The Pirate’s Jewel by Sable Grey
Liquid Silver Books, 2004, Historical Erotic Romance
Also available for Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0040ZNSMS?tag=loverites-20
During a time when swashbucklers, privateers, and the Royal Navy battled across the waters, one buccaneer stood out from the rest: raven-haired, green-eyed, and nicknamed the Pirate’s Jewel. However, this fiery sea rover answers to no one except herself.
Captain Merrick Cole has never met a woman as tough and fearless as Rafferty Jones, nor has he ever had one as sexually matched. Clever, cunning, and dangerously sexy, she’s just the kind of woman that can stir a man’s blood.
Following the orders he is commissioned, Cole captures the woman pirate and sets sail back to London where his commander, John Thornton, wants her delivered and hung. But Rafferty Jones proves she will not go easily, nor will she stifle basic human urges along the way. Cole is prepared to entertain her sexual appetites, but can he remain in control when lust turns to love?
“in the grand tradition of … swashbuckling pirates”
5 Stars, Patrice Storie, Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“…a thoroughly entertaining read…”
4 Angels, Tanya, Fallen Angels Reviews
“…a beautifully written short story…”
4 1/2 Hearts, Renee Burnette, The Romance Studio
Virginia June 1718
Moonlight flickered through the window and across the sharp-edged cutlass that rested beside the bed. Silently, Rafferty worked the buttons of her linen shirt without looking at the man who lay snoring beside her. He was a big man and she had been certain that he would keep her entertained for hours when she’d spotted him in the waterfront tavern downstairs. But, despite his size, he’d not held his liquor well. After several minutes of emptying his stomach in the chamber pot, he’d collapsed in a deep slumber.
Standing, she reached for her coat, and then her cotton trousers. Rafferty was not like other women. She never had been. Forced to survive at a young age without her parents, she was given few choices in life. As a child, she learned to steal to keep herself fed. The fact that she became good at it attracted attention from the wrong kind of people, and before she reached her fifteenth year, she was running with a dangerous gang of men.
She’d barely stepped into her boots when the door of the room flew open. There were three of them, wearing uniforms, and Rafferty quickly realized they were not from the bar below come up to join them. She grabbed her cutlass in one hand and the sheath in the other before bounding through the open window, hair flying behind like a sable cape.
She heard them yell but slid down the roof to the edge on her heels while belting her sheath around her waist. Grabbing the edge of the roof, she swung herself down at full arm’s length, then released, hitting the ground rolling. Immediately on her feet, she whirled away from the tavern and ran head first into a broad, solid chest that knocked her back to the ground.
The door of the tavern swung open and the three men came bounding into the street. Rafferty began to rise, peering up at the man who stood before her. He was tall and the top of her head barely reached his shoulders. His hair was dull black velvet dusted with silver, his eyes piercing and dark beneath a heavy brow, his prominent jaw protected by a thin layer of beard. His clothes and jacket was that of the Royal Navy, worn and torn in places. Slowly he lifted a struck match to his long stemmed-pipe and puffed the piece to life.
She knew him immediately, and her blood chilled. He was Captain Merrick Cole, commissioned naval officer for the Admiralty, famous for capturing and making examples of pirates hunted by the English. And he was here for her. Behind him stood over a dozen men, waiting for his command.
Merrick’s expression did not change as he watched the woman before him unsheathe her cutlass and draw a dagger from her boot, sensing the danger that now threatened her life. She was young, no more than twenty, and of lean waist beneath the men’s clothes she wore. Her shirt hung open, revealing her breast and a long, healed scar across her collarbone. Her green eyes were locked on him, but he saw her body tense as the men behind her neared.
In one moment, her muscles were locked like an animal frozen with fear, backed into a hole; in the next, that wild animal bore teeth and claws. Merrick watched her suddenly turn, her hair fanning like waves of dark silk. The tip of her cutlass connected with one man’s chest, slicing open his shirt and piercing his skin, leaving a thin line of red that slowly grew, staining his shirt.
As he staggered backwards, she danced forward, blocking a second man’s sword with her blade and plunging her dagger into his chest. The third man from the tavern was then upon her, arms wrapping about her shoulders to jerk her off her feet. Merrick heard the man’s nose crack as she flung her head back and he screamed as she raised the heel of her boot and brought it back into his kneecap. He immediately released her and crumpled to the ground, blood spurting from his nose.
She faced Merrick again. He looked at her evenly. In a matter of moments, she’d disposed of three of his men. His anger quickly dissipated when he saw the adrenaline glittering in her gaze. Major Thornton had called her the treasure of the sea, the pirate’s jewel. He’d said that she often escaped capture because of the male pirates she associated with. Merrick could see that was not entirely true.
Rafferty Jones knew how to handle herself and had probably survived because of her wits and instinct, not merely because of the men around her. He imagined that those that would protect her did so out of respect, the same respect that tickled at him now despite the loss of his men.
