Chance the Winds of Fortune

Chance the Winds of Fortune

by Laurie McBain

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492631088
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Series: Dominick Trilogy , #2
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Laurie McBain became a publishing phenomenon at age twenty-six with her first historical romance. She is a winner of the Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Romance Author. All of her romances were bestsellers, selling over 11 million copies. Laurie's books have been out of print for over 5 years.

Read an Excerpt

Chance The Winds of Fortune


By Laurie McBain

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 1980 Laurie McBain
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-3109-5


CHAPTER 1

So my conscience chide me not, I am ready for Fortune as she wills.

— Dante

West Indies — Spring 1769

Sailing out of the Serpent's Mouth, the narrow strait of water between the South American continent and Trinidad, the trade winds filled the square-rigged sails of the Sea Dragon. She was a Boston-built brigantine out of Charles Town, in the Carolinas, and had seen action as an English privateer during the Seven Years' War. Many French merchantmen knew, to their misfortune, the figurehead of the grinning red dragon with the gilded tail and fins, whose lolling tongue seemed to mock their frantic efforts as the swiftly maneuvering brig bore down on their slower-moving cargo ships. Her intentions were never misunderstood as the first broadside fired from her guns ripped through rigging and sails, wreaking havoc and destruction in its wake. The Sea Dragon's formidable reputation of seldom having failed to claim a captured ship or cargo as her prize had often preceded her, and many a merchantman had struck her colors and surrendered without ever firing a return shot.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed by the major European powers in 1763, the Sea Dragon had been left to pursue a more private course of action, and, returning to the warm waters of the Caribbean, she soon became an enemy of her old ally. Now it was the British frigates and sloops who faced the grinning dragon or, as happened far too often for their peace of mind, watched her sails disappear into some seemingly impenetrable mangrove swamp, only to reappear weeks later docked innocently in Charles Town. The Sea Dragon was a smuggler trading in contraband; she slipped into secret coves along the wild coasts of the Carolinas and unloaded her valuable West Indian cargo of sugar and molasses there.

The Sea Dragon had sailed close to the wind many times, but so far good fortune had steered her on a smooth course away from what had always seemed, to some of the more timorous hands on board, certain destruction. She was sailing now, with the wind abeam, through the murky waters of the Gulf of Paria, her sails bellying out as they caught the easterly winds. She was riding light, her hold half-full as she began her return voyage from her latest endeavor — a quest for sunken treasure.

Standing on the quarterdeck, Dante Leighton, captain and owner of the Sea Dragon, looked to starboard where lay the Spanish island of Trinidad. Sparsely populated since its cocoa plantations were abandoned years earlier, thick evergreen forests now grew unrestrained up the slopes of mountain ranges wreathed in wisps of cloud. On this side of the island the low-lying coastline was clogged with swampland and presented an inhospitable countenance to the sea-weary voyager. But on the windward side there were stretches of narrow beach lined with palms, where tropical rain forests crowded the slopes above. It was there that the Sea Dragon had dropped anchor, and her captain had gone ashore to search the remains of an abandoned plantation house. In the overgrown ruins, which the jungle had reclaimed as her own, Dante Leighton had cut a path into the inner structure where once a courtyard had stood. With his dagger he'd pried loose a flat tile from the rough flooring and removed a rusty-hinged strongbox, its lock still intact. Back on board the Sea Dragon, he'd knocked the padlock free and, with most of the crew crowding around, had opened it to disclose a small, neat pile of documents. Because his knowledge of Spanish was limited, Dante had inspected each document with careful thoroughness, without hurrying, despite the growing impatience of his men. But finally a loud cheer had gone up from the crew as he'd held up what was obviously a map, with the X clearly discernible to the treasure-hungry fortune hunters.

The X marked the spot of a sunken Spanish galleon, lost off the Florida Straits early in the eighteenth century. A convoy of heavily guarded merchant ships, loaded down with treasure chests full of gold and silver coins newly minted in Mexico City, had been bound for Madrid out of Havana when it had been hit by a hurricane and sunk. Any sailor who'd sailed for long in the West Indies had heard not only this particular tale of sunken Spanish treasure ships, but countless others as well. However, few, if indeed any, of these tall stories had ever resulted in the jingle of coins in anyone's pockets.

Dante Leighton had heard most of them, and had even given chase to a few of the myths floating around the Caribbean seas. Until now, though, he'd never really believed in them; never before had he felt a tingling of anticipation as he did now. Staring down at the treasure map held firmly in his grasp, he experienced the familiar stirrings of an old, but never forgotten dream.

