Read an Excerpt
The Care and Feeding of Pirates
By Jennifer Ashley
Copyright © 2005
All right reserved.
Honoria Ardmore looked across the dark street and straight
into the face of the pirate Christopher Raine.
Mists swirled between her and the apparition, obscuring the
pale smudge of his golden hair, the bulk of his tall,
raw-boned body, and his tanned and handsome face.
Three ladies in opera finery and enormous, wavering
headdresses nearly ran her down. One sniffed to her
companions, "Well, really."
Honoria craned to see around them, searching the mists, but
the apparition had gone.
He'd never been there, of course. Christopher Raine was dead.
He'd been hung by the neck in Charleston four years ago,
captured by her brother, James, tried and condemned to death
for the crime of being a pirate and liking it.
Sailors afterward spoke of seeing his ghost in a haunted ship
with a demon crew, the notorious Captain Raine scouring the
world to seek his vengeance. None mentioned him turning up
after a deplorable production of Love's Labor's Lost at Covent
Garden Theatre in the middle of the London Season.
Christopher Raine had been dead for four years. She had
finished with him. It bothered her that her imagination had
conjured him tonight out of the rather thick air.
Her sister-in-law, Diana, climbed more gracefully in beside
her,settled herself on the seat and gave the footman the nod
to close the door. The carriage jerked forward, nearly
scraping another. The mists thickened, swallowing the crowds,
the street, and ghosts of pirates.
Honoria suddenly remembered Christopher Raine's kiss and his
touch on her body, and what it had done to her.
She felt queasy. Diana was staring at her as though she could
read her thoughts. Honoria had never confided in Diana, had
believed she'd never need to. The only one who'd known of her
frightful infatuation with Christopher Raine had been her
brother Paul, and Paul had died so long ago. She'd never, of
course, breathed a word to James. Her older brother was not a
man to who one bared one's soul.
* * *
Honoria's pen hovered over the blank page of her journal. A
droplet of ink trembled on the nib, waiting for her to change
it into words.
Her fingers were cold, despite the fire that had been built
high. She and Diana had calmed themselves with hot tea and a
late supper in the sitting room, chatting of the pleasant
island of Haven on which they would spend much of the summer.
Or at least, Diana had chatted. Honoria's mind had only
whirled with thoughts of Christopher Raine, despite her
attempts to curb them.
His name had never been recorded in the book that lay flat on
her bedroom table, waiting for her to write in it, nor in any
journal she'd kept since she'd met him the first time.
Honoria had been a giddy girl of eighteen and madly in love
with Christopher Raine. She'd saved every penny pamphlet,
every newspaper story, every exaggerated picture book about
the notorious pirate, Captain Raine. Christopher had a French
father and an English mother, captained a crew of mixed
nationality, and was loyal to no one.
At the time, Christopher had been twenty-two, strong, tall,
and well-muscled. He'd worn his wheat-blond hair in a plait
down his back and dressed in a dark blue coat and breeches and
ivory linen shirt. She'd met him in the garden room, a chamber
of lovely coolness, colorful tile, and a whispering fountain.
He'd regarded her with eyes as clear as ice and a smile that
sent her thoughts rocketing to unimaginable places.
Not that James had introduced them. In fact, James had
forbidden Honoria to leave her rooms while Grayson and
Christopher lurked in the house. Why they'd been there at all,
she'd never learned-probably to discuss some nefarious scheme
that James was good at hatching. It had been Paul, Honoria's
young brother and her other self, who had noted Honoria's
excitement and promised to distract James so that Honoria
could slip downstairs and at least have a look at the famous
And there Christopher had stood, alone in the garden room at
the far end of the house, the quiet broken only by the trickle
of the fountain into its basin. Honoria had crept forward and
asked in her timid, well-bred voice if he'd autograph the
pamphlet she held crumpled in her damp hand.
He'd taken the pamphlet, his blunt fingers brushing her small
ones, opened it, and read it. The pamphlet had amused him. The
corners of his gray eyes had crinkled as he leafed through it.
He stopped and read out some of the more amazing bits in his
faintly accented English, and made her laugh.
He agreed to sign the book with ink and pen she'd brought for
the purpose, then he'd quietly requested a kiss for its
No, that was wrong. That memory was Honoria trying to place a
romantic glow on what had really happened.
What he'd done was to hold the pamphlet over his head, grin
impudently, and tell her he'd give it back only if she kissed
him. She'd grown annoyed at his presumption, and told him so,
but his smile had outdone her. So she'd raised on tiptoe,
trembling all over, and pursed her lips. He'd bent to her,
eyes closing, and kissed her.
In an instant, every bit of playfulness between them had
vanished. He'd kissed her again, and again, drawing her
closer. The pamphlet had fallen, unheeded, to the floor.
Her heart pumping hard, she'd twined her hands around his neck
and frantically kissed him back.
