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Authors: Becky Lee Weyrich

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BOOK: Hot Winds From Bombay
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“Her husband?” He caught the stranger by the sleeve as he tried to hurry off. “What’s become of Mr. Hazzard?”

“Killed his own self once he’d done for his poor woman. Saved the hangman an honest day’s work. Good riddance!”

Zack felt numb at the words and muttered in answer, “Aye, good riddance.”

He’d gone to the burying ground and watched his mother’s funeral from a distance. But he’d been unable to go to his sisters with consolation afterward. Since that day nearly six years ago, he had stayed away from Salem and his remaining family. Better for them to think he was dead, too, he told himself. After all, what good could he do them now?

So, even though it felt fine to be ashore after his long voyage, he was at loose ends. He was sure neither where to go nor what to do with himself until he signed on for the next voyage. His future lay at sea… not in Salem, not in Boston, not in Quoddy Cove, Maine.

He glanced up at the window and saw her once more—a dark, bewitching silhouette against the closed drapes.

“Then again, Quoddy Cove might not be so bad,” he observed, stroking the wild gold of his beard.

Suddenly, he remembered something his good friend Jehu, the carpenter on the
Tongolese,
had said to him that afternoon as they were departing the ship. “Well, Zack boy, it’s shore leave for me… for the rest of my life. And I’m more than ready.”

“You’ll be back,” Zack had told him, laughing, because Jehu always claimed each trip was his last. Then invariably he shipped out again.

“Not this time! I got me a wife I hardly remember how to make love to and a son nigh on to four years old that I’ve yet to lay eyes on. No, laddie! You take the sea for your mistress, if you like. Me, I want a real woman with warm lips to kiss, soft arms to hold me, and a need that won’t have to wait for years at a stretch. You better think about that, too. You’re not a bad sort. You’re no beauty, I’ll admit. Hawk nose, shaggy brow, and a temper about as sweet as a harpooned whale’s. Still, there’s some women likes the rough, hard-bit sort. Mark my words, there’s one for you out there somewhere. You’re not getting any younger. You’d best go find her before someone else steals her out from under you. Then you’ll kiss the sea good-bye. It’s no decent life for man nor beast.”

Zack shoved his thick fingers through the shock of sun-streaked brown hair tumbling over his forehead. Remembering Jehu’s words just after seeing the woman in the window gave him a strange, squeamish feeling in the pit of his stomach.

He needed a woman all right, but not one who lived in a fancy white mansion. Not one who was going to tie him down to home and hearth in exchange for her meager favors. The kind of woman he wanted right now would most likely be found in a room over some local tavern, and she’d know all there was to know about taking the ache out of a man’s gut while leaving his heart in one piece. Never mind love and wedding bells and forevermores. Who the hell needed all that?

At twenty-six years of age, Zachariah Hazzard considered himself a confirmed bachelor. If he belonged to any female, it was to the daughter of Neptune. He was happy with his sailor’s life, and it promised a bright future. He had spent years climbing the ladder, from cabin boy to apprentice, and finally to able seaman. Now he was making the staggering sum of twelve dollars a month. He patted the bulging pouch at his waist. Almost five hundred dollars in honest wages. He was a rich man after his four years before the mast. But better still, the promotion he’d worked for all these years would be his once he signed on again. Captain Bartholemew promised a second mate’s billet for him his next time out. And someday Zack would captain his own ship.

That
was happiness!
That
was true love!

Still, he lingered outside the house on Gay Street.
Idle curiosity,
he told himself. He wanted to see if the woman’s hair was really as bright as copper, the way it had looked from a distance.

But the blood surging hot in his groin and the film of sweat on his brow bore out the full truth.

He wanted more… he wanted
her!

Persia dressed quickly once her mother and Europa left the room. Her father had bought her two presents for her birthday, her own copy of Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch’s book called
Practical Navigation
and a new skating outfit—neither of which her mother found acceptable.

“A book on navigation?” Victoria had said shrilly. “I apologize profusely for not supplying you with a son, Captain Whiddington. But I will not allow you to turn our youngest into a male child. We will exchange this for a nice book on cookery.”

