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Authors: Catherine Coulter

Jade Star

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

JADE STAR

 

A
Signet
Book / published by arrangement with the author

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©
1986
by
Catherine Coulter

This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

For information address:

The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

 

The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is
http://www.penguinputnam.com

 

ISBN:
978-1-1012-0955-4

 

A
SIGNET
BOOK®

Signet
Books first published by The Signet Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

Signet
and the “
S
” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

 

Electronic edition: May, 2002

 

 

 

 

To a real-life Jules, daughter of Ildi and Alex DeAngelis, whose name, Juliana, inspired the heroine's name. I will never forget all our good times together and all the love we've shared. See you in Tokyo.

1
Lahaina, Maui, 1854

The warm, coarse beach sand was the odd pinkish color of the squirrelfish, the ocean as deep an aqua as the bluefin trevally.

“Come on, Jules, stop dreaming the morning away!”

Juliana DuPres laughed with the pleasure of a now forbidden swim, tightened her kapa-cloth sarong more tightly over her breasts, and dashed into the swirling waves after Kanola. The tides were strong at Makila Point, but Jules, an expert swimmer, merely relaxed in the grip of the pulling crosscurrents until she was safely beyond them.

“Slow down, Kanola,” she called. “There should be a school of parrotfish here and I want to see them.” Without waiting for a reply from her friend, Jules drew a deep breath and dove down several feet to the coral reef below. She knew her eyes would be red and swollen from the salt water, but it didn't matter. Not only were there parrotfish, but yellowstrip goatfish as well, a treat. She thought to herself as her head cleared the surface: Father, if you truly believed in the glory of creation, you would open your eyes to the incredible beauty that surrounds you.

She grinned at her thought, and spit out a mouthful of salt water. She could just see Reverend Etienne
DuPres stripped of his sweat-soaked black broadcloth, cavorting in the ocean and calling out the names of fish. Or lying on his back on the beach, his sallow face becoming healthy and tanned.

“Well, what did you see, Jules? An eel maybe?” Kanola shuddered in distaste.

Juliana swam easily to where Kanola was resting on an irregular outcropping of coral that acted as something of a narrow breakwater. The coral was rough, pitted, and slimy. Jules dug her fingers into a crevice, holding tight to keep from being pulled back into the water. There was room enough for just the two of them.

Jules, her voice filled with enthusiasm as she pulled two soaked hunks of bread from a large pocket on the side of the sarong, told her tolerantly smiling friend, “Now, let's see just how hungry all my friends are. Maybe even that zebra moray who was slithering between my feet.” She scattered the bread all about her. Within seconds more fish than she could count—even a whitetip reef shark—were swarming about her and Kanola. Jules smiled when their smooth bodies brushed hers. “More saddle wrasse than anything else,” she said in some disappointment.

Kanola regarded Jules with the same affectionate smile she gave her own sister. Jules was only two years younger than she, but she clung tenaciously to her childhood pursuits, and, Kanola admitted, Jules knew more about fish than any haole she'd ever known. She listened to her friend go on about every sort of fish consuming the bread, then interrupted her with a raised hand. She said in English as idiomatic as her friend's, “Your papa has been after you again, I gather?”

Jules sighed, and fell silent for a moment. “Papa is Papa,” she said finally. “Everything fun and natural is kapu—particularly,” she added on a bitter note, “if one happens to be a female.”

“I thought as much,” Kanola said. “What has he done now? Forbidden you to swim?”

Jules nodded, a small smile playing about her mouth. “Three years ago,” she said.

Kanola was startled. “However have you managed to keep it a secret from him all this time?”

“Thomas helps me, washes me down and all that. I assume that Papa thinks I'm just excessively susceptible to the heat and take a lot of baths, because my hair is usually wet. He doesn't seem to notice my red eyes.”

“You are nineteen, Jules, a woman grown. There is more to life than searching out and cataloging fish, birds, flowers . . .” Her voice trailed off when Jules shot her an angry look.

“For instance,” she continued at her friend's obstinate silence, “there's John Bleecher.” Kanola had been married for five years now and was the proud mother of two children.

