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The Cost of Rebellion

Book 3 in the Cost of Love Series

Hope Cummings had no interest in the ordinary life of a proper English lady, no matter how much her mother wished she would.

Milling about London attending balls and visiting with high born ladies who though more highly of themselves than they ought, held no appeal. She'd rather be sailing the majestic ocean with her father and brother or embarking on adventures. Anything other than preparing for the inevitable fate of being a wife and mother. The answer to that wish comes sooner than she expects, in a form she never saw coming.

Shaeen Almasi came to London with one thing in mind. Revenge. Only nothing goes according to plan. Wounded and trying to make his way back to his ship, he receives aid from a stunning young woman. Her reward for helping him? Becoming his prisoner. Only as time goes on she makes him want things he knows they can never have. Like forever. Being Crown Prince of Zawhar means sacrificing everything for country and duty. Even his heart.

Praise

The imagination needed to write this book is superlative.

          ~Reader review

This book made you feel like you could relate to the character (Hope) of the story. I couldn't put it down.

          ~Reader review 

 

Books in this series:

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The Cost of Rebellion

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Chapter One

London, England- 1881

“Move! Move! Hit him in the bollocks! What in blazes is that?! Bloody hell! Come on, get up!” Hope Antoinette Cummings stood at the front of the crowd, squeezing the boxing ring rope in a white knuckled grip, as she shouted at the boxers pulverizing each other in the ring.

Her selected champion of the evening, The Mountain Gypsy, laid sprawled out, flat on his back, his skin a tapestry of angry lumps, cuts, and bruises of varying shades of purple, red, and blue. She’d bet two pounds that he would come out the victor, and there he lay, gurgling and choking on his own blood. His opponent, “The Bear” Johnson, strolled around the ring, like an overstuffed peacock, arms in the air as some in the crowd cheered and others hurled insults and heckled.

“Your champion is defeated; may we go now?”

Hope pried her eyes away from the ring to look at her little brother Xander. The slight whine in his voice incited both her ire and her need to protect and smother him with affection. Looking him over, she noticed his coloring had taken on a pale green hue, which was a stark contrast to his usual light sand skin tone.

Watching a fisticuffs match, or anything of a violent nature really, wasn’t Xander’s preferred way to spend his hours. The only reason they were in this seedy establishment, watching an illegal match, was because she wanted to toughen him up. He was so much like their mother. Spending a day with a book and a pot of tea was the equivalent of paradise to them. But today marked the beginning of his thirteenth year. The beginning of his journey into manhood. He needed to be stronger. More like her and Father.

“There is another match after this one. Wouldn’t you like to stay and watch it?” Hope encouraged her brother with a determined smile.

“Absolutely not!” Xander grimaced. “I didn’t want to watch the first one.” His tone softens before adding, “I know what you are doing. You worry about me not being able to take over Father’s shipping company. That I won’t have the ability to handle difficult situations in the realms of commerce and life. But there are other ways to be strong. I may never beat a man with my bare hands, but I have the utmost confidence I will beat him with my mind.”

Hope stood there, mouth slightly agape, taking in her little brother. Apparently, he had become his own man when she wasn’t looking. She smiled down at him, proud of the quiet confidence emanating from his wise gaze.       

As she fixed her mouth to consent to their departure, the miraculous happened. In the ring, The Mountain staggered to his feet, planted them firmly shoulder width apart, wiped the blood from his eyes, and smiled as he lifted his fists ready to continue the fight. Hope erupted into cheers with the rest of the crowd, ready for the violent display of agility and strength to continue. “Yes! The Mountain Gypsy rises again! He’s a bricky man, he is. I knew my bet was well placed,” she cheered at the top of her lungs.

She clapped enthusiastically as The Mountain and The Bear circled each other, searching for the other’s weak spots to land their crushing blows. Fast for a man who had just been laid out, knocking on death’s door, The Mountain shuffled his feet, dodged right to miss The Bear’s jab, and came up landing a clean punch under The Bear’s chin. Everything moved in slow motion as The Bear was lifted off his feet and tossed backwards, blood spewing from his face like a fountain, before landing like a rag doll on the hard dirt floor. But as much as Hope wished he would, The Bear didn’t stay down. A bit slower than The Mountain, he staggered to his feet.

“Stay down, you lousy gibface!” Hope jeered through cupped hands at the fighter.

At the sight of the blow, Xander’s hand shot out, latching on to Hope’s arm in an almost painful grip. His eyes went wide as he shifted beside her, then doubled over, hands on his knees. He gulped down generous lungfuls of the hot stale air to calm his frayed nerves. “I think I’m going to be sick,” he rasped in a small choked voice.

As if to drive his point home, his back violently arched like a hissing cat, while he dry heaved. Hope bent beside him, placing her hand on his forehead. His skin was frigid to the touch and taking on an even more ominous shade of dirty pea green.  

“Get that pigeon-livered scamp out of here before he ruins the evenin’ for the rest of us,” a scruffy, pot-bellied man beside them ordered.

Hope had been about to do just that, but such a slight could not be allowed to go unavenged. Standing to her full height, she marched up to the man until they were nearly toe to toe. She was just about eye level with the fellow and used that advantage to give him her most menacing, soul-piercing glare. With her hair braided and shoved under her cap, the dirt purposely smudged on her face and clothing, the men’s trousers and shirt she wore, and her fists balled at her sides, she appeared to this man, and anyone who saw her, to be a strapping young man in his prime, probably hardened by life in the gutter. “What did you call him?” Hope growled low, her eyes never leaving his.

