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The Pirate's Possession...

THE PIRATE'S POSSESSION
Secrets Vol 28, Sensual Cravings

Red Sage Publishing
Writing as Juliet Burns
ISBN: TBA
Release Date: December 2009

A noblewoman must become a pirate’s possession to save her Irish people from an evil cousin...

Plain and quiet, Lady Gertrude (Tru) Fitzpatrick hides a passionate will. When her disgusting cousin tries to ravish her, she escapes, and willingly gives her body to the handsome captain of her girlhood fantasies.

But she fears her heart is lost as well as her innocence when she becomes a pirate’s possession...

Ewan MacGowan needs money to get back to the Caribbean. But when he thinks he’s been tricked by a noblewoman, he exacts revenge by taking her to his bed. Only trouble is, he may have stolen the lady’s innocence, but beneath her plain exterior is buried a hidden treasure he never thought to find. The true woman of his heart.

Inspiration:

Captain Ewan MacGowan
Captain Ewan MacGowan

Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick
Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick

Excerpt:

London Docks, September, 1649

The raucous dockside tavern quieted as a woman in a rich hooded cloak strode purposefully in and searched the pub. Her gaze landed on Ewan, and she approached his table.

Och, this didna bode well.

“Are you the captain of the True?” she asked in a cultured voice as she took a seat.

How did she know him? He’d a bloody price on his head and the woman walked in here as bold as she pleased? From beneath his wide-brimmed hat, Ewan MacGowan studied her. She wore no wig, powder, or patch. Still, her fine dress and manner declared her a lady. Damned English nobles.

“Ye’ve got the wrong man.”

Dismissing her, he tipped back his ale, his mind returning to the fooking disaster his life had become since he’d dropped anchor twelve hours past.

“I can pay you.”

He looked up sharply, set down his mug, and took a closer look inside the shadows of the hood, noting the angular nose and severe lips. Despite a pair of fine brown eyes, she wasna a bonny woman. He could think of only two reasons a lady would venture to the docks at this time of night. And he would neither kill nor swive for money.

“And just what do ye think ta get fer yer shillin’?” He let his gaze roam down to the small expanse of bosom peeking above her corseted bodice.

She glanced around, but then daringly met his gaze. “I need passage to Ireland. Tonight.”

Ireland? What kind of trap was this? He’d sailed into London this morn to find King Charles executed and the Queen and her Royalists fled to France for their lives. He needed coin, aye, but he was nae fool.

“I canna help ye.”

“But I must get home!” Her gaze faltered a moment then rose back to his with renewed determination. “Since my father’s death, ‘tis no longer my home, but I must see it once more before my cousin takes residence.” She spat the word ‘cousin’ as if it were putrid meat.

Ewan narrowed his eyes. ‘Twas an old trick: the helpless woman. Did she nae ken he was called Merciless MacGowan?

“I’ve told ye, I canna help ye. Ye mus’ apply ta yer husband or this…cousin fer passage.”

She hesitated. “I’ve no husband. And I’ve no wish to be indebted to my cousin. I plan to join the sisters at the convent of Saint-Martin-aux-Bois.”

He didn’t believe a word of it. “Yer cousin must be truly loathsome fer ye ta prefer the cloistered life,” he mocked her. And just to be nasty, he added, “Or, willna he wed ye, then? Has he nodged ye and refused ta do right by ye?”

Before he’d finished, she’d jumped from her chair, her gloved hands clenched into fists at her sides. “I wouldn’t marry that toad even if he--” Her voice trembled. Flushing down to her neck, she glanced nervously at the door and back to him before taking her seat again.

Either she truly despised her cousin, or she’d trod the stage all her life. Mayhap, the lady was on the run, and this cousin of hers would pay dearly to get her back. Had the answer to his troubles fallen into his lap?

“What’s yer name, lass?” He glanced at his quartermaster, Tate, who’d been listening behind a post, flintlock ready.

“‘Twould do you no good to know who I am. My cousin can’t pay you a ransom. He’s penniless.”

Ewan growled. Perhaps he’d underestimated her. “And what’s to stop me from haulin’ ye to the public square as a runaway?”

A wee smile crossed her lips. “You’re a wanted man, Captain MacGowan. From what I hear, Lord Cromwell’s lieutenant didn’t appreciate having a dagger at his throat.”

He slammed a fist on the table. “Who are ye, and how do ye know me?”

“I am...was, a lady in waiting to the Queen.”

