…“What is it you want?” Macdavid said, looking about the deck at his shabby little vessel, which looked like a flounder alongside the sleek, sharklike Prodigal.
Robert gestured at the trio coming abovedecks.
“You! Reprobate! Wastrel! Knave! Scoundrel! Libertine! Villain!” Miss Burke sputtered to a finish having run out of epithets for the moment. The two crewmen escorting her looked at her with new respect, but she needed a few weeks aboard a pirate vessel. That would add salt to her vocabulary.
A slow smile curled his lips. The governess’s ugly linen cap was absent. While her hair was pinned tightly against her head, it shone in the sun, a glorious shade of chestnut with highlights of russet and gold. A few wisps escaped to curl across her forehead, with enough amber depths that it made one itch to unpin the mass and see all the colors gathered there. No wonder the little hedgehog kept it covered! Hair like that would inspire naughty thoughts in her employers and jealousy in their wives.
She was also younger than he’d suspected when he first encountered her, pegging her age at around twenty-five years old. The day just became that much more interesting.
“You missed me, didn’t you, Miss Burke?”
“Why have you stopped this ship? What do you want with me?”
Anger looked good on her. The gray sack she wore hurt his eyes though. He’d have to do something about that.
Robert turned back to the hapless captain of the Clementine.
“This is what I came for.”
“You want her?” Captain Macdavid looked at her and scratched his beard, puzzled. “Well, all right, go ahead and take her.”
Miss Burke gasped, and pulling free of the men holding her, marched over to Macdavid. “You don’t protest this man kidnapping a passenger from your vessel?” she angrily pointed at St. Armand in case there was any question exactly who she meant.
Macdavid shrugged. “Your passage is already paid, so it’s all the same to me. I never guaranteed a safe journey, miss.”
She stood nearly toe to toe with the older man, her fists clenched. “Return my money!”
“I never promised that neither!” he protested, and Robert stepped forward and took the governess by the arm before there was bloodshed…
…Alexander had to keep from snickering at the oh-so-fashionable Miss Farnham. Her hair was a tangled mess, red paint was streaked and smeared on her face like a doxie after a particularly busy night, and her lucent eyes were narrowed as she waited for him to explain how she was going to eat raw fish.
He felt almost…he hesitated because it was so odd as to defy description…almost lighthearted. Then Miss Farnham’s stomach growled in a most insistent fashion.
“Now, this is what we are going to do,” Alexander said firmly. “Have you ever eaten oysters on the shell?”
She blinked and looked at him.
“Yes, of course.”
“Then you know how it is done. You sip the oyster off its shell, taste it, chew a bit and then let it slide down your throat.”
She looked down at the fish pieces on the bench.
“I generally eat my oysters off of fine china with a silver fork, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of champagne,” Miss Farnham said.
He scooped up some of the fish in his hand and said, “Close your eyes, Miss Farnham.”
She did, sitting very still as their boat rocked gently on the silent water.
“Now, imagine you are dining with friends. Perhaps it is after an evening at the theater. You have arranged for a late supper and there are oy—”
“There should be music.” Her eyes popped open and she looked at him accusingly. “If we arranged for a late supper, we would arrange for musicians. You could hum, perhaps?”
“Close your eyes, Miss Farnham. Now.”
“Oh, very well,” she grumped, but she closed her eyes. And started humming.
One eye popped open.
“You cannot hum and eat at the same time. No, do not even think of trying it.”
She sighed resignedly and settled herself back down, eyes closed, lips pursed.
“Open your mouth, Miss Farnham.”
Her mouth with pink salve darkening her already luscious lips opened, just a sigh’s worth, and Alex brought the fish to her lips. She nibbled it off his fingers, swallowing rapidly, then her eyes flew open and she put her hand over her mouth.
“Daphne, what is your favorite color?” he barked.
“Pink! Oh, I need some water!”
He gave her the flask and she swallowed, and while she looked a bit pale, she kept her stomach’s contents intact. His distracting question had done its job.
She took a deep breath.
“I did it, Doctor. I ate the—”
“Do not say it, do not think about it.”