She'd let him lower her to the cool tiles, let him twist his
hand through her hair, let him do so many things.
She'd thought he'd want her virtue, but he had not asked for
it. He'd touched her every other way, but they'd not joined.
Afterward, he'd returned her pamphlet, said good-bye, and
walked away. Just as if he'd not cared, but he'd glanced back
at her once, and his gray eyes had held something unreadable.
He studied her as though trying to understand something, then
he turned, and was gone.
She'd not seen him again for nine years.
In 1809, Christopher Raine captured a fabulous prize, a ship
called the Rosa Bonita, which was filled to the brim with gold
from Mexico and bound for Napoleon. Newspapers printed story
after lurid story about the ship's capture and the devastating
loss for the French, who were struggling to fund their ongoing
war. The legend of Christopher Raine grew.
By then James Ardmore had turned pirate hunter. He'd gone
after his old friend Captain Raine, and caught him.
Christopher was brought in, tried, and condemned to death. Of
the Mexican gold there had been no sign. Christopher refused
to tell what had become of it, and typically, James had not
cared. Let the world speculate on the missing gold; James
wanted only one fewer pirate on the seas.
During the week Christopher was imprisoned, Charleston went
mad for pirates. The newspapers printed stories about
legendary pirates of old, a pirate fair was held near the
docks, ladies hosted masked balls with pirate themes. Books on
pirates became the rage, children begged for cutlasses so they
could board and sink the neighbors.
Women of dubious repute flocked to the fortress where
Christopher was being held. They begged to see him, begged for
a lock of his hair or a scrap of his clothing. Ladies in fine
carriages pretended they needed to pass the fort on their way
somewhere else, and sent footmen to make these same requests.
A few footmen even asked on their own account.
But the only lady admitted, shrouded and veiled from curious
eyes, was Honoria Ardmore. To her surprise, the turnkey had
let her in, taken her to the filthy cell in which he received
visitors, and locked her in with him. She'd unshrouded herself
and faced him with nothing to say.
Christopher was no longer an arrogant youth. Sandpaper
bristles covered his jaw, his eyes and mouth bore lines at the
corners. He wore an old shirt and breeches and scarred boots
that had seen better days. But his hair was just as
wheat-blond, his eyes as clear gray, his smile just as sinful.
They'd studied each other for a long time in silence. Then
he'd said he was glad she'd come. She'd touched his cheek, and
asked him to kiss her.
No, no, that memory was another glossing over of the past. In
truth, Honoria had wordlessly clasped his forearms, sinking
her fingers into his flesh, and he'd gathered her to him and
kissed her. She remembered the rasp of his unshaved whiskers
on her lips, the strength of his arms around her back.
They were on the floor before they'd spoken more than two
sentences. She'd let him. Proper, sweet, genteel Honoria
Ardmore had let Christopher Raine take her to the floor of the
cell and make love to her. The memory brought heat to her
face, a flush to her body. He'd asked her permission-
No, again, her treacherous memories were trying to make the
encounter sweetly romantic. It had not been romantic at all,
but hot and panicky and rough and aching. He'd said in a low
voice, "I'm going to die, Honoria. I want something to think
about when they take me to the scaffold."
She'd touched his face, so rough and hard and unlike those of
the proper Charleston gentlemen who courted her. She thought
of the throng of women outside, each of whom would gladly
throw at him what he wanted. "Why?" she grated. "Why do you
"Because you came to me," he'd answered. And I love you."
He lied about the last part, she knew that. It was what a
gentleman said to a lady to seduce her. Women longed to be
cherished, not just wanted, and gentlemen used that fact to
She'd said quietly that he could have her if he liked.
No. If she made herself face the truth, she'd remember that
she'd begged, "Please, yes, Christopher," and clung to him
like a wanton. He'd laughed, kissed her and brought her to
heated readiness, then thrust himself straight into her.
When they were finished, he'd kissed her gently, then helped
her to dress. He'd made a last request of his jailors, and, to
her amazement, they'd granted it.
The next day, they'd dragged him to the gallows. The
newspapers printed a flamboyant account of the hanging, which
most of Charleston flocked to see. Honoria stayed firmly at
home, shut herself in her room, and told everyone she was ill.
She'd tied a black ribbon around her box of keepsakes, and
pushed it to the back of her drawer.
That day had been the worst of her life. Today was becoming a
The droplet of ink fell from her pen and became an ugly blob
on the paper. One transparent tear followed it.
Honoria quickly tore the paper from the book, crumpled it and
pushed it aside.
She lifted the pen, wrote in the book, "My entire life is a
She underlined "lie." Above her and far away, she heard Diana
crooning to her baby, "Who's mama's ickle lad, then?"
Honoria carefully wiped her pen and placed it in the pen tray.
Then she rose from her writing desk and turned toward the bed.
Christopher Raine was standing beside it.
Honoria stepped back abruptly. She upset the chair, which fell
against the desk, dislodging her journal and pen tray. The pen
tray crashed to the floor.
