Laurie McBain's classic bestselling Dominick saga
"Now you can see how easily an ill-spoken word can cast doubt on or even destroy the feelings we thought inviolate," Dante warned her. "Never let anyone turn you against me, Rhea. Promise me that."
Newly-wed, Lady Rhea Claire and Dante Leighton must return to England, where their reception is anything but warm.
Now armed with wealth and power, Dante is a target for the murderous smugglers who despoiled his family home, while Rhea's father, the powerful Duke of Camareigh, vehemently rejects their marriage.
The two lovers thought themselves invincible together. But in the riveting conclusion of McBain's epic trilogy, Dante's determination to reclaim his family seat and Rhea's desperation to win over her father threaten to cause an insurmountable rift that could break them apart forever.
Praise for Laurie McBain:
"Well-crafted and wonderfully romantic."-Romantic Times
"Lush and evocative."-Publishers Weekly
Chance the Winds of Fortune
Dark Before the Rising Storm
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Dark Before the Rising Sun
By Laurie McBain
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 1982 Laurie McBain
All rights reserved.
Happy he who like Ulysses a glorious voyage made.
— Joachim du Bellay
Black as a tinker's pot was the moonless night in early September of the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and seventy, but no blacker than the waters of the River Thames as it wended through the heart of London. The fog, like a confused and disembodied spirit, rose silently from the waters where the Sea Dragon, a Boston-built brigantine out of Charles Town, in the Carolinas, rode at anchor. Her square-rigged sails were furled, and the tall, stark masts swayed eerily in the mists engulfing the ship, but strangely visible was the figurehead of the grinning red dragon with the gilded tail and fins, its lolling tongue having mocked many an adversary unfortunate enough to fall afoul of the Sea Dragon and her captain, Dante Leighton, adventurer and privateer. To those whose ships had felt the fury of the fighting brig's guns the captain was little better than a bedeviling smuggler and much-damned pirate.
Dante Leighton was also, for certain people interested in his whereabouts, more than a mere ship's captain. He was also the Marquis of Jacqobi, and the last surviving descendant of a time-honored family. He was sole heir to all his forefathers had envisioned, and possessor of an ancient, once-revered title, one that had been held by men of honor and valor and by men who had been daring and ruthless enough to achieve greatness and found a dynasty.
But that was long ago, and now that glory was as faded as the flowers in the autumn of the year when the Sea Dragon and her master had at long last come home from the sea. Dante Leighton had returned to claim all that his father's fathers had bequeathed him.
He was lord and master of Merdraco.
But much had changed about the man who had fled England and his home so long ago. Dante was no longer the destitute young lord who had squandered his inheritance and gambled away his heritage during endless nights of debauchery.
He once had been so exquisite and graceful a young man. But his classically beautiful face had begun to bear the mark of libertine excesses. With the arrogance of youth he had continued his hell-bent course, contemptuously mocking those who counseled against the advice of false friends and pleaded discretion to the profligate young man.
Recklessly he had turned a deaf ear to the voices of those whom he could truly have called friends. And with a blind eye to his own image in the mirror, he had not seen the dissipation being wrought by a cunning hand. And with that elegant air of indifference that bordered on insolence and showed him to be a gentleman of breeding, he had abandoned himself to a rakehell's fate, still believing there would always be a tomorrow.
But the morrow had dawned cold and dark and a bewildered young man had faced the tragic realization that he had been cruelly deceived by the very one he had idolized, betrayed by that former friend's treachery, and brought to ruination and dishonor by that same enemy's hatred and depravity.
A chastened and despondent Dante had disappeared into the night while fleeing creditors and jeering friends alike, ashamed of his own name.
But before he had bid farewell to everything, he had gambled away his last guinea in one final and defiant, or perhaps desperate, attempt to reclaim one of the priceless family heirlooms which he had so foolishly let slip through his fingers. But he had lost. And what once had belonged to him, belonged to another.
It had been Dante's darkest hour. Death seemed a welcomed reprieve. And yet, unbeknownst to him, this was the beginning of his salvation. Dante certainly would not have believed that, for the man who had witnessed his final humiliation had been an ill-bred and scornful fellow, hardly sympathetic to a proudly disdainful aristocrat's misfortune. The man had been a common sea captain, churlishly bad-mannered enough to refuse a gentleman's word of honor to redeem his pledge. He had forced that indolent, silk-clad gallant to work off the debt by serving on board his ship, the Perdita.