His gaze dropped to her breasts as they rose and fell with each labored breath. A soft sheen of sweat glimmered between them beneath the moonlight. He wondered if she would show the same spirit in bed as she did in a fight. When she took a step forward and lifted her cutlass, Merrick raised a brow. Was she issuing him a challenge?
“You are outnumbered,” the man to his right called.
“And you are afraid to die,” she answered, and the sound of her voice found Merrick’s core. Softer than he would have imagined but with a full-bodied strength that carried the conviction of her words. Still, her eyes remained on Merrick, and finally, he took a step forward without drawing his cutlass. The muscles of her body contracted, and the tip of her cutlass lifted.
“Your ship burns in the bay,” he said in a low voice, and for a moment, she just stared at him. Then her gaze flicked towards the docks where an orange glow colored the black sky and reflected the truth he spoke.
Slowly, her stare returned to Merrick, and he saw it was no longer flashing with anger but glowed with rage. She began to step towards him, slowly at first, and then her stride quickened.
Merrick did not move as the man to his right quickly unsheathed his cutlass. Hogg Lavers might be a hefty man, Merrick thought as the man stepped forward, but he was quick. The scraping sound of steel against steel filled the night as Hogg blocked the strike meant for Merrick.
Disappointment flickered across Rafferty’s face, but it did not slow her fight. She managed a swipe to Hogg’s shoulder, barely grazing him. He rolled out of the way and caught her around the waist, tackling her to the ground. Within moments, he had her pinned, weaponless, his knee to her throat.
“Get off me!” she croaked against the pressure and brought her foot up forcefully to kick the back of his head. In his moment of dazedness, she managed to throw him from her and scramble to her feet. She swiped up her cutlass and straightened as more men stepped forward.
“There are too many. You cannot fight all of them.” Merrick spoke around the pipe as Hogg stood, rubbing the back of his head, his mouth set in an angry frown. Rafferty’s chin lifted and her eyes hardened. Merrick nearly smiled. She was willing to take as many as he sent to her. Hogg instantly stepped forward, lifted his cutlass, and brought the hilt firmly against her temple. One of the men moved forward and caught her before she could slump to the ground.
“Disarm her, bind her, and take her aboard,” Hogg told the men.
“Congratulations.” Merrick’s mouth pressed into a disapproving line as he removed his pipe. “You’ve succeeded in bludgeoning the woman unconscious.”
“What else could I do?” Hogg demanded. “She would have killed at least two more of our men if I’d let that continue. I’ve had less trouble handling men. And she kicks like a braying mule.” Merrick glanced over his shoulder as a couple of his men hefted up the two that were dead, while another helped the man she’d left crippled. Merrick didn’t want to tell Hogg, but he was certain she could have killed more than just two before she would’ve fallen.
* * * *
Hogg stood at the top of the stairs peering down into the dark belly of the English Bride. Around him, the ship groaned and creaked as it made its way farther from land. He hadn’t wanted to put the woman in the hold of the ship, but she had hardly left him much choice. She had put up another fight against the men when she had come to, and they had to literally drag her onto the vessel. Two and a half-hours later, her shouts finally grew silent, and Hogg ventured down to the cargo deck.
Rafferty’s wrists were suspended above her head, bound to a hook on the wall, and her hair, damp with sweat, hung forward across her face. She leaned back against the wall as if exhausted from her fits. Hogg frowned and stepped down the stairs, the echo of his boots bouncing off the crates and barrels of food that filled most of the space.
The dark of her head lifted and her green eyes peered up at the shadowed, advancing, form, recognizing him as the shipmaster. “Touch me and you shall be sure never to touch another woman again,” she rasped in a hoarse voice.
Hogg spoke when he reached the bottom of the stairs. “I have brought you water. I supposed with all that screaming you were doing, you might have worked up a thirst.” Her eyes narrowed, but she did not argue, licking her dry lips with anticipation. “I thought so.” He held up the water pouch so she could drink.
Despite the harshness of her words, she looked as if every ounce of life had been drained from her. Her eyes were weary and the muscles in her arms were limp. She did not fight him or kick at him as he had expected she would. Instead, she drank thirstily, seeming to have finally surrendered completely.
“Captain might cut you loose if you don’t raise any more ruckus. We are well away from shore,” Hogg suggested as he lowered the pouch. “He didn’t like putting you down here.” Rafferty’s head just dipped so her chin rested on her chest, as if she hadn’t even the strength to answer. He offered her more from the pouch, but she shook her head and turned her face from him.
The man remained a couple of minutes to scrutinize her before leaving. The moment he was gone, Rafferty’s body straightened. She began wriggling and working her hands vigorously, ignoring the burning that the friction caused her wrists. She’d nearly worn the rope apart, using the hook it was looped over to thin out the fibers.
