Desire Me (Legend Hunters Series #2)by Robyn DeHart
The Men of Solomon's meet in secret, their very existence only a rumor among the best of Victorian society. They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is as mystifying as the lost city of Atlantis . . .
Years ago, Maxwell Barrett/b>/i>/b>/i>
The Legend Hunters . . .
The Men of Solomon's meet in secret, their very existence only a rumor among the best of Victorian society. They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is as mystifying as the lost city of Atlantis . . .
Years ago, Maxwell Barrett found a map to Atlantis and dedicated his life to the search for the mystical lost continent. But when an alluring woman makes a wager for the priceless artifact, he may have discovered an even greater treasure.
A descendant of Atlantis, Sabine Tobias needs the map to decipher an ancient prophecy. What she doesn't need are the sparks flying between her and Max. He's too devilishly charming to be trusted: The fate of her people is at stake as well as her heart. Yet a ruthless killer also covets the map. Now Max and Sabine must race to decode the prophecy's riddle before this criminal fulfills his deadly mission.
A wildly inventive and original plot, a captivating cast of secondary characters, and an unforgettable hero and heroine (whose sexual chemistry is strong enough to generate actual sparks)."Booklist"
Danger, mystery, romance, suspense, and history all blend together with a healthy dose of the Atlantis legend. The result is a book destined for your Keeper shelf. Robyn DeHart has written a treasure trove of trouble that will have you reading at top speed!"HuntressReviews.com"
Robyn DeHart writes top notch historical romances, sure to be a winner with readers."Pamela Morsi, USA TODAY bestselling author"
Comical and sexy..."Publishers Weekly"
Beautifully written and well-researched..."Jani Brooks, Romance Reviews Today
Read an Excerpt
By DeHart, Robyn
ForeverCopyright © 2010 DeHart, Robyn
All right reserved.
On the coast of Cornwall, 1873
Maxwell Barrett lit his lantern, then moved into the damp cave. Behind him, he could hear the waves beating against the rock that surrounded the opening of the cavern. He didn’t have much time. It was that reason alone that drove him forward at this swift pace. Otherwise he would have meandered, investigating every nook and cranny he could reach. But he only had two hours before the tide rose to once again cover the entrance to the cave.
Two hours before he would drown.
Unless he had miscalculated, and then perhaps he had even less time. Either way, he needed to get in there and find the map, then get the hell to dry land.
The cave appeared and disappeared with the tides, which was why it had taken him nearly four months to locate the blasted area, and still it remained to be seen whether he’d find what he had sought for the past two years.
Beneath his boots, the uneven rocks—slick with moss and water—made his journey all the more harrowing. He’d slipped several times already, but he held firm to his lantern and kept moving forward. He knew he was right about this cave, he could feel it.
Today he would find the map of Atlantis.
He skidded across a wet stone, his weight shifted, and he fell hard upon one knee. The rock sliced through his wool trousers, biting into his flesh. Fortunately, he managed to avoid shattering the lantern. Max got to his feet and inhaled sharply.
He could do this. Hell, when he was fifteen, he’d found a long-forgotten buried treasure of a pirate queen. He was seventeen now. He propelled himself forward, careful where he stepped. Still, it was Atlantis… finding the one and only map to the lost continent would certainly prove that Plato’s writings were fact and not fiction. If he did that, his parents would truly notice. Everyone would have to take notice.
Long stalactites reached down to him like ancient fingers. Max bent and twisted to avoid impaling himself, but he kept moving forward. Always forward. Still he could hear the waves behind him, like an hourglass reminding him he had a finite amount of time.
The deeper he traveled, the more constricted the air became. He sucked in a breath; his nose filled with the chalky scent that could only be found in earth’s little crevices. His heart beat wildly.
The tunnel before him split. The walls of the cave pulled in and formed two paths. One was big enough for him to continue walking, though crouched over; the other was not even large enough for a small child to pass through. The choice was made for him. The Atlanteans who had ventured here before him to hide the map certainly would have used the larger passage.
Still he hesitated.
The stalactites were a reminder that flowing water could grow rocks as well as break them down. He hoped time had not changed the constant flowing water and narrowed the correct path, thus forcing him in the wrong direction.
Only one way to find out. Max felt along the rock wall with one hand, and with the other, he held the lantern in front of him, though the pitiful amount of light made the exercise seem almost worthless. Beneath his fingers, the stone was cool and wet. Something slithered under his palm, and he jerked back his hand.
Again the area narrowed, so much that, in order to continue, he had to turn sideways. Drowning would certainly be a most dreadful way to perish, but drowning in this constricted channel would be even worse. He picked up his pace, unable to run, but moving quickly through the stone passage. The rock at his back brushed through his hair as he moved, and the stones in front of him would skin his nose if he wasn’t careful.
The darkness ahead of him grew thicker and blacker as he hiked farther into the cave. Finally the crevice he’d been moving through opened back up. He took a step, but found only air beneath his boot. His balance shifted, and he leaned forward, nearly falling, but he was able to grab the cavern wall to his right to steady himself.
He found himself standing on the ledge of an underground lake. He held the lantern out and bent over to peer into the pool. It was difficult to see, but the water must be several feet below him, and while it was not a fall that would likely result in death, he’d prefer not to test the fates.
The ledge encircled the water, and he could tell that the area to his right was far narrower than the one to his left. So Max moved to the left and followed the rim around. The opening he’d climbed through was the only break in the cavern’s wall around the lake, at least as far as he could see.
According to his research, this cave should lead him to where the Atlanteans had hidden their map. Everything he’d read indicated it would be sealed, dry in the midst of water. Max looked up, trying his best to scan the ceiling of the cavern. It seemed highly improbable that someone had climbed to the top, because the walls were slick with moisture. And there didn’t appear to be any legitimate hiding places above to stash anything.
Dim lantern light glanced off the walls, enough for him to see the shape of his own hand, but not much more. So it was possible more lay ahead of him. He kept moving.
