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Authors: Sylvie F. Sommerfield

Tags: #Scan; HR; Antebellum South; Riverboat; Revenge

Catalina's Caress

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Catalina's Caress
Sylvie F. Sommerfield
Kensington Publishing Corporation (1987)
Tags:
Scan; HR; Antebellum South; Riverboat; Revenge

Published November 1987 by Zebra

HOT BLOODED RACES

When dashing Marc Copeland won the Southern Belle from her brother in a card game innocent Catalina Carrington was confident she could buy the riverboat back from the debonair gambler. But when the arrogant cad named his price--three days as his mistress--the sumptuous beauty's fury knew no bounds. She vehemently swore she'd never meet his terms... but even as she protested, Catalina couldn't slow her racing pulse nor calm her breathless gasps nor still her romantic heart imagining the sensual splendor she could have were she to relent to the ebon-haired scoundrel!

BLACK-HEARTED SCHEME

The moment virile Marc Copeland saw curvaceous Catalina, he knew exactly what the next step would be in his long-planned downfall of the Carrington: to seduce the golden-eyed chit, then toss her out with her reputation in shreds. But as he stroked her hip-length tresses and boldly traced her lush ripe form, the insolent male thought less of ruining her and more of ravishing her. On the morrow there'd be time aplenty for revenge. Tonight he would reap the rewards at hand and glory in the passionate pleasures and ecstatic delights of
CATALINA'S CARESS

Catalina's Caress


Sylvie F. Sommerfield

HOT-BLOODED RAGE

When dashing Marc Copeland won the
Southern Belle
from her brother in a card game, innocent Catalina Carrington was confident she could buy the riverboat back from the debonair gambler. But when the arrogant cad named his price—three days as his mistress the sumptuous beauty's fury knew no bounds. She vehemently swore she'd never meet his terms...but even as she protested, Catalina couldn't slow her racing pulse nor calm her breathless gasps nor still her romantic heart imagining the sensual splendor she could have were she to relent to the ebony-haired scoundrel!

BLACK-HEARTED SCHEME

The moment virile Marc Copeland saw curvaceous Catalina, he knew exactly what the next step would be in his long-planned downfall of the Carringtons: to seduce the golden-eyed chit, then toss her out with her reputation in shreds. But as he stroked her hip-length tresses and coldly traced her lush ripe form, the insolent male thought less of ruining her and more of ravishing her. On the morrow there'd be time aplenty for revenge. Tonight he would reap the rewards at hand and glory in the passionate pleasures and ecstatic delights of
CATALINA'S CARESS.

TOO WICKED TO RESIST

"Stop staring and let me go!" Catalina tried to sound authoritative. "Or is force not beyond you either?"

Marc's eyes sparked with anger, but his lips curved in a half-smile. He deliberately tightened his arms about her and his voice was suggestively smooth.

"Are you so sure it would be force ... that you would not be more than willing?"

His loins pressed intimately against her, and despite her renewed rage she was aware of the hard masculinity of him.

She stiffened at the subtle humor in his voice.

"Tell me," he said with casual softness, "shall we put it to the test... or are you really afraid?"

The barb stung, for at this moment she was touched for the first time with a premonitional fear of something unknown.

And right she was to be afraid, for before she could find the breath to protest, his parted lips found hers in a kiss that stirred something volatile in them both, a kiss that flooded her senses until a raging desire consumed the last of her will and made her lose the reins of her self-control....

ZEBRA BOOKS KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

ZEBRA BOOKS are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp.

475 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016

Copyright © 1987 by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

First printing: November, 1987

Printed in the United States of America

Dedicated to

A very dear friend... Frank "Fuzzy" Fazzolare, who always seems to have time to listen.

Acknowledgment

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dear friend and fellow writer Bobbi Smith. The fine research books in her personal library helped to make this book possible.

Prologue

1867

I
t was a breathlessly warm night, the kind of night the inhabitants of New Orleans knew well, one which even the breeze from the gulf did nothing to cool. The moon was high and lent a gray-white glow to the mist that made the waterfront buildings seem like apparitions rising from a vaporous emptiness.

