Romance Author With a Touch of SPICE!
Corin McCloud stows away on the 1800 schooner. The journey barely begins when a violent storm rolls over the schooner, throwing Corin’s world upside down and lands her in Charlotte Amalie, 1725.
Rogan Drake must infiltrate the powerful Black Council to find the pirate that murdered his brother. It has taken him two years to build his reputation as the infamous pirate--Dragon. He forgoes a meeting with the council’s emissary to keep an eye on a girl that just entered the city. She certainly wasn’t from here, not dressed so…openly. “Brave little woman, but hardly wise.” The exotic shape of her eyes reminded him of a wild cat. Add in the sensual blend of amber and chocolate, and a man could drown in their depth. “Are you untamed my little stranger?”
Can Rogan give up his quest of revenge to keep Corin safe? Will she accept her new life as his wife? Can they both survive the anger of Black Diamond, the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean? $4.99
“Ouch!” The painful hit reminded her of the cramped position she still sat in. Rubbing her sore scalp the violent downward thrust of the bow sent her hands out, groping for something to hold onto. Another rocking sway brought her out her sleepy haze. Catching her breath Corin realized the Raven must have sailed into the throes of a violent storm.
“He’ll need my help.” On all fours Corin left the confines of the bow. It took all her strength to make it to the companion way and ladder. After several attempts she finally managed to open the hatch, releasing a wall of frigid water over the top of her. Sucking in her breath she struggled on deck and using all her weight against the wind’s force she managed to close the hatch.
Holding on to it, she finally got her bearings and located the captain at the helm. Corin made a lunge for the rope rail, her hands locked on to it just as the Raven took a heart stopping drop. A wall of water washed over the side forcing Corin to hold on or be taken over with the receding water. Shaken, but knowing she must help, Corin moved hand over hand to reach the captain. His violent curse cut through the howling wind, telling her he saw her progress.
“Damn fool. Get below and crawl back into whatever hole you came out of!”
Undaunted by his anger she yelled out. “I want to help!”
“Help? Prayers will help, I’ve already lost two men! Get the picture little lady!” His hands ran frantically over the wheel, turning it to correct the lean that the full sails were causing.
“The main sail is still up!” Corin’s voice held the fear she felt.
“The storm came out of nowhere!” The broken fact didn’t change the danger.
Before she realized what she was doing she started making her way to the mast where the last crew member frantically worked. Corin shouted across the wind. “What can I do?”
His shock at seeing her vanished over the fear glaring out of his eyes. “Take the crank and help me bring her down!”
They worked in a silent frenzy to secure the sail. Once down Corin tied down the wild, flapping sail. The wind grew stronger, tearing at Corin as she fought to maintain her hold.
A shattering sound filled the air above the howling gusts. Turning, she saw one of the riggings rip loose, but before she could move, a more frightening force seized her to the spot.
Lightening blue, the unnatural glow swept over the entire ship casting it in an eerie blue light. Corin heard a scream not knowing if it came from her or someone else. Entranced by the shimmering, living light, she covered her ears against the roar that consumed her and left a swirling madness in its wake.
The nightmare struck out again drawing a frightened whimper from her parched lips. Corin tried to roll away and escape the light, but it stayed with her. Beneath her palm the warmth from the deck penetrated her flesh chasing away the strange nothingness filled with frightening images. She forced her thick black lashes open enough to face where she might be. The glare of the wood planks spread out before her. A thin line of crystal blue water pulsed where the deck ended.
“The Raven.” Corin’s breathless relief eased the tight hold in her chest. Very cautiously she pushed herself up into a sitting position. The pains started with the movement. Her hands couldn’t halt the roar assaulting her head.
After several seconds it began to ease and she took a tentative look around the schooner. The storm’s ravage force left its mark over the open deck. Corin needed to move, she looked up and over each mast breathing a little easier when she failed to find any major damage.
Wrapping her arms around her waist she moved around the deck unable to shake the feeling she wouldn’t find anyone aboard. She sat out on the cat walk for a long time before coming to terms with what happened, while the Raven drifted in the calm waters. The bright sun and blue seas made it hard to believe the fury she lived through last night.
Brushing away her silent tears she said another prayer for the men out there hoping they survived.
Corin took a deep breath and pushed her panic down, “Sitting here won’t help anyone.”
She forced the terrible thoughts away that they were beyond help as she made her way to the captain’s cabin. As she hoped, she found a ship to shore radio. The Raven didn’t have too much modern equipment, as a relic in the original state as a 19th century schooner. She was thankful the captain didn’t forego the radio. After half an hour she failed to hail static let alone a voice. Everything seemed to be working. She couldn’t understand what could be wrong. Even if the storm blew them off course there should be a ship or something within range.
