entered the ballroom from the terrace doors, adjusting his cravat
with a practiced hand. That he didn’t have a formal invitation
stung his pride somewhat, but then again, the aristocratic host
of the festivities disliked him intensely and the feeling was mutual.
Tansley’s daughter on the other hand he liked all too well.
gaze swept the room, skimming the melee of people chatting, dancing,
drinking tepid champagne…and he found her, for her red-gold
hair was unmistakable, as was the graceful symmetry of her profile.
It was going to be a bit tricky to approach her and not have her
father notice his presence, but then again, Charles was quite good
into the crowd, he bided his time, as inconspicuous as possible.
he needed was an opportunity to get her alone for just a moment.
came just after she’d completed a waltz with a particularly
eligible young baron, the sight of them dancing together making
him grind his teeth from where he hovered in the shadows.
smiled at the insipid bastard and obviously excused herself, heading
for the hallway and no doubt the ladies’ retiring room.
was all a matter of delicate timing. She slipped inside, he ducked
into an advantageous doorway, and when she emerged, there was no
one else in sight.
was breathtaking in peach lutestring, her hair upswept in a simple
chignon that emphasized the graceful column of her neck, her ivory
shoulders and a hint of the upper curves of her bosom enough to
draw a man’s eye.
certainly drew his.
could be cruel, but it could also be benevolent. He stepped out
and said quietly, “Caro.”
startled gaze met his, her aquamarine eyes widening. “Charles…”
she faltered. “I didn’t realize you were in attendance.”
Trust me,” he said sardonically, “I wasn’t invited.
We both know how your father feels about me. Can I have a word?”
saw it then. A stiffening of her shoulders and she looked away.
“No,” she said succinctly.
then she walked away in an imperious swirl of long skirts, leaving
only a hint of rose perfume.
truly lost her.
Caribbean, two months later
commotion that had awakened her seemed to be getting worse. The
sound of running footsteps echoed thunderously and there were shouts
punctuated now and then by women screaming.
God, what is happening?
man who burst into her stateroom was huge and bearded, with a wickedly
curved sword he waved with what looked like skillful precision.
Only dressed in a flimsy chemise, the gown she’d hurriedly
pulled out of her trunk still lying on the bed, Lady Caroline Kendrick
gasped, snatching up her dressing gown and clutching it to her chest.
She ordered bitingly, “Get out.”
oddly in tan breeches and a red vest that bared his brawny arms,
the big man smiled, revealing crooked teeth. His gaze ran over her,
from the long loose tumble of her hair, to where the material of
her robe didn’t quite cover her bare legs. “Oh yes,
my lady, you’re the one all right.” He chuckled, his
eyes small and gleaming in his dark face. “Hair like golden
fire and as bright as a sunrise over a turquoise sea. Eyes blue
as a summer sky. Come with me, beautiful one.”
poetic drivel from such an unlikely source rendered her speechless
for a moment, but while the description might be flattering, the
scimitar in his hand was hardly reassuring and his presence in the
small space was intimidating.
Come with you?” She desperately clung to her poise, though
it really wasn’t easy because to say she didn’t have
the upper hand was a terrible understatement. The brute was about
a foot taller than the average man, and about twice as wide. “I
her surprise, the invader swept her a stately bow. “Satan
has requested your presence.”
At the mention of the famous pirate’s name, Caroline experienced
a quiver that was decidedly more fear than outrage. If half of what
she’d heard about the blackguard was true that was terrifying
enough to make her go cold.
father had objected to her journey to Jamaica on the grounds there
was too much danger involved but she had insisted. Perhaps he had
If you wish to rob me, do so and be on your way,” she said
with credible dignity, considering she was clad only in her lacy
shift. She nodded at the corner of the cabin, her personal possessions
suddenly not important. “My jewels are in that chest.”
Oh aye, I’ll take your valuables, make no mistake, my fine
lady, but first I need to deliver you abovedeck. I always follow
Don’t touch me.” She stepped back, bumping into the
bed; panic flaring as he approached her with purpose. She wildly
looked around for a weapon but there was nothing but the chamber
pot, which she contemplated for a brief moment. But before she realized
what was happening, Caroline found herself heaved face down over
the giant’s shoulder, her head barely missing the top of the
narrow doorway as she was hauled out of her cabin, bare legs dangling
and her bottom up in the air. Too frightened to be mortified over
the indignity of the position, she squirmed in protest, her long
hair streaming down the back of the man holding her and obscuring
her vision. His arm around the back of her knees, he carried her
as easily as he would have a sack of meal, making absolutely no
response to her furious objections or the pummel of her fists on
his broad back.
they gained the top deck and the warm tropical breeze washed over
her thinly clad body, Caroline fell silent suddenly, her struggles
ceasing as she saw through the veil of her disheveled hair the bound
and gagged members of the ship’s crew sitting on the sea-worn
boards, guarded by two rough-looking men with pistols. Other passengers
huddled in a frightened group, most of them like her in various
states of undress or nightclothes, since it was barely dawn.