The ledge narrowed. Nearly his entire boot hung off the edge; only a small sliver of his heel remained supported. He pressed his back against the cavern wall and slid himself across the small ridge. Suddenly the glow from his lantern revealed a large chunk of quartz, creating an eerie bluish light.
It was here, in this angle and in that lapis glow, that his lantern reflected off something in the center of the lake. A wooden pedestal jutted out from the water, and sitting atop it was some sort of container.
His heart quickened. That had to be it. The map was hidden in there. He was seconds away from slipping his feet off the ledge to jump into the lake when he noticed something moving in the water. He slid over to his right to position himself on a sturdier section of the ledge, and he once again bent forward with his lantern in hand.
There in the water drifted a decaying body. Nearly down to the bones, the corpse wore clothes that were shredded and hung like an ill-fitted suit. It swayed back and forth in a macabre dance of death. Through the abdomen of the man was a wooden spike. Then Max noticed several other similar spikes of different sizes and heights scattered around the wooden pedestal.
If Max had jumped, or fallen, into the water, that could be him now, skewered on a pole, waiting to bleed to death.
He stood up straight. “Interesting.”
Without a bridge from this ledge, how was he supposed to get to the map without skewering himself on the spikes? He looked around, scanning his surroundings for any material he might be able to use. Nothing.
The sound of water falling drew his attention to the crevice he’d crawled out of. Water spilled out of it, draining into the lake below. He watched as the dead body continued to undulate in the dark liquid.
Therein lay Max’s answer. The only way to get to that pedestal without impaling himself was to allow the lake to fill up until it reached the platform. Waiting that long, though, would significantly decrease his odds of getting back out of the cave alive.
There didn’t appear to be another way. It came down to two choices: walk away from the map and therefore any proof of the lost continent, or risk his life in hopes of creating fact out of fiction. He inhaled slowly and straightened his shoulders. If there was one truth about Maxwell Barrett—it was that he was relentless in his search.
He would get that map today or he would die trying.
Max had left his pocket watch on the shore when he swam to the cave’s opening so he had no true measure of time. However, nearly two feet of empty space stretched from the top of the water to the pedestal. So he guessed it would take close to thirty minutes for the lake to fill. He was a strong swimmer. He would have enough time, and he would make it out of here alive.
No spikes pierced the water immediately below him. Slowly he lowered himself from the ledge into the pool, the cold ocean water chilling him instantly. He trod water trying, in vain, to acclimate himself to the frigid water. Just a little more depth in the pool, and he could make his move.
He ignored the temperature and swam toward the pedestal. Water was now pouring over the ledge more rapidly. The surge of water pulled the dead man into the murky depths, but he bubbled back to the surface after a moment. A handful of spikes still breached the surface, but the water had swallowed most of them. He did his best to navigate around them. He accidentally kicked one with the tip of his boot, then swam right into another one. A sharp tip scraped across his shin, tearing through his trousers and cutting his leg. Age had done nothing to dull the danger of the wooden spikes.
With considerable concentration, he made his way to the center pole that held up the wooden platform. There was enough water in the pool now that he could heave himself up to reach the pedestal. Gazing down upon his treasure at last, shivering slightly in the cold, he held his breath, not quite believing his eyes. Upon closer inspection, Max could see that the container in the center was a glass tube. He tried to pry it off, twist it, pull it—anything to remove it from its resting place—but it would not budge.
He’d come too far to give up now. With a swift movement, he slammed his fist into the side of the glass, and it shattered. He retrieved the leather package, tucked it inside his shirt, and then jumped into the water, ignoring the cuts on his hand. He came within an inch of hitting another spike. There was no time to be relieved, though; the water surged around him and soon the path he’d taken here would be completely submerged.
Quickly he climbed back onto the ledge and made his way back to the thin crevice he’d followed to the pool. The elevated water hit him just below his waist as he slid back the way he’d come, though this time with no lantern to guide him. He’d left it behind when he’d jumped into the pool, and there’d been no time to retrieve it.
Water lapped at his belt. Panic pulled at him with bony fingers of dread. He pushed the fear aside and moved forward, but his pace was sluggish as he fought against the water’s current. Eventually, though, he made it out of the tight crevice and back into the main part of the cave, just as the water reached his shoulders.
A wave crashed against the opening to the cave, and a moment later, as water surged in past him, he nearly lost his footing. He sucked in a huge breath as the water surrounded and consumed him.
Against the current and with the waves slamming into him, he swam with every ounce of strength he had. His lungs burned and screamed for air as he fought the water. Salt stung his eyes as he searched for light at the surface.
Finally he breached the surface and gasped for breath.
Yes, he could have given up and let death take him in that cave, but then he’d be as nameless as the corpse back in that lake. Finding this map would put his name on the lips of everyone in England.
He allowed the waves to rock into him as he floated and concentrated on breathing. A minute later, he was swimming again; this time to the rocks that climbed up to the shoreline above.
The cliff bit into his hand as he struggled up to the land. His damp clothes weighed him down, and the exertion from the swim had wearied his legs, but still he kept pulling himself upward. Ten minutes or so later, he stood at the top, his breathing labored and his heart pounding. He was exhausted, but exhilarated as well. He might very well have just changed history.
The package tucked in his shirt was coated with some waxy material that Max assumed made it water-resistant. He reached inside and pulled out the folded material, then slowly, reverently, opened it.
It was beautiful—unlike any map he’d ever seen—the rings of Atlantis, alternating water and land. Hand drawn and hand colored, the water channels seemed as if they’d be wet to the touch, and the mountain ridges sharp beneath his finger. Poseidon’s palace shone brightly from the center ring of land.
Max folded the map back and slipped it into the pouch at his side. He had done it. He had proven the existence of the lost continent of Atlantis.
London, January 1888
Spencer Cole turned the pistol over in his hand, the gleaming metal shimmering beneath the moonlight. Tonight could go one of two ways, and he was prepared for either. He tucked the gun into the waistband of his trousers. A carriage rumbled down the street, so he pressed himself against the outer wall of the townhome.