Of course, the book had not been exchanged.

As for the costume, the soft cashmere was the same brilliant blue as Persia’s eyes, and the fox fur trim and muff matched the color of her hair. A long, fur-lined cape of a deeper hue completed the ensemble. Her mother had claimed that the bright color was fit only for peacocks and brazen women, certainly not a young girl. But Asa Whiddington had countered that the color of Persia’s eyes and hair were nature’s own doing and if the good Lord had seen fit to paint his daughter with such a bold brush, there was no reason he shouldn’t be allowed to adorn her just as vividly.

Persia stood back a moment to admire the cut of her costume with its trim bodice and skirt that fitted neatly over her hips before flaring from the knees to the ankles. There was no denying the fact that her father had excellent taste.

Victoria Whiddington had lost the argument almost before she’d gotten started. Finally, with a little sigh of resignation, she’d said, “At least it will be dark at the pond. Maybe no one will notice Persia.”

Persia smiled. They would notice her. They always noticed her when she was on the ice. She was the best skater in three counties, even if she was a girl.

“Persia, are you ready?” came her father’s voice from the other side of the door. She hurried to open it, anxious for him to see her wearing his gift.

“Yes, Father!” She whirled for his inspection. “What do you think?”

Asa Whiddington’s granite-gray eyes glittered and a smile twitched at one corner of his mouth, making his silver side whiskers quiver the way they always did when he was about to laugh aloud.

“By God, Persia, you look like one of those fancy ladies I saw in the Tuileries in Paris, France!”

“Captain Whiddington!”
His wife’s horrified cry came from the hallway. “I won’t have you telling the girls about
fancy women.
You shouldn’t know about them yourself. And I certainly don’t want one of my daughters looking like one!”

Asa cleared his throat and gave Persia a wink. “I was only teasing, my dear.”

“Well, that’s highly improper talk for
teasingl
You spent too many years at sea. I’ll thank you to remember that you are in a Christian home now, not on board some godless ship, and that you are among
ladies,
not rough sailors.”

“Yes, my dear.” His reply was meek, but he winked at Persia once more and gave her a secretive smile.

To Persia, her father seemed the only truly understanding person in her family. Of course, anyone as lovely as Europa had a right to act a bit high and mighty, lording it over lesser beings. As for her mother, Persia knew her life had been hard with her husband always at sea and the two girls to raise alone. Still, she thought perhaps if her mother didn’t lace her corset quite so tightly, she might have a different, more relaxed view of life.

“Come along now, girls,” Mrs. Whiddington called. “Fletcher has brought the sleigh around front.”

“Please, Mother, may Europa and I walk to the pond with the others instead of riding in the pung?” Persia begged.

“I think not.”

“Oh, come now, Victoria. Let the girls have their fun. After all, this is Persia’s very first skating party,” their father pleaded on behalf of his favorite daughter.

Victoria held her tongue for several moments while Persia held her breath. Half the fun, according to Europa, was walking, lantern in hand, to the pond and meeting friends along the way. But if their mother said no, there would be no further discussion of the matter. Her word was law in the Whiddington household. Victoria was captain of her Gay Street ship.

Finally, giving a curt nod, she agreed. As Persia hurried down the hallway to fetch Europa, she heard her mother scold, “Captain Whiddington, I wish you would not side with the girls against me. You would brook no such interference with command of your ship. I expect the same respect in my home.”

“Yes, dear,” Asa answered, and Persia knew that he was melting his wife’s anger with that special smile he saved only for his Victoria.

Zachariah’s hands and feet were getting cold in spite of his fur-lined gloves and heavy boots. It was one thing to strip down while working on deck in the winter, but quite another to stand about idle. A man could endure extreme cold, he’d learned in the iceberg-infested North Atlantic, but only if he kept moving. To remain too long in one place, motionless, could be painful, even fatal. He stamped his numb feet and blew into his palms. Maybe the young woman in the house wasn’t going to the pond with everyone else.

