Publisher: Eve D. Ackerman
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Hijacking an Englishman from a brothel is all in a dayâs work for Captain Mattie St. Armand. She needs protective coloration, and a naÃ¯ve (and expendable) white man will keep the eyes of the authorities off her as she smuggles slaves from the Florida Territory to freedom in the Bahamas.
Oliver Woodruff wanted a spot of travel in the Caribbean before he settled down, but he never expected âMarauding Mattie.â Heâll help her, but he knows thereâs no place in his world for the bastard daughter of a pirate and a freedwoman.
As Mattie trains him for their ruse, she comes to realize heâs a man she can turn to for support and companionship, and Oliver grows to love the commanding and daring woman who refuses to fit societyâs moldâ¦ but both are sure their relationship is doomed by societyâs taboos.
It will take danger and adventure (and Roscoe the parrot) to convince them that the passion between them is more than an island fantasy.
âI donât need a useless white boy. Find someone else to take him off your hands.â
âNot a boy, a man. The sort you favor, captainâgolden curls, pouty mouth. Heâs quite pretty, I know youâll agree.â
Captain St. Armand stretched out long legs clad in close fitting buckskins, admiring the shine on boots freshly polished. The brothel on St. Martin offered a variety of services to its clients, from excellent meals to boot-blacking, along with the usual amenities one expected from such establishments.
âIf I bring a pretty lad aboard ship, everyone will want one. I donât share my toys.â
âYouâll take him,â the madam said. âIâm calling in my marker for the incident last year.â
âThat wasnât my fault!â
âYour ship, your crew, your fault, St. Armand.â
âReally, that man needed some excitement in his life.â
âThatâs not the excitement Mr. Carlson sought at this house. He never expected a goat.â
St. Armand snickered at the memory. âI still say what youâre asking is excessive.â
âI thought youâd turn me down.â Barbara Simpson took a sip of the sherry sheâd served herself. Her guest was drinking Jamaican rum, as usual. âYou should know though, the young man in question is Bunny Rathboneâs relation.â
âBunny Rathbone! How is the dear old boy?â
âHeâs well, moving up in the world. He wrote me to say his cousin was touring the islands and if he came here I should treat him as an honored guest. Bunny implied Mr. Woodruff needed to experience more of life. To put it bluntly, he called the young man a âstuffy, boring stick.â I invited him to the house, but first he ran into a spot of trouble and I brought him here for safekeeping.â
The doors to the parlor were open to catch the afternoon breezes rustling through the bougainvilleaâa restful pause before business commenced for the evening. Comfortably rounded and middle-aged, Mrs. Simpson was a shrewd businesswoman whose motto was to give the clients what they desiredâwithin reasonâand to treat her girls as sheâd wanted to be treated when sheâd worked there. Sheâd miss Captain St. Armand, a favored customer setting sail for Nassau after a stop to provision and catch up on mail and messages from home. A packed valise waited near the door.
âThe two of us have fond memories of Bunnyâs visits to this house, but Iâm sailing on the tide, so bring your package out here and let me see for myself.â
The madamâs bully boys were summoned and returned a short while later with their âpackageâ struggling between them in a futile attempt at freedom. It was a young man in his mid-twenties, and, as promised, he had bright gold hair and sky-blue eyes. One of those eyes was blackened, and a bruise discolored the left side of his face. He was also gagged with his hands tied in front of him.
âAs you see, I need your help taking him away, and you could use a cabin boy. You told me so yourself. Mr. Woodruff has an unfortunate habit of speaking intemperately, and there were people who took exception to what he said.â
âAmericans. Ah, I thought that would interest you.â
âI am slightly tempted,â the captain said, looking the young man over. âI may have a use for him, other than the obvious one. As always, you have an excellent eye for the goods.â
The captive made a noise muffled by his gag.
âDonât look so horrified, Sunshine. The workâs not onerous and it comes with special benefits. If heâs annoying the Americans Iâm thinking of, it makes him far more trouble than heâs worth, Barbara. Iâll pay you for the goat incident and leave him to his own devices.â
âThe goat incident set me back twenty-five pounds, not to mention the free services Mr. Carlson received for his embarrassment. You owe me, but if you take Woodruff with you to Nassau weâll call it done.â
She directed one of her men to get the captiveâs gear. The captain pulled a fine cigar from the mahogany box on the table, taking time to light it and inhale before answering.
