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His Pirate Seductress
Love on the High Seas
By Tamara Hughes, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tamara Hughes
All rights reserved.
The mizzenmast at his back, Thomas Glanville, captain of the Argo Navis, the finest vessel in Lamont Shipping's fleet, slashed his sword at the two pirates who attacked him. He'd hoped he was done fighting pirates after his adventure as first mate to James Lamont. Unfortunately not. And yet, not a twinge of fear invaded his heart. In fact, in a sick sort of way, he enjoyed the challenge, the test of his skill. If it weren't for the lives of his crew and the fate of his ship, he might toy with these vultures a bit longer. Instead, he sliced one across the middle and the other across the throat. They both fell to the decking, their pitiful lives cut short.
Through the haze of smoke from cannon fire, he surveyed the battle waging around him. Sweet mother in heaven. The ship had sustained more damage than he'd thought. The torn foresail hung clear to the decking, and the mainmast had cracked. Outmanned and still recovering from the illness that had plagued the crew these last two days, his men were losing the struggle. He raced down the stairs to the main deck and his first mate. Although Hugh was holding his own, his face was pale and his movements were weak.
Stepping past the wounded and dead, Thomas came up from behind and dispatched the devil who had Hugh bleeding from cuts on his leg and shoulder.
"Are you well?" Thomas asked Hugh.
Hugh nodded, then crumpled to the planks, his eyes rolling back in his head.
No time to help him. Another pirate attacked, this one dealing a decisive strike toward Thomas's ribs. With a quick move, he evaded the swing and assessed his opponent. The pirate held a saber in his right hand and a dagger in his left, which meant the bounder would likely block with his sword and strike out with the shorter blade.
Thomas dodged another swing and thrust forward, only to be deflected. The pirate had a small build. Using brute strength, Thomas should be able to overpower ... her? Thomas's gaze caught on the pirate's face, a face with soft, feminine features. What in heaven's name? She struck again. This time, his sidestep wasn't quite quick enough, and her blade scored his outer thigh. The resulting sting restored him to his senses. "You're a pirate?" Obviously. Still, hard to believe. He pressed forward, forcing on her a series of blows meant to test her strength and will.
She parried and blocked his every move with an aptitude that amazed. "Aye. A pirate, and captain of theSea Sprite," she boasted, a wry smile upon her full lips.
Indeed, she appeared very much a pirate in her men's garb — a threadbare, brown suit with overly long sleeves she'd had to roll up. Her ebony hair had been pulled back in a queue and was half hidden beneath a rumpled tricorn. Also, like her men, was her look of desperation and the grim cast to her countenance that bespoke of a hard existence.
"We offered you quarter," she said as she evaded his thrust with ease. "Why didn't you surrender? You had to know we outnumbered you."
He didn't answer. In all honesty, he'd thought they could defeat the pirates, if not with cannon fire, then with skill. After hearing of all the pirate attacks of late, they'd hired on additional hands, men who could fight. If it hadn't been for the damn illness ...
"It's not too late. You can save what's left of your crew. Surrender now, Captain Glanville, and we'll see that your men are ransomed back." A wicked gleam brightened her eyes as if victory would soon be hers.
He should do as she asked. It would be the sensible thing, but pride kept him from saying the words. Not yet. He still had another opponent to defeat, and so far she hadn't been an easy one to overcome. Despite his steady attack, she kept her muscles relaxed, her balance sure. Her attention followed his movements no matter how small, adjusting her stance, looking for weaknesses. "How do you know I'm Captain Glanville?" When work was at hand, he didn't dress any differently than his men.
"I know much about you." Stepping clear of two men battling to their left, she blocked his sword with her own and lunged with her dagger. He jumped from the blade, avoiding injury by the barest inch. This one relied on speed and accuracy rather than power. Smart woman.
"What do you want from us?" he asked, launching an attack of his own, this time with so much force and speed, she had no choice but to retreat until her back came up against the railing. "We only just left London four days ago. Our cargo is mainly iron and ale."
Her gaze sharpened even as her expression became strained. His assault was wearing her down. "I want the Ruby Cross."
How the hell did she know he had the cross? And did she believe he'd simply hand it over? Hand over a priceless antiquity of the Knights Templar? Absurd. He swung his sword all the harder. The clang of steel rang through the air. Her reactions slowed, and her arms trembled. He made a final cut, putting all his strength behind the blow, and knocked her sword from her hand. Triumph surged through his veins. She attempted to slash out with her dagger. He grabbed her arm before her blade could reach him and hauled her close, their faces nose to nose. "You'll never take the cross from me," he vowed as he towered over her, his grip strong.
The point of a sword touched his back. Thomas tensed, and he swore beneath his breath, self-disgust heavy in his chest. The distraction of this one woman had sealed his fate.
