SILK DREAMS AND SATIN LIES
by Catherine Snodgrass
Amber Quill Press www.amberquill.com
Fate lands Rebecca Sanderson in Jonathan Dillon's hands. She's just the bait he needs to retrieve his kidnapped sister from Rebecca's uncle, the good Reverend Bowles. But love soon foils his plans and now Jonathan must find a way to save both women...before Rebecca discovers his initial intent wasn't romance, but to use her as bartered goods.
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This story had me hooked. I felt as if I had to read chapter after chapter to see how this most intriguing book would end. Rebecca was a strong willed young woman who knew just want she wanted. She just had a little problem figuring out how to go about getting it. Jonathan was equally as stubborn but he knew that he wanted Rebecca and he would do all in his power to see that she felt the same way. For fans of historical romance with a mysterious twist to it, this is one to relish! ~Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews
"...A must read. The fast pace and twists and turns until the end kept me turning the pages. It's on my keeper shelf beside Snodgrass's other books." ~ Judi Phillips, Word Weaving
"...A powerful romance, supported by well-drawn characters and intricate subplots, all orchestrated with accomplished craftsmanship by Ms. Snodgrass. The end product is a tapestry which reflects the power of love. It is woven with long-lasting threads of passion, and colored with characters formed by their life experiences, often contrasting darkly with social expectations and lies...Will leave you satisfied yet wanting to read more about Rebecca and Jonathan's many adventures you know they are destined to face in the future. This one goes in the 'keeper' bookcase. I look forward to reading more from this talented novelist." ~ Sally Painter, Word Museum Reviews
If you like mysteries and romance, strong characters and a plot as intricate as a Chinese puzzle, this fast-paced book is for you. Perfect for a rainy day read. ~ Jennifer, Romance Reviews.
FOUR STARS!!! Catherine Snodgrass has written a highly entertaining romance set in China in the late 1800's. Her characters are vividly brought to life and seem to leap off the page. The story is fast-paced and has several twists and turns I didn't expect. China seems to come alive and it's easy to see the places the author describes. Silk Dreams and Satin Lies is a marvelous title and the book doesn't disappoint. If you are a fan of steamy romance, yummy heroes and strong courageous heroines, this is a book you'll enjoy.~Brenda Gill, Timeless Tales
FOUR ANGELS!!! This story speaks not only of fate, but also the course of true love. Rebecca, a young woman not ready to marry and follow societies rules, Jonathon a sea going man who has known many women. Together they set their destiny in a journey from London to China to rescue Jonathan's sister. A story that captures your imagination and one that you want on your keeper shelf available for re reading many times. ~ Melinda, Fallen Angels Reviews
The spring day was as depressing as Rebecca Sanderson’s mood. Gray. Overcast. Muting the brilliant colors in the flower garden beneath her window. Draining it of life. A perfect parallel to her own position.
"A prisoner in my own room. Who would have thought…?"
She drew her knees to her chest and pressed closer to the bay window. With the chill that wiggled through her, Rebecca reached for the pale yellow counterpane in the corner of the window seat and tucked it around her shoulders and legs. She didn’t know why this would come as a shock to her. Nothing her parents did should surprise her.
With a labored sigh, she nuzzled her cheek into the soft wool. Who was she kidding? Her parents were nothing but strangers. Strangers who ruled her every movement.
Rebecca recalled one time as a child when her mother visited the nursery. It was a brief stay to say the least, and Rebecca spent it clinging to her nanny’s skirts. She was all of three at the time. Nanny was the center of her life. Then her governess, her teachers at school, and her friends. But never her parents. Never.
She was nothing more than a possession to them and a disappointing one at that. How many times had she heard her mother despair over her looks, shrieking to maids—
"Do something with that hair. It’s bad enough it is so mousy, but board straight I will not tolerate."
"Cinch her waist tighter. She looks like a cow."
"She’ll never make a suitable wife if we don’t work on her needle skills."
Rebecca responded that it was her intellect that would attract admirers.