And Captain Sedgewick Christopher's Perdita had been no lumbering, worm-eaten merchantman but a sixteen-gun privateer, her letter of marque authorizing her to harass with impunity any sworn enemy of the Crown. She pursued that course with unparalleled skill and zeal while the continuing disputes between the French and English escalated into the Seven Years' War.
An abashed young lord quickly found himself facing that eagerly sought-after death, and yet, once his ultimate destruction seemed imminent, he experienced a sudden determination to survive at all costs. With that vow pledged upon what honor he had left, Dante had accepted his fate, knowing that one day he would wreak his vengeance on his enemy and would give no quarter.
Those first, long years at sea had not been without hardship, but the man Dante was maturing into had borne them without complaint. Given no preferential treatment because of his exalted rank in society, he had cleaned the deck of blood and debris, working alongside the lowliest swabber. He had ridden the rigging, his fingers numb with cold while sky and sea blurred into one. He had been gunner, loading and priming the cannon while the crew cleared for action. And, when bone-weary and half dead with fatigue he had fallen into his hammock, he had fought off sleep while strengthening his will to survive with a carefully thought-out plan of revenge.
As the years passed and he proved himself worthy of sailing with the Perdita crew, Dante rose from efficient deckhand to foretopman, to helmsman, and, finally, to master. He had earned the respect of his fellow mariners.
But more than that, Dante had earned the respect and friendship of Sedgewick Christopher, a man not easily given to friendship. A dour man — even harsh, some might have charged — Sedgewick Christopher had been a commanding figure as he'd walked the deck of his ship, his narrowed, cobalt blue eyes raking sails, masts, and men while he'd roared his orders. He had been an uncompromising captain, but his crew would have sailed with none other than Captain Christopher for he was a fair man and, above all else, the finest captain any of them had ever served. Were they not still alive? That was more than many an unfortunate crew could boast.
And when the good captain had died in battle, his last words an order for the enemy to haul down her colors, the crew had buried him at sea with full honors. Even the most hardened sailor had grieved. But the first mate had grieved deepest. Captain Christopher had left to him, his friend and next in command, what few possessions he had valued. In a worn sea chest Dante had discovered the captain's much-prized sextant and compass and one other item, seemingly of little value. Only two people had treasured it. One had been the man who had kept it safe for so many years. The other was the man who now possessed what had once been his.
It was the portrait of a stunningly beautiful woman and a child. Flaxen-haired and gray-eyed, the woman was an ethereal vision in gold and alabaster rising from the virescent sea mists swirling around her. She seemed poised between sea and sky, a spirit caught by the wind and uncertain of its destiny. The child at her side, a boy of not more than ten years, was gazing into her face, his gray eyes filled with adoration. His small hand was lost in the silken folds of her gown, as if he sought to hold on to something that was elusive and perhaps fleeting.
It was the portrait of Lady Jacqobi and her son, Dante Leighton.
As Dante stared down at the portrait he had believed forever lost to him, he had known that his mother appearing before him in the flesh could not have surprised him more. For so many guilt-ridden years he had pondered the whereabouts of that portrait, only to have discovered that the captain had possessed it all these years.
But when Dante read the captain's last will and testament, he finally understood so many unanswered questions. He knew at last the truth behind the captain's actions that inglorious night so many years ago when he had rescued a dissolute young man from destroying himself. That young man had meant nothing to him, and Dante had always wondered why Sedgewick Christopher had cared.
It had been because of the portrait. Perhaps, as the days fled by, a lonely man who sailed the seas and had no family of his own, no loving wife awaiting his safe return to shore, had come secretly to cherish a woman who had existed only on canvas and in the memory of an anguished young man.
A gruff, sometimes caustic man had fallen in love with the painted image of a woman he could never possess. She had died before he had ever known of her. How often, when gazing longingly upon that pale likeness, had he wondered about the strange sadness in her gray eyes?
In silence Dante stared down at the hastily scrawled message addressed to him and the words blurred:
... and so I've waited too long to be tellin' ye this, for if ye be reading my words now, well, I've gone by the board and it doesn't matter anymore. Except, maybe, to ye, lad? And that is why I think ye deserve an explanation, not that I'm even understanding the wherefores and whys. Some might have said 'twas one of them chances of fate, what happened that day, and maybe 'twas. I've seen too many a strange thing to be questioning that which I do not understand.
