Horizons East
By Andrea K. Stein

Horizons East

the Sequel to Fortune's Horizon

Family… can get you into or out of a lot of things

Adventuress Lillie Coulbourne-Roberts is desperate. Her husband Captain Jack Roberts is missing. Now a commander in the Turkish Navy, he has to meet with the sultan within the week.

When her stuffy brother-in-law, Miles, arrives, she dragoons him into service. On leave from military service in India, he gets claustrophobic at the thought of going undercover with his precocious three-year-old nephew and the boy’s nanny who loathes him.

 

Scroll down further to read an excerpt from Horizons East.


Copyright © 2016 by Andrea K. Stein

 

Excerpt: CHAPTER ONE

Wednesday, April 3, 1867
Isle of Rhodes

 

Lillie read the lines over and over, hoping she'd misunderstood the meaning. Jack was missing, taken from the harbor front on Crete. His first mate Fitz had scrawled the news across a short, folded piece of paper.

She stood at the arched entrance to her courtyard long after the sailor who'd delivered the message had gone, creasing the worn paper and staring out across Rhodes harbor.

Fitz had sailed Jack's Turkish war ship into the harbor and anchored her off the island to deliver the message. Each time she re-read the stark news, her terror turned more toward anger. She was going to find her husband, and God pity the persons responsible. There would be no mercy.

Lillie slammed shut the gate and moved inside her sunny flat overlooking the harbor. She crossed the room to her writing desk and shoved Aegean Sea charts and island maps onto the floor. Pulling paper, a nibbed pen, and inkwell toward her, she started a letter to her old mentor, the ruthless mercenary Weatherby. He'd promised he would always come when she needed him and by God, she needed him now.

***

Sunday, April 7, 1867
Isle of Rhodes

 

 Lillie knelt on the polished blue-and-white tile floor of her bed chamber and dragged her old sailing gear from a dark, carved wood chest in the corner. Weatherby was on the way, and she had to be ready to leave as soon as he arrived.

She'd saved her disguise of seamen's slops from her first adventure with Jack for sentimental reasons. Now she had a deadly serious purpose for using the clothes again. There was a light tap at the door, and she said, "Enter."

A young woman slipped inside, her eyes wide.

"Yes, Issy?" Lillie stopped rolling the worn clothes and turned to see tension in the eyes of her son Charley's nurse.

"There's a gentleman at the door. Says he has to see the captain. It's important." She spread out her hands, a frown on her face.

"Did he give his name?" The last thing she needed was a complication from some stranger. She would have to leave soon to meet Weatherby's steamer. She stood and crossed to the young woman.

"He's English, military bearing," Issy said, "very impatient." After a few moments she added, "And tall, every bit as tall as Captain Roberts."

"Damn." Lillie bounced to her feet and headed toward the front hallway, throwing Isabella an apologetic look. She tended to forget the nurse had been a teacher at an English missionary girls' school. Her cursing probably discomfited the young woman, but she had an ugly suspicion the stranger at the door was one of Jack's interfering brothers. Few men were as tall as Jack, but she could think of five. His aristocratic brothers never ceased trying to manipulate her husband's affairs. So far, though, none had shown up on Rhodes.

"Where is Charley?" She spoke softly to Issy who followed close behind.

"He's fine, Mrs. Roberts. I put him down for his afternoon nap."

She slipped through the door, closed it behind her with a warning to Issy to stay put, and strode toward the front parlor.

***

Lillie stalked through the arched doorway and stopped short. The tall stranger was down on one knee and at eye level with Charley. The four-year-old had somehow sneaked out of bed and was chattering at him about his father's disappearance. Drat.

"Mama," the boy squealed, and ran toward her outstretched arms. "This is Uncle Miles. He's Papa's brother. He's come to see us. Why don't I have a brother?" he ended on a pout. "I told him Papa's not here. We don't know where he is." At that, tears trickled down his cheeks, and Issy hurried in, scooped up the boy, and returned him to bed.

She gave Jack's brother a defiant look. When he stood and advanced toward her, she couldn't think of anything to say, since her son had revealed all in such a precipitous way.

"I'm Miles, one of Jack's brothers. We haven't met. I've been at station in India," he said, and took her hand. "I came at the behest of the Admiralty to try to dissuade him from his continued entanglement with the Turks." He gave a sheepish smile. "As if anyone could convince Jack to stop doing as he pleases."

"Since you know Jack won't listen, why did you come?" she asked.

"I haven't taken any extended leave for years, so the powers that be insisted I take some time to see my wayward brother. I've been traveling for weeks."

She raked her gaze across his deeply tanned face and noticed a scar slashing from the bottom left edge of his nose all the way to his ear. She swallowed hard at a pang of guilt and said, "I'm sorry. I've forgotten my manners." She moved some pillows to a bench and beckoned to Miles. "Come, rest."

A quick perusal of her brother-in-law left her with a good feeling. He was much less stiff and formal than Jack's other brothers, and he was dressed sensibly for travel in a hot climate: soft, loose trousers tucked into riding boots, a light muslin shirt, leather vest and a long linen scarf knotted at his neck.