Ah yes, Henricus, I see you have my prize. I would recognize that
enticing backside anywhere. Set her down please.”
the sound of the cool, familiar drawl, Caroline stiffened in disbelief.
And when she was deposited with a flourish in a flurry of tangled
hair and trembling limbs on the deck, she whirled around in confused
apprehension. Her lips barely moved. “Charles?”
man standing before her smiled. Not the polite charming smile she
remembered from elegant London ballrooms and shadowed summer gardens,
but a wickedly sensual curve of his well-shaped lips as his gaze
deliberately traveled slowly up and down her half-nude body, examining
every inch. “None other than. Surprised to see me, my dear?”
held her speechless. It was Charles Somerset, she saw in numb immobility,
but not at all the same well-dressed, well-mannered man she knew
back in England. Instead a tall, arrogant-looking stranger stood
before her, dressed in a loose white shirt open carelessly to show
his strong neck and muscled chest, his attire completed by black
tightly fitted breeches, and polished knee-high boots. His hair,
dark and glossy, brushed his shoulders and a rakish stubble of black
whiskers ran along his jaw. A very businesslike pistol was stuck
in the belt slung around his lean waist and in his hand he held
a sword similar to the one her abductor had brandished as he invaded
his eyes…those were the same, Caroline realized with a tremor.
Dark as a moonless night and as intense as ever, long-lashed and
yet starkly masculine. And the achingly handsome features of his
face were unmistakable; high cheekbones, straight nose, firm lips…
last seen each other two months ago and she’d thought he’d
departed on one of his long journeys for the shipping company he’d
that it matters. She did her best to conquer her stunned surprise.
sword dangled from his hand as if he only held it carelessly, but
she had the impression there was leashed power behind his negligent
pose, and honestly it fit him better than that of elegant courtier.
never felt she really knew him, and when they’d last parted,
it had not been a harmonious moment. She’d disdained him,
and in retrospect, maybe that had been a mistake.
that he hadn’t fully deserved it. She squared her shoulders.
“Why are you here?”
I belong here.”
I don’t understand,” she whispered, her hair, tugged
by the capricious breeze, blowing softly across her shoulders. A
second ship rocked next to their vessel and even her inexperienced
eyes could see she was impressively armed with cannon and guns.
lifted one ebony brow and said softly, “You will, sweet Caro…believe
me, you will.” Then he turned and nodded to several of the
men who crowded around him, openly staring at her in an unsettling
way, though their faces were impassive. “Take her to the Tempest
and lock her in my cabin. If the lady offers any resistance, tie
Aye, Captain.” One of them grabbed her by the arm.
her up? Caroline jerked free, making the young man laugh. She demanded,
“Captain? Does he mean you?”
Yes, indeed. Now go along and behave yourself like an obedient captive.”
Charles!” Caroline gasped in affront, feeling as if she’d
fallen into some kind of farcical fantastic dream. “You are…kidnapping
smile showed a gleam of white teeth and he laughed lightly, standing
with his long legs braced against the gentle movement of the ship
on the swell of the sea. “See, Lady Caroline, I told you you’d
* * *
been generous with the crew and passengers of the Dove, but then
again, he could afford to be since he’d gotten exactly what
he wanted more than anything on this earth. Charles had ordered
his men to take nothing but coin, leaving other valuables like jewelry
and watches, and though his crew grumbled a little, they had obeyed
as always, though he had no illusions. Their loyalty was born of
both a respect for his famed sword arm and the recognition that
when they sailed with him, they gained not only infamous legendary
status but spoils unequaled by any other pirate ship sailing the
seven seas. Fear and money were both powerful motivations.
did he still do it?
was, he mused as he watched the mainsail being adjusted with narrowed
eyes, a very wealthy man. In fact, he could have quit this dangerous
second life a long time ago, but his restless nature had kept him
from retiring both his sword and his sinful nickname. That and his
obsession with the one woman he could not have; the gloriously beautiful
daughter of the Marquess of Tansley, Lady Caroline Kendrick.
now, she was his for the taking.
on his heel, Charles nodded at his first mate, a burly Frenchman
who bore hideous scars on his back from some long ago crime and
intensely hated Bonaparte. Charles had never asked what happened,
and Henricus had never offered an explanation, but it didn’t
matter. They’d understood each other from their first meeting
and that affinity had seen them through both danger and success.