But just then, a shiny black sleigh came jingling around from the back of the house. On the front seat holding the reins sat a smartly dressed native servant—from one of the South Pacific islands, Zack guessed by his big frame, erect bearing, and the blue patterns of tattooing on his cheeks and forehead. He gave a husky command in his own dialect, and the matched pair of dapple grays pranced to a halt, stamping the packed snow under their hooves.

A moment later, the front door opened. Two bright skaters’ lamps glowed golden in the dark. For an instant, the hallway light outlined a pair of women.

“Ah, my own aurora borealis,” Zack murmured, feeling his hopes and the heat in his groin rise once again.

The pair shrieked with laughter as they slipped and skittered along the icy walk toward the sleigh. The driver hopped down and offered in oddly stilted English, “Allow me please to assist you in, Miss Europa? Miss Persia?”

“No, thank you, Fletcher. We’ll walk to the pond.” The one who spoke, Zack could see by the glow from her lamp, was the red-haired beauty, dressed in blue. She was “Miss Persia,” he noted.

“Please do have a good evening, misses.” The driver bowed grandly to them and climbed back up to the driver’s seat of the sleigh.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Zachariah stepped boldly toward them. “Going to the pond to skate, ladies?”

The woman dressed in smoky pink whirled away from him and sniped, “I don’t see that that’s any of your business, sir!”

When her sister answered, “Yes. Are you?” Europa tugged her sleeve and whispered, “Persia,
reallyl
He’s a perfect stranger.”

But he wasn’t a perfect stranger to Persia. He was wearing more clothes now, but the untamed beard was the same and she knew that his hair, hidden under a black stocking cap, was just as wild and sun-streaked… the tight curls on his bronzed chest as well.

She heard a ringing in her ears, and although the temperature was below freezing and the mercury dropping fast, she felt a hot flush tinge her cheeks and an unex- plainable heat rise beneath her peacock skirts.

Even as Persia hesitated, staring up into the tall man’s smoldering brown eyes—a detail she had not been able to ascertain through her spyglass—Europa was tugging her away.

Zack was not to be put off so easily. He hurried after them.

“I see by the black stacks on your house, ladies, that a seafaring man lives there. The smut-colored bands on your chimney are supposed to signal an offer of welcome to all who sail the seven seas. I’m just off the
Tongolese.
I’ve been ‘round the Horn and back again. I’m still walking on sea legs this very minute. Don’t I qualify for some of your hospitality?”

Persia was being dragged along by her sister, but she stole a chance to look back at the friendly giant. Her lamp cast its pool of flickering light over him. She could see the bronze hue of his skin and his thick, sun-marked hair escaping from under his cap. He wore a pea coat and canvas trousers. She imagined that she could smell the salt and tar about him.

Again her gaze traveled back to his deep-set brown eyes. They gleamed with a sharpness honed from many hours of squinting into the tropical sun and staring heavenward to navigate by the stars. And beneath their bold challenge, she saw in their depths the sadness of a man many times his age—the look of one who had sailed the oceans of the world and beheld its miseries as well as its wonders.

How she would love to talk to him about the places he’d been and the things he’d seen! But all she had time to do, with Europa pulling her away, was offer him a hasty smile. He returned it to her in his own crooked way.

“Honestly, Persia! If you can’t behave yourself, the next time I’ll send you along in the pung with Mother and Father. You can’t imagine how you’ve embarrassed me. What if some of my friends saw me talking to a common seaman on the street?”

“I thought he was nice, Europa. And I think you were downright rude. He’s right about the homes of seamen offering hospitality to other sailing men.”

“That hospitality, my foolish girl, does not extend to captains’ daughters taking up with any riffraff off the docks!”

“He wasn’t riffraff!” Persia insisted hotly.

“And just how would you know? Hurry along now. We don’t want to be the last ones there.”

Persia wasn’t sure how she knew that the man was made of better stuff than most of the common sailors fresh from the sea. Maybe it was that look in his eyes or the husky timbre of his voice. But one thing she knew for sure: she
would
talk with him before the night was done.

