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Passenger (Passenger #1)
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1484715772 (ISBN13: 9781484715772)
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.
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AS THEY ASCENDED, RETREATING FARTHER FROM THE winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form: silent, ancient, mysterious.
Nicholas had spent the better part of his life on the sea, or close enough to catch its perfume of fish and brine when there was a good wind. Even now, as they approached the monastery, waiting for it to appear through the heavy cover of mist and clouds, he found himself turning back, futilely searching beyond the towering peaks of the Himalayas for the hazy line where the sky met the curve of rippling water — something familiar to anchor himself to, before his courage disappeared along with his confidence.
The trail, a winding series of stairs and dirt, had stretched at first through the pine trees dripping with moss, and now hugged the sheer, vertical cliffs into which the Taktsang Palphug Monastery had somehow, impossibly, been built. Lines of bright prayer flags fluttered overhead in the trees, and the sight eased some of the tightness in his chest; it reminded him instantly of the first time Captain Hall had brought him to New York Harbor and the new frigates had been festooned with flags of every make and pattern.
He shifted again, a small, careful movement that would ease the sting of the rucksack’s straps digging into his shoulders, without sending himself plunging over the open side of the trail.
You’ve climbed the rigging any number of times, and you’re frightened of heights now?
Rigging. His hands itched to touch it, to feel the spray of the sea kicked up by wind and his ship charging through the water. Nicholas tried to set his shoulders back, toss sand over the burn of resentment in the pit of his stomach before it could catch fire. He should have been back by now — he should have been with Hall, with Chase, rolling over the crest of each passing wave. Not here in a foreign century — the nineteen hundreds, for goodness’ sake — with an incompetent sop who required Nicholas to help button his new coat, lace his boots, knot his scarf, and position his ridiculous floppy hat, despite having two hands of his own and, to all appearances, a brain in his skull.
The leather sack slung around his neck slapped heavily against his side as Nicholas continued his climb toward where Julian stood, one leg braced against a nearby stone — his usual pose when he thought ladies were around to admire him. But now Nicholas couldn’t begin to fathom whom he was attempting to impress — the few birds they’d heard on their walk through the damp forest? Had he always been this way — dramatic, vain, with a complete lack of consideration — and Nicholas so blinded by the wonder of finding a so-called brother, a new life with possibilities of comfort and wealth and adventure, that he’d willingly ignored it?
“Now, chap, come here and take a look — this is the Tiger’s Nest, you know. Damn this infernal mist —”
Nicholas did, in fact, know. He made a point to read as much as he could about whatever location the old man sent them to, so as to figure out the best ways to keep the ever-reckless, ever-stubborn Julian alive. Nicholas was constantly working from a deficit of knowledge, of training. When he’d realized the family would never truly provide a real education for his traveling, he’d begun to wonder if it was intentional, a way to keep him in his lowly place. The thought had enraged him enough to cause him to spend most of his meager funds on history books.
“Bhutan’s Buddhism guru Padmasambhava — according to legend, of course — flew here on the back of a tigress,” Julian continued with a grin that had gotten them out of any number of scrapes and trouble — the smile that had once softened Nicholas’s heart and temper, always teasing out forgiveness. “We should pop into one of their meditation caves on the way back. Maybe you can have yourself a little think. Have a look at that view, and tell me you won’t miss traveling. How, in the whole of your small life, would you ever have come here otherwise? Put that foolish notion away, will you?”
Rather than throw a punch at his smug face, or send the metal tip of the pickax strapped to his back on a similar path, Nicholas shifted the rucksack again and tried not to focus on the fact that he was, yet again, being crushed under the weight of Julian and his belongings.
“It looks as though there’s a storm coming in,” Nicholas said, proud of how steady his voice sounded, despite the rattle and hiss of the resentment he felt building again inside of him. “We should make this climb tomorrow.”