An exhilarating Regency romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling author. The second novel in Catherine Coulter's acclaimed Legacy trilogy.
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April 15, 2004
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Excerpt from The Nightingale Legacy by Catherine Coulter
ST. AGNES HEAD, CORNWALL
FREDERIC NORTH NIGHTINGALE looked down at the huddled woman at his feet. She was bowed in on herself, her knees drawn nearly to her chest, her arms over her head, as if she'd tried to protect herself as she fell from the cliff above. Her once stylish pale blue muslin gown was ripped violently beneath her arms, the bodice and skirt stained and filthy. One blue slipper dangled by twisted and torn ribbons from her right foot.
He came down to his knees beside her and gently pulled her stiff arms away from her head. She'd been dead for some time, at least eighteen hours, for her muscles were beginning to slacken again, the rigor lessening. He lightly pressed his fingers to her dirty neck, where the collar of her gown was ripped away. He didn't know why he was feeling for a pulse, perhaps he was hoping for a miracle, but of course, there was no beat, just cold flesh and death.
Her pale blue eyes stared up at him, not calm with acceptance, but bulging with the terror, with the knowledge that death was here and this was her last instant of life. Even though he'd seen too many men die in battle or after battle from infection, this touched him differently. She wasn't a soldier wielding a sword or a musket. She was a woman, thus frail by a man's standards, helpless in the face of a fall as violent as this one. He closed her eyes then pressed against her jaw to close her mouth, open wide on a last scream. It wouldn't close, and her terror was there to see if not to hear. It would remain there until she was no more than stripped white bone.
He rose slowly and stepped back, not too far back or else he'd go careening off the narrow ledge into the Irish Sea some forty feet below. The smell of the salt water was strong, the sound of the waves striking against the ageless tumbled black rocks was loud, but the rhythmic tumult was still curiously soothing to him. It had been since he'd been a boy, bent on escape.