Read The Golden Leopard Online

Authors: Lynn Kerstan

Tags: #Romance, #General, #Historical, #Fiction

The Golden Leopard

Table of Contents
She knew she should resist him but she couldn’t…
 

“Look down, Jessica. Watch my hand.” His fingers mesmerized her. She couldn’t answer. She could only feel.

It was so overwhelming that in the aftermath, she felt herself falling into unwanted sleep. Distantly she felt him lift her and cross to the bed. She fought the darkness closing over her. It was unfair to deny him. And however great the pleasure she had just experienced, it was nothing compared to being joined with him in the most intimate embrace of all.

“Please,” she whispered when he seemed about to let her go.

“Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes. Give me this. I want this.”

“I am your slave, my princess,” he said. “I will give you everything I have.”

Praise for
The Golden Leopard

“. . . a great adventure with sharp, witty dialogue. The intrigue and suspense keep you on the edge while the love sizzles.”


Rendezvous


The Golden Leopard
is an exotic, absolutely riveting tale of suspense, adventure, and a love too strong to be denied…. Enthralling from the first page to the last,
The Golden Leopard
is a keeper!”

—Romance Fiction Forum

The Novels of Lynn Kerstan
 

A Regency Holiday

The Golden Leopard

Coming Soon From Bell Bridge Books

Heart Of The Tiger

The Silver Lion

The Golden Leopard
 

by

Lynn Kerstan

Bell Bridge Books

Copyright
 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

Bell Bridge Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-154-8
Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-139-5

Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 by Lynn Kerstan

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

A hardcover edition of this book was published by Penguin/Onyx in 2002

We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers.
Visit our websites – www.BelleBooks.com and www.BellBridgeBooks.com.

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Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Photo credits:
Man’s face (manipulated) © Konradbak | Dreamstime.com
Clothing (manipulated) © razzdazzstock | Dreamstime.com
Leopard
©
Juliasha | Dreamstime.com

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Mlg
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Dedication
 

In memory of Dorothy, Lady Dunnett (1923-2001), and for the readers who love and admire her extraordinary books.

She made the whole world to hang in the air.

Prologue
 

India, 1821

There was nothing like the prospect of dying half a world away to make an Englishman long for home.

Hugo, Lord Duran, had been given several months to reflect on his homeland, the one where he’d spent a grand total of eleven weeks of his life, before they came for him—two bearded, turbaned, cold-eyed men forced to bend double when they entered his cramped cell. They dragged him into the narrow passageway and hauled him to his feet.

While a third fellow clamped shackles around his ankles and wrists, Duran focused his attention on the harrowing wail that resonated along the corridor. It had persisted day and night, muffled by the thick walls of his cell, as if the ghosts of the damned stalked the prison. Now he understood what he had been hearing. It was the sound of men gone mad.

Had he howled as well? He didn’t like to think so, but he might have done. Except for marking each day by scratching a line on the moldy stone wall, he had wrenched his thoughts to the past and kept them there, reliving what little was worth recalling of his aimless, dissolute existence.

Nearly always, he found solace, and even a bit of amusement, remembering Jessie.

The first time she floated into his cell, more imperious and seductive than ever, she had startled him. After all this time, why the devil would Lady Jessica Carville come back to haunt him? Theirs had been an insignificant little dalliance, one of . . . well, he’d long since lost count of his dalliances. He should have forgotten her by now.

A sharp pain at his wrists. He looked down and saw blood. In this humidity, everything made of metal rusted practically overnight, and the nizam’s flunkies were having trouble securing his manacles.

Better to keep thinking about Jessie. That hurt as well, to be sure, but in a different way. He wasn’t sorry to have her with him again. Never mind the trouble he’d taken to exorcize her after returning to India, or the bothersome way she kept popping into his thoughts just when he became certain he was finally shed of her. It had required a year—very well, two or three years—but eventually she’d left him alone.

Until he needed her. Until there was nothing for him but hunger and darkness and regret. From the other side of the world she came to him, all but alive and scrunched up next to him when he was awake, not touching him, but there. When he slept, he dreamed about her.

She had been beside him when he heard voices in the passageway and pressed his ear to the door, trying to ferret out the reason he’d been snatched from his horse and tossed into a small, black hole. At the time, no one had seen fit to explain, and when he’d made a fuss about it, they’d beaten him senseless. But it was important that he find out. India could swallow you up if you weren’t careful, and besides, it wasn’t in his nature to give up without a fight.

Eventually he learned his fate from two guards who paused outside his cell to discuss its occupant. It seemed that the foreign devil, at a time being calculated by the court astrologers, was to be executed. And so far as he could tell, it was for the unpardonable crime of being an Englishman.

A few other snippets of information had come his way, none of any discernible consequence. But he had committed everything he heard to memory and spent all his rational hours playing with the words and phrases, arranging and rearranging them like the pieces of a puzzle. Information, he knew from a lifetime of living on his wits, was the gambler’s edge.

He had been in tight spots before. Always there came a moment when enterprise and intuition made all the difference, and when that moment came, he meant to be ready.

The shackles were finally locked into place. A rough hand shoved at his back, nearly knocking him over. He caught his balance and put one bare foot in front of the other, swearing under his breath with each wobbly step. How long since he’d eaten? Two days? Three? Damn. This was no time to collapse in a heap.

Dizziness washed over him as the little procession came to a heavy iron door. One of the guards unlocked it and pushed it open, and the sudden blast of sunlight and summer heat nearly sent Duran to his knees. Someone grabbed his arm and shoved him through the door.

He stumbled into a bleak courtyard filled with silent men who had come, he supposed, to watch the execution. Sunbaked bricks scorched the soles of his bare feet. He became aware of the tattered, sweat-stiff shirt open halfway down his chest and the loose trousers hanging low on his hips. They had stripped him of everything else soon after his capture.

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