Merrick wouldn’t be so stupid to free her as quickly as his burly shipmaster suggested. He’d be more cautious, more suspicious. But it wouldn’t matter. She would be waiting for him when he ventured down to see how she fared. She desperately wished she had her cutlass, but the dagger she had sewn into the back of her coat would have to do.
Just a bit more, she thought, biting her lip against the pain when she felt the skin on her wrist break. Her arms were tired and beads of sweat dotted her temple, but she did not give up; she would not. Fury and revenge boiled in her veins. No one burned her ship and got away with it. No one.
She felt the rope give a little more and grunted with satisfaction. She would wound him quickly, but kill him slowly. She planned carefully in silence. A deep stab to his gut and she would have him to do with as she wished. Rafferty had killed before and the idea of doing it again did not weaken her stomach.
* * * *
Merrick barely glanced up when Hogg approached. He stood at the bow and gazed out at the stilled waters around them. Black, glittering, peaceful. He listened as Hogg continued to describe at length the woman’s deflated appearance.
“I think it would be safe to untie her now,” Hogg concluded. “She’s harmless.”
Harmless. Merrick almost laughed at that. There was nothing harmless about Rafferty Jones; she’d proven that the moment he’d laid eyes on her. She was as dangerous as the deceptive ocean they sailed upon.
“Will you not at least go look at the girl?” Hogg pressed and Merrick sighed. It was likely she was waiting for him anyway. She’d had bloodlust in her eyes when their gazes had last met.
“You grow soft, Hogg,” Merrick finally spoke, “and careless. Did she not bring you pain enough the last time you thought to best her? Do you forget she killed Neil and Fuller?”
“I have not forgotten, but her fight left her once we were away from shore,” Hogg insisted.
Merrick turned and faced him. “Then let us go look at her.” He followed as Hogg led the way, down beneath the deck to the hold. Just as the shipmaster had described, Rafferty hung limply against the wall, head bent.
Merrick studied her from the foot of the stairs as Hogg stepped closer and shook her from sleep. She awoke and lifted her face.
“What do you want?” she whispered, then licked her lips and repeated the question in a stronger voice.
“You see. She is no danger now.” Hogg looked to Merrick.
“Until she grows stronger perhaps.” Merrick peered at her face, noticing she kept her eyes downcast. Her shirt was stained beneath her breast and he could see she was attempting to regulate her breathing. She did not appear quite as deflated as Hogg had described. His gaze moved up her arms to the ropes, and then his lips lifted in the corner. Clever girl.
He wondered how long she’d been free, waiting down here for him. Her plan, for she’d convinced Hogg that she was without strength, must be to kill him and escape. The small cuts and burns about her wrists confirmed his suspicions, proving she’d been struggling at her bonds for hours. Finally, his eyes lowered to Hogg, and out of sheer curiosity at what she had planned for him, Merrick inclined his head.
“There, see, I told you he was a reasonable man.” Hogg reached up, moving to untie her. “What’s this?” He froze and then groaned as he doubled over, taken by surprise when she kicked him between the legs. In a moment, she produced a dagger and faced Merrick.
“As I suspected.” Merrick nodded, reading her intent easily in the depths of her eyes. “Be sure you have the stomach for it, girl,” he warned in a low voice, and her eyes narrowed as she took a step forward.
“I will enjoy this, you rotten bastard,” she flared. Merrick sighed heavily and stepped forward, thinking he should put an end to her rebellion quickly. She sliced at him, cut into his arm, and he winced as his breath hissed through his teeth. His free arm wrapped around the hand that held her weapon and tightened while she kicked at him.
Rafferty tried to hold onto the dagger, but Merrick tightened his grip until she opened her fingers. The weapon clattered to the floor. To his surprise, she drew back her fist, and her knuckles caught his jaw.
“Damn!” Merrick gritted as he caught her other hand. He hadn’t expected the blow but should have. She was making it impossible for him not to hurt her. Finally, he released one hand and grasped her waist to heave her over his shoulder, ignoring her screams.
“Are you injured still?” He looked at Hogg as he wrapped an arm around her kicking legs.
“The bitch nearly took my breath,” Hogg moaned as he straightened.
“She could have killed you. Be thankful the blade was meant for me.” Merrick frowned as she wriggled and beat upon his back so that he nearly dropped her. After a moment of consideration, he lifted a hand and brought it firmly down on her backside.
“Be still,” he commanded but she only bucked harder. “You are trying me, girl,” he warned, grinding his teeth when she grabbed a handful of his hair and tried to rip it out by the roots. He swatted her again, with a little more force, but she still did not release him. After the third strike, she grew still, screaming curses at him, and he let his hand drop.
“I didn’t know…” Hogg looked angry now. The pain had passed, and the realization of her deception glittered in his eyes.
“We can’t leave her down here. I wouldn’t be surprised if she punched a hole in the hull,” Merrick growled, turning to stride up the stairs.