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The award-winning author whose tender and sensual love stories touch readers' hearts weaves her signature magic, unfolding an unforgettable tale of a man and a woman who find that love is the most precious treasure of all....
When underwater archaeologist Sam McGowan is asked to help salvage a sunken Confederate blockade runner, he's eager for the opportunity to investigate his own family history -- especially since the project is being handled by Gordon Chandler, a notable authority in underwater salvaging. When he finds Gordon's daughter Rachel in charge, Sam is not pleased. She can't possibly be her father's match. But not only has Sam wildly underestimated Rachel's professional abilities, he has yet to discover the many other facets of this complex woman.
All her life, Rachel Chandler has dreamed of finding sunken treasure. While grateful to run her first solo operation, she resents having been assigned to run the salvage operation of a sunken blockade runner while her father is investigating a pirate ship. Most definitely, she does not want to work with a man who will question her every move. But when she and Sam stumble onto an unexpected cache of gems aboard the sunken wreck, they're drawn into something that fast becomes far more than just a working partnership. As Rachel and Sam start to dream of a future together, they also begin to realize that the fabulous treasure they have discovered holds more danger than they ever suspected.
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Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her website at MariahStewart.com, like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart, and follow her on Instagram @Mariah_Stewart_Books.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Gordon Chandler stood on the deck of the Albemarle and leaned over the railing. His head and shoulders cast an elongated shadow across the blue-green ocean below, where his children frolicked in the late afternoon sun, and he closed his eyes, impressing the scene upon his memory. Over the past several weeks, it had become painfully obvious to him that his vast stash of memories contained far more images of sunken hulls than of his son and his daughter at play, and he was stunned as well as saddened by the realization. Somehow, during all those years he'd spent carefully locating and digging artifacts from the ocean's floor, both Jared and Rachel had managed to grow into adults with precious little assistance from him.
Gordon was at a loss to explain how it had all happened so quickly.
After all, hadn't it been just yesterday that he'd bought Jared his first wet suit and taken him on that trip to the Florida Keys? And how long ago could it have been that he'd gifted Rachel with that small conch shell that she, even now, wore about her neck on a thin silver chain?
Gordon sighed and shook his head imperceptibly. The years had drifted past as stealthily as a sailboat on a calm sea, gently and without fanfare. Water through his fingers.
Jared had been nine years old the year that his father had taken him out of school for three weeks to spend most of the month of April tracking a Spanish galleon that had centuries ago gone down in a fierce hurricane off the coast of Florida. Gordon had wanted his son to be standing on the deck with him on the day that the remains of the Santa Maria Elena de Cordoba would see the light of day for the first time in four hundred years. He'd wanted Jared to understand that what kept his father away from his family for weeks, often months, at a time was not so much the hint of finding lost treasure as the chance to touch other times, other lives.
Jared was now thirty-two years old, Rachel, twenty-eight, and Gordon was still not certain of how much of their lives he had touched, beyond, of course, their choice of profession.
It never failed to humble Gordon to realize that both his children had chosen to follow in his footsteps, as he had followed in his father's, and his father had before him. Jared was the fourth generation of Chandler men to seek to uncover the mysteries hidden beneath the sea, Rachel the first woman. Both had joined Chandler and Associates upon graduating from college. Both had worked various operations, sometimes with their father, sometimes with each other, but the three Chandlers had never worked the same job at the same time. This latest venture, the salvaging of the True Wind, with all its legendary pirate treasure aboard, would mark the first time father, son, and daughter had worked together.
Somehow, despite his shortcomings as a father, both of his children had seemed to understand that the countless hours Gordon spent researching the location of each vessel was a journey toward fulfilling the legacy of every one of the men on board those doomed ships. That each salvaged ship brought to light the stories of a hundred or more men who had perished on an angry sea, and in the remains left on the ocean's floor, Gordon often learned just what it was that those men had believed was worth dying for.
For some, it had been gold.
The act of finding the treasures that Gordon had resurrected over the years had satisfied him in much the same way another might be pleased at having solved a particularly vexatious puzzle. True, the financial rewards he reaped were a means of supporting his family as well as his next salvage operation, but it was his respect for the past that drove him. Over the years, his strict honesty and his meticulous efforts to preserve his finds had earned him a reputation as a man who could be trusted equally with the treasure and with the integrity of the site. Gordon Chandler's name was always on the top of the list of men to call when there was an important salvage operation to be planned.
Gordon watched his son and his daughter as they swam through the gentle swells like true children of the sea. They were beautiful, as had been their mother, Amelia, who had died when Rachel was eight, Jared twelve. The death of one's wife might be expected to bring one home from the sea, and it had, though only briefly. Amelia, a concert pianist, having been away from home nearly as much as Gordon himself had been, had long since sweet-talked her Aunt Bess into moving in with her children. As soon as Gordon had been assured that Bess would stay on with them after Amelia's death, he had set off to research a ship -- suspected to be Sumerian -- that had been located off the coast of a small island in the Aegean.
