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Authors: Katherine Bone

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disturbed him. Had she been seduced by

Henry Guffald aboard the
Octavia
,

promised something Henry could not

give? He gazed upon the fingers of her

left hand. She wore no ring. The

knowledge that she was unattached

pleased him, howbeit oddly.

“Lieutenant,”

she

murmured,

shaking.

Percy smiled. Henry was not her

lover. Lady Constance had been through

an unconscionable ordeal and relived

the moments in her dreams, calling out to

the first capable man she knew could

save her. But Henry had failed to answer

her prayers. It had been
Percy’s

prowess,
Percy’s
quick reaction that had

kept her from being ravished by Frink.

To take advantage of the woman he’d

championed now would only align him

with the likes of Frink and his men, in

her eyes.

Percy closed his eyes and directed

his thoughts to his sister, willing her

petite form to reappear, just as he’d

done a thousand times before to fuel his

anger. Long black hair, dimpled cheeks,

and trusting purity — Celeste. Nearly a

year ago, when he’d been called away to

duty, his young sister had been forcibly

taken from the family landau, leaving his

father badly crippled, never to recover.

Unrelenting in his pursuit of her

attackers, Percy had tracked Celeste to

the docks, where he’d discovered that

she’d been forced aboard a ship and ill-

used. Much to his dismay, he would later

discover her abused and left to grovel in

the streets like a common doxy,

hovelling in the shipyard, uttering

nonsense, professing one word —
fox

over and over again. Consumed by

disease, spirit broken, Celeste had

lasted but a few months after she’d been

found. Percy had been forced to watch

her die a slow, agonizing death. And

since that time, he’d been consumed with

a hatred yet to be staunched. Even now,

thoughts of Celeste’s suffering fired up

his rage, a rage that had served him well

under Frink’s command.

Body tense, his goal in place once

again, Percy opened his eyes. The dawn

of a new day filtered through the ornate

window occupying the back wall of the

cabin. The fiery glow cast a golden haze

upon all he surveyed — all but his heart.

Frowning, longing to ignore the call to

rise because he took great pleasure in

the feel of Constance’s tender flesh

against his own, Percy knew he would

never get another chance to be so

intimate with a lady of her worth. Days

of trivial pursuits were gone. Nothing

and no one existed now but Thomas

Sexton and those who would pay with

their mortal souls for what they’d done

to Celeste.

No longer able to prolong the

inevitable, Percy eased out of the

coverlet, rose from the bed, and stepped

away from the bunk. Naked and stiff, in

more ways than one, he reached for his

discarded trousers, shook them out and

yanked them on. He then picked up his

shirt but noticed, as he retrieved it from

the floor, it had experienced the worse

for wear during his battle with Frink.

The garment was a holey, ruined mess.

His gaze settled upon Frink’s trunk.

Though the man was shorter than he, and

more rotund, he crossed the distance,

opened the lid, and rummaged through

the contents, casting aside one garish

selection after another until he found a

plain black shirt wadded in the bottom.

For a slight moment, he wondered who

the shirt had once belonged to, for it

certainly did not fit the captain’s size or

style. Then, casting off the question, he

slipped his arms into the flowing, ruffled

sleeves and tucked the long ends of the

shirt into his breeches, leaving the laced

front gaping open across his chest.

Hands on his hips, he looked about

the cabin. A fine work of carpentry it

was, giving credit to the captain’s rank.

Frink, he was surprised to find, had

outfitted the
Striker
with the best, lining

the walls in rich mahogany. Bookcases

filled one portion of the west cabin wall.

A section, cordoned with glass cabinets,

held liquor, showcasing one of Frink’s

many vices.

Stepping over to the cabinet, Percy

touched the fine-etched glass. The

artistry was quite good. How had Frink

financed the skilled laborers?

Whoever had been backing the man

had to have been someone of great

importance. For no other could have

sponsored such opulence. The liquor in

the cabinet stared back at him with

invitation. Sating his thirst proved quite

appealing since he couldn’t act upon his

hunger for the lady herself. Percy opened

the cut-glass doors and stared at two

bottles of port, a bottle of brandy and a

jug of rum, each tethered against the wall

to keep them from breaking in choppy

seas. An additional pair of low

bottomed glasses stowed nearby proved

Frink unbelievably civilized.

The bed shifted. Percy glanced

over his shoulder, half-afraid he’d have

to deal with a startled woman before

getting the stiff drink he needed to warm

his bones. What he saw made him even

more adamant to get that drink.

Constance lay on her side, the coverlet

gathered over her breasts. The sight of

her dipping waist and mounding hips

stirred his soul. He licked his dry lips,

closed the liquor door, and frowned.

Liquor would not ease what ailed him.

He strode over to the built-in

bookcase and stopped to scan literary

works neatly stacked inside.
Twelfth

Night
by William Shakespeare, Edmund

Burke’s
Reflections on the Revolution

in France
, and
The Marriage of Heaven

and Hell
by William Blake lined the

shelves. Percy frowned. Who would’ve

guessed Frink had any sort of taste in

literature? A deep-rooted suspicion

began to take root within him. He had

not been toying with a simpleton, but a

man of complexities.