The taverns that lined the docks were alive with music and raucous laughter, but very few hardy souls were on the streets. Those who were abroad often had motives that were less than honorable.

A carriage moved slowly through the narrow streets. Within sat a couple that would have raised the eyebrows of much of New Orleans society. The man was extremely large and solid looking. Even in the shadowed interior of the carriage he exuded strength. The woman, barely a foot shorter than his six foot one, carried only about half of her companion's nearly two-hundred-pound weight, yet she, too, seemed to be coolly controlled.

She had a small, somewhat wide, yet beautiful face with small features that made her dark almond-shaped eyes seem large and wondrous. She was slight and small boned, and her hair, long and perfectly straight, shone like ebony satin.

"So, Marc," she said softly, in a voice strangely inflected with an accent that bespoke her Oriental origins, "you have succeeded in the first part of your plan? What you did tonight was brutal. Have you no pity on the boy? What do you think this will do to the rest of his family?"

"Not enough, China." He spoke in a soft drawl, but she heard the steel blade in each word. They could not suffer enough to make me change one step of my plan. What he got he deserved. Teach him not to be so damned arrogant and conceited. He was trying to cheat you, you know."

"Yes, I know... but he did not succeed. You took what you wanted. Can't it be enough for you?"

"You know the answer to that."

"Revenge is destructive," she said softly.

"Destruction is my intention."

"That is not what I meant."

"Don't play the Oriental mystic." His voice grew cold. "My plans were made long ago, and I don't intend to stop them. If you don't approve, you can always leave."

She seemed unperturbed by his words or by the harshness of his voice. China knew Marc Copeland much too well ever to be affected by his anger. With her, it was always short-lived.

She smiled, and in a moment his smile answered hers.

"Sorry," he said softly.

"I would not leave you, Marc."

"Whether I'm right or wrong?" He chuckled.

"I do not decide if you are right or wrong. You do what is in your heart."

He leaned forward and reached across the space between them, touching her cheek with the palm of his hand. "And you are so sure that I will not complete what is in my heart?"

"It could be that you will... but it could be that what is in your heart will one day change."

"I doubt that You know why I do this. Don't you think I have a right to my anger?"

"Yes. You have a right to anger."

He laughed again and took her hand to draw her across the space separating them and onto the seat beside him. As she rested her head against the breadth of his chest, he curved his arm around her shoulder to hold her close.

"Ah, China, I am grateful for you. You're my looking glass in which I can study my conscience and all my dark thoughts, but you stay with me even when you think what I do is wrong. I have no other that would do the same."

They sat in companionable silence until the carriage stopped, then both disembarked to stand together on the dock and look at the boat securely tied up there.

"It is magnificent," China breathed.

"It most certainly is, but it's more beautiful inside than it is outside... and it belongs to me. It cost Joseph Carrington over two hundred thousand dollars ... and it's mine. I'll bet by this time next week, when his son gets home, the old man will be livid."

"He is a powerful man. Sometimes, my dear Marc, I am afraid for you."

"Well don't be, China my girl." Marc laughed. "When this is over, I won't own just this boat—I'll own the whole damn Carrington line. I intend," he said softly, "to give the Carringtons a taste of their own medicine. Let's see how they handle it."

"Marc—"

"No more lectures, China. Come on board. It's time you saw where you're going to be operating. By the way, have you sent for all the girls you'll need?"

"I've sent for three. Paulette, Charlene, and of course—"

"Shawna," he finished.

"Yes. I also know of the other one that has been invited to share your stateroom."

"Nina?" Marc chuckled. "Now, China, how could I go cruising up and down this lonely old river without Nina to make the nights memorable."

"You have no... permanent ideas about Nina, do you?"

"Permanent." He scowled. There's nothing permanent in my life except our friendship. The last thing in the world I need is a wife to spoil what the Carringtons left"

"One day you may be surprised. You may find a woman who does not give you what you want so easily... one who wants something as badly as you do and who is just as strong as you are."

