He's in the fight of his life for a love that defies the centuries.
The last thing Juliana MacKenzie remembers is sitting in a friend's kitchen. In Kansas City. In the twenty-first century. How did she wind up on a burning ship in the middle of the ocean--in the eighteenth century?
If that wasn't enough to get her heart started, some dark corner of her memory responds to the ship's enigmatic captain. A man whose touch ignites her senses even as he stubbornly holds her at arm's length.
It's almost too late when Morgan realizes his stowaway is not only female, but a woman from a life and a time he'd almost forgotten. Desire resurges like an undeniable tide--but he is not the man Juliana would remember. She has been unwittingly thrust into a dangerous world, and now she, too, is a target for the pirate who once enslaved him, who still hunts him across the seven seas.
Kidnapped by Morgan's worst enemy, Juliana finds herself drawing on inner reserves she never knew she possessed. No way will she let anyone--not even the man she is growing to love--choose her path for her. And no way will she let him offer himself in trade for her freedom.
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April 04, 2011
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Excerpt from Wherever You Are by Sharon Cullen
Sizzling heat reached out to her. Retreated, teased, scorched.
A horrible shrieking sound filled her head. She tried to cover her ears but her arms wouldn't move.
Her eyelids were heavy. Weighted down. Her cheek was plastered to the floor, straw clutched in her fingers. Her gaze traveled the length of her arm to the rough wooden planks beneath. The screams--the horrible, unbearable screams--continued until they clawed at her brain.
Fire licked up wooden walls and rolled across a wooden ceiling, encircling her, trapping her.
Her mind was fuzzy but the panic that leaped through her was sharp. She pushed against the floor until she was on her hands and knees. Smoke burnt her throat and she coughed.
"Help." Nothing escaped but a labored breath. Her arms gave out and she collapsed. "Please."
Burying her nose in the hay, she tried to breathe the air closer to the ground, but the ferocious fire ate it up faster than she could inhale it. The screaming stopped, leaving nothing but the roar of the fire and the agonizing heat.
A large piece of the wooden ceiling fell. Sparks landed on her arms and singed the fabric of her shirt. Flames raced up the wood, greedily devouring it.
She stumbled to her feet. Her legs buckled and she fell hard on one knee. Horrified she watched the fire engulf a dead chicken, sheep and the corpse of what might have been a cow. Smoke billowed in waves, clearing enough for her to catch a quick peek before obscuring everything. Bales of hay. A pitchfork. A water trough.
Water. She lurched forward. The floor tilted at a crazy angle and she crashed against a barrel.
She stretched her arm, reaching for a smoldering blanket draped over a swinging half door. Inside the pen lay what looked like a burned sow and her babies. Juliana turned her head from the sight and swallowed the bile rising in her throat. Quickly she dunked the blanket in the trough and threw it over her head, tying the ragged ends under her chin.
She shuffled forward, her arms stretched in front of her. The roar of the fire was unbearable, the heat suffocating, her panic clawing. Abandoning caution, she rushed forward and immediately tripped, falling to her hands and knees. A sob tore through her. Tears blinded her vision. She could barely breathe. Suddenly a hand grabbed her upper arm and she was yanked to her feet.
"What the hell are you doing down here?"
She was spun around and shoved forward.
"Get up top. Tenders are waiting."
Juliana dug her heels into the hay and reached for the deep voice, anxious to get out of there but terrified of being left alone again. "Wait--"
A push between her shoulder blades had her staggering forward. She rammed her shin into what appeared to be the bottom step of a set of stairs. Juliana grabbed the banister and pulled herself up one step at a time. She felt like she was in one of those dreams where she was trying to run but not getting anywhere. The more she climbed the closer the fire came to her back. She glanced over her shoulder for her rescuer but there was no one behind her. Had she imagined him? She tripped on the last step and sprawled face-first into fairly fresh air.
Rain pelted her skin like tiny arrows and hissed as it hit the fire. She heard people yelling and saw their silhouettes running through the gray smoke.
