When a pirate and voodoo priestess must lift a deadly curse on those they love, do they dare let a relationship blossom amid danger? River Road is the gothically satisfying end to this fan-favorite series!
Charles Moore relishes his dangerous life as the pirate Hatchet, since manning a clipper ship keeps his mind off the role he played in the brutal Civil War. But now an ancient curse has killed two of his loves, and he can’t ignore the whispers that New Orleans’s Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau herself, has hexed his family.
Creole widow Hope Leblonc bristles under the city’s Black Codes that have stripped her of so many freedoms and forced her practice of voodoo underground. When Hatchet treats her like the respectable woman she is, she offers him a deal: she’ll lift the curse if he’ll steal back a family relic she needs to become a mambo in her religion.
But they’re both holding secrets that endanger their lives. When ghosts from the past exact revenge for the skeletons in the Moore family closet, they reveal a connection between Hope and Hatchet that makes the curse more powerful than ever. Will they discover that love is worth the risk in time to survive the coming darkness?
“What nonsense do you speak of?” his father asked with a lift of his brow. “Charles is cursed? By whom?”
“Something about a voodoo queen,” Maribeth replied with a shrug. “I should like to meet her. Do you know her?”
“Certainly not,” his father said with a sniff. “Marie Laveau hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. She might be dead for all I know. Do not speak of her or this voodoo nonsense again unless you’re keen on spending the night in a dank jail cell.” His gaze met Hatchet’s. “That’s what happens these days to those who practice the dark arts.”
“Well, what’re we going to do with this baggage?” Victor asked, scowling. “Can’t very well send her back to England unattended.”
Father set her back on her feet. “She’s more than welcome to join us. Charles, your mother will return to the plantation after a short stay in the city. You and Maribeth should accompany her. Harmon Grove offers many amusements for a curious young lady.”
Hatchet could not commit to anything until he found a quiet moment to mull over the situation. Dammit! Maribeth’s presence was problematic, robbing him of hours that would be better served in pursuit of information on the curse.
“Let me think on it after we settle in. The girl is young and fragile, making her vulnerable to disease,” he said with a pointed look in her direction. “I don’t want her too close to Mother.”
His little charge growled. “I’m not fragile.”
Father waved his hand. “No worries on that front. Lucetta is already back on her feet and a woman about town. Been at least a week since she recovered. Only last evening, she prayed for your early arrival so we might celebrate your birthday. She’ll be delighted when I share the news.”
“Is that so?” Hatchet asked with a long drawl. “Your letter left no doubt as to her condition. ‘Mother lies on her deathbed and begs for your return.’ Those were your exact words.”
Brushing away an imaginary speck on his jacket, his father avoided his gaze. “Yes, a remarkable recovery. Well, I must be off. I’ll send the carriages around before noon. Please, do not dally. Your mother will be intolerable company until you arrive. Perhaps I shall keep your early arrival a secret.”
“Speaking of secrets,” Hatchet said, walking with his father to the gangplank, away from prying little ears. “What business do you have on The Angelica? The captain and crew are untrustworthy, the lot of them. Best not to be seen dealing with them.”
Father folded his arms and puffed out his chest. “You’re advising me? I’m rather more than seven, my dear boy. Did you fail to notice the early-morning hour of my visit or my black attire? The Moore-Lloyd Shipping Co. is the most successful shipping venture this side of the Gulf. Believe me when I say I know precisely what I’m doing. But I thank you for your concern.”
A few moments later, Father entered his carriage, and Hatchet let out a sigh as the horses clomped away.
“Yes, Father, I noticed both the early hour and your fine clothing, along with the company crest on your carriage.”
Little had changed in his absence. Mother still manipulated the people who loved her by any means available, and Father knew what was best for them all. Well, with his mother in good health, at least he would have plenty of time to investigate the rumors of the blasted curse. His Nicolette and Emma were dead, as well as the spouses of his siblings. With four deaths among them, Hatchet could no longer blame coincidence. He must rid his family of the hex. And then he would get the bloody hell out of New Orleans, again.
As he turned to attend his duties, another carriage rolled to a stop in front of The Angelica. The driver hopped to the ground and assisted a woman out. Unlike Isaac, this woman did nothing to disguise her appearance as she boldly boarded the pirate ship.
Even from a distance, Hatchet discerned her beauty: a rich, bronze skin tone and lustrous black hair. New Orleans had many attractive women, but the best among them were the Creoles, forbidden as wives but coveted as lovers. His loins stirred as his gaze roved over her full bosom, to her cinched waist and the gentle swell of her behind.
“I’ve sent Maribeth to break her fast with Mercy,” Victor said, leaning his hip against the rail. “We’ve a lot to accomplish before noon.”
His gaze followed Hatchet’s to the forecastle deck of The Angelica, and he whistled. “Captain Corbin doesn’t waste time. You should seek out female company while in town. Tomorrow is your birthday, after all. We buried Emma nearly six months ago. You must move on at some point, and a brothel poses no risk. You will not fall in love with a lady of the night.”
Lie with another woman? No, he could not. But as he watched an argument unfold between Captain Corbin and the exotic minx, he couldn’t deny her allure.
“Maybe,” Hatchet amended as the black-haired beauty slapped the captain then stomped down the gangplank. “I’ve never sought one night of pleasure in the arms of a comely wench. Perhaps I must accept that as my fate, because falling in love three times in one lifetime seems against all odds.”
At least he had that going for him.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
R.C. Matthews lives in Michigan where she enjoys the four seasons and indulging her imagination while writing romances. Find R.C. Matthews at http://www.rcmatthews.com/, on Facebook, and on Twitter @RCMatthews123.