Sea of Temptation Online

Prologue

“Chasing a sail is very much like pursuing a coy maiden, the very coyness sharpening the pursuit.”

— Captain Raphael Semmes,

Confederate States Navy

May, 1862

New York City

“I don’t believe I understand what you’re proposing.”

Felicity smiled, her blue eyes shining bright with amusement. It was no wonder Jebediah Webster’s thick brows were raised in surprise. He probably never anticipated he’d be the recipient of such good fortune.

“What exactly don’t you understand?” To Felicity’s way of thinking she’d explained everything quite nicely. Her plan might be a shock to Jebediah, but that didn’t mean Felicity hadn’t thought long and hard about it. She wasn’t frivolous and light-minded as others... as her father seemed to think. And this would prove it.

“Miss Wentworth,” Jebediah began, then paused, his prominent Adam’s apple quivering when a soft feminine hand covered his.

“Don’t you think you should call me Felicity?”

“Miss Wentworth,” Jebediah continued. He slid his hand from beneath Felicity’s and ran the tip of his finger under the starched wing collar of his shirt. “I’m flattered, of course.” Pushing palms against knees that appeared bony even through his thick wool pants, the young man stood and walked to the marble-top table in the center of the room.

Then he had understood everything she’d said. Felicity folded her hands primly and sat, her back straight, not touching the velvet brocade settee. She’d lured Jebediah to the drawing room because it offered privacy and an intimate setting.

Perfect for a proposal.

“Jebediah.” Felicity rose, straightening the wide expanse of her emerald silk skirt. Grimacing momentarily, she tucked a stubborn curl of red-gold into the chignon at the base of her head and moved toward the object of her affection. He stood tall and poker straight, his narrow back to her. “You needn’t say any more.”

As she stepped beside him Felicity laid her fingers on his sleeve. Of course he was flattered. Felicity never doubted his emotions. After all she knew exactly what she was offering.

The Wentworths had amassed a fortune through the years. And though her father supported Jebediah and other abolitionist ministers like him, the amount was nothing compared to what Felicity—and her future husband—would have at their disposal.

But though he needed money for his cause, Felicity knew Jebediah didn’t have a mercenary bone in his body. He was too fine a man. Stalwart, steady and God-fearing.

The perfect man for her.

And she would be a good wife for him. Besides her money, Felicity was offering herself. Enough young men had courted for Felicity to know in all humility that even without her inheritance, she was desirable. Little wonder the recipient of all this good fortune was temporarily stunned into silence.

Out of all the young men in New York, she had chosen him. Felicity braided her fingers and gave her hands a squeeze of excitement. This would prove to everyone that she was a serious young woman.

“... serious.”

“I beg your pardon.” Felicity’s cheeks reddened as she looked into the thin face of the man she loved. She needed to stop wool gathering and pay attention. She didn’t want to miss anything her beloved said.

“I said,” Jebediah began again with a sigh. “You can’t be serious about this.”

“Oh, but I assure you, I am.” Felicity looked up at him through her thick fringe of auburn lashes—a look that had brought more than one young man to his knees.

“Do you ever hear a word I say from the pulpit?”

“Yes, of course.” He had a strong beautiful voice, deep and dramatic when he preached. She could listen to him forever. Actually, it was during one of his talks on the horrors of slavery that she first conceived the idea of marrying him.

“Today? What did I speak of today?”

Was this a test? If so, she was likely to fail miserably. As Felicity sat on the hard pew beside her father today, her thoughts were on her upcoming proposal, not on the minister’s words. “Well, I...” Felicity snapped open her fan to give herself more time to think. Besides, if she glanced at him just so, he probably wouldn’t remember what he said.

“I thought as much.” Jebediah turned away, puffing air out through the space between his front teeth. “You have no inkling what I’m about.”

“No inkling?” Felicity’s eyes opened wider. Perhaps her mind had wandered this morning, but she’d been to enough of his sermons and heard enough of his discussions with her father to understand. She wasn’t a dolt. Felicity opened her mouth to tell him so, but he cut off her words.

“You think a little money spread