‘Lord Of The Sea’
BOOK BLURB: A Sea Devil Who’s Reckless At Heart. . .
Captain Connor Merrick’s thirst for danger has brought him fame and fortune as one of the most brazenly successful privateers of the War of 1812. But deep beneath his swagger, derring-do and charm, the handsome American captain is hiding a devastating secret, and he’ll go to any lengths to protect it . . .
A Beauty Who Gets More Than She Bargained For. . . .
Rhiannon Evans has longed for an adventure—and a mysterious, dangerous man to sweep her off her feet. While enroute to the tropical paradise of Barbados, she never dreams that her heart will be captured by the dashing American privateer who rescues her from bloodthirsty pirates. Only Rhiannon can see beneath Connor’s reckless façade to the man beneath. But when tragedy strikes, can Rhiannon’s love save Connor from himself? Or will the secret he guards so carefully, end up being the undoing of them both?
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And then they heard it.
Footsteps, coming toward them.
“Dear God,” Alannah breathed.
Rhiannon rose, her ankle shrieking in agony. There was nothing in the cabin with which to defend themselves, but on the captain’s desk lay a pair of brass nautical dividers, V-shaped and needle-pointed, which were used to chart a course. She grabbed them and turned to face the door as a fist pounded against it once, twice, three times.
She glanced at Alannah, and the other woman ran toward her, trying in vain to find a weapon.
Suddenly, the door crashed open beneath the force of a powerful male shoulder, shoving the heavy sea chest out of the way with it, and both women screamed.
A man stood there. In the gloom, he was lean and lanky and so tall that he filled the doorway. He wore a short blue pea coat with brass buttons, canvas trousers, and a straw hat. In his hand was a pistol, which, upon seeing the two women, he lowered.
“Well, well,” he said, and with an elegant bow, removed the hat, revealing carelessly tousled chestnut hair that was thick and curling and fashionably cut. His was a face of hard planes, translucent green eyes, and a recklessly smiling mouth. Entering the cabin, he calmly plucked the dividers from Rhiannon’s nerveless hand. “I am Captain Merrick of the American privateer schooner Kestrel, and it would appear that we’ve found a most lucrative prize, indeed.”
Well, well, indeed, Connor thought, tossing the dividers to a nearby table.
Rum. Sugar. Molasses. Spices. Exotic fruits. Even, God forbid, slaves. Those were the sort of things one normally found when they took a ship in these latitudes, but this was an altogether different sort of cargo, indeed.
Women. Two of them. One dark-haired with flashing blue eyes and a vaguely familiar look about her. She was fair enough, though he suspected she’d like to retrieve the dividers and stab them straight into his heart. The other one . . . .
Keep to the business at hand.
Oh, the other one. . . .
That one was, Connor thought as her huge, long-lashed green eyes lifted to his, was surely the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen in his life. She was young and tall and willowy, with fiery red-gold hair set off by clear, flawless skin, a mischievous tilt to her chin, and smiling lips that drew and held his gaze and made him want to trace their bow, their perfect shape, with his finger. His tongue.
Something stirred in his groin.
This could be a problem.
He turned away just as the dark-haired one found her voice.
“Privateer? You’re nothing but a pirate! This is an English ship, and I demand that you release us immediately!”
The beauty grabbed the dark-haired one’s elbow. “Alannah, he just saved our lives!”
“Only to rob us! Oh, just wait until my brother hears of this!”
“Better to be robbed than dead!”
“He may well kill us yet! Or God forbid, ravish us!”
Connor shot a glance at the sunset-haired beauty. Don’t give me any ideas, he wanted to say, because she had spunk as well as beauty and she was looking at him the way any damsel in distress might just gaze upon her rescuer, looking at him in a way that made him want to pull himself up a little more and puff out his chest and slay a dragon for her. Though, come to think of it, maybe he just had. At any other time, the besotted look in her eyes and that impish smile would have been all he needed to follow his baser instincts. At any other time, he might take great delight in pursuing that coy, unspoken invitation farther—preferably in a place that involved a mattress, sheets, and an hour or two of free time. But he had business to conduct here, there was a storm bearing down on them, and he couldn’t let himself be distracted.
Papers. He had to get the ship’s papers.
The other one was still harping on him. “Furthermore, I’ll have you know right now Captain Merrick, that I object most highly to the way you forced yourself into this cabin like some barbarian! Just what do you think you’re doing?”
Ignoring her, Connor sent a conspiring grin the way of the young beauty, went to the captain’s desk and yanking open a drawer, began searching for the merchant ship’s papers.
“Did you hear me? What do you think you’re doing?
Ignore the other one, too.
Not so easy. . . .