"Look, China," he said softly but firmly, "there's no woman I want to marry. There's no woman I'd trust enough. We're friends ... let's keep it that way."

They walked up the gangplank to the deck of the
Southern Belle,
one of them assured and making plans, the other frightened for the first time in years—not for herself, but for the tall handsome man who walked beside her.

Chapter 1

C
atalina Carrington lay very still on her bed in the wee hours of the morning. She listened intently for the noise that had wakened her. She wasn't frightened, but not many things frightened Catalina, whose closest friends and family called her Cat because of her reckless nature and fun-loving, adventurous spirit that often brought her to the brink of disaster. At least often enough to irritate her father, who prayed a man who could handle her spirit would come along, and to upset her mother, who was just as certain there wasn't a man alive that could cope with Catalina.

The noise came again, and this time Catalina leapt quickly from her bed and ran to the large French doors that led to the balcony outside her bedroom. She had already identified the sound. Pebbles from the drive were being tossed gently against her window. It was an old signal first used by her and her brother Seth when they were still children.

Without putting on robe or slippers she threw open the French doors and stepped onto the balcony.

"Seth," she hissed. "What in heavens name are you doing? You're supposed to be going upriver on the
Southern Belle
."

"Cat"—His voice came from below, and he sounded desperate—"I have to talk to you."

"Well, come into the house."

"No," he said sharply. "No, I can't talk to Father... not tonight... maybe not ever again. He'll never forgive me this time."

"Oh, Seth, not again," Catalina whispered to herself. "Come up the back stairs, I'll unlock the door."

"All right... hurry."

She did. Dashing across her room to stick her head into the hallway and look in both directions, she then hurried down the silent corridor to the back stairs, ran down the steps to the door, and slid the bolt open.

When she stood face to face with her brother, Catalina found it difficult to believe what she was seeing.

His clothes were rumpled, as if he had slept in them more than one night This was unusual for the rather immaculate Seth.

His face was sweaty and flushed, his eyes puffy and red rimmed due to sleepless nights and to the misery that had kept him awake.

She put her arms about him, heard his muffled sob, and felt the trembling of his body as he hugged her.

"Come to my room, Seth ... we can talk."

He followed her silently until she closed her bedroom door behind her and lit her lamp. Then she turned to him again.

Seth looked gaunt, his hands were making quick nervous movements. His skin was pale, his light brown hair disheveled. His blue eyes looked... almost frightened. He was tall, his height nearing six feet; although at this moment his shoulders were slumped.

"Seth, what is it? What's wrong? Why are you here and not upriver? Father will be furious."

"Father will be more than furious. I can't go upriver, Cat... I... I don't have the boat."

"What happened to it? Has there been an accident? Are you all right?"

"Oh, Cat." Seth groaned. He dropped onto her bed, buried his face in his hands, and began to weep.

Catalina knelt before him. "Seth ... Seth please don't. Talk to me. Tell me what's wrong. Maybe I can help."

Seth sighed raggedly and withdrew his hands. They were still shaking when he brushed the tears from his face.

"I've done a lot of stupid things, Cat. I've disappointed Father in a lot of ways. Last week was the first time I realized how much of a disappointment I've been to him... God, I can't stand what I've done. He trusted me ... he trusted me."

"If you don't tell me what has happened I shall scream," Catalina said angrily. "How can I do anything to help you if I don't know what trouble you're in? Seth, dear God, don't tell me you've been gambling again? After that last terrible affair that nearly cost your life, how could you think of it?"

"Cat, Father gave me this chance—this last chance— to prove what I could do."

"I remember the argument quite well," she said grimly.

"He gave me the title of the
Southern Belle
, and told me, if in two years I could make enough profit to buy another boat, he would forget the past and let me be a full partner in the line with him."

"Seth for goodness sake I know all this."

"Cat"—he groaned hoarsely—"I've lost the title to the boat in a week-long gambling game."

Her face grew pale and for long moments brother and sister just looked at each other.

