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Copyright © Natasha Blackthorne, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Total-E-Ntwined Limited, T/A Total-E-Bound.
Reader Advisory: Alex's Angel is Erotic Romance and it contains graphic language and descriptions.This book is part of a series. This story contains sensual spanking, wild-eyed Jacobin ideology and a cameo of Thomas Jefferson.
Excerpt From: Alex's Angel
A quarter to two in the afternoon. With her stomach knotting, Emily Eliot tore her eyes from the clock. She’d have to hurry, else Grandmother would get a megrim over her being out for longer than it took to walk to the baker’s and back. She hated making Grandmother ill.
Thud, thud, thud.
Emily’s heart echoed the rhythm of the printing presses as she drew up her courage. She took a deep breath and approached the man who was leaning so lazily against the worn walnut desk.
“Good afternoon, Mr Sawyer. I’d like to discuss my book again.”
He blinked several times, then grinned. He wasn’t too old or too ugly, but his reptilian smile repulsed her to the very pit of her soul. “Now, sweeting, I have explained it repeatedly—if you’d only be a little more agreeable with me, I’d look a little more favourably on this book of yours.”
Her mouth fell open. What—had he just made an improper suggestion? After she had so patiently explained the last time that she was uninterested in—in… Well, in what he was interested in? He’d seemed like such a rational person. Why must he be so insensitive? She gaped at him.
He peeled an orange with his ink-stained fingers, filling the air with a sharp citrus scent that mingled with the odours of paper dust and fresh ink. All the time he leered at her. Leered at her while she was here to see him on a matter of such importance.
Crawling sensations tingled over her skin and she resisted the urge to shiver openly. She still wasn’t used to dealing with men on her own and certainly not men who regarded her so salaciously. But for the sake of her mission, she’d have to press on. She wiped her sweating, shaking hands on her skirts and took a step closer.
“Mr Sawyer, please don’t tease me. You said I might return in two months and ask if you had changed your mind about printing my book.”
He lifted his sandy brows as he paused with an orange segment held to his red, overripe lips. “I believe that what I said was for you to wait at least two months before coming to pester me again.”
Pester him? Pester him? How could he suggest that her work was so insignificant? It was only the most pressing issue facing the United States at the moment. Her book was a collection of stories telling the tales of some of the mariners from the Dauphin, a ship out of Philadelphia that had been captured by the Barbary Pirates in 1785.
She’d had to wait so long already, for accomplishing this work had been no small feat under the watchful gaze of her grandmother. She owed a great debt to Mr Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, who had answered her very first enquiry and generously supplied the names and addresses of the mariners’ relatives. Over the past two and a half years, through letters, she’d managed to interview the families of the captured men. She had also done detailed sketches of them, from their family’s descriptions. But gathering the information like that had taken so much time. More time than she could have imagined when she’d embarked on her course.
Now it was taking every ounce of faith she possessed to persevere with trying to get her work distributed to the populace. All she lived for was getting her book printed, but she’d never imagined it would be like this. She’d been sure that the need for her work would ensure its rapid publication. Yet to her vast shock, she’d been rejected by every printer she’d contacted. “Well, Mr Sawyer, it is very hard to remain patient when I know that my book will bring a personal perspective that the people of the United States will no longer be able to ignore.”
He stared back at her silently, blinking a few times. Had he even heard her? Didn’t he know it was rude to refuse to answer? Goodness. Writing letters had been a lot easier than facing printers in their shops. She straightened her spine.
“Mr Sawyer, how could anyone with any human feeling remain passive while our countrymen are still held in Algiers, in shameful slavery?” She couldn’t help letting some of her disapprobation leach into her tone. “It has been almost a decade and still our country refuses to act.”
“Indeed, it is terrible business what those Barbary pirates have done, but our country is young and money is limited.” He rolled his shoulders up and tilted his head to the side. Then he relaxed. “Without a navy and without large sums to pay their ransoms, I just don’t see what more can be done.”
He popped a piece of orange into his mouth and chewed it slowly.
She resisted the urge to shake her head. Initially, he had seemed like a kind person. How could he just stand there and say those things? Didn’t he care about what his countrymen were going through? Apparently not. Unfortunately, in her experience, his apathy wasn’t atypical. Her shoulders sagged. It was so hard to see what needed to be done so clearly and yet to have others be so blind and deaf to her message. But she couldn’t give up.
Clearly she’d have to try harder.
“Please, Mr Sawyer, you must listen.” The words rushed past her lips, their urgency pressing hard on her. She took a deep breath and made a concentrated effort to slow down. “The long-term lack of concern over this issue is what has allowed those men captured in eighty-four to be held for all these years. My book would really help people to see this issue in a more personal light. People need to see those men as fellow citizens, with families who love and need them—not just as names on a list.”
“Young lady, I’ve told you repeatedly what I need. The public wants to read stories of captivity, torture, ravishment, a little allusion to sexual depravity…heaving bosoms.” Mr Sawyer’s gaze dropped to her bodice. “Though for myself, I prefer more tender fruits.” His leer was unmistakable.
She gasped and fought a sudden wave of dizziness. Every time she’d come here, he had pushed the bounds of decency a little more. However, no man had ever spoken to her so bluntly as he had just done. For one thing, they would never have dared with her formidable, sharp-tongued grandmother always close by. But here, today, Emily was alone and she’d have to fend for herself. She crossed her arms over her small breasts and squared her shoulders.
“We could discuss a compromise.”
“A compromise?” she asked warily.
“Aye, a compromise.” He pushed away from his desk and walked towards her.
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