The cloying sweet smell of jasmine permeated the air. Damn garden was full of the stuff. He hated jasmine. With one finger, he plucked a delicate white bloom, dropped it to the dirt, and ground it beneath his boot.
His greatcoat hugged his shoulders and helped to keep him shrouded in the near darkness. Earlier he’d changed clothes and removed his bright white shirt in favor of something darker—a muddy brown to better blend with the night.
He considered the task at hand. This officer had been more challenging to find. Initially Spencer had been told the man was in Africa, so Spencer had decided to wait until the officer returned to London. Then two weeks ago, he had intercepted a message that stated otherwise. If the note was to be believed, the man sat upstairs now.
The first target had lived alone and was known for drinking, on duty or off. He’d been loud and boisterous and disliked by plenty. Spencer had not even bothered offering him a choice. Killing him had been easy. Too easy. He’d been passed out from too much drink, and it had taken nothing more than a lit match to the curtains for the entire townhome to go up in flames. Worthless bastard.
Spencer had been unable to leave a message with that body. He’d allowed his temper to get the better of him, letting his own personal bias distract him from his task. But it was crucial that people knew of his purpose, his destiny.
So with the second, he’d been more precise and taken more time. First he’d offered the man a deal; a chance to be a part of something important. The fool had declined. Spencer had used a blade then, slicing the man from ear to ear until his blood had poured out and his head had nearly been severed. It had been exceptionally messy. Without a fire, he’d been able to leave his first message with specific instructions to print said message in the Times. Spencer had no way of knowing whether the guardians he sought read any of London’s newspapers, but Londoners did. And printing such notes would breed their fear. Spencer loved that. Certainly Scotland Yard was on alert now, and the townspeople would follow shortly.
Which led him to number three. Spencer eyed the lit window above his head. This officer had a family, a mistress, and too many friends to count. And many accommodations from her majesty. The officer had much to lose. Perhaps all of those reasons would persuade him to accept Spencer’s generous offer. If not…
After discovering this man was in fact in London, Spencer had begun to track his movements, watching him as a hunter studies his prey. He’d done the same with all of the officers he was targeting.
Spending two weeks in this sweet-smelling garden, watching and waiting, had seriously tried Spencer’s patience. But tonight was the night. Tonight the target was alone. His wife and two daughters had gone out to the theater followed by a late-night ball and would be gone for hours yet. Inside the house, the older man sat, unaware of his part in a much bigger plan.
There were far more officers available than Spencer needed, so he’d carefully chosen his targets. Seven lives to signify the seven rings of Atlantis. They would fall by his hand or join him and fall from grace. Either way, they would begin the prophecy, leading his army. He looked down at the ring on his right hand, the one that led him directly to the elixir. This was his destiny, and it mattered not who got hurt in the process. A prophecy older than anything here in London, this was bigger than even he.
A clock somewhere in the distance chimed the eleventh hour. It was time.
He made his way to the French doors that led from the garden into a parlor. With considerable force, he was able to break the lock and open the door. The room was dark and uninhabited, but enough light from the hall scattered onto the floor, preventing him from walking into any of the furniture. The ripe scent of furniture polish tickled his nose.
He knew that General Lancer’s study occupied the first floor, so he crept out of the parlor and down the hall. A scullery maid stepped into the hall, and her eyes widened as she saw him. She opened her mouth to scream just as he grabbed her by the throat. He pulled her close to him. Her large brown eyes teared up as she stared at him.
“Do not scream,” he said. “If you scream, I’ll be forced to kill you. Understand?”
She nodded fervently.
Of course, he would kill her regardless. However, he preferred to do so quietly as to not alert his true target to his presence. Quickly he withdrew the knife he kept secured to his boot and shoved the blade into her throat. Her scream was caught as the knife went through, and the hissing sound of air oozed from the wound. She fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, her brown gaze frozen with fear.
She’d given him no option. It was better for him to make his way through the house undetected.
Step by step, he crept through the hallway, peering into the rooms flanking the corridor. He nearly walked in on a couple of servants pressed up against a large buffet in a darkened dining room, but their muted sounds of passion covered the slight squeak of the door.
Finally he found the correct room. A soft glow filtered beneath the doorjamb, and as he pushed the door open, he came face to face with the man he sought.
The older man sat behind his desk, white shirt open, no cravat, with books and journals piled on the desktop.
“Who the devil are you?” he asked. He came to his feet.
“It matters not who I am,” Spencer said evenly. “Sit down.”
“I will do no such thing.” His hair, though white, was still full and wavy, and his eyes still sparked with intelligence. “Wait a moment”—those eyes narrowed—“I do know you. What do you want?”
Spencer could not deny the slight thrill that shot through him. He reveled in being recognized. But that was not his purpose tonight. He deliberately slowed his breathing.
“I have a proposition for you,” he said evenly.
The man’s nostrils flared. “Did she send you?”
“A great war is coming,” Spencer said, ignoring the man’s question. “England is not prepared.”
“We have the greatest military in the world,” the man sputtered. Deep lines creased his already wrinkled forehead. “You have some nerve.”
He wouldn’t be one of the select, Spencer could see that, but he had a duty to fulfill. Slowly, he withdrew the tiny vial. “I have the solution here. One tiny drop and you would become cleverer, stronger, more alert. The best general you could be.” Spencer nearly rolled his eyes. Were it up to him, he would simply dispose of all of them and start fresh with men of his own choosing. But his specific instructions were to invite them to join his cause first, and should they decline, only then could he kill them.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to imply, but I can assure you, I take great offense. I am already the best general I can be or most any other man could be.” He braced both arms on his desk. “I think it is time you should leave. Tomorrow I shall send up a report of this event. Intruding into my home, insulting me, and then offering me some sort of magical potion that is probably nothing more than opium. I won’t have it,” he growled.
Spencer allowed the man to rant; in truth he found the whole display rather entertaining. Especially in light of what was shortly to come.
