Silver-Tongued Devil (Louisiana Plantation Collection)

 

 

“Jennifer Blake makes this book flow into pure magic.”

~Rendezvous

 

“Award-winning romance author Jennifer Blake is at her sensual best in this sultry tale of love and hate, revenge and redemption … (as) the devil who ensnared Angelica’s heart dares show her the meaning of forgiveness and the magic of forever.”

~Romance Reviews

 

“The devil meets his match in a beautiful angel — this is romance at its best!”

~Literary Times

 

“A most intriguing and passionate novel.”

~Fresh Fiction

 

“A great read … Chock-f of action, adventure, passion, and survival.”

~The Royal Review

 

“Verbal sparring, a river disaster, a forced marriage, revenge, suspense, a duel, historical detail, Mardi Gras revelry and, yes, passionate romance, characterize Blake’s latest, best romance.”

~Baton Rouge Advocate

 


Silver-Tongued
Devil is a fun-filled, action-packed historical romance delivered by the incomparable Jennifer Blake. The two exciting lead protagonists’ relationship is brilliantly described as it metamorphoses from loathing to loving. Fans of Americana will clearly enjoy Jennifer Blake’s latest novel.”

~Harriet Klausner, Affaire de Coeur, 4.5 Stars

 

“From a riverboat on its way to New Orleans to a magnificent plantation by the Mississippi River, Jennifer Blake invites her readers to step into the past. One of the best-known and most-loved authors of romance fiction delights her readers once again with a story of love and betrayal, hate and forgiveness. Ms. Blake’s writing is fresh and entertaining and her characters are fascinating. But it is the romantic setting that captures the imagination and touches the heart!”

~Kristina Wright

 


Silver-Tongued Devil
is fast-paced and incredibly well-written. From her flawless prose to her attention to detail, Jennifer Blake delivers a memorable love story!”

~The Literary Times

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system — except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews — without the written permission of publisher or author, except where permitted by law.

Copyright © 1996 by Patricia Maxwell

 

First Edition: February 1996

 

E-Reads Edition: 2000

 

Copyright © 2011 by Jennifer Blake

 

Sourcebooks Casablanca Classics Edition: 2011

 

Steel Magnolia Press Edition: 2012

 

Cover Design by
LFD Designs For Authors

 

Chapter One
 

 

The maid who tended the ladies’ staterooms of the
Queen Kathleen
, the Natchez to New Orleans steamboat, was neat enough in appearance, with a clean apron and her hair tucked under a mobcap. Still, she carried about her the odor of corn whiskey like some raw perfume. Angelica Carew was no stranger to the smell; her fiancé had been known to take a drink too many, as had most of the men of Natchez society. She disliked it, however, and held her breath while the maid did up the row of tiny buttons that fastened the back of her evening gown.

The spirits had apparently loosened the young woman’s tongue, for she crooned over the softness and delicate apricot color of the silk of the gown as she worked. She also asked a thousand questions about where Angelica was going and what she would be doing when she got there. Angelica’s answers were not particularly informative. She preferred not to think about the journey, its purpose, or its end.

“You will be here to help me undress later?” Angelica said as the maid, finished with the buttons, began to lift and spread the gown’s wide skirt evenly over the hooped petticoat underneath.

“Oh, yes, indeed. You only have to ring the bell just over there. I’ll hear it at my station.”

“I don’t expect to be late. My father will be retiring early, I’m sure, and I have no reason to linger.”

“Not even for a stroll along the deck with your young man? The moon is nearing full tonight.” There was a hint of roguish humor in the other woman’s voice.

“I’m sure he will find other entertainment.”

“Will he? Then he’s a poor sort in my book.” The maid’s laugh released an alcoholic breath strong enough to make a sailor reel.

Angelica managed a brief smile as she moved away toward the petticoat mirror in the side table. The lamplight shifted with a rich gold sheen in her high-piled hair as she turned slowly to check her hemline. Swinging gently to face the other woman again, she said, “Are you the only ladies’ attendant?”

“Indeed I am. One ladies’ attendant and one for the gentlemen on this boat.”

“I expect you’re kept busy?”

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Many ladies bring their own maids, of course, and some dress themselves. Will there be something special I could do for you?”

