Sunday, August 23, 2009


Just to whet your appetites, here's the first chapter of MaryLu Tyndall's exciting novel The Blue Enchantress.

Chapter 1

St. Kitts, September 1718

“Gentlemen, what will ye offer for this rare treasure of a lady?” The

words crashed over Hope Westcott like bilge water. “Why, she’ll

make any of ye a fine wife, a cook, a housemaid”—the man gave a

lascivious chuckle—“whate’er ye desire.”

“How ’bout someone to warm me bed at night,” one man bellowed,

and a cacophony of chortles gurgled through the air.

Hope slammed her eyes shut against the mob of men who pressed

on three sides of the tall wooden platform, shoving one another to get a

better peek at her. Something crawled over her foot, and she pried her

eyes open, keeping her face lowered. A black spider skittered away. Red

scrapes and bruises marred her bare feet. When had she lost her satin

shoes—the gold braided ones she’d worn to impress Lord Falkland? She

couldn’t recall.

“What d’ye say? How much for this fine young lady?” The man

grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back. Pain, like a dozen

claws, pierced her skull. “She’s a handsome one, to be sure. And these

golden locks.” He attempted to slide his fingers through her matted

strands, but before becoming hopelessly entangled in them, he jerked

his hand free, wrenching out a clump of her hair. Hope winced. “Have

ye seen the likes of them?”

Ribald whistles and groans of agreement spewed over her.

“Two shillings,” one man yelled.

Hope dared to glance across the throng amassing before the auction

block. A wild sea of lustful eyes sprayed over her. A band of men dressed

in garments stained with dirt and sweat bunched toward the front,

yelling out bids. Behind them, other men in velvet waistcoats leaned

their heads together, no doubt to discuss the value of this recent offering,

while studying her as if she were a breeding mare. Slaves knelt in the

dirt along the outskirts of the mob, waiting for their masters. Beyond

them, a row of wooden buildings stretched in either direction. Brazen

women emerged from a tavern and draped themselves over the railings,

watching Hope’s predicament with interest. On the street, ladies in

modish gowns averted their eyes as they tugged the men on their arms

from the sordid scene.

Hope lowered her head. This can’t be happening. I’m dreaming. I am

still on the ship. Just a nightmare. Only a nightmare. Humiliation swept

over her with an ever-rising dread as the reality of her situation blasted

its way through her mind.

She swallowed hard and tried to drown out the grunts and salacious

insults tossed her way by the bartering rabble. Perhaps if she couldn’t

hear them, if she couldn’t see them, they would disappear and she would

wake up back home, safe in Charles Towne, safe in her bedchamber, safe

with her sisters, just like she was before she’d put her trust in a man who

betrayed her.

“Egad, man. Two shillings, is it? For this beauty?” The auctioneer

spit off to the side. The yellowish glob landed on Hope’s skirt. Her heart

felt as though it had liquefied into an equally offensive blob and oozed

down beside it.

How did I get here? In her terror, she could not remember. She raised

her gaze to the auctioneer. Cold eyes, hard like marbles, met hers, and a

sinister grin twisted his lips. He adjusted his tricorn to further shade his

chubby face from the burning sun.

“She looks too feeble for any real work,” another man yelled.

The sounds of the crowd dimmed. The men’s fists forged into the

air as if pushing through mud. Garbled laughter drained from their

yellow-toothed mouths like molasses. Hope’s heart beat slower, and she

wished for death.

The gentle lap of waves caressed her ears, their peaceful cadence

drawing her away. Tearing her gaze from the nightmarish spectacle, she

glanced over her shoulder, past the muscled henchmen who’d escorted

her here. Two docks jutted out into a small bay brimming with sparkling

turquoise water where several ships rocked back and forth as if shaking their heads at her in pity.

Salt and papaya and sun combined in a pleasant

aroma that lured her mind away from her present horror.

Her eyes locked upon the glimmering red and gold figurine of

Ares at the bow of Lord Falkland’s ship. She blinked back the burning

behind her eyes. When she’d boarded it nigh a week past—or was it two

weeks?—all her hopes and dreams had boarded with her. Somewhere

along the way, they had been cast into the depths of the sea. She only

wished she had joined them. Although the ship gleamed majestically in

the bay, all she had seen of it for weeks had been the four walls of a small

cabin below deck.

The roar of the crowd wrenched her mind back to the present and

turned her face forward.

“Five shillings.”

“ ’Tis robbery, and ye know it,” the auctioneer barked. “Where are

any of ye clods goin’ t’ find a real lady like this?”

A stream of perspiration raced down Hope’s back as if seeking

escape. But there was no escape. She was about to be sold as a slave, a

harlot to one of these cruel and prurient taskmasters. A fate worse than

death. A fate her sister had fought hard to keep her from. A fate Hope

had brought upon herself. Numbness crept over her even as her eyes

filled with tears. Oh God. This can’t be happening.

She gazed upward at the blue sky dusted with thick clouds, hoping

for some deliverance, some sign that God had not abandoned her.

The men continued to haggle, their voices booming louder and

louder, grating over her like the howls of demons.

Her head felt like it had detached from her body and was floating

up to join the clouds. Palm trees danced in the light breeze coming off

the bay. Their tall trunks and fronds formed an oscillating blur of green

and brown. The buildings, the mob, and the whole heinous scene joined

the growing mass and began twirling around Hope. Her legs turned to

jelly, and she toppled to the platform.

“Get up!” A sharp crack stung her cheek. Two hands like rough rope

clamped over her arms and dragged her to her feet. Pain lanced through

her right foot where a splinter had found a home. Holding a hand to her

stinging face, Hope sobbed.

