REAP THE WIND (TOUCH THE WIND BOOK 3)
by Erinn Ellender Quinn
Release Date February 1, 2017. Length 67,061 words.
ARC/Blog Tour signup https://goo.gl/forms/RDGXUnRaVub6s6UC3
Kidnapped, rescued, framed for murder, Michal Bethany Lovett is torn from her old life and must now make another. When an Irish sea captain and the son of a Spanish spy both offer her a future, she must choose between a gentle giant and a man who sleeps with a dagger beneath his pillow and a loaded pistol by his bed. But only one of them has the magic of Spain in his blood….
Michal Bethany Lovett has led a rather quiet life. As the vicar’s firstborn child, she is expected to care for her eleven younger siblings and help meet the needs of her father’s congregation. While sitting with a widower’s six children, Michal is mistaken for his wife and is kidnapped. Her abductors encounter a group of escaped prisoners and offer her up as a distraction that allows them get away. The arrival of a third group sees her rescued before her virtue is lost, but they take her back to their ship, where she lands half-naked in an Irish giant’s arms.
Tristan O’Dea sails for Justin Vallé and commands the Yseult. His orders are to eventually see the young woman home, after deeming it safe to return, or take her wherever she wishes to go. But first, they need to know why she was in the home of the prison guard who’d been bribed to allow the escape. Remembering the feel of her in his arms, not trusting himself around her, he leaves the questioning to Vallé’s lieutenant, Rafe Quintanal.
Rafael Antonio Santiago Quintanal is the bastard son of Spain’s greatest female spy. He was born. Trained. Instructed in weapons and martial arts. Taught to obey without question and do his duty without fail. To safely return the vicar’s daughter means learning who she is, but she is a distraction he does not need. An inconvenience at the least. A liability if he lets her be one.
He’s never before let a woman that close—another thing he can place at his madre’s door. He doesn’t intend to start now.
Rafe watches her from a distance, curious as to what makes her tick. Like the workings of a clock, what gear engages her hands to shape a subservient pose, clasped primly at her waist, head slightly bowed, even when one corner of her mouth is curved with secret humor? What wisdom makes her fair skin seek the shade, and what lures her out, to lift her face to the sun before retreating to the safety found in the shadows? What kind of woman is she, to be associated with a beast like Lewis Simon, the night guard at Port Royal prison who enjoys making men cry? Is she so innocent, to know nothing of the man’s nature?
Who is she?
And why does he care?
Return proves impossible when O’Dea and Quintanal learn that Michal is wanted for murder. When both men offer her a chance at a future, the vicar’s unconventional daughter must choose between a gentle giant and a man who sleeps with a dagger under his pillow and a pistol by his bed.
This book is written as a standalone but continues the timeline that starts in TOUCH THE WIND (TOUCH THE WIND BOOK 1). Written for ages 18+.
Rafe could feel the Anglo’s eyes on him. He tried his best to ignore it, tried not to think of how she’d been described by the men, who had seen her twin jewels when she’d been taken, and again, when she’d been brought aboard the Bold Avenger. Capitán O’Dea had actually blushed beneath his beard.
She was a distraction he did not need. He’d been trained since childhood to analyze, to fight, to survive. Right now his instincts were telling him to stay as far from the Anglo as he could, without being discourteous. It was not her fault that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only reason he would have to speak to her was for information. They needed to know how much she knew of the prison break and Bryce Vallé’s betrayal, and the extent of her involvement. He needed to learn who she was before he could determine the best way to be shed of her.
Rafe knew Vallé. Nothing as simple as marooning her would do, or foisting her off on another crew headed for Jamaica. No, someone would have to take her back.
Chances were, that someone was him.
Rafe Quintanal tested the weight and balance of the sword in his hand. Pity, there was no one to really engage with. None here came close to being his equal. Instead, he trained the others. Only a few had begun to grasp the nuances of the different lineages. One of his instructors was a purist. Libro de las Grandezas de la Espada had been his Bible. His deepest regret was that Rafe, being base-born, would never be allowed into the Order of Santiago.
Through the years, his other instructors were students of the French, German, Italian and Spanish schools of the sword. And in a class by himself, Sir William Hope, the renowned Scottish fencer and swordsman who died from dancing, having overheated himself at an assembly.
