Pegeen knew that a slave should keep its head down and do nothing to draw attention to itself, but she couldn't help looking around and then exclaiming in pleasure. The room was so beautiful it might have come from Heaven itself. Done in yellow and white and gold, it was prettier than anything she had ever seen in the islands.
"I am glad you approve," said Josiah Cavanaugh in a stern voice.
Immediately she dropped her gaze and stood still, intently studying the carpet. She didn't need to look at him to be amazed all over again.
Where she had come from the slaves had been white and black and a few brown, but without exception the masters had all been white. For a black man to own slaves was something totally outside her imagination, but apparently this man did.
At the slave broker's she had studied him covertly. Dark, with hair cropped so close it couldn't kink, he was muscular and well built and dressed as nicely as any white man she had ever seen. His face was handsome but hard, as if he never smiled, nor spoke more than he had to.
He circled her slowly and though she saw nothing but the carpet at her feet it was as if she could feel his gaze going over her like the hot winds of an island summer.
"Take off your dress."
Pegeen looked up, shocked. "In your drawing room?"
The hard face became harder and his words were like small stones. "You are a slave. I bought you. I own you. If you do not please me I can take you to bed, whip you, brand you, even kill you and no one will say a word because you are my property. Do you understand?"
Recklessly Pegeen looked him in the eye. His eyes were large and black, with slightly yellowish whites, as if reflecting a spring sun. They were also hard and completely devoid of human emotion.
"I have been a slave since I was five years old," she replied in level tones. "I have been sold half a dozen times. I was ten when I was sold away from my mother, and I have no idea if she still lives or not. I know what owners can do to slaves."
"Then take off your dress!"