Some men dream of leaving the farm and running away to sea. Morgan Roberts, AKA Captain Sinister, dreams of leaving the sea and running away to farm, but when the Zephyr comes across a damaged ship wallowing in the Florida Straits, it's just too good an opportunity for any self-respecting privateer to pass up.
Amanda (Mrs. Geoffrey) Stephenson is a widow traveling from Yorkshire to Charleston in the 1820's to set up her soap making business. Amanda believes that in America, the land of freedom and opportunity, anything is possible. It's a grand adventure, just as she's always dreamed--until her ship is boarded by the crew of the Zephyr and she's injured in the melee. When he takes her aboard his ship, Captain Roberts promises he'll take her to safety. What he doesn't tell her is that he'll take her to safety in his own good time.
Amanda Stephenson's plans for her future do not include large, hairy, uncouth pirates. Morgan Roberts has his work cut out for him, but he's prepared to try his most piratical tricks, including stranding the two of them on a deserted island, if it will convince the luscious widow to become Captain Sinister's lady.
1822--Mrs. Amanda Stephenson, a widow, is traveling from Yorkshire to America when her ship founders on a reef off the Florida coast. The crew of the privateer Zephyr come upon the stranded merchantman and "help", primarily by helping themselves to the cargo. Mrs. Stephenson is injured in the melee and taken aboard the Zephyr, where she's now recuperating in the cabin of its captain, Morgan Roberts, AKA "Captain Sinister".
"'Mishap', indeed!" Amanda said as the hatch closed behind the mate. She turned her attention to the pirate captain, who entered the cabin, set down the trunk and stood silently watching her, hands clasped behind his back. His looming presence made her uneasy, especially when she was flat on her back, so she pushed herself up to a seated position, leaning against the bulkhead.
"Please sit down, Captain Si--Captain Roberts." Once he was seated she continued to study him. His face, what could be seen of it behind his beard, was darkened to mahogany by the tropical sun and deep lines fanned out from the corners of his eyes. The gray eyes were resolute, and they weren't young eyes. Given his position as captain of a crew of scoundrels, she knew he'd seen much and probably done things she couldn't imagine, so nothing would be served by beating around the bush with this man. She clasped her hands together in her lap.
"Were you able to locate my other trunks, Captain Roberts?"
He shifted in the seat. "We only found the one trunk, ma'am. I'm sorry to say that the rest of them are at the bottom of the sea."
"Oh no," she gasped. "My die presses and my work clothes were in those trunks!"
"Die presses?" He cocked his head quizzically.
She rubbed her throbbing forehead, ignoring his question.
"What is to become of me, Captain Roberts?"
He leaned forward in the chair and clasped his own hands together.
"I understand you are anxious to be reunited with your family, ma'am," he said in his rumbling voice, "but I have business that cannot wait. It will be a while before I can take you to Charleston."
Amanda's brows drew together in a frown.
"Then drop me somewhere where I can arrange my own transportation, Captain."
"No, ma'am, I cannot do that either. Where we are going is not quite on the regular trade routes. You'll need to consider yourself my guest for a bit.
"'A bit'? Exactly how long is 'a bit'?"
"That remains to be seen, Mrs. Stephenson."
She took her hand off her forehead and pinned him with a stern look.
"Captain Roberts," she said, clipping each syllable off like bullets. "Your behavior grows more outrageous with each passing hour! First you rob the ship I'm on and threaten my person. Then you keep me aboard your piratical vessel instead of being a gentleman and taking me to civilization! Now you tell me that my imprisonment will continue in some no doubt isolated area, where you will reveal your true colors at last!"
He was silent for a moment, thinking.
"When you put it like that it does sound horrible," he admitted. "Though you can't really blame me for McGuire running the Penelope onto a reef."
"It is horrible, you wicked man! You cannot continue to keep me prisoner here! I insist you take me ashore immediately!
Roberts looked at her with interest. "You insist? How do you intend to back up that demand, Mrs. Stephenson?"
She glared at him and he studied her in return. Most women were intimidated by his sheer size, not to mention his rough appearance. Morgan wanted a woman with backbone, not some fragile English rose who would wilt in the summer heat. He smiled at his pugnacious guest, a full blown grin that seemed to catch her off guard.
"Mrs. Stephenson. I will do my best, as I said, to get you to your destination in a timely fashion. Until then I insist you consider yourself my guest, because you are not my prisoner. I'm going to have to relocate you to Mr. Lopez's cabin though, as we use my cabin for dining and discussion of ship's business. If there is anything you need, ask Cesar. I will leave him at your disposal and as we speak he is readying Mr. Lopez's cabin for you. You might wish to use the, um, facilities in my cabin rather than the crew's facilities." He gestured vaguely in the direction of the head, dark patches staining his cheekbones. "Feel free to do so.
"Please consider joining Mr. Lopez and me for the evening meal, ma'am. I know you are wishing me to Hades, but Gabriel will be hurt if he thinks he has offended you, and I know Cesar is anxious to improve his manners and skills. Having a lady aboard can only assist in his efforts."
"Do I have any choice?"
"Of course you have a choice," he said mildly. "Cesar could bring you a tray in your cabin. Consider this, Mrs. Stephenson: A tray in your cabin would be a lonely affair. If you join Mr. Lopez and me, you might garner fascinating anecdotes you will be able to share with your family in Charleston. Years from now when you are an old lady, you can dine out on sea tales of life aboard the Zephyr."
There was a knock at the hatch and Cesar said, "Everything is ready for Mrs. Stephenson, Captain."
Morgan arose, bowed to his silent guest, and exited the cabin.
He might not know how to turn women up sweet, he thought with satisfaction, but being able to render a woman speechless wasn't necessarily a bad talent.
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