Authors: Katherine Bone
Tags: #Romance, #Historical
Percy sidestepped Frink’s lunging
thrusts, challenging him jab for jab. Step
by step, their sword play sapped his
strength as they parried closer to the
hatch and the collapsing deck along the
bow. Eight long months of anger and
humiliation fueled the duel. As the
combat continued — lunge, parry, lunge
— the ship, gutted for everything it was
worth, listed. The
had little time
left before it slipped beneath the surface.
For Constance’s sake, Percy needed to
end this quickly, so he could give her
what he’d never been able to give his
own sister. Freedom.
Debris cascaded down upon them,
hampering the fight. Frink baited him
with riotous vigor, the strains of his
nerves. An explosion below rocked their
feet, sending them reeling sideways.
Percy moved in for the kill as the
Oc t a v i a
dipped, growing miserably
“She’s goin’ down, Sexton!”
Frink propelled his blade forward,
nearly burying it into Percy’s side.
Warmth seeped down Percy’s hip.
Ocean spray moistened his face. He
couldn’t back down. He had to put an
end to Frink’s tyranny even if it cost him
his last breath.
The ship rolled backward, pitching
them both forward. Unable to catch his
footing, Frink stumbled headfirst into the
hold. Percy ran toward the hatch and
peered into the darkness, searching for
any sign that Constance was still alive.
measured her fate by inches. If he was
going to get Constance off the ship alive,
Percy knew he was going to have to
jump in after her.
Without hesitation, he leapt into the
hold. Landing unsteadily on his feet, he
took a moment to get his bearings, but
behind. Scrambling to protect himself,
he sighted Frink out of the corner of his
eye as the man attempted to slam another
piece of wood onto his back. The blow
struck him across the shoulder. He
reared backward, then lunged forward
and caught the wooden beam, jerking it
out of Frink’s hands. He then slammed
the jagged wood into the captain’s side.
Frink fell to the bottom of the hull,
cursed, and rolled onto his feet,
producing a knife. Dodging a few well-
placed thrusts that caught him along the
sleeve, Percy pivoted around Frink,
jerked the knife free, and locked the
captain into a choke-hold.
Fury unlike any he’d ever known
seethed within him and a satisfied smile
curved the corners of his mouth as he
strangled the man unconscious. If he
couldn’t find the man who’d financed
Frink’s endeavors, at least he could gain
satisfaction from killing the one who did
his bidding, a man responsible for the
demise of innocents.
Light flickered above, illuminating
wreckage floating about his feet. He
scanned the frothy surface, his eyes
searching hull to hull for any signs of
“Constance!” he yelled.
His ears alerted to every sound, he
let Frink go and watched the man slip
underwater. The burden of an empty
future was a weightless concern
compared to the life of the woman he
had yet to find. He called her name
again. Not long after, he heard a
groaning plea rise above shifting timber,
swelling water, and the bedlam above.
“Help!” He heard the faint request
and sped into action.
Searching the darkness, he spied
fabric floating atop the foamy surface.
He saw a hand claw the air and a head
rise out of the freezing wash. Wood
wept. Beams burst at the seams, spewing
salt water about them in flowing
rivulets. Shouts to abandon ship rang out
above deck as the ship reeled at an
awkward angle. The vessel moaned like
thousands of murdered souls pleading
quickening wash and lifted Constance
into his arms. Her head sagged. She
appeared lifeless. He slapped her cheek.
When she still didn’t respond, he dunked
her into the water quickly rising up to his
hip. The woman came up gasping,
sucking in life-giving air.
She screamed. The ship pitched
Percy gave her a rough shake. “Do
you know how to swim, woman?”
“Swim?” She couldn’t swim.
“If you don’t,” he said, “we’re as
good as dead.” He reached for her arm.
“Take my hand. We’ve got to reach the
top of the hold or we’ll go under with
“I’ll never make it!”
“Trust me,” he pleaded.
Constance sobbed. “I can’t,” she
said. This time, she wasn’t talking about
Water swirled about her waist,
inching higher and higher, the icy lather
nearly reaching her breasts. He did not,
could not know the demons he asked her
“You must,” he said.
“I can’t!” she exclaimed, her body
and mind shutting down.
“You can and you will.”
He spoke as though surviving
shipwrecks had been a daily affair. His
eye commanded her obedience. Every
ounce of her being wanted to comply, to
believe this devil meant to help her, but
horrors of the past, pirates, her mother
descending beneath the foamy spray,
took an unrelenting hold upon her mind.
He grabbed her waist. She yelped.
“Do you want my death on your
“Nothing would please me more!”
she cried. She didn’t want to die. Her
eyes searched the dwindling space in the
hold. She began to doubt getting off the
was even possible.
