Beauty's Curse

Beauty's Curse

by Tamara Hughes
Beauty's Curse

Beauty's Curse

by Tamara Hughes

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Overview

England, 1722. Amelia Archer will be the ruin of her family. Her extraordinary bad luck is burden enough, but her sweet, trusting nature often lands her in impossible scrapes. After the last straw, Amelia's harried father ships his unfortunate daughter off to the Colonies to live with her aunt. But wherever Amelia goes, bad luck is sure to follow...

Pirate David Lamont is taken with the lovely young Englishwoman the moment she's pulled aboard from her sinking vessel. But sailors are already a superstitious lot and Amelia is unwelcome. In a feat of chivalry, David defends and claims her for himself...

Now their fortunes-for good or ill-are invariably tied. But as much as she longs for him, Amelia cannot allow a romance. For a lady of misfortune can only bring ruin to those she loves...

Each book in the Love on the High Seas series is STANDALONE:
* Tempting the Pirate
* Beauty's Curse
* His Pirate Seductress


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633752955
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Series: Love on the High Seas , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: eBook
Pages: 250
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Tamara Hughes began reading romance novels her senior year of high school. A Rose In Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss was the first, and it swept her away. She read mostly historical romances for many years. Her book Once Upon a Masquerade is a tribute to that genre she loves so much.

She's always envied those who knew their path in life. To have that kind of conviction, that certainty, would have been a relief. She grew up in an extremely small town in Wisconsin - very rural, lots of dairy cows and corn fields. And she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.

Tamara attended college and majored in mathematics, and after graduation, she did what everyone else did in the 90's...got a job as a computer programmer. She married her college sweetheart and moved to Minnesota. Ten years later, she decided that life in a cubicle, even if it was by a window, didn't agree with her. She quit her job to stay home with her kids and to write. Since then she's had a ball playing with characters and creating worlds filled with humor, love and adventure.

To learn more, stop by her website: www.tamarahughes.com

Read an Excerpt

Beauty's Curse

A Love on the High Seas Novel


By Tamara Hughes, Erin Molta

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2015 Tamara Hughes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-295-5


CHAPTER 1

February, 1722

A crisis of her own making, yet again. Would she ever be free of this curse that followed her? Amelia's throat constricted with dread. She hung tight to the railing and looked out across the Atlantic at the approaching ship. Its red flag billowed in the breeze under a cloudless afternoon sky. Even if the captain hadn't pointed it out as a pirate ship, the flag displaying a skull with a dagger clenched between its teeth evinced the proof.

"We're to surrender?" the first mate, Ellis Rixon, asked.

As if they could do much else.

Captain Tuttlage's expression turned grim. "We have no other choice. Without their aid we're sure to die. We have but hours left before Fortune's Song sinks to the bottom of the sea."

All too true. Already the ship listed, and the decks slanted at an angle she could barely manage, although the crew had no such issue. Some even rested on the floor, exhausted from pumping water from the leaking hull these last three days. Most kept their sights on her, giving her a wide berth. They blamed her for this disaster. As well they should. If only she'd listened to her father's pleas. She had no business sailing across the ocean, not with her affliction.

"Look sharp," the captain ordered, and all hands rose to attention. "Proceed," he told his first mate.

Mr. Rixon grumbled, but held a white cloth high and waved it back and forth.

The pirate vessel closed in until it was nearly upon them, and from its decks a sound carried. A violin. She'd never heard such music before. The notes were strong and forceful, almost aggressive in nature. A song to urge men into battle.

Grappling hooks found their mooring, and soon a plank allowed passage between the two vessels. All manner of men waited on the far deck, heavily armed. Throughout the duration of settling the ships together, many stood watch with pistols and muskets at the ready.

Her legs shook beneath her petticoats and her hands grew clammy. She searched for anything that might bring her comfort. The violinist. She focused on him. He gripped his violin in a steady hand, the base clamped under his chin and the bow held loosely but with purpose. His face to the side, he paid no heed to the activity around him. If only she could do the same.