Her mother squelched that notion with a laugh and a snappish, "The last thing a man wants is a bookish wife. Toss those books and papers aside and concentrate more on your dance steps."
She spent the majority of her twenty-one years away at school, coming home rarely. But school was over. Rebecca was a grown woman ready to take her place in the world.
Her parents, true to form, had plans of their own. But in all her imaginings, Rebecca never thought they would go to this extreme. She could still see their stunned expressions. Could still hear the roar of silence that followed her announcement.
"I do not care to marry Roger Hamblington."
It was too long before her mother recovered her tongue. When she did, it was accompanied by a little laugh. "But…Roger Hamblington the Fourth comes from a very prestigious family."
Rebecca braced herself for battle. "I don’t care how much money his family has, nor how many Roger Hamblingtons have come before him. I will not marry him. I do not love him. I barely know him and what I know I do not like."
Her father cleared his throat. "Then whom do you wish to marry?"
An unthinkable announcement. What would their friends say? What would society say?
Once their tirade ended, she was locked in her room to come to her senses. That had been a month before. As far as she was concerned, they could make it another. Nothing would make Rebecca change her mind. She would not marry a man she didn’t love.
She drew the yellow cover under her chin and continued to stare at the garden below. They had to listen to reason at some point. Didn’t they? She was a grown woman, for goodness sake. Why did they have this need to control her every move?
A tap on her door brought her head around. A young maid peeked inside. She was as timid as her gray outfit implied. Rebecca’s Aunt Miriam sent her with the highest recommendations. Rebecca often wondered what made the girl so withdrawn. But then, having her mother constantly in attendance would be enough to break any girl’s spirit. Rebecca would swear to that.
"Yes, Tilly, what is it?"
The girl bobbed a curtsy. "Ya folks bid ya come to the drawin’ room, miss."
Time for another lecture.
"Thank you. Please tell them I’m on my way."
"Do ya need help dressin’?"
"No, I can manage."
Another curtsy marked her exit as Rebecca tossed aside the coverlet and reached for the wrapper on the cedar chest at the foot of her bed. Why bother dressing in stifling clothes if the only place she had to go was from one corner of the house to the other?
It was another rebellion for her, just like her decision to discard that smothering corset her mother insisted on strapping around her. These small strikes at independence were as important to her as her firm determination not to wed the self-serving Roger Hamblington.
Strengthening her resolve with each stroke, Rebecca yanked a brush through her hair. She would win at this, even if it meant having to go out in the world as a governess or a companion to some elderly woman.
Just let them try to stop me.
She tossed the brush to the vanity and marched downstairs. The drawing room doors were open, waiting for her arrival. Pausing there gave her the opportunity to watch them unobserved.
They were both lost in thought. Her father leaned forward in his worn black leather chair, elbows on knees as he gazed into the leaping flames of the fireplace before him. He was perpetually cold, even in the dead of summer.
Her mother sat in the window seat and stared at the garden much as Rebecca had done minutes before. One finger tapped against the cushioned seat, matching the rhythm set by the clock ticking on the mantle.
Their lips were tight lines. Their expressions grim. Anger was the third person in the room. By sheer will they were determined their daughter comply with their decree.
Rebecca squared her shoulders for battle. She would stand her ground. This was her life, her future, and no one but she would decide its course. If they loved her, they would understand that.
Emotion clogged her throat. Why would that notion wiggle into her head? There was no love here. They had made that painfully clear over the years. She was a burden, a responsibility to foist off to others. If any love existed at all, it was her mother’s love to be in complete charge of everything within the circle of her existence.
It was a fact Rebecca accepted long ago. Why get teary-eyed over it now? But the lack of love bothered her as did the control they maintained, when all she wanted was the chance to live her own life.
Rebecca stepped further into the room and cleared her throat. Their heads popped up at the sound. They were back in their glory—strong, self-assured, commanding.
Her mother glided forward—a movement so smooth her voluminous rose-colored skirts never rustled.
"Sit down, Rebecca."