Glancing to larboard, Dante watched the mountainous coastline of Venezuela slip by as the Sea Dragon continued its starboard tack. Dante's gaze swung to the intricate rigging and towering masts above his head, where all hands aloft were busy trimming the sails as she came into the wind. The mainsails were drawing well as the Sea Dragon heeled slightly as she increased her speed.

"Come up a little, helmsman!" Dante ordered, his voice blending with the winds and flapping of canvas. "No nearer," Dante warned as he eyed the close-hauled sails. "Keep her so, Mr. Clarke."

"Captain, sir!" squeaked a high-pitched voice against the wind. "Here's your coffee, sir. Mister Kirby sent me up with it, sir," reported Conny Brady, the young cabin boy of not more than eleven years, as he tried to brace his legs and come to attention without spilling the captain's coffee.

"Thank you, Conny," Dante replied absentmindedly, his attention fixed between the Sea Dragon's raking bowsprit, her stand of sail, and the far distant promontory of land jutting out into their course. He took a swallow of the steaming coffee and smiled inwardly, for it was smooth and blacker than hell, the way no one but Houston Kirby, ship's steward and jack-of-all-trades, could brew it. Dante breathed deeply and tasted the salt spray thrown back at him by the wind. He felt at peace as the Sea Dragon rode the sea, her masts and yardarms creaking gently as the sails rapped fully and the deck canted alee.

"Captain, sir." It was Conny interrupting Dante's musings, daring to tug on the captain's sleeve as he tried impatiently to capture Captain Leighton's full attention. "Cap'n, sir, do you think we're really going to find sunken Spanish treasure? Longacres says each of our shares could be thousands of pieces of eight. We'll be richer'n King George himself. 'Tis true, isn't it, Cap'n, sir?" Conny pleaded hopefully, his large blue eyes beneath a recalcitrant curl of coal-black hair appearing far too innocent for the life he'd experienced at sea since signing aboard a slaver at the age of seven. He'd been a member of the Sea Dragon's crew for three years now, and Dante had never failed to be amazed at the boy's understanding of the many moods of the sea. Nor had he kept himself from disapproving of Conny's knowledge of the sailor's way of life — especially while in port.

"I wish you would answer the boy, Captain. I'd be quite relieved myself to know that my pockets are going to be bulging with Spanish doubloons. 'Twould set my mind at rest, not to mention my creditors'," Alastair Marlowe, the supercargo aboard the Sea Dragon, commented dryly. Although he could have addressed the captain by his given name, he always chose to show him the respect he deserved as the master of a ship.

Dante glanced first at his round-eyed cabin boy and then at the supercargo, speculating with amusement about what other tall tales that old pirate Longacres, the ship's coxswain, had been spinning since they'd set sail with the treasure map.

"He is rather infamous for some of his more bloodthirsty yarns of piracy on the high seas," Alastair added with a slight grin as he correctly interpreted his captain's thoughts and look of irritation. "Sometimes I think even I believe him," he admitted, causing Dante to raise a disbelieving eyebrow.

"You are one of the most levelheaded men I know. That is why you happen to be the Sea Dragon's supercargo," Dante told him bluntly, eyeing the younger man who had, amongst the crew, a reputation for being far too serious and honest for his own good. Dante knew he hadn't even seen twenty and ten years yet, but at times he seemed a far wiser and older man. He was a quiet man, seldom sharing his innermost thoughts with others, but Dante knew that when the mood took him he could mimic any seaman on board with devastating skill, not to mention dignitaries and members of royalty, none of whom could stand up well to his brand of lampooning.

"I doubt whether you have ever been in debt, Alastair," Dante commented now as he sized up his supercargo, whose circumspect behavior gave him the benefit of any doubt.

Alastair smiled a trifle crookedly, looking slightly ashamed of what he was about to admit. "Well, I did, at one time, rather fancy myself a town toff. I associated with a disreputable bunch of young gentlemen in London, and I'm sure my family despaired of me ever turning respectable," he said. "I suppose they weren't at all grieved to have me sign on with you. Of course, if they could see me now," he added with a chuckle, shaking his head, "they would disown me completely, for they are quite proper folk."

Dante stared hard at his supercargo, thinking him, as always, uncommonly modest. If he did indeed have a vice, it was selling himself short, for he was not a man caught boasting of his own merit. And, if there were ever a man who Dante knew he could trust with his life, it was Alastair Marlowe.