The man shuffled on his feet, taking a small step back to restore some of the distance between them. “You heard me,” the man replied, a little less conviction and a little more waver in his voice.  

“That can’t be, because if I did, that would mean you insulted my brother. An offense I cannot allow to pass unpunished.”

The crowd around them quieted as everyone watched their altercation with as much fascination as they had the fight in the ring. Hope waited, but no more words came from the man’s mouth. The lump in his throat bobbed as he swallowed hard, his eyes comically round. Shame, really. Hope’s fingers itched for the fight his response would have produced.

“As I suspected, you are only a flapdoodle man who moves his lips like a gossiping debutante,” she sneered back.

The crowd around them burst into laughter at the man’s expense. After one last stare down, Hope turned her back on the coward and took Xander by the arm to lead him toward the exit. As they moved at a tortoise pace, a beefy hand latched onto Hope’s arm spinning them around.

A large man, twice the height of the portly coward, now stood next to him, arms crossed over his burly chest. Hope had to crane her neck to meet his eyes. If her glare could make a man’s toes curl in fear, his could stop a man’s heart. Hope noticed the way the coward stood a ways behind his companion, yet still wore a triumphant grin as if the victory of beating her would be his. Bloody gutless cad!

“I heard what you said to me mate. I’ll teach you to use such a foul mouth, you disgusting little guttersnipe,” the man scowled.     

The man pulled his fist back ready to hand out his promised lesson. Xander shook like a leaf in a violent storm in Hope’s arms, while she stood, back straight, ready to receive the blow. But, suddenly, the rest of the crowd went deathly silent, and the blow never came.

“Hope Antoinette and Alexander Joseph Cummings the second, come here now!”

Hope and Xander froze in place, bodies rigid, as the familiar voice cascaded over them. Even though the words were spoken in a low menacing growl, they’d heard each one loud and clear. That voice had the power to invoke a fear in Hope the stocky man and his beefy fist never could. Her heart began a thunderous stampede in her chest, like a herd of wild horses. She clutched the fabric of her dingy men’s shirt and vest, waiting for the fear-induced heart attack she knew was coming.

Hope’s hand latched onto Xander’s, giving and receiving the comfort they both desperately needed to face the man standing behind them. Turning slowly on stiff limbs, Hope and Xander met the murderous glare of their father, Alexander Cummings. Next to him, their Uncle Charles fought a smile as he usually did whenever they—mainly Hope—were caught in whatever mischievous offense they committed. Each man held a Double Brass Barrel Derringer Flintstock Musket pointed at the coward and his muscular friend.

“I’d advise you to step away from my son and daughter, else I’ll have to put a bullet between your eyes,” Alex threatened in a controlled, level tone. His heavy southern American accent added to the air of danger surrounding him.   

The coward and his friend stepped back, hands in the air in surrender. Hope and Xander walked on leaden feet, heads hanging low, toward their father. Each step was more excruciating than the last, as if they marched toward the gallows holding the hangman’s noose in their hands. If nothing else, this was most assuredly an execution of Hope’s pride.

Neither Hope nor Xander could lift their heads, under the pressure of their father’s heavy disapproving gaze, as they came to a stop in front of him.

“Well, I say, this is a bit more precarious situation even for you, my dear Hope. It is like a game of ‘what shall she do next’? I dare say, I am becoming fond of trying to guess,” Charles quipped in a teasing tone. It was now Hope’s turn to fight a grin. Xander stood silently, too grave and afraid to dare such an emotion as amusement. 

“Close your flapping lips, Charles. Now is hardly the time,” Alex commanded his friend, who allowed the gruff remark to pass without offense as he always did in instances such as this. Alex used his free hand to lift Hope’s chin, forcing her to meet his glare. “What am I going to do with you?”

Hope knew better than to answer that question. The perfect picture of remorseful repentance, she said nothing as her father heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head at her.

“I guess I will let your mother handle this situation when we return home.”

This time, Hope did groan in response to that declaration. There was nothing worse than an hour-long lecture on etiquette and the behavior of a proper lady from Soleil Cummings. One of her lectures could make watching grass grow seem like an enjoyable way to pass the afternoon. Maybe it was the increasing frequency with which she had been hearing them as of late, but the never-ending stream of criticism left her avoiding her mother at all costs these days. “Please, Father, punish me now. Confine me to my room for a fortnight. Anything, other than subjecting me to Maman,” she begged.

Charles outright laughed at her distressing plea. Hope and Alex both cut their eyes to him with matching brooding expressions, which only made him laugh harder. “I dare say, moments like this I am grateful for the children I was blessed with,” he breathed between bouts of laughter.

“Come on, all of you,” Alex commanded, ignoring his friend.

Xander scampered toward the exit with the speed of a galloping stallion, his sickness of moments ago temporarily cured. Hope followed behind him—her father and uncle right at her heels, guns still drawn as they walked backward, refusing to turn their backs on the crowd of ruffians.

Lord, if you truly exist and are listening, please, steal my mother’s voice for the remainder of the evening. I promise to behave for my crotchety tutor if you do. Thank you. Amen.

Hope cast her eyes toward the sky, hoping that it was heard. If not, it was going to be a very long night. 

The Cost of Rebellion

 
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