After three agonizing heartbeats, Diana's footsteps creaked to
the stairs. "Honoria? Are you all right?"
Honoria dashed to the door, flung it open. "Yes, indeed," she
called up breathlessly. "I dropped my pens, that is all."
Diana peered down the half-dark staircase. She had little Paul
hoisted on one arm. After a long moment, she said, "All right
then. Good night," and retreated up the stairs.
Honoria shut the door firmly. She resisted turning the key. If
Diana heard the click of the lock, she might be down again,
demanding to know what was wrong.
She turned around again. Christopher Raine was gone.
"Oh, no you don't," she snapped. "I saw you this time."
He stepped out from behind the bed. He had moved so that the
hangings would hide him from the door, in case Diana came all
the way downstairs.
He came to her as she stood, motionless, by the writing table.
He certainly looked alive. His quiet footfalls, the brush of
his sleeve against his shirt made him sound alive.
He'd been well-muscled and fine of body four years ago; he was
even more so, now. His shirt clung to broad shoulders; black
breeches, shiny with wear, stretched over taut thighs. His
boots, worn and black, tracked mud and tar onto Diana's lovely
carpet. Candlelight burnished golden bristles on his chin and
the finer curls at the opening of his shirt.
"Why are you alive?" she demanded.
"That happy to see me, are you?"
Something had happened to his voice. It had always been deep,
with a faintly French accent, but now it had an edge to it,
like it had been broken and imperfectly repaired. Gravel on a
dry road had a sound like that.
She took several gulps of air. "Happy to see you? Why should I
be happy to see you?"
He placed his hands on her shoulders. Heat burned through her
silk dressing gown.
"The last time we met, you threw yourself into my arms."
"The last time," she repeated, barely able to breathe. "Why is
there a this time?"
"Because there is. Stop asking questions and let me kiss you."
As demanding as ever. He bent to her, his breath on her lips,
his eyes cool and clear and gray. Honoria silenced every
screaming question in her mind and twined her arms about his
She'd never kissed any man but him. She'd done it so many
times in her dreams, but far too few times in life. Maybe he
was a ghost in truth, and he'd thought it humorous to haunt
her. She somehow did not care.
For a ghost, he certainly was solid. And hot. She'd never felt
anything like it short of sticking her hand into a fire. But
then, they said he'd gone straight to hell and been turned
away. Even Beelzebub had not wanted Christopher Raine.
She ran her hands across his shoulders, down his long back,
under his warm hair. No man could be more alive than this. His
pulse beat strong in his throat, and his hardness pressed her
thin dressing gown.
He nudged his bent knee between hers, pulling her full-length
against his body. She found her dressing gown parting, his
thigh resting between her legs, right against her opening. She
wanted more than anything to slide along his thigh, to savor
the sweet friction.
"That's the Honoria I remember," he murmured.
Each time they met had been like this. They'd spoken a few
opening phrases then had been unable to keep their hands off
each other. He cradled her backside, dragging her still closer
while his tongue flicked into her mouth.
She tried to push him away. It was like pushing a brick wall.
She turned her head. The bristles on his jaw burned her skin.
"Christopher," she gasped. "We must talk."
His eyes were like smoke in the sunshine. "I didn't come here
"That is obvious. But you're supposed to be dead."
He brushed his thumbs over her collarbone, heat threading
beneath the dressing gown. "You keep saying that. Inconvenient
for you, is it?"
The ties on his shirt were frayed. He smelled of soap and tar
and the faint musk she'd remember until the day she died. "No.
I want you to be alive." She traced the hard muscles of his
arms. "But I don't understand- Christopher we have so many
things to talk about."
He framed her face in his hands, his thumbs warm on her
cheekbones. "For once we have a convenient bed. But I think I
prefer the floor, with you."
They had carpet this time, at least. But if she allowed him to
take her there, she would surrender to him again, and that
would be the end of Honoria Ardmore.
The years of absence had not diminished his strength. He
rocked her back, threaded his hands through her loosened hair.
He was right; questions could come later. She parted her lips,
let him explore her in slow, familiar, intimate, breathtaking
The door clicked open, and a cold draft poured into the room.
From the doorway, Diana Ardmore said clearly, "Take your hands
off her, or I will shoot you."
Christopher stopped. After one tense moment, he eased his lips
from Honoria's. Looking neither puzzled nor angry, he steadied
Honoria on her feet and turned to face the intruder.
Diana stood on the threshold in a green silk dressing gown,
her glorious red hair hanging over her shoulder. She held a
pistol in one firm hand, pointed it straight at Christopher.
In shock and sudden, shaking anger, Honoria stepped in front
of him. "It is all right, Diana," she said, in her clear,
well-bred voice. "He is my husband."
Excerpted from The Care and Feeding of Pirates
by Jennifer Ashley
Copyright © 2005 by Jennifer Ashley .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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