Under this close scrutiny Alastair began to feel uncomfortable. He wondered what Dante was thinking. Alastair ran an impatient hand through his sun-streaked, light brown curls, for although he'd known Dante Leighton for close to nine years, he was no nearer today to understanding the man than he had been that first day when Dante had rescued him from a very determined press-gang. Even an English gentleman, which was what he'd thought himself to be long ago in 1761, had not been exempt from the long reach of the Royal Navy when it had been ordered to fill its ships with able-bodied men — whether willing or not. And he certainly had not been willing. Alastair could still feel the bos'n's cudgel catching him on his head, sending him crashing to his knees in the gutter, his fine silk stockings torn and his satin breeches stained with stinking mud. He could still remember his surprised panic as he'd struggled to his feet, weaving like a drunken sailor and clutching his aching head, only to find himself jerked back by a powerfully muscled forearm. He heard the cruel laughter of the press-gang spinning around him as he'd been herded down the narrow, cobbled back streets of Portsmouth like a lamb being led to slaughter.

He wondered if he would be alive today if the Sea Dragon hadn't happened to dock in Portsmouth that very day, and if Dante Leighton hadn't loomed up before the startled press-gang like the devil himself. Already blurred of vision from the blow he'd sustained, Alastair could remember blinking his eyes rapidly as he'd tried to focus on the tall figure barring their path. Under a flickering torch, held by one of the sailors, Dante's dark, caped figure had seemed almost supernatural, especially when a light drizzle began to fall and the torch started to sputter and the smoke swirled eerily around them. In Alastair's confused mind the ensuing events seemed like a scene out of Hades, with the flashing of swords and the loud explosion of a pistol shot, the smell of sulfur lingering even after the smoke had cleared. Out of Dante's wavering shadow a slight figure had emerged with a pistol primed and ready in his left hand. This apparition had been Houston Kirby, a strange little man Alastair would soon come to know.

"Well, gents?" Dante's deep, amused voice had questioned the press-gang, who were now grumbling more to themselves than to the menacing, caped figure confronting them. "What's it to be? Is your captain to be one man short?" he'd asked, first indicating a wide-eyed Alastair, then continuing with a nasty-looking smile, "Or is he never to see his bos'n's mate and swabbers again?"

Alastair, to this day, had never forgotten the ugly glint in the eyes of the press-gang's leader as he'd swung his cudgel in a harmless arc before him. "Juz doin' our duty, sir. Reckon this time ye've scuppered us but good, m'lord." His manner of addressing Dante Leighton was contemptuous, but he little knew how accurate his description had been.

Then, mockingly doffing his cap, he'd signaled for the release of the prisoner. Now Alastair could smile at the haste with which his order was carried out, and how he had been thus deprived of the privilege of venting his anger and outrage at His Majesty's Navy. As he'd stood there swaying, the rain dripping down his face, he'd finally met the pale gray eyes of his rescuer, but instead of feeling reassured, the expression in their luminous depths had sent an uncontrollable shiver of premonition through him. There was a wildness in the dark-lashed eyes, a lawless quality that had made him wish to be back on his family's estate outside of Portsmouth. There, as an untitled, younger son, unlikely to inherit either estate or title, all he'd had to worry about was whether or not he should buy a commission in the cavalry or join the ministry. Either choice would have been acceptable to his family. He knew that as long as they no longer had to foot the bills, they cared naught what happened to him.

That was all he remembered of his first meeting with Dante Leighton, for the next moment he'd fainted, something he'd never done since. Then he'd awakened on board the Sea Dragon, the gentle rocking lulling him into a false sense of security until he'd realized where he was. But his fears had been groundless, for a gruff but solicitous Houston Kirby had dressed his head, fed him full of steaming broth, helped him dress in clean breeches and coat, and then admonished him against trying to move around until he'd found his sea legs. The steward's bossy familiarity had reminded Alastair of the older, much trusted servants who'd been with his family since before he'd been born.

"B-but where am I?" Alastair remembered demanding with false bravado. "W-what's going to happen to me? W-where is that man who rescued me?" He still cringed with embarrassment as he recalled how he'd stammered his fears.

The small steward had stopped his work and answered him patiently. "Now you listen to me, young sir. You've no need to fear the captain or anyone on board the Sea Dragon, unless you go prying into things you shouldn't. Captain Leighton don't like to be disappointed in a person," Houston Kirby had warned him. "His lordship didn't need to take the responsibility of you. Could've left you staggering around Portsmouth for another press-gang to snatch."

"His lordship? He's a titled gentleman?" Alastair could still remember his surprise as he'd voiced his disbelief. For the man who'd held up the press-gang had been no pampered gentleman of leisure.

"Aye, that he is, and don't you be doubtin' it, young sir," was Houston Kirby's short reply to Alastair's comments. "Although there do be some who question the gentleman part," Kirby had continued, his tone of voice leaving little doubt what his opinion of his captain's detractors was. "But the captain ain't one for standing on much ceremony, exceptin' when it comes to sailing his ship; then he's the captain, and no one else. You do as he says, and you'll be all right."

