New Historical Romance from Heather King

The Missing Duke

By Heather King

When his father dies, Lord Adam Bateman refuses to succeed to the dukedom which rightly belongs to his missing elder brother. Whilst performing secret and sensitive missions for the Duke of Wellington, he continues his efforts to find his twin. The search has become Adam’s all-consuming passion, leaving no time for affairs of the heart.

Miss Lucy Mercier is also seeking answers. Her father, a tailor, had been used to make hot air balloons for various noble patrons, including Lord Adam’s sire. Believing the deceased Duke of Wardley had been involved in her papa’s failure to return from the Continent, she takes employment in Lord Adam’s household in order to discover the truth. Then she accompanies him on an important commission for the Allied Army, and finds herself having to guard against a growing attraction for a man she knows she can never have.

Are the two disappearances connected and will two heads prove better than one in the pursuit of answers? Will Adam and Lucy find true happiness together or will the past – and their different stations – rise to keep them apart?


Excerpt

Adam urged his hired roan to greater efforts. It was game enough, a little French blood horse of sleek lines and clean limbs, but somewhat one-paced. If only he had his Goliath under him! With a bloodline that traced back to the fleetest racehorse of a generation, Flying Childers, his black stallion would have eaten up the miles with his effortless stride. There was no sense in repining, however. Goliath was safe back in Berkshire and his owner must make the best of what was available.

By the time Gilbert Mercier’s message had reached him at a coffee-house in the Palais Royal, where he had been conducting a further meeting with Mrs. Perkins, the escaped balloon was already flying at speed across the roofs of Paris. Adam was therefore well in advance of the pursuers who had set out from Mousseaux. Nevertheless, the velocity of the globe was so great, due to the swirling gale, mere horsepower was insufficient to keep up with it and the balloon had soon stretched the distance between them.

The roan started to flag, so Adam drew rein for a while and allowed the animal time to recover. Negotiating the narrow streets choked with vehicles and pedestrians had been exhausting and time consuming. He turned on to one of the perimeter boulevards and on reaching an open stretch, the roan’s heaving flanks having lessened, he pushed on again. Above the trees, the balloon was still visible, although considerably smaller, its’ bright colours easily remarked against the angry black sky behind it. Without conscious thought, he pulled the horse up and stared at the receding object of his attention. Was the basket hanging nearer to the forest than it had been? Shaking up the bridle, he took a track into the wood and galloped as fast as he dared.

The balloon was definitely sinking in the sky. Catching glimpses of it now and then between the branches of the canopy – fortunately far thinner than it would have been, but for the war – he saw several flares of orange flame as the aeronaut worked to raise his vessel. It appeared to be having little effect; although now some miles distant, the globe looked to be shrinking. Buffeted by the storm, it swayed and tilted in an alarming fashion, tossing the flimsy wicker boat from side to side. With difficulty, Adam forced himself to remain calm. Panic would not serve either him or the man and woman in the basket. Lucy! He raised his eyes to the broiling heavens and sent up a silent prayer for her not to be harmed. She was everything he had ever dreamed of… although when the recognition of that had come to him, he could not conjecture. She was beautiful; she was intelligent, determined and brave. She had entered into that foolish masquerade with no thought for her safety, and then had allowed him to autocratically oblige her to accompany Madame Grancini and the silver to Paris. How dangerous a position he had put her in. How wrong could it have gone? Thank the Good Lord he had inadvertently provided her with a chaperone! Praise was also due to Captain Ratcliff for the measures he had taken.

Adam took a huge breath and swallowed a mouthful of rainwater. Even within the shelter of the trees, the drops were getting heavier and heavier; a steady veil of rain of the kind which soaked in minutes. The roan’s pink-red hide was turning a red-brown patterned with white foam. Water trickled from Adam’s hat and down the back of his neck. He could barely see for the stream of precipitation driving into his face and had, perforce, to trust to his horse’s instincts.

The roan proved sure-footed and they at last emerged from the relative darkness of the wood. The damp smells of peat moss and sodden earth lingered in his nostrils and he had to blink for a few moments in order to see properly. It took several seconds to find the balloon from this different perspective, and his heart plummeted to the base of his chest. The joyful red and yellow silk stripes had collapsed inwards and the craft was fast descending on the other side of the river.

Almost frantic now, he set spurs to his horse and charged along the road to find a bridge. To his relief, the aeronaut had managed to nurse his vessel to the other side of the Seine’s broad expanse, so at least they would not drown. A wry smile teased his cold lips. He would wring Lucy’s lovely neck for this start… and then kiss her into oblivion. Then, when she fully comprehended how many times he had died on this ride, he would pink both Gilbert and the balloonist on the end of his small-sword for allowing her into the machine in the first place. The time of waiting for her to trust him enough to confide in him was well and truly past.