Rhiannon, feeling her heartbeat skipping, somersaulting and tripping over itself as she watched the Yankee privateer rifling through the desk, had seen that covert, amused glance he’d thrown her and couldn’t take her eyes off him. Footsteps echoed outside and now another man entered the cabin, a sword in his hand. Though not as tall or lean as the captain, he too was handsomely made, with thick, tawny hair that was bleached by the sun, steady brown eyes, a quiet demeanor and a look of solidness and strength about him. He glanced, briefly, at her and Alannah, then turned toward the mahogany-haired god who was cheerfully pulling out a sealed oilskin packet from the desk. “Captain, there are five from this tub who reckon they want to sign aboard with us; the rest, including the master, have resisted, and we’ve got three remaining pirates a’begging for mercy.”
“Begging for mercy, are they? Hmph. Given that they showed this crew none, I’m not inclined to oblige them.” The privateer slammed the drawer shut. “Secure the prisoners in the fo’c’sle, with the pirates separate from the crew so they don’t add to the slaughter. How’s that squall tracking?”
It was then that she remembered his introduction.
Merrick . . . Kestrel . . . Merrick . . . .
“Veering off, sir, heading north by west. I think it’ll miss us.”
“The devil’s own luck, that,” the American said, slitting open the leather pouch with a small knife and beginning to scan its contents.
“What are you going to do with us?”
The American ignored her.
“I demand to know what will become of us!”
“Do be quiet, madam, I’m trying to think,” the captain snapped, handing the papers to the newcomer with a sound of annoyance. “Read this, would you, Nathan? I don’t have time to sit here and make sense of it.”
“Aye.” The one named Nathan said, looking at the papers. “She’s out of Southampton, bound for Barbados, carrying fine English linens, china, beer, various foodstuffs, and muskets.”
“Muskets! How provident.” The captain reclaimed the papers and stuffed them back into the leather pouch. “Muster a prize crew for this tub. We’ll send her into Mobile, as it’s the closest port from which to auction her off. Jenkins, I think, can command her. Ladies, collect your belongings.”
He tossed the pouch to a nearby table, and it suddenly hit Rhiannon just who this handsome god was.
“You’re Captain Merrick!” she exclaimed excitedly. “Of the schooner Kestrel!”
He just looked at her as though she were daft. “Aye, that’s what I just said.”
“From Portsmouth, England?”
“No, ma’m, from Newburyport, Massachusetts.” He began to stalk toward the door.
“But you were in Portsmouth this past spring! I know you were!”
The American turned, and something glinted in his clear, pale green eyes, something that wasn’t quite amusement, something that belied a memory, perhaps, that he had no wish to recall, before one corner of his mouth—his very firm, very sensual mouth, Rhiannon thought—turned up in the faintest of grins.
“And how might you know that, Miss . . . ?”
“Evans. Rhiannon Evans. You don’t know me, but I’m Gwyneth’s sister!”
He lifted a brow. “Gwyneth’s sister.”
“Yes! We rented a house in Portsmouth together, and it was you who was rescuing French and American prisoners from the hulk Surrey, you who risked your life for them time and time again as the elusive Black Wolf, you who saved my brother-in-law, the marquess of Morninghall, from certain death by snatching him right out from under the guns of a firing squad with this very ship! It was you, wasn’t it? Connor Merrick! You’re the Black Wolf!”
Even the other man had paused to stare at Rhiannon. “Well, this certainly complicates matters, Connor,” he said, his brown eyes amused.
“Only if we let it.” And then, frowning: “What the blazes are you doing all the way out here? You’re a long way from England.”
“My friend Alannah here invited me to accompany her to Barbados, and I wanted an adventure, and so I came along. Oh, I can’t wait to write to Gwyneth and tell her all about what you just did for us; you saved our lives, Captain Merrick! Thank you!” It was all Rhiannon could do not to fling her arms around his neck in relief and gratitude. “Oh, thank you!”
The American’s green eyes crinkled with humor.
And Alannah, seeing the unspoken connection between Rhiannon and this man who had so audaciously taken their ship, and was now looking just a little too long, and with a little too much interest—the wrong kind of interest—at the girl she was charged to protect, wasn’t so forgiving. Especially since there was something disturbingly familiar about him.
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AUTHOR BIO: Bestselling, multi-award winning and critically acclaimed author Danelle Harmon has written ten books, previously published in print and distributed in many languages throughout the world. Though born and raised in Massachusetts, she and her husband, a native of southwest London, were married and lived in England for several years.
These days, Ms. Harmon and her husband make their home in New England with their daughter Emma and numerous animals including four dogs, an Egyptian Arabian horse, and numerous pet chickens. Danelle welcomes email from her readers and can be reached at her Email or Facebook.