Alastair had taken heed of Houston Kirby's advice and had never regretted the results. After close to an hour of conversation with the enigmatic man called Dante Leighton, during which time he felt as if he'd bared his soul to him, he had been asked to join the crew of the Sea Dragon. Alastair still swore to this day that there had been a twinkle in the captain's eye when he'd asked if Alastair had ever thought about going to sea — voluntarily, of course — and then said that since the Sea Dragon was undermanned they could use a good hand. With the enticement the conversation had been concluded, leaving Alastair's aching head spinning with more than just the cudgel's bite. This condition was not lessened when the captain casually informed him that the Sea Dragon would be under sail by the end of the week. It had been no easy decision to make, and Alastair could still feel the sadness of standing on the quarterdeck and watching the familiar shores of England fade as the heavily armed brig caught the offshore breeze and sailed out into the English Channel toward what he'd thought at the time was an uncertain future. But then, at that time, he hadn't known Dante Leighton very well.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Chance The Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain. Copyright © 1980 Laurie McBain. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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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Chance the Winds of Fortune 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this story years ago. It was great then and better the second time around.
Pure_Jonel More than 1 year ago
Once again McBain takes readers back in time for a one of a kind romance with adventure and context. I love how the novel is written in what is now considered the ‘old’ style of romance. The best parts of the story are in the details. This is an epic read that is well worth the time. I loved getting to know the characters in this novel. They were so intricately developed and stood out amongst the sea of characters in the genre. Their antics and relationships made them so real. The distinctive personalities create a sea of people for readers to fall for. Dante & Rhea are definitely a couple that I won’t forget. As a whole, this was a seamless, enjoyable novel that I had a hard time putting down. McBain has definitely crafted a winning novel with this one. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Jessicasbookobsession More than 1 year ago
Chance The Winds of Fortune is the 2nd book in the Dominick trilogy. I didn't read the first book, but that isn't a problem. This book can be read as a stand alone. This book has a slow start. There are a lot of details I feel could have been edited out, because they make the book drag, but once it got going it was a okay read. While this book was a Decent read it could have been so much better. While I really liked Rhea and Dante. There wasn't enough of them in this book for my liking. I mean this is their book right? Because it doesn't feel like it. I didn't feel there was enough relationship development. They are not really the main focus of the book. They didn't even meet until I was almost 300 pages into a 500 page book. Come on!! There are so many tedious details in this book that it became a little boring at times. In one part of the book there is 2 pages of nothing but details of the things sold in the London markets. 1 whole page talking about what Rhea's room looks like. Giving the reader a mental picture is good, but some things are just overkill! I have to be honest and say what bothered me the most about this book is the main couple is only in this book like 25- 30 % of the book tops. I know more about Rhea's Parents Sabrina and Lucien and their love then I do about Rhea and Dante! The parts that do have Rhea and Dante together are very sweet and I enjoyed them enough to give this book a 3 Star. *ARC Kindly Provided By Netgalley In Exchange For An Honest Review*
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
Dante Leighton is the Marquis of Jacobi but turned pirate and captains the Sea Dragon. Dante is after a treasure on a sunken Spanish ship. Dante finds Rhea asleep in his cabin on his ship. Dante believes rhea is a spy. But Lady Rhea had been kidnapped by her father’s enemy. Dante doesn’t trust women as the last one had betrayed him. Rhea tells Dante that her parents are the Duke and Duchess of Camareigh and she was kidnapped then sold as a slave yet she escaped. This was suppose to be a romance but Dante and Rhea aren’t really in the story until over ½ way through the story. Also this does just get boring at times. I had problems getting through it at times to finish this story. But I did like Dante and Rhea’s character for the most part and all the ups and downs they went through when Dante and Rhea were finally brought in. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
LesiaCh4 More than 1 year ago
This was an epic adventure, to be sure! On the high seas with privateers, drunken sailors, a search for sunken treasure. In England there was a madwoman seeking her revenge and dragging innocents into her dangerous game. Death, and kidnapping are among the least of what has happened at Camareigh. I've given this story 5 Stars. It deserves it for the well directed writing by Laurie McBain, and depth of her characters. There are quite a few characters, but don't worry you will want to know all the amazing characters in this book. The beginning of the story may throw you off a bit, but don't let that stop you from taking this adventure. It's one you will be glad you took, I assure you! So don't rush through, or skip anything, it's all important. This is not the first time I've read, Chance The Winds of Fortune, by Laurie McBain. I read it back in the late 1980's or early 1990's. So when I saw it's re-release coming up I had to read it again, and I'm so glad that I did, because I had forgot what a great adventure it was. I received a copy from NetGalley, to give my honest review, and that I have done.