“If that is the case, then I’m afraid your skills are no longer needed,” he told him. With one swift movement, he withdrew the pistol from his waistband. “I believe I told you to sit down.”
Resignation showed clearly in the target’s face, and he slowly lowered himself into his chair. Despite the years the general had spent in the upper reaches of the military, his battle instincts had not dulled. He had the sense to know when he faced a superior opponent.
“I have plenty of money,” Lancer said. “And I can have my wife’s jewels brought down to you. Whatever you want, I can provide.” He held out his hand. “Here, I accept your offer. I’ll take the vial.”
Briefly Spencer considered the general’s offer. His military skills could prove useful, but it was too late now. The man’s loyalty would always be in question. Pity.
“If only it were that simple,” Spencer told the man. “I’m certain I could use a man of your stature and skills. But you should have accepted my offer when you had the chance.” He swiped a decorative cushion from the chair behind him, then walked to the desk and aimed the gun directly at the man. “But it was not to be.”
“All I have to do is call, and I’ll have a room full of men coming to my aid,” Lancer warned, though the deep swallow suggested more fear than threat.
If that were true, the man would already have called for assistance. Spencer stepped around the desk to stand behind the man. He slid the pistol against the thick, white hair. “Go ahead.” Spencer shrugged. “Call for help if you must, but then I will be forced to kill them as well. I would prefer not to do that.”
“Did she send you?” His voice wavered. Then he shook his head as if answering his own question. “Surely not.”
Enough playing. As much as he enjoyed the torment for his own personal enjoyment, he had a task to accomplish. “No more talking,” he whispered. Then he placed the cushion between the pistol and the man’s temple and pulled the trigger.
Only four more to go.
Sabine Tobias turned over in bed and stared at the dark ceiling above her. She hadn’t been sleeping well since they moved to London seven months before. After living in a country village for the first twenty-four years of her life, she hadn’t yet grown accustomed to the sounds of the city. Tonight she would have sworn she’d heard something or rather someone rustling down below her window. Inhaling, she held her breath and attuned her ears, listening. There, she heard it again. Perhaps merely the wind, or an alley cat, but there was definitely a noise.
Her ears seemed to pick up every stray sound. It was probably nothing, but what if it was more? A thief, perhaps. Or a murderer? Sweat beaded down the center of her back. Her stomach roiled with nerves.
She swung her legs to the floor and padded out of her tiny room and into the hallway. There she nearly ran into her eldest aunt, Lydia.
“Did you hear it, too?” the older woman asked.
“I did,” Sabine whispered.
“I think someone is outside.” Lydia held her candle out in front of her as she walked to the staircase, her pale yellow nightdress billowing behind her.
They hadn’t even gotten halfway down the stairs before her other two aunts left their rooms, and together they all crept to the first floor to investigate. Lydia stopped at the base of the stairs.
“The noise,” Lydia whispered. “It’s inside now.”
Sabine’s heart seized with panic. Slowly the four of them tiptoed into the storeroom at the back of their little shop. There, sitting at a small table, was a man. It was an intruder!
“I’m sorry to wake you,” the man said, his voice wispy and full of breath.
“Madigan?” Lydia asked. She rushed forward.
Relief washed over Sabine so quickly she nearly fell over. At least her aunts knew this intruder.
“ ’Tis me,” he said.
“You scared the devil out of us,” Agnes said. Her fading red hair hung loose in a braid down her back. It flipped over her shoulder as she chastised the man.
He shook his head, then coughed. “I don’t have much time. I’ve come to warn the child.”
Lydia placed her candle on the table, then lowered herself into the chair next to him. “Calliope,” she said to her youngest sister. “Let us get some more light in here.”
Soft light spread through the room as Sabine helped Calliope light the wall sconces. They hadn’t yet been able to afford the new electric lights, but the old lamps shone brightly.
Madigan, as Lydia had called him, crouched in the wooden chair, looking pale and in pain. At the first complete sight of him, Sabine’s aunts gasped.
“What has happened to you?” Agnes asked, moving closer to him.
Calliope withdrew a bottle of homemade liquor from behind a cabinet and poured him a glass. “You don’t look well, old friend.”
All three of her aunts knew this man and yet she had never seen him, nor heard them speak of him. And she had lived with them her entire life. Even when her parents were alive, her aunts had always been there. Sabine knew he was not from their village, of that she was certain. Nor had she seen him here in London, and they had been here with their little shop for nearly a year.
He drank the whiskey, then nodded toward Sabine. “Come here, all of you.”
It was on her tongue to give him a tart reply, because she did not know this man, but Lydia shook her head. “Sabine, now is not the time,” she said.
Sabine nodded, then drew closer and sat in the chair Lydia had abandoned. Agnes sat next to her, and Calliope hovered with her bottle of whiskey.
Madigan was a tall man and nearly as broad. His thick, dark curly hair and full beard covered much of his face, but could not disguise his kind brown eyes.
“I have much to tell you in very little time,” he said in a gravelly voice, then coughed again. He winced in pain.
“May I get you anything?” Sabine asked. “We are healers of sorts. Calliope”—she turned to her aunt—“could you fetch my kit? It’s right behind you on that shelf.”
He reached a hand out and stilled Calliope. “There is nothing any of you can do to help me.” He took a ragged breath. “I came to warn the guardian.”
Sabine’s stomach twisted. They had never, not once, revealed the identity of the guardian outside their village. She eyed her aunts, trying to gauge their reaction, but their expressions revealed nothing. She turned back to the man.
“There are three of us,” he said. He shifted in his seat and his face contorted with another wave of internal pain. He fell into a coughing fit.
“Us,” he had said. So this was one of the other guardians. She, of course, knew of the existence of the other two guardians, the Seer and the Sage. But as each of the three guardians lived separately in their own villages, she had never met either of them. They kept to their own, as it were. She knew only that they were both men.
Historically all of the guardians had been men. Until her mother, then Agnes. And her aunts believed Sabine would be next. Though Sabine knew that would not be the case. If she were meant to be guardian, she would have been selected when her mother died. She used to argue that point with her aunts, but her protests had fallen on deaf ears, so now she didn’t bother.