"Sit," he ordered, and she sank into the cushions. "Please tell me what's happened to Jack. Where is he?" Miles asked. He settled onto the padded, whitewashed banquette, stretched out his long legs, and leaned back with a sigh.

Unlike the rest of Jack's family, he hadn't tried to deliver unsolicited advice. She actually might like this man. And Charley and Issy had to be protected while she and Weatherby searched for Jack. She decided to trust her brother-in-law. "I'm sorry, but I honestly do not know," she said. "I think the Greeks may have taken him."

"The Greeks? What interest would they have in Jack?" He jerked forward, his hands on his knees, and studied her face.

"He quashed the rebellion on Crete by stopping their blockade runners from supplying the rebel forces." Lillie stared down into her lap, fighting for control. Her head ached with the effort to stem another flow of useless tears. "That's where he was when he was taken," she said, and looked up into his eyes. Eyes the same icy blue as Jack's. In spite of her best efforts, one tear escaped and slid down her cheek.

Her brother-in-law snorted and laughed. "It takes a rogue like Jack to deal with rogues. Believe me, he's the toughest fighter I know. I'm sure he's fine." He sobered then and asked, "Who's helping you find my brother?"

"James Weatherby, a friend of my family, and my mentor."

"Your mentor?" Miles raised one brow in the same infernal way Jack always registered disbelief.

"Yes. He taught me to defend myself before I ran the Union blockade into Charleston on a mission for the Confederacy." At the puzzled look on his face, she raced on. "But that's a long story for another day. Right now, I require your assistance. We have to rescue Jack."

"Of course," he said. "We'll leave immediately. Do you have any clue as to where to commence the search?"

"No, no, no," she said. "Weatherby is all the help that is necessary." She gave him a pointed look. "I need you to stay here and protect Charley and Issy."

"Doesn't that poor young woman have a proper Christian name, like Isabella?"

"Of course," she sputtered. "Isabella. Isabella Edmonds."

"And this fellow, Weatherby. How good is he with a weapon?"

Lillie jammed her hands onto her hips and stared up at Miles. "Weatherby is a weapon."

***

What had he gotten himself into? Miles conceded that of course he had no choice but to ensure his nephew's safety. But to play nursemaid to the boy and his all too shapely nanny, Miss Edmonds? He shook his head and eyed Lillie's neatly packed sailor's bag leaning in the corner of the sun-drenched front entry of the flat. She'd left shortly before, pattering down the steep steps to Rhodes harbor to meet the mysterious Weatherby due in that morning on the steamer from Burgas.

All she'd explained about the man was that he'd served with her father in the Mexican American War and at present worked as a spy and mercenary for the highest bidder. He was coming from Burgas, where he'd been in the midst of scouting Black Sea ports for an unnamed employer.

Since Miles had committed to the task of protecting his nephew, he would have to assess the capabilities of the nanny.

Once they'd tucked in Charley for his afternoon nap and headed out into the courtyard, his normal facility at commanding troops failed him. He shifted from one foot to the other and gazed at the quiet, ginger-haired Isabella. She was seated in the shade of an overgrown, heavily scented rose bush.

He feared his warnings would terrify her, but there was something unexpected in her steady, unwavering demeanor. Maybe he'd misjudged her.

"From now on, Miss Edmonds," he finally said, "we trust no one. We can't let young Charles out of our sight. Whoever took my brother may think they can force his cooperation by snatching the boy."

She was quiet for a few seconds before saying, "After my parents died, I spent a year on my own in this city, until a kind family took me in."

When she pressed a hand against her chest, Miles sucked in a breath. The odd, Turkish-style layers of tunics over flowing trousers did little to hide her generous curves.

"I may not be the kind of lady you're used to," she said, "but I know how to survive."

Of all the replies he'd expected from her, this one left him puzzled and intrigued. "Right," he said, after a few seconds. "Let's plan a defense."

"Fine," she said, "but if we're going to be working together with Charley, you might as well call me by the name he uses - Issy. He's in enough of an upheaval. We shouldn't confuse him more." She turned up her chin and levied the full force of her clear, gray gaze on him.

He'd once been on a reconnaissance mission in the bush in India when the temblors from a minor earthquake shook the ground beneath his feet. The same feeling traveled through him now.

Miles tried to smile, but all he could manage was a grimace. "Of course. Issy it is. And please, call me Miles." When she blushed and avoided his stare, he added, "Don't worry. Jack and I were born into a powerful family, but we are so far down the line, we might as well be commoners. We both left home early. We're just a soldier and a sailor, nothing more."

She gave him a dazzling smile, complete with dimples, and he had to look away. He didn't want to get comfortable with the glow she brought to a room.

"Have you any suggestions about where we could hide with the boy?" he asked, struggling to ignore the way she made him feel.

"As a matter of fact, I do," she said, and her smile took on a teasing light. "I'll tell you on the way to the market."