Sold as a slave in Romania for seven pounds and three solidi, the Gypsy girl, Sharai, escapes a slave ship infected with the plague. As an adult, she performs her silky, exotic dances to earn enough to sustain herself and the toddling orphan girl she adopted. She yearns for relief from the grinding poverty, and a secure home. Having been violated by a nobleman posing as her hero, she wants naught of any other man of title, and also scorns the dubious Gypsy king who pursues her. In a tent at the bustling autumn fair in Winchester, she meets the dashing Lord Tabor, and her resolve to avoid all noblemen softens.
Though possessed of a stately castle with prosperous lands, the English knight,Tabor, teeters on the brink of losing all his holdings. A powerful noble has attacked Tabor’s castle, determined to seize his lands. Tabor seeks revenge for his older brother’s murder, but England’s throne is held by an infant king and his feuding uncles. The realm is paralyzed with uncertainty and lawlessness, and the crown has abandoned him.
Then a stroke of good fortune helps Tabor, a sizeable dowry that can save his holdings. He need only wed an earl’s daughter, the regal Lady Emilyne. But he has already fallen in love with Sharai, and they are locked in a powerful dance of desire. His refusal to abandon Sharai plunges them into life-and-death struggles–and a painful choice between duty and love.
Marseilles, France, 1426
The sound of strangers’ voices woke Sharai. Ropes binding her feet, she stumbled upright and stood on tiptoe, peering outside the forecastle at the bow of the slave ship.
Dawn. Seagulls called, circling the limp sail that flapped around the main mast. Below that, a blackbird pecked at the body of the slave, Zameel, draped over a coil of ropes, his forehead white with maggots. His neck bulged, black with grotesque knots, more proof that this was no nightmare, that she was, in fact, an unwilling passenger on a ship of slaves and death.
Sharai’s mother stirred, her eyelids red and swollen. “Ves’ tacha,” she rasped in Romani. My beloved. “What is it, my little Faerie?”
“Shh.” Sharai put her fingers gently to her mother’s lips.
“. . . and touch nothing!” A man’s voice commanded from outside the ship on the port side. Heavy footsteps sounded as men jumped on board. “If anyone still lives, kill them.”
Fresh terror seized her chest. All the crew and slaves had died, all but Sharai, her mother, and the captain, who lay still at her feet. He had been delirious these last few days, but still able to navigate to Marseilles where he had planned to sell forty healthy slaves.
Sharai checked the captain but he didn’t stir, nor did he breathe. He must have died during the night. She pulled his dagger from a sheath at his side. Its blade had been recently sharpened and its ivory handle had been delicately carved with a bird in flight. She gripped it tightly.
Footsteps sounded on deck and she knelt by her mother. “Feign dead,” Sharai whispered. Not a hard task, for they were close to it. The bug-ridden biscuits had run out days ago, and they had been living on ale, wine, and rancid meat.
“Mother of God,” exclaimed a man. “Slaves. Gypsy slaves, dozens of them.”
“There’s more below deck,” said another. “What stench!” He gagged and retched, and the dull splashing of vomit followed.
Sharai’s throat constricted from the sound and a cockroach crawled up her neck, but she willed herself to remain still.
“See the lumps. Plague!”
“Get off the ship! Burn it!”
Liquid splattered on the deck, followed by a whooshing sound. The rope ladder creaked and the men’s voices diminished.
Sharai risked checking. “They have gone.” Using the captain’s fine dagger she severed the ropes that bound her and her mother’s feet. “The shoreline is but a hundred yards away. We must swim to safety.”
“Curse Murat,” her mother said of Sharai’s uncle, who had betrayed them. “I cannot swim, Faerie,” she said. “I have no strength. Go without me.”
“Never!” She lifted her mother’s chin. “I will help you.”
“You are but eight summers. I will drown you. Go!”
Sharai half-carried, half-dragged her mother down the ladder from the forecastle to the main deck. She grabbed a small wine barrel and dumped it, and the musty odor of tainted wine filled the air. “I cannot leave you here,” she told her mother, and handed her the empty barrel. “Hold onto this and you will stay afloat.”
Wind whipped their faces with the stench of burning flesh and the heat of hell. Rushing past the flames, they climbed over the railing. Sharai slashed the last remnant of rope from her ankles and dove into the water, imploring the good spirits for safety.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet Lane writes best-selling historical romance novels set in fifteenth century England during the so-called “Gypsy Honeymoon” decades. She graduated with honors from the University of Colorado, completing their Creative Writing program.
Her debut novel, Tabor’s Trinket, is an Amazon Bestselling novel and has received several awards. Emerald Silk, part two in the Coin Forest series, was reviewed by the Historical Novels Review, which noted that it “goes beyond simple romantic suspense by including serious issues such as racism, homophobia, and clerical greed. However, the love story and the quest for the stolen chalice take center stage throughout.” A Rocky Mountain News review stated, “This fast-moving, smoothly constructed historical novel (features) well-drawn characters and … strong sense of time and place.” #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Lara Adrian called it “..an enchanting medieval romance filled with passion, intrigue and vividly drawn characters that leap off the page. I loved this novel!”
Janet was a featured author in RMFW Press’s Tales from Mistwillow anthology, and co-chaired the editorial board for that press’s anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for the Colorado Book Award.
Janet lives with her husband in Colorado, surrounded by a forest of conifers, herds of deer, an occasional black bear and a snorting Chihuahua. She welcomes your comments and feedback via her blog at http://janetlane.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @janetlaneauthor.
For more information please visit Janet Lane’s Website.