Here’s the back cover text for SAIL WITH ME:
Left back home in Southampton, England while her father and brothers explore the high seas, Charlotte Denham works as a maid and spends most of her days dreaming of sailing. She wants to explore the New World. She wants to be noticed. Tired of her family’s absence and being denied work on a ship because she’s a girl, Charlotte takes matters into her own hands.
Charlotte expects to make her dreams come true. What she isn't expecting is Daniel Connor, fellow crew member aboard the Rose or Tizoc Metztli, exotic warrior of the Sunal Empire. Both have her feeling things she’s never felt before. Both notice her. Both need her.
When a gold-thirsty conquistador invades Tizoc’s empire, Charlotte must defend herself and the people she has come to love. Is she strong enough to shed blood? Is she strong enough to finish this adventure?
And here’s a little taste. Enjoy!
The sea kisses the sky
to the ends of the Earth
like a waiting embrace.
I stand on one shore
wondering what secrets
the horizon holds.
She whispers my name,
pulls me from my daydreams,
and promises adventure.
“One of these times, we’re going to get caught out here, Charlotte.” Benjamin huddled in the darkness beside me.
“We’re not going to get caught.” I scanned the docks. Empty of people, but full of beautiful boats. “And so what if we do.”
“Easy for you to say,” Benjamin said. “By the time your father gets back, too much time will have gone by for him to punish you. Me? I have to go home where my father will enjoy giving me a good whipping.”
“You’ve been afraid of a good whipping since you were seven,” I said. “You’re sixteen now. Have you gotten whipped yet?”
“Well… no.” He fiddled with the buckle on his boot. “But it’s coming. I can feel it.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re taller and healthier than your father. He can’t whip you. Besides, Lady Elizabeth would punish me if we got caught. Which we won’t.”
I motioned for him to step up onto the dock behind me. He did so because he always did what I wanted. That was why he was my best friend.
“Lady Elizabeth won’t whip you,” he said.
“No, she’ll sit me down and remind me how a proper young lady is supposed to behave.”
I scurried to the end of the dock, and Benjamin followed behind me like a silent shadow.
“How many times has she done that now?” He poked my shoulder.
I had to smile at the playful smirk on his face.
“I can’t seem to get the hang of proper young lady etiquette.” I shrugged. “She probably wouldn’t let me see you anymore either, if we got caught.”
“How come?” Benjamin’s mouth turned down at the corners.
“Well, I’d undoubtedly blame you for dragging me out here.”
His mouth dropped open now. “Me dragging you? I don’t think so, missy.” He nudged my shoulder then grew serious. “You don’t think she’d stop us from being friends, do you?”
“She couldn’t stop us, Benjamin. Don’t worry.” He was always worried about something. “Come on. This is the one.”
I led him to the smallest sloop tethered to the end of the dock. The vessels around us bobbed up and down against their lines like prisoners eager to break free of their bonds. Wanderers longing to drift wherever the sea might carry them.
Cloaked by the night, we climbed up the rickety ladder at the stern and boarded the boat. We crept to the bow, a faint sea breeze awakening my senses.
When we reached the front of the ship, I clasped the railing, its splintered wood rough but welcome against my palms. I was aware of Benjamin standing beside me. He was a good sport about all this sneaking around.
“There it is.” I traced the moonlit horizon that kissed the ocean’s silvery surface. The scent of sea salt and sun-baked wood danced around me. The gentle sway of the ship soothed my restlessness.
“I don’t know why you like coming out here so much, Charlotte. It’s just water. A great deal of it.” Benjamin turned around, his back to the sea, and leaned against the railing on his elbows. He didn’t hear the call. Didn’t feel the pull. Didn’t wonder what was at that distant and mysterious line between sky and sea.
Not like I did.
“It’s getting to the other side of the water, Benjamin, and seeing what’s there that’s important.”
“What do you think is on the other side that you don’t have here?”
I closed my eyes and breathed in the sea’s fragrance until all that water whispered inside me.
“You don’t know how to be happy with what you’ve got,” Benjamin said. The moonlight illuminated his face as he looked at me.
“What have I got, Benjamin? Tell me. My father and brothers are off sailing while I’m left here serving Lady Elizabeth. What have I got?”
He was about to answer, but other voices stirred below decks as footsteps knocked on the ladder amidships. A faint lantern glow built in intensity as the footsteps grew louder.
“Don’t move.” Benjamin slipped in front of me, shielding me from whatever was headed up the ladder. I pushed him out of the way, but he stood more solidly than usual. “Charlotte, please. You can get mad at me for trying to protect you later.”
In all our times coming out to the docks at night—and there had been many—we had never gotten caught. I had stolen a couple of precious moments, dreaming on the bows of various ships, imagining the day I’d actually set sail aboard one of these marvelous, canvas-winged seabirds. Benjamin had accompanied me most of the time, allowing me to chase my dreams, but trying to tether me to the land at the same time.
Now we were steps away from being found by the rousing crew of this particular vessel. The lantern light swept across us, and I caught a flicker in the eyes of our discoverers.
“You there.” The gruff voice was enough to tell me we didn’t want to tangle with its owner.
“A pretty treasure, Arthur, eh?” another voice rasped as the lantern light grew closer. “We’ll have to do something with the boy.”
I grabbed Benjamin’s wrist and hopped up onto the bow rail. He climbed up behind me.
“What are we doing?” His grip tightened on my hand.
“Hold your breath!”
“No!” the voices bellowed together behind us.
“Charlotte… I can’t—”
I leaped off the rail, pulling Benjamin with me. We swooped down to the water, the men cursing from the deck above me and Benjamin howling beside me. When I hit the water and slipped below its surface, all sound was replaced with the rippling melody of the ocean.
With powerful strokes, I towed Benjamin to the shoreline and pulled him up onto the sand. He coughed and sputtered for some time before raking his shaky fingers through his tangled, brown hair. He rose to his feet, wrung out his soaked tunic, and glared at me with fiery green eyes.
“Charlotte Denham, if you ever do that again, we’re through. You know I can’t swim.” Water ran down his face in rivulets. He spun on his heel and stomped away.
“Cripes, Benjamin, I saved us,” I called to his retreating back.
“Saved us? You could have killed us!” He marched over the sand. His hands flapped out to either side of him as he ranted to himself.
I sat and drew wavy lines in the sand with my finger. As far as I was concerned that jump into the water had rescued us from an inevitably unpleasant situation. Who knows what those men would have done to us if they’d caught us?
The night breeze coming off the water raised goosebumps on my wet skin, and my heart was still pounding from the moment of fear, the glorious swim, the excitement of being this close to the ocean. This close to my dreams.
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