There was nothing beneath her. Had she and Tristan been killed in that explosion? She felt no pain, but the sensation of falling alarmed her, and she grasped for something to break her fall. Was this what death felt like? Eve pitched into a black void, toward the sound of churning water. A surprisingly cold spray misted her skin. The frantic beating of her heart frightened her. Would she never get back to Sebastian—to the right Sebastian?
Strong arms banded her waist and hauled her back against a rock-hard body. Her feet touched something solid—wood from the sound of it. The fragrant scent of tobacco tickled her senses. ‘Wait a minute there. Things can’t be all that bad. The bottom of the muddy Missouri is no proper resting place for a pretty little lady like yourself.’
Her skin was warm and moist from the sultry night air. Laughter and the tinny sound of an old-time piano reached her. Hundreds of stars dotted the expanse of sky. The mist cleared and the moon shot sparks off the river.
‘I would remember if I’d seen you before.’ Her rescuer’s breath at her ear elicited goose bumps along her arms and shoulders. ‘You smell good.’ She wanted to turn into his safe embrace and find comfort, but this wasn’t her Sebastian either.
She pulled from his hold, but he reached for her arm as the steady lethargic movement of the boat made her lightheaded and she swayed on her feet. Boat?
‘Making decisions about your fate is never wise when you’ve had too much to drink. If you’d pitched headfirst into my paddlewheel, the stars wouldn’t shine quite so brightly this night.’
‘I haven’t been—well I had a glass of champagne—but I’m not drunk. And I wasn’t throwing myself from the….’ She glanced aside. ‘From wherever I am.’ The man stood tall and broad-shouldered in the moonlight, his rakish raven’s wing hair gleaming. He wore a three-piece suit with a green brocade vest. A gold watch chain glistened. Her heart was getting a workout this night.
‘Your accent tells me you’re not from here.’ His was more American than English. ‘It isn’t safe for you to wear those, you know.’ He reached to trace the line of the emerald necklace with a long finger. Her skin burned where his fingertip left a trail. ‘There’s no accounting for the thieves and scoundrels aboard.’
She brought a hand up to cover the necklace from his attention, and instead of the gems, he now stroked her skin. She would never admit she liked his touch. ‘Including you?’
One side of his mouth inched up into a wicked grin. ‘Are you a gambler?’
She could never again face Sebastian if the emeralds were stolen. She took a wary step back. This new situation raised her concern to a distressing level. What if she never found her way back and was trapped in another time and place forever? ‘Where are we, precisely?’
He glanced aside as though he could see the bank in the distance. ‘Nearing St. Louis I should think.’
Her grasp of geography wasn’t half bad, and she’d had a particular fascination for American history in her teens. This could only be Sebastian’s infamous great uncle who’d travelled to America to make his fortune during the Civil War. ‘Carson Daubenay,’ she said with conviction.
He pulled a long slender cigar from inside his jacket and struck a match against a silver case. The scent wafted on the humid air, and fragrant smoke curled upward. ‘You have me at a disadvantage. Who are you?’
This man had been a blockade runner, smuggling food and medicine to the northern troops. According to the tales, he’d become a legendary hero in his new country and later operated a number of riverboat casinos. His reputation was that of a rogue. ‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.’
He took her hand and caressed her fingers again. A tingle ran up her arm. ‘Don’t sell me short.’
She took a deep breath and was sure his attention focused at her bodice. ‘Does the Lady in Green mean anything to you?’
His expression was clearly defined in the moonlight as his brows drew down into a scowl. His grip on her fingers tightened. ‘Who sent you, and how do you know about the Lady in Green?’
Unlike the others, who’d assumed her to be the woman of the legend, this man was suspicious. ‘My name is Eve.’
‘We’ll see if a night locked in my cabin doesn’t loosen your tongue.’ He moved forward.
Eve tugged her hand away and bolted. This was the worst predicament yet! How had she landed here, and where was Meryngham Castle? Blindly, she ran past open doors which revealed gaily dressed men and women conversing and gambling, along a narrow deck with a rail until she came to a set of stairs. Down she ran, Carson Daubenay on her heels, until she reached a dim corridor lit only by flickering gas lamps. Numerous doors offered unknown choices. Where were those buffalo horns?
Eve didn’t pause. She grasped a knob and turned.
* * *
Cheryl St.John is the author of nearly fifty books. Her most recent releases are available as ebooks in most digital formats.
In this tale of hope and love, too-tall spinster Thea Coulson wants to be a mother to a child who arrives in Nebraska on an orphan train. When Booker Hayes shows up to take his niece, a marriage of convenience suits them both. Thea’s nights are filled with dreams of the tall, dark army major, but she guards her heart. Booker’s first taste of home and hearth has him longing for more, but first he must win the trust of his niece..and the heart of the sun-kissed farmer's daughter.
Barnes & Noble