One man stepped forth, climbing onto the plank. She ignored him as best she could. Better to concentrate on something less frightening than let her fear get the best of her, or she might melt into a quivering mass right here on the deck. She studied the musician's relaxed stance, his lean jaw, the dark lashes that framed eyes she couldn't see ... his mop of dark brown hair ...

"Do you surrender?" the lone fellow on the plank asked.

"Aye. We do," Captain Tuttlage shouted back.

What would their surrender entail? After all, they'd be under the command of pirates. Her gaze turned to the violinist's fingers, slender and dexterous.

"Good to hear." The man on the plank waved his hand toward his ship. "I'm Captain Swain, and you're welcome to come aboard."

Welcome? Her attention darted to Captain Swain. Instead of a severe mien and an air of menace expected from a leader of pirates, he had a relaxed bearing that suggested mercy. Could it be true?

"Our thanks." Captain Tuttlage nodded to his men who looked amongst themselves before grudgingly moving forward. One by one they boarded the pirate ship until only she, the first mate, and Captain Tuttlage remained.

"We should leave her here," Mr. Rixon advised Captain Tuttlage. "She's caused us nothing but trouble."

Panic jolted through her, smashing what was left of her fortitude like shattering glass. Would they leave her behind to die? Her grip on the rail tightened, her shoulders so tense they ached. She shouldn't be surprised by Mr. Rixon's suggestion. Once their misadventures had begun, he'd been the first to herald her as the cause.

The captain shook his head. "I won't have it. In good conscience, I can't sentence her to death."

"But you see what she's done here," Mr. Rixon exclaimed, his arms swinging wide toward the deck of their sinking ship.

"Nonsense. Be off with you."

The first mate's icy blue stare bored into her before he stepped onto the plank.

"My lady." Captain Tuttlage extended his hand.

She glanced toward the pirate ship. What awaited her there? She'd been safe enough on Fortune's Song. Relatively safe, anyway. But pirates? From what she'd heard, they held no honor, no regard for life or limb.

With the captain's help, she climbed to the plank. He steadied her as she shuffled across, her eyes on her feet and her heart thumping hard. I will not fall. The board will not break. The ocean will not swallow me up.

An eternity passed by the time she reached the plank's end safely. She looked up, and her breath caught. All eyes were on her. Some stares held curiosity, some lust ... others wariness — those faces she knew quite well. The crew of Fortune's Song, the ship she'd sunk.

The pirate captain cleared his throat and attention shifted to him. "Listen here. First matter to attend to ... All those who have come from the sinking vessel, hand over your weapons."

Now that the crew of the merchantman had come aboard, many of the pirates had turned to swords and daggers for defense. Under their watchful eyes, the crew had little choice but to do as the pirate captain ordered. Soon a pile of firearms and blades lay on the deck at Captain Swain's feet.

"William," Captain Swain called out. "As you spotted our guests' sail first, you can choose the finest pistol of the lot."

A pirate with flaming red hair stepped forward, a wide grin on his face. "Aye, cap'n." He quickly picked up the gun Captain Tuttlage had relinquished.

"Now then, a question." Captain Swain addressed his prisoners once more. "How have you fared under your captain and officers? Have they treated you well?"

An odd question. Even if they'd been mistreated, they wouldn't be sailing for those officers any longer. She glanced at Captain Tuttlage who stood with confidence, his head held high. From what she'd seen, the men under his command had always respected him and followed his orders with no complaint, as evidenced by their ready nods now.

Captain Swain smiled his acceptance. "As to the future, each of you who have just boarded The Wanderer will be given a choice. You can join up with us, or you can retire to the hold and be ransomed to your kin." He gestured to Captain Tuttlage with an apologetic look. "Obviously you'll be relegated to the hold as we have no need for another captain."

"What of the girl?" someone shouted. "Can she join the crew?"

A bout of laughter followed the remark until Mr. Rixon spoke up. "I say she be left behind."

Her pulse beat at a maddening pace, and she wrapped her arms around herself. If Mr. Rixon succeeded in swaying these men, she might drown yet this day.