Corin finally gave up and went back on deck. Seeing nothing with the binoculars, she kicked off her shoes and began the climb up the main mast. From the crow’s nest Corin made a complete scan of the horizon. She came nearly full circle before seeing the intrusion into the blue water. “Land ho!”
She took a bearing then shimmied down the mast feeling better than she had since coming to on deck. Using the hand crank, Corin raised the forestall sail. Hurrying to the wheel she swung it about to catch the wind. The sail quickly filled to capacity. Corin could only manage the one sail alone. At a slow, but safer pace, the Raven moved easily through the smooth water.
Lacking a real bearing to determine her course and hoped the approaching shallows weren’t reef bound.
Corin didn’t see any sign of a port or buildings as she ran parallel with the coast line of what she felt was a large island. She passed up the first cove not liking the brighter shades of blue waters indicating shallows. The Raven had a shallow draft, but distance in water could be deceiving. She did find an open cove free of any tell tale white caps over reefs, but decided to go on a little further.
Checking out the lowering sun she needed to make a decision and soon.
As she came around a point another larger open coastline greeted her. Sweeping out wide Corin raced across the deck and lowered the sail to half mast. She ran back to turn the wheel and held her breath that the deep midnight blue water held no hidden dangers. In as far as she dare to go, Corin released the anchor. Securing the sail she finally relaxed at the easy rocking of the Raven. “I did it!”
Her victory was a lonely one, but just as thrilling. “All those classes were worth the price.”
Corin paced the deck under the sparkling blanket of stars. The full moon made the white sandy beach glow in silvery enchantment. Tomorrow morning she would go ashore and see if anyone lived on the island. It appeared too large not to have a town of some kind. She’d seen mountains up the coast line. It reminded her of St. Thomas making her wonder how long she’d been unconscious. She knew of no other island with this terrain.
Where ever she landed, Corin decided to be cautious in her approach. The radio still remained silent, even her small portable wasn’t picking up anything. The captain’s might have been damaged by the storm, but hers remained safely stowed in the bow. She would find no answers until tomorrow.
Corin rose before dawn to be ready at first light for her swim to the beach. She regretted not being able to wear her jeans to fight off the thick vegetation; the skirt and blouse she choose were light and would dry fast over her bikini.
She wrapped her sneakers and blouse inside the skirt tied around her waist. “Don’t go anywhere Raven, I’ll be back.”
Standing on the rail her sleek dive cut through the crystal blue water. Her strong artful strokes soon brought her to the sandy bottom. Corin stood and walked into the beach ringing out the water from her thick, waist length hair. She squeezed as much water from her braid as she could before putting on the soaked clothes. The white blouse stuck against her skin making the bright flowers of her bikini show the full rounded curves of her breast. Pulling on the flowered skirt she gave up trying to unstick it from her skin and slipped the sneakers on in the water, hoping to avoid some of the sand.
The beach looked beautiful, everything she always wanted to find. It felt as if no one ever stepped foot on it before today. Corin laughed at the foolish thought and started down the coastline. Every so often she took a large piece of broken conch shell and scratched an X on a palm tree, hoping the fresh scaring would be noticeable under the moonlight.
The sun was high when she finished a rather treacherous climb over a high cliff face. Collapsing on the thick grass at the top, she felt like she’d been walking for hours.
From her perch, the cove below became visible, the sight was breathtaking. Below her cliff sat a deep inlet that cut into the trees between the cliff and the land. She absently made a mental note that the Raven could easily clear the inlet. From her vantage point she could see the reef in front of the cove’s only entrance. It ran close against the land side and would be a dangerous sail, but it could be done.
She swam the inlet to reach the cliff, but from here Corin could see an easier passage around the cliff base. She tried to avoid the jungle growth fearing she might get lost, but at night it would be a better route.
Rest time went too fast and upon rising she found an easier slope going down. Looking further up the coast she shouted out. “I knew it!”
The small cluster of white buildings must be the town she came to find. It was set back against the rise of escalating hills; before it, the massive harbor was filled with large ships. “Looks like a walk through the jungle and I’ll be home free.”
All the while she fought her way through the trees and undergrowth Corin kept asking herself why she hadn’t raised anything on the radio.
Hot and tired she broke out of the thick vegetation and onto a crushed shell road. Pushing back damp bangs she started following it. “On the way back I’ll stick to the beaches.” She thought it would be shorter to leave the shoreline she wouldn’t make that mistake again.
