Read Dark Splendor Online

Authors: Andrea Parnell

Tags: #romance, #gothic, #historical, #georgia, #colonial georgia history, #gothic romance, #colonial america, #sensual romance, #historical 1700s, #sexy gothic, #andrea parnell, #trove books

Dark Splendor



“This is an entertaining blend of eerie
shadows and romantic interludes. An excellent gothic romance.”

Publishers Weekly


“A beautifully written, lyrical—almost poetic
in the narrative—book! . . . If you appreciate a great story and
the true beauty of words that are put together the way they should
be, you will love DARK SPLENDOR.



“The grand Gothic Romance could never be
better represented than in DARK SPLENDOR.”

Affaire de Coeur


“A tantalizing blend of suspense and
sensuality, with all the thrills and chills that lovers of the
Gothic enjoy.”

Romantic Times Rave Reviews


Also by Andrea Parnell from Trove Books




“The perfect blend of anticipation and
apprehension . . . seductive tale by a superb writer of romantic

Romantic Times


“Takes romance, mystery and intrigue and
weaves them into a good story.”



Delilah’s Flame*

Wild Glory*

My Only Desire*

Devil Moon*

Small Town Secrets*


*coming soon



Dark Splendor


Andrea Parnell





Dark Splendor

Copyright 1986, 2011 Andrea Parnell. All
rights reserved.


Published 2011 by Trove Books


Smashwords edition 1.2, April 2011


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.


Publisher’s Note

This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely


A previous print edition was published by
NAL/Signet in 1987.


Cover by Frauke Spanuth, Croco Designs





With love to my husband, Oma,

for seeing it through.



There is a serpent in thy smile, my dear,

And bitter poison within thy tear.

The Cenci



Chapter 1


March 1751


Silvia Bradstreet stirred only slightly when
the wooden door of her cabin creaked as it slowly opened.

She slept the heavy sleep born of
exhaustion, and neither the pitching of the ship nor the shouts of
deckhands, though loud enough to rattle the masts of the
, roused her. A hazy light split the darkness of the
tiny compartment and disappeared beneath the shadows of two men who
quietly entered.

Roman Toller roughly caught his brother by
the arm and halted him in mid-step. A lump like a burning chunk of
coal lodged in his throat as his eyes roamed over the figure of a
young woman sleeping soundly in the bunk.

Her dark hair spilled over the contrasting
whiteness of the pillow like tassels of black silk he had seen
displayed in stalls in an Eastern market. Beneath the blanket her
slender form rose softly with each slow breath. She lay curled like
a kitten spent from its play.

“Bloody hell, Morgan,” he muttered. “What is

“God’s pity, man, if you have to ask.”
Morgan Toller’s lips curved into a teasing grin. “It’s a woman,
plain and simple.”

“That I can see,” he growled. “But why is
the wench sleeping in this cabin?” Roman’s lids half-closed and his
nostrils flared as his eyes, cold as blue ice, met his

Morgan stared at the pleasing curves of the
lithe form beneath the blanket. His chest swelled with the fullness
of a deep breath he exhaled softly. “The captain said we’d find a
surprise below.”

“Aye. That he did,” Roman agreed. The
beginnings of a smile quivered on the corners of his lips. “And
I’ll admit I thought he meant a bottle of vintage wine.”

“We must be certain to thank Wilhelm for
improving the stock on his ships,” Morgan said, looking wryly at
Roman. “This trip may prove to be less bleak than I expected,” he
added, followed by an easy chuckle.

“The old scoundrel is up to something, I’ll
wager. Summoning us to the colonies with no explanation of the
urgency.” Roman’s brows raised sardonically. “And this.”

“Let’s consider that he is seeing to our
comfort,” Morgan chided lightly. “And this is a flower in the
desert. Or on the ocean, as it seems.” He rubbed his hands together
and his mouth curved into a half-grin. “The only problem as I see
it is there is one woman and two of us.”

“I begin to see your point.” Roman landed a
hard but playful blow to Morgan’s jaw. “Pull out a coin. We’ll toss
for the first night with her.”

Morgan scowled and rubbed his jaw. “Find
another outlet for your bad temper, man,” he railed. Still he
reached into his pocket and withdrew a coin. “Call it,” he said
jauntily, tossing the goldpiece into the air.

“Heads!” Roman snatched the spinning coin
before it landed in Morgan’s waiting hand. “Heads. And you sleep
alone,” he jeered, slapping the coin to his forearm and uncovering
it for Morgan to see.

“Alone,” Morgan scoffed derisively, opening
a silver flask of brandy and raising it to his lips. “Well, I’ll be
off to my solitary cabin and misery.” He took a second swig from
the flask and ceremoniously replaced the cap. A tight-lipped smile
rested uncomfortably on his crestfallen face. “And you with a
preference for redheads,” he remarked dryly.

“Aye. But with every moment I begin to like
raven-haired beauties.” Roman’s chin jutted out stubbornly as he
flashed a triumphant grin.

Morgan smiled. “I’ll leave you to your
pleasure, Roman,” he chortled, and there was a taunting gleam in
his eyes. “We’ll talk at dinner. If you have the strength.”