“No, no.” Angelica glanced at the other woman, then away again. “It’s just that — oh, some women are terrified of spiders or mice or snakes, but my horror is being trapped in my underclothes. I was punished as a child by being forced to sleep laced up tight in a corset with applewood slats up the back and — I can’t quite forget that when it’s time for bed.”

“Now who would do such a thing to a child as sweet as you must have been?”

Wry humor rose in Angelica’s dark blue eyes. “I’m afraid I was a handful growing up, especially for a maiden aunt with a great many fine things to protect. She felt her methods kinder than striking me. Truth to tell, I would have preferred the slap.”

“Yes, well, never you fear, dearie,” the woman said with ready sympathy. “Just you give your bell a good yank when you need me, and I’ll be here before you can take your hair down.”

Satisfied, Angelica thanked her. A short time later, the attendant held open the door while Angelica maneuvered her wide skirts through the narrow opening. She stepped out into the salon known as the ladies’ cabin, then moved through into the main cabin.

This lounging and eating area was a cavernous space running more than half the length of the boat. Brass and glass chandeliers, glowing with the mellow light of whale oil, were spaced at regular intervals. They illuminated ornate woodwork, the stained glass in the great overhead dome, and the miniature landscapes that were set above the stateroom doors. The mahogany tables down the center had been laid for dinner with white napery, heavy silver, and centerpieces of roses and ivy.

It was possible, Angelica thought as she paused in the doorway, that she should have remained in her stateroom until her father or her fiancé came for her. The few ladies who had emerged to wait for the dinner bell appeared to be escorted by their menfolk. The remaining passengers standing around the room were all male.

An uncomfortable flush rose to Angelica’s cheekbones as she hesitated, uncertain whether to advance or retreat. That was even before a man, who stood with a group which included the captain and a trio of older gentlemen, turned to direct a piercing stare in her direction.

Tall and broad-shouldered, he commanded attention with the sheer force of his presence. He was smooth-shaven, his features singularly handsome in their chiseled planes and angles. Crisp, black hair clung in sculptured waves to his head and curled just at his coat collar. The coat was of impeccable cut, the lapels bound with dark gray silk lying neatly against the black broadcloth. His gray trousers fit without a wrinkle over muscular thighs and were fastened under half-boots that were polished to a dazzling sheen. The pattern of his waistcoat was a subtle gray shadow-stripe, and the heavy watch chain that emphasized his taut midriff was weighted only by a single gold signet fob.

He appeared a gentleman of refined taste and ample means, yet there was taut and watchful power in his casual stance. More, something in his stillness, some hint of violent impulses ruthlessly restrained, gave Angelica an odd feeling of vulnerability. He was not, she knew instinctively, a safe man to know.

The man’s gaze narrowed. For a single instant, he was as alert as a wolf scenting prey on a warm wind. Then the severely molded lines of his mouth relaxed. His gaze, as cool and opaquely green as a lime pool, drifted downward from her face to her shoulders exposed by her gown, and from there to her slender waist. The lamplight shone with blue fire in his dark hair as he inclined his head in a bow that was both an acknowledgment of her presence and a devastating compliment.

Angelica stood statue-still while her heart beat high in her throat. Heat flooded through her and a strange confusion of impulses — to go, stay, run, hide, walk toward the man who watched — held her immobile.

It was the purest reflex of manners that came to her aid. Her lips curved in a politely distant smile while she performed the minimal curtsy that would recognize the obeisance without encouraging the man.

The effect was not precisely as expected. One corner of the stranger’s mouth curled in a sardonic smile. He made a slight movement, as though he meant to leave his friends, perhaps approach her. For the space of a breath, Angelica felt a warm flood of anticipation, as though every inch of her skin awaited a caress.

Then the face of the man across the room tightened, darkened. He swung abruptly away. After an instant, he made some comment to the captain that caused a rumble of laughter.

“Ravishing, my dear,” Angelica’s father said as he came to her side. “I knew the gown would enhance your charms when I chose it, but had no idea how much you would improve the gown.”

It was a moment before she could attend to his words. Then she summoned a smile and put her hand on his arm. “You are a flatterer, but I love you for it.”

“I would never offer you base coin.”

“And why should you indeed? Hasn’t Aunt Harriet always told me I look exactly like you?”

“A gratifying observation, if inaccurate. You look like your mother.”