The sun was directly overhead when she began to hear activity from the town she approached. Corin pulled the blouse knot beneath her breast tighter, letting the shirt tails hang lazily down below her exposed midriff.
A woman carrying a lace parasol on the arm of a formal dressed man passed her. Corin smiled at them, the man touched his hat in a polite manner until the lady jabbed him in the ribs.
Corin giggled wickedly, pitying the man for the tirade he would undoubtedly receive once they were out of the public eye. She reminded herself never to be the jealous type.
As she made her way down the street into town things began pricking at her mind. Odd, minor things like the style of the clothes on the men and women alike, the lack of cars. Her head still turned when a donkey drawn cart passed by her.
But they were insignificant in light of the very bold curiosity coming from the men she passed. They themselves earned her guarded glances. Gawd, they look positively barbaric. Most of them carried swords or large knives and pistols were brandished from their thick belts. Many wore high leather boots with wide cuffs at the knees. The pants were tight of a light fabric or as loose as the large blousy shirts.
Corin nearly turned full circle at the man walking pass her. She bit her lip to keep the laughter from bubbling up and over because of his large dark hat with an elaborate feather coming down the side.
Under her breath, “Gawd, it’s red besides.”
She became enthralled by the people and didn’t notice the fact that she walked into the middle of town. She came to an immediate halt when she caught a glance of the harbor and nearly collapsed over the sight.
Large mast ships of all sizes and shapes dotted the water. At the docks stood what couldn’t be mistaken for anything but a “Spanish Galleon…”
“She’s beautiful, I’ll give you that.”
Not looking at the voice that cut through her astonishment, Corin suddenly grew very nervous and moved off the walkway to avoid the man.
Rogan had been following her for some time. The beauty caught nearly every man’s eye since she entered the town. His heated gaze fell to the natural swing of her fully curved and enticingly small hips. Raising his gaze to the satin flatness of her bronzed waist, Rogan felt his loins tighten in alarming velocity.
The exotic caress of that thick roped hair held the color of polished teak and his fingers itched to feel the softness fall through his fingers.
Wherever she appeared from he knew she certainly wasn’t from here, not dressed so…openly. He would give her credit, she was braver than most the women he knew, but hardly wise. Looking closer, Rogan watched the way her eyes took in the docked ships, floating from one to the next, all the while their deep rich brown grew larger. No, he was wrong, her eyes weren’t just brown, but amber and chocolate all mixed into a sensual blend a man could drown in. Their shape intrigued him, almost wild like a cat. “Are you untamed my little stranger?”
Keeping his distance, Rogan ignored Big Dan’s wave to go, Billings could wait, Rogan suddenly found a more interesting priority.
Corin nervously ran her fingers through the feathered bangs that hid her eyes from his. He still followed her. She pretended to stop and look over a frigate showing an odd but familiar British flag. She couldn’t stop stealing looks at the man.
Man, oh yes he was more of a man than she’d ever seen. Broad, powerful shoulders, she needed to breathe hard over the temptation they inspired. For a second she let herself daydream over how it would feel to be held by such strength. She could envision her fingertips tracing the bold line of rigid muscles. They would travel down across the large wall of copper skinned chest, sprinkled with sun-kissed hair. Heavens, he looked like Hercules, only better with that wild dark mane of silky waves.
Corin swallowed hard; she didn’t dare look beyond the deep open vee that exposed the corded expanse of his trim waist. She forced her eyes up from the bulging thighs and other more potent evidence of his masculinity and looked directly into those relaxed blue eyes.
Sucking in her breath their crystal depths trapped her own. He definitely witnessed her brazen scrutiny and silently told her he liked what he saw when he took the liberty to see her as well.
A firing blush crept up her throat and she could feel the heat radiating from her face. Unable to end what she started, her eyes fell upon his parted lips smiling confidently at her from that fierce square jaw. Instead of being insulted, Corin felt an unfamiliar heat strike hard and fast in the most womanly part of her body.
What the hell was wrong with her? Corin never reacted to any man like this, never wanted to, but she seemed incapable of breaking the spell that started between them.
The sudden ringing of a loud bell made her jump. Having severed his invisible hold over her, she moved with the crowd, hoping to lose the man and the unwanted power he wielded.
“Hear ye all, citizens and visitors of the gracious Governor of Charlotte Amalie. ‘Tis a warrant for the arrest of the pirate called Dragon.”
Someone in the crowd called out. “How much is the bounty man?”
“Thirty gold pieces my friend, if you’re brave enough to bring him in alive. Twenty if he’s dead.”
A man in back of the crowd laughed out. “Taint’ worth me life! That one’s no ordinary pirate.”