* * *
Catherine's cheeks flamed. Struggling to catch her breath, she stood mere inches from Captain Thomas Glanville, his grasp on her firm. The air tasted of smoke and ash, and her sword-wielding arm ached to high heaven. This close, she could feel the heat from Glanville's body warm the chilly November air. Even with a sword to his back, his green eyes smoldered with defiance.
Blast. He would have won if not for Barnet's sword poking into his spine.
Yanking her arm from Glanville's hold, she stared him straight in the eye. "You're wrong. The Ruby Cross will be mine."
She sheathed her dagger. Sorry, dear brother. Emmett would be sorely disappointed after all the hours he'd spent teaching her how to wield her saber. Although, in her defense, her brother's sparring hadn't adequately prepared her for Glanville, a man who fought with such ferocity. Obviously, he was a well-seasoned combatant. Which might explain the slight crook to his nose.
Two men grasped Glanville's arms and jerked him away from her, and Barnet, the Sea Sprite's quartermaster, lowered his sword. "Ah, Catherine. You should have listened and stayed aboard the Sea Sprite," Barnet scolded, the scar on his upper lip stretching with his frown.
Glanville watched her with interest.
"Be silent, Barnet," she hissed, surveying her crew for any sign of antipathy. "I'll not listen to your nonsense." Detecting no mockery or derision from the men, she cast her quartermaster a glare. Damn, Barnet, chastising me in front of the men. I am the captain here. Stay aboard the Sea Sprite, indeed. She could hold her own with a sword ... or so she'd thought. Catherine directed her attention back to Glanville, the rest of the merchantman's crew subdued. She'd deal with Barnet later. "Where is the cross?" she demanded.
Glanville's blond head bowed, and he studied the deck for the briefest of moments before those green eyes came to rest on her again. "It's not on board."
"You're lying." She'd seen enough charlatans on the streets of St. Giles to know. And Glanville had all the makings of a crook. Calm when faced with danger, his movements controlled ... a cocksure devil if she ever saw one. "Search the ship," she called out to those of her crew not busy with captives, although the likelihood they would find the cross wasn't good. To her knowledge, both this ship and Glanville's house had been searched by Simon Brewer's men. Her heart quickened its pace, and a shiver raced over her skin. Just the thought of that vile man holding her mother and son for ransom, for a treasure only Captain Thomas Glanville could provide ... Clenching her teeth, she retrieved her sword and approached Glanville, drawing her dagger once more. She set the blade to his throat. "Where have you hidden the Ruby Cross?"
He shrugged, a bare shift of shoulders given the grip the men had on him. "I already told you. It's not here."
"Tell me where it is, then," she bit out. She needed that cross. Her son's life depended on it.
Infuriatingly dispassionate, his reaction was to raise his chin, exposing more of his throat. "Kill me, and you'll never get answers."
He was right, of course. Torture would be needed. The thought sickened her, but she kept her expression grim and her voice firm. "I don't intend to kill you ... at least not yet." She shifted her blade, enough to add more venom to her words, and envisioned cutting his skin. But the stench of blood from the dead and injured around them filled her nostrils, and the groans of the wounded ate at her nerves.
Crew members of the Sea Sprite returned one by one, each empty-handed. Not a surprise. And yet, an edge of panic tensed her shoulders. What if they never find the cross? What if ...? Stop. She couldn't think that way. Too much was at stake. Still, the hand holding her dagger trembled. "If you wish to save your men and yourself, speak up."
Glanville narrowed his eyes, a stubborn set to his chin. "Do what you must. I'll never tell you what you want to know."
"Allow me, Cap'n." Barnet stepped forward with a menacing glower and a knife in hand.
"No. Stand down." The crew had elected her as captain for this voyage out of deference to her late husband Peter, the true captain of the Sea Sprite. A mixture of grief and anger throbbed within her chest. Peter, the scoundrel, had left her and their son six years ago on a quest for riches, only to die as poor as he'd always been. Nevertheless, if she wanted the crew's respect, she'd best handle this situation herself.
Barnet lowered his weapon and stepped aside, although he looked none too happy. "As you wish, Cap'n."
She scanned the decks, desperation flaring bright. "If not you, Glanville, then perhaps your men will suffer," she taunted as her stomach churned, the smell of death and gore taking their toll.
Her captive nodded toward a man sprawled unconscious on the deck whose face was deathly pale. "There's my first mate. You're welcome to torture him. I don't think he'll mind."
She scowled and ran her blade's edge over the skin at his throat. The thin line bloomed red. "No, I think I'll test your mettle first. A few scars might improve your looks." Her voice didn't waver, even as bile rose in her throat. Although she had spilled blood during the battle, torturing a man was an entirely different skill, one she had yet to master. And she would. Later. At this moment, if she had to cut this man until he howled in pain, her sparse luncheon would make a reappearance on her boots. The last thing she needed was to vomit before her crew.
