The London docks in 1818 are no place for a woman. But Aurora Dayne is about to embark on a new life. With her modest belongings and a unique bejeweled locket—her sole legacy from her dead father—she boards a ship bound for Jamaica.
All hell breaks loose when pirates storm the gangplank, and the sheltered orphan becomes the prisoner of a ruthless privateer named Vashon. The towering, black-caped stranger arouses Aurora’s fear . . . and her irresistible desire.
Haunted by his past, Vashon lives outside the law and is driven by one purpose: to retrieve the Star of Aran, a fabled gem cursed by its own dark history. Beautiful Aurora is the key to Vashon’s quest. But when obsession flames into passion, he will risk everything to protect her—for there are others who would kill to possess the star.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Meagan McKinney is the author of numerous romantic novels, including Till Dawn Tames the Night, Lions andLace, Fair Is the Rose, and The Ground She Walks Upon. McKinney is a winner of the Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award. Her historical romance, No Choice But Surrender, won the Romantic Times Award for Best Historical Romance by a New Writer and her second novel, My Wicked Enchantress, was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award.
Read an Excerpt
Till Dawn Tames the Night
By Meagan McKinney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Ruth Goodman
All rights reserved.
Her adventure had begun.
Taking a deep breath, Aurora could hardly hide her anxiety as she looked past the main deck of the Seabravery toward the river Thames. It was barely noon and they were still moored at Queenhithe Dock, but in a few hours they would be sailing.
As was her habit, she nervously fingered the locket at her throat. It was an odd locket, battered and chipped, yet unique. The gold had been cast in the shape of a tiny lizard and set with chips of glittering emerald. Rubies were its eyes and its underbelly, diamonds. It was hinged, but this one's hinges were hidden and it had a clasp that only she knew how to open. Most didn't even realize it was a locket, thinking instead it was just a pendant. But inside, as his only gift to his little girl, her father had etched the last verse to a favorite nursery rhyme.
Fingering the locket now, she felt another chip of emerald missing. The loss saddened her, yet she vowed not to be melancholy. When she had left Faith and the Home, she had had her cry. Now there would be no more tears. Today she had become a lady of adventure, wild and carefree. Soon she would begin her passage, and in only a matter of weeks she would be seeing exotic places: places she had known only in dreams. London would be behind her and a whole new life would begin.
With excitement coloring her cheeks, she looked out across the river. The Thames beckoned her to go forth. As if it could speak to her, the normally sluggish river, churned up by the wind, sent frolicking waves against the ship's sides with the same excited beat as her heart.
As if still unable to believe her good fortune, she abruptly dug into her brown silk reticule to find the letter. For a moment she couldn't find it and her smooth brow furrowed with worry. It all had seemed like a dream. Was she to wake up now? Was it not true after all? Her fingers found the vellum. The letter was still there. Everything was still going to happen.
Relieved, she brought it to the light and was just about to read it once more when a loud female voice interrupted her.
"Another woman! Thank heavens! I didn't know how I would endure this crossing without another female to share my sorrow!"
Aurora looked up, and her aqua eyes widened as a plump, well-attired matron came toward her on the deck. The woman wore a black satin calash bonnet and sported a black pagoda-shaped parasol. She was obviously dressed in widow's weeds, but her gown was of the highest quality. The costly black taffeta rustled as the matron came forward to greet her.
"Do let me introduce myself, my dear," the matron announced, shading her with the parasol. "I am Mrs. Stefan Lindstrom. We'll become quite chummy on the way to Bermuda. I know, because this is my sixth trip."
"Six!" Aurora answered, amazed. "I fear this is my first."
"You shall do just fine. I know all the cures for seasickness and I hear the Seabravery is the finest vessel sailing. In fact, the captain tells me that the owner of the ship will be sailing with us, so I expect Captain Corbeil shall take special pains to make the going smooth. What is your name, my dear?"
Mrs. Lindstrom's last question caught her off guard and it took her a moment before she could speak up. "Miss Dayne. Miss Aurora Dayne," she answered haltingly.
"Lovely, just lovely. And you are lately of ...?"
Aurora paused again. "Lately of The Phipps-Bluefield Home for Little Wanderers."