She chose the matching chair across from her father, then studied the carpet while she waited. It was a pastime from childhood, and it took only a blink of an eye for her to pick out her favorite red peony from all those splashed on the black background. How many times had she stared at that flower while their voices droned around her? Hundreds? Thousands?
Her father cleared his throat. Rebecca glanced up in time to see him shove the stem of his pipe between his teeth. "I see you have not bothered to dress today." A puff of smoke punctuated the sentence.
Rebecca did not look up. "Since I’m not to be allowed out of the house, much less my own room, I saw no point in dressing. Why soil the clothing and make more work for the help?"
He banged his pipe against the hearth, stuffed it with fresh tobacco, then relit it. Age-old ploys to unnerve her.
"I take it you remain steadfast in your determination to refuse the current proposal of marriage."
"I thought I had made myself clear on this matter." And she would not budge.
"You have put your mother and I in a very awkward situation." Her father obliterated the air between them with a fresh round of smoke. "Embarrassing. Indeed, quite embarrassing."
Rebecca struggled against the urge to cough. "Wouldn’t it be more so if I were miserable in a marriage to someone I find odious?"
Another silence fell, punctuated by the clink of spoon against cup as her mother stirred her ever-present cup of tea. After some length, her mother again drew breath to speak.
Rebecca tensed for a new round.
"I received word from my sister in today’s post." She sipped her tea and avoided Rebecca’s gaze. "Actually the letter was from Neville. He wanted me to know Miriam was with child again. Her confinement should be in early summer. He worries so about her. As with previous births, he does not expect a successful delivery. He thought a family presence would be of some comfort to her."
"I’m sure it would," Rebecca said. "I know you and she have always been close. Being so far away must make her very lonely."
Her father leaned forward. "We have decided that you will go in your mother’s place."
"Me?" Rebecca nearly choked on the word and dug her fingers into the arms of the chair. "All the way to China? Alone?"
"Tilly will accompany you," her father said. "We trust the trip will help you realize your place. We have already secured your passage. You will leave in three days’ time."
"Which doesn’t give us much time to prepare," her mother said. "I’m sure most of your wardrobe is adequate, but it will not hurt to have a few more things. We will also prepare you for winter, should you need to be there that long. It gets very cold there, from what Miriam tells me. We’ll shop tomorrow for a few more accessories."
The world had just been yanked from beneath Rebecca’s feet. Breathing was nearly impossible, crying even more so. "Do I get no say in the matter?"
"No," they replied.
"Unless you wish to reconsider Roger’s marriage proposal," her father added.
She forced her legs to hold her as she stood. "So, this is to be my punishment for wanting to be happy. You ship me off to live with missionaries and save yourselves whatever burden I might cause."
Using his height to try to intimidate, her father matched her stance. "We have gone to great expense to see you educated in all the ways of a lady—"
"Then I shall take leave of you both, find employment, and repay you."
A red flush mottled his face. Even her mother’s teacup grew silent.
"I am afraid that is just not something we can allow," he finally said. "After all, we have a reputation in society to maintain."
"Perhaps a few months among the heathens will make you more appreciative of the opportunities available to you here," her mother said. "We shall explain your absence in such a way so that no bridges are burned."
Rebecca curled her fingers into her palms. "And how have you explained my absence this last month?"
Her mother calmly regarded her tea. "You’ve been quite ill."
The final knife to her heart. A pawn, not a daughter. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "How could you do such a thing? I will not be manipulated, and I will not go to China!"
"You have no choice," her father replied.
She nudged her chin to what she hoped was a defiant tilt, yet its quivering betrayed her. "We shall see about that. I’ll be a bird woman on the streets first."
Rebecca longed for more vitriolic phrases to make clear her position, but tears stole them away. Biting back a sob, she dashed to the sanctuary of her room. Within seconds, the lock clicked from the other side.
Tears she fought to retain could no longer be withheld, but her grief at this betrayal was silent. With arms wrapped around her midriff, she slid to the floor. A prisoner…more so now than before. She was not even being given the chance to carry out her threat.
