It’s 1753. Having lost hearth and heart to the Stuart Uprising, Cate Mackenzie is alone in London. A fugitive war criminal, arrest an increasing threat, she purchases passage. En route to the West Indies, the ship is boarded by pirates and she is kidnapped—a case of mistaken identity—by Captain Nathanael Blackthorne, the pirate captain.
Cate is instantly drawn into Nathan’s bloody rivalry with Lord Breaston Creswicke, the man who forced him into piracy. Cate, however, finds what she has longed for: purpose, a place to belong and people who notice if she lives or dies.
This is a story of two scarred people, blinded by their defenses.
It’s the story of trust, or rather, the lack of.
It’s the story of a loss of faith and disbelief that Providence might ever smile again.
Nathan found Thomas below, in the captain’s cabin, or rather what was left of it. The crunch of shattered glass under his feet as he stepped over the coaming was a caution to have a care. The deck was a treachery of splintered wood, torn metal, furniture stuffing, scattered paper, and broken pottery. By some miracle, the chart table and the swinging lamp over it remained intact, although one would be pressed to find a chair in which to sit. Thomas was laid out on the table, his legs dangling over the edge, his feet nearly touching the floor. The width of his shoulders barely allowed for room for a lamp at each side. Cate and an odious, Arabic Lascar-looking cove Nathan guessed to be what served as the Griselle’s sawbones stood over him. He was yet to meet a chirrugeon who looked to be worthy of working in anything other than the knacker’s yard.
A palpable chill in the room and Cate’s pointed disinterest told Nathan he could die of old age, before she was to acknowledge him. He did, however, catch her snatching glances toward him from the corner of her eye. A circle of wetness darkened the deck at her feet; she was soaked to the skin, but she was safe.
“My compliments to your gun master. He did a fine job of raking the place,” said Thomas, seeing Nathan eye the wreckage.
For Thomas’ benefit, he curbed his pride at MacQuarries’ handiwork, for his guns had done an admirable job of reducing the space to something which resembled a cooper’s shop, as opposed to a Great Cabin. There were perhaps a half dozen intact panes of glass remaining out of its original triple score of the stern gallery, pieces of sash swinging with the motion of the swell. He had cheered when the cannonball had gone through the starboard quarter; a perfect hole marked the spot. Judging by the damage, it had ricocheted about, before coming to rest in the door of the convenience. A glance overhead showed the charts still cozily stowed between the beams. Providence had smiled there, to be sure. Chairs and windows could be rebuilt, but a good chart was irreplaceable.
Dashing the sweat from his eyes with a soggy sleeve, Nathan smiled grimly. “The captain here was so taken up with ending you, the cod-headed blighter forgot to give us a care. I could have saved your sorry arse sooner had you not taken him on such a merry chase half way to Campeche Bay.”
Thomas closed his eyes, his face contorting with pain. “T’was allowing you time. I know how sluggardly that hulk of yours can be.” One eye opened. “The bastard seemed fixed on seeing us dead.”
“Old enemy,” Nathan said, looking to the floor.
A non-committal grunt was Thomas’ only response.
Nathan was wet as a whale, himself, water pattering from every aspect. He needed a drink badly. Sadly, at first look, there was none to be had. Then he spotted a miraculous survivor sitting in what was left of a cabinet. He snatched up the bottle and took a long pull. It was Madeira or had been in an earlier life. It was swill—the two or three trips around the Horn it must have taken had done it no favors—and he drank it as if it was God’s milk. He handed it off to Thomas, who took an equal pull and grimaced.
Thomas lay rolling his eyes at the ceiling, considering his new vessel. “She’ll be a wreck, but at least she swims, allowing the pumps don’t give out. Always meant to have a go at these fore-and-afters.”
“Do you know how to sail one of these things?”
The corner of Thomas’ mouth quirked. He grunted at the needle plucking his skin. “Something about canvas and wind, isn’t it?”
Thomas sighed, resigned. “Something smaller and quicker, and can point like a demon will be a welcomed change.”
Cate glared as Nathan allowed Thomas another, but said nothing.
All the while, Nathan played eye tag with Cate, now the width of the table away. Nearer, and seen in the light, he could see she had shifted the new clothes she had worn on Nevis, to her old ones, in anticipation of the blood and filth of battle, no doubt. From the corner of his eye, Nathan thought he saw something. His eye narrowed as he glanced… and again.
She was shaking. Nothing violent, mind, a slight tremor more like.
Cate clutched her fist in the folds of her skirt, hoping no one would see. She stiffened at feeling his gaze and glared defiantly back.
“Might you two turn each other to stone on another day?”
The sound of Thomas’ voice yanked Nathan’s attention away. He looked down to find Thomas lying on his back, eyeing them. Cate bent to tenderly cup Thomas’ cheek in her hand and cooed some bit of nonsense in his ear. With a final cutting look at Nathan, she fixed with renewed determination on her task.
Thomas ground out another curse, far more vehement than a few stitches should prompt. He snorted at Nathan’s scowl. “It’s not the damn stitches.” He lifted his head to peer down his chest at the several inch gash there. “Hell, I could damn near do that myself. It’s my back. Something hit me; knocked me clean off my feet. Just breathing sets it off. It hurts like a sonoffa….!” His words squeezed as another spasm took him.
Nathan was in complete sympathy. He’d thrown his back out himself a time or two. A blade to the gut was more pleasant. It rendered one afraid they mightn’t die. Much to Cate’s displeasure, he handed the bottle to Thomas.
The headiness of battle was wearing off. Exhaustion settled in, dragging at Nathan like an anchor. His neck stung like a demon; the brute who tried to slit it must have come closer to success than credited.
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About the Author
Kerry was a history major in college and went into teaching. That didn’t work, so she had two office careers. That didn’t work either. Through a circuitous sequence of events, she wound up in the decorative painting world, where she travel-taught and published for some 30 years. And then, her hand wouldn’t work. So she went back to what she knew: writing, history and sailing. It remains to be seen if that is working.