Chapter Three

Zack watched the two women hurry away, the red-haired beauty—Miss Persia—stealing a glance over her shoulder at him from time to time. Soon she would be out of sight. He knew he couldn’t let that happen. With determination guiding his steps, he started off down the path they had taken, his lurching, shipboard walk veering him from starboard to port in a rolling gait.

At the top of the hill above the pond, he stopped. The sight nearly took his breath. Although he’d spent many a night at sea with the starry heavens a bright canopy overhead, he had never witnessed such a scene as this. Above in the black sky, the curtains of yellow, green, and violet of the aurora borealis folded and unfolded themselves in an ever-shifting pattern of brilliance, reflecting softly on the irregular circle of ice in the little hollow below. And on all sides, streaming down from the wooded paths like sparks shot from above, the skaters’ lanterns pinpricked the night a thousand times over. The townspeople sang as they moved toward their destination, and their voices carried, crystal clear and sweet, on the cold air. He felt the old ballad tingle through him, making his heart ache with a strange, dark loneliness.

His vision misted for a moment, and the whale-oil-burning lamps turned to fire flows down the hills. He remembered another place, another time, when chanting filled the sultry air and singers of a faraway isle presented a similar picture. There had been a beautiful woman in that place, too. He closed his eyes and sighed, remembering.

It had been his first voyage to the South Seas. He would always remember it as the best time of his young life.

Aye, he had been young then, but no virgin. Already he had taken a dark-skinned woman with soft black eyes in New Orleans as his first, and others in Boston, Charleston, and Savannah after that. But those meetings had been dimly lit assignations, arrived at down dark alleys in the dead of night. A password through a door, an exchange of gold, and then a hurried half hour of strange flesh pressed to his on a hard mattress in a stuffy, dingy room. The women’s faces, bodies, techniques, all blurred and ran together in his mind. They had no names.

But Mahianna—the tender beauty on that South Pacific isle—had been a different matter entirely. He remembered his shipmates laughing, joking, slapping him on the back as they approached the sheltered, ginger-scented cove.

“Aye, lad, you’ll be wanting to jump ship here and that’s no lie. Four women to a man, and every one of them a delicate jungle flower. Just mind you take it slow and easy. Don’t drink too much of their coconut beer and take a nap
alone
in the heat of the day. Otherwise that fine young dick of yours will be turning blue and falling right off from sheer exhaustion before we leave this paradise.”

The others who had been to the islands before regaled him with wild tales of exotic delights. The women were the most beautiful, the most willing and expert at giving pleasure. He didn’t believe a word of it… until he met Mahianna.

“Mahianna,” he sighed aloud on the cold Maine air.

He’d left ship with the others in one of the long boats. As they rowed ashore, the women swam out to meet them, tossing orchids, hibiscus, and plumeria blossoms into their boat. Some of the sailors tore their clothes off and dived overboard, making love to their passionate partners in the salty aqua sea. Zack remembered his own desire rising as he’d watched. But he’d kept his seat, not sure how to deal with women so eager to give themselves to strangers from strange lands.

He walked the shore alone for a time, trying to recover his land legs. At the edge of the forest, he sat down on the sand and watched his shipmates groping, fondling, and mounting their women. He was aching to have one of them, but they didn’t speak English. Since he seemed less than willing, the girls had left him to himself to take their pleasures with more eager partners. He was sitting under a banana tree, feeling lonely and sorry for himself, when she stepped out of the green foliage. His breath froze in his throat at the sight of her.

She stood before him, smiling shyly. Her hair was long, falling past her slim, bare waist. Her eyes were as black as a starless night, and they seemed to be staring into him, caressing him gently. She stood very still for several moments, allowing him to take her full measure with his gaze. Her skin was smooth and firm—the color of the petals of almond flowers. Her lips were wide, sensuous, and as bright a coral as the hibiscus blossom she wore in her ebony hair.

At first, because of her cascading tresses and the lei of purple orchids about her shoulders, he didn’t notice that she wore nothing above her waist. But when she bent toward him, removing the flowers to place them around his neck, Zack saw her beautiful, bare breasts—full and tanned with large, erect nipples.

