Authors: Kinley MacGregor
This book is dedicated to two of the most wonderful people I know. May God protect and bless you both always:
For Laura Cifelli, whose humor, support, and encouragement made this one of the best experiences of my life. I owe you so much more than I can ever express.
For my husband, who has brought untold joy to my life, and who gave me strength when I needed it most (not to mention all the babysitting you did while I worked on this)!
Thank you both for being there when I needed you.
And in loving memory of my grandmother. I wish she could have lived long enough to see it published. I hope you know, Grandma, that I spelled “milch cow” correctly—I really was listening to your stories.
Cannon fire roared as waves of thick gray…
“Well? What do you think?”
“Beg pardon, Cap’n?” Barney asked with a serious frown. “What…
“He’s what?” Honor asked, her eyes wide.
To the very fate that has abandoned us to turmoil.
Serenity stared at the closed door. Lock the door indeed!…
“I beg your pardon?” Morgan asked, temporarily stunned by her…
By noon the sky had turned a dark, ferocious gray.…
Serenity confronted the room with her wrath fully unfurled.
“Hayes is dead!”
“What?” Morgan asked, shocked by her unexpected demand.
Late that night Serenity came awake with a start. “Who’s…
Two days went by as Morgan waited for some sort…
Morgan had never answered her question. Not that night, nor…
What was she going to do about it? That was…
Serenity wondered if listening to Kristen was the wisest thing…
Unleashing Kristen was like turning loose a cyclone. Serenity wondered…
Morgan had no idea what he was in for that…
Morgan wanted to shout in triumph as Serenity’s soft hand…
Morgan didn’t sleep at all that night. He lay quietly…
Savannah, Georgia, 1793
I have been told, by sources most reliable, of an incredible hero. Of a man so cunning, so courageous, that none can touch his skill. He is as dark as the night, his ship as black as a raven’s wing. Like a phantom wind, he comes upon un-suspecting British ships and reclaims that which those wretched British have taken from us.
He is all things American. Proud and true, like Nathan Hale, who gave his life so that the rest of us could live free. Holding true to his mission, begun during our War for Independence, he returns our impressed men back home to their loving families.
But who is this man, our hero?
Some say he was once a pirate prince who decided to make good his life. Some say he was a destitute orphan left to brave the harsh realities of life alone. Others have told me that he was once a British sailor who knows firsthand the cruelties of the British navy.
One thing I know for certain, this man is like no other. He answered America’s call to arms. He is our legend, the savior of our seas.
But guard your heart well, ladies. For I am also told that he is dashing and handsome. A man well used to feminine company. Like Lancelot of old, he has left behind numerous Ladies of Shallot who mourn for his loss.
For his is a mission of passion far greater than the lure of a woman’s arms. The Sea Wolf can never be tamed. He will never be leashed. He is as unpredictable as the sea and every bit as dangerous.
So look twice at those sails in the distance. Do they belong to some passing merchant or a navy ship? Or are they the white sails of
Look again, and pray God, you foes of America, that those sails come no closer, lest you find out.
Cannon fire roared as waves of thick gray
smoke billowed across the deck of
. Even after almost an hour of battle, Morgan Drake was still amazed that the English frigate had actually tried to defend itself from him.
It’d been a long time since anyone dared such an affront. Most captains knew his flag on sight, and after firing a round or two of initial rebuttal, they docilely submitted to his plunder.
But not the
. For some reason her captain had taken on a fool’s crusade. What could the ship possibly carry that would make her captain so willing to risk the lives of all his crew?
He would know soon enough.
Another blast sounded. Morgan barely had time to duck before a cannonball whizzed past, only to land harmlessly off the starboard prow. He sucked his breath in sharply between his teeth. A few more feet and he would have been searching the waves for his head.
“A captain’s share to the crew who disables the main mast!” Morgan shouted to his gunners. He was bored with this game, and it was time to end it.
Eight of the cannons on the main deck of his ship were pushed forward while four more were reloaded. He could feel the deck beneath his feet jar as the cannons were pulled back and forth by their crews. The cotton fuses hissed just before the cannons fired, almost in unison.
After pulling back the cannons, his gun crews dumped water over the long iron barrels to cool them off before they repeated the loading process.
Morgan smiled at their efficiency, at the symphony of their movements.
How he loved this! Every bleeding part of it.
His ears ringing from the fight, Morgan watched his men fire another volley at their target. A few seconds later wood began splitting as rigging fell from the
. The main mast made a tidal splash in the ocean and his crew raised a cacophonous bellow of victory.
The pungent smell of sulphur circled around him and stung his eyes. For hours he and his crew had been pursuing the English frigate
, and at long last the chase had ended. With one final shot, the
had crippled her prey.
“Bring her about, Mr. Pitkern,” Morgan shouted to his quartermaster. “The
is listing to port.”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n,” Barney Pitkern responded, whirling the wheel. The
cut a smooth course through the waves until it drew broadside with the
“Stand ready to defend,” Morgan called to the twelve sharpshooters who were positioned in the rigging as a precaution against whatever other surprises might be lurking aboard the
. “Fire upon my orders.”