âTwenty-five pounds? I donât care how pouty his mouth is, thereâs not a man alive worth that amount.â
The bound man squawked again, jerking against the hold on his arms.
âUntie the gag, James. Maybe Woodruff can convince me of his worth.â
The gag removed, the captive worked his square jaw back and forth, glaring at them.
âI demand you release me at once! I am a British citizen and I will notify the authorities!â
St. Armand looked at Mrs. Simpson, then both laughed aloud. Even the guard chuckled.
âHow do you intend to back up that demand?â St. Armand asked. âDid you happen to bring a knife with you? Or guns? Or friends with guns?â
âFriends with guns are good, Captain.â
âIndeed they are, James, but I donât believe Woodruff has friends here, with or without guns.â
âYou cannot hold me here! I did not come to the islands to end up in a bawdy house!â he protested.
âWell, thatâs your problem right there, Sunshine.â
Woodruff took a deep breath, then looked at the mistress of the house.
âYou are not responsible for me, Mrs. Simpson. I am not unappreciative of your protecting me by keeping me here, but I can take care of myself.â
âYou donât seem to be doing a good job of it so far.â
He glared at the sea captain.
âI do not know what your interest in my affairs is, sir, but I do not need your assistance.â He started to step forward, but Jamesâs heavy hand on his shoulder kept him in place.
St. Armand set down the cigar.
âItâs not up to you. Hold out your hands.â
Almost reflexively the man thrust his arms out. St. Armandâs knife sliced through the knots, but when Woodruff tried to pull his arm back, the captain gripped his hand and turned it over.
âSoft and smooth as a nunâs arse. Youâve never hauled lines or done work harder than holding a pen. Donât look so astounded. I can tell youâre a scribbler from this callus on your finger.â Cold eyes scanned him from his face down to his feet. âSoft all over. I only take crew and cargo aboard my vessel. You are worthless to me.â
The brothel owner delicately cleared her throat.
âGoats, St. Armand. Remember the goats. You donât have to keep him forever, like a pet. Take him to Nassau or Jamaica and leave him there. You owe me, and I oweââshe paused and looked at her guestââour mutual friend, so letâs be reasonable about this.â
Woodruff stared at the sea captain. âYou are Captain St. Armand? The Captain St. Armand, of the Prodigal Son?â
Before he could answer, the brothelâs majordomo knocked at the door.
âA note arrived for the captain, maâam, and itâs marked urgent.â
St. Armand read the rumpled paper, a frown creasing the lean face.
âThereâs no time for further debate. Iâll dispose of this person for you, Barbara, and make sure the bodyâs well hidden.â
âWhat? You canât kill me!â
They ignored such a patently ridiculous statement, but Mrs. Simpson shook her head.
âI must insist.â
âOh, very well. Woodruff, youâre coming with me. Your only choice is whether itâs bound and across your saddle, or riding.â
He appeared ready to argue, but after one look at St. Armandâs set face said, âIâll ride.â
âYouâll find a way to turn a profit on him,â Mrs. Simpson said, rising to her feet as well, âI know you.â
âThere is that,â St. Armand said cheerfully. âHe could have an unfortunate and fatal accident aboard ship, and I know a surgeon in Nassau who pays well for fresh cadavers. Donât look so pasty-faced, boy. If you follow orders, you should survive long enough to keep scribbling. The first order is thisâ¦ The captain is always right, and when I give an order, I expect it to be obeyed. Say âAye, Captainâ if you understand.â
Woodruff looked at him and swallowed.
About the Author
Darlene Marshall is the author of award-winning historical romance featuring pirates, privateers, smugglers, and the occasional possum. She loves working at a job where business attire is shorts and a shirt festooned with pink flamingos and palm trees. Marshall lives in North Central Florida, a convenient location for putting the convertible top down and researching sites of great historical significance, which also happen to be at the beach and serve mojitos.
Marshall is a graduate of the University of Florida and worked as a broadcast and print journalist, news anchor, radio station owner, obituary writer and a few other odd jobs. She's section leader for Erotic Writing at TheLitForum.com.
Her books have been published in English, German and Estonian. Awards include the New England Chapter RWA (Romance Writers of America) Readers' Choice Award and Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for The Pirate's Secret Baby; the Denver RWA Aspen Gold award (Castaway Dreams); the First Coast Romance Writers National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award (The Bride and the Buccaneer), and two EPIC awards.
Represented by Barbara Collins Rosenberg of the Rosenberg Group.