Slinging aside the woven, pastel-colored rugs, she scooted across the gleaming wood floor and hauled herself back to her perch. The garden seemed twice as gray and shrouded as before, or was it her heart that made it so?
A lone sparrow lit on the trellis adjacent to her window and cocked its head to stare inquisitively at its own reflection.
"Lucky little bird. What I wouldn’t give to trade places with you."
Rebecca snapped upright. Startled by the sudden movement, the bird fluttered away.
The trellis…of course. It was her avenue of escape! But would it hold her?
She opened the window but bit on her bottom lip when the hinge squeaked out a protest. After a cautious glance over her shoulder, she tested the sturdiness of her ladder to freedom.
Grabbing the trellis, she gave it a hard shake. A shower of dead leaves and blossoms fell to the ground.
It seemed sturdy enough. It had to be. There was no time for a trial descent. If the thing broke on the way down, she would rather it be on a flight to freedom, not a safety test.
Tonight…after the house had settled down. That would give her plenty of time to gather her things.
An hour later her carpetbag bulged with clothing, the few pieces of jewelry she owned, and the meager stash of coins saved through the years.
Was it enough? It was going to have to be.
She shoved the bag under her bed to await nightfall.
A glance toward the locked door brought on the threat of tears once more. It wasn’t that she regretted leaving. She regretted that her parents treated her as nothing more than another possession to be bartered. Not once in her life had she known their love. Why should she expect it to be different now? It hurt, no matter how much she tried to say it did not.
No, there was a world out there and she was going to discover it. And if there was love in that world, maybe one day she would find that too.
Minutes turned to hours. Time dragged interminably. By inches she wished the sun closer toward the horizon. There was one breath-holding moment when Tilly offered her supper. Rebecca refused. Thankfully, no one pushed the issue.
Finally, the time arrived. After straining her ears to the door and determining all was quiet within the house, she shoved open her bedroom window. The hinge squeaked out a protest and shattered the silence of the darkened house. Rebecca froze, ears perked for some hint she had been discovered. A good ten minutes ticked away on the brass clock perched upon her nightstand before she felt free to move.
Rebecca drew in a shaky breath to steady her nerves. Now or never.
A light fog had moved in with the night. Good. It would help obscure her flight.
With a soft grunt, she heaved the weighty carpetbag to the windowsill and tossed it out the window. It landed with a soft thud on the grass below.
Tying her cloak closed, she swung her legs over the sill, and sought a foothold on the trellis. She held her breath. Would it hold?
Another step down. Secure again. Another step. No problem. Her confidence soared as she hurried to find the next foothold.
Too late Rebecca felt the rotten wood crumble. She bit back a squeal of fright. A second later she was looking up at her window from a prone position beside her carpetbag.
She sucked in a breath and scrambled to her feet. At least she was down. A little bruised, but free. Finally free. Ignoring the sadness she felt, Rebecca hauled up her bag with two hands, and determined not to look back, started toward town.
The fog was patchy at this level, a being in its own right. One minute it wove around her, the next it faded away.
Rebecca tried in vain to shake her jitters away. After dark the streets of London were no place for a lady. In her imagination she conjured up thieves and murderers hidden within the curtain of yellow-gray fog. Her thoughts bordered on panic as she wondered at the sensibility of her actions.
Rebecca quickened her step. She should hail a cab to take her to the nearest boarding house or perhaps to a cheap hotel. Somewhere safe. But there was no sound of any conveyance on the cobblestone street.
Rounding a corner, she hoped to find the small cafe where she often had hot chocolate with a few of her friends from school days. There was always a cabby waiting there. But the fog had twisted up her directions, and she found she had made a wrong turn.
Cursing under her breath, she hurried on. Laughter drifted to her from pubs along the street. She prayed the revelers would not come upon her, but as she passed, one door swung open to emit a group of young men.
Rebecca held back in the shadows. Too late. She had been discovered. Her eyes widened as the blond leader took a step toward her. It was Roger Hamblington.
"Rebecca?" He was hesitant, unsure it was truly her.
Whirling around, she ran back down the street. Footsteps beat the sidewalk behind her.