He was sitting on the sand. She was leaning over him, placing the flowers, kissing his forehead, his salty hair, his sunburned cheeks. But her breasts—those wondrously soft, warm globes of pulsing flesh—held his full attention, fascinating him with the rich copper brown of their crinkling crests. His hand came up. He hesitated. She looked into his eyes, smiling, took his hand to hers, and guided it to where she sensed he wanted it to be.

Her skin was every bit as silky as it looked. He held her warmth in his palm, feeling a pulse against his flesh. She was kneeling beside him now, brushing her long hair back over her bare shoulders, offering him what seemed to entice him most. He rubbed a callused thumb over her nipple. A delicious little shudder shivered through her, and the taut skin shrank from his touch, growing hard as a pebble.

He was aware of his own hardness and the heat rising within him to an unbearable fever pitch. Still, she seemed in no hurry. She knelt there, smiling and making soft cooing sounds to let him know his caresses pleased her. He forced himself to take his time. There would be no hurried, sweaty pounding of flesh with this woman. She would not allow it. She came from a hotter clime, a people who lived at a slower pace and took their pleasure in long, refreshing drafts.

Smoothing the satiny hair over her bare shoulders, he spoke to her. “I am Zack,” he said, emphasizing each word and speaking too loudly as if that might make her understand.

She frowned and shook her head slightly. Reaching up, she took his hands from her shoulders and brought them back to her breasts.

“No, no.” He shook his head and drew his hands away, using one to pound his chest.
“Zack!”
he repeated.

She seemed to understand this time and tried his name. “Zaa.” Smiling, she reached out and took his hand from his chest, placing it between her breasts. “Mahianna,” she said. Then, putting his hand back to his chest, she repeated, “Zaa.” For several moments she played her hand game, saying each name at the appropriate time.

Soon they were both laughing and chanting the names together. And moments later they were tumbling in the sand, playing like children on a picnic at the beach. She fought with him, tickling and jabbing, until he pinned her on her back beneath him. Lying atop her, laughing down into her flushed face, he watched a change come over her. Her smile turned from the playful teasing of a child to the sensual invitation of a woman. Slowly, beneath him, her body began to move. He felt her warmth thrust up against his groin and he moaned softly.

Mahianna let him know with the veiled look in her eyes and soft words in her own tongue that the time was upon them.

He rose from her, staring down at her lovely naked torso, covered only about the hips with a swath of brightly colored material that was knotted low on one hip. Her long, shapely legs looked dark against the white sand. She raised her arms to him and he pulled her up, clinging to her, reveling in the feel of her breasts against his bare chest.

Moments later, she had led him a short way through the rain forest to a hut beside a secluded lagoon. A mat bed made of the fibers from coconut palms awaited them in one corner. But first Mahianna went to the rough table and poured a milky liquid from a hollow gourd into a coconut shell. She offered it to him. This was the sweet, burning ambrosia his shipmates had told him about—coconut beer, they called it.

The concoction scalded his mouth and throat but soon brought a soothing pleasure to his whole body. He imagined he could feel its milky fire streaming through every vein. Mahianna, too, drank of the magic potion. When her cup was empty, she went to her “Zaa” and led him to the mat, indicating with sign language and soft sounds that he should lie down. He did, feeling his head swim with a delicious lightness while the rest of his body pulsed with desire.

Slowly, deliberately, Mahianna stripped away his clothes, stroking his body with long, cool fingers as she undressed him. Zack could still remember the way he’d writhed and moaned under her knowing touch.

When she had finished with him, Mahianna stood. He stared up at her, not knowing what would come next. She went again to the gourd and poured more of the potent liquor into the coconut shell. Then, dipping her fingers into the milky drink, she rubbed it over her breasts with slow deliberation. Finished with that task, she untied the knot that held the bright sarong about her hips. It fell away, giving Zack his first look at the rest of her—a smooth, taut belly, narrow hips, and ebony fur dividing her thighs. He caught his breath at the sight of such beauty and felt as if he might strangle on his own need.