The fading ring of the Tollers’ voices,
though certainly strong enough to break a normal sleep, were hollow
echoes to Silvia, lost in the musing deepness of her dreams. The
unwelcome sounds intruded as murky shadows in her slumbering
thoughts. Stretched out beneath the verdant leafy awning of a tree,
she watched milky white clouds float like fleecy ewes crossing an
indigo field, while songbirds chirped a melodious note that lulled
her even deeper in sleep.

Roman closed the door quietly behind Morgan
and secured it with the bolt.

Silvia stirred faintly at the rasp of the
lock catching. A dark intruder entered her dreams, a menacing
shadow floating in a peaceful sky. She sighed aloud and curled up

Pausing when she turned her face toward him,
Roman stood quietly, hardly daring to breathe, but her eyes
remained shut. The innocence in her face surprised him and for a
moment a pang of conscience bit at him. He whispered a curse. What
reason did he have for remorse? Wilhelm Schlange solidly calculated
every move he made. If the man had placed this woman at his
disposal, why should he question that she did not look the

His eyes dwelt on the smoothness of her
skin, fair and creamy white and with the soft luster of fine satin.
Her rosy lips were parted a bit, as if set for a kiss, and the
pouty fullness showed to a tempting advantage.

He exhaled slowly, letting the air whistle
soundlessly through his teeth. She was beautiful. Her black lashes
curled softly and were longer than any he had ever seen.

“A flower at sea,” he whispered, and lowered
his frame to the chair near the bed. With growing urgency he
removed his boots and stockings and rose to drape his coat and
cloak over the back of the chair.

He caught his breath, feeling the thrill of
arousal as he anticipated the touch of her tantalizing curves.
Recklessly stripping away his silk shirt, he stood beside the bed
wearing only his breeches. Feeling a surge of warmth in his flesh
as passion flared within him, Roman carefully raised the blanket
and silently eased into bed.

She wore only a simple chemise adorned on
the bodice by tiny lavender bows. He groaned, and his fingers
gently touched the streaming ribbons pressed like violets in the
snow against the paleness of her breasts. Her body was warm to his
touch and the delicate smoothness of her skin brought a lusting
flame to his eyes.

Deep in sleep, Silvia responded with a sigh
to the gentle stroking. While lost in her dreams, butterflies
fluttered delicate wings about her face and neck. The caress of his
lips at her throat and the nimble movements of his fingers in her
hair were soft kisses of sunshine. She turned to him, her parted
lips trembling beneath the rustle of his warm breath.

As she became aware of a shadowy image
through closed eyes, her heavy lids reluctantly flickered open to
reveal a face pressed close to her own. Just for a moment, as
another lilting sigh sounded in her throat, did she know a trace of
alarm. But sleep held her prisoner and his eyes were the blue of
the sky in her dreams.

“Wake up, little flower,” he murmured,
rolling closer so that the hardness of his chest pressed sensuously
against the softness of her breast.

His voice was soothing, rich and deep and
sweet to her ears. The face was dreamlike, fetchingly handsome, the
nose straight and nostrils flared in passion, the cheekbones high,
and the chin squared and strong. His flaxen hair was long and tied
at the back of his neck with black cord. He had a provocative twist
to his mouth and perhaps it was the small vestige of arrogance she
detected there which disturbed her.

A subtle movement wrapped his arm about her
shoulders and lifted her to him. With a gentleness that transcended
his passion, he softly kissed her eyelids and watched them quiver
fully open. Rimmed with the lushness of dark lashes, her eyes were
golden like honey before they darkened with a pall of fear.

Her scream rent the stillness of the cabin.
Perplexed, Roman cursed and silenced her by clamping his hand
across her mouth. He frowned and shook his head as if to assure her
his intentions were pleasurable and not painful. Possibly he should
have awakened the girl before getting in bed. He had not counted on
her shocked reaction.

“Quiet now?” he asked softly.

She shook her head in agreement beneath the
pressure of his hands. Her pupils widened and her eyes became
almost catlike, glowing yellow and angry.

Thinking her calmed, Roman withdrew his
hand, but before he could affect one of the devastating smiles he
used so well, she screamed again. He moved his hand as swiftly as a
striking snake to cover her mouth, but this time she caught the
side of it in her teeth. With all her might, she bit down.

“Bloody hell, woman,” he shouted, rolling
roughly across her and jerking his hand away to examine it for
signs of broken skin.

“Get off!” Silvia groaned as his weight
crushed the breath from her lungs. She squirmed beneath him but his
body held her tight. Frantically she pummeled his face and chest
with the strongest punches she could inflict. All the same, her
rampaging blows were useless in dislodging him. With a gasp, she
swung her arm beside the bed and caught the top of her boot,
flinging it furiously at his head. The wooden heel struck him in
the temple, stunning him enough for her to shove him aside and jump
from the bed.

“Swine!” she screamed, racing the few feet
to the door. She would have fled the cabin in her chemise, but in
such a panicky state, the workings of the bolt proved too much for

Dazed, Roman struggled to his feet, rubbing
the swell of a knot on his brow.

“Keep your hands away!” she shouted,
snatching up her other boot and holding it menacingly in front of

“Easy now.” Roman raised a hand defensively
in front of him. “You’ve damn near taken my head off already,” he
stammered incredulously.

The woman was a demon and he had suffered
enough of her fury. A drop of blood trickled from the wound above
his eye and ran a crooked path to his cheek. But as he wiped at it
with his hand a quick smile ruffled his mouth and a look of
consummate disbelief paled his blue eyes.

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