It had been a shock to all of her people when her mother had been born. Every Atlantean family up until then had always had at least one male child. Never before had an Atlantean fathered a female first and then three subsequent females. So when Sabine’s grandfather had passed, the people had no choice but to accept her mother as the first female guardian. And the ancient ceremony had confirmed that choice. They had all believed she would fail, and when she did, they had mocked her name.
“But very soon,” Madigan continued once his coughing eased, “only two will remain.” He placed a warm hand on Sabine’s shoulder. “The prophecy has begun,” he said.
“Phinneas warned us months ago,” Agnes said quietly.
Madigan nodded. “Yes, Phinneas saw the signs sometime last year. Warning signs, but this—” He looked up at them, his eyes filled with such sorrow. “It has started. The Chosen One has arrived.”
“Are you certain?” Calliope asked.
Sabine knew that Agnes had received a warning, but she’d never known from whom. This must mean Phinneas was the Seer, which meant Madigan was the Sage. The warning was why they had moved here to London, why they had opened this little shop in Piccadilly.
“The prophecy,” Sabine repeated. She’d been warned of the prophecy her entire life. What Atlantean hadn’t heard tell of it? Though none had ever seen it, at least none that she knew. Perhaps this Phinneas knew the specifics, though everyone knew that the prophecy had been torn from the Seer’s book.
All Sabine knew was there would be a battle and the guardians would protect the elixir from the Chosen One.
Agnes was in danger.
Fear took root in Sabine’s stomach. She took a steadying breath. She refused to get distracted by anxiety. She would not make the same mistakes her mother had. Sabine had every intention of redeeming her family name by preventing the prophecy from being fulfilled.
When she and her aunts had received that warning those months ago, they’d developed a plan.
“We’ve prepared ourselves as best we could,” she spoke up. “ ’Tis why we moved to London. We are on alert, but certainly we should not live in fear.” She said it aloud to remind herself, to squelch the remnants of fear tingling inside her.
Madigan smiled. “She is a brave one.”
“Yes,” Agnes agreed.
“Tell me about this scheme of yours, child,” Madigan said.
“Since we know very little of the prophecy,” Sabine began, “it has been challenging to prepare. But we know the Chosen One will rise and attempt to steal the elixir, thus destroying the guardians.” Sabine sat forward. “And, of course, we know the dangers of misusing the elixir.”
Sabine paused while Madigan nearly collapsed in a coughing fit. He took a large gulp of whiskey, then nodded for her to continue.
“Are you certain there is nothing we can offer you?” Sabine asked. “Surely you must know that Agnes is the Healer.” Perhaps he did not trust their abilities. No doubt word had spread about what had happened to Sabine’s father. It had taken years before anyone in her village had trusted the Healer again.
“No, please continue,” he said.
“We know that the Chosen One has a way to detect our presence, somehow sensing those who have used the elixir. So as a precaution, I came up with a way for us to hide in plain sight,” Sabine said. “Obviously, we can do nothing to hide ourselves or the fact that we’re exposed to the elixir. But we can change those around us. We’re selling the elixir,” Sabine said.
Madigan straightened as best he could; a deep frown creased his brow. “Have you gone mad? That’s an invitation for danger,” Madigan said, then turned to her aunts. “How could you let her do this? You’ll lead him right to your door.”
“We are not fools,” Sabine said. She reached over to Calliope, who handed her one of the glass jars. “It is no different than the healing concoctions, and we are very careful with the measurements.” She set it on the table in front of him.
“‘Tobias Miracle Crème for the Face,’” Madigan read. “Are you quite serious?”
She said nothing more, but sat quietly while he thought on what she’d told him. So far her aunts had said nothing. This had been her idea, a plan to protect Agnes. They had thought long and hard before agreeing and setting the plan in motion. Now, several months later, their products were successful, and the elixir was slowly being spread across London.
He uncorked the lid, then held the jar of crème to his nose and inhaled. With the tip of one finger, he withdrew a small amount and rubbed it onto his arm. “It absorbs into their skin,” he muttered. His brown gaze lifted to meet hers. “So to him, we all look the same.”
She nodded. “We also have other products. In fact, we’ve become somewhat of a sensation in the last few weeks. Society, it would seem, has taken notice.”
“How much elixir do you use in each jar?” Madigan asked.
“One single drop,” Agnes said.
“I suppose the women in town are loving how well it dispels their wrinkles,” Madigan said.
“Precisely,” Agnes said. “The more they use it, the more it throws him off our scent, so to speak.”
Madigan was quiet for a few moments, then he nodded. “That’s brilliant. I had wondered why you’d relocated to London. It’s rather unorthodox for guardians to abandon their village.”
“For their protection,” Sabine said. She’d known it was a risk to move Agnes away from their people, but it would have been an even greater risk to stay. They’d made arrangements for their people to come and retrieve the healing ointments and tonics and bring them back to the village.
“Madigan, I don’t understand how you know the prophecy has begun. Have you spoken with Phinneas recently?” Agnes asked. “He has not mentioned it in his letters.”
“No, not in the last month or two,” he said.
Lydia stepped forward. “Did you find the map?”
Generations of their people had searched for the map of Atlantis, as it was the only remaining place to find the prophecy in its entirety. But their hunts had been futile.
“Not precisely found it, but I have located it,” Madigan said, then he coughed, a chest-rattling, body-racking cough that resulted in his wiping blood from his mouth.
“Madigan, why have you not taken some of your elixir to clear your lungs?” Sabine asked. “Or allowed Agnes to assist you; she’s a wonderful healer.”
“I told you, it is far too late for me.” He shook his head and was quiet for a moment before he spoke again. “I couldn’t stop him. He hit me over the head, knocked me out. He took it.”
“The elixir?” Lydia said.
Madigan simply nodded.
“How long have you been without it?” Agnes asked.