Still standing over him, Mahianna proceeded to rub the rest of her body with the sweet liquor. When her copper-gold skin was glistening with the sugary substance, she knelt down and put the coconut shell to his lips. Zack drained the fiery contents thirstily. A new buzz sounded in his brain and he felt his manhood seize itself and shudder, straining to its fullest erection. There could be no more waiting. He must have her
now
!

Mahianna, her peaked breasts glistening with the sweetness of the dried liquor, went into his eager arms. Zack leaned down to touch his tongue to one nipple. The taste was of sugar and wine and woman. His lips covered her, drawing her into his mouth. Now he knew the task she had set for him. He must drink the aphrodisiac film from her flesh before taking her. He went at it with a lusty thirst that only served to feed his hunger for her. Nipples, belly, the tender insides of her thighs. She moaned and cried and keened for him. She stroked him and clawed him, kissed him and bit him.

And finally, when he had sipped the last drop of sweetness from her willing flesh, he sought out the sweetest spot of all. Wild now with desire, Zack plunged into his Mahianna, certain that he would die in the next instant if he was forced to wait any longer.

She made no sound as he battered through her maidenhead, possessing her as no man ever had before. He •drew back for a moment, staring down at her face in disbelief. He had never taken a virgin before. But when he saw no pain in her eyes… when she smiled up at him and drew his mouth on hers, he thrust anew, feeling his desire rising with every new depth he conquered.

When his body-shattering, soul-jarring, earth-shaking climax came at last, Mahianna shared it. So total was their exertion and their repletion that they fell asleep in each other’s arms almost immediately afterward. But during the coming sun-drenched, breeze-softened days in that island paradise, he had laughed and loved often—taking his Mahianna to the heights with him a dozen dozen times. Then he had sailed away, never to lay eyes on her again.

“Hello there!”

The woman’s voice wrenched Zachariah out of his erotic musings. He found he was sweating, trembling, and sporting a full erection from communing with his lusty memories of Mahianna’s love. And, with a jolt, he realized that he was looking not into the black eyes of his pagan lover, but into eyes as blue and bright as an untroubled South Pacific sky. However, far from diminishing the desire his memories of his island lover had fostered, he realized that the beautiful face and form before him only heightened his need. He wanted to lash out at her for tempting him so.

“You came back, Persia.” His words were an accusation.

How could this fire-haired temptress have presented herself to him at such an untimely moment? Did she know the dangerous position she had placed herself in? He needed a woman desperately. And it made damn little difference to him if she was an innocent New England maiden or a well-ridden professional.

They came together on a sheltered part of the path. The other skaters had reached the pond, leaving the two of them all alone, far from chaperones and prying eyes. Blood pulsed hotly through his body. Granted, he had not been without a woman during the entire voyage of the
Tongolese,
but it had been over four months since they’d put into a port until this very day. This beautiful, eager-faced young woman had no idea the shaky ground she was treading. On half a dare, he would drag her into the nearby woods and shower her with the full breadth and depths of his passion. It would serve her right, he told himself.

Zack rubbed a gloved hand over his face to wipe away the perspiration and to try to get hold of himself.

She gave him a momentarily surprised look, then smiled. “How do you know my name? I don’t know yours.”

“Easily taken care of.” His voice was gravelly, his throat dry. “Zachariah Hazzard. My friends call me Zack.”

She curtsied and laughed softly. “Well, Zack, I’m very happy to meet you. But I still don’t understand how you know my name.”

He started to tell her that he’d heard the driver address her, but measuring her in a quick glance, he decided that this young woman would be intrigued by the mystery of not knowing for sure.

He glanced over one shoulder and then the other, as if making sure no one would overhear their conversation, then leaned so close he could smell her lilac cologne and whispered, “It came to me in a dream last night. I saw you standing at a window, your red hair glowing as you stared up at the sky, and a voice kept repeating, ‘Persia, Persia, Persia.’”

Persia didn’t believe a word of it, but she loved his wild imagination and the way his lips pursed as if he might kiss her every time he said her name.

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