Grief stricken with his wife's death, Daniel Fairbourne has lived in seclusion for five years on Nantucket Island, but when Juliette, a lovely woman devoid of her memory, washes ashore, Daniel nurses her back to health, and in return she helps to mend his broken heart
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With more than two million copies in print worldwide, Miranda Jarrett's bestselling books are enjoyed by readers from Singapore to Poland to Australia. Her critically acclaimed novels of colonial America starring the unforgettable Sparhawk family have now been joined by her latest series for Pocket Books, featuring the equally memorable Fairbournes, of Cape Cod: The Captain's Bride, Cranberry Point, and Wishing. Moonlight, the Fairbourne novel that preceded Sunrise, followed the romantic adventures of Juliette Lacroix's older sister Amelie, including giving her a Fairbourne hero of her own.
Miranda considers herself wonderfully fortunate to have found a career that combines history with happy endings for starcrossed lovers -- even if it has also made her family regulars at the local pizzeria. She is currently working on her next book, which will introduce the next generation of Fairbournes.
Miranda is a graduate of Brown University with a degree in art history. A two-time RITA Award finalist, she is the recipient of many awards and honors for her writing, including the prestigious Gold Leaf and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best North American Historical Romance. She loves to hear from readers, and can be reached at P.O. Box 1102, Paoli, PA 19301-0792 (a SASE is appreciated), or by e-mail at MJarrett@aol.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
He could not keep away.
It was the season for hurricanes and nor'easters, cruel winds and devil-driven seas, for weather so wicked that any sane man would huddle close to his fire and thank the good Lord that he'd no need to move. But Daniel Fairbourne had long ago lost the blessing of an easy, reasonable mind, and on this black and howling night he once again bent his shoulders into the wind and walked the beach with all the grim purpose of a man driven by desperation.
Desperation, and guilt. He would never forget what had happened five years ago. Five years, three months, seventeen days, a handful of uncounted hours and minutes, yet still the pain of his loss was as keen and sharp as it should be. As it must be.
No, he thought with every step, he would never forget.
He walked close to the water, his boots leaving deep prints in the wet, packed sand until the next wave curled and hissed his marks away, bits of foam clinging to the worn leather toes. He'd come this way so many times before that his feet knew the way, and his gaze stayed focused on the sea itself, searching the waves and moonless horizon with the glass-sided lantern in his hand.
He was a large man in his prime, a blacksmith whose trade had made him the strongest man on the island. He realized that if he must labor so against this storm, then any poor unfortunate cast into the sea on such a night would surely perish before he could help. No one else would fault him if he turned back now. The wind sliced through his heavy coat, the cold cutting deep to his bones, and the driven spray peppered his face like shards of salty ice, yet still he walked, still he searched.
Without a growl of complaint Daniel's dog Sachem followed close at his heels across the sand and rocks. Sachem understood this kind of hunt, and its importance, too, for three winters ago he himself had been rescued by Daniel on this same coast, a scrawny spotted pup tossed to drown over the side of some long-past boat.
For a moment Daniel paused, bending to ruffle the dog's pointed ears while he still continued to scan the churning horizon.
"A dirty night to be about, eh, Sachem?" he said as they began again, the dog swinging his tail in loyal agreement. "Not fit for any but sorry fools like us."
Curving to the west, the beach grew rougher now, the waves breaking over great granite rocks. It was here, too, that ships and sailors most often came to grief, confounded by the twisting currents of the shoals, and as Daniel climbed to the crest of the rocks, he held his lantern high, sweeping the flickering light over the shallow pebbled beach before him. Rocks, more rocks, a shattered cask, a limp mass of wrack-weed, and a tangled knot of tarred rope.
And the lifeless body of a woman.
As Sachem bounded ahead, Daniel clambered down the rocks after him. He wondered if he'd imagined it, his grief playing cruel, false games with his conscience, but the closer he came the more he could see, and the heavier his own heart became in his chest.
The woman lay on her side on the stony beach where the waves had left her, her face turned away from him and her long tangled hair streaming out behind. She was wrapped in a cloak of sodden red wool that clung to her like the shroud it had become, covering her, hiding her, except for one leg that lay bent at the knee, curled behind her. One small, pretty leg in a white stocking with three hearts embroidered in pink over the ankle and a half-tied striped garter trailing forlornly down the calf, a red-heeled shoe buckled high with a pinchbeck buckle that glittered in the lantern light.