Corin didn’t know what to make of all this. Their jest didn’t camouflage the serious intensions. Her own humor deserted her.
She rubbed her bare arms when the man began to hammer the notice on the board. She didn’t like any of the feelings taking hold of her since seeing the harbor and what it held. Whispering to herself, “Charlotte Amalie? But how?”
The crowd began to break up. She walked on unsteady feet, drawn to the notice, yet afraid of what she might find. The elaborate hand writing flowed over the crisp parchment. Her eyes raced over the words until they found what they searched for--with shaking fingers she traced the date as if confirming its existence.
“June 18th, 1725…”
“It should be at least 100 gold pieces.”
Jumping back, Corin’s frighten voice spoke out, “What?”
“The reward, ‘tis not enough.”
Confused by what she just saw and having Hercules standing in front of her, made Corin sway. When his hand captured her arm she tried to break free from the heat of his touch.
“Dear lady, I fear you are overcome by Charlotte Amalie’s noon sun.”
“Yes, I guess. Please let go of me.”
His release came slow as if he regretted obliging her request.
“Does the talk of pirates frighten you?”
Something close to anger flared in the man making her wonder just how bad these pirates were.
“What? Oh no, I guess not, I’ve never known any.” Her words sounded as ridiculous to her ears as the soft laughter they earned from the man. His nearness must be confusing her. Corin couldn’t stop feeling that she’d missed something important. She needed to think and started to walk away, but he fell in step with her.
“I hope you don’t have the call to see any, my lady.”
“Why would I?”
“The waters are full of them.”
Corin heard about the thieves on the open seas. How unsuspecting ships stumbled onto drug drops and were killed for their mistake. But why didn’t she think he meant that. Why?
“Then I will be careful.”
“Are you sailing soon?”
“I…no, maybe.” Corin’s thoughts became occupied by the coach coming down the street, causing her to stop and stare as it passed.
“That’s a coach.” She could have kicked herself for not keeping her thought to herself.
His blue eyes followed her intent interest in the common vehicle passing them. “Where are you from?”
Corin didn’t miss the man’s surprise.
Rogan’s brows drew close over her lack of knowledge. The fear he glimpsed wasn’t because of the notice. Neither did he think that his presence confused her. He quickly lost any argument he should not care what her problems were, he couldn’t make himself leave her side. Rogan didn’t have to look around to know of the hungry eyes following her.
Rogan started asking her what part of New Orleans but she abruptly stopped.
Her ashen pallor made Rogan fear that she’d swoon. “What is it? Answer me!”
Her arm came up and pointed, he could see her lips were shaking too much to speak. The girl’s enlarged eyes never left the unfortunate soul the governor hung that morning. Rogan detested the practice of leaving such a sight up as a warning to others not to thieve.
Taking hold of her shoulders he turned her about and away from the ugly scene. Rogan brought his arm about her waist and gently drew her against him. An unfair advantage, due to her shocked senses, but he wasn’t beyond taking it as he led her away. His palms were alive against the gentle woman in their hold. Slim, she felt like satin and she moved sensually beneath his hold. The slight flare of her lovely hips brushed against his thigh, creating a fierce response in his tightening groin. Pure strength and willpower kept him from embarrassing them both by displaying what he wanted from the lady. Rogan didn’t remember experiencing such a strong and instant attraction for any woman, it felt unsettling yet extremely stimulating.
But for all her bold attire or lack of it, he didn’t believe the lady would willing submit to the roughish thoughts taking hold of him at the moment.
“Why did they do such a thing?”
Caught off guard, “What?”
“Hang that poor man and then leave him there. Why it’s barbaric and sick!”
“'Tis the way and not uncommon. Why, even in New Orleans they still practice hanging.”
His statement made her steps falter.
Corin wanted to run, be sick and cleanse away the fear taking root. It couldn’t be possible. Pushing the thoughts away she tried to concentrate on why she came here.
“I must find the police.”
“Law, someone in authority.”
“There is the Governor…”
“I guess he’ll do. Where is he?”
He fought with answering, “It is that way.” No, he couldn’t tell her how inappropriate her attire might be. Rogan searched the crowd looking for Big Dan and Terry, waving them back to follow.
He felt every response, no matter how slight from the woman at his side. That she didn’t refuse his hold stopped surprising him, he almost wondered if she realized he remained. No, the lady’s attention became captured by what she saw around her and she’d taken the insults given to her entreating smiles very hard. Instinctively, Rogan realized this woman wasn’t what she appeared to be. Women that gave their treasures freely weren’t affected by what the others thought. She suffered the reaction of a lady unaccustomed to the ways of the streets.
