Authors: Natasha Blackthorne
A Total-E-Bound Publication
ISBN # 978-0-85715-898-7
©Copyright Natasha Blackthorne 2012
Cover Art by April Martinez ©Copyright February 2012
Edited by Rebecca Hill
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2012 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank, Ruston Way, Lincoln, LN6 7FL, United Kingdom.
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a
This story contains 275 pages, additionally there is also a
at the end of the book containing 8 pages.
Book three in the Carte Blanche Series
He needs her to believe in him a lot more than she needs his protection…
In the wake of a devastating epidemic, sheltered Emily Eliot finds herself alone, making her own decisions for the first time. When desperation leads her to sell her virtue, she walks straight into trouble.
Enter one gorgeous, golden-haired gentleman bent on protecting her.
Alexander Dalton came to the Blue Duck Tavern seeking to lose himself in sexual pleasure. But when he saw the delicate and vulnerable young woman, he couldn’t turn away.
Emily is alarmed by her own intense responses as this charismatic and carnal man introduces her to erotic pleasure. Having lived as a virtual prisoner of her grandmother’s suffocating manipulation, Emily bridles under Alex’s possessive protectiveness. And Alex’s charming smile hides a dark secret that could destroy their chance at happiness.
Will their passion burn them up or bring them together?
Thank you to my lovely editor, Rebecca Hill and the FLE.
A quarter to two in the afternoon. With her stomach knotting, Emily Eliot tore her eyes from the clock. She’d have to hurry, else Grandmother would get a megrim over her being out for longer than it took to walk to the baker’s and back. She hated making Grandmother ill.
Thud, thud, thud.
Emily’s heart echoed the rhythm of the printing presses as she drew up her courage. She took a deep breath and approached the man who was leaning so lazily against the worn walnut desk.
“Good afternoon, Mr Sawyer. I’d like to discuss my book again.”
He blinked several times, then grinned. He wasn’t too old or too ugly, but his reptilian smile repulsed her to the very pit of her soul. “Now, sweeting, I have explained it repeatedly—if you’d only be a little more agreeable with me, I’d look a little more favourably on this book of yours.”
Her mouth fell open. What—had he just made an improper suggestion? After she had so patiently explained the last time that she was uninterested in—in… Well, in what he was interested in? He’d seemed like such a rational person. Why must he be so insensitive? She gaped at him.
He peeled an orange with his ink-stained fingers, filling the air with a sharp citrus scent that mingled with the odours of paper dust and fresh ink. All the time he leered at her.
at her while she was here to see him on a matter of such importance.
Crawling sensations tingled over her skin and she resisted the urge to shiver openly. She still wasn’t used to dealing with men on her own and certainly not men who regarded her so salaciously. But for the sake of her mission, she’d have to press on. She wiped her sweating, shaking hands on her skirts and took a step closer.
“Mr Sawyer, please don’t tease me. You said I might return in two months and ask if you had changed your mind about printing my book.”
He lifted his sandy brows as he paused with an orange segment held to his red, overripe lips. “I believe that what I said was for you to wait at least two months before coming to pester me again.”
How could he suggest that her work was so insignificant? It was only the most pressing issue facing the United States at the moment. Her book was a collection of stories telling the tales of some of the mariners from the
, a ship out of Philadelphia that had been captured by the Barbary Pirates in 1785.
She’d had to wait so long already, for accomplishing this work had been no small feat under the watchful gaze of her grandmother. She owed a great debt to Mr Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, who had answered her very first enquiry and generously supplied the names and addresses of the mariners’ relatives. Over the past two and a half years, through letters, she’d managed to interview the families of the captured men. She had also done detailed sketches of them, from their family’s descriptions. But gathering the information like that had taken so much time. More time than she could have imagined when she’d embarked on her course.
Now it was taking every ounce of faith she possessed to persevere with trying to get her work distributed to the populace. All she lived for was getting her book printed, but she’d never imagined it would be like this. She’d been sure that the need for her work would ensure its rapid publication. Yet to her vast shock, she’d been rejected by every printer she’d contacted.
“Well, Mr Sawyer, it is
hard to remain patient when I know that my book will bring a personal perspective that the people of the United States will no longer be able to ignore.”
He stared back at her silently, blinking a few times. Had he even heard her? Didn’t he know it was rude to refuse to answer? Goodness. Writing letters had been a lot easier than facing printers in their shops. She straightened her spine.
“Mr Sawyer, how could anyone with any human feeling remain passive while our countrymen are still held in Algiers, in shameful slavery?” She couldn’t help letting some of her disapprobation leach into her tone. “It has been almost a decade and still our country refuses to act.”
“Indeed, it is terrible business what those Barbary pirates have done, but our country is young and money is limited.” He rolled his shoulders up and tilted his head to the side. Then he relaxed. “Without a navy and without large sums to pay their ransoms, I just don’t see what more can be done.”