“It was not so bad, Doctor. We may be onto something here.”
“No one is going to eat raw fish if they can possibly help it, Miss Farnham. Now, close your eyes.”
She did, obediently opening her mouth like a fledgling in the nest, and he fed her more tidbits. His fingers brushed against her moist lips as she took the food from him, her warm breath caressing his sensitive finger tips. Now he was trying not to think about it, what it felt like to have this beautiful woman take his fingers into her mouth, lightly sucking at them as she pulled in the firm, salty morsels, her delicate throat working to swallow, her eyes closed and an intense look of concentration on her sweat-dewed brow.
“One—” He cleared his throat and tried to speak again. “One moment, please—no, do not open your eyes!”
He grabbed his coat and pulled it across his lap, even though the day was hot and growing hotter. The last thing he needed was for her to open her eyes and see him sitting inches away with his compass pointing north.
“What are you thinking about, Doctor?”
…Charley was washing her hands and smiling at Mrs. Denham as she held her new son to her breast, cooing down at him, when the cabin door slammed open and Captain Denham was shoved into the cabin, followed by the pirate.
“We have a son, Ronald,” his sweet wife beamed at him, “Oh look, is he not beautiful?”
Like most newborns he was red and wrinkled and squished looking, but to Charley’s eyes he also appeared beautiful, for she had helped bring him safely into the world.
“This is all very touching,” the pirate said, “but I have waited long enough. Captain, your strongbox, quickly now, before harm comes to these innocents.”
He motioned a pair of his crewmen into the cabin. They took Captain Denham’s money and papers while the captain and Charley stood guard in front of the bunk, keeping Mrs. Denham and the baby safe. It was a gallant gesture, even though they each knew they could not stand against armed pirates.
“And now for our final business. Come with me, Doctor!”
Charley took a step back from the pirate, who was standing holding a pistol loosely at his side, but he stood between her and the door.
“You cannot take Dr. Alcott prisoner, I will not stand for it!” Captain Denham said.
“Really?” the pirate drawled, and cocking his head to the side, looked down at the baby Mrs. Denham clutched to her chest.
“You would not harm a baby!” Charley said in outrage.
“You are correct, Dr. Alcott, I would not harm a baby.” The pirate looked at her, his eyes intent behind his mask. He was tall and loomed over her as he smiled coldly and said, “That child can, however, grow up without a father. You choose, Doctor. Now. Either you come with me, or I will shoot the good captain here.”
“Ronald!” Elizabeth Denham cried out.
Denham did not plead for his life, but Charley knew she had no choice, not really.
“That baby needs its father more than you need a doctor, Captain Denham. Mrs. Denham, remember what I said—plenty of beef broth, have the cook kill one of those chickens and make a rich soup for you, stay in your bunk and rest. Your milk will be in in a day or two. In the meantime, let the baby nurse as he will and it will help you recover.”
She turned back to her captor, who was standing silent during this speech, radiating tension.
“Very well, pirate, I will come with you.”
A cold smile slashed across his tanned features.
“How accommodating you are, Doctor.”
Charley said nothing to this but buttoned her coat and brushed her short hair off her forehead.
“Take care of yourself, Mrs. Denham, Captain Denham. Thank you for all you have done for me.”
“We will name him Charles!” Charley heard Mrs. Denham call out as the pirate took her by the upper arm to haul her from the cabin.
The cabin doors were smashed in, but Charley saw no injured crew, and when she was pushed up the ladder ahead of the pirate captain, she blinked in the bright sunlight. The Lady Jane was alone in the vast and empty sea, save for the vessel nearby, the one distinguished by the black flag flying over it.
The pirate took her arm again, Charley tried to shake him off, but she might as well have tried to shake the mainmast.
“I said I will come with you, you do not need to manhandle me.”
He did not reply, and did not let go as he looked at a sailor standing at the rail.
“Did you find it?”
“Aye, Cap’n. We cleaned out the sick bay to the bulkheads.”
“Are all aboard my ship now, Doctor, which is where you are going.”