All I'm knowin' about is what I felt that day so long ago. I'd been at sea a long while, and I had few acquaintances in London. I was alone until I happened past a shop window and saw the portrait of a woman and a boy. I couldn't seem to take a step beyond that portrait. I had taken root to the ground, lad, and when I stared into those soft gray eyes, I felt as if she were staring into my own soul. And she was beckoning to me, Sedgewick Christopher, and to no one else. Suddenly I felt as if I could do something to banish the sadness from those eyes.
Aye, I'm a foolish old man, and the shopkeeper thought little better of me when I inquired so vehemently about the lady of the portrait. Her name was Lady Jacqobi. She was a trueborn lady. Then I discovered that she had died tragically just months before my return to England, and I felt like I had received a mortal blow. The shopkeeper thought me a man crazed, especially when I readily paid the exorbitant price he was askin' for the portrait. Little did he realize that I would have paid ten times that amount for the portrait of that lady.
And with my purse far lighter, he was more than pleased to regale me with the gossip concerning her, and especially about that angelic-faced boy in the portrait. He was the lady's only son, and a wilder, more rakish young lord there wasn't in all of London. The innocent-looking boy of that portrait had become a scoundrel who had gambled away his fortune and his good name. Such wickedness, I thought, for even the portrait of his mother had been auctioned off to pay for this miscreant's debts.
I knew then what I must do. I sought ye out, lad. I think I must have been half-mad, and may God forgive me, but I hoped to find ye to be the cursed swine I thought ye to be. Then I would somehow have tricked ye into challenging me. I wanted to kill ye, boy, but when I sat across the gaming table from ye and stared into gray eyes so much like the lady of the portrait's, I could see only hers and I couldn't destroy her son.
Of course, ye weren't exactly what I had been expecting. Aye, ye were arrogant enough, but that was in your blood and the way ye'd been raised, so I couldn't fault ye that. But I could plainly see that your drinking and whoring were getting the better of ye. Ye looked like ye was staring death in the face. I would've left ye to your fate, lad, except that I saw something in your eyes.
I saw regret and sadness, and that same, strange expression of longing that had been in your mother's eyes. 'Tis a mystery still, the cause of that sadness, for she knew it well long before ye brought your share of heartache to her. But ye were her son, and she would have loved ye dearly, and for that reason alone, I took pity on ye that night.
I vowed that I would make a decent man of ye. Either that, or I'd see ye on the bottom of the sea. And truth be known, lad, I had my doubts those first months when your resentment and lack of spirit nearly cost ye your life.
But ye survived. She would have been proud of ye. I never had the honor of meeting the lady of the portrait, but I have loved her as I have loved no other. 'Twas madness, and I fear that it has been my downfall, for I have been content to live with but a dream these many years. Aye, I've played the mooncalf, but I'd not change one day of that devotion.
However, there is one thing I would have changed. It has made me little better than a blackguard, and most deserving of your scorn. I took advantage of my knowledge of ye and hid the portrait, never telling ye I owned it. I had convinced myself that I was doing it for your own good, that ye needed to suffer while wondering what had become of the portrait of your mother. I knew ye were desperate to recover the portrait, for I'd been back to that shop, thinking to purchase something else of the Lady Jacqobi's. The shopkeeper told me ye'd been in, and that ye'd threatened him, but that he could tell ye nothing about me, not even my name. I knew then that ye'd been gambling just to get enough money to buy the portrait.
And so I have unjustly deprived ye of her comforting presence these long years of struggle, and I do now humbly beg your forgiveness. 'Twas wrong of me, lad, but we all have our weaknesses. Your mother has been mine. How many times have I cursed the fates for their cruel mischief-making!
I only wish that ... well, that's not to be now. I wanted ye to know the truth. I also wanted ye to know that I have come to think of ye as the son I never had. I could not have been prouder of my own flesh and blood. That is why I have left to you, Son, my share of the Perdita. She could have no finer a captain. I hope my partners in her will keep ye on as her master, but they're a sorry lot of greedy merchants and may not be willing to risk their investment with a young captain at the helm. If so, then sell out and get yourself a ship of your own. Ye've got the makings of a fine captain, lad, on that I'd stake my reputation. Ye've got your share of the many prizes we've captured. 'Tis a small fortune ye've amassed. I know ye've not spent much of it, but for what purpose ye've been saving it, I've no knowledge. That be your business and not mine. But if I were ye, then I'd be usin' it to buy that ship, and have it free and clear, with no meddling partners to interfere. Be your own master, lad.