Queen Henrietta? He’d made sure to encourage her favor in years past, bringing her jewels and fine lace to stay in her good graces. He supposed this woman could have seen him at court. But why hadn’t she escaped to France with the rest of the royal court?

And more worrisome; how had she known to find him here?

“And, like you, Captain, I’m an enemy of Lord Cromwell.”

Cromwell! The scurvy bastard! Ewan wanted to spit just at the mention of his name.

“Careful, milady.” He leaned across the table. “‘Tis treason to claim the new Lord Protector as enemy.”

She pursed her lips and sighed. “Let us speak plainly, Captain. I know Lord Cromwell ordered your entire cargo confiscated. And when you refused to sign an oath of loyalty, he revoked your letter of marque. Now you’re wanted for treason. If you stay in London much longer, you’ll be arrested. Therefore--” she drew a deep breath “—I believe we can help each other. I am willing to pay for passage. You are in need of funds. All we need agree upon is your price.”

The rudder in his mind turned to change course yet again, calculating her worth. She was no young maiden. Past bedding age, surely. Mayhap she was widowed, or some lord’s mistress. She wore no jewels. What if she’d sold them? What if she could pay him...

He needed provisions for a crew of thirty. Six weeks to cross the Atlantic...

“Fifty pieces of eight.”

Her face went as pale as the sails on the True and she swallowed. But she let out a deep breath, raised her chin and stuck out her hand. “Very well. But we must leave immediately.”

Stunned, he stared at the satin grey glove. Were his problems solved that easily? But life had never handed him something for nothing. He folded his arms. “Let’s see it then.”

She blinked. “Well, I don’t have it with me, of course. I’ll pay you once we reach—what is so amusing, sir?”

Ewan couldn’t help his hearty laugh. It was either that or grab the lady by the scruff of her neck and throw her out. He sobered and leaned toward her menacingly. “Ye’ve wasted enough o’ me time, yer ladyship. Now get ye gone, before I decide ta take yer fine lady’s body as me payment.”

Instead of flinching in terror as he’d expected, her expression hardened. She leaned in and met him nose to nose. “Better your possession for one night than Reginald’s for a lifetime.”

His insides flared and his cock twitched. Your possession. He’d only meant to frighten her. But hot blood coursed through his veins and pooled in his hardening rod at the thought of making a English lady his possession.

She straightened and folded her gloved hands on the table. Soft, scented lady’s hands, he’d wager.

Ewan swallowed. The ladies at court had amused themselves with him from time to time, dallying in a corridor, getting his blood up, then laughing after. Treating him like the scum on the bottom of their fine slippers when next they saw him.

He’d learned to save his cock for bedding tavern wenches. They may have work-roughened palms and stinking bodies, but a man got a good honest drabbing for his coin.

“You see, I’m not so easily frightened off. I can and will pay you your fifty pounds once we reach Galway. So, there’s no need for…other forms of payment.”

His gaze snapped to her bosom for a closer study and wandered down her body. He could almost taste the clean, creamy skin of her breasts, and imagined possessing her all through the long night. Her lips were thin, but claret red, and her wide mouth would surround his shaft—

“Well?” The lady shifted in her seat and Ewan brought his attention back to her determined brown eyes. “What say you, sir?”

The door to the tavern burst open and a handful of Cromwell’s men shoved through the crowd, muskets aimed. “Ewan MacGowan, you’re under arrest!”

The traitorous harlot! She must have somehow signaled the waiting soldiers that he was within. Ewan’s flintlock lay ready on his lap. Quick as a cannon’s boom, he raised it and shot the lieutenant in the shoulder.

As the officer dropped his musket, Tate shot another soldier and the tavern erupted into chaos. Muskets fired. A ball grazed Ewan’s arm as he drew his cutlass and leaped into the scuffle.

Rowdy sailors took that as their cue. The pub echoed with the crack of knuckles meeting noses and pain-filled grunts as rough sailors and disgruntled dock workers joined in the fight, swinging chairs and fists.

The soldiers’ sabers were no match for Ewan’s wide blade. Once he’d sent the last of Cromwell’s men to hell, he searched the room until he found the lady hiding beneath a table. Leaving the sailors and workers still brawling, he clamped his hand around her wrist and dragged her with him out the back door. Tate was behind him, reloading his pistol. They raced down a winding maze of alleys before the lady finally struggled out of Ewan’s grasp.

