Desire in the Sun

Free Desire in the Sun by Karen Robards

Book: Desire in the Sun by Karen Robards Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen Robards
Tags: Romance, Historical, Mystery
teaspoonful of blood, and yet it was enough in this colonial backwaterto condemn him to the ranks of the inhuman. His education, his background, even the successful shipping business he had built up, counted for nothing against that soupçon of blood. Never in his life had he imagined being brought so low, or being so powerless to do anything about it. Even his protestations that he had the funds to buy his freedom at that farce of a hearing availed him of nothing. They would not even permit him to send a message to his ship. Slaves had no rights, and could claim ownership of nothing, he had been told as they dragged him away in chains.
    He’d been visited in the shed that was his prison by that crazy old woman, Amanda Barton, who had told him—as if she were discussing the weather—that she meant to see him broken. He’d raged at her, spewing profanity that he’d been shocked to find himself using toward any female, even her. She’d cackled with delighted laughter, and left him, chained and ranting, in the dark. Later someone—it had been too dark to make out his assailant’s identity—had come in and, without a word, beaten him senseless. He’d been starved and deprived of water, beaten and humiliated and left to wallow in his own filth until he felt himself to be less than human. Ever since the nightmare had started he’d been treated like an animal, no, worse than an animal, with malicious cruelty. And he had, finally, been driven to responding like an animal, earning for his pains more beatings with fists and cudgels, and a bout with a bullwhip.
    Eventually he had learned to husband his anger, hoarding it like a miser with his gold, promising himself that if he waited he would have an opportunity to escape. He had not guessed that the old witch planned to sell him like the unwanted property she claimed he was, or that he would be taken from the tumbledown shed where he’d been kept chained and filthy for weeks, only to find himself chained and filthy on an auction block.

    To be put up for public inspection and bid on like a damned horse—he’d not thought he could sink to any greater depths. Then to find her eyes on him, knowing that she was seeing him dirty and stinking and half-naked and that the shaming marks of the whip were clearly visible to her eyes, … He wanted to kill. The blood-lust that rushed through him was so intense as to sweep every consideration of prudence or even survival before it.
    He roared with rage, baring his teeth and throwing every ounce of his strength into the lunge that was intended to break the chain that held him to the post. The post groaned and quivered, and for a moment, just for a moment, he thought he might break free. Though if he did he would likely be shot for his pains. …
    The more fearful in the crowd cried out while the auctioneer spun around so fast that he tottered and almost fell off the block. Immediately two burly guards were upon Joss, their cudgels falling thick and fast around his head and shoulders. With his arms tied behind him and his ankles chained, there was no way he could protect himself, but he tried, ducking and dodging as best he could to escape the worst of the blows. Inevitably he was beaten to his knees. Then a heavy boot crashed into his ribcage. Pain sharp enough to penetrate the fog of rage that enveloped him stabbed through his chest. He gasped, doubling over so that his forehead touched the dusty wood of the block. Another boot caught him in the lower back. He gasped a second time, and cold sweat break out on his forehead.
    “I’ll bid a hundred dollars for him!”
    Joss had thought his agony couldn’t increase, but he’d been wrong. That sweet, softly accented voice from the crowd brought a wave of shame with it so intense that it hurt more than the almost certainly broken ribs. Gritting his teeth, he managed to lift his head to look at her. She had come closer, close enough so that now he couldsee the delicate perfection of her

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