“Constance O’Banyon is dynamic, one of the best writers of romantic adventure.” —RT Book Reviews
She had the beauty and grace of her mother, the legendary English Rose. In her stepfather’s Turkish court, Brittany Sinclair had grown to womanhood, torn between the forbidden sensuality of the harem and her mother’s traditional English propriety. But when the sultan himself heard the tales of her extraordinary beauty, neither her mother’s fame nor her stepfather’s power could save her. Only one man had the courage and skill to keep her from harm.
The veiled temptress may have boarded his ship without permission, but she was still Thorn Stoddard’s responsibility. And the dashing captain would never surrender her to the sultan’s men without a fight. He would protect her with his very life, but how could he guard his heart against a woman with the sensual knowledge of a concubine and the wide-eyed curiosity of an innocent, a woman who was every inch an…Enchantress.
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Constance O'Banyon
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 1991 Evelyn Gee
All right reserved.
The heavy pounding on her door caused Jillianna Sinclair to stir from a restless sleep.
"Madame, madame, it is the captain's orders that I speak to you at once!"
Jillianna slipped off the small bunk and pulled on her dressing robe, trying to shake off a sleep-drugged state. It took her a moment to remember that she was not in Philadelphia, but on board the American ship, Scarborough, and that the urgent voice she heard was that of the first mate.
With trepidation, she opened the cabin door and stared at Mr. Carver in confusion. "Yes, what is it you want, Mr. Carver?"
The man's eyes moved from her to Mrs. Franklin and her daughter, Linda, who had come into the companionway and were watching with open curiosity.
Mr. Carver motioned for the Franklin women to come forward to hear what he had to say. "Since you three are the only ladies on board, the captain has requested that you remain in your cabins. No matter what you hear, do not come out."
Mrs. Franklin, a woman who was accustomed to asking questions and receiving answers, was the first to speak. "My good man," she said haughtily, "my daughter and I could not possibly adhere to such an order without first knowing the reason for it. Why should Captain Starkmake such an outrageous request?"
The first mate shifted his weight uncomfortably, as if he were unwilling to answer her question. After staring into the woman's determined brown eyes, he reluctantly decided to tell the truth.
"Late last night we sighted the sails of two ships. This morning the ships were spotted just off our starboard. They have now been identified. They belong to ... an unsavory bunch of pirates. It is apparent they are making ready for battle."
Now Mrs. Franklin was not so vocal, and she retreated a step toward her cabin, as if she had been dealt a blow.
Jillianna's face whitened, for she had heard horrible tales of pirates and cutthroats who preyed upon unsuspecting vessels at sea. "What are you saying, Mr. Carver?" Jillianna asked, noting the disbelief in Linda's eyes.
Mr. Carver was not at all happy that the task of informing the ladies of the impending danger had fallen to him. "Well, ladies ..." he began hesitantly, "I know no way to say it other than just to come out with it. You'll know soon enough anyway. The captain figures there is no way we can avoid a confrontation with the pirates. He wants to be assured of your safety, so you must promise to remain in your cabins until you are informed that it is safe to come out."
Linda Franklin, who was no more than fifteen years old, gasped, and moved closer to her mother. "What will happen to us?" she cried. "If the pirates have two ships, and we are but one, surely we cannot win."
The first mate tried to appear calm and assured. "I will not lie to you, for there will surely be an encounter. But feel confident, Miss Franklin, that every man on board this vessel will have your safety in mind when we go into battle. So I beg you to remain in your cabins, where you will be the least affected by what occurs."
Before Jillianna could voice the many questions that came to her mind, the first mate turned away and moved back down the corridor. She knew, as he did, that they would be outgunned and outmanned. Surely the Scarborough was doomed!
Mrs. Franklin pushed her daughter back into their cabin, and turned to Jillianna. "If you know what's good for you, you will not allow the pirates to take you alive." Her eyes darkened. "I do not intend for them to get their hands on my daughter, if you know what I mean." She showed Jillianna a small derringer, which she quickly hid in her bodice. "You'd better think about the inevitable yourself," Mrs. Franklin warned. "Be prepared."
Jillianna shuddered, knowing very well that Mrs. Franklin intended to shoot her daughter rather than allow her to fall into the hands of the pirates.
The elder woman moved quickly into her cabin, and Jillianna watched as she closed the door. When Jillianna heard the bolt slide into place, she panicked, for she had never felt so alone and frightened. She wished that Mrs. Franklin had invited her to stay with her and her daughter. Now Jillianna would have to wait alone for the approaching battle.
She moved reluctantly into her cabin, wondering how she could have come to such a sad ending. At nineteen, she was a widow and was expecting her first child in four months. Fate had cast her upon this uncertain sea, and she could see no way for it to end but in tragedy.
