Submission and defeat are not one and the same.

Hidden for two centuries, the diary of a sexual adventuress reveals the remarkable life of The Acolyte, Lady Létice Marie de Saint-Juste, the willful daughter of a wealthy planter on the island of Martinique. The young Létice is sent to Paris by her father, to be sheltered behind the high walls of a convent school. But the vessel carrying her to France is captured by Salé privateers, and Létice is set on an altogether different journey, into the alien world of the Ottoman Seraglio. She becomes Zarqa, the Blue-Eyed Woman, and the training for her new life in the harem begins.

It will part a silken curtain to reveal a world unimagined. In a single, shattering night she becomes ikbal, a favorite, and from these heights she will learn the fearful weight of power within the Seraglio.

Hardened by tragedy, Létice escapes, back to a world that now seems just as alien to her. Lost in the elegant salons of Paris and London, she abandons the Old World for America, arriving in its capital of sudden, glittering wealth, New York, where she’s determined to build a new life. But her well-laid plans made no account of Jack McClain, powerful, playful, contemptuous of any rules but his own. Jack is a gamesman of unmatched skill, and as the contest unfolds, this Acolyte will finally find the tender Master who will teach her how little submission resembles defeat.

Publisher’s Note: This romance is intended for adults only and contains elements of action, adventure, mystery, suspense, danger, sensual scenes, adult themes, power exchange and possible triggers for some readers. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.

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Excerpt

“What have you done with my uncle?”

Surprised, he asked, “The captain of this vessel is your blood?”

“Yes,” I hissed, “and a better man than you could ever hope to be!”

He studied me once more, with an expression that seemed indulgent.

“I did not know, my sweet.” Glancing at the other two, he snapped, “Wait here. I’ll be back.” He turned and strode across the floor, then stopped at the door, turning back to repeat, with a note of warning, “You will wait until I return.”

I found, for some insane reason, that I felt even less safe once he’d gone, as if such an animal could ever be a protector. The Turk sat me down none too gently in the same hard chair where I took my meals, before the long table that somehow still held most of my breakfast things, some overturned, the rest on the floor.

They murmured to each other in their strange tongue, all the while drinking from the bottle, handing it off to one another. The time stretched, expanding, and my nerves were drawn ever tauter. The Frenchman seemed as if a hot wire ran through him, tormenting his flesh, and I sensed his blood was still up from battle. Every pull from the bottle was a longer one, yet it didn’t seem to settle him, but rather had the opposite effect. He began to pace the little cabin, his eyes continually drawn back to me where I sat absolutely still, trying to make myself invisible.

At last something within him, that hot, coiled wire, seemed to snap. He shouted an order to the Turk, who was obviously lower in rank, though he didn’t leap to obey, until the same words were shouted again.

Without warning they took me, one by the hands and the other by the feet. Though I struggled and kicked, shouting every profanity I knew at the top of my lungs, I was no match for them, and was, in fact, nothing more than a mild annoyance. I felt myself lifted and then slammed onto the table, what was left of the crockery knocked out of their way, crashing to the floor. The Turk holding my wrists bundled them into one hand and shoved the other down my gown, groping for my breasts. When he found one he squeezed it triumphantly, then gripped both my hands once more. They were in tight fists, and he brought them farther down, rubbing them against the front of his canvas breeches, leaning over me and making a low, keening moan.

The Frenchman let go and walked away, and I began to kick even harder, trying to swing my legs off the table. The Turk swore, yanking me back by the arms, as the other returned, carrying a piece of leather that was hanging from a nearby hook. It had been used around my largest trunk. Unhurriedly, he pulled the knife from his boot and cut it in half, tossing the pieces to the Turk with a curt command that was obeyed with a chilling grin. As the Frenchman held me down, pawing and tearing at my skirts, the straps were tied to my wrists, my hands drawn above my head, one bound to each table leg.

I continued to fight, as if by instinct, testing the bonds that were cruelly effective, for the more I pulled, the tighter they were drawn around my wrists. I began to kick again as I heard the sound of the Frenchman’s sword belt dropping to the floor, then loosed a piercing scream. I knew he was already unbuttoning his breeches.

I drew breath for another scream, leaving only a moment of silence. Into it spilled a gravelly voice, drifting from the doorway, deceptively smooth, speaking in French.

“I ordered you to wait.”

His hands still gripping my legs, his countryman answered without even turning.

“Why? Did you have something else in mind for her?”

Tied helplessly to the table, I could see little. But just enough, with what I heard, to know what happened. The Frenchman was snatched from my sight, and I heard the sound of the blow, heard him hit the wall, then the cabin floor.

“When I give you an order, you don’t ask why!”

The Turk behind me stepped back, and I could smell the fear.

“Get out. Both of you.”

From the floor came the outraged shout, “We led the boarders! You promised us a reward!”

“I promised a reward. I did not say what it would be.”

I have decided what it will be! Her.” Ominously, he added, “We’re not going anywhere. She is our prize.”

I sensed the Turk watching, unmoving. He clearly understood enough French to realize what was being said. Somehow, I sensed that these two men had clashed before. Their hatred was palpable, and I realized I was only a pawn in this, the scrap lying on the ground between two snarling dogs.

“I might have shared her, but only with men who know how to obey. Now, get up, you worthless bastard, and get out.”

The Frenchman stood, staring his captain down.

“If you take her, no man will trust you again. I’ll make certain of that.”