Henricus was both a friend and a fierce fighter, and Charles trusted
I’ll be in my cabin.” He smiled thinly. “Though
I have my doubts over the lady’s welcome of my presence.”
Louis tied her to the chair.” Henricus grinned. “And
it was his pleasure to do so, he mentioned. She has lovely ankles,
about her was lovely and Charles was illogically annoyed anyone
else had noticed—which made no sense since he’d ordered
her bondage himself, and he was fully aware other men wanted her,
which had precipitated his reckless kidnapping in the first place.
news of her engagement in the Times had driven him first to a tavern
where he’d done something he never did and indulged in too
much drink, swilling blue ruin until the wee hours and stumbling
home so drunk he was ill for two days.
the announcement of her upcoming marriage had led him back to the
From now on, no one touches her but me.” Charles said the
words with steely authority.
Good luck then, mon Capitan…for Louis said she was spitting
mad like a treed cat when he left her.”
that Caroline had lived a privileged, pampered existence and probably
never had to do anything against her will in her life, Charles could
believe it. Not that she was unintelligent or selfish, she was just
the daughter of an autocratic, powerful man, used to having her
way in all matters.
was about to change. He said with a reckless grin, “I accept
the luck then, Henri, but I have never shirked a battle.”
a sparkle in his black eyes, his companion laughed, a booming sound
that echoed over the deck. “Until later then, Satan, my friend.”
of all the months he’d spent courting and trying to win the
incomparably lovely Caroline, Charles said with cynical conviction,
later, when he opened the door to the captain’s cabin, he
found that Henricus was right, the woman in question was trussed
to a sturdy chair with the tie to his own dressing gown, one of
his inventive crew cutting it to pieces and using the silken cloth
to bind his prisoner instead of a rough bit of rope. Her spectacular
strawberry blond hair, gleaming and flowing over her slender shoulders,
glimmered red-gold in the sunlight coming in the porthole, and her
flawless alabaster skin was flushed with both anger and frustration.
Caroline apparently had at least a little recovered from her shock
over his identity being revealed as an infamous pirate for she glared
at him, her aquamarine eyes full of resentful accusation.
You are a coward, a liar, and no gentleman,” she said flatly,
her delicate features ablaze with emotion. Clad only in a lacy chemise,
she looked delectable…and undeniably incensed. Her trunk had
been brought in at his orders, Charles saw, and it sat in one corner
of the cabin on the finely woven Oriental rug.
Perhaps the latter two,” Charles agreed, stepping inside and
carefully latching the door shut behind him. “But forgive
me if I refuse to agree to the first.”
Only a coward abducts a woman against her will.”
slim, shapely ankles were bound together, her fragile wrists looped
to the back of the chair. Charles noted that she didn’t seem
to be in any physical distress and decided it was prudent to not
untie her at once in her current state of mind. “Or,”
he corrected softly, “a man who is not perhaps a coward, but
a frustrated lover who cannot think of another way to gain the woman
he wants so desperately.”
fury seemed to abate a fraction, but her soft mouth set stubbornly.
“You could have just about any woman—and have had—if
the rumors are at all accurate, in England, Charles. Do not try
to make me think you have been pining away for me alone, for I will
not believe you.”
Whether or not I have been celibate is not the issue,” he
said, just to taunt her, for the memory of her dancing and flirting
and charming other men back in London still stung, not to mention
her recent engagement. “But I most certainly can’t seem
to forget you, so here you are. The invitation to visit Lady Lowell
at her Jamaican plantation was made at my behest, for I knew you
would pressure your father for permission. We share a passion for
adventure, you and I.”
stare widened. “You…plotted all this?”
Oh, yes. Satan never leaves anything to chance—not if he can
help it. How else is it I can move through the exalted circles of
highest English society and still command the most daring pirate
ship on these seas?” He strolled over to the sideboard and
picked up the brandy decanter, pouring himself a measure into a
was actually difficult to live such a volatile double life and he
hadn’t entered into it lightly. Had it not been for his mother’s
illness, he wouldn’t have ever contemplated such a course
of action, but he’d been admittedly desperate when he realized
how depleted the family fortunes were. Even then, he hadn’t
set out to rob anyone, but to merely get back what was rightfully
his from the man who had fleeced his father. Once Satan was born,
he had thrived, effectively ruining his enemy and at that point,
once his mission had been fulfilled, he’d discovered he liked
the adventure of it. It was a lawless existence; he didn’t
try to justify that even to himself, but he only targeted those
merchant ships that he knew—through his social contacts in
England—were deserving of a setback or two because of how
they ran their business ventures at the expense of others.
common people applauded Satan’s exploits…and the rich
feared him. Were he ever caught he knew he would be executed without
mercy. He’d been aware of that all along. There was a long
list of powerful—ruthless—men who wanted his blood.
father was one of them.
rasped, “You are insane.”
