Come then, and I’ll tell you the tale of the Gypsy Hawk and her wily captain – the infamous Zachary Hazard …’
To Amelia Dauphin, freedom is her most prized possession and she will stop at nothing to keep it. Daughter of a Pirate King and the youngest captain in her father’s fleet, she lives on the island of Ile Saint Anne, where pirates roam free and liberty reigns.
Zachary Hazard, captain of the Gypsy Hawk, hasn’t been seen on Ile Saint Anne for six years but his reputation precedes him. To Zach, liberty is the open water and he has little time for the land-bound pirate island.
But when he hears that Amelia’s people could be in danger, he has no choice but to return. And what begins then is a desperate fight for freedom and a legend in the making …
They tumbled together, landing in a tangled heap at the bottom of a ditch. Zach’s hair was wild, covered in leaves and twigs where he lay, sprawled beneath her. She would have laughed had he not clamped a hand over her mouth. Above, behind the hedge, footsteps crunched in the snow.
She barely dared to breathe and instead of looking up locked her gaze with Zach’s. Tar-black and stark against the snow, his eyes might have said much if only she’d been able to interpret his silences. Her weight lay mostly across his chest, but she dared not move for fear of making a sound. He, though, loosened his hand from her mouth, trailing fingers across her face to cup first her cheek, then her neck, drawing her down until her forehead touched his.
Their breath mingled, white and misty in the cold air and the only heat in the world existed in the scant distance between them. Discovery was a glance away, yet all she could think of was the last time they’d been so close. Often, over the years, she’d thought of those fleeting seconds of contact. Not of the betrayal, not of the disaster that had followed, but of the way he’d yielded to her so wholly, so willingly. Like a lover.
Now, eyes closed, she could hear his soft breathing and remembered the saltwater taste of his lips, the secret heat his touch had ignited, a heat none since had extinguished, or satisfied. It burned still, deep inside her.
Slowly, imperceptibly, she drew closer until her nose grazed his and—
His breath caught; she froze.
Above them, on the road, the farmer jingled his reins and urged his horse onward. The wagon was moving. Amelia sank back in relief.
‘Gone home for the feast, no doubt,’ Zach murmured, turning his face away to look up the side of the ditch in which they lay. Looking anywhere but at her. ‘We’re lucky.’
‘Yes,’ she whispered, disconcerted and flustered. ‘Very.’
Lifting his head, he reached out awkwardly and tugged a twig from her filthy locks. ‘You look like you have half of Surrey in your hair. I’ve seen vagabonds better dressed.’
She smiled weakly, rolling off him to sit staring at the trees all about them. ‘Appropriate, then, since vagabonds we are.’
Zach stood up and made a vain attempt to dust the snow off his clothes, before extending a hand to Amelia. ‘Get up, before you’re soaked through.’
Ignoring his hand, her senses too heightened to risk the contact, she scrambled to her feet. ‘It’s strange,’ she said, tugging her thin shawl about her. ‘It’s so strange …’
With a frown, Zach lowered his hand. ‘World’s a strange place, or did you have something particular in mind?’
‘This,’ she said, looking up at the filigree of snow bedecking the branches. ‘Being here, like this.’
‘Ah.’ He invested the word with a weight of meaning, then turned and said no more. He was studying the steep bank, searching for a way back to the road.
Amelia watched him, trying not to be fascinated by the way his fingers probed the earth in search of purchase. He looked quite different in the cold northern light. No island gold here to gild his skin, and the black of his hair and eyes seemed starker against his cold face. She’d always thought of him as dark, like a rum-soaked night, fire-lit and intoxicating, but here he was black as a winter tree, bleak against a snowy sky. Strong and enduring, but not soft. Not inviting.
‘Last time you were in England,’ he said, testing his hold on a tree root some inches above his head, ‘you were Miss Dauphin and as far from the likes of … of us as any woman of birth.’
‘Yes, I suppose I was.’
Over his shoulder he flashed a snow-bright smile. ‘Had we met then, your father would have run me off the road without a backward glance.’
She was silent, not deaf to the hint of accusation in his voice. ‘I cannot help who I am,’ she said at last. ‘Or, rather, who I was.’
‘None of us can do that,’ he agreed, bringing his hands to his mouth and blowing on them for warmth. Guiltily entranced, Amelia found herself unable to look away. ‘My point, however, is that you’ve never been a beggar in England.’
He shrugged, as if the conversation held little interest. ‘Sometimes, who we are in one place is not who we are in another, is all. The Pirate Queen of Ile Sainte Anne might find herself a beggar in England and have some difficulty reconciling the two.’
Whatever he might believe, it seemed clear to Amelia that Zach was not talking about her at all. She’d been an infant when they left, and England was but a distant memory that held no weight. Yet to him, this was a place of grief and shadows. Gripping her shawl tight she said, ‘And what are you here, Zach?’
A bitter smile curled his lip and he cut her a sly glance. ‘Nothing. Nothing at all.’
‘No man is nothing.’
‘There’s a hundred thousand nothings in London Town. Didn’t you see them, scurrying beneath your feet? Dying in corners? A whole city of nobodies.’
‘Enough.’ He stopped her with a lifted hand. ‘Less talking, more walking, unless you’re looking for a quick return to the comforts of Newgate.’
With that, he started up the steep embankment with a sailor’s nimble grace. Amelia sighed, at her throbbing ankle and the tangling skirts about her feet, but mostly at the emptiness she’d seen in his eyes.
Never had she understood it before, but now it was a truth as clear as the winter sky: Zach Hazard was nothing. In his own eyes, he was nothing more than the legend he’d created, a confection of exaggeration and tall tales stacked like a house of cards. And, ultimately, just as likely to topple.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sally Malcolm is the author of six novels and four audio dramas based on the hit TV shows ‘Stargate SG-1’ and ‘Stargate Atlantis’. She lives in London, England, in a small Victorian terrace, where she writes in a corner behind the wardrobe. She shares her home with her American husband and two wonderful children.