“You’ll take me to Ireland?” Her breath came in gasps and her hood had fallen back. Strands of hair had loosened from a knot at her nape. Thick, rich tresses of mahogany fell around her shoulders. They softened her face and the color enhanced the smoky sable of her eyes.

Aye, he’d take her right enough. He grabbed a handful of her hair, pulled her head back, and set his mouth on hers. He was daft to stop for a kiss, but fighting always got his blood up.

And he’d been cheating death for a decade or more.

Still, he would have pulled away, but she slid her arm around his neck and opened her lips to him.

She kissed him back and he felt her passion, and a will that matched his own.

The taste of tooth powder filled his senses, reminding him this was no tavern wench he kissed.

He pulled away. “Ye’ll regret betrayin’ me, woman.” Before she could protest, he bent, hoisted her over his shoulder, and headed for the river.

“Sir, there has been a misunderstanding,” she replied between labored breaths. “I most certainly did not inform Cromwell’s men of your whereabouts.”

When he ignored her, the lady began to struggle. “You must put me down. I-- I can’t breathe.”

She were nae match for his strength. For all her spirit, she was a wee thing. He’d nae given up hope of ransom, or mayhap she told the truth about paying him in Ireland. Either way, it was time to flee London. But she’d pay fer the trouble she’d caused. She was his until they reached Galway.

Her incessant demands to be released were growing in volume as she pounded his back and kicked his front, only just missing his culls. Already the militia was giving chase. He needed stealth.

“Tate, shut her up, will ye?”

“Aye, Captain.”

Ewan felt a jolt, heard fist meet jawbone, and his captive went limp in his arms.

He stopped in his tracks and swung around. “Are ye daft, man? I only meant fer ye ta stuff a kerchief in her mouth.”

“And how was I ta know?”

“Cursed, I am,” Ewan mumbled as he hefted the unconscious woman higher on his shoulder and continued down the dark, grimy alley.

They raced between buildings, not stopping until they’d crept down the ladder to the river. His mouth a grim line, he lowered the lady into Tate’s arms, then stepped into the dinghy and lifted her to his lap while Tate rowed them out to the True.

The dockworker scuttled behind the crates when the pirate with the lady into his arms turned to scan the dockyard. Once the dinghy had disappeared into the fog, he raced away to the gent’s apartments what spread word of a reward. The dockhand would be ten shillings richer for his observation this night.

***

Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick slowly awakened, her head splitting, her mouth dry. She tried to remember where she was. The place was dark save for weak moonlight seeping through a round window. She smelled the briny odor of the sea. Waves crashed and wood creaked. The room pitched and rolled. She was on a ship... It must be the True! She was safe!

From Reginald, at least.

She sat up, sharp pain stabbing along her jaw and temple. Her cheek felt swollen and hot to the touch. That pirate had hit her!

Perhaps she had miscalculated her chances with the infamous captain. But what choice had she? How could she have ever conceived that her mother would betray her so? To lure her into Reginald’s hired coach and expect her to marry that pompous, powdered, popinjay?

No sense dwelling on the past, Tru. Best take stock of her situation.

In the dim moonlight from a small round window, she could barely make out her surroundings. She was on a large bunk with a thick mattress and she’d been swathed in a silk coverlet. Pirates lived well, it seemed.

The cabin was small but well-appointed, with a thick Persian rug covering the planking. A large oak desk and chair were bolted to the floor. The wall behind it formed built-in shelves that stored books and scrolls held by leather strips across the framing. The shelves were crammed with books.

Pirates could read?

The door flew open and there he stood. Merciless MacGowan. The feared pirate.

And the most handsome man Tru had ever beheld.

Captain MacGowan was breathing heavily, his long legs spread wide. From one large hand swung a lantern. In the other, a brass mariner’s quadrant. He wore no waistcoat, nor coat. Blood and soot stained his shirt which lay open at the collar to reveal a swirl of brown hair. The same shade of brown hair fell in thick, tangled strands to his shoulders. His short beard was a slightly lighter shade and enhanced his pale green eyes. Eyes that cut into her as though he wanted to flay her alive.

She scooted to the edge of the bed and stood, smoothed her hair back, then brushed nervous hands down her wrinkled skirt. “I-- I must insist that you knock before entering this cabin from now on, sir.” Pride kept her voice steady.

His lip curled and his laugh sounded more like a disbelieving grunt. Hanging the lantern, he strode to the desk and reached behind him for a chart. He unrolled it and placed the quadrant on it, then pulled a log book, quill, and ink from a drawer and began making notations.

