In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything...and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.
From exotic sandstone palaces...
Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.
To the marble halls of London...
In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.
Destiny follows wherever you run.
A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.
Julian first noticed her because she looked so bored. Waiting for the Commissioner's arrival had put him on edge. He stood at the top of the room, half attending to the feverish chatter around him, his eyes fixed on the door. Rumors in the bazaar daily grew darker, and it was clear to him now that if Calcutta would not act, the local government must. Tonight he meant to exact a promise on that account.
He became aware of the woman gradually. It was her stillness that drew his attention. She was leaning against a wall, not ten feet away. Though several people surrounded her, sipping negligently at their wine and laughing, she seemed somehow apart. Tired of it all. Her eyes, which had been resting vacantly on the space over his shoulder, focused on him. They were a penetrating blue, and gave Julian a start. He saw that she was not bored at all, but unhappy.
She looked away.
He spotted her next in the green room, after the Commissioner slipped out of his grasp. "After dinner," the man mumbled, "if you truly insist on mixing business with pleasure, I would be most, most honored to speak with you." When Julian wheeled away in abrupt, frustrated dismissal, he discovered her behind him, the wineglass halfway to her lips. Again their eyes met, and she lowered the glass.
"Sir," she said evenly, bobbing a shallow curtsy. Something in her tone indicated she'd overheard the tail end of his argument with Fraser. He opened his mouth to respond -- after all, the lady had seemed to be waiting for him -- but she had already retreated in a swish of cornflower silk, and he was not in the mood for a chase.
He began to wonder about the coincidence when she drifted after him into the garden. Was she following him? In London he might have felt some faint, predatory stirring of interest -- he enjoyed women, particularly those who spared him the trouble of pursuit -- but he had a policy of avoiding memsahibs. Their husbands were rarely understanding, and they themselves tended to be so bored by life on a British station that passing love affairs quickly inflated to their entire reason for being. There was also an absurd set of ideas circulating about him in Anglo-Indian circles, variations on the theme of exotic Eastern eroticism, and he'd long since grown weary of it.
But she did not, in fact, seem to know he was there. She paused at the edge of the lawn, one hand coming to her throat, and seemed content to stand there, an abstracted look on her face. A breeze came over the grass, and her fingers loosened, letting the shawl flutter around her shoulders. Fleetingly, her pale lips curved in a smile.
Again, he was struck by the impression that she stood at a great remove from the scene around her. Curious. He studied her more closely, finding nothing of special note. Her hair was an unremarkable color, a curling, sun-faded dun that, in conjunction with her pale skin, made it seem as though all the energy of her being were focused in the brilliance of her deep blue eyes. A very odd sort of beauty, if a beauty at all. He wondered if she had recently been ill.
The thought made him impatient with himself. She was young, no more than twenty-two or -three years, with smooth white skin that bespoke a typical memsahib's routine. What was there to wonder about her? She would spend her days closeted in a bungalow, reading or at needlepoint. When the monotony began to wear, she would take heart in her zealous belief that the English way of life was the only one of merit in the world.
She muttered something...