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I must give credit and thanks to the Ladies of the Hand and Foot Card Cult. They have been listening to me moan and groan over the uncertainties, doubts, and insecurities of returning to a career after a long, eight year hiatus. Their support, even though they dragged me kicking and screaming to the pool on hot afternoons, and had me shuffling cards in the evenings, has been greatly appreciated.

Listed in alphabetical order: Carolyn Betts, Gaile Brockman, Marcia Giddings, Marlyn Podd, and Gail Rowlandson.

Thank you so much.



PROLOGUE


The Isle of Espiritu Santu, November 1623


"You will tell me what I want to know, little puta."

The words vibrated against her ear and sent cold shivers scratching down her spine. There was a frightening edge of pleasure in the huskiness of his voice, as if he was hoping she would remain stubbornly quiet. She suspected that he derived pleasure from the fear he instilled in others and she knew he would use it against her if her courage faltered by so much as a quivered breath. Determined to deny him, her teeth were set in a hard clench. Her fingers were curled around the cords of the ropes that were twisted around her wrist and draped over a low-hanging branch. The ropes had been pulled taut, forcing her arms apart and her body up onto the tips of her toes.

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