“More than a day,” he said. Then shook his head. “I don’t know how long I was out, so I’m really not certain how long. I was so careful.” He gripped Agnes’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”
“It has begun then,” Calliope said.
That was why Madigan looked so ill. If a guardian lost his elixir and did not recover it within two days’ time, he would perish. She had seen it happen before with her own mother. It was a mystical connection that even Sabine did not understand, but there were some facts that you simply did not question.
“Give him some of your elixir,” Sabine suggested.
He shook his head. “Elixir won’t work for me now, at least none but my own. Besides, she needs her own.” He met Sabine’s eyes. “She’s the important one.” His breathing was labored and raspy. “I used my time getting here to warn you. Phinneas can look after himself. Though I did send him a message to warn him.”
“What do we need to do?” Sabine asked. Whatever it took, she would do it to ensure Agnes and the rest of her aunts were safe. She would not lose anyone else. Madigan had used precious time to come and warn them instead of pursuing his own elixir. She owed him her gratitude.
“You need the entire prophecy,” Madigan said. “You must have it to have any hope of destroying the Chosen One.”
“The map,” Sabine said. “You said you located it.”
He coughed again, took another sip of the whiskey, then released a weary breath. “A man, an Englishman, found it many years ago. He still has it now.”
“Phinneas’s vision was right,” Agnes said. “He said a great one would find the map and lead the way to our salvation.”
Madigan reached into his coat and withdrew a folded piece of parchment. “I’ve given you his name and address. Unfortunately that is all the information I have on him.” He placed his hand over Sabine’s. “It is imperative that you get that prophecy. Without the map, you have no hope of surviving the Chosen One.”
Sabine made no move to unfold the paper once he’d placed it in her hand. He’d given her this task. He was trusting her to retrieve the one thing her people had sought for years. She kept her eyes on the man in front of her. He was a few breaths away from dying.
“How long have you known about this?” she asked. “About the man who has possession of our map?”
“Not long. Initially I only knew it was an Englishman. It took me awhile to uncover his identity,” Madigan said.
“Will he sell it to us?” she asked.
“No. I already tried that a couple of months ago,” Madigan said. He grabbed her hand. “You can do this. We must have the prophecy.”
He eyed her aunts. “We have no other choice.”
Madigan had died that night in their storeroom, a most painful and terrible death. As a girl, Sabine had watched her mother die and now another guardian had perished. She would do whatever was necessary to keep Agnes safe.
So she did what any lady in need would do. She hid in a darkened carriage outside the gentleman’s home and waited for him to go out for the evening. She knew he planned to go out, as he’d readied a carriage for himself an hour earlier.
Madigan’s note had not given her much information about the Englishman in question, one Maxwell Barrett, Marquess of Lindberg. She knew where he lived and she knew that he had in his possession the legendary map of Atlantis. Madigan had been studying Mr. Barrett for a couple of months, but as it turned out the man was rather mysterious.
Madigan had said the man would not entertain bids to purchase the map, which left her with two choices—she could break into the man’s home and, in effect, steal the map. Technically she could make an argument that the map belonged to her and her people, yet she doubted that she would make much headway with the authorities should she get pinched.
Or she could try to persuade him to allow her a peek. The latter seemed infinitely preferable to a small prison cell. One could not protect the world from a prophesied disaster if one were trapped in prison. But if tonight’s efforts proved to be a complete failure, then she would certainly reconsider the theft. A woman had to do what a woman had to do.
He was a member of London’s illustrious Society; certainly that meant he was a reasonable fellow. She simply needed to make the gentleman’s acquaintance. Tonight seemed as good a night as any, plus she didn’t appear to have the luxury of time on her hands. If the ancient prophecy had already begun, then the hourglass had been turned, and the grains of sand were swiftly falling around her. Without the prophecy in its entirety, Madigan was right, they were basically fighting blindfolded.
If she were to persuade a man to do her bidding, she knew there were certain distractions she could use to her advantage. One was beauty. Though she had never been particularly comfortable playing the role of seductress, she had done her best to dress the part tonight. She’d donned a gown the English would deem appropriately attractive, an ivory gown sewn of the most luxurious of silks. It fit her perfectly, which in itself was remarkable considering she’d purchased it from the display in the shop’s window. The cap sleeves edged with delicate lace revealed her upper arms. Then from fingertip to elbow, she wore matching satin gloves. The gown’s plunging neckline lifted and squeezed her breasts until they were practically bursting through the material.
She’d also had Calliope do her hair up in light wispy curls that barely brushed her shoulders, just hinting at their softness. She very much looked the part of a proper English lady. She fidgeted with the necklace hanging around her neck. To others, it would appear to be a simple gold chain, but hanging from the necklace, and hidden beneath the bodice of her gown, was a crystal vial with a small amount of elixir. Agnes had given it to her months ago and instructed her to keep it with her always.
From her vantage point, she saw a man in a greatcoat, the black wool stretched across his broad shoulders. He put on a top hat as he stepped off the last stair and into the waiting coach. Then it rolled out of the driveway. She instructed her driver to follow.
She hadn’t yet figured out how she would sneak into the ball or soiree, or wherever he was going, without a proper invitation. Perhaps her lovely dress and a well-placed smile would grant her admission. She kept her eye on the carriage so she did not lose her man. But her driver stayed close. She wished she’d seen his face, though, as it seemed unlikely she would recognize him in a crowd. All men of wealth wore similar coats and hats.
It took less than twenty minutes for them to pull up outside a three-story redbrick building. The man walked up to the black door and entered. Sabine noted there were no identifying markers indicating the type of establishment, though she assumed from the neighborhood that this was a business and not a residence.
The street was quiet as she stepped down from her rig. Nerves fluttered wildly in her abdomen, and she pressed a gloved hand against her stomach to calm herself. Now was not the time for her to feel anxious.
She had a job to do; it was plain and simple. With a pinch of her cheeks and a tight nibble at her lips to pinken them, she made her way to the door. She would mill about, watch for a while, then find the gentleman in question. The heavy door opened, and Sabine found herself standing in a smoke-filled gaming establishment.