Despite her roiling gut, she braced her feet apart and addressed her men with authority. "We have no time to waste. Take the prisoners below and lock them away. We'll split our numbers between the two ships and head back to London." She nodded toward Glanville. "This one will be strung up in his cabin. Never fear. By the time we reach port, I'll have the cross in my hand." She would do whatever she had to, even make this man's life a living hell if it were required, and judging by the arrogance of Thomas Glanville, that possibility was quite likely.CHAPTER 2
Catherine watched as Glanville was tied with rope to the wall in his large captain's cabin, his arms secured over his head. He didn't fight his bondage. Instead, his piercing gaze never left her. Perhaps he was reserving his strength — a wise move. Not that it would matter. He would tell her where the cross was hidden. She'd see to that.
After the ropes were tied tight, the men pulled the boots from his feet and began to scavenge his pockets.
"Go," she commanded. "This one is mine."
Their search for valuables stopped, although one man picked up the boots as he headed out. Very well. She had no use for them, anyway.
"Close the door," she ordered as her men left. She didn't need an audience. She'd never tortured a man, and it might take a few goes before she got the hang of it. Her pulse skipped a beat at the thought, her nerves twitchy. The door shut, she set aside all doubt and approached her prisoner. "Shall we begin?"
A smirk lifted a corner of his lips. "Whenever you're ready, my lady."
So smug and confident. How annoying. She unsheathed her dagger and settled it along his ear. He didn't need two of them, did he? He'd be fine with just one. She squelched any weak thoughts that sprang forward. She'd be strong, for her son.
Those green eyes mocked her, and his arse leaned into her blade as if daring her to slice him, nicking himself in the process. A single drop of blood oozed from the cut on his cheek. And damn it if her softer instincts didn't rise at the sight. She wanted to blot the wound with a clean cloth and sooth the ache with comforting words, just as she would with family or friends.
Family, like her mother and son. Oh God. Jonas. Was he hurt? Or ill? And her mother. She was already a sickly woman, ever tired and weak. Would she survive Simon Brewer's imprisonment?
Her resolve strengthened. "Listen here. I will hurt you, if I must."
"No, you won't. You don't have it in you."
She stared at his slightly crooked nose, and those green eyes that dared and defied, a frown on her face. "You don't know what I'm capable of." She would do anything for her family.
His brows slanted, and a serious look infused his features. "If you truly intended to cause me pain, you'd have done the deed on deck, or let your quartermaster do the job."
Catherine lowered her blade. He was right. The mere thought of drawing his blood churned her stomach, and it didn't matter whether the deed was done by her hand or not. As much as she needed the cross, she couldn't obtain it by that means. But there were other ways. "We'll see how you fare without food and water."
A chuckle laced his breath. "That method of persuasion will take some time."
"I'm a patient woman," she lied, her mind already grasping for other ideas with which to provide quicker results. Would reasoning work? "Why do you want the cross? You're the captain of this ship, not its owner. All cargo belongs to your employer, Gordon Lamont."
"He has nothing to do with the cross. I made the arrangements to obtain it, and I'll arrange its sale."
"And with the profits ...?"
He paused, his gaze settling on her. "I'll buy my own ship."
Ambition and pride. Her husband had been driven by the same need. In fact, his ambition had become more important to him than his wife and son. Nothing should come between a man and his family. Nothing. "What if I told you I need the Ruby Cross to save two people I care for very much? Family."
"You're lying. You'd say anything to get what you want."
"But I speak the truth. My son Jonas is seven years old, and my mother ..."
His expression, ripe with stubborn cynicism, stopped her from saying more. He didn't believe her. Just as she'd expected. She had seized his ship and taken his crew hostage, after all. In his mind, she'd say anything to get the cross, and in that much, he was right. Just the same, she was learning what sort of man Glanville was. She scanned the room. "I don't believe you would leave the cross in the care of someone else. Not if obtaining and selling it is your responsibility." She glanced at him, but he remained still and silent. No mocking. No denials. Encouraging.
Catherine moved around the immense cabin that took up the width of the ship, keeping Glanville in her sight. "No, you would want to keep it close at hand." No matter where she paused, he didn't so much as twitch. Damn. He would make a good card player. Ah, hell. What would it hurt? She opened the armoire and rifled through his belongings. Next, the table by the bed, a chest in the corner, his desk, and finally the bed itself. Was the cross hidden in the mattress? She almost tore the thing apart in her quest. Nothing.
Excerpted from His Pirate Seductress by Tamara Hughes, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2015 Tamara Hughes. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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