Authors: Katherine Bone
Tags: #Romance, #Historical
I’ll show you.”
announced absurdly. His voice was
intense, commanding. The pirate’s lip
curled, as if he challenged her to rebuke
beneath the man’s impossible stare. She
tossed her head back, firmly intent on
surviving whatever these pirates forced
upon her. Quirking her brow, she raised
the bed warmer. She wasn’t afraid to
fight. Dying would end ten years of
misery and guilt. It was the minutes and
hours before death that frightened her.
Finding her voice, Mrs. Mortimer
screeched into the void, “Leave us be!”
“Never fear,” the demon said.
“We’ve never misused a wench who
didn’t welcome the attention.” A buoyant
cheer rose, forcing a heart-wrenching
sob from the fearful woman. “You may
be common,” the blackguard stated,
looking Constance up and down, “but
aren’t particular, are we men?”
She did not miss his emphasis on
“we.” Immediately, she wondered if they
were to be passed from one man to
another like common doxies. Constance
lifted her chin another notch.
“Your desire to fight is natural,” he
assured. “But I promise you, the
temptation will pass.”
The leader paused, wanting her to
digest the futility of the situation. And
the glint in his eye promised he’d enjoy
reaping his reward. But then he did
something completely unexpected. He
tilted his head sideways and stepped
forward, his hand held up to suggest he
wouldn’t hurt her. In disbelief, she
positioned the bed warmer between
“Don’t come any closer,” she
His eye narrowed. He took another
step closer, slapped the bed warmer
scrutinized her, head to foot.
“I stand corrected,” he said,
underneath her chin, tilting her head left,
then right, as if searching her features for
something — familiar. “You, my little
blossom, are anything
A frown creased his brow. He
pulled away, breaking contact, and her
skin burned where his fingers had been.
Shock infiltrated her senses. Had he
recognized her? Why, the very idea was
absurd. He was a pirate! It wasn’t as if
they frequented the same social circles.
between them. She’d felt it in his gaze,
his touch. But she was given no time to
dwell on her absurd thoughts however,
because he turned away and addressed
the men in the room.
He spoke loudly to the brigands.
“Search the room. Report whatever you
find to me,
The rogue and his men pilfered
petticoats and stockings about the room
as if they were rags. Temporarily
forgotten, Constance focused on escape.
A captain was mentioned. How many
others were in charge? And what greater
misery waited above deck?
movements. What part had he played in
the attack upon the
that he might have killed Lieutenant
Guffald or Captain Collins hit her full
force. His size and skill certainly proved
him capable of performing such a
sickening feat. And yet there was
something about him …
Fabric ripped. Mrs. Mortimer
shrieked, startling Constance away from
her speculations about the man. But it
was too late. The thieves had torn the
hem of her green lined riding habit and
discovering her money pouch, which
held the last valuable farthing she’d
saved to procure transportation to Aunt
Lydia’s home. Without those funds, she
and Mrs. Mortimer would be destitute.
The one-eyed brigand cocked his
head sideways as she stepped forward
to intercept the garment.
“Stay back,” he warned. His voice
was dagger sharp.
He stretched out a well-muscled
arm to bar her way and Constance
watched her future fade before her eyes
as one of the rogues ripped into the wool
cloth. Grinning, the rotten-mouthed man
produced the pouch and threw it into the
one-eyed pirate’s hand. Satisfied, the
jackal produced a lop-sided grin, tossed
the purse, weighed it, nodded, and
ordered his lackey to take the money
With nothing left to distract them,
her captors turned away from her to
plunder another one of her trunks.
Constance stood by helplessly as one by
one, men filtered in and out of the room,
passing along information to their leader
about the melee above. Clothed in black,
overseeing pirate loomed larger than life
in her cabin, his dark, wavy hair draping
away from his beard at the slightest tilt
of his head. His leather eye patch, held
in place by a blood-red scarf, gave him
a sinful demonic air that made Constance
quiver. His facial features, concealed as
they were beneath a mustache and beard,
kept her from judging the man’s
character. From head to toe, the blaggard
was a frightening specimen. She knew it
would do no good to beg and plead for
clemency, though she feared she was but
moments away from resorting to those
She had to escape. But how? The
room was too small to rush by him
without getting snagged by an arm. Men
preventing her passage. She’d be a fool
to think she could outmaneuver men
who’d been trained to scuttle a ship and
wreak havoc on human life. Was escape
“Plotting a getaway, eh?” he asked,
while studying the state of his fingernail.