Further ruminations were abruptly curtailed by the sight of the balloon jerking and leaping in violent parody of a mummer’s dance, before it dropped like the Prussian artillery which had cannonaded the distant palace of Saint-Cloud. Adam leaned forward over the roan’s neck and demanded another burst of effort. The little horse complied with a will and they clattered at full-pelt across a wide, many-arched wooden bridge. The balloon had come down in farmland to the north of the town and the sculptured, terraced gardens of the great château. Turning his back on this splendour without a second thought, Adam careered recklessly down the road bordering the river.

Dodging a cart laden with baskets of squawking poultry, and a peasant straddling a bare-backed nag reminiscent of Rosinante, Adam clapped heels to the roan’s sides and pressed on. The horse being too tired to jump a hedge, Adam was forced to waste precious minutes searching for a gate. By the time he reached the stricken craft in the corner of a field of barley, therefore, Lucy was already sitting on the inverted basket, one hand nursing her temple. The aeronaut was on his hands and knees, attempting to gather up the acres of sodden silk.

“Lucy! I mean, Mademoiselle, are you harmed?”

Her head shot up; her eyes were wide with shock. “Sir—? Lord Adam! How do you come to be—? You know who I am?”

He dismounted and ran to her side, drawing her up to face him. “Foolish girl, of course I know who you are.” Anxiously, he studied her. “Are you harmed?”

“Nothing of moment, my lord,” she answered. She lifted her hand towards her head. “’Tis no more than a graze, I am sure, though I will admit the place is tender. I will not consider it; I am fortunate to have escaped greater injury.”

“Indeed you are!” he said gruffly, to hide his emotion. “I have it in mind to throttle you for indulging in such sport. Whatever possessed you? And you, sir!” he called to the other man. “I should call you out for permitting her to join you in such a perilous enterprise.”

“It was an accident, my lord,” she protested, clutching the sleeve of his waterlogged coat. He could not tell whether she intended to hold him back or support herself.

The balloonist turned around… and Adam died yet another death.



About the author

A confessed romantic and bookworm, Heather King has always made up stories. Discovering Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels began a lifelong love of the era, although she enjoys well-written books from other times too. Heather’s stories are traditional romps – light-hearted and witty, with bags of emotion. You walk with her characters through the world they inhabit. She also writes Paranormal Shape Shifter romance.

Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she wrote Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories which includes a novella set during the English Civil War.

When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than taking long walks and curling up with a good book.


 


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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

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Toad poked his head around the door, wishing he were anywhere else, hoping not to be seen by anyone who might call him over to talk. Piero was already halfway across the room on his mission: distracting the comtesse so Toad could release the cats without being seen.

Piero made a path through the assembly with a touch to his left, a compliment to his right, a laughing remark over his shoulder. Toad breached the doors, Bey behind him on one side, Zajac on the other, the better to mask the wriggling burlap sack. The half-dozen cats were starting to move again in the bag, after he had dosed them with laudanum to bring them to the comtesse’s hotel particulier. Soon enough, they would start yowling if he didn’t release them.

To read the rest of Chapter Nineteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

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David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen

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Sally begged off the afternoon treasure hunt the fourth day of an interminable house party, claiming she had letters to write. Which was not untrue. Currently, she was sitting at the table under the window in the bedchamber she had been assigned, her little travelling desk open and a fresh sheet of paper headed with her name and direction and the date, followed by the familiar salutation:

Dear David,

Dear David, what?

To read the rest of Chapter Eighteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen

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“As often as you boast about your reception at the French Court, Abersham,” Zajac said, “I’d think you would be more amenable to overtures from the ladies.”

Toad kept his eyes on his textbook. They were all supposed to be studying. That was the point of gathering thrice weekly, away from the clubs where they spent many of their evenings. But as they had become closer friends, it became more and more difficult to marshal the whole group’s dubious concentration.

And here was yet another attempt to corrupt him, probably because he was the only one who wished they would all be quiet.

To read the rest of Chapter Seventeen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

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Sally was in her favourite part of her favourite room in the house, the conservatory, a grand space that opened out on to the terrace that led to the lawn. Her little corner had been marooned by the extensions and alterations planned by past duchesses, and the planting schemes of past gardeners. She and Toad had discovered it when he was seven and she six, wandering away from their mamas and nursemaids, who were admiring Jonny when he was the brand-new Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Haverford duchy, in the main part of the conservatory.

To read the rest of Chapter Sixteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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New Historical Fiction from Jude Knight

A Raging Madness

By Jude Knight

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Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.


Excerpt

17973986_803367466479488_289686069_n17976696_803367609812807_756542353_oAlex poured the coffee, his rinsed shaving mug doing service for Jonno’s portion. Ella sat and sipped while Jonno cleared the table and pushed the serving trolley out of the way. At Alex’s gesture, he sat on the stool again.