"Somebody. Help me!" She tried to scream but only a thin wheeze escaped.
The floor tilted again. Juliana staggered forward and grabbed onto a large pole. She looked behind her just as someone reached the top step of the hell she'd come from. Her rescuer. Oh, thank God. He was safe. She reached for him as an explosion rocked the floor. She lost her grip on the pole and fell backward.
"She's a blowin'!" someone yelled.
The man yanked her up by her arm and placed her on her feet. She barely had time to glance at dark eyes glaring down at her, rain pouring over chiseled cheekbones and running in rivers over a solid chin before he lifted her off her feet and tossed her. She screamed as she somersaulted through the air, the sound of terror abruptly cut off when she landed in water.
It surrounded her, hugged her. Its cold, wet arms entrapped her, turning her around and around until she didn't know what was up and what was down. Her mouth filled with brine and burned her raw throat.
She kicked her legs but the more she kicked the more the blanket wrapped around her.
A hand tangled in her hair and yanked her up. She broke through the surface and gasped for air. Her rescuer, the same man who'd thrown her over, let go of her. She kicked to stay afloat but the damn blanket got in the way and she went under again. With a curse he dragged her back up and shot her a disgusted look. She opened her mouth to thank him when a different set of hands reached down, grabbed her arms and pulled her over the side of a small boat.
She flopped on the floor, breathing deep, shivering. A booted foot jabbed her ribs. Pain bloomed in her side and she cried out.
"Move yer arse," a voice growled.
She tried to stand, but the boat tilted and she stumbled into a man. The firelight flickered over his scarred face, casting it half in shadow, half in orange light, making him look like a ghoul. He pushed her off him and she fell the other way. Gripping the sopping blanket with one hand, she crawled over legs. Two men moved apart and she slid into the vacant spot.
Hands curled around the edge of the boat and her rescuer's head popped up. His shoulders bunched and flexed in the bright firelight. Biceps rippled as he pulled himself over, water pouring off a shirt glued to his sculpted body. Men cleared the way for him to make his way to the bow. He spoke to a few he passed, quiet, clipped words. The men nodded, their expressions grim. His gaze skipped over her before he lowered himself to the bottom of the boat and ran his hands through his long hair, squeezing the excess water out. He pulled his knees up and rested his elbows on them, letting his hands dangle between and focusing his attention on the towering ball of fire floating on the water.
"'Tis reachin' the magazine," the man beside her mumbled. A few men murmured their agreement.
No sooner had he said the words than the ship exploded. Night turned to day as flames raced toward the sky. Juliana screamed and covered her head with her arms as bits of fiery debris rained down on them. The ones who'd been rowing began to row harder, their expressions ranging from shock to anger to blank trauma. They were wet and bedraggled and every one of them was armed with knives and pistols. Strange-looking pistols. Old-fashioned pistols. Not the Smith & Wessons, Glocks, and Berettas she was used to seeing in her work as an investigative journalist.
Something inside Juliana turned cold. Colder than the seawater soaking her clothes. Colder than the wind whipping her hair into her eyes.
Her gaze moved to the man who'd rescued her but his head was tilted back, his eyes closed. Lightning sizzled close by and she flinched.
A trembling started deep within her and a small voice inside her said, You're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
So if not Kansas, where? And how? Everything took on a surreal quality, as if someone had taken the lens of a camera and turned it slightly out of focus. The men's voices came to her from a tunnel--tinny and distorted. She couldn't stop shivering and it had nothing to do with being cold.
Where was Emily Langtree? Where was the sunny kitchen she'd been sitting in while she spoke to Zach's mother? For that matter, where was Kansas? Because the last she remembered, she'd been speaking to Emily about Zach and eating sugar cookies.
Last she'd checked there were no oceans in Kansas. Or...pirates.
Pirates? Is that what these men were?
Obviously they couldn't be. Because pirates of the eighteenth century--pirates who carried antique-looking pistols and knives--didn't live in the twenty-first century.
And Juliana sure as hell didn't live in the eighteenth.