Read The Siren's Song Online

Authors: Jennifer Bray-Weber

Tags: #Romance, #Historical

The Siren's Song

The Siren’s Song
By Jennifer Bray-Weber

Pirate captain Thayer Drake lures ships onto reefs for
plunder, and business is lucrative. Yet, saving a lass from drowning after her
ship wrecks becomes more than he bargained for when the crazy wench dives back
into the raging sea for her blasted purse.

Tavern songstress Gilly McCoy, penniless and fleeing from
the man who murdered her lover, stowed away on the doomed ship. Now at Drake’s
mercy, Gilly must earn her passage by performing for the captain. And that is
not all: she must also kiss the captain at every ring of the ship’s bell. But
she discovers kissing the handsome rogue is not entirely a bad bargain…

Drake is intrigued by the beauty, but there is no room in
his black heart for a woman. He has demons that he drinks nightly to forget.
Meanwhile, Gilly has her own secrets to keep—including why her purse is more
valuable to her than her life…

81,000 words

Dear Reader,

I love May. In my part of the world, May is the beginning of
two things: beach season and festival season. Granted, beach season is just
barely starting in May, but it’s still starting. And with the unseasonably warm
winter we’re having, perhaps it won’t be too cold for the beach, even in early
May. As for the festivals, well, in my area we’re spoiled for choice. From April
to October we have everything from BBQ and beach festivals, to apple, strawberry
and watermelon festivals—even a river festival. It seems like every week there’s
something new to look forward to!

But if festivals don’t interest you it doesn’t mean you can’t
have something to look forward to as well. Each week in May we showcase a
variety of new Carina Press titles.

This month we’re proud to present debut author Cynthia
Justlin’s compelling novel
Edge of Light.
A true
spine-tingling and thrilling romantic suspense, this is one that will have you
on the edge of your seat and wondering where this author has been! Get ready for
a fantastic read.

Kicking off May, we have
Brook Street:
Rogues
by Ava March, which finishes up her fantastic male/male
historical novella trilogy. Releasing along with Ava is paranormal romantic
suspense author Alexia Reed and her novel
Hunting the
Shadows.

Later in May are three historical romances joining the Carina
Press lineup. From Jennifer Bray-Weber comes a swashbuckling pirate adventure,
The Siren’s Song.
Alyssa Everett gives us a
charming and passionate Regency romance in
Ruined by
Rumor.
The White Swan Affair
by Elyse Mady is the third of
our historical romance offerings this month.

Not quite historical romance but in the historical period
comes Christine Bell’s new steampunk romance
The Bewitching
Tale of Stormy Gale.
Join Christine as she takes you on a romantic
adventure through time.

Two erotic romance books are sure to satisfy those craving a
slightly naughtier story. Check out
Let Me In
by
Callie Croix, a hot BDSM novella, and Daire St. Denis’s erotic ménage romance
Party of Three.

Rounding out the month of May are releases from two returning
Carina Press authors.
Guarding Jess
by Shannon
Curtis is the next novel in her McCormack Security Agency series and the
follow-up to her debut title,
Viper’s Kiss.
Rebecca Rogers Maher offers up a satisfying and emotional, yet sexy, read in her
contemporary romance novella
Snowbound with a
Stranger.

I hope you enjoy this month’s new releases as much as we’ve
enjoyed bringing them to you.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your
thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
.
You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter
stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Acknowledgements

The stars I reach for seem closer because of the continued love and support I receive from my family. Thank you for believing in me always.

A heartfelt thank you to my friends, critique partners and writing buddies for helping me stay the course. Your championing and encouragement have given me that added boost skyward.

And my deepest gratitude to Denise Nielsen, my amazing editor, for smoothing the edges and navigating this book to be the best it can be.

Chapter One

Off the Florida Coast, 1727

“Abel, please, I’ll drown. Don’t leave me!”

The ship’s desperate sighs and quaking hull masked any hope of Gilly’s shouts carrying beyond the walls of the muggy cargo hold. Snaps and tremors vibrated beneath her feet. Each crashing wave, each jolt warping the bulkheads, jarred her knees and spine. Water spit through the seams of the planking, a sinister prelude to what surely was to come. Panic leached into her mind as the cool water pooled on the floor at an alarming rate. The
Rowena
was breaking up.

“Abel!”

Gilly floundered her way around a row of barrels toward where Abel stood at the hatch door.

“I’m sorry, Miss Gilly.”

What was he saying? Even in the darkened hold, she saw the shadows shift across the ship cooper’s face.

He reached for the metal ring handle. “The captain will see me hang from the yardarm if he found out I stowed ya.”

His words, his meaning, were crowded out by her need to reach him, to get out.

The ship bucked and Gilly smashed her hip into the rim of a cask. She winced at the sharp pain radiating into her bone. Another crack split in the ship’s belly, spewing more water inside. The humid air grew stifling with the tart smell of brine. Eddies swirled around her ankles, seeping over the tops of her boots and soaking through to her toes.