And you are…delicious.” He turned, letting his gaze
travel insolently over her body, fastening on the luscious mounds
of her quivering breasts. “And every inch of you is my prisoner
and at my disposal.”
was no mistaking his meaning or the way he examined her half-exposed
curves with lascivious interest. It was deliberate, but truthfully,
now that he had her at his mercy, he was more uncertain how to proceed
than he’d anticipated. He expected at least some resistance
to a seduction because her anger at his highhanded tactics was justified.
she whispered, “You wouldn’t rape me, Charles. Whatever
you are, pirate or gentleman, I know you would never force yourself
was absolutely correct, but he wasn’t about to give an inch
of the advantage he now held. He’d been the supplicant far
too often. Their last meeting still stung.
had fairly ripped his heart out of his chest, but he wasn’t
about to admit it now.
there in his comfortable cabin, arms crossed over his chest, Charles
lifted one brow slowly. “I do not think, if my memory serves
me well, that I will have to, now will I? Unless you were acting
back in London when we both attended that fete given by Lord Hampshire,
in which case, a career on the stage awaits you. I know well what
it feels like to have a willing woman in my arms.”
I am sure you do.” Her voice was bitter. “Lady Hanover
kindly provided me with a long list of your past amours when the
rumor of your visit to my father to ask for my hand in marriage
surfaced. Tell me, is there any woman in England you haven’t
was one mystery solved anyway. His carefully cultivated reputation
as a libertine was to protect his identity as Satan, for no one
would believe the charming rake Charles Somerset was a bloodthirsty
pirate, but he hadn’t counted on falling in love, either.
Most of the rumors of his past liaisons were either false or greatly
exaggerated. It had become fashionable to have had an affair with
his dashing social persona and he hadn’t refuted any of the
gossip because it served his purposes so well.
You,” he said with a cynical smile.
doubt he deserved the scathing look he received in response.
I want to know why you believed her without even asking me.”
He said the words quietly for he’d wondered all along why
Caroline had refused to see him after her father had declined granting
permission for them to marry. The woman he knew, the one he’d
fallen so madly in love with, had more spirit than to give up so
lifted her shapely chin. “Let’s say that between my
father’s concerns and Lady Hanover’s condescending visit,
I began to have severe doubts over your ability to be faithful.
Give me one reason to think you wouldn’t simply lie to me.
Obviously the infamous Satan is not the most trustworthy man on
You didn’t know I was Satan then,” he objected.
I sensed you were lying to me in some way.” Her gaze was direct.
he couldn’t deny it for she was absolutely correct. Deception
had a price, and apparently he’d paid it. Lady Hanover’s
vindictiveness was no doubt due to his polite refusal of her invitation
into her bed. But, because he was considered a promiscuous courtier,
she could say what she liked and be believed.
could explain to Caroline he’d never been in love before her,
but he doubted now was the time for declarations of undying devotion.
Instead he smiled lazily. “How many names on the list, might
gross exaggeration if there ever was one. Lady Hanover really had
been in a spiteful mood.
My, my, I’ve been busy, haven’t I?” Rubbing his
chin, relishing the fact he undoubtedly looked quite different unshaven
and dressed so informally, he added in mock contemplation, “Just
think, it could have been thirty-five. Do you remember at the Christmas
ball when we found that little alcove and celebrated the season
with a kiss that I still recall with amazing clarity? You were like
melted wax against me, Caroline, and I resisted the temptation to
lift your skirts only because I was certain your pompous father
would accept my marriage proposal.” It was still galling to
recall her father’s reasons for refusal of his suit. Lack
of character, wanderlust, a propensity for cards and women…
of which were really true, but it had been impossible for Charles
to defend himself. Then with a hint of aristocratic disdain, the
lofty Marquess of Tansley had pointed out the one flaw Charles could
do nothing about; his lack of a title.
had been difficult to admit that was true. His beautiful daughter
could do better and the arrogant marquess didn’t know the
half of it. Had he known, Charles would have hung from the gibbet
You wanted a virgin bride? How touching.”
couldn’t help it, he flushed. If he admitted he’d had
some romantic notions about their wedding night and initiating her
into the art of pleasure when she was finally his bride and they
were pledged to each other forever, he would lose control of this
volatile situation. “I thought I did, but should have just
fucked you when I had the chance.”
Don’t be crude,” she stammered hotly. “I would
not have allowed you to…that is, Oh! To think, I once fancied
myself in love with you!”
his eyes, he replied, “You would have most certainly allowed
it and we both know it. You will allow it now, for I am done with
the niceties of proper courtship.”
HERE TO BUY