"You cannot condemn me more than I've condemned myself," Seth said miserably. "I was drinking and—"

"You are always drinking!" Catalina cried angrily. "How could you do such a thing?"

"Cat, don't—"

"Don't what? Be angry with you? I'm furious! I'm furious because I know you are not the foolish little boy you seem to be trying to convince your family and the world that you are. Why, Seth? Just tell me why?"

Seth couldn't, not because he didn't know the reason but because he loved Catalina more than any other person in the world. He would not lash out at her, revealing the frustration, the jealousy, and the deathly insecurity he always felt. Cat had always been his salvation in every situation, and he could not break the links of love that bound them together.

"I don't know why," he said sullenly, feeling intimidated by his sister as he had when he was two and she was six.

"You've got to know why! What are you going to say to Father? How could you possibly explain this?"

"I don't know that either. I only know I have to tell him and ... I'm afraid of the consequences."

"Do we have any time at all, Seth? Maybe we could pay off whatever debts you owe and get the title back before Father knows. You could tell him after."

"Pay the debts with what?" he scoffed, miserable.

"I have some jewelry we could sell. The pearls Father gave me for my last birthday should bring a great deal of money."

Seth looked at her, an unfathomable expression on his face. He loved Catalina, but at that moment he hated her as well. Cat... always the stronger of the two. Cat... always quick and assured. And she was beautiful. Her thick, sable brown hair hung in a heavy braid down her back to her hips, and wisps of it framed her oval face which was dominated by large golden eyes that were as mercurial as her temperament. He could have wept.

And Catalina gazed at him with the same depth of perception . .. and of love. Her face was strong boned, her nose classically straight, but her mouth was wide and sensual, inviting enough to draw any man's gaze.

Seth had always been very important in her life. At four she had been a willful yet lonely child, and with Seth's birth she had found someone to lavish her strength on, which she did, not realizing she might be making him weaker by doing so.

"I don't want you to sell your pearls, Cat."

"Then what will we do?"

"I will go to Copeland one more time and see if I can repair the damage. Maybe he will allow me—"

"Can a man as low as he must be prove to be a gentleman? I doubt it."

"I am going to see Travis."

"Travis Sherman! Why?"

"Because he's wealthy enough to help me. Why do you dislike him so much?"

"I don't dislike him. He's done nothing to me."

"Except propose half-a-dozen times."

"Well he can propose a million. I'll never marry him. In truth I don't think I will ever marry."

"Give poor Travis a break. He's in love with you."

"He's in love with Father's money too."

"I guess he thinks it and you would be a good combination .. . maybe that's so."

"Are you suggesting I trade myself for enough money to buy the
Southern Belle
back?"

"Cat!"

"I'm sorry, Seth. I didn't mean that. I guess I'm just so worried."

He rose from the bed, and Catalina watched him pace the floor. She felt a surge of almost violent anger at the man who, she knew, must have taken advantage of a foolish boy's stupidity to cheat him at cards, to rob him of more than a riverboat—to rob him of his future, his pride, and of any chance to redeem himself in his father's eyes.

"This man, the one you played cards with, what did you say his name was?"

"Copeland ... Marc Copeland."

"Where is he now?"

"On board the
Southern Belle
I expect."

"Seth ... are you going to talk to Father about this tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," he repeated forlornly. "No. I'm going over to Rosepoint tonight. Maybe I can talk to Travis, get him to loan me the money, and be back to tomorrow night That way Father need never know."

"Yes, Seth. You go to Rosepoint. I will be certain to be careful not to say a word to Father tomorrow, and I'll keep him from going into New Orleans before you get back."

"You won't tell them I was here tonight?"

"You know you can trust me, Seth."

"Sure, Cat... I know." He kissed her cheek and walked to the door.

"Be careful, Seth. Don't make any noise."

"Don't worry. Facing Father tonight would be little short of suicide."

He smiled, and she smiled in return, then watched him slip out the door and close it softly behind him.

"Oh, Seth," she whispered, "I wish you were right. But I think your salvation is Marc Copeland, and I think someone should do something about it."

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