New York City, August, 1891 – Orphaned after the death of her father, Chloe Waverly stows away on La Voyageur to escape the clutches of her cruel fiancé, Lamonte Beckett. Gabriel Hill, a strange and compelling gentleman, comes upon Chloe and promises to protect her without knowing the true circumstances of why she is running away. During their journey, Gabriel doesn’t bargain on being distracted by her fair beauty or succumbing to her many charms. As their attraction to each other grows, so does the danger, and Gabriel suspects things are not as they should be.
Both are determined to get to New Orleans, where she can start a new life. But, once they reach their destination, events spin out of their control and Chloe is captured by the fiancé she escaped. Gabriel is left wondering if he can overlook her betrayal. Soon he finds himself in a race against time, to reach her before Beckett can exact revenge.
Then he caught the change in the air. It was subtle at first, then heavy. He started towards her, but didn’t expect to be thrown back full force by the wind. Debris was thrown around. He squinted through the onslaught, and then saw her turn to him.
“What’s going on?” she called.
The wind blew across the ship, and Chloe’s hair was picked up, blowing into her face. “A storm’s coming on!” he yelled to her. “Grab onto something!”
She must not have heard him. The wind was blowing so hard it worked against him as he made his way towards her. Lightning and thunder struck nearby, and rain suddenly plowed down onto the hard wooden surface of the deck. Soon, Gabe was soaked and he could barely see Chloe through the onslaught.
With a curse, he kept moving until he saw her shape by the guardrail. Fear sliced through him. Afraid she would pitch over the side, he pushed forward. He was a few feet behind her when a wave came up over the edge of the ship. He shouted in warning, but it hit her anyway. The breath was briefly knocked out of him as she flew back against him. He caught her, but went down.
He lowered her to the deck and leaned over her. She was too pale. Her lashes lay like feathers on her cheeks. The rainwater spattered over them, catching on her face with the appearance of tears. “Chloe!”
There was no way of knowing if she was all right. Not in this weather. He had to get her out of it. He managed to pick her up despite the pressure of the storm, made his way across the deck, and down the steps. He kicked his cabin door open and moved her inside. He set her on the bed and leaned over her again. “Chloe, wake up!” He shook her, but she was motionless. He leaned down to listen to her breathing. Nothing.
He sucked in a breath. He forced himself to focus. Gabriel swept her hair out of her face, breathed into her mouth and started compressions on her chest. It was a technique he’d seen someone use in London after they’d pulled a man from the drink. It had worked then, but it was not helping now. Gabe kept at it for a while, but it did no good. She didn’t respond at all. In a final attempt, he ripped open her dress as well as her corset, then started again. When he was about to do it once more, she sputtered, coughed out some water onto the bed. She fought to breathe. He joined her on the bed, embracing her gently, muttering words of comfort.
When her breathing finally eased, she looked at him, then looked at her state of dishabille. Her eyes widened. She was afraid. Of course she was.
He shook his head, his breathing still labored, and he spoke in short, choppy sentences. “I had to. You weren’t breathing. Forgive me. The storm was horrendous.”
She nodded. “No, I…I understand.”
He sighed into her hair, then pulled away. “Mon Dieu,” he whispered. He had to force himself to forget the fact that he had almost lost her. “You must be freezing.”
Her teeth were chattering. “A little.”
Gabe left the room and returned with fresh clothing and blankets. He set the clothes to the side for even though he wanted to help her out of her wet clothes, it wasn’t possible. He spread the blankets over her, then touched her forehead briefly. “Please stay in here for a while. The storm will go on for some time. We wouldn’t want you to catch a fever.”
Chloe nodded. “Thank you.”
He nodded, but couldn’t manage a better reply. With clenched fists, he left the cabin, unable to control the shudder of leftover nerves that went over him. He could have lost her, he thought. She could have pitched over the side. The water she’d taken in could have drowned her. He shuddered again, closed his eyes.
He cursed. The woman was trouble, just trouble. He would have to keep a closer eye on her, that was all, despite the detriment to his sanity.
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