He pulled her forward and Charley stumbled along with him to the rail. Charley did not know what her fate would be aboard the pirate’s vessel, but she knew one other thing after listening to the men talk. Her captors were Americans…
…He held her gaze a moment longer, then his lips curled up. The smile made Sophia want to take a step back – all the way back to England – but she held her ground and donned the face that saw her through many a late-night game of cards.
“John Burrell, I presume? I have a letter for you.”
“If you are John Burrell of St. Augustine, East Florida, I have a letter for you from England,” she repeated, speaking slowly and distinctly. “It is with my belongings, and I will fetch it.”
He stared at her, and she could see a host of expression in his green-tinged eye, none of it boding well for her.
“A letter,” he said softly. “You have a letter for me you have brought all the way from England. Do you know, Miss Deford, in all the many daydreams I had over what I would do to you if we ever met again, your acting as postmistress did not enter into a single scenario? But that is neither here nor there. Right now, I have a ship to plunder.”
“When you see the contents of your letter, you may feel more pleased about seeing me again,” Sophia brazened out.
“I doubt that. I doubt that very much, Miss Deford.”
A dour doctor (after a fashion), a dizzy damsel (more or less) and a darling (and potentially delicious) doggy embark on the adventure of a lifetime, castaway on a desert island. One of them may have fleas.
"[Castaway Dreams is] a very cute, adventurous book. I encourage you all to try this author's voice. (She has a great backlist, too.)." --- Mandi Schreiner, USA Today Books
"Pirates, a shipboard romance, a new father upended by his unexpected responsibilities and a woman who manages to keep her head and agency? Sign me up, Captain."
"I seriously doubt that any summer experience can possibly be more delightful than sitting on the beach while reading The Pirate’s Secret Baby."
"I love that you've staked out early 19th century... sea captains, privateers and pirates. David and Charley are...matched perfectly with strength meeting strength." --- Jayne, at Dear Author
"...A wonderful romp through the wilds of Spanish Florida. Laced with a host of unique characters, intriguing clues that reveal the depth of Marshall's research, and humorous lines, this spellbinding tale snares the reader from the opening page to the end...This delightfully entertaining romance is sure to capture a pirate lover's heart." --- Pirates and Privateers
"I would totally stow away on any ship Darlene writes about."
"I can’t say enough how wonderful this book is. The ending is just perfect--and will have you laughing and sighing, and not wanting this adventure to come to an end...A wonderful tale full of humor, adventure, and a lovely romance that will sweep you away."--Smexy Books
Darlene Marshall is an award-winning author of 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 also be at the beach and serve mojitos.
Marshall has worked as a broadcast and print journalist, news anchor, radio station owner, obituary writer and a few other odd jobs. She became a novelist because there were fake people in her head having adventures, so it was either write it down or check into therapy. She’s never been a pirate, but the day is not yet over.
Her books have been published in English, German and Estonian. Marshall is also a regular blogger at Heroes and Heartbreakers.com.
“Should I Read Your Books in Order?”
My novels are written so they can be read as “stand-alone” books, but some of them are connected. Here’s a reference guide on how the novels overlap, and a suggested reading order:
Castaway Dreams, then The Pirate’s Secret Baby. The villain of 2013 Aspen Gold winner Castaway Dreams is the notorious pirate Robert St. Armand. He gets his own story in The Pirate’s Secret Baby.
Sea Change, then Castaway Dreams. One of the secondary characters in Sea Change is Royal Navy surgeon Alexander Murray, who’s the hero of Castaway Dreams.
The Bride and the Buccaneer, then Captain Sinister’s Lady. The marriage minded Captain Sinister (Morgan Roberts) and his crew are introduced in The Bride and the Buccaneer.
Pirate’s Price, then Smuggler’s Bride. Pirate’s Price is set a generation before Smuggler’s Bride and the heroine of Smuggler’s Bride (Julia) is the daughter of the hero and heroine of Pirate’s Price.
As always, I am very, very grateful to all of you who take time to rate and review my novels at Goodreads, BookLikes, Amazon, NOOK, LibraryThing and Shelfari.