And yet he couldn’t place her with the women proper or society dames.
The nervous way she tucked her hair in back and tried to straighten her slight blouse tore at Rogan’s senses.
Corin didn’t understand why he stayed with her. The eerie feelings inside her only grew more pronounced as they walked through the strange streets. The looks she received made her grateful for the large man’s presence. More than once she caught the lecherous way men’s eyes followed her. But the disgust she glimpsed and felt from the women made her begin to shake. It didn’t take a fool to realize she wasn’t up to their standards. The only group she came close to fitting into made her own sensibilities revolt.
When they entered the cool interior of the place he brought her to, Corin took a moment to adjust to the opulent surroundings.
When the uniformed man looked curiously up from his papers Corin couldn’t put it off any longer. She turned to her escort. “Thank you for bringing me, I hope it wasn’t out of your way.”
“You can be sure it wasn’t, my lady.”
The formality he used made Corin straighten. Calling on her pride she didn’t want to show him anything that would demean herself in his eyes. She didn’t care why she felt so strongly, she just wanted the respect he held her in to stay in those beautiful blue eyes.
“I better go.” Turning away from him she forced herself to walk determinedly to the desk.
“I need to see the Governor, please.”
The man’s eyes were shameful the way they went over her. The half smile he gave her infuriated Corin beyond all the others.
“Really, and if I screamed at the top of my lungs, would he still be busy?”
His eyes grew large over her threat. Corin took a deep breath to insure he believed her. She’d done the same thing once in grade school and both times it worked beautifully.
“Come this way please.”
He opened the double doors and she followed. A portly man was seated behind a ridiculously large desk. The brocade waistcoat and vest that he wore over the lace ascot shirt nearly became her undoing. All she could think is that the man must be dying in all those garments and in this heat. Taking a peak beneath the table, she almost spoke out her thoughts over the lace stockings and garters that he wore.
“Whom shall I say is requesting an audience?”
“Miss Corin Elizabeth Ann McCloud.” She wished she possessed ten more names to throw in just so the pompous ass would have to repeat them. The whole procedure sounded comical, the man being no more than ten feet in front of them.
All he got for his effort was a rude ‘humph’.
Turning back to her, he asked. “And what is the nature of your audience?”
Having had more than she could tolerate, Corin walked past the red faced man and came to stand directly in front of the desk. She waited patiently for the man’s spectacled eyes to come up and look at her.
“Good day Governor.”
She put him in an uncomfortable position and enjoyed his dilemma.
“Good day to you, Miss McCloud.”
“I have some very tragic information to tell you, sir. If it is alright I would prefer to tell you face to face.”
The man leaned back in his chair and seemed to contemplate her rather rushed outburst before dismissing the man throwing daggers at her away.
Corin couldn’t help but turn and watch him be dismissed. It was then she realized her escort never left at all, but stood only a foot or so behind her. Flustered, she didn’t dare look him and maintain her composure, but before she turned back to the Governor, her self-appointed guardian winked at her.
“Well young woman, what is the tragedy?”
She came here to tell them, but suddenly it seemed so pointless. “I, there was a fierce storm at sea.”
“How long ago?”
“I’m not sure exactly, I must have been unconscious for some time.”
“What port did you sail from?”
“Port? It would be New Orleans.”
“When did you leave?”
“That’s only five days ago. Rogan, isn’t it too far to be that much off course?”
Corin tried not to show her agitation over the man bringing her guardian into their conversation. Rogan? Such an unusual name, but it did fit him.
“I asked what happened?”
“The storm, it was awful, there was this frightening blue light…When I came around there was no one left.”
“You mean the whole crew washed over?”
“Yes sir. Can you take out a search party?”
“And where might we start? You hail from New Orleans and in five days you are in Charlotte Amalie. I’m sorry, but you were unconscious for some time I’m afraid. When did you wash up?”
“Wash up?” His words and the meaning seemed to move through her at an incredible speed, like the blue light. Closing her eyes at the memory. “I…the date…on the notice…”
“Rogan! For God’s sake catch her!”
John didn’t need to yell, Rogan sensed her weakness even before her knees gave out, lifting her up in his arms.
“John, I’ll take care of the lady, she obviously has no relatives about.”
“I think it would be wise, she must get some decent clothes Rogan. Though it is a treat…”
Rogan gave his friend a warning glance that ended an old man’s musing.
“If you don’t mind I’ll take our leave by the back entrance, she’s already created quite a stir in your city.”
“By all means.”
John held the door for the man. “Rogan we need to talk.”
“Tonight John, right now I’ve other more enticing duties to perform.”