Jules stared off into the distance, the endless expanse of ocean blurring before her eyes. “He used to be a friend,” she said.

“I'm sure he still is,” Kanola said dryly. “And he's not a missionary. He'd give you no orders like your father does, or make you pray on your knees until you're stiff as a board.”

“I wish he'd turn his attentions to Sarah. She wants to get married.”

“Sarah is a stick,” Kanola said, not mincing matters.

“She's also beautiful, fragile, and soft, which is what I've always been told men want in a wife.”

“Ha! And you, I suppose, are a hag.”

Jules's hair had come loose on her dive, and masses of corky wild curls framed her face. “No, not anymore, I don't guess,” she said. “But I'm about as fragile as one of my peacock groupers.”

“Well, I think you're lucky you didn't gain your beauty sooner, else your father would have kept a closer watch on you.”

“Spoken like a true friend.” Jules grinned. “Incidentally, he still thinks I'm a scruffy twit, looks at me like I give him pain. It's the red hair, you know, that I got from my French grandmother, the immoral actress. Come on, let's swim out a bit more. We've the time and I've got a good fifteen more minutes before the sun does awful things to my skin.”

That was certainly the case, Kanola thought as she watched her friend dive cleanly into the smooth water. Her skin beneath her sarong was as white as her hair was red, and too much sun, even on her lightly tanned face and shoulders made her not only a blotched mess, but sick as well. Kanola slipped into the water after Jules, and swam lazily after her.

 

“Would you have a look at that, Captain!”

Jameson Wilkes followed Rodney Cumber's pointing finger. He studied the two very female figures striding cleanly through the water. One was a native, clear enough, but the other . . . Even from this distance he could tell that she was different, a real find.

He was thoughtfully silent for a moment, then said briskly to Cumber, “Take three men and lower the boat. Bring the both of them to me.”

“Aye, aye, sir!”

“Beg your pardon, Captain, but the other one . . . she ain't no native gal, sir.”

“No, Gallen, I don't imagine she is,” Jameson Wilkes said to his first mate. “But then again, Bob, we won't be coming back to Maui, will we?”

Bob Gallen didn't like the direction he knew his captain's thoughts were taking. Plowing prostitutes in Lahaina was one thing, even bringing over those Chinese girls to be sold in San Francisco wasn't too bad, but capturing a white girl was quite another, and it made him feel funny. “What if she's a missionary's girl?”

“Then she's probably a virgin,” Jameson Wilkes said. “Don't worry, Bob. If she's married, or is covered with the freckles that usually come along with that color hair, I'll set her quickly back into the ocean. Let's wait and see.”

“I don't like it,” Bob Gallen said.

Jameson Wilkes knew the moment the two women recognized their danger. He heard one of them scream, saw them flip over and race back toward shore. But his men would be faster, of course.

“Kanola, hurry!” Jules gasped over her shoulder. But Kanola wasn't as strong a swimmer. Jules slowed, and grabbed her friend's hand.

“Go on, Jules!”

“No!” Jules gasped, swallowing a mouthful of salt water. Wild, terrifying thoughts swirled through her head. She'd seen the whaler in the distance, watched it without a great deal of interest until she heard Kanola cry out. Then she'd seen the boat coming toward them.

She grasped Kanola's arm, pulling her with all her
strength. But it was no use. The sun was shadowed by the men and the boat.

“Come on, little girlies,” she heard a man's gleeful voice call.

“Dive, Kanola!”

But Kanola was much heavier than Jules, her body no longer as lithe. Jules watched helplessly as one of the men grabbed Kanola by her long, loose black hair and dragged her over the side of the boat. Without another thought, Jules dove deep. She had to escape and get help. It was her only thought as she swam with strong strokes underwater. I must get help! When she could hold her breath no longer, she surfaced, only to see a swarthy grinning face directly in front of her, blocking her way to shore.

“That's enough now, girlie,” Rodney said. He and another sailor grabbed for her, one of them clasping her upper arm.

Jules fought silently, but she was no match for the two men. Like Kanola, she was dragged over the side of the boat and dumped on the bottom.

“Would you just fill your eyes with this, Ned,” Rodney said. “Not a freckle on that pretty little face. The captain'll be mighty pleased. Oh yes he will.”

