Authors: Tracy Sumner
Tides of Passion
First published in paperback by Zebra Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing, July 2002
Cover Copyright 2011 © Tracy Sumner
Cover Art: HOT DAMN Stock
eBook design by eBook Prep
Published by Tracy Sumner © Tracy Sumner 2011
Copyright © 2002, 2011 by Tracy Sumner
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Women can't have an honest exchange
in front of men without having it called a cat fight
~Clare Boothe Luce
North Carolina, 1898
Savannah knew she was in trouble a split second before he reached her.
Perhaps she should have saved herself the embarrassment of a tussle with the town constable, a man determined to believe the worst of her.
However, running from a challenge wasn't her way.
She laughed, appalled to realize it wasn't fear that had her contemplating slipping off the rickety crate and into the budding crowd gathered outside the oyster factory.
No, her distress was due to nothing more than Constable Garrett's lack of proper
In a manner typical of the coastal community she had temporarily settled in, his shirt lay open nearly to his
. She couldn't help but watch the ragged shirttail flick his lean stomach as he advanced on her. Tall, broad-shouldered and lean-hipped, his physique belied his composed expression. Yet Savannah detected a faint edge of anger pulsing beneath the calm façade, one she wanted to deny sent her heart racing.
... but could not.
Flinging her fist into the air, she stared him down as she shouted, "Fight for your rights, women of Pilot Isle!"
The roar of the crowd, men in discord, women in glorious agreement, eclipsed her next call to action.
, she thought, pleased to see Zachariah Garrett's long-lashed gray eyes narrow, his golden skin pulling tight in a frown. Again she shook her fist, and the crowd bellowed.
One man ripped the sign Savannah had hung from the warehouse wall to pieces and fed it to the flames shooting from a nearby barrel. Another began channeling the group of protesting women away from the entrance. Many looked at her with proud smiles on their faces or raised a hand as they passed. They felt the pulse thrumming through the air, the energy.
There was no power like the power of a crowd.
Standing on a wobbly crate on a dock alongside the ocean, Savannah let the madness rush over her, sure, completely sure to the depths of her soul, that
was worth her often forlorn existence. Change was good. Change was necessary. And while she was here, she would make sure Pilot Isle saw its fair share.
"That's it for the show, Miss Connor," Zachariah Garrett said, wrapping his arm around her waist and yanking her from the crate as people swarmed past. "You've done nothing but cause trouble since you got here, and personally, I've about had it."
"I'm sorry, Constable, but that's the purpose of my profession!"
He set her on her feet none too gently and whispered in her ear, "Not in my town it isn't."
As she prepared to argue—Savannah was
prepared to argue—a violent shove forced her to her knees. Sucking in a painful gasp, she scrambled between the constable's long legs and behind a water cask. Dropping to a sit, she brushed a bead of perspiration from her brow and wondered what the inside of Pilot Isle's jail was going to look like.
Fatigue returned, along with the first flicker of doubt she had experienced in many a month. Resting her cheek on her knee, she let the sound of waves slapping the wharf calm her, the fierce breeze rolling off the sea cool her skin. Her family had lived on the coast for a summer when she was a child. It was one of the last times she remembered being truly happy.
Blessed God, how long ago that seemed now.
That was how Zach found her. Crouched behind a stinking fish barrel, dark hair a sodden mess hanging down her back, her dress—one that cost a pretty penny, he would bet—ripped and stained. She looked young at that moment, younger than he knew her to be. And harmless.
Which was as far from the truth as it got.
He shoved aside the sympathetic twinge, determined not to let his role as a father cloud every damned judgment he made. Due to this woman's meddling, his town folk pulsed like an angry wound behind him, the ringing of the ferry bell not doing a blessed thing to quiet a soul. All he could do was stare at the instigator huddling on a section of grimy planks and question how one uppity woman could stir people up like she'd taken a stick to their rear ends.
No wonder she was a successful social reformer up north. She was as good at causing trouble as any person he'd ever seen.
"Get up," Zach said, nudging her ankle with his boot. A slim, delicate-looking ankle.
He didn't like her, this sassy, liberating
, but he was a man, and he had to admit she was put together nicely.
She lifted her head, blinking, seeming to pull herself from a distant place. A halo of shiny curls brushed her jaw, and as she tilted her head up, he got his first close look at her. A fine-boned face, the expression on it soft, almost dreamy.
Boy, the softness didn't last long.
Jamming her lips together, her cheeks plumped with a frown. Oh yeah, that was the look he'd been expecting.
"Good day, Constable," she said. Just like that, as if he should be offering a cordial greeting with a small war going on behind them.
"Miss Connor, this way if you please."
She rose with all the dignity of a queen, shook out her skirts, and brushed dirt from one sleeve. He counted to ten and back, unruffled, good at hiding his impatience. What being the lone parent of a rambunctious little boy would do for a man.