When a thief and a notorious pirate get together, is there any doubt sparks will fly?
Emma Prescott flees from the prospect of a loathsome marriage, hiding in her bodice a necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, fearing the pack of hounds at her heels. In the storm-blackened night, a dark-cloaked man on an ebony horse offers assistance. Emma regards the gesture as a blessing, little knowing her fate will eventually be tied to that of an infamous privateer.
Eager to get back to London and his fiancée, to set sail for home, Captain Morgan Reynolds helps the mysterious runaway only because of his Highland hatred for her English pursuers…and something about the girl herself.
But will Morgan and Emma ever learn to be honest with each other?
“Let me go, you great brute!” Emma kicked and clawed. “I won’t go back! You’ll have to kill me first!”
“Madam, at the moment, I have no intention of taking you anywhere. And I definitely have no desire to murder you.”
She looked up at him and saw only the silhouette of a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a long riding cloak. Water spouted from the wide brim of his hat, his face hidden by the blackness of the night.
Emma’s thoughts began to clear. If he wasn’t one of the squire’s men, then who was he? A highwayman? That was it. He had to be a highwayman. Surely no one else would be abroad at midnight in a raging storm.
But if he was a highwayman and she told him who she really was and why she was trying to escape, he would sense a reward for returning her. She had to keep her true identity a secret. It was her only hope.
“I was at a fete,” she said, pushing tangled, wet curls from her forehead. “When I decided to leave before the others, I chose not to wait for a carriage.”
“An interesting tale. And where, pray tell, are you going alone on foot in a storm?”
“I’m going to London.”
“To visit the Queen?” She caught the humor in his tone.
“Hardly. I’m taking passage on a ship that will be leaving the docks for the Caribbean.”
“With no luggage? Not a single portmanteau? You intrigue me, madam. Allow me to offer you a ride to shelter. It’s a most inhospitable night and, from what I can discern, you’re not dressed for it. Perhaps once we’re comfortably settled before a roaring fire, you’ll see fit to tell me the true story of your adventures.”
Emma hesitated. Then, above the howl of the wind and slash of rain, she heard them. Baying like the hounds of hell, the squire’s dogs were on her trail.
“So someone has set his dogs upon you, Madam. You interest me more and more.” He drew his horse to him and mounted. Holding down a hand, he kicked his foot from the stirrup. “Climb up behind me. We must ride like the wind.”
Emma paused. “Why?” she asked suspiciously.
The barking drew closer, more intense.
“Listen. Do you need any other reason?”
She grasped his gloved hand. As he drew her upward, she managed to get her foot in the stirrup and scramble into position astride behind him.
“Hold tight!” he ordered. With a jolt that all but unseated her, he sent their mount bounding off into the night.
It was a mad, violent dash through blinding rain, bruising sleet, and nightmarish thunder and lightning. Clinging to the stranger’s well-muscled body, Emma lost the sound the hounds’ baying. She wondered if they’d left them far behind or if their cries had been drowned out by the wild night and the pounding of the horse’s hooves.
Only the feeling of strength in the stranger’s body and the powerful motion of the horse beneath her gave her any sense of reality. Emma Prescott could never have imagined herself a participant in such a mad dash for freedom.
She knew the danger was far from over. The horse had only to stumble or his rider lose control. She suppressed a shudder. Death would be preferable to being found defenseless and on foot by those vicious dogs.
Shortly Emma felt the rider slowing the horse. Its motion told her they were descending a bank. She slid sideways, all but falling off the animal’s slick, wet rump.
“Hold fast!” the man snapped and she gripped his body with renewed vehemence. Their mount’s hooves splashed into a stream. She flinched as ice-cold water sprayed up under her gown.
“Hold fast!” he ordered again. His legs and thighs moved against her, urging the horse back into a gallop, this time a careful canter as they kept to the water.
She understood. The dogs would have difficulty following them along a stream, especially swollen by the torrential rain.
For some time their course followed the brook before the rider turned his mount up an incline. Again Emma struggled to keep from sliding to the ground as the big animal heaved itself up the bank and onto a road. She had never clung to any other human being as tightly as she held onto this stranger.
She had little time to reflect on the decorum or lack of it. His heels whipped back, sending the animal leaping forward once again into a full gallop. Another brilliant bolt of lightning rent the sky and the horse threw back its head, snorting and rattling its bridle.
“Easy, Laddie, easy,” he soothed. “Just a bit farther and you’ll have food and shelter.”
But where? And under what conditions? Emma’s racing heart pounded against her ribs. Was she about to find herself in an even worse predicament?
TO WIN A COPY OF CALEDONIAN PRIVATEER ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER, BELOW, AND ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION IN THE COMMENTS.
After reading the excerpt from Caledonian Privateer what “dreadful” crime do you think Emma committed to force her to be on the run?
About the Author
Award-winning author, Gail MacMillan recently signed the contract for her thirty-first book, Heather for a Highlander, which will be published this spring. Her stories have appeared in magazines and books across North America and in Western Europe. Always longing to have a university degree, Gail graduated from Queen’s University the same year her daughter graduated from the University of New Brunswick. Gail, the mother of three, lives in New Brunswick with husband Ron and two dogs, a Pug named Bruiser and a Little River Duck Dog named Fancy.
Gail can be contacted through her web site www.gailmacmillan.com by clicking on the red “Contact Gail” button.