Jameson Wilkes was pleased. He watched his sailors bundle the two girls up the ladder. He quickly dismissed the native girl, his eyes on the flame-haired wench. He couldn't believe his luck. Even though her thick hair was straggling down about her face and down her back, he knew she was a beauty. She was tall, slender, straight-legged, and those marvelous breasts, heaving beneath the thin covering of her sarong. Like Rodney, he quickly saw that not one freckle marred her lovely white skin.

Jules was brought to a stumbling halt before a tall, very well-dressed man. He looked a bit like her father, she thought wildly, but his face was seamed and swarthy from years spent on a ship. Her father usually carried an umbrella to protect his face from the harsh sun.

“My dear,” Jameson Wilkes said, offering her a slight bow, “welcome aboard the
Sea Shroud.

“Who are you?” Jules blurted out. “Why have you brought us here?”

“My dear,” Jameson Wilkes said in his deep voice, “I have but one question for you first. Are you yet a virgin?”

Jules stared at him as if he'd spoken Greek.

“Ah,” Jameson said, his eyes glittering. “Come along now, and I'll tell you all you wish to know.”

“Kanola,” Jules gasped. “She is my friend, she must—”

Jameson stopped in his tracks. Slowly he turned. “Her status isn't in much doubt, but nonetheless, we will see.” He walked to Kanola, who stood straight and proud, and with one fast motion he ripped off her sarong. Kanola lunged toward him, her nails aimed at his face, but three sailors grabbed her.

“My dear,” Jameson called to Jules. “You see, it is as I expected. The marks on her belly. Childbirthing marks. She hasn't your worth. And like most native women, she's got too much flesh. No, unfortunately, she has no value. Come along, now.”

Jules screamed, her voice high and thin, but she didn't have the strength of Jameson Wilkes and he dragged her forcibly toward the hatch. The dim companionway loomed below. She heard Kanola call her name, then heard her cries of terror.

“I suggest you think about thanking me for protecting you from my men,” Jameson Wilkes said. “Nor, my dear, do you want to look.”

But she did. She saw Kanola on her back on the deck, men holding her arms and legs, and the sailor who had captured them pulling at his trousers. She wasn't stupid or ignorant. One couldn't be, in a whaling town like Lahaina, even if one's father was a minister. “No!” she yelled in fury, and her short fingernails streaked down Jameson Wilkes's face. She escaped him for a moment and dashed back toward the deck.

She rushed like a demon toward the screaming Kanola, cursing with the few foul words she'd heard from drunk sailors in Lahaina. The man turned, and she saw his hairy belly and a huge rod of flesh jutting out from his abdomen.

Jameson Wilkes caught her, pulling her back against him. “You want to watch, my dear? I'm sorry to deny you such an education, but I must.” He forced her through the hatch down to the companionway.

He knew his men would ravish the native girl. He also knew that such a sight would probably terrify this lovely creature, and that he didn't want.

“Kanola,” Jules gasped. “You must make them stop! Don't let them hurt her.”

“I swear to you they won't hurt her,” Jameson Wilkes said.

“She's my friend,” she cried, still straining against him. “Make them stop!”

“Captain, she got away from us!” Jameson Wilkes didn't acknowledge his man's shout. He said to Juliana, “You see, your friend has escaped. Even now she's swimming to shore.”

“She won't make it!” Jules cried, straining hard against his punishing grip. “We're too far from shore.”

“Enough!” Jameson Wilkes roared. “I'll send my men after her to save her. Now, stop fighting me!”

But she didn't. She was swamped with terror and fury, and managed to twist about and slam her fist against his jaw.

His head jerked back, and anger filled his eyes. He held her firmly, and hit her jaw with his fisted hand. Jules crumpled where she stood.

 

Jules was aware of the throbbing pain in her jaw before she opened her eyes. The pain held her for a moment, then memory flooded back. She gasped, jerking upright, only to realize that she was quite naked, only a thin sheet covering her. She clutched it to her chin.

“Well, at last. I didn't think I'd hit you that hard. Your jaw isn't broken. I'm not such a fool as that.”

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