Jillianna sank down upon her bunk, staring at the overhead beams, while a feeling of helplessness washed over her. The situation seemed almost dreamlike, with no place in her practical mind. Had she lived her whole life only to die alone, with no one to mourn her death?
All at once cannon fire erupted, and Jillianna jumped off the bunk to cringe in a corner as the sounds of battle heated up above deck.
She did not know how long she remained cowering in the shadows, jumping with fear each time she heard the roar of cannon and the splintering of wood. But, in the course of battle, the sun had risen high in the sky and was now dipping in the west. She clamped her hands over her ears to shut out the sound of agonizing screams of pain.
All at once there was a great explosion that rocked the ship, and the force of the impact threw Jillianna to the floor. With fear ruling her movements, she ran to the door, fumbling with the latch before finally tearing it open. She stared in sick horror when she saw that the last explosion had ripped a gaping hole where the Franklin cabin had been!
Jillianna cried out in agony as she realized Mrs. Franklin did not have to worry about her daughter falling into enemy hands. They both had been victims of the cannon blast. There was no sign of them-nothing left. She covered her face with trembling hands, feeling grief for the two women he had hardly known.
Jillianna had no time to reflect on the grim fate of the others, because fire now engulfed the overhead timbers and was spreading quickly in her direction. She ran down the corridor, trying to escape the advancing inferno that by now had engulfed her own cabin.
Panic ruled her thinking when she approached the companionway and heard the sound of hand-to-hand combat on deck. She paused, weighing her chances above deck as opposed to the fire that crackled just behind her. Now the heat of the fire was closing in around her, and she could scarcely breathe because of the smoke. It took her only a moment to make her decision. Gathering up her skirt, Jillianna rushed onto the deck.
The sight that met her eyes was more horrible than she could have imagined. A yellow sulphur cloud hovered over the deck of the Scarborough, and the unmoving air was filled with the acrid smell of cannon smoke. The sounds of battle, metal clashing against metal, and men dying, filled her with horror. The American ship was listing and taking on water. It was apparent that the ship was sinking, but still her courageous captain and crew fought on against the constant stream of pirates that surged on board the crippled vessel.
The sight of so much blood made Jillianna's heart ache, and she had to fight against the nausea that tightened her stomach. The dead and dying were strewn like lifeless dolls among the debris of a broken mast and tangled ropes and canvas. Now the advancing flames leaped high into the air, hungrily devouring the Scarborough.
It occurred to Jillianna that today would be her last day on earth. Suddenly she thought of her unborn baby and felt a heavy hand of sorrow descending on her like a dark cloud. Her baby would die before ever having drawn the breath of life into its lungs.
Trapped between the raging fire that was growing in intensity, and the fierce battle that was taking place in front of her, Jillianna flattened her body against the steps leading to the foredeck, her whole body trembling with panic.
Her eyes moved hesitantly over the faces of the pirates. While the crew members of the American ship were dressed in sober blue, the pirates wore ostentatious colors of crimson, yellow, and purple. The enemy were dark-skinned and dirty, and most of them had mustaches and long, unkempt beards.
Jillianna did not hear the man who swooped out of the shadows toward her. She felt strong hands pull her forward, and she was immediately clasped to a smelly body.
A scream escaped her lips as she was tossed over the pirate's shoulder and carried away. She felt him leap from the deck of the Scarborough, to land with a thud on board the victorious vessel.
Jillianna had no time to ponder her fate, as she was thrust at a burly man who was issued orders in a guttural language she did not understand. She was pulled forward roughly, and she could see it was the pirate's intention to take her below deck. With one last glance at the Scarborough, Jillianna knew no one would be alive to rescue her. The crippled ship was now engulfed in flames, and it was uncertain whether it would first sink or be destroyed by the fire.
She was led down rickety steps to a darkness where she could scarcely breathe because of the repugnant odor of unwashed bodies and unmentionable filth that assaulted her nostrils.
Too frightened to disobey, she followed the man without protest. When they had reached what she was sure had to be the bowels of the ship, the man unlocked a cell and roughly pushed her inside. Her whole body quaked with fear as he pointed a pudgy finger at her and uttered words she did not understand. She cringed in the corner while he locked the door, almost glad to be out of his frightening presence.
When her eyes became accustomed to the waning light, she was better able to see the cell. She trembled in fear when she saw the chains that were attached to the walls. At least she had been spared the indignity of being chained like an animal. There was straw strewn on floors, and several tattered straw mattresses were stacked in a corner. She shuddered, thinking the whole cell was probably bug infested.
Jillianna would not allow herself to think about what would happen to her, or she would lose the thin thread of sanity that she still clung to.
Now silence encroached, and it was even more ominous than the sounds of battle. The grief she felt for the passengers and crew of the Scarborough was almost unbearable. Slowly she sunk to the floor, wishing she had been allowed to perish with her companions. She feared a far worse fate than death awaited her and her unborn child at the hands of these loathsome pirates!
