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Tempted Tigress
 


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Tempted Tigress


  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  C. L. Wilson - Lord of the Fading Lands

  Prologue

  CRITICS RAVE ABOUT USA TODAY

  BESTSELLING AUTHOR JADE LEE!

  CORNERED TIGRESS

  “Lee has made her mark with sizzling romances whose unique settings, intriguing backdrops and exotic characters lure you into worlds where heaven is reached through the highest meeting of mind and body. It’s a world at once mysterious and erotic, secret and mind-expanding.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  BURNING TIGRESS

  “The latest in Lee’s Tigress series… offers a more humorous tone, but have no fear: Lee’s deft eroticism hasn’t lost any of its power. With her latest variant on the Tigress practice, Lee’s star continues to burn bright.”

  —Booklist

  “Lee brilliantly utilizes the master-and-pupil fantasy, drawing on ancient Taoist arts, the secrets of the scrolls and the belief that by merging yin and yang one can reach nirvana…With a high degree of sensuality, Lee maintains a strong plotline that keeps readers on the edge… East meets West in a mesmerizing erotic romance that’s sensual and spiritual and displays Lee’s talents to the fullest.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  SEDUCED BY CRIMSON

  “Up-and-comer Lee showcases her talent for the paranormal as she deftly blends action and romance with the eerie. Brava!”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews (Top Pick)

  DESPERATE TIGRESS

  “Elegant complexity and beautifully rendered flaws in Shi Po and Kui Yu elevate the latest novel in Lee’s series to a new plane of accomplishment. If Lee’s skills continue to grow at this rate, it will be she who becomes an Immortal.”

  —Booklist

  “If you long for a fresh reading experience, Desperate Tigress is just the ticket.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Her story transports readers onto another plane of erotic romance.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  HUNGRY TIGRESS

  “A highly sensual, titillating read.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  “Hungry Tigress is unusual and provocative… [and it] delivers a love story that all romance readers can appreciate.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Jade Lee is quickly on her way to becoming a unique and powerful voice in this industry.”

  —A Romance Review

  WHITE TIGRESS

  “An erotic romance for those seeking a heated love story.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  “Jade Lee has written a complex, highly erotic story…extremely sensual.”

  —Affaire de Coeur

  “This exotic, erotic and spiritual historical romance is unique.”

  —Harriet Klausner

  DEVIL’S BARGAIN

  “Jade Lee has written a dark and smoldering story… full of sensuality and heart-pounding sex scenes.”

  —Affaire de Coeur

  “A luscious bonbon of a sensual read—the education of an innocent: hot, sensual, romantic, and fun!”

  —Thea Devine, USA Today Bestselling author of Satisfaction

  “A spicy new debut… “

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  MUCH YET TO LEARN

  Anna looked down at her body and frowned, seeing nothing unusual in her shape or form. But in her heart, she felt an odd tremble of joy. She loved that he found her body fascinating. She was amazing, and as much as her mind discounted it as silly, her heart was warmed by the compliment.

  “Is this part of the tigress ritual?” she asked, succeeding in unfastening the last of the buttons. She pulled her blouse off, finally exposing her entire upper body. The cool air felt wonderful on her skin, and she wondered if he would find her right side equally fascinating.

  “We use no ritual,” he answered. “Simple intention.”

  “The intent to go to Heaven,” she said.

  “The intent to stimulate your yin,” he responded.

  She didn’t comment. In her experience, she could intend a great many things. She intended to go to England and rejoin her family. She’d intended that for nearly two decades now, and she was still here in China. Life took a great deal more than simple intention.

  Other Leisure books by Jade Lee:

  CORNERED TIGRESS

  SHARDS OF CRIMSON (Crimson City Anthology)

  BURNING TIGRESS

  SEDUCED BY CRIMSON (Crimson City Series)

  DESPERATE TIGRESS

  HUNGRY TIGRESS

  WHITE TIGRESS

  DEVIL’S BARGAIN

  A LEISURE BOOK®

  June 2007

  Published by

  Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

  200 Madison Avenue

  New York, NY 10016

  If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

  Copyright © 2007 by Catherine Grill

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

  ISBN-10: 0-8439-5690-9

  ISBN-13: 978-0-8439-5690-0

  The name “Leisure Books” and the stylized “L” with design are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

  Printed in the United States of America.

  Visit us on the web at www.dorchesterpub.com.

  In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

  A stately pleasure-dome decree:

  Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

  Through caverns measureless to man

  Down to a sunless sea.

  —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  This fragment with a good deal more, not recoverable, composed, in a sort of Reverie brought on by two grains of Opium taken to check a dysentery.