Abel cast a worried glance behind him. “I’m sorry,” he said again.

“You can’t do this!”

He shook his head before yanking the handle and shutting the door, closing off her only way out, her only way to survival.

“No!”

She raced forward through the maze of barrels stocked with provisions, sails and drinking water. Fallen kegs rolled across her path. The floor tilted violently beneath her and she stumbled over a wayward cask, landing on all fours. Seawater splattered up on her face. She choked on the salt caught in her throat. The brine tingled on her lips and stung her eyes. Frantic from the burning, she swiped at her lids squeezed tight.

The depth of the water lapped at her elbows as she crawled ahead until she reached a cluster of secure kegs. Grabbing a barrel for leverage, Gilly pulled herself upright. Her waterlogged bag, hanging from her wrist by the drawing string, was burdened by rivulets dribbling off the velvet fabric. Its weight put her at ease, if simply to remind her she still possessed it. It was the one thing she had left, the one thing that remained of Hyde and the last four months of her life. And inside, the contents held her fondest memories and darkest secrets.

With an unsure foot, she struggled to keep her balance as the vessel pitched.

Four hours had passed since the ship sailed into the gale. Gilly had remained wedged against the wall, out of sight, in the same spot she took up when she stowed away on the
Rowena.
It didn’t take long before she decided no occasion would have her sailing again. Her queasy stomach roiled along with the churning sea and she took great pains to keep her last meager meal down. The creaking boards and ominous howls of wind—unlike any she’d heard—were frightening. The only comfort to be had she found by pulling her knees to her chin and knotting her arms around her legs.

Abel, the filthy, stinking bastard, had snuck her down in the storage hold where no one ventured. She hadn’t been scared, then, being left alone in the dark bowels. Abel had promised she’d be safe. He’d bring her a ration of food and water each morn and in a matter of days she’d be back on dry land. A bit of cramped solitude in a rank corner far outweighed what awaited her back in St. Augustine. Heavens, she had narrowly eluded the men hunting her. Nay, she hadn’t been scared.

But that had been before the storm.

Waves pounded the vessel with thunderous force. Pops and scrapes rasped and clawed along the frame. The destruction, the beating the ship took, raged loud in her ears. Overhead, a beam splintered. The floor shifted beneath her again and rolling barrels slammed into the wall. Her heart hammered within her chest. The only thing keeping Gilly from the angry sea outside was plank and pitch. She prayed the ship would hold together as she made her way to the hatch.

The door didn’t budge upon yanking. Another fissure erupted in the hull somewhere in the darkness behind her and seawater burbled onto the flooded floor.

Dismay seeped in her with the rising water.
No, no, no! Not today. Not like this.
She flung her head back and screamed in frustration, jerking and jerking again at the door handle, grunting from the effort, kicking at the frame until she tired. She swung around leaning against the door. Sealed in. No escape. Trapped.
Oh, God. I don’t want to die.

How did she manage to get herself in so much trouble? She wished Hyde were here. He’d know what to do. But Hyde was dead. And if he hadn’t been murdered, she’d be at the Peregrine, singing to a tavern full of jolly men, not cowering in a ship’s bilge about to drown. Damn him. A warm tear slid down her cheek.

The
Rowena
jolted. Crossbeams above broke free, crashing down, smashing into casks and swinging from the ceiling. Gilly rolled to the side. A moment more and she’d have been impaled against the hatch door. She clutched at her chest, trying to calm the breath she couldn’t quite inhale. Lamp oil from a busted barrel leaked out into the now knee-deep water. The slick oil clung to her clothes and skin; a fishy odor clogged her nose, amplifying her anxiety.

She cut her eyes to the beam speared into the door. That was far too close for her liking. She ran a hand along the smooth timber. Far too close. Cracks spread out across the hatch’s wooden facing. Gilly pulled on the beam and the cracks yielded ever so slightly. She perked up. Dare she think she could pry open a hole in the door with the joist? Dare she try?

She wiped her palms on the folds of her dress and wrapped them around the beam. Gilly gave it a good tug, but the beam hardly budged. Too deep into the thick door it stuck. Removing the board that way would not be likely. She pushed at it hoping to buckle the facing enough to give way. The plank bowed. She pulled back and received the same effect. A surprised laugh slipped her lips. She pushed and pulled the beam again. Maybe, just maybe, she would save herself. Faster her arms sawed, back and forth, prying the breached wood to crack further.

One more solid push should do it.

Gilly rammed against the beam, putting her entire weight behind her. A chunk of the facing splintered out. What luck! She tugged at the beam but she needed leverage. Propping a foot on the door, she tucked the joist under her arm and pushed with all her might. Too much might. The beam dislodged and Gilly tumbled backward, falling down into the water on her arse.

Lamp oil skimming atop the water washed over her. The greasy film layering her body repelled the coarse salt water and left her hair in pomaded strands. Disgusted, she jumped up and brushed at the oil without success.

“Oh, hell-fire.”

