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the major here, now between you, I picture myself parching as I

am being served up wholesale to some monstrous fish.”

Both men laughed, a surprising thing considering their dire

plight.

Gazing at the half-naked, unconscious young Miss Hayward,

Jonathan sobered. “I hope, for all our sakes, my lovely burden is a

good luck charm. Surely the gods have some reason for flinging

her into my arms from our doomed ship.”

“Let’s hope so,” Reeves murmured.

* * * *

There was sand stuck to her face, her legs, and her almost bare

breasts. Lifting her head, Jenna blinked and stared, unable to

register where she was or how she might have gotten there. As far

as she could see there was glistening beach licked by the tide that

even now lapped against her prone body.

And she wasn’t quite alone. Three other bodies littered the

shore.

Levering herself upright and looking around dazedly, she told

herself she should go for aid, then tried to figure out just where that

assistance might come from. On her knees now, she saw nothing

10

Emma Wildes

but a thick line of trees beyond the sand, and when she wildly cast

around, behind her a glittering blue sea.

“Oh God …” she moaned, remembering suddenly the awful

storm, the rocking unstable ship…the wave that swept her into a

watery hell.

And strong arms…that memory came, too, of a lean body

holding her tight and safe as the sea gnawed hungrily around them.

Looking down, she saw her dress must have been torn clear

away for she wore only her thin chemise and absolutely nothing

else. The lacy material was only half-dry and clung to her body

like glue.

The farthest person away was a man, medium height, his thick

sandy hair mussed against his neck. He was naked from the waist

up, and his well-muscled back was pink from the sun. Near him lay

another sprawled figure, this one dark haired and broadshouldered, his torn shirt dried and wrinkled, one sleeve

completely missing. The closest man lay on his back, his eyes

closed. He was young, not much older than herself at a guess, slim

and almost boyish, though his shoulders were wide enough and the

breeches plastered to his legs showed defined muscle. He had dried

blood on his face and a nasty gash near his temple. The rags of

what had been a fine lawn shirt clung to his chest. Kneeling by the

limp figure, she prodded him with a tentative finger and gasped at

once when his eyes flew open, and a hand shot out to grasp her

wrist painfully.

“Beg pardon, Miss,” he said at once, releasing her. “I was

startled, that’s all.” Then, sitting up groggily, he asked in obvious

confusion, “Where are we?”

“I have no idea,” she confessed, shaking her head. Considering

that she was half-dressed and stranded in parts unknown, the

quiver in her voice was not surprising.

The young man blinked and focused, scrambling up. “My

lord,” he said in alarm, crawling across the sand to shake the

Savage Shores

11

shoulder of the dark-haired man. Jenna heard a low groan,

indicating the man wasn’t dead at least, and his lashes fluttered,

finally opening. “Bloody hell, Charles,” he said in a low growl. “I

feel as if I’ve been flogged, stop shaking me.”

So did she, if the truth be known. Her entire body ached and

she was terribly thirsty. Nonetheless, concerned for the third man,

she bent over him and tapped his naked shoulder, which produced

no response. Rolling him over proved to be difficult because he

was too heavy for her, so she said urgently, “Help me…I can’t tell

if he’s breathing.”

Both men responded. The young one called Charles came over

with alacrity, but the dark-haired man got to his feet slowly, his

hands swiping ineffectually at the sand that coated his body.

Together she and Charles rolled over the unconscious man and she

was surprised that even with all the sand and his wet hair, she

recognized him. “Major Reeves,” she exclaimed, brushing the

particles from his cheek. It was shocking to see the handsome

immaculate man she knew so disheveled and pale.

“He’s alive, Miss Hayward, don’t worry. Undoubtedly it’s just

exhaustion and weakness from being in the water so long,” the

dark-haired man said, kneeling beside her and putting his fingers

on the major’s neck to feel his pulse with what looked efficient

expertise. “We could all use a drink of water I’m sure. The

question being, of course, where to get one.” He stood, attempting

to brush off his hands again, and uttering an inaudible curse under

his breath at the useless effort.

“You know who I am?” she asked in surprise, gazing up at

him. He was tall and lean, with eyes the same color as the sea

behind them. Handsome even in his still sodden clothes, his

features were classically shaped; ebony brows matched his thick

hair, and he possessed a straight, arrogant nose, lean jaw and a

modeled mouth. His smile was ironic. “Major Reeves recognized

you earlier as we floated through the storm. You were insensible

12

Emma Wildes

for hours after the ship sank.”

“I remember only a little. You grabbed me in the water.” She

shivered though the sun was hot and high. “And kept me from

drowning. I can swim, but not in long skirts.”

“You fell on top of me. I didn’t have much choice.” With a bit

of dry humor in his voice, he spoke coolly. “When one is being

pelted with beautiful young ladies, one should accept the delivery.”

The corner of his mouth lifted a fraction more.

That huge wave would live in her nightmares. “As I am sure

you saved my life, I will thank both you and providence, sir, for

where the wave deposited me,” Jenna said quietly. “Do you

suppose anyone else survived?”

“Reeves was the last person I saw come off the ship. I am

afraid everyone else went down. The vessel sank in seconds.” His

mocking half-smile vanished instantly. “Let’s hope I’m wrong, but

I would say we are the lone survivors.” He glanced around, his

blue-green eyes narrowing, “Living but stranded for the moment. I

suppose I should introduce myself, though formality seems a little

out of place when one is washed ashore and dripping with sand. I

am Jonathan Richmond, seventh Earl of Charbeau.” His bow was

formal and graceful.

