Captain James Steele is duty bound to capture the privateer Scarlet Night and bring her rebellious crew to England to hang. Then he will leave his majesty’s service, make an upstanding marriage, and join the landed gentry. But the winds of fate are blowing the straitlaced commander utterly off course.
Once aboard, James comes face to face with a pirate boy who is in reality fierce, desperate—and gorgeous—Samantha Christian, on the run from a sadistic Virginia plantation owner. With her identity unbound, the good captain dutifully takes her under his personal command, whereupon decorum goes out the porthole. But while his heart is lost to Samantha by the time they reach England, her noose still awaits. Now James’s sense of duty will be severely tested. As for Samantha, she has a plan, and a duty, of her own . . .
She lifted her gaze from his pristine silk neckcloth. The Captain’s eyes were impossibly blue. They were the sky on a brilliant summer afternoon. “No, he is not my betrothed. He is more my jailer.”
Captain Steele laughed again. “Isn’t that somewhat the same thing?” “Spoken like a man who is either terminally single or unhappily betrothed.”
“Betrothed, but not unhappily. Impatient. I’m to be wed as soon as I return to England.”
Samantha blinked at the quick rush of unexpected disappointment. “Congratulations, Captain. Your fiancée is a lucky woman indeed.”
“Thank you. Lillian is lovely. We’re well matched.” “Will you wed in Weatherington?”
“Unfortunately, no. Lillian lives in London. She does not share my love of the country. A bit too rustic for her tastes.”
“I’m a true country girl, I’m afraid,” Samantha lifted a shoulder in a slight shrug, “but I’ve always longed to see London.”
His rust-tinged brows rose. “You didn’t sail from there?”
“No, Portsmouth.” Turning once more in the dance, Samantha caught Wessler heading toward them, only to be intercepted by one of the other local plantation owners. He acknowledged the man with a civilized nod. The tolerant set of his jaw told Samantha he’d been caught in conversation. He shot her another dark scowl.
“Well, if you ever find yourself back in England, you must allow me to show you London.”
Captain Steele’s warm voice softened the edge of Wessler’s threat. “Won’t your Lillian mind?” She blinked up at him.
The dimple in his cheek flashed once more. “I suspect she’d frown like your guard dog.”
“I can certainly understand why. You are quite handsome.” A darting look told her Wessler still watched. Samantha laid her hand on the lapel of the captain’s jacket. “What is it about a man in uniform that is so appealing?” She traced the gold braid.
“I wouldn’t know. I’m surrounded by men in uniform every day. I fail to see the allure.”
Samantha’s laugh sounded tinny and forced to her ear. Their dance ended. Couples began to clear the dance floor. Wessler finished his conversation and seemed intent on making his way through the crowd toward them once again.
“Captain, I do beg your pardon, but I am suddenly feeling a bit…It’s so terribly warm…” She feigned a stumble.
He caught her arm. “Are you unwell?”
“Air.” She lifted a shaky hand to her throat. “I’m desperate for a bit of air.”
The orchestra began another lively tune. New dancers crowded the floor and blocked Wessler’s approach as Captain Steele guided her quickly in the opposite direction toward the French doors leading to the back veranda.
The night breeze was a blessed relief after the heat of the ballroom. Moving them into the shadows, Samantha pressed a hand to her ribs and drew in several deep breaths. She lifted the back of her hand to her cheek.
Captain Steele gave her a worried frown. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she nodded, “I believe so.” She shot a glance over her shoulder. “Can I fetch you some water, perhaps?”
“No, thank you. I’m feeling much better.” She laid a hand on his sleeve. The lights from the ballroom filtered through the sheer fabric adorning the doors and accented the attractive angles of his face. “Are you always so kind, Captain?”
He gave her another small grin.
“Unless I’m ordered otherwise.”
“You are in His Majesty’s service.” Samantha responded coyly and curtseyed.
“Aye, and loyal to king and country.” He inclined his head in a small bow. “And steadfast in your duty?” she teased.
Captain Steele stood tall. “I know of no other way.”
The doors to the veranda flew open. Music and the hum of conversation tumbled out as Damian Wessler rushed from the ballroom. He stood for a moment at the railing, peering into the shadowed pathways of the Whitmore’s formal gardens.
Blood rushed in Samantha’s ears. Fear and panic caused her to clutch at Captain Steele’s sleeves. “Forgive me, sir.” she whispered before rising on tiptoes to crush her mouth to his.
“Madam—” Captain Steele put his hands to her waist and gently tried to push her away.
Samantha heard Wessler’s curse behind her. She tightened her grip. “Please, Captain, I’ve no time to explain,” She rushed. “Play along.” She slipped her arm about his neck, angled her mouth, and kissed him again. Wessler’s boot heels punctuated each stride as he marched toward them. He wrenched her out of Captain Steele’s grasp. “What in the bloody hell—” he snapped. His eyes held a murderous rage as he growled into
Samantha’s face. His jowls trembled with barely contained fury.
Samantha wiped at the corner of her mouth. She flashed Wessler a coy smile. “You can’t blame me for stealing a simple kiss.” She shot a nervous glance at the Captain. In the dim light, she couldn’t read his face, but the increasing bite of Wessler’s fingers interrupted all else.
She faked a small stumble and a tiny burp. A forced giggle through her gloved fingertips capped her performance. “Whatever was in the punch? I’m so lightheaded.”
“You’ll pardon us, sir, but Mistress Christian,” he jerked her to his side, “and I need to bid you a good eve.” As he spoke, his grip continued to tighten. “Come along, my dear,” he snarled as he jerked at her arm. “Didn’t I warn you not to drink too much this evening? Time to get you home.”
Samantha pushed at his punishing hand. “We shouldn’t be rude to the Whitmore’s distinguished guest.” She shot Captain Steele an embarrassed glance. He was watching the exchange between her and Wessler. A frown knit his brows. “Another dance, Captain?”
“We’re leaving,” bit Wessler.
“The spirits were rather potent tonight. Perhaps, Mistress Christian simply needs a bit more air, Mister…?” Captain Steele held out his hand. Damian had to release her arm to return the Captain’s handshake.
She couldn’t stop the small gasp that escaped her. Her fingers wrapped around her battered skin.
“Wessler. Damian Wessler. I own the Blackwater Plantation. Mistress Christian is in my employ, and she can be rather wild. Undisciplined.
Ignorant to social protocol. Almost defiant.” The last words he directed toward her as he reached for her once more. “If you’ll excuse us.”
Samantha started to thank the captain for his kindness, but Wessler jerked her away. His vise-like fingers left little room for argument. He dragged her back through the crowded ballroom and past a horrified Rebecca.
“We—we need to t-thank our hosts.” She resisted the strength of his pull, casting a pleading glance back at Rebecca. She’d rushed to Isabelle’s side, and now both women watched their hasty departure, concern etched on their faces.
“And give you yet another opportunity to humiliate me?” He wrenched her arm, causing her to gasp as he snarled into her ear. “Shut your fucking mouth and keep moving, or—”
“Or what? I’ll live to regret it?”
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Lisa A. Olech is an artist/writer living in her dream house nestled among the lakes in New England. She loves getting lost in a steamy book, finding the perfect pair of sexy shoes, and hearing the laughter of her men. Being an estrogen island in a sea of testosterone makes her queen. She believes in ghosts, silver linings, the power of a man in a tuxedo, and happy endings.
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