One wild, winter's night two worlds collide.
Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler.
With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat - his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. But a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-marshaled, is not an easy destiny to follow.
EXCERPT - Injured on a smuggling run, Hope wakes to face the naval officer who captured her.
Hope kept her eyes closed as she became conscious of a man's heavy tread pacing the room. She waited until he was at the window and opened her eyelids a fraction. With the light behind him she saw an athletic man with wide shoulders, tall enough to have to stoop under the sloping eaves. Her stomach felt hollow with foreboding, for without doubt, this was the same man who'd pursued her over the dunes.
He must have sensed a change in her breathing, for suddenly he turned. He stared, with piercing blue eyes that penetrated her soul. Dressed in a naval uniform, the jacket cuffs ringed with gold braid, the man exuded authority. He continued to stare, his face unreadable; wilful, she decided, and yet uncommonly handsome. She blushed and reached for the covers, pulling them up to her chin.
"So, enough pretending. You are awake at last." His voice, deep and melodic, brooked no argument.
"Please, sir, where am I?"
"Under house arrest." He growled, obviously no friend. And yet, she touched her bandaged head, someone had taken care of her.
"You are in pain?" His consideration was surprising.
"Not so much now."
The answer pleased him. "Good, then you have some explaining to do."
"Please, sir, who are you?"
The man threw her a sideways glance and started to pace.
"Captain Huntley, RN. And you are?"
She decided against lying, her name alone couldn’t incriminate her family.
"Well Miss Tyler, have you the slightest idea how much trouble you're in?"
The Captain stared at the ceiling. "A man died because of your felony. A Revenue man. He leaves a wife and three children."
"I'm so sorry." She whispered in distress.
"His fellow officers are baying for blood."
Hope trembled, things were worse than she imagined.
"Someone must hang for his death."
Her throat closed over.
"Be it you…or the man who pulled the trigger….my men don’t care." Captain Huntley stepped closer, his presence dominating the room. She couldn’t breathe, he seemed made of granite, his eyes like flints, sparking with anger. "But I'm different." His expression softened imperceptibly. "I like to think of myself as a fair man."
Hope nodded, to encourage him.
"Any fool can see you are just a bit-player, a lackey. The men I want are the leaders, those who finance the contraband and organise the landings. Tell me who they are, and I shall intercede on your behalf with the authorities."
"What if I don’t know their names?"
His wide mouth twitched downward. "Then I cannot help you."
She would have shaken her head had it not been too painful. "The men you speak of aren't stupid. They will know I am taken, and know if I betray them. If I do… they will come for my family."
"Then put them behind bars."
"It's too risky. This way, it's only me."
He tried to hide it, but he looked surprised. She saw him drinking in the logic of her words and a shadow darkened his face. Clasping his hands behind his back, he turned to stare through the window.
"Tell me," he said benignly, "what does it feel like to be abandoned? Because that's what the smugglers did. Sailed away without a backward glance and left you to your fate."