Frances Carter, daughter and sister of wreckers, stands a gruesome vigil on the Cornish coast, her only solace memories of her childhood love, Mateo Sandoval. Though Frances' father has promised her in marriage to Ewan, a greedy government agent, Frances knows she can never give up on the future she and Mateo had planned.***
As a child, Mateo Sandoval was powerless when his father insisted the family return to Spain. As a man, he will let nothing stop him from claiming the life and the woman he has always wanted.
When the sea washes Mateo ashore at Frances' feet the week before her wedding, they know their second chance could be their last. Only love can do the impossible.
Mateo Sandoval blinked the grit from his eyes and struggled to sit. The darkness swirled around him, and his sodden clothing, stiff with salt, felt like he had been frozen in garments made of ice. A sharp pain in his midsection prevented further movement, so he put his head between his knees and sent a prayer of thanks to the God that had not forgotten him after all. There was no doubt. Despite the storm and the sea and more troubles than he cared to count, he'd made it back to Cornwall. If there was any justice in the world, to Lizard Point and to Frances as well.
Was she still here? The question nagged at him, and the only answer he could cling to gave him no comfort at all. Timothy Carter would never let his daughter go anywhere else. Never let her have anything other than what they could scrounge from the misfortune of others. He could not let that happen, even if it were the death of him.
She was the Queen of the Ocean and deserved her due. Hadn't she been every inch a queen draped in her watery splendor, with seed pods and shells for diamonds and pearls? There was no woman to compare with Frances Carter all the world over, and he had seen enough to know. It was worth the risk.
"Frances." He let her name fill his mouth, wash out the brackish taste of the water and the lack of food. "Frances." She belonged there, not in her father's hovel, not on the beaches, but in his arms as she'd lived in his heart these many years.
A woman's stifled cry brought him to full consciousness. She stood in the mouth of the cave, shawl about her shoulders and a fist in front of her mouth. The hood of her cloak obscured her features, but Mateo found his eyes drawn to the white of her hand. She could be Frances' age. It had been too long.
Mateo held both hands out wide. "I mean no harm."
Her hand did not move. "You are a ghost. A spirit. I am dreaming you."
"No. Only a man, hopefully more flesh than blood." Though he had his doubts, there was at least enough still in his body to allow him to stand. "Can you get food, water? I can pay you." He felt for the pouch that hung around his neck, sodden, but still heavy with coin. Still she did not move, and in the stillness, her voice echoed in his ear. The same voice that beat in his heart for the past ten years. "Frances?"
The hand dropped, and she stood like a statue in a wash of moonlight. "Mateo." His name came like a kiss on the wind. "You cannot be here."