  —Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1797

  Prologue

  The best thing about an opium high was that one could make the most mundane observation and think it an amazing stroke of brilliance. Right now, Anna Marie Thompson thought the following conclusion was the height of genius: Dying would be unfortunate. And poor Governor Wan was about to experience a very, very unfortunate death at the hands of the Imperial Enforcer.

  “Come away, Sister Marie. Do not look out the window. He will see you.”

  Anna nodded, but she could not make her body move. She reclined on a silk couch right next to the window, and she really had no interest in budging. Especially as she had just come to another brilliant conclusion: Though dying would be unfortunate, the moments before death—the time when one knew one was about to die but couldn’t do anything about it—those would be worse.

  They were obviously the worst for poor Governor Wan. He was kneeling in his luxurious garden—one filled with stunning ornamental plants, and exotic flowers—and gibbering like an idiot. Spittle flew from his mou
th in his passion. He alternated between pleading for his life and cursing the Imperial Enforcer’s family. He begged, he screamed, he cried… and he completely failed to save his life. Nothing touched the emperor’s assassin.

  Anna stared at the man who towered over the sobbing governor. Here was the man all drug-runners feared. He had many names among her set, but they all boiled down to one thing: he killed. Without mercy or any show of emotion, he systematically murdered the people who smuggled opium into China. The users might be shown mercy, but carriers were gutted like fish.

  The Enforcer couldn’t be bribed or threatened. Those had been the first things Governor Wan had tried. And worst of all: the Enforcer always destroyed the merchandise.

  Crowding around Anna, the governor’s wives moaned in horror as they watched the Enforcer pour kerosene on fourteen pounds of opium. He’d tossed it all into the fire pit, and now grabbed Wife Number Four’s favorite lantern. With a flat expression on his dark face, he cast the lamp into the pit. The whoosh of fire sent the women recoiling in horror.

  Anna didn’t move. That too was a benefit of an opium high. It allowed her to watch simply because she couldn’t move away. And right now she stared fascinated as the blaze reflected off the chiseled features of the evil man’s face.

  Surprisingly young, the Emperor’s Enforcer had the typical features of a Chinese man in his prime: smooth skin, angular bones, and dark eyebrows like brushstrokes up the planes of his face. But his eyes were larger than normal, as if he could see farther and more clearly than anyone. Then he narrowed them, making them appear like his eyebrows: precise slashes made by the finest artist’s brush.

  How odd that he didn’t appear emotionless to her. That was his reputation, but what Anna saw was a deep-seated rage, as if the man saw everything and hated with a passion beyond anger, beyond fury; hated until it became a kind of madness.

  “Come away, Sister Marie,” urged Madame Wan again. “We must hide you before the murderer comes here.”

  Anna blinked and smiled weakly at her hostess. “But he already said he won’t hurt you. He comes for your husband.”

  She turned back to the window as the Enforcer brandished two deer-horn knives. Shaped like crescent moons, the two sharp slivers glinted red in the blaze of the burning opium. Anna smiled, temporarily mesmerized by the flash of light in his hands. It barely registered when the red became blood and not reflected flame: Governor Wan was no more.

  And that too barely filtered through her mind, except as another flash of brilliant thought: the province’s leading opium distributor was dead.

  “Come away, Sister Marie,” whispered Madame Wan, a third time, forcing Anna to stand. “We must get you to safety.”

  “But why?” Anna asked.

  “Without you, who will get us more opium?”

  Anna nodded as another flash of perception blazed through her fogged mind. Governor Wan wasn’t the province’s best opium provider.

  She was.

  “… not only prison guards and common soldiers, but every official from mandarin and high military commanders down was apparently an opium smoker; capricious and neglectful of duty, sometimes cruel.”

  —Jack Beeching

  Chapter One

  Anna Marie Thompson hunched her shoulders to sink deeper into her heavy mandarin tunic. The air was chilled here along China’s Grand Canal, but it was the sand that hurt the most. Black and rocky, it cut through her useless straw sandals to slice deep gashes into her feet. She winced with every step but dared not slow her shuffling progress.

  Besides, where could she go? To the right was a rocky embankment. To her left strained the long line of coolies, each with a rope wrapped around his thin, nearly naked body. Hundreds of them trudged there, dragging wupan and sanpan boats through the canal, while their low chor-chor song ground against her like the heartbeat of an enormous monster.

  Anna closed her eyes, feeling trapped deep in the arteries of the beast named China. Soon, soon she could be gone. Out on the open sea, the wind fresh on her skin, the creak of the sails a loving accent to the rush of water beneath her feet. She didn’t think beyond the boat, about where she would go after that. Her whole goal was to escape China.

