In the early 1800s, Jurissa Campbell Winterton, pressured into marriage to a man she scarcely knows, sails with him from Boston toward New Orleans. Since her husband, Philip, double her age and fond of alcohol, is ill and can't tolerate her presence, Jurissa spends much of her time alone on deck. There, she meets a dashing Creole gentleman, Leon du Motier, who's entranced by her beauty and pays romantic court to her. The result is they both fall madly in love.
One fateful night, Philip Winterton falls overboard under mysterious circumstances, but due to his heavy drinking, no one is blamed and he's presumed dead. Believing she's a widow, Jurissa enters New Orleans nearly penniless, and with Philip's two slaves, a brother and sister, in tow.
Meanwhile, in order to save his family's plantation when his father dies, Leon must go through with an arranged marriage of his own. But deeply in love with Jurissa, he continues to see her in secret until she learns of his impending nuptials. Grief-striken of living without Leon, Jurissa also faces potential scandal when she realizes she's pregnant with his child, and makes desperate plans of her own.
Will Jurissa ever be able to forgive Leon for his betrayal? And will she ever be able to forgive herself for keeping the knowledge of his child from him? And what will happen to her when Philip Winterborn suddenly resurfaces, very much alive and desperate to reclaim his wife?
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Amber Quill Press, LLC
September 19, 2010
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Excerpt from Creole Betrayal by Jane Toombs
...Poor Philip. He hadn't really wanted to marry her, she knew now. How unlucky for him he'd accompanied his friend Montague Evans to Boston.
"He be a devil man." Yubah's voice startled Jurissa. "Miss Jurissa, you better off with him dead."
How could she argue with Yubah? Certainly the way he'd treated his slave had made the Negro woman fear and hate him. Even she, his wife, had been terrified of him.
"I don't know what will happen next," Jurissa said slowly.
Yubah eased herself to a sitting position. "Ole head's getting better." She smiled, a grotesque parody because of her swollen face. "Don't you worry none, Miss Jurissa. Me and Silas take good care of you. That man who be from New Orleans, he sure do look like he gonna take good care of you, too."
Leon? Involuntarily, Jurissa smiled at the thought of Leon "taking care" of her. How pleasant that would be. How exciting as well. But she hardly knew him. A disquieting thought struck her. He might be married! She took a deep breath, surprised and dismayed by the pang that possibility caused her.
I won't expect anything from Leon, she told herself firmly. The only thing I'll ask from him is advice about what to do once we reach New Orleans.
Later, with Silas in the cabin looking after Yubah, Jurissa, wearing the black faille gown and black bonnet she'd had made for Arabel's funeral, ventured onto the deck. Whether it was proper for a widow to appear in public so soon, she didn't know, but she couldn't bear to stay cooped up one moment longer.
The other passengers eyed her furtively, but no one spoke or nodded to her. When she'd walked around the deck twice and failed to find Leon, she admitted her herself that's why she was here. She wanted to see him, to be reassured by his smile and comforted by his caressing voice. Was it proper for her to knock on his cabin door? She sighed. Probably not, but what else was she to do?
Leon took a moment to answer her knock. She saw he wore a dressing jacket and realized he must have been resting. No wonder--he'd been up all night because of her.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I won't bother you now--"
He took her hand and drew her inside, closing the door behind her.
"You're never a bother." His voice tingled pleasurably along her nerves.
There were so many questions to ask. Why had he told the captain Yubah had fallen? Had he seen Philip again before the fall overboard? What on earth was she to do when the ship docked in New Orleans? To her utter amazement, she asked none of these. She took one look at the warmth in his brown eyes and burst into tears.
Leon's arms closed around her, holding her while he stroked her back, murmuring soothing words. After a time, she pulled back and retrieved a handkerchief that was tucked into the wrist of her glove. He plucked the black lace-edged square from her fingers, then untied her bonnet, lifted it from her head and set it aside.
"Allow me," he said. As he began gently to wipe her wet cheeks with the handkerchief, she shut her eyes. He dabbed at her closed lids and, before she could open her eyes, she felt his warm lips caress one, then the other.
His lips trailed feather light down her cheek, finally settling over her mouth in a tender kiss that left her breathless. How velvet soft his mouth was; how wonderfully well it fit over hers. He smelled male, his own scent, one that beguiled her senses. His arms urged her closer, and she came willingly, remembering and needing the comforting feel of his body.
His lips parted against hers and the tip of his tongue touched her caressingly. She opened her lips to taste him, and his tongue slipped inside her mouth. At its touch, the pleasing warmth he'd kindled inside her flared into sudden flame. She clung to him, obeying the urgent summons of her body to press against the hard length of his.
"You are so lovely, the most beautiful woman I've ever met," he murmured against her lips in French, in the language of love. "I have never before felt such desire as I feel for you."
She wasn't certain what she felt. She only knew nothing even remotely approaching this had ever happened to her and she wanted the wonderful sensations to go on and on. To never end...