Their answer to his words came as each man trained his sights on the enemy vessel.
To safeguard his identity, Morgan placed his mask over his face.
On the main deck of his ship, sixteen members of his crew drew swords and pistols as they made ready to board the smoking frigate. Grappling hooks whistled through the air as four men whirled and tossed them to catch the thick oaken boards of the
’s side and haul the lumbering ship nearer.
He found it surprising that none of the English sailors had bothered to arm themselves, especially given the fact that they had fought him so ferociously just moments before.
Instead, the English stared at him as if they were seeing a terrifying phantom. Even their captain, dressed in the dark blue coat, white breeches, and powdered wig of the Royal Navy, did nothing more than open and close his mouth like a gaping fish.
As they drew close enough for him to see the individual faces, Morgan could pick out the English sailors from the Americans who had been impressed into service. The American sailors’ eyes burned with great relief while their British counterparts shook visibly with fear of his retribution.
Barney gave a raspy laugh. “Looka there, Cap’n. They’ve finally got the white flag.”
“Aye, and from the look of the English captain, it’s not from his drawers,” Kit added.
Morgan laughed at his boatswain. For a youth barely old enough to shave, Kit had seen more than his share of blood, and battle.
And soiled English breeches.
“Bring ’em aboard, boys,” Barney shouted to the small group of their men who were pulling out boarding planks. “Reclaim America’s riches from them thieving Brits.”
In only a few minutes his crew separated the Americans from their slavers and sent the newly freed men across the small makeshift gangplank to the safe deck of the
His crew was well accustomed to such skirmishes, and Morgan knew it wouldn’t take his men long to ferret out whatever stolen American goods might be hidden aboard the fallen ship. Once they’d reclaimed all that property, they would head home for a well-deserved liberty.
Barney shouted orders to two of the men to help lift a crate of American spice over the last plank. Morgan smiled at the old man’s efficiency. At sixty-two, Barney looked like a withered up piece of driftwood, but his small stature and bald pate hid the fact that he was one of the finest quartermasters to ever sail the seas.
“Cap’n!” one of the men called as he helped set the crate on the deck. “This be too heavy for spice.”
Curious, Morgan removed his long dagger from his belt and pried loose a board. He searched through shredded pieces of paper until his hand brushed against something smooth and hard. Seizing it, he pulled out a piece of raw gold.
Morgan laughed. No wonder the British had risked their lives. Even though he would have to give the new American government a share of the bounty, there would be plenty of gold left to make all of his crew happy men.
“What be the fate of the
, Cap’n?” Barney asked as soon as the last crate was brought over.
Morgan glanced about the terrified faces of the Brits and pondered the answer. None of his crew had been seriously hurt, and with the exception of a few pieces of split rigging and nicks in the railing, his ship stood sound.
And, they had taken a king’s ransom in gold.
Today he was feeling merciful.
“Raze all the jib and mizzen sails,” he told Barney. “That should keep them occupied for a while and eliminate any thought they might have of renewing our fight.”
“Nay!” the English captain begged in a raspy whine. “That shall leave us prey for pirates.”
Anger creased Morgan’s brow and he curled his lip at the man. “Well then, you should be grateful. My experience with pirates is that they treat their captives much better than the English navy treats its impressed sailors.”
Kit laughed at his words. “Aye now, Captain, don’t you think that he’d make a fine cabin boy for some pirate prince?”
Barney slapped the youth on the back. “Better a swabber. What with those pudgy fists and fat bottom, he could cover the decks in a matter of minutes.”
Morgan shook his head at their banter. “Raise the sails and chart a course for home,” he called to Barney. “I think our guests are more than ready to weigh anchor on solid ground.”
His words brought a cheer from the newly freed Americans as his crew rushed to carry out his orders.
No sooner had they drifted past the
than one of the American sailors came forward.
Gratitude burned brightly in the man’s brown eyes as he pulled his ragged English scarf from his head and stopped in front of Morgan. “I don’t know how to thank you, Captain. We’ve all prayed many a night that one day
would cross our paths and make us free.”
Morgan remembered a time when he, too, had whispered such desperate prayers. Only, his prayers had gone unanswered until he’d been forced to take matters into his own hands. He’d learned early in life that he could depend on no one but himself. “I’m glad that I had the chance to free you.”
“Aye,” another sailor said, moving up alongside the first. “You’re just like the story said. Proud and true.”
Morgan went cold at the words. “What story?” he asked.
“Why, this one here that I picked up from a colonial ship last month,” the man said while he fished inside his pocket. After a moment he produced a crumpled scrap piece of parchment and handed it to Morgan.
As Morgan scanned the writing, anger throbbed through every fiber of his body. God’s blood, someone had found out who he was!
“Mr. Pitkern!” he shouted, gaining Barney’s attention. “Shift course and head us for Savannah.”
“Aye, I’ve got a fish to fry.”