She nearly scoffed. The most prized artifact of Atlantis was in the hands of a gambler. She had half a mind to be utterly incensed, but perhaps this could work to her favor. With that thought, she went in search of the marquess.
Excerpted from Desire Me by DeHart, Robyn Copyright © 2010 by DeHart, Robyn. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Robyn DeHart has published four books with Avon: Courting Claudia, A Study in Scandal, Deliciously Wicked, and Tempted At Every Turn. Known for her unique plotlines and authentic characters, Robyn is a favorite among readers and reviewers. Publishers' Weekly claims her writing to be "comical and sexy" while the Chicago Tribune dubs her "wonderfully entertaining." A two-time Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice award nominee, Robyn has earned 4 star and 4 ½ star top pick reviews on all her books and Kathe Robin says, "Like Amanda Quick, DeHart [will] keep you up all night."
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In 1873 in Cornwall, young teen Maxwell Barrett found a map of Atlantis that over the next fifteen years he obtains enough substantive proof to affirm his belief the map is authentic. He obsesses over actually finding the lost continent to prove to the Solomon club members he belongs. Atlantis guardian Sabine Tobias needs the map possessed by Maxwell to decipher a prophecy. She makes a bet with Max with the stake being the artifact but she loses. Max is fascinated by her, which she plans to take advantage of even if that means seducing him. She needs the map as they need to decipher the prophecy as lives are being lost including Britain's generals. Queen Victoria is in jeopardy and next will be the Empire and then could be the world. The second Legend Hunters Victorian fantasy romantic suspense (see Seduce Me) is an enjoyable frolic as the treasure hunters find the greatest treasure in life is the women they cherish. Fast-paced and filled with non-stop action that would have Indiana Jones needing a respite, readers will want to join Max and Sabine as they team up in love and in decoding the map's riddle before a diabolical killer leaves both of them dead and the Empire in ruins. Harriet Klausner
We all spend a portion of our lives on some personal quest or goal. Some of us may seek love or friendship while others are looking for another type of adventure where the mystical and imagined are involved. Everyone seeks fulfillment for their quest in their own way and that is what Maxwell Barrett, Marquess of Lindbergh has been doing his entire life with his search for the lost City of Atlantis. Max's search is for something that has no tangible proof of its existence but he believes it did exist and finding the remains will see all of his dreams have been fulfilled. At the age of 13 Max found a clue ridden map validating in his mind the existence of Atlantis which placed him on a mission to find the lost city and prove his worth among the other legend seekers at his exclusive club Solomon's. He has spent years trying to decipher the twists and turns of the riddled consumed map with its' yet to be revealed clues but not for a lack of trying. An unexpected twist of fate leads him to Sabine Tobias who not only has answers to his many questions but also has the ability to split his heart wide open with something he never felt before love. Sabine leads a secretive and very obscure life with her aunts running an emporium filled with creams and lotions designed to keep a woman youthful. Everything about her seems to be a ruse and the more Max looks the more he finds intriquing as he uncovers her secrets and all too soon learns that her knowledge of Atlantis is built not in dreams but reality as she is a direct descendent of the mythical land. Max warms his heart and opens his arms to her sweet and innocent ways but never turns his back knowing that she is keeping something from him and as much as she is telling him there is another side to this cream that seems to make every woman look younger and he wonders again does this involve Atlantis/ It also appears he is not the only one looking at her and her aunts and the darkness that is following them is so evil that it can destroy everything and use Sabine's secrets against her. Max is also dealing with the mysterious deaths one after another of the highest ranking generals in her majesty's service. They are each killed in horrid and vile fashion and he wonders if this also has something to do with the map and secrets it holds and keeps asking himself is Sabine and the search for Atlantis worth his life - quickly he answers with a resounding yes. Once Max and Sabine combine their efforts and go from one clue to the next trying to find where Atlantis is buried more trouble brews that they must fend off as well as the combustible emotion they stir in one another. Neither is quite sure how to control their feelings or if there is any future for them once they have found the City. So many questions and so much running around seeking answers that when they finally find the largest piece of the puzzle and realize the answer has been looking them in the face nothing is the same between them or for them. While Book #1 in this series was exciting this 2nd book is action packed and provides quite the mysterious romp with Max and Sabine. They are wonderful characters and have such depth of emotion that you know the goal here is to find Atlantis but in the end the quest is for love and you want them to succeed at both. Mary Gramlich is "The Reading Reviewer" located at www.marygramlich.com
A man who seeks to prove legends plus a woman who is the living embodiment of that legend equal an exciting and romantic adventure. Maxwell Barrett has long been fascinated by the myth of Atlantis and determined to prove it is not only a legend. He risks his life to bring back a lost artifact of that culture. Sabine Tobias is aware she is a descendant of those who fled Atlantis but has no idea of her place in both the history and the future of her people. As Maxwell and Sabine search for answers-and attempt to mislead each other-they are unaware of a third party who is obsessed by the prophesy of Atlantis, unaware that the string of murders of high ranking military men is linked to their investigation. To tell more would spoil the twists and turns of the intricate and imaginative plot Ms. DeHart has created. As well as the two leads, the author has populated the pages of Desire Me with fascinating characters. The most interesting are her aunts who educate and protect their niece but, in the end, cannot protect her from danger. The prologue--written with exquisite detail and breathtaking suspense-immediately drew me into the magic of this novel. In these pages, we learn the determination of the young Maxwell. Only later does the reader learn of the devastating consequences of that night and how it formed Maxwell, the man. I look forward to many more marvelous novels by Ms. DeHart.