Rafe had learned many disciplines, including the long and short sword, the longer rapier and the smaller espadin, sword and capa, sword and knife—alternately wielding the navaja, the long Spanish knife, or a finely balanced Italian dagger. The circumstances of his birth that made him Spanish but precluded him from the Order of Santiago had not blinded him to the richness of diversity. It appalled his mother that he was so fond of the Italian school, favoring it over the Académies du Roy.
Calmness, vigor, judgment. He lived and breathed them, from years of discipline, practice, and training. Between sets, he allowed his gaze to wander to the yellow-haired waif in absurd, borrowed clothes. The only things plainly hers were her stockings and the spectacles perched on her nose.
In an odd way, she reminded him of his mother. Most young women would not be flattered by the comparison, but then, they did not know his madre, whose skills with a dagger nearly matched his own. No, it was the serenity that came with acceptance, like water forced to flow one way, seemingly unresisting but effecting change nonetheless. Given time and persistence, water carved rock. Her presence changed everything.
Michal went up on deck. The moon was still bright, and the clouds had cleared, revealing a canopy of stars that stretched past the far horizons. The Spaniard came up with her. She should have felt protected—she’d seen his morning exercises—but something about him was unsettling.
She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.
“Are you cold?” he asked, all solicitousness.
“Spanish is such a musical language,” she said abruptly, refusing to admit she was cold or frightened or both. “I wished I knew more of it. I know some Bengali, mostly Choltibhalsa, but with so many dialects, I found it more confounding than anything. Fortunately, Liam became fairly fluent.”
“Your brother,” he said, as if it answered some question in his mind.
She caught her bottom lip between her teeth and pushed up her glasses. “What will happen?” she asked him bluntly. If it all goes wrong, and I can’t go home.
“If it is safe, you will stay. If not, we will take you elsewhere. You have family in England, perhaps? Capitán Vallé is master of his own island, in French waters. You will be safe, and there are other women, two near your age, you will not lack for company. They were discussing starting a school for the island children. There is need for a teacher. I say this only to remind you that you have choices, mi querida. A beautiful woman like you, you should be raising your own children, not someone else’s.”
Michal inhaled sharply at the sultry warmth in his voice. No one had called her beautiful since Bermuda. Not since Daniel….
“Tell me,” he whispered. “What is the sadness I see in your eyes? What made your padre take you to India? What did you learn of yourself while you were there?”
She’d never spoken of it, not to anyone, but he was sworn to keep her safe and in a few days she might never see him again.
She took a deep breath and told him of Daniel.
“I was fifteen,” she said. “There was a young officer, just rotated in, who came to an assembly, and we danced.” She could feel the music still, and let herself be transported for a moment. “He—we—formed an attachment. Father did not approve. He packed us up and moved us to India, and Patience blames me still. She’ll never forget it. Will never forgive me. She makes Liam and me pay daily for those rare times we escaped, instead of staying to share her misery.”
“Visiting temples with your brother,” he said. “Admiring the art.”
“That wasn’t the worst of it,” she admitted, studying the stars. “Here, everything is so young. In England, it’s hundreds of years older, but even dead rings of standing stones cannot compare to what you will see in India. It is…ancient and alive. There are…things there. Practices…” She slanted a look at him, wondering how much to share with a man who looked like a fallen angel, who called her beautiful and sounded as if he meant it.
Later. Perhaps later, she might ask him what he knew of the Sixty-Four Acts.
She’d said more than enough for tonight.
She fell asleep waiting for the men to return and was roused by an insistent rap on the cabin door. In her hurry, she did not stop to put on her glasses, but there was no mistaking O’Dea’s giant frame. The Irish captain looked concerned to see her so.
“Are ye well, lass?” he asked, daring to touch her face.
It was the first time he’d let himself, since the night she was kidnapped, when he had held her in his arms and had seen her naked breasts.
“Aye,” she whispered hoarsely, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks.
The light of concern shifted to a lambency that made his pewter gray eyes darken. The next thing she knew, he took her face between his two large hands and bent himself down, and he kissed her.