And somehow, between that job and the next, and the one after that, his children had grown up without him. Somehow Jared had shot up to well over six feet tall, had grown broad shouldered and trim and handsome enough to catch the eyes of the young ladies wherever he went. And somehow, Rachel, who had always seemed to skip through her father's heart, a perpetual little girl made of spun glass, had grown into a strikingly beautiful woman, one who was not the least bit hesitant to let it be known that she was now made of much sterner stuff. A few short years out of college, Rachel was more competent a salvager than many of the men Gordon had worked with over the years. Smart and savvy, Rachel was as accurate in locating a ship, as sensitive and exacting in preserving all of the site's artifacts, as was Gordon himself.
A small school of dolphin approached, passing close enough to the swimmers for Rachel to be splashed in the face by a lively youngster. From his position on the Albemarle -- the retired tug he'd bought and refitted years ago -- Gordon heard his daughter's laughter float above the waves, watched his son race gamely to keep up with the pod before dropping back as the animals sped out to sea, and was struck almost numb by the depth of his love for them both.
And yet Gordon knew with certainty that before the day ended, one of them would be fiercely disappointed and painfully angry, and he, Gordon, would be the cause.
Well, Gordon sighed, it couldn't be helped. If he'd passed up the unexpected offer from the Foundation for the Preservation of Eden's End, the job of bringing up the Melrose would have gone to another salvage firm, perhaps one who might not be as concerned with preserving the details of the historic vessel. And wasn't that the Foundation's primary purpose in wanting to salvage the Melrose, to find and preserve as many of the personal belongings of that ship's venerable captain as possible?
Of course, the fact that this particular operation would stand him in exceptionally good graces with the state of North Carolina -- with which Gordon was currently negotiating the rights to another ship he'd spent years tracking off Kitty Hawk -- had not been lost on Gordon.
Besides, it was a done deal. He and Norman Winter, the head of the Foundation, had shaken hands on it just a few hours earlier. Now Gordon would have to break the news to his children that one of them would have to leave the True Wind, and the certain joy of discovering its pirate treasures, to salvage Civil War artifacts from a sunken blockade runner that might, at best, yield arms and ammunition that had been intended to bolster the Confederate cause, but had, alas, lain untouched on the ocean floor for the past one hundred thirty-five years.
Noticing his father standing alone on deck, Jared paused to tread water and call, "Hey, Dad! You up for a race to the sandbar?"
Gordon laughed, the sandbar being a good quarter mile from the tug. "Another time, maybe. Actually, I was just about to ask you and your sister to come aboard. There's something I need to discuss with you."
"Ooh, that sounds ominous!" Rachel swam toward the ladder that was suspended from the side of the boat and hoisted herself up the rungs.
"How was your meeting in Wilmington?" she asked as she climbed aboard and paused briefly to squeeze the water out of her long auburn hair.
"Interesting. Most interesting. Actually, that's what I need to discuss with you and Jared."
"Who was the meeting with?" Jared followed his sister over the side of the boat.
"A man named Norman Winter."
"Norman Winter," Rachel repeated softly. "That name is familiar."
"Oh, I would expect that it would be. He's quite the philanthropist. Heads up the Foundation for the Preservation of Eden's End."
"Of course. I remember. He's a real Civil War buff. Gives lots of money to historical preservation groups in North Carolina."
"Didn't he recently endow a chair at Pamlico State?" Jared pulled a worn Duke sweatshirt over his head.
"Yes. And he's financed a number of historic preservation projects over the past few years."
"I read a magazine article about him not too long ago," Jared recalled. "He's apparently restoring an old plantation he bought outside of Wilmington."
"That would be Eden's End. Once the home of Captain Samuel Lawrence McGowan." Gordon nodded and opened the door leading to the small cabin he used as an office, motioning for his children to follow him inside. "McGowan was a hero of the War between the States, a loyal and venerated son of Dixie."
"Shed his life's blood for the cause, did he?" Rachel eased into a chair that stood near the worn rectangular table.
"Actually, McGowan never saw battle. At least, not on land, anyway. He was a blockade runner, kept Lee's troops in food and guns, and kept the ladies of Wilmington in parasols and hoop skirts. Wilmington was the last of the Southern ports to remain open during the Union blockade."
"He sounds like Rhett Butler." Rachel grinned.
"A real-life Rhett Butler." Gordon nodded.
Jared opened the small refrigerator and took out a beer. He held it up, wordlessly offering it first to his father, then to his sister, both of whom declined.
"I'll take a bottle of springwater if there's any left," Rachel told him.
"I brought some back with me this afternoon," Gordon said as he took a seat at the long wooden table that served as his desk.