How in the world could she explain her presence if he caught her? She dared not look over her shoulder for fear it would slow her down. Instead, she plunged forward, darting around corners in the hope she could lose him and that her blasted bag wouldn’t hold her back. Weakening her arms and stealing her breath, it bumped against her thighs. By sheer will, she pressed on. She had to or face a life of eternal misery.
He was a persistent pursuer, she had to give him that. As she rounded yet another corner, she wondered how much longer she could keep up this pace. Then salvation appeared before her. There in the misty yellow-gray, a cab waited.
She jerked open the door. "Go, hurry, anywhere!"
By the time she slammed the door shut, the driver had spurred the horses to action. Rebecca breathed a shaky sigh of relief and leaned back into the cushioned seat.
"Well, this is indeed a fortunate day for me."
Rebecca jerked upright at the deep baritone voice from the opposite corner of the cab.
"It isn’t everyday that a man is abducted by a beautiful woman," he said, a hint of amusement in his voice. "Perhaps you’d like to see what you’re getting."
A lighted match cut the darkness. The smell of sulfur tickled her nose. Rebecca got a glimpse of a dark head and long fingers as the man lit the lantern above him. Once the flame took hold, he turned to face her. Her breath caught in her throat.
She had been expecting to see a man similar to the ones her parents considered appropriate—pasty-faced and dandyish. This one was like no man she had ever seen.
His speech identified him as American, and she supposed that was what helped add to the exotic aura about him. His deep brown eyes held the same degree of amusement as his voice did. He was bronzed from life in the sun yet he was no commoner. His attire proved that.
The cut of his black coat was designed to fit his broad shoulders as was the ruffled white shirt he wore. Matching breeches molded to his lean thighs. His boots were polished to a sheen so bright, Rebecca wondered if she might see her own reflection if she bent closer. Then her gaze fell to his hands once more. Strong, capable, as weather-tanned as his face. She wondered for a moment if he were one of those Indians she’d heard about. Rumor had it they were being educated now.
"I trust I meet with your approval?"
Rebecca’s gaze shot up to his. "Who are you?"
"Jonathan Dillon, at your service… I would bow before you if I could, but space does not permit."
"Mr. Dillon, I—"
"Some call me Captain."
"Since you’re kidnapping me, why not just call me Jonathan?"
Rebecca snorted in frustration. "Mr. Dillon, I assure you I have no intention of kidnapping you. There has been a simple misunderstanding. I saw the cab and believed it to be empty. I was in a hurry."
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Yes, running, I believe. Trouble of some kind? Maybe you’re a thief? A murderer perhaps? Or are you simply running away from Mummy and Daddy?"
His last taunt grated on her nerves. He made it sound as though she were nothing more than a spoiled child.
"Ah… You are running away."
Rebecca hugged her bag. "It’s not what you think." What should she care what he thought? "And it’s none of your business."
"My cab…my business. Unless you prefer I have the driver return you to the spot at which you took my cab."
She snapped upright. "No!"
He rubbed his chin. "Let’s see. You don’t want to tell me what’s going on, and you don’t want to leave my cab. Interesting dilemma. I suppose I could treat you as I would a younger, recalcitrant sister and turn you over my knee."
Rebecca shoved her bag to one side and narrowed her eyes to slits. "You wouldn’t dare."
Jonathan chuckled. "Or I could teach you what happens to young women who jump into cabs with strange men."
A combination of fear and indignation rippled through her. "You wouldn’t do such a thing. You’re a gentleman."
"How would you know? I’m a stranger."
He had her on that point. Before she could respond he snagged her wrist in the circle of his hand. With fist and jaw clenched, Rebecca struck out. He captured that hand as well.
"Let me go!" Rebecca’s struggles only got her more firmly within his grip.
With a chuckle rumbling his chest, he pulled her arms behind her back and held them in place with one hand. "Don’t struggle so. You may give the driver the wrong idea. Or is that your intent?"
Her chest heaved with the effort to be still. "What do you intend to do with me?"
"The possibilities seem endless."
