Zac Blakeney has a dark past, with blood on his hands. He’s a pirate captain willing to do anything for revenge, even board an English merchant ship to kidnap his enemy’s daughter.
Except Charlotte Huntington is not what she seems. Forbidden fruit becomes undeniably tempting.
Charlotte has only ever known violence at the hands of men. Now, sold into marriage, she is on her way to India when her ship is stopped by pirates. The captain is as handsome as he is intimidating. Charlotte soon receives discipline under his firm hand. Yet, she soon realizes this man holds the key to her heart along with her freedom.
Publisher’s Note: This steamy historical romance includes elements of power exchange.
“Congratulations, daughter. Your ship sails to India within the week. Your marriage will take place out there.”
India? Her plans to escape with her mother lay in ruins. She felt sick and numb.
“I never thought I’d get one thousand pounds for you.”
Charlotte stared at him. “You’ve been paid already?”
He smirked. “The money is already in my bank. Mr Gilbert has already sailed to make ready for your arrival. All I have to do is put you on the next ship. Your ticket has been paid for by him. Once you’re married, I receive another four thousand.”
She really was going to faint. There was a buzzing in her ears. But Charlotte managed to fight it off. She would resist showing such weakness in front of him. Reluctantly she listened to the rest of her father’s beastly words.
“He didn’t even care what you looked like, although I did tell him you were passably pretty. I may detest the very sight of you despite you being fruit from my loins but at least you’re not ugly. I certainly wouldn’t want him to change his mind. I would resent giving him his money back.”
No, thought Charlotte in shocked silence. Her father wouldn’t want to lose the additional money either. Or worse, have her returned to him.
“I even get money off him if your ship is lost at sea.”
The shout from above had both women looking up.
“How curious,” said Charlotte. “I suppose we were bound to see another ship on a well travelled route, but the sea looked so big that I didn’t think we’d see one yet.” She glanced about her. “I wonder which side.” Then she saw men heading toward the stern of the ship. The captain was approaching with a spy glass in his hand. She grabbed Ruby’s hand to rush after the men. “Come on. This should be exciting.”
Charlotte watched in eager anticipation as the captain lifted the spy glass.
“No colors and she’s closing fast.”
Her excitement turned to concern at the grim tone in the captain’s voice. What did he mean by that?
“Captain? What do you mean by she’s showing no colors?”
The captain swung round at her question. He frowned. “Ladies, I must insist you return to your cabin immediately.”
Charlotte remained where she was. “Yes, but what do you mean about the colors?”
“It means we don’t know what nationality she is, and she appears to be in pursuit of us. So, please. I ask you again to return below decks.”
“Oh.” That didn’t bode well. Charlotte grabbed Ruby’s hand, deciding it was best to obey the captain. They rushed across the deck, ready to make their way below, when the lookout from above stopped them with a cry of, “She’s raising her colors.”
With bated breath, Charlotte waited to hear what they were. Along with everyone else on deck.
Before she could consider the rashness of her decision, Charlotte clambered off the bed and went over to the door. She twisted the handle to no avail. She pulled the door, pushed it, kicked it. It was no use. She was locked in. All of a sudden, it was like releasing a dam. She felt no fear, she only felt extreme anger at being the victim again. No more. Her fists pounded on the door. “Let me out!”
The hard, wooden door hurt her fists, but she continued to pound on it. “I said, let me out, you swine!”
She never heard footsteps approach because of the noise she was making. But one moment her fists were hitting hard wood, the next the door was unlocked, wrenched open and Charlotte almost pounded a muscular chest instead.
“What’s all this racket about, girl?”
“Oh,” Charlotte almost squeaked out, taken aback by nearly touching him. Well, she had wanted to summon him. She lowered her fists, taking a deep swallow at the sheer size of him. He took up the whole doorway. And his chest. She couldn’t help staring in fascination at the tanned bare skin, revealed by his open shirt. She licked her suddenly dry lips. “I…”
“Spit it out, Miss Huntington. I don’t have all day.” He sounded more than a little vexed with her.
Charlotte snapped out of whatever daze she was in to glare up at him. Into the handsome face that was Zac Montgomery, pirate captain. Her captor. Now he was here, she should break the news to him that her father wouldn’t pay to have her back. Yet, something stopped her. She suddenly realized the foolishness of such an action. After all, if no money or gold was forthcoming for her safe return, the pirates might decide to throw her over board, or worse— make sport of her.
Charlotte gave a determined lift of her chin. It was time to be the brave, new Charlotte she had resolved to be. Starting by standing up to him. Not letting a man scare her. “I’m hungry and would like some food.” It sounded like the request of a spoiled miss, but better that than he know the truth about her father not caring about her. Besides, she was hungry.
The man blinked, before his hard, blue gaze bore into her. “Let me get this straight from the start. You will receive nourishment when I say you will, for you will be rationed like everyone else on my crew. No exceptions.”
Charlotte felt her legs tremble slightly. Heavens, he was so stern sounding. Yet somehow, she found the courage to speak out again. “When am I likely to be fed then, Captain. If that’s what I’m supposed to call my captor?” Her stomach rumbled just then, to prove her point that she was starving. Something he chose to ignore, the beast.
“When the crew eat this evening, someone will bring you your food.”
So long? He was cruel like her father. Yet she could cope a long time without food. She was used to missing meals after all, and the pirate did at least intend to feed her. No, it was a drink she really needed. “A drink though? I am quite parched, Captain.”
“I shall fetch you a drink personally,” he told her. “The only time I shall do so, for water is rationed too. You will eat and drink when I say you can.”
Charlotte bristled at his tone. However, some inner devil made her say, “Is it your intention to keep me locked in this room too, Captain? I would like to go up on deck for fresh air.” She refused to explain about her fear of enclosed spaces. He would only laugh at her.
“Listen to me,” he interrupted her, leaning down so that his face was close to hers. “You are my prisoner until your father pays your ransom. This is not some pleasant outing. I don’t care what luxuries you are used to. You will stay locked in this room for the duration of your time with me. There are means within this room to take care of any personal needs. You will be fed and given water twice a day. Apart from that I do not want to see or hear from you.”
Charlotte stiffened. What a callous brute. He truly should be in her father’s employ. He was missing his vocation in life. About to tell him exactly what she thought of his behavior, she gasped when he spoke again. “If you pound on this door again, shouting like you did, you will bitterly regret it, madam.”
“Regret it how?” she asked. Despite his enormous size and menacing attitude toward her, there was something about this man that made her challenge him.
The pirate’s jaw clenched. “I wasn’t going to lay a finger on you, but if you persist with this nonsense I shall turn you over my knee to spank your ass raw.”
Charlotte took a step back in shock. “You wouldn’t?”
“Try me.” Then he was gone, with the sound of the key being turned in the lock.