Authors: Christine Dorsey
Tags: #romance, #love, #christmas, #sensual, #charleston, #miracles
Sea of Christmas
First published by ZEBRA BOOKS, 1993
Copyright 1993 and 2012 by Christine Dorsey
Digitally published by Christine Dorsey at
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December 22, 1896
Charleston, South Carolina
The muffled words coupled with a sharp prod
to his ribs jerked Thomas Blackstone from the sleep he’d drifted
into while working at his desk. He squinted into the darkness.
“It’s not Wilson.” And again something jabbed
hard into his side as Thomas tried to swivel about. “I’ve a loaded
gun and won’t hesitate to use it.”
“What the hell...?” Hands flattened on the
polished wood Thomas pushed to his feet, stopping only when he
heard the unmistakable click of a revolver being cocked. With
forced calm he sank back into the cushioned leather chair. “Who are
you? What do you want? And where the hell is Wilson?”
“For a man two minutes from eternity you ask
a lot of questions. Now put your hands behind your back.”
“What for?” Thomas concentrated on the voice,
trying to place it. Wondering, too, if he could knock the gun away
before it blew a hole the size of South Carolina in him.
“What for?” The voice rose in aggravation.
“So I can tie your hands, of course.”
“If I’m headed for eternity, I’d just as soon
do it with my hands free.”
“You only take the journey if you don’t do as
I say. Now lean forward.”
Thomas hesitated only a moment before
complying, crossing his arms at the wrist behind him. Whoever was
holding the gun to his back sounded desperate and more than a
little edgy. With the gun cocked, it would be so easy to gently
nudge the trigger. “What’s this all about?” Thomas was used to
knowing what was what. Identify the problem and find a solution. A
philosophy he lived by.
“Certainly with your family history you
should recognize what I’m doing.” The barrel was held firmly
against his ribs as a cord circled his wrists. “I, Mister
Blackstone, am kidnapping you.”
“Kidnapping!” Thomas twisted his hands but
they were already tied firmly. “You’ll never get away with this,
you know. I have a great deal of influence in Charleston
“I know who you are. I know all about
“Then you’re aware that you’re in big trouble
when I get loose.” Thomas realized how stupid his words were even
before he heard his captor’s throaty laugh. What could be a better
motive to pull the trigger than the fear of unrelenting revenge.
Thomas decided to soften his approach.
“Listen, Mister... What did you say your name
“I didn’t. Stand up.”
“I’m sure we can work something out. If it’s
money you want...” Thomas pushed to his feet when the gun poked
into his spine.
The tone effectively halted Thomas’s attempts
to negotiate. He used his thigh to feel his way around his desk.
The room was dark; Wilson had already shut the drapes on the cool
Charleston night. And someone, his kidnapper, he assumed, had
turned off the gaslights. But his eyes were beginning to adjust to
the darkness. Now if he could only...
“Don’t think about trying anything. I’ve only
to squeeze ever so slightly.”
His captor left the consequences unspoken,
but Thomas could fill in the obvious. He took a deep breath,
frowning when he caught a whiff of something citrusy. It reminded
him of the oranges his mother used to decorate Royal Oak’s parlor
at Christmas. The wrinkle between his dark brows deepened. It was
two days before Christmas, probably the reason he thought of it. Or
maybe it was the threat of death that made one remember such
things... regrets and broken promises.
Like the letter he had Wilson post last week
to his parents. For the second year in a row he wasn’t returning to
the family plantation for Christmas. Duty called. The duties of
Merry and Andrew will be at Royal Oak with
all the children. They were so disappointed when you couldn’t be
home last year. We all were,
his mother wrote to him last
Can’t you please fit a trip home into your schedule this
Last December he was in London arranging a
very lucrative sale of phosphates. He didn’t like it that he
couldn’t be with the family, but someone had to remember how
important it was to rebuild the family fortune.
And this year...? Work had piled up. Which
was why he was at his desk late tonight. Why he was currently being
held at gunpoint.
A none-too-gentle nudge directed Thomas to
stand aside. A hand whipped around and opened the door to the
anteroom used by Wilson. The small office was brightly lit, but
empty. “What did you do to my secretary?”
“I sent him home.”
There was just a touch of humor in the voice
and Thomas started to twist around, stopping only when the gun
gouged deeper into his side. “Wilson wouldn’t just leave.” Wilson
was loyal to the marrow. Even if it was almost Christmas. Thomas
paid him to be.
“Well, he did,” the voice assured. “Now out
the door. Not that one.” Annoyance deepened the intruder’s tone as
Thomas headed for the door that fronted on Tradd Street. Even from
inside Thomas could hear holiday revelers moving about on the newly
built concrete sidewalk. “The back door,” came the order and Thomas
turned down the narrow hallway that ran the length of the
The hand shot around him again and the door
opened onto the dark, deserted alley. “Where are we going?” Thomas
questioned, not surprised when he received no answer. The night was
cool, but not too uncomfortable even in his shirtsleeves, though
there was a brisk wind off the bay. The weather was one thing
Thomas liked about Charleston. Soft winters, hot summers. With a
hurricane or earthquake thrown in to shake off complacency.
Maybe he didn’t spend as much time at Royal
Oak as he should, but unlike most others who’d made their fortunes
in phosphates, Thomas didn’t follow the exodus to Atlanta or
Nashville. He stayed in Charleston. Where his family had lived for
generations. It was not as if he deserted his loved ones.
Annoyed with the maudlin turn of his
thoughts, Thomas concentrated on trying to figure out who was
holding a gun on him. The voice, though muffled, didn’t sound
familiar. And money didn’t seem to be the motive, at least not the
easy money the man could have taken from the safe in his
Of course, there was always the chance that
one of his enemies had hired someone to kill him. Thomas began
mentally listing the people who might like to see him out of the
way, stopping when the number exceeded the fingers on one hand.
Hell, anyone would step on some toes while building an empire.
Besides, most of his enemies knew how to play the game... and it
wasn’t by brandishing loaded guns.
They headed west behind Tradd Street toward
the Ashley River. The moon hung low in the sky, only occasionally
peeking through a blanket of clouds. But it offered enough light so
that neither Thomas nor his captor tripped over the piles of trash
that fouled the alley, giving off an unpleasant stench.
“You realize, I won’t be able to hand over
any money this far from my office.” After eliminating most of his
enemies from suspicion, Thomas concluded that the kidnapper’s
motive must be lining his pockets. But his reply contradicted that
theory. In fact it sent his mind racing in another direction.
“I’m not interested in your money, Thomas
He’d heard those words before... and
recently. Of course they were insincere then. When push came to
shove she was more than willing to settle for cold cash. “Did
Louise put you up to this?” Thomas turned, catching a glimpse of
his captor, short and bundled beyond recognition. The man moved
quickly, jumping behind him and slamming the gun into his back.
“Do that again, and I’ll shoot you. I swear I
will.” Margaret Lewis held her breath, hoping she was convincing
enough to keep him facing forward and moving. Apparently she was
for he started down the alley, continuing to ask questions about
someone named Louise. So there was another woman who wouldn’t mind
seeing Thomas Blackstone strung up by his heels. That didn’t
surprise Margaret, though she imagined Louise had a different
“Did Louise send you? Because if she did,
you’ll never see the money she promised. Or maybe she plans to pay
you with her favors. I wouldn’t trust her there either.”
“I don’t know any Louise,” Margaret said,
hoping to put an end to his relentless questions. She didn’t want
to hear about Thomas Blackstone’s love life. They were nearing the
river, and she was worried about keeping control of him while they
boarded the small boat she’d left there.