  She clutched her bundle of clothing tight to her chest and sidled up to a family of five, keeping beside a little girl with short black braids. She wanted to smile at the girl, but didn’t dare expose more of her face. So she settled for a depressed shuffle near enough that an outsider would think she was one of their party—an aunt, probably.

  Rubbing her chin lightly on her raised collar, she immediately regretted it. She didn’t dare scrape the mud off her skin no matter how uncomfortable it felt. She’d long since learned to ignore any itch along her scalp. Under no circumstances could she reveal her hair. Skin could be darkened, clothing could hide large breasts and sturdy bones, but no amount of mud or dye could make curly brown hair look straight, Chinese black. Fortunately, most imperial soldiers grew bored after the first half hour of searching, and it was now well into the afternoon. The men would scan the crowd for a lone white woman, but they wouldn’t look deeper. As long as she acted just like everyone else, she had a chance. No one would check her pockets for the pouch that hung heavy and hard against her sweating thigh. No one but she would smell the sickly sweet scent that she feared clung to her skin and stained her soul.

  The little girl stumbled on a rock, and Anna instinctively reached down to catch her. But her back muscles were stiff from days of clenched terror, and her knees had swollen almost as much as her feet. She was too slow to prevent the worst of the fall. The girl dropped her doll and scraped both knees before Anna caught the child’s coat. At least she could use her own body to block the continuing line of humanity that trudged doggedly forward. A man sidestepped around them, then planted one big fat foot right on the doll’s stomach as he tromped forward. The child screamed in outrage, drawing the attention of both Mama and Papa, plus both brothers.

  “Aie-yah!” gasped Mama as she quickly rushed forward. Anna stretched out and rescued the doll, but was unable to wipe the black footprint from the torn cotton dress. The little girl snatched the toy out of her hand and began wailing in earnest while Mama chided the child in rough Mandarin.

  Then Anna made her mistake. She met Mama’s eyes.

  The gesture was what any stranger would do when passing off a distraught child. Women throughout the world smiled at each other, sharing understanding and sympathy in the shortest of glances. But just as nothing could hide the Caucasian nature of Anna’s hair, nothing would make her light brown eyes black or shape them into lifted almonds beneath smooth black eyebrows. She was cursed with the thick brown eyebrows of her English ancestors, and the round, tending-to-wrinkles shape of her eyes.

  Mama recoiled in horror, and her gasp caught Papa’s attention as well. How much longer before the soldiers noticed the commotion?

  Anna quickly dropped her gaze, already knowing it was too late. Moving with the quick reaction of long practice, she grabbed the woman’s hand and dropped coins—God only knew how many—into the palm. Then she spoke rapidly in low Mandarin, mimicking the woman’s accent as closely as possible.

  “I am just a woman who is leaving your country. I go home. Let me please leave in peace. Please.”

  The woman was terrified. She grabbed her child and yanked her firmly backwards, away from Anna. The girl let out a louder squawk of alarm at the rough treatment while Anna closed her eyes and prayed.

  Dear Jesus, sweet Mother Mary, help me!

  “What’s the matter?” Papa’s rough voice cut in, his tone hard with accusation.

  Anna kept her eyes closed and her head down, her thoughts still spinning with prayer. Please, please let me go. Then, without daring to breathe, she hunched a shoulder past the little family and tried to walk by. But the quarters were too tight, especially as the father grew suspicious. His hand was rough, his reach long as he grabbed Anna’s arm. The cheap fabric tore where his fi
ngers wrapped tight, and Anna clenched her jaw against a cry.

  Mother Mary, Christ Jesus my savior…

  The mother made her decision. She snapped out an angry retort, not to the white devil woman, but to her husband. “Carry this worthless daughter,” she ordered her husband. “She dropped her doll.”

  Anna could feel the husband hesitate, but she didn’t dare turn her face to him. She kept her head down, her body hunched in real terror.

  Christ Jesus…

  Clearly impatient, the mother lifted her still-sobbing child and roughly shoved the girl at her husband. Papa was forced to release his hold on Anna while the child wrapped skinny arms around her father’s neck. Anna wasted no time, moving ahead with as much speed as possible—which is to say she got nowhere. Only a few steps ahead, and then she was trapped again, moving with slow, dragging steps while her back prickled with awareness. She knew both Mama and Papa were looking at her with undisguised curiosity. Mama perhaps with greed, too.

  Anna’s danger increased the longer she remained within eyesight of the little family, and yet there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t move ahead, but if she slowed enough to let others pass, the parents would begin to whisper. Then they would turn their heads around, constantly searching behind them for her. Who wouldn’t notice that?

  No, it was less conspicuous if Anna stayed ahead and let them stare at her back. Meanwhile, she kept up her silent prayers.

 
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