But one last word of advice from a man who has seen too much misfortune caused by anger and pride. Ye've become a good man. Ye be a decent man, with the respect of this crew. I cannot be faulting ye for being ruthless, for only the pitiless survives to sail into home port. While on board ship, ye're duty bound to your crew to keep your ship afloat at all costs. But, lad, your inflexibility and determination, when not in battle, should be tempered with compassion.
I've come to fear that ye're too unforgiving. Ye've survived these many years solely to avenge a wrong done ye. I cannot, in all honesty, blame ye for seeking a day of reckoning. I do worry, however, that your desire for vengeance has become an all-consuming fire. Beware, boy. 'Tis too often a sad truth that the price exacted of the person seeking revenge is far greater than the punishment meted out.
I have found that revenge is not so sweet and, indeed, can leave a terrible bitterness. Ye may lose more than ye win, remember that. And one final word of advice from an old sea dog. Don't sail too close to the wind, or ye just might find yourself caught between the devil and the deep.
Have a care, lad,
Sedgewick Oliver Christopher
When the Perdita docked, and word of the captain's death reached the privateer's owners, the late captain had been proven correct about one of his worries. The Perdita found herself under command of another captain. Dante Leighton sold his share and, the money combined with most of his savings, purchased a sleek little two-masted brigantine just in from the colonies. He christened her Sea Dragon, and had the figurehead of a dragon fixed on the stem just beneath her bowsprit.
Excerpted from Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain. Copyright © 1982 Laurie McBain. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dark Before the Rising Sun is the 3rd book in the Dominick series and the 2nd book about Dante and Rhea. It picks up right where the last book left off. I liked this one a lot more than Chance The Winds of Fortune. Where as Chance The Winds Of Fortune didn't have enough Dante and Rhea for me, in this book their love took center stage making this a much more enjoyable read! Dante and Rhea are so cute in this book. I loved that there is a lot more of them in this book then in the last one. I feel like I really got to know them as a couple and see their relationship evolve. I also got to know them better individually. I loved seeing Dante's vulnerable side it made him feel more real to me. I also loved that Rhea stood by Dante showing him support, love and trust, no matter how bad things got, or looked! Although there are a few small sub-stories going on in this book the main focus is on Rhea and Dante making it flow better. I was glad that Conny and Alastair were in this book a lot. There is a lot more action in this book keeping it from getting boring. I loved the HEA and I feel this book wrapped up the Trilogy nicely. *ARC Kindly Provided By Netgalley In Exchange For An Honest Review*
Dante Leighton was the captain of the Sea Dragon. Dante was an adventurer and privateer. but Dante was also a Marquis and he owned Merdraco. Then Dante owed a debt to a sea captain and paid it. Coming up through the ranks and earning respect from Captain Christopher. When Captain Christopher died Dante inherited what little the captain had. Rhea had sought refuge while in Charles Town. Dante and Rhea fell in love but in actuality Rhea had been kidnapped and seen a treasure map Dante had so he had to sail with her. Rhea was the daughter of a Duke . Dante And Rhea Claire are now married. Dante has asked Rhea never to let anyone turn her against him. Rhea did in fact stand by Dante giving him support, love, and trust even at the worst of times. This was actually a good story. Although once again I didn’t realize this was part of a series. But I still read this and will go back to the other two books and read them. i really enjoyed this story’ I enjoyed the characters but of course Dante and Rhea stood out and all their ups and downs they went through. I do recommend but read the other books first it will be easier to read this one and all that is going on. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
I loved reading this trilogy very much and couldn't stop reading until I finished the series.
This is the final book in the Moonlight Madness series. If you have not read Chance the Winds of Fortune, this book may be a little confusing. Rhea and Dante (now married) come back to England so that Dante can go back to his family's home. During the plans for that to happen, Rhea's parents find out she is now in England, safe, but married. It's interesting how that works out. The ending also has a surprise for the reader. Like Change the Winds of Fortune, if you want this book, you will have to get it either by a third party, or get the publisher to format it in e-book.