She’d never been kissed by a man with a beard. It was decidedly different. His wide lips were soft, but insistent, demanding a response. When she hesitated, he angled his head more and went deeper, skimming his fingers down the arch of her throat, feeling the pulse that beat quick in her veins. The ocean roared in her ears, and she must have swooned. When she came to, she was lying in the middle of the captain’s bed.
Rafe Quintanal was sitting beside her. The quirk to his lips bespoke his particular amusement.
“It’s not funny,” she whispered, closing her eyes and taking inventory. She didn’t hurt anywhere. O’Dea had stopped her from crumpling onto the floor.
“No, it is not,” the Spaniard allowed. “My apologies, mi querida.”
She did not have on her glasses, to look into his eyes and see. Forced to use her other senses, she listened to the meter of his breath, felt the pitch of the mattress change when he shifted his lean fencer’s body closer to her, heard the subtle difference in his voice—a nuance that would have been easily missed, were she not so focused on him.
“That’s twice you’ve called me that,” she whispered. “What does it mean?”
He looked at the window, searching for words. “It is a common phrase. A term of endearment, if you will. In English, you might say, oh, darling, or sweetheart, or dear. In Spanish, we say mi querida. For a man, you would say mi querido.”
“And how do you say ‘beloved?’ in Spanish?” she asked him, wondering why she did it, wondering why she needed to know.
“Mi amada,” he said, smoothing her hair away from her face. “Or mi querida….”
He did not take his hand away. He held himself, suspended. Then…there it was again, that perceptible shift that made her breath catch in her throat, and for the second time that day, a bearded man bent down to kiss her.
“Mi querida,” he whispered. The word vibrated against her skin as he brushed his lips against hers. His mouth was framed by a carefully shaped beard and moustache, neatly trimmed with an exotic appeal, to feel the smoothness of his upper jaw where he shaved it, and the masculine adornment worn in the Spanish mode. She felt her body quicken, felt a fullness in her loins that contrasted sharply with the empty ache she felt at the core of her being. When she touched his face and parted her lips, inviting him to deepen their kiss, he inhaled sharply and pulled back. He caught her hand and kissed her fingers, then lifted his head to look at her.
“No, mi querida. We cannot.”
She swallowed hard, thinking of India and wondering if he meant more than a kiss. Surely he didn’t think she could be tempted to lie with him? Dear heaven. It was bad enough that he had kissed her in the captain’s bed, but to think that she’d kissed him back, had responded to his advances….
Her body still thrummed, demanding more.
Michal was mortified by her wanton thoughts. “You’re right, of course. I’m sorry. I—”
“Don’t,” he murmured. “You shall have me for a few more days yet. Capitán Vallé orders me to take you to Port Royal.”
“Aboard which ship?”
It was probably just as well she didn’t have on her spectacles. There was a world of weight in that single word.
Rafe stood, and the mattress shifted, missing his warmth and his mass. “I answer to Vallé, but we sail with O’Dea. We will not dishonor him.”
“You’re right. Of course.” She wished he would leave so that she could curl up and die.
“Patience, mi querida. I promise you, it will be worth the wait.”
Again, that subtle nuance, that let her know exactly what he pledged. And her silent acquiescence, letting him know that she agreed to his terms.
She had plighted herself to Rafe Quintanal. He was taking her to Jamaica, but somehow, somewhere, sometime before their paths parted, he would take her in his arms and kiss her again, and then…then, unless she stopped him, there would be no turning back.
He was there. Somehow she had wanted the Spaniard to come. She burned for him. There was no hope for her. She very much feared that she was already lost.
“Tears?” He was so attuned to her, he knew she was crying before she realized it herself.
“It hurts,” she admitted, gripping the railing.
“I know,” he said, maintaining distance, making no move to touch her.
“Is there nothing to be done?” she asked, embarrassed by the torment in her voice, wishing she did not sound so desperate, wondering what he must think of her. “I fear I do not have your strength.”
It was late enough, the rest of the ship was asleep, save for those on the far watch, or below in the wheelhouse. The Spaniard came to stand behind her. His breath was hot on the back of her neck. Dressed in breeches as she was, when he pressed closer, she could feel his arousal, proof that he was not unaffected.
The gentle breeze did nothing to cool the fever in her blood.
