Princess in a Strange New Land

BOOK: Princess in a Strange New Land
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London, 1772

Playing host to King George III’s foreign guests holds little appeal for Sir John Frederick—until he meets one remarkable visitor. Because Akna, the Inuit princess, outshines every jeweled noblewoman at court and offers a sensual challenge the jaded navy captain craves.

The court may view Akna as a savage, yet there is more treachery within the
than she has ever faced before. But there are pleasures to be discovered, too, and with John’s wicked skill tantalizing her every sense, soon Akna is keen to experience further English delights—and with this man in particular….

Princess in a Strange New Land

Linda Skye

For all the adventurous hearts looking for romance and finding it in unexpected places.

The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) affected much of the colonized world and was waged for control over trade. Great Britain’s main antagonist in the Americas was France, and matters were complicated by alliances between the empires and the native peoples, primarily the Iroquois and Algonquin confederations. However, not all relations between the British and the natives were war-related. George Cartwright, an explorer, trader and army officer, visited Labrador and made friends with the Inuit there. And in 1773, he brought over a small group of Inuit people to England to meet the king and the Royal Society. Unfortunately, all but one woman named Caubvick succumbed to smallpox while abroad. Caubvick then returned to Labrador alone.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter One

Whispers rose through the great hall like the angry hum of bees, and Akna felt her face grow warm. The stares of dozens of privileged courtiers were hot on her body, like the noonday rays of golden sunshine. But instead of filling her with joy, this warmth was angry, condescending, curious and…just a little lustful. Akna squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, dark eyes flashing. She refused to cower before these strangers, these painted fools in layers of frills and impractical fabric. Their towering hairdos and shiny clothes seemed monstrous to her, and she flexed her arms, relishing the feel of her sealskin dress. It was warm and soft and stretched over her creamy olive skin like a perfectly formed glove.

And Akna, third daughter of Inuk chief Tulok, was as perfect as any of her people. Her thick, glossy black hair was neatly plaited into one long braid that hung down her back. She had a smooth, oval face punctuated by doelike hazel eyes and rosebud lips. She had always been envied for her swanlike neck and her perfect hourglass figure, which was accentuated by her tightly wrapped dress, hand-beaded with coloured bone and stones. It was warmer here than in her homeland, so she had left her caribou parka in her guest quarters, and she wore only the lightest of moccasins. Her defiant eyes sweeping the crowd, she caught the envious looks on several white-faced ladies…as well as some lingering looks from men. Narrowing her eyes to slits, she watched as a man trailed his eyes down her lithe form, his gaze lingering on her shapely calves.

, she thought angrily.

Then her ageing father, the chief of their Inuit tribe, stepped forward. A hush fell over the crowd.

“We greet you, King of England,” he said, his deep voice gravelly and thickly accented.

The king stood from his throne and extended his arms.

“You are welcome here,” King George III boomed from the dais.

“Many thanks,” Tulok responded, his normally confident voice hesitant. “I present… May I present daughter?”

Muffled giggles and snickers filled the room at his stumbling speech. Even so, Tulok did not seemed fazed; his wrinkled face was as serene as ever. But Akna felt indignation race through her veins.
Very well
, she thought, steeling herself.
If it’s a show they want…

Akna stepped forward boldly, gently placing a hand on her father’s arm. And then she spoke, her voice as clear and melodious as a bell and her accent flawless.

“This is my father, Tulok,” she announced with her head held high. “He is the chief of our people. And I am Akna, his daughter.” She paused for a moment to take in the shocked faces around her.
, she thought with a victorious tilt to her lips. Those hours spent mastering the language on the long voyage across the sea had not been wasted. It helped that she had been the voice for her people when the English traders and explorers ventured north. She had spent years picking up the vocabulary and nuances from these bands of brave travellers—and then weeks immersing herself in English on the sea voyage to Britain.

“Along with these three companions,” she continued, gesturing to the elders behind her, “we have travelled from Labrador in order to greet you and your people. We look forward to this exchange.”

“Well,” the king replied after a short, stunned pause, “I trust that you will enjoy your stay. I will arrange an escort for you. Now please,” he said, clapping his hands, “enjoy this feast we have prepared for you!”

Akna tried not to flinch in surprise as the hall’s doors opened with a loud bang. A line of servers poured into the hall carrying trays of exotically prepared food, which they set down on long tables. The courtiers sighed in pleasure as they migrated slowly toward the treats, their stomachs leading them.

“Father,” Akna said in her mother tongue, leaning in to whisper in his ear, “let us return to the quarters these white strangers have prepared for us.”

“No, daughter,” her father replied with a stern shake of his head. “That is not the reason we are here. Go now, try these strange delights and learn what you can. You will be our voice and our ears in this land.”

Akna pursed her lips. It was her duty to obey, but she was less than pleased about being paraded before the gentry. The white people who had visited their lands had been interesting, yet unable to understand the ways of the earth, people who knew nothing of the land nor of how to glean the essentials from the gifts of Mother Nature. Not only that, but she had heard horror stories whispered at night of white warriors crushing the people of the South, burning Algonquin villages and chasing out the Iroquois. These invaders might have riches and wealth, but she could not fathom what lessons her father thought she could learn from them. But he had always been a wise chief. So Akna would obey.

Her moccasins were silent on the polished hardwood, so when she glided up to a gaggle of ladies fanning themselves, they jumped. She arched an eyebrow. The ladies tittered, recovering. One woman closed her fan with a snap and pointed it at her feet.

“What are those things on your feet? They look like men’s shoes.”