* * *

His violin and bow dangling at his sides, David studied the woman in question. He couldn't help himself. Demure in her simple blue gown, her hair pulled beneath a lace cap, she had a tiny build, fragile and delicate. Her blond hair as light as the sun, full pink lips, and an innocent face so youthful and radiant ... He could scarce tear his attention away.

"Left behind?" Captain Swain shook his head. "For what cause?"

"She's bad luck. Ask any of our crew."

Judging by the full suit he wore, complete with surcoat, stockings, and a plumed tricorn, the one who spoke was the first mate of the captured ship.

The man looked about, and those who had come with him bobbed their heads. The first mate swept his arm toward the wreckage they'd come from. "She sank our ship and got us captured by pirates."

"Rubbish," the man's captain interjected.

"Silence," Captain Swain told him. "You, sir, are a prisoner now. This is for the crew, both new and old, to decide."

"There's more," the first mate insisted. "We barely survived a storm."

Shouts of agreement came from the first mate's crew, and the girl took a step back, her eyes wide. The fright on her face was more than he could take.

"You blame her for a storm?" David called out, gaining him curious looks from his own brethren, particularly William, who knew him best of any here.

The first mate wouldn't be outdone. "We've also suffered with fire, snapped ropes — "

"All common enough when at sea," David argued, his hand gripping his violin in a strangling hold. Who was this man who would so easily sentence a woman to death?

"What do you know of it?" The first mate scowled and stepped toward him. "You weren't there. I was."

Captain Swain turned to the girl, his expression merely curious. "What do you think, my lady? Are you the cause of these misfortunes?"

She scanned the men on deck, her breath coming in gasps.

A ridiculous question. "Do you expect her to answer?" David scoffed. If she said yes, they'd throw her overboard, and if no, they wouldn't believe her.

His own crew murmured around him. "A woman on board is bad luck. She'll be the end of us."

"What superstitious nonsense." David crossed the deck to stand before her and faced his fellow crewmen. "Don't listen to this man. He may have been first mate on the other ship, but he's no one here."

"I'm not speaking as first mate," the man growled and strode ahead. "I'm speaking as someone who'd rather not die because of the likes of her."

David handed his violin and bow to William, then drew his sword. "No one touches the girl." William's red brows shot to his hair. David couldn't blame him. In the eight months David had sailed with this lot, he'd kept to himself, never drawing attention good or bad. But blaming a woman for random ill fortune, to threaten her life. He couldn't abide such injustice.

Although Captain Swain could have taken affront at David's dictate, he contemplated the situation with an amused smile. "You'd fight for her?"

His sword still held in front of him, he spared no thought before he answered. "Yes."

Captain Swain's smile broadened as he turned to the crew at large. "What say you? This could be most enjoyable." He nodded to the first mate. "You there. What's your name?"

"Ellis Rixon."

"Very good." Captain Swain spread his arms wide. "Do you wish to fight our David here for the right to decide the girl's fate?"

Rixon didn't hesitate. "I do." He shed his surcoat and hat, handing them to another.

"Well then," Captain Swain said. "If you win, she'll be returned to your sinking ship. If David is victorious, she'll remain on board under his protection."

Rixon picked up a sword from the pile on the deck. "Agreed."

"Lay aside those blades, lads. I won't risk a crewman for the sake of settling a disagreement," Captain Swain warned. "No weapons allowed. The one who draws first blood is the victor."

David set down his sword and watched as Rixon did the same. The captain's order came as no surprise. He'd heard the same before. In fact, he'd counted on it. He'd been trained at an early age to defend himself with fisticuffs. His father had seen to that. Bitterness welled up like poison in his belly. Making his sons prove themselves to be proper men had been important to his father.

He raised his fists and assumed a fighting stance. This might be the one time his father had been right in his thinking.

Rixon followed his lead, and they circled each other slowly as the crew cheered. David observed his opponent, how he moved and held his hands. The way his eyes darted from one location to the next suggested Rixon wasn't a patient man. He'd be the first to — Rixon lashed out. David jerked away, avoiding a blow to the face. Only a matter of seconds passed, and Rixon swung again. David dodged to the right, and Rixon once again met air.