Percy settled his gaze upon the

large mahogany desk jutting out of the

inlaid floor like coral on a reef. Built

with a tall wooden lip around the edges

to prevent content spillage and complete

with garish designs carved upon the

legs, the monstrosity owned the room.

The surface, unbeknownst to him until

now, displayed rolled parchments and

maps, which had been tossed across the

top of the desk as if they’d been

discarded in a hurry. Percy eyed the

papers curiously, scanning the myriad

paperwork until he spied a map

weighted down by a quadrant and

compass. Leaning closer, he examined

the nautical measurements, and then used

them to calculate the distance off of

England’s coastline, a directional chart

flow that led to an unnamed port off the

coast. The location had been circled,

however, and dated three months prior.

Intrigued, he traced back over the route

with his fingertip. His brow arched

when his fingertip came to rest at

Talland Bay just beyond the tiny town of

Polperro along the Cornish coast.

His hopes immediately lifted as he

recollected that he’d returned home

briefly to tend to his ailing father during

that time, making him suspiciously

absent at the recorded meeting place.

Determined to find out what had

transpired there, Percy flipped through

the hastily assorted piles, eager for

another clue. Two names appeared —

Zephaniah Job and Josiah Cane —

beside which the word
fox
had been

scrawled.

Josiah Cane.
Fox.
Percy lifted his

hand and nearly slammed it hard upon

the desk, but stopped mid-air as a

movement out of the corner of his eye

reminded him he was not alone. He held

his breath and waited to see if his

actions had awakened the lady. When

she failed to move, he redirected his

attention to the maps.

Simon had once informed him that

Zephaniah Job commanded a smuggling

ring near Polperro. But who was Josiah

Cane? Who was this fox? Frink had

never mentioned anyone other than

someone known as Whistler, the one

who’d keyed them in to the
Octavia
’s

whereabouts. Until now, Simon hadn’t

believed Whistler existed. Recently

intercepted messages proved Whistler

did, however, mastermind the
Octavia
’s

defeat. But who was Whistler? And how

was he going to get a message to Simon

to prove the informant’s existence?

Sifting through papers at his

fingertips, enthralled by information

he’d been fortunate to gather, Percy

collapsed into the desk chair. Mind

racing, his heart thrummed with hope.

For the first time since the
Octavia
sank

to the bottom of the Channel, barriers to

Frink’s

network

of

power

were

beginning to thin. He leaned back and

closed his eyes, satisfied that he still had

a chance to avenge his sister.

A knock sounded at the door.

“Captain?”

His eyes darted from the door to the

bed to see if the disturbance had roused

Lady Constance. He simply wasn’t ready

to deal with the sobbing woman. Not

when a new plan was beginning to

develop in his mind. He didn’t need

distractions right now and that was what

she was proving to be, a disruption to

his life and ambitions. He eyed her

suspiciously and eased himself out of his

chair. Then he strode soundlessly to the

cabin door and quietly stepped outside.

“Shh,” he rebuked. “The lady’s

sleeping.”

Ollie

peered

over

Percy’s

shoulder, wincing with the effort and

stopped short when the only thing visible

was her torn shift lying on the floor.

“Not asleep, I wager, but ridden to

exhaustion,” he joked.

“Aye.” Percy winked. With a lop-

sided smile, he let the man think what he

would. It only served to enhance the

lady’s protection. “Is anything amiss?”

“A … miss?” Ollie stuttered.

“Other than wanting to catch sight

of our prize, why are you here?” he

asked.

He didn’t want to dwell on Lady

Constance — as if he could forget her.

He wanted to focus on how he was going

to get Josiah Cane to lead him to

Celeste’s killer. There would be time

later to figure out what to do with the

tempting wench in his bed and deal with

the annoying trouble she’d caused him.

But first, he had to get to London. Until

he docked, he had innumerable problems

to contend with, not the least of which

were keeping Constance safe, Collins

and Guffald alive, and making sure the

men on the ship didn’t mutiny again.

After he arrived, there was the

Octavia
’s sinking to report, prisoners to

relinquish, and Constance to see safely

delivered home to her uncle. Simon was

not a man he wanted to engage when

angry. The man was a formidable

legend. The sooner Constance was off

his hands, the better.

Perhaps news he’d been able to

save his old friend, Guffald, would

soothe Simon’s ruffled feathers where

Constance was concerned, he thought.

“Cap’n?”

“Aye?” he answered, stirred at last

from his musings.

“Your pardon, sir, but it seems you

are preoccupied.” He grinned. “Not that

I blame you.”

“You’re quite fixated on that girl,

aren’t you, Ollie?”

“Aye, Cap’n.” Clearing his throat,

Ollie groaned, “If you get tired of her,

the crew and me have drawn straws.”

Percy grinned. “Save it, you old sea

dog. The girl is returning to her uncle. I

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