“Now, Lady Melville. What trouble are you in, and how can we help?” And should he believe a word she said? She did not act like a lunatic, apart from appearing half-naked in his room in the middle of the night. Apart from the panicked response to her brother-in-law.

That she had taken opium in some form was beyond a doubt. The contracted pupils, the loss of appetite, the shaky hand, the restless shifting in her seat, all spoke to that. Thanks to his injury, Alex had far too close and personal an experience of the symptoms to mistake them. The bruises on her jaw hinted that the drug taking might not have been voluntary, but perhaps her keepers needed to drug her to keep her calm.

Sane or not, Alex hoped he would not need to hand her back to Braxton. Her fear might be irrational, but when she had stood at bay, begging for his help, he had been thrown back ten years. Not that she begged him then. But he left camp on a short trip for supplies, and returned to find Ella married and much changed, her fire banked; her joy extinguished. That time, he had ignored her plight, hardened his heart and left her to the fate she had engineered. And had suffered with her as the consequences quenched her vitality and sucked away the last of her childhood. Suffered, and been powerless to help.

“I have been drugged,” Ella said baldly. “Twice a day. For weeks now. They won’t tell me why. If I refuse, they force me.”

“‘They’ being Braxton and his wife?” Alex prompted.

“And Constance’s dresser.”

“Go on.” He was careful to show no disbelief, no surprise.

“I have been kept in my room. They locked the door. They took all my clothes, my shoes. I saw you out the window and so I came. Will you help me, Alex?”

“I can take you to the rector.” Even as he said it he remembered the plump little man greasing at Braxton’s elbow. Ella would find no help there.

“No!” Her rejection was instant and panicked. “He will give me back and they will send me to that place. No, Alex. You do not know what they plan for me.” She was weeping. Alex had seen her calm under cannon fire, dry-eyed at her father’s funeral, efficient and unemotional in the midst of the carnage of a hospital tent after a battle. He had never seen her weep.

He captured her hands, and kept his voice low and soothing. “I do not, Ella. Tell me.”



About the author

10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.



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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

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Dear Toad,

Today’s letter must perforce be short, for we were delayed at a dress fitting. Now that we are home, Mama has sent for me to come to meet my callers, which I will not do until I have penned a quick note to my dearest friend.

Sally was tempted to underline the last three words, since her father would read this letter before Toad ever saw it. But she would not give Toad the satisfaction. She had overheard her parents and cousins talking about his exploits at different times—and in very different tones—though they all hushed the moment they knew she was listening. She had heard frustratingly little, but it seemed he had lost no time in seeking his own pleasures among the artists and dancers of Paris.

To read the rest of Chapter Fifteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

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When it chimed at five, Toad looked up at the clock from the head of his table for thirty, chewing on the end of his pen. His Accountancy textbook and stacks of reference books and papers covered four place settings on both sides of the host’s chair: geography and history, writing, accountancy, international trade regulations, and by his mother’s request direct to the administration, diplomacy. A table-top globe took up the space usually occupied by one of his mother’s three candelabra.

He had but one more week to study before his exams. He had hoped to meet his friends later this evening, his first night out in days, but until he mastered double-entry bookkeeping, he would not be able to enjoy the opera, the view of the opera dancers, or the rest of the evening. He would have had to make an early night of it anyway, since Bey would want to get home to his new mistress, and Toad needed to get through six more chapters before the morning.

He tugged at the hair now standing on end, his back straightening at the sound of footsteps coming up the building’s endless flights of stairs, then a knock. He made no move. Blakeley would take care of it.

Moments later, the butler cleared his throat at the dining room door, but before he could get a word out, “Clear the way, Blakeley. He should know better than to send regrets on a night like this.”

To read the rest of Chapter Fourteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

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“Ready?” Papa said, his gloved hand patting hers where it rested in the crook of his elbow.

Sally smiled up at him. “Ready, Papa.”

She had been furious with him for weeks, but tonight, the last of her resentment had melted away as she looked into his anxious eyes. Had he grown years older in a scant two months? And surely he was thinner than before the– before everything changed?

To read the rest of Chapter Thirteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

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Toad’s hand shook as he fastened a new steel nib to the pen, preparing to write the first letter to Sal that he knew would make it to her, For Haverford had relented! Toad had sent half a dozen before she sent word, but four had been returned at Haverford’s direction, his bold hand crossing the front of the missive in block letters: Return to Sender. There had been no response at all to the other two.

For the first time in months, this afternoon, he had received a letter from Sally in her own hand. Seeing her copperplate calligraphy on the envelope had brought tears to his eyes. The short note had been stilted, not referencing his letters, not even utilizing their code, but rather, the most banal and uninteresting small talk he had ever read. Just the tone of the thing was evidence Haverford was reading every word. How Toad was to write a similarly insipid note without gagging at the deception, he did not know. How could he write a letter to his Sally and not bare his soul to her?

To read the rest of Chapter Twelve, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

Save