Had she been that obvious? “Don’t try
anything foolish. That could get you
Did he think her a fool? Did he
expect her to follow him blindly to the
side of the ship and obey his command
to jump or worse, succumb to a pirate’s
lust? No. If she was going to die, she
would rather die struggling to survive,
like her mother. Her heart sank as she
remembered how terribly wrong her
mother’s plan had gone. But had she had
any other choice? She shivered at the
thought as the brigand’s eye bore into
hers. He gave his head a negative shake
as if reading her thoughts — again. Time
stilled as she waited for him to tell her
where she fit into his plans. Finally, he
frowned. His demonical gaze brought an
unwelcome flush to her cheeks as he
instinctively backing away.
His laughter ricocheted off the
ceiling as he tossed her a wrap. “No
harm will come to you as long as you do
as I say,” he said.
Constance placed her arms through
the linen sleeves and pulled the wrap
closed, thankful for some measure of
modesty. Two men entered the cabin,
spoke quietly with the tyrant, looked at
her, smirked, and then left. Concerned
for their safety, Constance drew Mrs.
Mortimer close, making sure to shield
the woman who’d mothered her to
adulthood. But as they clung together in
earnest, praying silently, a short-legged
pirate walked forward and snatched the
woman from her arms.
“No!” she cried, daring not to let go
of Mrs. Mortimer’s hand.
Morty whimpered. “God be with
you, child.” And then she was gone,
spirited out the door without a backward
Constance stood quietly listening to
Morty’s ranting curses as the woman
was carried through the passageway and
up the stairs to the deck. Left the primary
focus of the wicked devil, she didn’t
know how to react. Lord Burton paled in
comparison to the confident killer
standing before her.
A lean man with rotting teeth seized
her by the arm at that moment, nearly
pulling her off her feet. She screamed.
“She stays!” the one-eyed man
“The captain wants this chit
topside,” the foul man challenged.
“Tell him I’ll bring her myself.”
His voice brokered no argument.
Constance shrank back, afraid of what
the combustive atmosphere would yield.
Apparently, she wasn’t the only one
who felt threatened. The smaller man let
her go, mumbled something obscene, and
moved quickly out of the room.
The devil stared at her for an
inestimable time. “I’ve an eye for beauty
and,” he paused, “I never forget a face.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder,” she snapped.
First and foremost in her thoughts
was the way the other men had raked her
flesh with their beady eyes. To be alone
with this dangerous man now surely
meant he intended to ruin her. After all,
he was no different from the others. How
could he be? As the truth settled in
Constance’s mind, she wondered if this
was what her mother had had to endure,
Swallowing hard, she hoped to survive
the hours ahead without resorting to
begging for death.
Remember, there can be no
bargaining with pirates.
final words cut her to the quick. Some
lessons weren’t meant to be learned.
The demon moved. He stood face
to face with her now, though he was a
head taller. His height posed a strategic
problem. Should she try to resist, there
would be no way to get around him.
“You’re a beauty,” he admitted.
“Perhaps a physician should check
your good eye,” she snapped.
He tossed his head back with
laughter, then moved back toward the
center of the room and quirked his brow.
“Do you intend to slay your enemy with
wit or a bed warmer?”
Censored by his amusement of her
predicament, Constance sheathed her
arms about her like a protective cocoon.
He was but a few steps away. She was
not safe by any means. He could attack at
any time. Fearing that possibility, she
watched him closely as he leaned on one
of her trunks, his thigh straining against
the dark fabric of his breeches. She
closed her eyes, revolted that she’d been
caught staring. But he was incredibly
big, large enough to kill her with one tap
of his hand. The fact that he could
overpower her in seconds toppled any
hopes she had of knocking him
“What is your name?” he asked,
interrupting her thoughts.
“Who is doing the asking?”
His loud guffaw only exasperated
her stubborn streak. The man was
arrogant, a character trait similar to her
father’s. Constance understood pleading
for her life, for Mrs. Mortimer’s, would
be useless. But she had few options left.
If she expected to live, she would
eventually be expected to give in to the
understood this better than most. Forcing
a pirate into a bargain had backfired on
her mother. Yet, this night she’d come
full circle. It was now her turn to
choose. Her mother had given her that
right, shown her the true measure of
courage. Could she do the same for Mrs.
Mortimer, the woman who’d shown her
every kindness and taken her mother’s