The first button in the sequence from top to bottom is :
1. On/Pause/Play
2. Volume down (by long press) / Song to go back to start one click or to go back to the last song double click
3. Volume up (long press, it tweets when it gets to full volume) / Song forward
4. FM radio/ MP3 player which is from the Micro SD Card slot that you will find below the buttons.
5. Phone call answer.

You can connect these headphones very easily through blue tooth by pressing the top button and it says power on – blue tooth wireless is ready to pair, have the phone/ iPod etc on to blue tooth search and then these show up as S580, click on this and then they pair . The next time you use them – they automatically pair to your device.

You can also connect them to your device by the auxiliary cable that comes with them.

Using the SD card slot is very simple too, just put your card in, select the MP3 player and use the controls as normal.

To use the FM radio press the FM radio button, then use the song forward/back buttons to tune it in.

These would be a great buy for any one, they sound fabulous, easy to use, multi functions and comfortable and the battery lasts. I would definitely recommend these as I can not fault them in any way.

 



 

I LOVE IT, I love to add fragrances to my rooms and this is awesome. This is the Seneo Aroma Diffuser Elegant Vase Design, Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser, Essential Aromatherapy with 15 Light Modes, 2 Mist Modes, I use it in my living room but it would be great in a bed room as a night light and you could add lavender to help you sleep or to be honest it can be used anywhere that has a power socket and it wont look out of place. This is very stylish and has the benefits of not only being a diffuser but it is also a vase that will hold 2 -3 small flowers to give it that bit extra – not that it needs it. It has 15 modes of lighting – there are 7 colours and you can choose to either have it dim or brighter this you choose by pressing the light button until you come to your desired colour or brightness or when you turn it on just leave it on the first setting and it goes through all sequence.

The base of this is a white plastic and the top is a smokey see through black with a silver trim. Its size is roughly 28.5 cm x 12 cm

It has 2 mist modes – the first press on the mist button is a lesser vapour which is shown by the green indicator light, the second press gives you more vapour and the indicator light is red. I have tried it on both modes and they are both exceptional.

To use you take the top off by twisting the lid, then add water to the maximum line that is shown on the side of the tank and add your essential oil, then put the lid back and and turn till its in place. Switch on to the desired mode and ENJOY. It is very quiet but I like it when the room is quiet as you can hear the water plopping ever so slightly and you can also see the water bubbling up the water vapour tube too, all in all I find this very relaxing.

I like this a lot because I always suffer with drier skin in the winter months because of the central heating but this helps to put moisture back in the air, but do not worry it does not make it damp anywhere. So my first impression of the product was that it looked awesome and now I have been using it – it is still AWESOME. This would make a fabulous gift for anyone.

Here is the Amazon UK buy link to check it out:   http://amzn.to/2fQUYoX

 

 



Jhua Non-Stick Carbon Steel Bakeware Set 12-Cup Muffin Tray/ Pan / Baking Pan Round Cake Mould Pan for DIY Candy/ Cake/ Pumpkin Pie/ Cookie/ Chocolate etc Champaign Gold
PURCHASE LINK
Amazon UK:    http://amzn.to/2fTdtrx
This is a fantastic, small, well made, excellent quality, easy to clean baking pan and its definitely NON STICK.

I just love this mini muffin baking tray, I can guarantee that when it says it is non stick that it is as I tried it with muffin cases in 4, greased another 4 and left 4 with nothing in and when I had baked as you can see with the video – I held my breath and the non greased 4- the muffins popped out with ease – I was glad at that as I was not going to redo the video. So this product get 10/10 from me and a big thumbs up.

This is quite heavy for the size so you know that it is a quality material – it did not distort in the oven when it got hot, the muffins all rose at the same time, the only thing that I will mention because the bases of the muffin tins are only 3.5cm wide – you will need to put it on your oven racks at an angle so that it does not fall through. The size of this tin is 25.5 cm x 19 cm so it is easy to store when not in use.

When the cakes come out they are a really cute size so if you are dieting and can not resist a treat then these are the ideal size for you and your friends.

I can say nothing negative about this as I think that it is excellent quality and definitely worth the price tag.

I have attached a video and photos for you to check it out.



 

AMAZON UK LINK:   http://amzn.to/2eFc2Kk

AMAZON.COM LINK:   http://amzn.to/2eFdUCR

This review is from: Magnetic Car Phone Holder | Infernal Innovations® | iPhone Car Mount | FREE GIFT 75MM Adhesive Disk | Dashboard Windshield Cradle | Samsung Galaxy S6 S5 S4 S3, Note 4 3, iPhone 6 & Plus 5S 5C 4S, Nexus 6p 6 5, HTC One (Wireless Phone Accessory)

This arrives boxed and comes with 2 magnets – one with 3m sticky pad and one without, it also comes with a round sticky pad that attaches to where you need it and the main holder then sticks to that. The head swivels and rotates so that you can get it in a position that is best for your viewing.

I bought this not for using with my phone but for holding my Kindle so that I could read it at a comfortable position while sat in my car while on the school run etc. Conclusion – ITS GREAT, I place the holder on my window WITH the plastic still attached so that I can take it on and off when I am not using it. I placed one of the magnets in my kindle case so that it could magnetically hold but beware the magnet sent my kindle funny so I took it out (restarted the kindle, it was fine) and stuck one of the magnets to the back of the case with duct tape to try it out and its works BRILLIANTLY – holds it in position without moving even when touching the screen to turn the pages. It does also hold my phone in position without moving too – even over the bumps and round bends.

I showed it my husband and he now wants it for his car so that he can use it for watching films on his tablet, just so you know my husband is hard to please so him wanting it gives it a MOST DEFINITE thumbs up.

I have attached a few pictures for you to see how great it is.



The books below where FREE at time of posting.

Please check though before purchasing.

 

redemption

Redemption by Rye Brewer

Amazon.com:   http://amzn.to/2fnBB4q

Amazon UK:   http://amzn.to/2fEBWR8

 

deceivd

Deceived by L A Starkey

Amazon.com:  http://amzn.to/2fFoOcP

Amazon UK:   http://amzn.to/2eVFNrl

 

shifted

Shifted Under Construction by C E Black

Amazon.com:    http://amzn.to/2fnA8Lg

Amazon UK:     http://amzn.to/2fEDevl

 

stone

Stone Cold by Olivia Rigal

Amazon.com:   http://amzn.to/2fFjy9f

Amazon UK:    http://amzn.to/2eVBfl2

 

dragon

Her Dragon to Slay by Julia Mills

Amazon.com:    http://amzn.to/2eNcTMv

Amazon UK:    http://amzn.to/2elVImt



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