They are treasure hunters, men of wealth and title, seekers of myths and legends. And no legend is a mystifying as the lost city of Atlantis. Years ago, Maxwell Barrett found a map to Atlantis and dedicated his life to the search for the mystical lost continent. But when an alluring woman make a wager for the priceless artifact, he may have discovered an even greater treasure. A descendant of Atlantis, Sabine Tobias needs the map to decipher an ancient prophecy. What she doesn't need are the sparks flying between her and Max. He's too devilishy charming to be trusted: The fate of her people is at stake as well as her heart. Yet a ruthless killer also covets the map. Now Max and Sabine must race to decode the prophecy's riddle before this criminal fulfills his deadly mission. (excerpt back cover). My Review: This book, Desire Me, by Robyn DeHart is like a blend of Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. The story is woven so nicely between Max's search for the lost city of Atlantis while helping Sabine understand the ancient prophecy concerning her family. They work well together to help both of them achieve their desires and in the end, it's truly a masterpiece in the making. This is the second book in the Legend Hunters series and yet can be read completely alone and still find so much excitement and intrigue with it. If you like stories like Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile then this is a must read for you. I received this book, compliments of Hachette Book Group for my honest review. This book is available in paperback and eBook formats only. I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. For more information on the book, the author and where you can obtain your own copy, please click on the link below: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780446541978.htm
This was a great book. It had everything: suspense, romance, adventure, just to name a few. The story was so good. I loved the search for Atlantis. It made the story so exciting. I also really liked Sabine, she was a great heroine. While I didn't really have an emotional connection to any one character they were all easy to relate to. Max was so cool and collected most of the time, I was so infuriated with him at times because of this. But I guess you can't make a life of searching for mystical artifacts if you get frazzled easily... As we start to uncover some of the secrets of Atlantis, and the sparks between Sabine and Max start to fly, the story really starts to take off. Although the opening of the story is pretty faced paced also. Sabine's desire to keep her secret while also saving her family forces her to make some "unwise" decisions. That and it's hard to keep things from Max when he stirs her up so much. The writing was really good. This was another one I couldn't put down. The twists and turns are so unpredictable, I was really shocked quite a few times. I was so enthralled with trying to help them solve the riddle that even though I couldn't see what they were looking at it had my brain working nonetheless.
The lost continent of Atlantis has been a topic of interest for a years. Does this place exist? Maxwell believes it is and he has found a map that will lead him there and he is determined to uncover the mystery. Sabine is a descendant of Atlanta and she needs the map in order to figure out a prophecy that was foretold long ago. She and Max become a team and it doesn't take long for the sparks to fly. Can they put their passion on the back burner and focus on the task at hand or will it be too much for both of them and force them to succumb to their overwhelming desires for one another. I'm a huge fan of Robyn's. I like how her books have just the right amount of passion and suspense. I finish her books feeling entertained, not overwhelmed. Once you start this book or the first book in The Legend Hunters series, you do NOT want to put it down.
DESIRE ME by Robyn DeHart is a delightful interesting historical romance set in 1888 London. It is the second in the The Legend Hunters series but can be read as a stand alone. It is well written with depth and detail. It has mystery, murder, romance, sensuality, adventure, myths, legends, and treasure hunters. It is about the lost city of Atlantis descendants and their destiny. The hero is strong, handsome, a reowned treasure hunter who has always be engrossed with the legend of the lost city o Atlantis. He is more than willing to help the beautiful Sabine Tobias, a desendant of Atlantis. The heroine is engrossed with the handsome,reowned treasure hunter who is willing to help her fulfil her destiny. What an adventure they have with romance, sensuality, trouble, and mystery. They learn the true meaning of their destiny and the prophecy's riddle.This is a must read and a keeper. I would highly recommend this story. If you have not read the first in The Legend Hunters series (Seduce Me) I would recommend you pick it up also. This book was received for review and details can be found at My Book Addiction and More and Forever in imprint of Grand Central Publishing.
Robyn DeHart's latest installment in The Legend Hunters series fully lives up to the great start the first book, Seduce Me brought. Full of passion, intrigue, and a good deal of suspense, DESIRE ME, is a great pick for anyone looking for a great romance. This book begins in 1873 with our hero, Maxwell Barrett in his teenage years. Determined to prove himself and his theories, he sets out to find the fabled map of Atlantis. If he can prove the existence of this mysterious city, he will be able to prove that he's not just some crazy loon, but rather a person worthy of recognition. I have to say that the prologue, with young Max, was one of my favorite aspects of the book. This is a fairly simple section of the book, only spanning a few hours in Max's life. Still, it is so packed with action and suspense that by the end of it there was no question that I would be reading the rest of the book. Ms. DeHart is not an author that strings you along for a while, making you sit and wait for the action to pick up. No, rather, she gives it to you right from the beginning. She hooks the reader and quickly gets our adrenaline pumping as we wait to see if our hero of the book is going to live or die. Seriously - the prologue was fabulous. I'm sure we've all read a book before where the prologue or first chapter totally hook the reader. It's full of action or mystery and there is just no question that you'd read the rest of the book. Then you turn to the next chapter...and it all just falls flat. So much energy was put into perfecting that first hook that the rest of the story seems to suffer. Well, I'm thrilled to tell you that DESIRE ME is not one of these books. Ms. DeHart pulls us into the action from the start and continues the wild pace of her adventure through to the last page. As the story progresses, we learn more about Max and get to meet the heroine of our book. There is a bit of mysticism surrounding Sabine as she discovers that she is a descendant of Atlantis. Along with her aunts, she is charged with protecting its secrets, but when a prophecy and a darker evil arises that threatens to destroy all they've worked for, Sabine has to fight to discover the city first. Teaming up with Max in a sometimes uneasy alliance, the two race to find Atlantis before the force that is leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake. Max and Sabine's relationship was wonderfully passionate and created a good deal of food for thought. While the two have an obvious spark between them, what will happen if they find Atlantis? Will their growing romance get in the way of unraveling the mysteries of Max's map? Will they both end up dead before either their mission or romance come to fruition? DESIRE ME is perfect for any reader looking for a hint of magic combined with a beautiful romance and spine tingling suspense. My only suggestion would be to make sure that you're sitting in a comfortable spot because, as I learned, you'll most likely end up sitting on the edge of your seat throughout the book and that can have dire consequences for your tailbone.