"Do you plan to do nothing but prance about?" Rixon sneered. "Are you afraid to fight me?" Another swing. David ducked and struck out, connecting solidly with Rixon's jaw. Rixon staggered back, a look of shock on his face.

His brethren roared with satisfaction, and triumph surged through David's veins. Rixon. What an overconfident peacock. And yet the posturing harrier was the kind of man his father would have been proud to call son.

Rixon's gaping surprise soon changed to annoyance. He lunged, his fist thrusting forward. It met its mark, and pain blasted through David's jaw. His father had often called him weak. Too soft.

He received a blow to the ribs, knocking the air from his lungs. Despite the loud cheers and hoots, he heard a soft gasp from behind him. Never good enough.

Rage burned through him like a wick set ablaze. He punched Rixon in the eye, then his stomach. Why can't you be more like your brother? His brother James was a good man, the best. He was a sailor, a captain full of ambition ... David landed a strike to Rixon's neck. The man clasped his throat and doubled over before something in his hand glinted in the sunlight. Rixon's arm made a wide arc, and the knife's edge traced a path across David's chest. The crowd jeered.

"See here. No weapons, I said." Captain Swain motioned to the two closest men, who quickly stepped forward, but Rixon took another swing at David, his blade out.

Enough. David knocked Rixon's arm to the side and seized his wrist. Giving it a hard wrench, David forced him to drop the knife, then bashed him in the nose with a solid hit. Rixon's blood trickled onto his white lace cravat as he dropped to his knees on the deck. He clutched his nose and glared with pure hatred.

One of the crewmen grasped Rixon by the back of his shirt and half dragged him to the captain, while the other fetched the fallen knife.

Captain Swain shook his head. "Ellis Rixon, for your treachery you forfeit your weapons," he chuckled, "your fancy clothes, and for a fortnight your rank is that of a cabin boy."

Rixon's lips thinned and his cheeks grew red at the crew's laughter that followed, but he said not a word. Perhaps Rixon was smarter than David had taken him for.

Wasting no more time, Captain Swain shoved the girl toward David and addressed the prisoners. "Now then, make your choice — join us or be ransomed."

A soft body collided with his, and he grasped her arms to steady her. She regained her footing, her gloved hand on his chest, before her blue-green eyes stared up at him with gratitude. "I don't know how to thank you." Her gazed dropped to where her hand lay, and she snatched it back as a pink glow suffused her lovely face.

He drank in the sight of her sweet innocence.

"Your chest." The pink took on a deeper hue. "You're injured."

David peered down at the rip in his shirt and the slight oozing of blood. A shallow wound. "Nothing to worry over. Merely a scratch."

"I should tend it," she insisted. "You were injured because of me."

He imagined her dainty hands touching him, bringing him ease, and pleasure licked down his spine. A part of him wanted to acquiesce and let her do what she would. Another warned him to stay clear, both for his protection and hers. "No need. I'll heal soon enough." He turned toward Captain Swain.

"Ho, Captain," David called out as William handed him his violin and bow before joining the others across the plank to scavenge the sinking ship.

Swain regarded him with an eyebrow arched in question.

"Where will ..." David leaned toward the girl at his side. "What's your name?" "Miss Amelia Archer," she answered, the lyrical quality of her voice as attractive as the rest of her.

"Where will Miss Archer be staying until her family claims her?" he finished. In the hold with the men was out of the question, and as the ship's musician, he had no cabin to offer.

The captain rubbed his chin for the space of a minute, then nodded. "Procter will give up his cabin for the remainder of the voyage. See it done." Procter uttered a curse. The carpenter and sometimes surgeon strode toward them, his balding head shining from the sun's rays. "I'll remove my things."

"My thanks," Amelia said as he passed by.

Procter ignored her. Dammit. Another crewman with a grievance against her. He'd best be on his guard and prepare himself, for this voyage might prove to be a long one.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Beauty's Curse by Tamara Hughes, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2015 Tamara Hughes. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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