Akna met her vicious grin with a sage smile.

“These are called moccasins.” She paused and glanced down at the woman’s heeled shoes, in which her pudgy feet were pinched. “They are comfortable and terribly practical compared to yours, I should think.”

The woman’s glare was as feral as a leopard seal’s.
Ah, yes
. Akna smirked to herself, preparing for a battle of wits.
Civilised society, indeed

Outside, two men rushed to the great hall. One of the men, Sir John Frederick, strode effortlessly through the ornate corridors, his face a mask of calm. The other man, Albert Waite, fussed like an old woman as he skipped to keep up with John’s brisk gait.

“The king will not be pleased that we were late for the presentation,” Albert worried aloud, clenching and unclenching his fists nervously.

Sir John barked a short, humourless laugh.

“The presentation of a handful of savages from the colonies? Don’t be daft.”

“Daft? This is a hand-picked delegation from the Inuit peoples of Labrador!”

“Delegation?” John snorted. “I’m sure it’s not as important as you think it is.”

His face darkened. Sir John Frederick was not only a nobleman, he was also a captain in the Royal Navy. He’d seen nothing but brutality and bloodshed over the past few years during the Iroquois-Algonquin wars…on all sides. Europeans and natives were alike in war. And despite his grudging respect for the noble warrior – on both sides, he had nothing but disdain for the way they traded for alcohol. He’d seen villages decimated by its terrible influence. Trading had become nasty, and men of all heritage became beasts. In only a few years, he’d grown tired of the New World. So when he had been invited to the king’s country estate, he had gladly accepted, revelling in the beauty of the English countryside.

“Oh, why did I let you talk me into that afternoon ride?” Albert moaned. “Now we are late!”

“You shame yourself, old friend,” John said dryly as he marched on. “This is a silly court event like all the others, and no one will have missed us.”

So saying, he pushed open the great wooden doors.

“Fourth Baronet and Captain of the Royal Navy, Sir John Frederick,” a stuffy herald announced as they stumbled into the hall. “And Sir Albert Waite.”

As expected, no one really turned to look at them—except for a few of John’s female admirers. After all, John was a well-known bachelor—and a prime specimen of English nobility. With thick, sandy-brown hair that fell over warm, honey-brown eyes and his square, masculine jaw, Sir John Frederick never wanted for attention. As a tall, broad-shouldered man, he confidently towered over most of the other snivelling aristocrats who thought of nothing but currying favour for their families. Of course, it didn’t hurt that rumours of his sensual prowess sent hearts racing across the English court. Women often flocked to him, pressing their ample bosoms against his arm and fluttering their eyelashes in the hopes of a tumble in his bed. And John welcomed the occasional tryst; after all, a hardened man such as himself needed a pleasurable diversion now and then. But none of these court women kept him interested for long; they thought of nothing but hair and clothes and royal favour, and engaged in nothing but witless, fanciful conversation. More often than not, John found himself craving biting banter or trading political ideas—something which no one cared to do while dabbling in luxury.

He strode confidently through the hall—until he felt the king’s eyes on him. He looked up, and the imposing monarch beckoned to him with an open hand. King George’s face revealed nothing, but that did not necessarily bode well for John. His fickle companion, Albert, had already disappeared into the crowd. His lips thinning ever so slightly, John made his way to the royal dais, where the king sat waiting.

“You are late, Sir John,” King George intoned, his tone deceptively light.

“My most sincere apologies, Your Majesty,” John said with a low bow. “I was so caught up in the beauty of your realm that I lost track of time and returned late from my afternoon ride.”

“After your years of faithful service in the colonies, you are of course entitled to some relaxation in your native land,” the king hummed thoughtfully. “But that does not excuse you for being late. Your service to me is far from over, Captain.”

John bowed again. “I will do whatever is in my power to be of service to you, Majesty.”

“A wise answer,” the king rejoined, “for I already have a task in mind.” He pointed a bejewelled finger to a group of visiting savages. “Do you know who they are?”

“Yes,” John replied stiffly. “That explorer, Mr. Cartwright, brought back that group of Inuit with him from the Northern colonies, did he not?”

“Indeed,” said the king. “They are here on a diplomatic visit.”

“Diplomatic?” John scoffed. “You give them too much credit, Your Majesty. They are only travellers, and the court considers them nothing more than a passing circus.”

“You would be wise not to underestimate the power of goodwill,” the king said. “These Inuit envoys may help us gain favour in the North. Or is battle all you know?”

John pursed his lips, his brows lowering as he studied the group of Inuit. There were five of them: an old chief decked in lush furs and necklaces, three elders and one young woman. His eyes lingered on the woman’s shapely form. Her back was to them, but he could not help but notice the taut beauty of her arms, the elegant curve of her waist and the gentle arcs of her long legs.

“What would you have me do?” he asked, turning back to his king.

King George eyed him speculatively, his fingers drumming against the arm of his chair.

“Of all the nobles here, you know the most about the New World,” he said authoritatively. “So I am appointing you to be their guide and host during their visit.”

John bit his lip, knowing better than to argue. But this was not what he had wanted upon returning to England. He had hoped to escape all reminders of the New World, not be an ambassador between the natives and his own people!

“Well?” the king prodded. “Go and make their acquaintances.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” John said through gritted teeth as he bowed and then spun away.

He made his way to where the Inuit elders were still clustered together; apparently the young woman had already wandered off. They turned as he approached, their wizened eyes locking on to his regal form.

BOOK: Princess in a Strange New Land
4.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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