Christine Sanders of St. Augustine in Territorial Florida is a runaway wife who believes the best way to live comfortably on her own is to turn pirate and rob a man with money. And the perfect man to rob is her own husband, Justin Delerue, Lord Smithton, especially since he got rich by marrying her against her will and taking her inheritance!
PIRATE'S PRICE is a rollicking tale of marriage and mayhem, gender confusion and piracy. With the help of her godfather Julius Davies, himself a retired pirate with a fondness for young sailors, Christine puts together a gay, er, jolly crew and takes to the seas as Captain Christopher Daniels. It doesn't take long for the dread pirate Daniels to become a force to be reckoned with in Florida's sealanes, especially for ships owned by DelerueSanders Shipping.
But when Smithton himself is taken captive and held hostage by Daniels and the crew of the Tigress he has a different plan for his runaway pirate bride, and could very well end up stealing something from her -- her heart.
The cabin hatch closed behind the pirate captain. Justin stopped testing the strength of the ropes securing him and glared at the tall, masked figure leaning one padded shoulder against the hatch. The pirate's red cravat was looking wilted, the black satin shirt and coat torn and darkened by blood.
Justin noted the damage with satisfaction. It would be the first of many penalties the cur would pay for what he'd done. Even so, a frisson of fear ran down his spine. He couldn't ignore what he'd seen above decks and the lewd comments from the men who'd bound him to the bunk, but he knew better than to reveal his anxiety.
"Lay one hand on me, sodomite, and there won't be a hole deep enough for you to hide in!" he snarled.
The captain's eyes crinkled at the corners. The blackguard was smiling behind the mask!
Captain Daniels' slow glance raked the Earl's lean body, bound hand and foot to the bunk. The gaze lingered on Justin's broad shoulders, sliding down his flat belly to his firmly muscled thighs. The pirate's eyes rose back to meet the Earl's and didn't look away as a slender, gloved hand unwrapped the red silk scarf.
"You!" Justin gasped.
Captain Daniels smiled, a smile that wasn't reflected in the gleaming brown eyes.
"Spare me your dramatics, my lord. The only thing I want from you is a divorce."
"No, Marlowe, I will not hear another word about my 'blushing bride' until I've a drink in my hand!"
The door hit the library wall with a crash as Justin Stephen Charles Delerue, Fifth Earl Smithton, strode toward the cupboard where he'd seen his host stash some inferior brandy. A small smile on his face, Peter Marlowe followed his best friend. It wasn't often he got to see Justin discomforted. They'd been close since school days, when Smithton had taken exception to three older boys pushing Marlowe around and had decided to even the odds.
Smithton poured a generous serving of the brandy.
"Keep pouring," Marlowe said dryly, "you're going to need it."
Smithton scowled as he shoved a glass into his friend's hand and Marlowe's grin broadened when he saw the green eyes narrow beneath the black curls that fell across Smithton's forehead.
Justin cursed beneath his breath. At five-and-twenty, he was too young to be entering into matrimony. His looks, title and money ensured there were always available women, and he had no desire to tie himself to anyone at this time. But circumstances had forced him across the world to this humid hellhole of St. Augustine. He followed in the wake of his father, who'd sailed here often for Delerue Shipping when Florida was under British dominion.
This was Justin's first trip to Florida and although he could think of a hundred places he'd rather be, most of them much cooler, he prepared for the inevitable the same way he'd learned to deal with most of his problems - see if he could turn it to his advantage and make a profit off the transaction.
His cronies sneered at his "tradesman's mentality," but he was used to ignoring other people's opinions. The Delerue family and its holdings, particularly Delerue Shipping, were enough to overcome the objections of the highest sticklers to those who actually worked at increasing wealth. This current venture was business as usual, as far as he was concerned.
Marlowe settled himself into a deep chair as Smithton braced a hip against the sideboard and swirled his brandy.
"You need to get some rest, Justin. You're still fatigued from our trip."
"It's this heat, Peter." Smithton grimaced as he took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. The humid air clogged his throat and made him long for the raw dryness of a winter's day. "I find most nights I toss and turn trying to find some relief."
Marlowe coughed into his hand. "You have to admit there are some compensations to our travels down the coast. Remember the ladies in Savannah?"
"Ah yes, Mrs. Fitzpatrick. She had the most amazing...indigo plantation. I was pleased to be able to meet in person one of Delerue Shipping's best customers." A fondly reminiscent smile crossed the Earl's handsome face as he recalled specific details of the widow's person. "But you're right, Peter, all that being feted can wear one out. Well, we will be concluding our business here in a few days, and then it's back home."
Marlowe winced at Smithton's casual reference to his upcoming nuptials as another "business" transaction, but he knew which way the wind blew and cleared his throat.
"While you were attending to affairs with your soon-to-be-uncle by marriage, I finished my reconnaissance mission..."
"You mean you got the tabbies in town to discuss my intended," Smithton muttered into his glass.
Marlowe inclined his head slightly. "Just so. The reports on Miss Christine Sanders were enlightening. Seems your betrothed will make a good dancing partner since she's described as 'overly tall', and to be more specific, is near six feet."
Smithton, who measured six feet, four inches in his tasseled boots, only raised his black eyebrows. "So my bride is long and lean. What of it?"
"Did I say she was lean?"
"Damn." The level of brandy in his glass dropped considerably.
"Actually, I'm assured Miss Sanders is of a size to keep you warm on winter nights."
More brandy disappeared.
"Further inquiry revealed her hair is a color that could only be described as...brown."
Justin carefully set down his glass and walked to the long windows that opened onto the enclosed courtyard. "Is there more?" he ground out, staring sightlessly at the gardens.
"She has a spotted complexion."
"Dear Lord," he murmured, passing his hand over his eyes. "Did anyone have anything positive to say about her?"
"Yes, actually. More than one person admitted Miss Sanders has amazingly beautiful eyes - large, brown and thickly lashed. And they said she was quick witted and friendly."
Smithton walked back to the table and the brandy decanter came into play again. He gazed morosely at the contents of his glass.
"Large, spotted, with big brown eyes. Do you realize, Peter, that you have just described a cow?"
Marlowe stopped smiling and looked at his friend with concern. "Justin, surely there must be another way - in London, you wouldn't glance twice at this girl, and here you are, halfway around the world in East Florida, preparing to be leg shackled to her. Can't you marry one of the other chits who've been eyeing you?"
"We've been over that ground. I need the marriage portion Miss Sanders will bring with her and I need it quickly. Before you protest about 'other girls', what you don't know is that our fathers pledged us to one another when she was still a babe. Apparently, my father was close to Daniel Sanders in their youth and because I was the second son, they thought it was a good idea to tie the two families together. Knowing how my father felt about me, I imagine he wanted me to settle in Florida, far away from England. It isn't going to happen now, but following the example of my forefathers I've decided if I can't pillage for the blunt, I'll marry for it."
"But Justin, surely now that you've inherited the title from your brother that agreement is no longer binding!"
Justin shrugged. "It is all the same to me. I need a wife with money and this one's available, even if she turns out to be un peu grosse for my taste. Look at the bright side, Peter - I can stick her on my estates and between the two of us we can breed a race of giants!"
The men's laughter as they exited covered the sound of the small gasp from the library loft.
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