He popped a piece of orange into his mouth and chewed it slowly.
She resisted the urge to shake her head. Initially, he had seemed like a kind person. How could he just stand there and say those things? Didn’t he care about what his countrymen were going through? Apparently not. Unfortunately, in her experience, his apathy wasn’t atypical. Her shoulders sagged. It was so hard to see what needed to be done so clearly and yet to have others be so blind and deaf to her message. But she couldn’t give up.
Clearly she’d have to try harder.
“Please, Mr Sawyer, you must listen.” The words rushed past her lips, their urgency pressing hard on her. She took a deep breath and made a concentrated effort to slow down. “The long-term lack of concern over this issue is what has allowed those men captured in eighty-four to be held for all these years. My book would really help people to see this issue in a more personal light. People need to see those men as fellow citizens, with families who love and need them—not just as names on a list.”
“Young lady, I’ve told you repeatedly what I need. The public wants to read stories of captivity, torture, ravishment, a little allusion to sexual depravity…heaving bosoms.” Mr Sawyer’s gaze dropped to her bodice. “Though for myself, I prefer more tender fruits.” His leer was unmistakable.
She gasped and fought a sudden wave of dizziness. Every time she’d come here, he had pushed the bounds of decency a little more. However, no man had ever spoken to her so bluntly as he had just done. For one thing, they would never have dared with her formidable, sharp-tongued grandmother always close by. But here, today, Emily was alone and she’d have to fend for herself. She crossed her arms over her small breasts and squared her shoulders.
“We could discuss a compromise.”
“A compromise?” she asked warily.
“Aye, a compromise.” He pushed away from his desk and walked towards her.
The predatory glint in his gaze sent gooseflesh rising over her neck. She quickly retreated several steps, until her back hit the wall.
“If you would agree to meet with me tonight, for a late supper, I would gladly print your little stories in my bi-weekly gazette.”
From the look blazing in his beady, lead-grey eyes, she had no doubt what he meant and it had nothing to do with eating supper. That look was so intense, it ought to have frightened her, for no man had ever looked at her with such open lust. But instead, anger burnt through her. This vile man was proving everything Grandmother said about the world and its dangers correct. She hated him for that. However disgraceful a feeling it was, she couldn’t help but resent Grandmother’s protective, fearful ways. She didn’t want Grandmother to be right.
Dear heavens, had she really been stupid enough to come here today and expect to be taken seriously? But, then again, no other printer in Philadelphia would even give her the time of day. She just
to get her book printed. She had to do it for sake of the men still suffering in foreign captivity. It was her life’s mission.
“Well?” Mr Sawyer’s voice broke into her thoughts.
Taken unawares, she wasn’t quick enough to stop him from taking her hand into his ink-stained, hot, dry one. She suppressed a shudder of revulsion and slipped it out of his grasp.
Yet hope flared in her breast—it wouldn’t allow her to let go of the possibility that she’d misunderstood. Oh, fancy chance that she could ever slip out past Grandmother for such a late night meeting. The very thought of trying sent quavers through her limbs. But she’d have to do what she’d have to do to get her book printed. The captives were counting on her.
“You’d really print my book, if I—I went to supper with you?” Her voice shook so hard she could barely get the words out.
“Well, that’s where the compromise comes in. As far as printing a book with the woodcuts needed to reproduce your illustrations—as good as they are—I’d need to see an interest from the public for more of your work. It’s just too expensive of an investment. I will run your little stories as a series, one man‘s story every two weeks.”
Her mouth fell open and for a moment her brain wouldn’t function. Then the full outrage of his suggestion hit her. “B—but my work without the illustrations will lose its impact! It’s just not the same at all! Without the faces to put to the names, the work seems more distant, less real. I just can’t agree to publishing anything less than the whole work as I intended it.”
“Then we remain at an impasse. If you change your mind, come back and see me. Otherwise, I am a very busy man and, to put it bluntly, you’re wasting my time.”
Emily left the printer’s shop, as she always did, in a state of shock. How could anyone with any sense of patriotism or compassion not jump at the chance to bring fresh sympathy to the issue of the Americans still languishing in Barbary?
Her father had been one of the mariners on board the
of Boston. He had been taken into captivity and had eventually died of the plague. There would be no chance now for his freedom, but there still was a chance for the other men. She’d do whatever she had to in order to see that they got that chance. But she’d never, ever see her work chopped up piecemeal or slanted to appeal to base tastes.
It must be very hard for a man like Mr Sawyer to live with his own conscience. His sleep must be haunted with all manner of nightmares. Well, she had no time to waste on pity for that. The nation needed her work, to wake it up—to save its very soul. And small, short-sighted minds like Mr Sawyer’s were keeping it from being printed.
She’d exhausted every avenue she could think of—what else could she possibly do?