The henchman released her with a grunt of disgust.

“I told ye she won’t last a week,” one burly man shouted.

“She ain’t good for nothing but to look at.”

Planting a strained grin upon his lips, the auctioneer swatted her

rear end. “Aye, but she’s much more stout than she appears, gentlemen.”

Horrified and no longer caring about the repercussions, Hope

slapped the man’s face. He raised his fist, and she cowered. The crowd

roared its mirth.

“One pound, then,” a tall man sporting a white wig called out. “I

could use me a pretty wench.” Withdrawing a handkerchief, he dabbed

at the perspiration on his forehead.

Wench. Slave. Hope shook her head, trying to force herself to accept

what her mind kept trying to deny. A sudden surge of courage, based

on naught but her instinct to survive, stiffened her spine. She thrust out

her chin and faced the auctioneer. “I beg your pardon, sir. There’s been a

mistake. I am no slave.”

“Indeed?” He cocked one brow and gave her a patronizing smirk.

Hope searched the horde for a sympathetic face—just one. “My

name is Miss Hope Westcott,” she shouted. “My father is Admiral

Henry Westcott. I live in Charles Towne with my two sisters.”

“And I’m King George,” a farmer howled, slapping his knee.

“My father will pay handsomely for my safe return.” Hope scanned

the leering faces. Not one. Not one look of sympathy or belief or

kindness. Fear crawled up her throat. She stomped her foot, sending

a shard of pain up her leg. “You must believe me,” she sobbed. “I don’t

belong here.”

Ignoring the laughter, Hope spotted a purple plume fluttering in

the breeze atop a gold-trimmed hat in the distance. “Arthur!” She darted

for the stairs but two hands grabbed her from behind and held her in

place. “Don’t leave me! Lord Falkland!” She struggled in her captor’s

grasp. His grip tightened, sending a throbbing ache across her back.

Swerving about, Lord Falkland tapped his cane into the dirt and

tipped the brim of his hat up, but the distance between them forbade

Hope a vision of his expression.

“Tell them who I am, Arthur. Please save me!”

He leaned toward the woman beside him and said something, then

coughed into his hand. What is he doing? The man who once professed

an undying love for Hope, the man who promised to marry her, to love

her forever, the man who bore the responsibility for her being here in

the first place. How could he stand there and do nothing while she met

such a hideous fate?

The elegant lady beside him turned her nose up at Hope, then,

threading her arm through Lord Falkland’s, she wheeled him around

and pulled him down the road.

Hope watched him leave, and with each step of his cordovan boots,

her heart and her very soul sank deeper into the wood of the auction

block beneath her feet.

Nothing made any sense. Had the world gone completely mad?

“Two pounds,” a corpulent man in the back roared.

A memory flashed through Hope’s mind as she gazed across the

band of men. A vision of African slaves, women and children, being

auctioned off in Charles Towne. How many times had she passed by,

ignoring them, uncaring, unconcerned by the proceedings?

Was this God’s way of repaying her for her selfishness, her lack of


“Five pounds.”

Disappointed curses rumbled among the men at the front, who had

obviously reached their limit of coin.

The auctioneer’s mouth spread wide, greed dripping from its corners.

“Five pounds, gentlemen. Do I hear six for this lovely lady?”

A blast of hot air rolled over Hope, stealing her breath. Human

sweat, fish, and horse manure filled her nose and saturated her skin.

The unforgiving sun beat a hot hammer atop her head until she felt she

would ignite into a burning torch at any moment. Indeed, she prayed

she would. Better to be reduced to a pile of ashes than endure what the

future held for her.

“Six pounds,” a short man with a round belly and stiff brown wig

yelled from the back of the mob in a tone that indicated he knew what

he was doing and had no intention of losing his prize. Decked in a

fine damask waistcoat, silk breeches, and a gold-chained pocket watch,

which he kept snapping open and shut, he exuded wealth and power.

Hope’s stomach twisted into a vicious knot, and she clutched her

throat to keep from heaving whatever shred of moisture remained in

her empty stomach.

The auctioneer gaped at her, obviously shocked she could command

such a price. Rumblings overtook the crowd as the short man pushed his

way through to claim his prize. The closer he came, the faster Hope’s

chest heaved and the lighter her head became. Blood pounded in her

ears, drowning out the groans of the mob. No, God. No.

“Do I hear seven?” the auctioneer bellowed. “She’s young and will

breed you some fine sons.”

“Just what I’ll be needing.” The man halted at the platform, glanced

over the crowd for any possible competitors, then took the stairs to

Hope’s right. He halted beside her too close for propriety’s sake and

assailed her with the stench of lard and tobacco. A long purple scar

crossed his bloated red face as his eyes grazed over her like a stallion on

a breeding mare. Hope shuddered and gasped for a breath of air. Her

palms broke out in a sweat, and she rubbed them on her already moist


The auctioneer threw a hand to his hip and gazed over the crowd.

The man squeezed her arms, and Hope snapped from his grasp

and took a step back, abhorred at his audacity. He chuckled. “Not much

muscle on her, but she’s got pluck.”

He belched, placed his watch back into the fob pocket of his

breeches, and removed a leather pouch from his belt. “Six pounds it is.”

The silver tip of a sword hung at his side. If Hope were quick about

it, perhaps she could grab it and, with some luck, fight her way out of

here. She clenched her teeth. Who was she trying to fool? Where was

her pirate sister when she needed her? Surely Faith would know exactly

what to do. Yet what did it matter? Hope would rather die trying to

escape than become this loathsome man’s slave.

As the man counted out the coins into the auctioneer’s greedy hands,

Hope reached for the sword.

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