Gilly shook her head. When had she taken to foul language? Another sinful habit she must have picked up from Hyde.

The
Rowena
moaned a forlorn lament. The battle with the stormy sea continued to weaken her. No more time to lose.

Gilly dashed to the hatch. She must remove more pieces of the door to create a hole big enough to crawl through. Jagged slivers of the wood tore into her palms as she broke away to her exit. Tiny splinters embedded into her fingers, pricking the tender flesh. With the hole large enough, she anchored her hands on the outside of the door, careful not to let her bag become snagged, and pushed through. She toppled out as the hem of her dress caught on a sharp fragment and ripped.

“Blast!” If she were to get out of this alive, she would need to stop falling down like a soused three-legged mule.

Gilly could not see the tip of her nose in the dark companionway. How far down the hall before the ladder leading to the decks above? Was it on her left or right? She couldn’t remember. Damn, she should have paid more attention when she followed Abel down. She moved forward, her hands patting along the walls as she went.

The ship shuddered. Trying to stay upright, Gilly stubbed her toe on a metal pipe. She hissed at the sudden pain.
A metal pipe. The ship’s pump.
That, she remembered. The ladder should be just ahead. She reached out, took two careful steps and felt the worn steps of the stairs. Hand over hand, she quickly climbed the ladder.

At the top, she shoved at the hatch door. It resisted. She closed her eyes, hoping that the door was not locked. Shoving harder the heavy door pushed open.

Ghastly winds blustered fiercely, whipping her matted locks about her face and lifting her wet skirts. The wind cast sea spray from the turbulent surf across the ship. Gilly welcomed the cool sensation of the spindrift until the sprays sliced into her cheeks, stinging like razor cuts.

Waves crashed down on the deck, swatting at the vessel with such force, Gilly’s bones rattled. The whitecaps contrasted vividly against the inky darkness of night. Lightning flickered unrelenting, illuminating the world around her in brilliant grays and blues. Beating waves roared in the absence of the thunder.

The sea swept over the
Rowena
’s rails and sluiced across the floorboards. Fragments of the ship, planking, a pulley, a tattered piece of rope, washed along the torrents trapped on the deck. Buckets of water flowed through the open hatch and down to the companionway below.

She stood far from safety there on the deck.

Gilly squinted her eyes against the driving rain. The loose sections of canvas sail furled within the masts above flapped wildly, the yardarms wobbled against the menace of the squall. Gilly scanned the vessel. No seaman. A deserted ship? Where had they all gone?

Men’s shouting voices carried over the wind’s baneful howl. She shielded her eyes with the cup of her hand and scanned the riotous swells. A longboat rode atop the cresting waves. Seamen, a dozen strong, battled to stay the boat from capsizing. Beyond, in the flash of lightning, the dreary silhouette of an imposing ship eerily swayed with the sea, as if part of her.

Everyone had abandoned the
Rowena.
Not one person remained, not even the captain. The ship had grounded on a reef and was in dire straits for all to forsake her, to leave behind her cargo.
Rowena
and her sole passenger were left to the mercy of the stormy sea. If the ship succumbed to its frothy mouth, so should Gilly.

She should’ve tried to escape sooner. But terror had crippled her in place, too afraid to move. Where could she have gone? Abel kept the hold locked. For her protection, he had said. And she had believed him. Bah! No matter. Fear of the commotion that lay beyond the walls had kept her rooted in place.

Only at the sound of Abel’s voice had she peeled away her aching fingers gripped deep in her thighs and bolted up from her hiding place. He’d come for her. He’d come to get her out of that wretched recess. At least that was what she had thought. Instead, the little pismire no doubt had wanted to make certain he kept anyone from discovering his secret.

“I didn’t come this far to die now.”

The jolting ship made it difficult for her to move and keep her balance. She lunged for the side rail of the ship and righted herself. Cascading walls of water threatened to wash her overboard. She grabbed a loose line whirling from the rigging beside her and wrapped the rope several times around her wrist.

She must get someone’s attention.

Waving her arm over her head she screamed out over the boisterous gale. “Wait! Help! Help!”

The ocean rose above Gilly and slapped her back off her feet. A pang jolted from her shoulder as the rope caught at her wrist. She twirled about, her feet slipping every which way underneath her. The scratchy rope chafed the flesh at her wrist until she regained her footing.

She swallowed a mouthful of the sea. Her sinuses burned from coughing up brackish water clogged in her throat and nose.

Frantic, angry, she screamed for help again. Her throat, already stinging from the abrasive saltwater, strained to compete with the winds.

The sea answered her calls with a new punishing swell, followed by another and another. Each wave pushed past her carrying with it more of her strength, more of her resolve. Each moment that passed widened the distance to the longboat. She weakened too quickly from fighting against the surge. Her muscles burned and her body grew heavy. How would she be saved if she couldn’t get their attention?

Gilly glanced up the rigging. Lightning flashed, rain streamed off the ropes shuddering in the wind.

Perhaps height was what she needed.

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