Jenna blinked, registering the name. She’d heard of the earl

somehow…but in her current state of almost disoriented disbelief

over both being alive and having no idea where she was, she

couldn’t recall where. “Pleased to meet you, my lord,” she said

automatically.

“The pleasure is mine.” For the briefest of moments, his gaze

flicked lower to where the material of her shift clung to her breasts.

Jenna felt heat climb into her neck and face. In fact, she

realized both men must be able to see her practically naked. Her

legs were bare from mid-thigh down, and the material of the lacy

chemise was still wet enough that her nipples were clearly visible.

It seemed ridiculous—since she had just been rescued from a

Savage Shores

13

horrible death at sea—to be embarrassed, but she certainly was not

used to appearing before anyone but her maid in such a state of

undress, much less two strange men.

Charbeau looked amused at her blush. “There, the

introductions are done. See how painfully polite we English are?

Come, Charles, let’s go scout around and see if we can’t find a

source of fresh water. Miss Hayward, stay with the major, if you

will. I would hate for him to wake and wander off, thinking he is

alone. We will all be safer if we stay together.”

Safer? Well, he was probably right. The setting was exotic and

unfamiliar, though with the sunshine and tropical breeze, it felt like

paradise, not dangerous.

The younger man smiled engagingly at her. “I am Charles

Blake, at your service,” Then he dutifully followed Charbeau, who

was already stalking off down the beach. He was almost as tall as

the earl, with brown hair so wavy it almost curled, and he moved

athletically and purposefully to catch up to his companion.

Watching them walk down the beach, still kneeling by the

prone body of the major, Jenna pondered their possible location

and the fate of the others on the ship. Her duenna, an elderly friend

of her father’s, was surely gone, poor woman. They had been

asleep when the storm hit. The older woman had refused to leave

their cabin, and forbade Jenna to do so. Though she normally

followed the dictates of the proper Mrs. Cavanaugh, this time she

had disobeyed, unable to stay amidst the groaning wooden walls

without seeing what was happening. Wishing she had put on more

underclothes than just her chemise was pointless now. She had

grabbed her evening gown, still lying over the chest and slipped

into it, not bothering with anything more than her shift in her

hurry.

Suddenly the man still lying on the beach next to her coughed

and gave a small moan. Reaching out, she touched his face lightly

to reassure him. “You are all right, Major. We are safe now on

14

Emma Wildes

shore. Our companions have gone for water.”

“Miss Hayward?” His light brown eyes opened and he

struggled to sit up immediately. She helped him, one arm around

his broad shoulders, and he said thickly, “My mouth is full of sand

and I feel worse than after Talavera, when I took a ball in the leg

and another in my shoulder and nearly bled to death on the field.

What companions? I assume you mean Charbeau and his valet?”

At her nod, he added weakly, “So, we all made it, a miracle.”

“It is indeed.” She agreed completely about it being a miracle,

still helping to steady him. “Though, the earl thinks no one else

probably survived.”

“It was a nasty scene as I’ve ever seen.” Reeves rubbed his

face, grimacing at the scrapes and cuts there. “God alone knows

where we are. We drifted for hours and hours. I hope you are

uninjured?”

When he too, glanced at her half-nude body, Jenna flushed

predictably and dropped her arm at once from around his

shoulders. She knew he was not being anything but solicitous but

was unable to control her chagrin over the amount of bare skin

visible.

Reeves was not quite as tall as the earl or even the young

Charles Blake, but he was powerfully and compactly built, with

not an inch of fat on his body and impressive muscles defined in

his shoulders and arms. Blond and good-looking, he was the type

of man women noticed, and more than one fan was fluttered his

direction when he entered a room. Jenna did not know him well,

but her father thought highly of the major and he had been

decorated for his valor in battle by the king.

Trying to suppress her blush, she reminded herself she was

alive, she was not hurt, and though she was a castaway in unknown

parts, it was infinitely better than a watery grave. Still,

surreptitiously tugging on her hem to try to pull it lower, she

realized with resignation, it was disconcerting to be half-naked and

Savage Shores

15

surrounded by attractive men.

* * * *

The fire crackled, the weathered driftwood burning quickly,

and hopefully sending out a signal to anyone at sea with the height

of the dancing flames. Above, the sky was vast in a way foreign to

his native England, sprinkled with a million glittering stars, and the

soft rush of the surf filled the air.

Not, Jonathan thought morosely, that there would likely be

anyone to see the light they had labored to build. As far the eye

could see, there was nothing but ocean, and he had walked around

a good deal of the circumference of what looked to be an island.

Not sure whether to be relieved or unhappy there were no natives

here, he thought they were probably quite alone.

Next to him, looking just as grim, Anthony Reeves looked

reflectively around the beach. “We were way off course already.

The captain had told me the last storm had shoved us literally

hundreds of miles in the wrong direction and this one followed so

soon he could not correct the error in our course. We could be

anywhere in the Indian Ocean.”

“The island is not that small,” Charles spoke up with his usual

enthusiasm. “There could be still be people living here. We

couldn’t really explore very far today.”

“As long as they don’t want to eat us or make our heads into

ornaments for their huts,” Jonathan said, lifting a brow. “There are

tribes out there with customs that would make your hair curl.”

“There is fresh water, fruit, and small mammals, so we should

be able to eat. I am personally just happy to be alive.” Reeves

prosaically lifted his shoulders. “We are all incredibly lucky. We

have all we need to survive, even if we are never found.”

All we need
….

“Bite your tongue,” Jonathan murmured sardonically, fighting

16

Emma Wildes

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