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About the author:
I’m already working on my next novel.
What inspired you to write your book?
My first published novel, SPIRITED AWAY – A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH, generated an amazing amount of enthusiasm for a sequel. Readers demanded it, so I just had to do it. Here it is, “the rest of the story!”
Here is a short sample from the book:
Standing on the bow hoping for a breeze, Freddy caught Colin’s leather-and-wood scent. She turned to find him standing so close, she almost bumped his injured arm. “Oh!” Embarrassed, she tried to back away, but had nowhere to go.
“Aye, we must practice our new names.” In the light of the half-moon, he looked tense. “I cannot sleep when it’s so hot,” she said, fanning her face. The night was strangely oppressive, and Freddy was restless. She had not expected anyone to be about so late. Gathering her long, loose black hair to one side, she slowly braided it.
“Frances was my mam’s name,” she said softly, her voice hanging in the heavy air between them. He moved aside and leaned on the bow rail. He wore no shirt under his vest. Freddy fought a strong urge to touch his skin.
“It’s a beautiful name.” Colin’s gaze moved to the base of her throat and down to the slave shift and vest she’d changed into. Knowing his eyes were on her, she folded her arms across her breast and turned to face the bow, determined not to give in to these dangerous feelings. She wanted him all right, but was resolved to mourn properly. It was important to do things right.
“There is much I want to say to ye, Freddy Frances O’Brennan.”
She finished her braid, turned to face him, and cocked her head.
“Every day I care more deeply for ye.” He took her hand and placed it palm down over his heart. She could feel it, hot and pounding, under his brown leather vest. Someone coughed. Looking up, Freddy realized that Owyn occupied the canvas bucket high aloft.
“I have a thirst,” she whispered. Moving to the water barrel near the passageway door, she took Colin’s pewter tankard from its nail and ladled water into it. She handed it to him. As she sipped from the ladle, she watched him gulp his water down.
“Ah.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, re-hung the tankard, and led Freddy by the hand to a trunk at the base of the mast. Through the drooping sails and lines, Owyn could not see them here.
With Colin’s good arm around her shoulders, Freddy leaned into him. “Your words thrill me, Colin Shea Brophy,” she said softly to the side of his neck. “I care more and more for ye as well.” His arm tightened around her.
He cleared his throat and Freddy felt him pull away.
“What is it?” She studied his frowning countenance. Had she said something wrong?
“As my feelings for ye deepen, my fears rise.”
“Aye, fears…that ye can never return my love, with your whole heart. That ye love another, the African…”
“Kofi, aye. What if he had lived?”
She straightened. “I imagine in that case, I would not be here with ye, Colin.”
He took his arm from her shoulder and lay his hand in his lap.
Freddy’s thoughts flitted around like bats in her head. It was true that she’d lied to him the night of the plantation raid, when he’d found her in the cookhouse. Colin had wanted to take her with him and she’d told him she could not go that night because Laurie was too ill to travel. Freddy hated herself for not telling him the truth that night. Everything had happened so quickly. There had been no time. “But, don’t ye see?” she asked him. “I am here, and—”
“I need to understand how ye came to love the African.”
“Ah.” She sighed. Always this, she thought, trying to push away her anger. “Ye mean, how I could love a savage – a filthy, black-skinned field slave?”
“I’m not like that, Freddy. Ye know I’m not.”
She sighed again. “He was much better than the likes of me.”
Colin waited for her to go on.
“His name was Kofi Boateng, the kindest man I have ever met. Master ordered me to mate with him, to produce strong slave stock. When I first went to his hut on the edge of the slave compound, I was afraid. He was big and black and strong, and angry. I had heard stories, too, about the Africans’ pagan ways. What if he hated white women, I thought. He spoke no English, and I spoke none of his language. But he was gentle with me, Colin, and kind to Laurie. He gave us his bed, and slept on the dirt floor. He gave us time to know him. He never pushed himself on me. I had never known a tender man. I believed that God meant for me to love Kofi. I still believe it. We were slaves, but with each other we were free.”
Colin got up and went to the rail, turning his back to her.
Freddy went and stood behind him, her hands on his good shoulder. “I pray that ye and I will have that same freedom, Colin. I cannot explain how I could fancy two men at the same time, but I did. I swear to ye, I did.”
He turned to her. “Ye did not forget about me?”
“Never,” she whispered.
He stroked her cheek.
Freddy felt as if her face were on fire. “My life with Kofi is over, Colin, a closed book, locked away in the past. That was my life then, in Barbados. This is now, a new life.”
He nodded. “Your Kofi was better than the likes of me as well,” he said, his voice so low she could barely hear him. “There is much ye do not know.” He led her back to the trunk. Once more they sat close together, and Colin caressed Freddy’s hand. “My people were not like yours.” He hesitated. “Not respectable like…Da was a drunk. When I was a wee lad, I watched him hurt Mam. We were poor, and moved many times…” Colin looked away, released her hand, and swallowed as if he could not get more words out.
Freddy took his hand in both of hers.
“I ran away,” he continued. “A band of tinkers took me in and I was caught stealing. They put me in jail and then took me to that devil of a slaver…”
She rubbed her nose lightly on the side of his neck and tried to think of something to say.
“…And that is how I came to be in Barbados.”
“I thank God ye were there,” she said fervently.
“Aye, thank the Lord and His Shepherds that ye were as well! Were it not for ye and Birdie, I’d be cold in the ground, Freddy.”
“But here we are,” she whispered, rising to her feet.
“Together,” he added.
“Aye, together.” She slowly moved behind him and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Ye are exhausted…”
He nodded wordlessly.
“As am I.” Freddy stood, pulled him up, and gave him a sweet but restrained kiss goodnight on his rough cheek. She turned on her heel and strode sternward. Before ducking into the passageway, she looked back at Colin. A wisp of black clouds drifted across the moon behind his silhouette.