There was a tired note in his voice which caused Angelica to give him a quick, assessing glance. His face was pale under his look of fatherly pride, and the flickering lamplight overhead made the shadows under his eyes look like old bruises. The business of arranging this wedding and getting ready for the move downriver had stretched his strength to the limit and, in his illness, he had little to spare. Her fingers on his sleeve tightened in involuntary distress.

The ghost of a smile flitted across his face. “Are you about to make a fuss? Indulge me, please, and refrain. It will only spoil the evening.”

“Oh, Papa . . . “

“It’s your Aunt Harriet’s fault, your inconveniently tender conscience,” he said in rallying tones. “I should never have left you with her so long. But the time sped past so quickly — one day you were a crawling babe, the next a lady with her hair up in curls and scent behind her ears.”

“Rose water,” Angelica corrected in dry tones. “It’s all Aunt Harriet permitted.”

“Was it so terrible, then, living with her? She is my sister and I respect her, but she is not, I fear, a warmhearted woman.”

What could she say? To complain would only worry him while mending nothing. “She did her duty. And she is fond of me, I think, in her way.”

“As bad as that?” her father said with a shake of his head. “Perhaps it’s just as well that things happened as they did. You will be much happier as a wife.”

Angelica made no answer. She wished that he might be right, since it seemed to give him comfort, but she was far from sure of it.

Dinner was a time-consuming production served with all the pomp of a fine restaurant. The aromas of the food hovered in the air, mingling with the smell of lamp oil and perfume and the river. The breeze over the water, laden with dampness, wafted in at the open transoms over the windows and doors on one side of the long cabin and out those on the other. The vibration caused by the laboring of the great steam engines made the water and wine shiver in their crystal glasses, and could be felt as a faint shudder through the deck and the dining chairs. The rumble and thump of the gears to the stern wheel were constant, like the steady throb of a giant heart, while the splashing of water over its paddles had the sound of distant rain. With the noise and the buzz of conversation, the music provided by an ensemble playing pianoforte, French horn, and violin was a distant, half-drowned undercurrent of melody.

Halfway through the meal, Angelica felt a strong sense of being under observation. She glanced at the captain’s table in the center of the room. The man she had seen earlier was there. Paying scant attention to the animated conversation going on around him, he leaned back in his chair with his elbow on its arm and his chin supported by thumb and forefinger. He was watching her, his eyes hooded and brooding.

Renold Harden saw Angelica Carew turn her head in his direction and was grimly pleased. It could be helpful that the lady was as aware of him as he was of her.

Fair Angelica, angelically fair. Pure and dulcet, golden as an angel done on fresco, with eyes of rich sea blue that were mirrors to hide her thoughts or reflect her joy. She really was beautiful, a possibility he had not considered. Amazing. But then he had given little heed to the daughter except as a weapon. It was an unexpected bonus. He had not thought to find pleasure in his use of her.

Renold recalled the transcendent pleasure in the face of Edmund Carew when he had seen his daughter. He loved the young woman he had sired, handled her as gently as he might a newborn, as deftly as ever he had riffled the cards. As he led her in to dinner, he had placed her hand on his arm, covering it with his fingers. Besotted, as full of news as a rooster at daybreak, he had talked for the purpose of coaxing his daughter’s quick, silvery laugh and the rise of love and approval in her eyes.

It had been like watching an unreliable cur playing with a kitten. Remembering, sick rage gathered, settling its heat in the center of Renold’s chest.

His stepfather, Gerald Delaup, had been a saint among men. He was seldom seen without a smile. Urbane, kind of heart, he had years ago scandalized his relatives and social acquaintances by marrying out of the aristocratic circle of New Orleans, taking an Irishwoman to wife. If that were not enough, he had also taken in the woman’s bastard son. Under his protection the boy, surly, difficult, black-tempered as his black-Irish heritage, had over the years turned into a fairly civilized human being, though not, perhaps, a gentleman.

Other books

TheWardersDemon by Viola Grace
Everybody Wants Some by Ian Christe
Jane and the Barque of Frailty by Stephanie Barron
The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti
Music of the Heart by Katie Ashley
Word and Breath by Susannah Noel
American Gothic by Michael Romkey
Vegas Surrender by Sasha Peterson
Ever Night by Gena Showalter


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022