Tru cleared her throat. “Sir, I--”

“Wheesht!” He slammed a palm on his desk and looked up, his eyes glittering in irritation. Tru jumped. Her wide-eyed silence assured, he returned his attention to the book. Reading? Writing? Navigation? For a moment, the man seemed more merchant than pirate.

She’d spied him once at court, elegantly dressed, on one knee before Queen Henrietta. A force had burned in him, just beneath the surface. As if he had to restrain a constant urge to attack someone. She’d never forgotten him, and in her girlish fantasies, she pretended he’d named his ship for her: the True.

Shamefully, her vivid fantasy life had nearly always featured the dashing privateer in quite improper scenarios. But, s’truth! His kiss had been more sensual than any of her imaginings.

As she watched him, head bent over his notebook, the arousing sensations she’d felt upon seeing him in the tavern came rushing back. The shortness of breath, the ache in her stomach. The longing that had assailed her when his mouth had swept over hers...

A knock sounded at the door.

“Yer me possession now.” He waved a hand. “Answer the door.”

Possession? He thought he owned her? Terror slammed into her chest. Then, they weren’t headed for Galway? Was she being taken across the sea? How would she help her people now? And what would happen to her? She’d heard of captives walking a plank, or merchant crews left adrift to die of thirst. Tales of women ravaged. Sold into slavery...

Use your brain, Tru.

Why would he be wantin’ ta ravage ye, ye silly girl? And what man would pay good money for the likes of ye?

And wouldn’t her mother cringe to hear her even thinking with an Irish lilt? Her wits had gone begging. In the presence of a dangerous pirate, and she was worrying what her mother thought of her...thoughts.

But ‘twas a fact she’d never inspired lust in a man. Unmarried after eight years at court was the proof of that. How oft had her own mother called her plain at best, ugly if she were in a nasty mood? Even her cousin had said bedding her would be a loathsome duty done only to force her into marriage.

“Well, woman? Doona jus’ stand there!”

Tru flinched and hurried to open the door. A boy of about fourteen years carried a tray with a gold goblet and a bottle. And a wet kerchief.

“Evenin’, Miss.” He eyed her up and down, his gaze resting on her bosom. Her cheeks heated as he shoved the tray into her hands and turned to the pirate. “Cap’n, Mr. Tate reports we’re clear of the harbor.”

“Tell him to set the rudder at tharty degrees waest by nor’waest, Henry. And doona knock again.”

The boy grinned and nodded, tugging his cap brim, and shut the door.

Tru stood, holding the tray while Captain MacGowan continued to make notes in his book.

Fear tightened her stomach. Had she fled her cousin’s clutches only to be sold into slavery by a cold-blooded pirate?

It mattered not. ‘Twas too late to lament her choice.

She would honor her Da’s last wishes. His cryptic note could only be interpreted one way. She must get home to Baile an Chláir and give her people the means to be free from Reginald’s tyranny. And she was determined to see it done. Whatever the price.

She delicately cleared her throat. “Are you taking me to Ireland, sir?”

“Bolt the door,” he ordered without looking up.

Her body began to quiver and her lungs couldn’t take in air. Her palms dampened. Was this her last day on earth? Don’t go borrowin’ trouble girl, she heard Da’s voice advise.

Straightening her spine, she lodged the tray on her hip and slid the bolt home, feeling the heavy wood lock her fate.

The pirate began rolling up the chart and clearing the desk. “Set the tray here and pour me a dram.” Slipping the map into its slot, he stood and watched her, hands on hips.

Perchance he only planned to keep her as a servant? She trudged to the desk and did as he asked, removing her gloves before pouring. Her hand shook so badly the liquid splashed over the goblet. When she glanced up at him, he was scowling at her, and she noticed a half-moon-shaped scar creasing his left temple and another on his right cheek, slashing across his beard. How many more scars lay beneath his clothes?

Gertrude Fitzpatrick!

“The rag’s fer yer ding.” He gestured to her jaw and tossed the wet kerchief to her.

Tru caught it and held it to her throbbing cheek. The cold relieved the ache and his concern relieved her fear. Still, her heart pounded.

“I doona hit women, or allow me crew ta do so. T’was a misunderstanding.”

She smiled and heaved a deep sigh of relief.

He took up the goblet and drank deeply, studying her person as if estimating her worth.

“Take aff yer clothes.”

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