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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

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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.
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‘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.
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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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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.

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The books below where FREE at time of posting.

Please check though before purchasing.

 

redemption

Redemption by Rye Brewer

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deceivd

Deceived by L A Starkey

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Shifted Under Construction by C E Black

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stone

Stone Cold by Olivia Rigal

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dragon

Her Dragon to Slay by Julia Mills

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 PREORDER 99c SPECIAL 

Title: Always Hope
Genre: Chick-lit Romance
Release Date: November 26, 2016
Designer: Claire Smith
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Ten years ago Hope West left her hometown, attempting to outrun dissolved relationships, family secrets, and the broken heart caused by her first love, Samuel Mooney. When unforeseen circumstances force her to return, she realizes that her time away has done little to heal the pain of the past.
Never intending to stay in Woodridge, Hope slowly begins to understand that remaining there may be the only way to secure her future. Blossoming friendships and the discovery of a box of letters revealing the identity of her mysterious father all point Hope in the direction of reconciliation.
As she begins to mend her broken bonds, Sam reenters her life in an unexpected way, forcing her to decide if true love can really stand the test of time.
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Heidi Renee Mason is a passionate romance novelist and crafter of your next Happily Ever After. She loves listening to the voices in her head (from her characters, of course!) and creating worlds in which her readers can lose themselves for a little while. A native of the Midwest, Heidi now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters.


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Genre: Historical Romance

Release Date: November 15, 2016

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Defying the restrictions of society, Emma Johnston plans to become a teacher and help broaden the lives of young women. Society, her father, and even her own heart betray her and leave her longing for a different life entirely.

After having run up considerable debt, Emma’s father needs her inheritance from her maternal grandfather and he has a plan that seems guaranteed to get it for him, until Roger Starnes steps in and rescues her.

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Born in Charleston, South Carolina, moved to Alabama when I was 4. Lived here most of my life, in a couple other southern states as well – namely Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. I have a master’s in business admin. Live near my family in east central Alabama with my writing companion PB, the terrier and assorted ghosts and ghost stories of days gone by. Inspiration for Family Fortune was drawn from stories told to me by Mrs. Dunn before she passed away about the old girl’s academy down the street and one of the teachers there from back in the 1800s whose father didn’t want her to teach and about stories about teachers in the 1910s and 1920s who were forced to quit teaching because they got married. Mrs. Dunn herself was a school teacher and when the Great Depression hit, she moved school desks into her living room and continued to teach, as a married woman (Gasp, shock, oh the horror!) so the children wouldn’t be behind in their education.

 

 



Title: Dirty Kisses (3:AM Kisses 10)
Author: Addison Moore
Genre: New Adult Romantic Comedy
Cover: Gaffey Media
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Dirty Kisses
3:AM Kisses 10
*Can be read as a standalone*
NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, Addison Moore—
Cosmopolitan Magazine calls Addison’s books, “…easy, frothy fun!”
Jet Madden is notoriously good in bed. It’s not a fact I can confirm through experience, but, according to the lust-driven grapevine at Whitney Briggs University, he’s a sexual force to be reckoned with—many, many times in a single savory night.
 
The day my world crashes around me, I’m shuttled off to live with the ratted, tatted, roided-up hulk. Regardless of the fact, I’ll do anything to keep my distance from that egotistical, giant ball of muscles. The last thing I want is to become another notch on that totem pole of seduction he keeps tucked in his pants. The very last thing I want is to befriend or, God forbid, fall for Hollow Brook’s resident wick dipper.
 
But that sheet rock chest, those steel cut abs—a girl can only hold up her resistance for so long before she slowly goes insane. I’m trying to resist him, really I am, but I have to see if those rumors are true.
 
Each night I dream of falling asleep in Jet Madden’s arms, and each day I pretend as if I loathe his existence. It’s all a lie. We’re a lie. Staying away from Jet Madden is proving impossible. My body demands to collide with his, even if all it will ever amount to is our dirty little secret.
He’s afraid to get too attached.
She’s afraid of losing control.
 
 
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*Introductory pricing expires in 3 days! Will be $4.99*
Stolen Kisses
3:AM Kisses 11
*CAN BE READ AS A STANDALONE*
 
Releasing  November 13, 2016
Special Introductory Price
 
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Addison Moore is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine. Previously she worked as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit for nearly a decade. She resides on the West Coast with her husband, four wonderful children and two dogs where she eats too much chocolate and stays up way too late. When she’s not writing, she’s reading.

 

               
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