“When I was in India,” she whispered, aware of the need for quiet, “my brother got hold of a book, and a girl who could tell me what it said. There were pictures,” she said, “of men, with women. They practiced different forms of touching, different paths to pleasure. There are ways to satisfy…without—without…penetration….” Oh, if he only knew how hard that was, for a vicar’s daughter to speak it! “There are other ways, if you think it important that I be a maiden still….”
“Niña dulce. Sweet girl,” he said, and taught her but one of them.
He kept his back to the ship, shielding her with his body as he pulled her to him, keeping the sides of their hips against the rail. Reaching around, he undid the buttons of her jacket and pulled her shirt free of her breeches. He slid his hands up her body, under her shirt, and claimed her aching breasts. He whispered for her to unfasten the top two buttons of her breeches, and he slid his fingers down her belly and through her nether curls until he found the hot, moist core of her that lay beyond. There was a place that crowned it like a jewel, and he cherished it.
Michal turned her head, as hungry for his kiss as she was for the touch of his magician’s hand, but he denied her the taste of him. Instead he tasted her, the lobe of her ear, the side of her neck, and the base of it. When he found the spot at the top of her back that made her shiver, he bit it. Not hard, just the scoring of his teeth. the suction of his mouth, and the pressure of his tongue upon her skin. The pressure built, and a new tension took hold. If not for the railing, she feared her trembling legs would not have supported her.
He knew what to do, and she let him.
She bit his finger to keep from crying out when she shattered in his arms.
He was not through, cruel fiend, and broke her twice more before he unfastened the buttons on his breeches, took her hand, and wrapped her fingers around his manhood. It was long and hard, erotic and exotic, an experience to add spice to her life, to be savored and relived in her memory once he was gone. The contrast was intriguing: a sheath of supple skin over a pillar of hard, male flesh that more than filled her hand.
She tried not to think of how it might fit, or how it would feel inside her.
Rafe thrust his hips, pushing into her small hand, guiding it with his own and pumping until their fingers found the rhythm that he needed to achieve his own release. His breath grew harsher. His rhythm quickened, then broke. Inhaling sharply, he pulled her hand away but kept stroking himself, pivoting just in time to spill his seed over the side.
Keeping his back to the rest of the ship, he turned her to face him, tucking in her shirt, fastening her borrowed breeches, buttoning the jacket that hid the twin jewels of her breasts. He had a harder time—his body yearned for her still—but he finally managed the buttons on his breeches.
He smoothed the hair from her heart-shaped face and brushed her lips with his, a silent benediction, marveling that the vicar’s daughter was her own book of revelations.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you.” Michal lifted his hand and kissed the finger she’d bitten. “I didn’t realize what would happen when you—when I…when I…came apart.”
“The little death. La petite mort, the French call it. Some women know nothing of it, their entire lives.”
And she’d died thrice. How extraordinary.
Society might dictate that she should be ashamed, but in this moment, she felt deliciously relieved, and oddly grateful. Lifting her face, she met his enigmatic gaze and simply said, “Thank you.”
Those carved lips curved in a tender smile. His voice was like black velvet. “Gracias y de nada.”
She repeated it, and he rewarded her efforts with a true kiss.
Framing her face with his hands, he brushed his lips across hers, then claimed her mouth with his own. It was exquisite, like making love with mouths and lips and tongue. He was a magician, stealing her breath so easily, she marveled at it, until something broke the spell he wove.
felt him change, and knew the moment his awareness went beyond her, and years of training brought his survival instincts to immediate attention. She had no doubt, when real danger presented itself, they would both emerge unscathed.
Then another shift, and her heart sank to hear the sound of retreating footsteps, knowing only one man aboard with a giant’s stride. O’Dea. And she had hurt him.
“I will speak to him,” the Spaniard offered.
“No. Please.” Panic flitted across her face. She wondered how long he’d been there, how much he had seen.
“Just this,” he said. The last kiss.
She put her fingers to her lips. They still burned. And behind them, she still savored the taste of him.
Just the last kiss. If that was all he’d seen, she supposed she should give thanks. They might not have dishonored O’Dea in his bed, but she felt incredibly disrespectful at the moment. And yet, she was not entirely sorry that he’d come. Finding them above deck, kissing in the shadows, fully clothed…
It could have been much worse.