A brave, saucy show for one small, still leg to make, thought Daniel sadly, and far too brave to find death on a rocky Nantucket beach. Gently he pulled the cloak over the woman's leg, giving her back her decency as he murmured a little prayer for her soul.
Sachem whimpered, ducking his head, as if in sympathy with Daniel's sorrow.
"Not what we'd hoped for, was it, pup?" said Daniel softly. He'd found sailors before, men like himself, but never had he come across a woman, and he hesitated before he turned her over. A woman was different, her suffering worse. No woman should have to know the terrors of drowning like this, and he dreaded seeing the face of one who had. He struggled to remind himself how he'd be sure that this lady would have a Christian burial, that her friends and family would know what had happened to her, that she wouldn't vanish into nothingness as if she'd never lived, the way his own wife had done.
His wife: his fair angel, his dearest love, his sweet, lovely Catherine, who had gone away forever and would never return from her sister's house in Bridgetown, not to him, not to anyone.
With a strangled sound deep in his throat, Daniel gently eased the woman onto her back. Her delicate hands were bruised, her fingers scratched and her nails torn; clearly she'd fought to save herself, and he wondered what had become of the others on her ship.
He set the lantern beside her head and, pulling off his glove, he carefully, almost tenderly, swept the tangle of wet hair from her face. Her skin was icy beneath his fingertips, bluish pale except for the angry bruises left from the stones, and he swore softly when he saw how young she was. Twenty, he guessed, twenty-two at most, and far, far too young to die. Her face belonged with that fancy stocking and striped garter, a merry face fashioned for beguiling rather than pure beauty, with full cheeks that he'd wager would have dimpled when she'd smiled and a generous mouth with a tiny mole near one corner, as if pointing the way for a kiss, a kiss that, now, would never come.
"Poor little lady," said Daniel softly, bending close to shield her from the wind. "What was your name, I wonder?"
He thought it was a trick of the lantern's flicker across her face, the way she seemed to shudder, her brows twitching as if she were waking from a dream. Then suddenly her eyes fluttered open, blue eyes that were large and bright and very much alive, and very much startled to find him so close.
"Juliette," she gasped, her voice raw and breathless enough to make Sachem back away. "My name is Juliette. But oh, mon Dieu, who are you?"
"Daniel," he answered, startled himself, "not that it matters now. All you need know is that I'm a friend who wishes to help you. Can you recall the name of your ship, or her captain, or where you were bound? I'll want to send word to your people as soon as I can that you're safe."
But she didn't answer, only staring at him with pale eyes so wide he wondered if she'd struck her head when washed ashore. More likely when the vessel she'd been in had foundered or wrecked, she'd witnessed sights no woman should, horrors so great her poor wits had fled in defense. He'd seen it happen to grown men, to sailors and fishermen, but the shock that a gentle young creature like this must have felt was unimaginable.
Though he'd imagined Catherine's suffering often enough, hadn't he, each time praying from the depth of his miserable soul that her end had at least been quick and merciful. As if his prayers could bring her any comfort now, or ease the pain that would always haunt him...
"Don't worry, lass," he said gruffly as he pulled off his coat, tugging his arms free of the sleeves. "You'll be well enough in time."
Gently he raised the girl to her feet to wrap his coat around her shoulders and over her own sodden clothing. His hand brushed against the mottled skin of her forearm, as chilled as that of the corpse he'd mistaken her for.
"Can you walk?" he asked. "My house isn't far."
She stared at him with the same empty eyes before she swayed unsteadily against him, his heavy coat flapping around her narrow shoulders in the wind.
"Aye, that's answer enough, isn't it?" he said as he caught her to stop her fall. "Come then, we'll manage together."
He slipped his arm beneath her knees and lifted her up. She didn't protest or fight him, settling instead against his chest with her head upon his shoulder with a little fluttering sigh of acceptance. Juliette, she'd said her name was. She was a Juliette, too delicate to be a sturdy Nantucket Ruth or Betsey. Even soaking wet she was a little bit of a thing to hold, so small boned and fragile he marvelled that she'd survived this long.
"Sachem!" he shouted into the wind, and the dog came bounding up to him again. "Sachem, here! Handsomely now, you rascal. High time we got this poor lady home."
Home and a fire and dry clothes for them both. That was enough to deal with for now. And tomorrow -- if there was a tomorrow for her -- he'd worry about the rest.
Copyright © 2000 by Miranda Jarrett
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