Jillianna had not intended to fall asleep, but the ordeal had exhausted her, and she sat down with her back to the wall and closed her eyes, soon drifting off into oblivion.
She had no way of knowing how long she had slept, but she quickly awoke, becoming alert when she heard the sounds of voices followed by the grating of a key in the lock.
She rose on shaky legs as several men approached her. One man caught her attention. From his cavalier manner and his voice of authority, she knew he was the captain. He wore a black, plumed hat and black trousers and shirt. He was not much taller than Jillianna, but he was wide of girth. Everything about him was dark: his complexion, his clothing, his eyes and hair.
While one of his companions held a torch, the captain's small black eyes ran the length of Jillianna's body. The man's lips tightened when he saw that his captive was with child. Turning to the man beside him, he growled something in anger before turning his attention back to Jillianna.
When he noted how lovely her features were, a wide smile eased the man's grim expression. Though heavily accented, his English was clipped and distinctive. "I am Captain Bijapur. Who are you?"
When she made no reply, he continued. "Forgive us, madame, for subjecting you to this cruel cell." He shook his head. "My men are fools to have placed a woman of your delicacy and beauty in this pigsty." He took in the cell with a wave of his hand. "I will see that you are immediately placed in a cabin where you will be offered every comfort."
Jillianna feared what he might have in mind for her and much preferred to remain in this cell. "I would as soon stay here, Captain," she said in a trembling voice. "I have no objections to this cell."
Captain Bijapur's eyes became hard. "No, you will not stay here, madame," he said harshly. "You are a very beautiful woman, and it would not be wise to leave you to the mercy of my men, for they seldom see a woman with your obvious charms." An evil smile did nothing to soften his dark features. "You will be under my protection."
Jillianna turned her face away in disgust. If this loathsome man had any plans for her, she would much prefer death.
Captain Bijapur snapped his fingers, bringing an immediate response from his men. One of them led Jillianna forward. So great was her fear that it was all she could do to bear her own weight. Once they were in the corridor, the men fell behind while the captain walked beside her.
She was led past several cells, and although she could not see the occupants, she could hear moaning and crying. Apparently, she was not the only prisoner who had been brought aboard.
She was led up the steps until the captain stopped before a door. Once they were inside the cabin, the captain motioned for the others to leave. When Jillianna and Captain Bijapur were alone, his eyes moved over her from head to foot.
"Yes ... you are a beauty," he said caressingly. His hands reached out and touched her golden hair. "An extraordinary beauty."
She pulled away from him and dared to ask the question that had been hammering at her mind. "What are you going to do with me?"
His eyes gleamed, as if he took pleasure in her anxiety. "You will be taken to Constantinople and placed on the block where you will be sold to whoever pays the highest price for you."
She gasped and backed away from him. "You are a monster," she whispered in fear and disgust. "How can you be so vile a creature?"
He shrugged. "Your opinion of me is of no importance. You are merely a beautiful woman who will bring me a good price at the slave market."
"What about the other prisoners?"
Again he shrugged sardonically. "You were the only survivor from the American ship."
"But I heard others in the cells."
"Merely two of my men who disobeyed orders." He fingered his beard. "I do not tolerate disobedience from anyone."
When he saw the color drain from her face, he laughed, and the sinister sound set her to trembling anew. "It is such a pity that you are no longer a virgin, or I could get twice the price for you."
Before she could protest, he pulled her to him and smiled, his rank breath fanning her face. "Still, you will delight the bed of a great man. Who knows-perhaps even the sultan will take a fancy to you."
She turned away from him and closed her eyes against the gleam of evil she saw in his eyes.
"Madame, if it were not for the child you carry, I myself would like to test the joys of your body. Perhaps even with the child, you would delight me."
For a long moment his words hung in the air as he waited for her reaction to his lewd suggestion. When she failed to react, he released her and moved to the door.
"Have no fear that you will be ravished by me, madame. A cold-blooded woman does not warm a man's bed. Look to your health, and do as you are bid, and you will be well treated. I want you looking healthy and beautiful when I place you on the slave block at Constantinople."
The hateful man moved quickly out the door, and when it had been secured behind him, Jillianna slid to the floor in a dead faint.
It was much later when Jillianna regained consciousness. The lantern had burned out and the cabin was in darkness. She felt around until she discovered the small bunk. Uncaring that it was filthy, she pulled herself up and fell forward, burying her head on the stiff mattress, where she lost herself in the misery of tears.
Through the endless night, she shed tears of grief. There was no hope for her-no one to come to her rescue and no one to care about what had happened to her.
At last her tears were spent, and she pondered this bizarre turn her life had taken. She had never had a happy life, but now she dared not even think about what awaited her and her unborn baby once they reached Constantinople!
Excerpted from Enchantress by Constance O'Banyon Copyright © 1991 by Evelyn Gee. 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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Decent read .