He pulled her beneath him on the seat and half-covered her with his body. One hand swooped to her rib cage. He could have held a torch to her flesh and had a less devastating effect on her senses. Her body quivered of its own volition.
The frightened beat of her heart thudded against Jonathan’s chest. His intent had been to frighten her. To make her realize young ladies did not go roaming the streets of London alone. Yet here she was, every curve pressed tightly against him. The milk-white fullness of her bosom a glance away. It was hard to remind himself he was a gentleman. Jonathan pulled her upright, released her arms, and set her beside him.
"I believe I made my point. Now…I would like that explanation."
Rebecca rubbed the feeling back into her arms. "You don’t deserve one." Her senses were still a jumble. She didn’t know whether to be grateful or disappointed.
"An explanation…if you please."
"It’s simple, really. I refused to marry a man of my parents’ choosing and to allow them to dictate to me. I want to live my own life. They, in turn, have decided to banish me to a foreign country until I come to my senses."
"And you chose to run?"
"Yes…only I never expected to find someone I knew before I’d scarcely gone a few blocks."
"The young man pursuing you back there?"
"Yes… The prospective groom."
Jonathan leaned back. It seemed a safe maneuver considering how delectably inviting her breasts were.
"It was really only a matter of time until you saw someone who knew you. We like to think of ourselves as protected by the crowd. Too many times, though, that is not the case. People call it coincidence. Some call it fate. The fact is the world is becoming a smaller place."
As intriguing as she found him, Rebecca did not have time for philosophical discussion. "I will not be shipped off, neither will I marry someone I do not wish to."
"Yes…you want to live on your own. Commendable." He liked her spirit, her determination. "Why not use the trip to your advantage?"
She cocked her head to one side. The lantern’s light shot burnished gold through the silken mass of brown hair. Jonathan swallowed the desire that welled up in his blood.
"How?" she asked.
"There will be many ports along the way. Correct?"
She nodded slowly.
"In one of those your chances of getting away would be better. There would be no one to bring you back. No one to have any knowledge of who you really are. Your parents would have already provided for your journey. You could use that money to start a new life."
His suggestion made sense, Rebecca had to give him that. She was embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of it herself and found herself nodding her approval.
"Would you like to go home now?"
Rebecca flopped back in the seat. "That is not as easy as it sounds. The bottom rung on the trellis broke. I have no way of sneaking back inside."
"Leave that to me. Give the driver directions and we’ll have you back in your bed in no time."
In a few minutes time they were across the street from her house.
Jonathan picked up her bag and helped her from the cab. He brought a finger to his lips to indicate silence.
Rebecca nodded her understanding. With a quietness she didn’t know was possible, they walked to the front door. It was locked as she knew it would be, but that was a minor barrier to the tall man beside her.
With the precision of a thief, he picked the lock and led her inside. Before her bedroom door he gave a repeat performance, then stepped into the room with her and relocked the door.
"Now you’re safe. No one need know of your abortive escape attempt."
"I don’t know how to thank you." Suddenly shy, she cast her eyes downward. "When I think of how foolish I was. You could have been a thief, a murderer, a violator of women—"
"Something to think on should you decide to try this in the future."
"Again, thanks seems so hollow."
He caught her shoulders and drew her to him. Rebecca tilted her head to look at him. His face was so close she could feel his breath against her cheek.
"Then a kiss shall be my payment."
Her breath caught. He was so near. So male. Her eyes closed of their own volition. Her lips parted.
Why was she so damned tempting? Jonathan asked himself. He was as drawn to those bowed lips of hers as a moth to flame. If he didn’t pull away soon…
He dropped a kiss to her forehead and stepped back.
"May luck go with you, my lady." He bowed low, then strode to the open window and hoisted himself over the side.
Rebecca ran to the window in time to see him disappear into the fog. Her hip still burned where his hand had touched it. Her fingers still tingled from the feel of being laced with his. And her heart raced with the excitement his presence had wrought. Soon all would return to normal and her senses would once more be in control of themselves.
But hopefully not too soon.
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