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Spinster Abigail Carrick faces a frugal existence in dour Scotland—until her father's will reveals she has two unknown half-sisters. Free women of color, they will share her inheritance of a sugar plantation in the Caribbean. Against all advice, Abigail crosses the ocean to meet them.
Fellow passenger Euan Sinclair offers her welcome encouragement. As their friendship deepens, the young lawyer is torn between attraction to Abigail and his loathing of slavery. His principles also clash with his duty, for his legal mission is delicate and he dare not fail.
Fate throws the slave owner and the abolitionist together, on an island gripped by rumors of a slave revolt. When Euan meets Abigail's family, will her alluring sister Desiree steal him from her?
Refreshments arrived. Forgetting her manners, Abigail gulped down a whole tumbler of the fruit drink and held out her glass for more. A slight breeze came in through the open windows. Her head cleared and she took a good look at her sister.
“Why did he not tell us?” The bitter question was directed to Abigail.
Anger had replaced Desiree’s gasp of shock when Euan announced their father’s death. Despite the antagonism in her sister’s taut, implacable face, Abigail’s initial judgment was confirmed. She’s beautiful. Here was a glowing, golden version of the features she saw in the mirror every day. Her own Scottish pallor could never compete.
From his chair by the window, Euan coughed. “If Miss Rosalda could be sent for. This concerns her, too.”
Desiree ignored him. Her stare bored into Abigail. “He had no right to keep you secret. I deserved to know.”
“He never told me either.”
Why, Father, why? In her heart Abigail knew the answer. What man told his wife and child about his mistress? Nor had he told his mistress about his other family half the world away. His concubine had become his wife, her children were his children. Still he said nothing.
Bile rose in her throat, and she took great gulps of the sugary juice.
He deceived her, too.
“Miss Rosalda. She should be here.” Euan’s calm voice and his precise, lawyerly manner recalled her to sanity.
The irritation Abigail felt all morning slipped away. It was the heat, she decided. She gave him a smile of gratitude and felt rewarded when he smiled in return. He was on her side.
Desiree’s slippers made a slapping noise on the wooden floor as she went to the door. Abigail heard her musical voice issuing orders in some strange dialect peppered with familiar English words. Desiree returned and spoke again, in clear English. “Rosalda will come.”
She came, shepherded into the room by the same tall slave, who clucked encouragement in gentle tones.
Abigail froze, for Rosalda cradled a crude, homemade doll.
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