Sarina Talbot is certain notorious pirate, One-Eyed Jack Tremayne, murdered her father and stole his prized cutlass. Out for revenge, she sneaks onto his ship disguised as a cabin boy, but Tremayne quickly catches on to her scheme. He claims she has the wrong man, and that, if they work together, he can help her gain the vengeance she seeks.
She doesn’t really trust him, and he doesn’t trust anyone. But they need each other to find the killer, and their uneasy alliance slowly turns to friendship, and then to more.
Add in an old journal full of cryptic clues leading to a hidden cache of Aztec gold, and Sarina and Tremayne have their hands full. Between sword fights, Crown ships, enemy pirates and a traitor on their own vessel, they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives, let alone the gold.
But perhaps, along the way, they’ll find a treasure even more valuable.
“Well, I think—” he began, but he never got to finish his thought, because Sarina reared back and slapped him across the face. Hard.
“You . . .” she sputtered. “You lecherous rake!”
“Rake?” Jonathan rubbed at his cheek. “You can hardly blame me for trying to protect you.”
“That wasn’t about protection!” she spat back. “That was you taking liberties!”
“As if you didn’t enjoy it.”
Sarina gasped and raised her arm to slap him again, but he was quicker this time, catching her wrist before she made contact.
“I believe once can be excused,” he said quietly, threat oozing with every syllable. “Female hysteria and all that . . .”
“Hysteria?” She scoffed, struggling to rip her wrist from his grip. “Hardly. More like well-founded outrage. To manhandle me like a common strumpet—”
At that, Jonathan tugged her closer, gritting his teeth in an unpleasant smile. “A common strumpet would know how to kiss,” he pointed out, purposely goading her.
“Well . . . I never!”
“Exactly my point.”
Sarina swung out with her other hand, but Jonathan caught that as well, his jaw tightening in frustration. “Would you please stop trying to hit me?”
“Would you please stop doing things that make me want to?”
Jonathan couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Miss Talbot, calm down, please,” he said. “If you’d allow me to explain.”
Sarina laughed humorlessly. “As if you could.” She frowned, but her movements stilled.
“If I release you, do you promise not to slap me again?” He eyed her carefully, only relaxing his grip after her curt nod. He stepped back, holding his hands out, just in case she changed her mind.
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to slap you,” she said. “Goodness, for a pirate, you’re awfully skittish.”
“Well, you can hardly blame me,” he retorted. “You take every opportunity to brain me.”
She snorted. “As if you had one.”
“Tut tut, Miss Talbot,” he said, rounding his desk to sit in his chair. “Some might think you protest too much.”
“And what in the world is that supposed to mean?”
He shrugged, tapping a finger on his lips. “Just that there was a moment there when you didn’t seem to be protesting at all.”
“What?” Sarina gaped, her eyes darting around as she scrabbled for words.
“It was . . . my head. I was still dizzy from hitting Rafferty. And . . . you just . . . you took me by surprise. I didn’t expect you to be so . . . so . . .”
“Delicious?” he offered smugly.
She glared. “Forward.”
“I had to make it believable for the crew.”
“And why exactly would you need to use your tongue for that? It wasn’t as if they could see inside my mouth!”
Jonathan ignored the heat roaring up at the memory of her mouth . . . her tongue . . . the feel of her warm body pressed against his.
“They have seen me with other women before,” he replied, absently noting a twitch of her jaw at that comment.
“They would have noticed if I held back with you,” he added.
Her fight deflated. “Well, you could have warned me,” she said begrudgingly.
“It would have been nice to have been prepared.”
“Oh, come now, Miss Talbot,” he said, leaning back in his chair with a grin.
“Where would be the fun in that?”
“You’re a very irritating man, Captain.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Well,” Sarina said loftily, brushing at her skirts as she tried to collect herself. “To avoid such distasteful displays again, I think it best we adopt a few guidelines.”
Jonathan smirked. He had to admit he enjoyed battling wits with Sarina Talbot. The woman was infuriating, but definitely not boring.
“I don’t abide well with rules, Miss Talbot.”
“Undoubtedly,” she retorted, brushing back her hair. “Nevertheless, if we are to enact this charade, I am afraid I must insist on a few concessions on your part.”
“I abide even less with concessions.”
“Would you just listen to me?” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in frustration. “For heaven’s sake, you don’t even know what I’m asking!”
He eyed her for a moment, then nodded slightly. “Very well. What are your demands?”
Sarina inhaled deeply. “First of all, I sleep in the bed.”
Jonathan snorted. “Now who’s being forward?”
“Not with you, you arrogant prat!” she snapped. “I sleep in the bed. You sleep on the cot.”
Jonathan huffed out a laugh. “Not bloody likely!”
“You’d put your comfort before a lady’s?” she asked haughtily.
“Always.” He leaned forward with a leering smile. “That is, unless she’s in the bed with me.”
Sarina colored, but didn’t rise to bait. “Very well. It is your bed, after all. But I’m afraid I must insist on a mattress at least. There is no way I can sleep on those ropes.”
Jonathan fought a smile when he realized that Sarina never intended to take his bed, but was using it as a negotiating tactic. “All right,” he conceded. “There are some spare ticks in the hold. But you’ll haul it up yourself. No bothering my men with menial tasks.”
“Yes, well, I suppose menial tasks are my job now, right?” she muttered.
“Exactly.” Tremayne leaned his elbows on the desk, fingers tented before his lips. “Anything else?”
“No chamber pots. That is non-negotiable.”
Jonathan winced. He could hardly blame her. “Done.”
She lifted her chin. “And no sneaking peeks,” she said. “When I’m dressing . . . or bathing . . .” He cast a pointed look at her bodice and she hurried to the chest to retrieve another handkerchief.
“And absolutely no more kissing.”
Tremayne raised a brow. “No kissing? None at all?”
She tucked the handkerchief into her gown. “You’ve established our apparent relationship with your crew. They’re aware I’m staying in your quarters. I wouldn’t think it necessary.”
He rubbed a finger lightly over his lips, back and forth. “Not necessary, no,”
he said, voice low, considering. Sarina’s gaze drifted to his mouth, where he continued to trace a slow circuit across his lips. “But enjoyable.”
She started, eyes snapping up. “Hardly!”
He stood, rounding the desk to stand disturbingly close to her. Sarina took a step back, then forward again, refusing to be intimidated. He loomed over her, eye glittering in the lantern light.
“Are you certain it would be so distasteful, Miss Talbot?” he rasped quietly. “So certain you wouldn’t like it?”
“Of course I wouldn’t!” she insisted, voice catching. She cleared her throat nervously. “I would never . . .”
“Never?” he pressed, leaning even closer. “No reason to hold back, Miss Talbot. It’s not as if your reputation is in danger.”
Sarina sputtered, unable to form words.
“You’re already sharing quarters with a—how did you put it?—a lecherous rake,” he prodded, unable to resist. “Why not enjoy yourself?”
He could see her trembling, although whether her discomfort stemmed from his proximity or her own reaction to it, he wasn’t sure. She swayed toward him slightly, and his mouth curved in victory.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
T.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, and a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written four additional novels and several best-selling short stories…and there’s always more on the way.