"Oh! An orphan! How completely romantic!" Mrs. Lindstrom clasped her hands.
Aurora gave her a puzzled look. She didn't know at all what the matron meant. Growing up an orphan had not been the least romantic. Mrs. Bluefield, saint that she was, had seen to it that she was educated and cared for. But other than that her life at the Home had been drab, as drab as the color of the Home's serviceable linen gowns. This Mrs. Lindstrom made no sense at all.
"I'm not an orphan now," Aurora explained. "I mean, I was an orphan at the Home, but since I've come of age, I've been a teacher there."
"And a good one, I'm sure."
The matron gave her a broad smile, and immediately Aurora warmed to her.
Mrs. Lindstrom was a bit too inquisitive, perhaps, and certainly prone to dramatics, but Aurora liked her nonetheless. The fact that Aurora had been a poor orphan didn't seem to put Mrs. Lindstrom off in the least and that was unusual for someone of her obvious wealth.
"So what has brought you to the Seabravery, Miss Dayne?" the matron asked next, seeming to burst with questions. "Are you, perchance, joining a fiancé in St. George's? I can only guess, with your petite figure and that glorious color of hair, you must have some wonderful adventure before you. Oh, how I wish I were young again! The things I would do ...!"
As Mrs. Lindstrom rattled on about her lost youth, Aurora selfconsciously swept a curl from her forehead and discreetly tucked it beneath her shabby brown bonnet. She had never thought the color of her hair "glorious." Caught exactly in a middle hue, her hair had never been fiery enough for a redhead nor pale enough for a blonde. Indeed, to her, the faded red color seemed dull. Its tint seemed to mimic her life: pallid and restrained.
With a small frown, she recalled how John Phipps had once even commented her hair was "properly quiet." But he'd been all too enamored of that "properly quiet" hair, she thought darkly. That was just what she was running from. After Mrs. Bluefield had died a year ago of consumption, the gray pallor of John Phipps's influence descended upon her life like a shroud. Though she had known him ever since her first day at the Home, suddenly, with Mrs. Bluefield's passing, there was no escaping him. His attentions had become suffocating, his presence unbearable.
Guilt darkened her aqua eyes. John Phipps was not an awful man, despite what he had done to her sampler. On the contrary, with his self-righteous piety, most thought him quite a good man. A terribly good man, she thought, still remembering how she'd been called an ingrate for spurning his offer. She might actually regret declining his offer, yet still she doubted it. Though her hair color might be properly quiet, her heart was not. And she could have never given it to him.
Even now she could recall the episode that had quite clearly proved their incompatibility. Staunchly Evangelical, John Phipps had found Mrs. Bluefield's philosophy of running the Home with mere kindness insufficient. He had become convinced that Christianity would make the lower orders more content with their paltry lot. Since there was certainly no lower order to society than orphans, he'd felt compelled to begin emphasizing the messages of William Wilberforce to the little ones, and, once, when he'd been so caught up by the Evangelical cause, he caught Aurora reading Cinderella to the children and publicly implored her to rethink her path, calling the fairy tale "particularly exceptionable when it painted some of the worst passions that could ever enter the human heart."
Soon after that John had proposed. He had proudly offered her a "modest, quiet, passive life in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." Then, as a wedding gift, he had presented her with Hannah More'sCoelebs in Search of a Wife, most obviously in the hope that it would cure her of her love for the "unparalleled vice and infidelity" of literature.
It could never have worked, and now, in hindsight, Aurora could see why Mrs. Bluefield had always encouraged her to leave the Home for a position in the outside world. She had never gone because she had felt a great debt to the Home. She would have worked there her entire life if only to repay a little of Mrs. Bluefield's kindness. But her mentor was now long departed and the thought of spending the rest of her life by John Phipps's side had become untenable. But just when her search for a position had seemed fruitless, the miracle she had prayed for happened. The letter now in her reticule had arrived. It was as if the sender had known of her situation and was generously offering her escape.
"So is it St. George's you're destined for, Miss Dayne, or one of the outlying plantations?"
Startled out of her thoughts, Aurora looked at Mrs. Lindstrom.