"Great. I'll have one." With one hand, Rachel caught the small plastic bottle that was tossed in her direction by her brother, then turned her attention back to her father. "So, what's up with this Winter guy? I'm assuming there's a story here."
"Quite an interesting one." Gordon leaned back in his chair, tapping his fingers on the wooden arms. He'd have to make the story really interesting if he had any hope that either of his children would agree to join Winter on his quest for McGowan's vessel. "Were you aware that he funds the Foundation himself?"
"Wow. That's impressive." Jared popped the lid off the beer can and took a swig. "Where does his money come from?"
"He gave me the impression that he's a self-made man," Gordon told them.
"He must have made a lot," Rachel mused. "Foundations like that are hungry buggers. And it takes truckloads of cash to restore a plantation."
"He didn't go into detail, but he did allude to having made a lot of money in construction when he was younger, then invested well. Lucky in the market, I guess. He's doing a marvelous job restoring Eden's End, by the way."
"You've been there?" Rachel asked.
"This morning. That's where I met with Winter. He told me that he first became interested in historic preservation when he was in his early twenties and was working at Eden's End with the contractor who had been called in by the McGowan family to do some work on the old house."
"And he ended up buying it?" Jared leaned back in his seat, tilting the chair onto its two back legs.
"Years later, yes, when William McGowan passed away and the family put the house on the market."
"The house had remained in the same family since the Civil War?"
Gordon nodded. "Until just a few years ago, Rachel. Apparently William McGowan's widow was unable to keep up with the property, and agreed to sell it to Winter, who is supervising the restoration himself, by the way. He's meticulous about detail, and was dedicated to salvaging as much as he could of all the original structures."
"Commendable." Rachel took a long pull on the bottle of water.
"Yes, it is. And in the process of restoring the property, Winter has become somewhat of an expert on old Sam McGowan."
"There's a marine archaeologist named Sam McGowan. Dr. Sam McGowan," Jared said. "I worked with him on the Esmeralda off the Keys a few years back. Smart. Hard worker. Good diver. Great instincts. He taught graduate courses at East Carolina State for a while."
"Old Sam's great-great-grandson," Gordon told him. "And I heartily agree. Sam is all of those things. Our paths have crossed several times. As a matter of fact, I've been trying to talk him into joining Chandler and Associates for the past several years -- I think we're more than ready to hire our own resident archaeologist -- but so far, I haven't had much luck. Sam likes his independence, I suppose." Gordon smiled, "I'm glad you like him, son, since it appears that you may very well have a chance to work with him again."
"I'd welcome it. McGowan's a great guy. He's a man you can trust and respect. We got along really well."
"I can't tell you how happy I am to hear you say that, Jared, since Sam will be the archaeologist on the job that Winter has contracted Chandler and Associates to run."
"Terrific." Jared grinned. "You just let me know where and when."
"Next Tuesday." Gordon met his son's eyes across the table. "Bowan Island Marina."
Eyes flickered, son to father, brother to sister, daughter to father.
Finally, Jared cleared his throat and said, "I think you must have left out part of your little story, Dad."
"I was getting to it, son. You know that Sam McGowan -- the first Sam -- was a blockade runner. In September of 1864 -- the twenty-first, actually -- McGowan's paddleboat was caught in a squall and sank. Winter is convinced he's found the wreck. He's struck a deal with the state of North Carolina for salvage rights, since he's planning to open part of the old McGowan plantation as a sort of Civil War museum."
"Okay, so he knows where the ship is and he's managed to get the rights to some of the booty." Jared, tapped out his impatience on the tabletop, much as his father had earlier tapped on the arms of his chair. "What's the big hurry?"
"He wants to open the exhibit on September twenty-first."
"Of this year?" Rachel's jaw dropped. "Dad, that's only five months from now."
"I'm aware of that," Gordon said calmly, preparing himself for the storm that was yet to come.
"Dad, this is crazy. How could you possibly carry out an operation like that in five months?"
"Not so very crazy, Jared, considering that the trickiest part has been done. Winter found the ship, all we have to do is figure out how to salvage it between now and September," Gordon said, only half tongue in cheek.
"Are you telling us that you have already committed to this?" Rachel pushed her chair back from the table.
"Yes. Yes, I did."
"Dad, how could you possibly get a crew together...the divers, the equipment..."
"Winter has a boat outfitted and ready to go."
"How could he do that so quickly?" Jared asked.
"He's been planning this for a long time, Jared. He's prepared." Gordon lifted a leather folder from an adjacent chair and set it on the table between his son and his daughter. Neither reached for it. "Winter has researched this very thoroughly. He has maps, historical documentation, and recently he came across accounts of the residents of Bowan Island who saw the boat go down. All he needs is someone to run the project, a few divers..."
"How can you r...
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Book Description Pocket Books, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110671026259
Book Description Pocket Books, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0671026259
Book Description Pocket Books, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0671026259