Gavin Douglas joins a Scottish mission as a carpenter to escape painful memories of his wife’s death from a back-alley abortion she tried to keep secret from him. The last thing he expects to find in Africa is instant attraction to a native.
For the past year, Zenda has devoted her time to Claymore Missionary, secretly erasing everything taught to her tribe’s children to prevent them from becoming whitewashed. Nothing else matters except claiming her tribal identity as a woman. But before her eagerly awaited rite of passage can take place, Gavin lays his own claim on her body, igniting desires she can’t face losing.
Gavin is horrified to learn of the physical transformation—and associated risks—she insists on undergoing. When he realizes his biggest loss may be yet to come, his only mission is to teach Zenda pleasure.
"We have a few rules here," Martha added, using her fingers to count again. "Rise at dawn and show up on time for meals or you don’t eat. Keep your quarters and clothes clean. Do not leave without telling someone where you’re going. And no alcoholic spirits."
His muscles tightened. Stow your rules, lady. I’ve traveled halfway around the world to escape the wretched things. Then he swallowed, calming himself. Of course a mission—a church, of sorts—would have rules.
"English must be spoken at all times, which I’m sure will be no trouble for you. No foul language, though." She smashed a fly that landed on her arm. "And, finally, no lustful thoughts or activity."
As thirst and fatigue from the journey caught up with him, he struggled to nod again. They’d brought Scotland here, all right, along with Queen Victoria. He had a feeling the McTavishes lived by their own rules and did not share a bed. Not that he had anything to worry about. Ever since Caitlyn, his wretched life had little room for women or pleasure.
And, luckily, there’d be no females to tempt him here. Martha was about as appealing as an elephant.
"First, you’re going to eat, rest, and drink plenty of water.” Her eyes, beneath curls of gray-and-brown hair and thick brows, narrowed as they studied him. "Drying out here will kill you faster than anything else."
A comforting thought. Maybe he should turn around and return to Scotland. At least he was familiar with the hells there. But the hot, dry air here was a damn sight easier to breathe than the damp coal smoke that blackened the buildings where he’d lived and worked.
"Zenda," she called to a young native woman sitting at the back of the group of students. "Get Mr. Douglas here some refreshment and show him to his quarters."
She turned back to Gavin. "Zenda has been a godsend. She helps us manage the children and the endless chores."
The dusty earth dropped beneath his feet. Talking to Martha, a fellow Scot, had grounded him in this strange place. He had no idea what to say to the natives, though. As little as possible, he decided, until he got more used to the place and how it ran.
"Welcome, Mr. Douglas," she announced after gliding toward him on soundless feet.
He lifted his hat and set it back in place. "Call me Gavin."
She had a wide mouth and prominent cheekbones. The shade of her skin and eyes reminded him of smoldering embers. She wore a simple white dress—both modest and revealing—similar to ones Scottish lassies wore. Its high neckline couldn’t completely disguise the curve of her slight, rounded breasts, and the hem showed plenty of her long, shapely legs.
As she led him to the dormitory, the wooden beads of her necklace clinked together like seductive music. They passed a goat and donkey, both too busy grazing to pay them any attention. Inside, merciful shade replaced the blaring sun, giving him a surge of energy. Though he desperately needed them, he didn’t want rest, food, or water.
He wanted her.
In a shadowy corner. On the dusty ground. So much for avoiding lustful thoughts. He hadn’t even been here an hour and he’d already broken one of the rules.