"Oh, I know!" the matron continued. "You're going out to Clairdon to marry one of the Sinclair boys! How many sons does Lord Sinclair have now, anyway? Eight was what I heard at last count. Quite strapping lads if I do recall ... In fact, Miss Dayne, you couldn't do any better."
Aurora artfully covered her smile with her gloved hand. Mrs. Lindstrom certainly did go on! When she lowered her hand, she said, "I'm going to have to do much better, Mrs. Lindstrom, because I'm afraid I'm not meeting a fiancé in St. George's, and most assuredly none of the Sinclair boys. In fact, I'm not going to St. George's at all. I'm going to Kingston, Jamaica."
"Kingston! Good heavens, I didn't know the ship was going on to Jamaica."
"Yes, I'm to be a companion to Lady Perkins of Roselawn Plantation. From her letter, I suspect she is rather elderly—you haven't by chance heard of Roselawn, have you?" Aurora gave the matron a hopeful look. She had always considered herself as possessing quite a bit of fortitude. But sailing away from the only home she had ever known to a tropical island and having not one point of reference was most definitely unnerving.
"St. George's is quite a distance away from Jamaica, love, but let me think...." Mrs. Lindstrom shook her head. "No, I can't remember a Roselawn, and I must say I pride myself on knowing who is who—but Roselawn and Lady Perkins—no, I simply cannot recall."
"I see." Aurora tried to hide her disappointment.
"How did you hear of this position?" Mrs. Lindstrom gave her a concerned look.
"Well"—she looked out to the muddy waters of the Thames—"it's really been quite a surprise. Lady Perkins's letter came only a week ago. It instructed me that if I should like a position, to be here today, ready to sail."
"How very brave of you, my dear, to venture so far alone! But I suppose the orphanage treated you wretchedly."
"Oh, no! On the contrary!" Suddenly Aurora's eyes misted. The Phipps-Bluefield Home might have been an orphanage, but Mrs. Bluefield had made it a wonderful place. In the years she had grown up there, as far back as she could remember, the kind woman had been her mother, her friend, her teacher. And now she was severing her last and only ties to her. Despite her troubles with John Phipps, it was painful.
"There, there, my dear." Mrs. Lindstrom watched her with a troubled expression. She patted her hand and said, "They must have been good to you then, for you to miss them so."
"Yes, yes." Aurora's words spilled out before she could stop herself. For some reason she was becoming unbearably homesick.
"But now, Miss Dayne, you'll see the world—well, at least half of it!"
"Yes." She tried to smile.
"And who knows what passion and romance you may find along the way!"
Aurora blushed. That was just exactly what she craved, but now that it was before her, she wondered if she was up to the challenge. Perhaps she really was as "properly quiet" as John had said she was.
"I'm afraid to disillusion you, Mrs. Lindstrom," she said. "My life has been rather unremarkable, and I fear even a trip to Jamaica may not change that."
"When one is young and beautiful as you are, my dear, there's no telling what adventures may lie ahead."
Aurora laughed in spite of herself. "Well, we can always hope, can't we?"
"We must!" Mrs. Lindstrom laughed in return. Abruptly, the matron released the black whalebone frame of her parasol and without further ado, she said, "Come, Miss Dayne. Though Mr. Lindstrom's been dead almost ten years, I still find I mourn him, but I cannot take the sun in these weeds. So if you'd be so kind, I should like us to find respite in my cabin. I could have my maid make us some chocolate and together we can wait to weigh anchor."
"Why—why—that would be lovely," Aurora said, but Mrs. Lindstrom had already left, her pointed black parasol leading the way like the prow of a ship.
Mrs. Lindstrom's cabin between decks was quite grand. The chests of drawers were made of mahogany and there was the slightest bit of bronze-doré decorating the corners, but still the furniture was made for a ship. The nobs and handles were recessed into the wood so that should one lose one's balance during the course of the trip there would be no sharp protrusions from the bureaux. A tiny blue Axminster carpet brightened the cabin considerably and with the portholes open, a nice breeze flowed in from the Thames. Mrs. Lindstrom's maid, upon their arrival, busied herself putting refreshments on the teapoy, which was also designed for a ship, for it sported a small brass railing around its top.