“Do you want to live?”
“Y-yes … ” she finally stammered.
He pulled her toward the hatch
momentarily to get a grip on the ledge.
Almost immediately, a blunt object
scraped her leg, knocking her out of his
reach. She cried out and snatched for his
hand. He grasped her hair, yanking her
back toward him as the sea roiled like a
living being beneath them.
“Leave me,” she gulped, gasping
for air. “I’ll only get you killed!”
“Grab hold of my neck and don’t let
go. We’ll climb up to the hatch and make
“I’m … a-afraid,” she cried, teeth
“Concentrate. I’ll get you out of
here if it’s the last thing I do. I swear it
upon my sister’s grave. Trust me,” he
implored. His entreaty robbed her of all
thought. She nodded. “That’s it. Hang
on! Let me do the work.”
He swam them to a beam in the
hull, dodging wood fragments flooding
past. With the strength of what seemed
like ten men, he reached up for the edge
of the hatch, pulled himself up, and then
dangled his body above her.
“Keep a firm grip on the rail,” he
Stars sparkled above as he deftly
swung himself up and out of the hold.
For a moment, the outline of his body
was blocked from sight. The ship
groaned. Water swirled like a whirlpool
about her. The momentary joy she felt
upon seeing him free of the chaos
beneath them, knowing he’d promised to
save her, fled as a wave crashed over
the hatch dousing him with a terrifying
Water flooded over her head,
temporarily submerging her. Constance
struggled to keep her grip, but her hands
slipped. She sank, swallowing her fill of
seawater as she tried to claw her way
back up to life-giving air.
The willowy form of a woman
Take hold of my hand,
Constance. Don’t give up. Grab my
Constance kicked her feet and
stretched out her hand. But the hand she
grabbed didn’t belong to her mother, but
a devil with a worrisome snarl. The
brute yanked her upward and onto the
’s sloping deck.
“You’re a lot of trouble.”
“Mrs. M-Mortimer,” she said,
He slapped her on the back. “Your
maid is already aboard the
“Make way for the captain!” an
order sounded in the semi-darkness.
The ruffian — lifted her and
carried her to the edge of the
deck. “No! You can’t mean to — ”
“Grab the girl, Jacko,” he ordered,
throwing her overboard. “Clear the
She landed with a big splash, and
then found herself clawing mindlessly at
water again until she was quickly fished
out of the sea by two sneering crewmen.
Once inside the boat, she glanced
furiously over her shoulder and held her
breath as the brigand dove into the sea,
effortlessly swimming to the side of the
gig, where he grabbed hold of a
proffered arm and swung himself deftly
“She’s goin’ down by the head,
“Aye,” he said. “Get us clear,
Jacko, before she takes us under.”
“Row, men! Steer us free!” Jacko
bellowed. But as the distance grew
between the boat and the sinking ship,
wouldn’t have been the better choice.
• • •
much as salt in his bad eye.
Percy’s men heaved forward and
back to spin the oars, muscles straining
against the currents. He sat at the head of
the gig and watched the
to stern. The sea devoured her whole,
taking Frink and all connection to
Celeste’s killer down to the bottom of
Davy Jones’s locker.
Irritated that he’d come so close to
benefactor only to lose all he’d worked
so hard for in the time it took to sink a
ship, his eyes settled on the bedraggled
Lady Constance. He wanted to strike out
at her for coming between him and what
he wanted most in the world. But as Her
Ladyship tried desperately to maintain
her modesty, he saw the purity he’d long
ago vowed to protect. Celeste, his
innocent sister, in need of his help, her
limp body ravaged by disease after
being sacrificed to the highest bidder
and left upon the altar of pestilence. He
turned away and cast his gaze out to sea,
content remnants of the man he used to
be still resided, however hidden, within
When, at last, his emotions settled,
Percy peered across the gig and
searched the faces of his remaining
crew, men who refused to leave without
their captain. Ten worked the oars. As
their commander, he could taste their
bitter disappointment. They’d placed
their lives in his hands, endured endless
cruelty, followed every order he ever
gave and he’d led them to this — failure.
Yet, none of their gazes accused. None
seemed to care they’d wasted nearly a
year of their lives for naught.
Constance coughed uncontrollably,
diverting his attention. His wary eye
searched out her form as she stretched to
gag over the side of the boat. Salt water
did not sit well on the stomach. Thusly,
the little fool was sick. He scrutinized
her, head to foot. In the moonlight, he
could see that her coloring had slightly
paled, though her body was primed for
attack as she gazed about prepared to
strike the first man who came near.
Scantily clothed, eyes wide, she