When the ‘good’ man is bad, and the ‘bad’ man is good, how’s a young woman to choose?
#sweetromance, #pirates, #KeyWest, #SpanishAmericanWar, #badboy
Blurb: Tamsyn McKiernan thinks her dreams have come true. She’s engaged to a dashing Key West bachelor and finally in her widowed father’s good graces. But in her heart, she knows something’s wrong. She loves the ocean and the quiet pleasures of nature—so what does the aristocratic life she’ll lead truly hold for her?
Mercenary captain Drake Ashton is neck deep in preparations for the Spanish-American War, running guns and other supplies to Cuban natives who want out from under their Spanish masters. He and his brother Freddie risk their lives daily, focused on saving his friends on the island. Nothing else matters but his mission.
A chance encounter with a spiny sea urchin brings the two together, and neither of their lives will ever be the same again.
The wine would go straight to her head soon, she knew from previous, infrequent consumption, so she must sip it slowly. One of them had to keep their wits.
She felt the curious eyes of the crew, some shy, others bolder in their observation. Tamsyn smiled at them all. One broad, bullish man came forward with a blanket, which he spread on the deck. Drake clapped the man on the shoulder.
“Good thinking, Chaney. A picnic it will be!” He gestured to Tamsyn that she should seat herself, which she did without hesitation.
Within a few minutes, trays of food came up from belowdecks, chicken spit broiled with crispy skins, fruits and cheeses, Bahamian bread with a thick slab of butter. The men vied for the opportunity to serve her until Drake finally dismissed them with a laugh.
“Cook has enough for all below. Go take your supper. We may have some business awaiting us yet tonight.”
The men cheered and noisily went down to eat. The skinny cabin boy remained to serve his captain. Drake saw that the boy got a plate of food, then sent him away. “A few moments alone,” he whispered conspiratorially.
“Just a few,” she said with a sad smile. “Then I must—”
Drake held up a finger, silencing her. “Not a word of that now.”
Tamsyn started to argue, then realized he would just cut her off again. It was right. What might happen in a minute, in an hour, would not be changed if she took the time to immerse herself in the joy and comfort of this time with Drake.
The food smelled so good in the fresh night air, and Drake urged her to taste everything, from sweet melons to spicy chicken. It was simple fare, but it satisfied her more than any of the expensive delicacies that had been served at the Pickhams’ buffet. Surely it is the company which has improved my appetite. Drake’s dark eyes danced in the moonlight, and he often turned to her with a smile, perhaps wanting to say something but reluctant to break the spell they seemed to be under.
But not yet, Mamma, not yet…Can you see me, Mamma? Tamsyn wondered silently. Can you see how happy I am?
He said, “An old Cuban woman taught me one evening as we sat around a fire at a rebel camp, drums beating in the distance, smoke in the air. She leaned close to me and took my hand, just as I’m holding yours now, and told me my future, showing me how the lines of my palm intersected and moved apart.” He examined her face, more serious. “I never believed a word until now.”
Tamsyn was thoroughly intrigued, her curious streak in high gear. “What did she say?”
“She told me a time would come when a young woman would rescue me. That woman, she said, would be…” He stared at her, intently watching her face.
His deep gaze hypnotized her. She could almost smell the camp smoke, so taken was she. “Would be what?”
“Would be—” He shook his head. “It’s not important. Something about love.”
Tamsyn pulled her hand back sharply. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with me, then.” She turned and walked away in the direction of her carriage. But she lost one of her sandals in a sudden rush of water and stepped hard onto white coral rock. “Ow!”
“Allow me,” he said behind her. Before she could argue, he scooped her up in his arms. As she protested, he replied, “I told you I was in your debt. Please permit me to repay you.” Ashton’s boots easily traversed the rocks, his arms strong around her. He smelled of salt water and the ocean breeze, and she felt gentleness within him as he carried her.
It would be better if Drake was happy for Tamsyn’s good fortune. She’d not want for anything material as the wife of Winslow—no doubt, a beautiful house and gardens, a fine carriage, a husband whose future was financially secure.
His own fortunes lay along a much different path.
If Drake were to be caught by the Spaniards, it wasn’t likely he’d live to be tried for the crime back on the mainland. The Spanish were known for their quick tempers and sharp swords. The mercenary trade paid him well, for now, and if the buzzing rumors he’d heard on the Pickham veranda were true, war would come within the year. Guns were a prime commodity in time of war. He always carried rum when he returned from the islands, of course, and sugar and tropical fruits, to cover his real motives. He had not been interdicted yet. As young men often did, he played the odds and planned to beat them.
For the first time, however, that focus was shaken by thoughts of this woman.
What distinguished Tamsyn MacKiernan from the other women he’d met in a hundred different ports? Drake couldn’t put his finger on it. He just knew she appealed to his heart in a way that possessed him. She held an intriguing blend of strength and vulnerability, stomach ironclad in the face of blood yet timid as a lost waif left alone in the midst of the ball. He wanted to know her better.
But she was to be married. Even if he had been able to marry her, even though he had a proper home with a hired woman to maintain it, it was nothing compared with the empire Winslow would command in a few years. Drake knew he had no business thinking Tamsyn might prefer a lonely pirate to the golden boy.
Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.
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