"So, Miss Dayne," Mrs. Lindstrom began once their chocolate was served, "does your cabin meet your expectations?"
"Yes, yes, my cabin is lovely." Aurora didn't mention that even her small, rather plain cabin was still far larger and more elegant than her garret room back at the Home. She took a sip of her chocolate and added, "I'm sure the fare is heavenly on this grand vessel. I can hardly believe my new mistress was so generous as to book me on it."
"Yes, that's quite extraordinary, especially since the owner is traveling with us.
That makes the fare double. Less room, you know, and also, they take such greater pains."
"Do you know the owner?" Aurora asked.
Mrs. Lindstrom shook her head. Her silver sausage curls peeking out from the front of her calash bobbed like springs. "No, I only know that he is supremely wealthy—the Seabravery is only one of fifty ships that he owns. He also has an enormous sugar plantation on some island in the Caribbean. St. Kitts, I think or perhaps Nevis."
"He seems quite mysterious," Aurora commented while fiddling with the ribbons of her bonnet. She longed to take her bonnet off, but they surely would be sailing soon and she would have to return to the deck.
"I must say he is quite mysterious, quite the romantic figure, I hear. You see, my dear," Mrs. Lindstrom leaned forward as if she were about to tell a wicked piece of gossip, "another reason passage on the Seabravery is so dear is because this ship has never been plundered. Not by a pirate or privateer. Apparently there's something absolutely dastardly about this owner's reputation that has kept even the worst sort of ruffian from bothering it."
"Is that so?" Aurora asked in a hushed voice.
"Quite. I heard it from my son-in-law, and he knows everything. Absolutely everything. That's why he got me on this ship. He felt it would be the safest passage."
"Are you going home, then? Have you a house in St. George's?" Aurora anxiously fingered her locket. She was glad to change the subject. This trip had always seemed a bit too wonderful to be true, and she didn't want anything to spoil that impression. For some reason, the talk about the ship's owner made her vaguely uncomfortable.
"Yes! I've been gone six months, and though I love my grandchildren considerably, I cannot wait to see my friends. We've got quite a little group of ladies in town—oh, I wish you were not going on to Jamaica! Mrs. Ransom has a young daughter just about your age ... what are you, my dear? About nineteen?"
She hesitated. She always loathed that question. "Yes, nineteen," she said too hastily.
"That's superb. Julia Ransom is twenty now. You two would be the best of friends!"
Aurora was once more taken aback by Mrs. Lindstrom's forthrightness. The woman was quite casual in including her within her social circle. It was as if the woman forgot to whom she was speaking. Aurora had rarely had any contact with the upper classes, but every now and again a wealthy uncle or cousin would deposit his undesirable orphaned relatives at the Home. Those guardians of any consequence always made it pointedly clear that she and Mrs. Bluefield were not their equals. But not the remarkable Mrs. Lindstrom.
"More chocolate, Miss Dayne?" Mrs. Lindstrom waved her hand in the direction of the pot.
Excerpted from Till Dawn Tames the Night by Meagan McKinney. Copyright © 1991 Ruth Goodman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is, without a doubt, the best book I've ever read. I usually only read (in the romance department) Judith McNaught, or Jude Deveraux, but this one particular book I couldn't put down once I picked it up. Meagan Mckinney brings her characters to life beautifully. However, I only recommend her older books. I am not a fan of anything she has written recently, as the plots and characters have thinned to nothing.
My favorite pirate book of all time. Although it does have one hilarious scene in it, it's not really humorous. But if you want a pirate book that portrays pirates realistically and goes right to the edge of making the hero unlikable, this is it. His redemption is the most moving thing I've ever read.
Til Dawn Tames The Night is an awesome book. Her lightness; his darkness. The sexual tension is so thick, one could sink their teeth through it and taste its rawness. Vashon never had I heard the name, and now I will never forget the feeling as it rolls off the tongue. Thank you Meagan M. for such an enjoyable read. ?
I ordered a Meagan Mc Kinney book and got this book . Can you fix it?
Very good book.. I couldn't put it down. The characters become so real to you that you feel their pain and happiness.
This is was a very beautiful love story. I loved it and recommend it to anyone who loves to read romance.