Love sweet historical romance with a dash of magic? Here’s a free sneak preview — as our heroine avoids a forced marriage, but finds herself on a strange ship with a whole new set of problems! (Including a handsome, grouchy captain who didn’t plan on an extra passenger — especially as his cabin-mate!) Read on!
A broad chest rose from the bed as the man leaned over the edge to peer down at me. Bit by bit, the room seemed to be growing a teensy bit brighter, or perhaps my eyes were adjusting to the gloom. But I couldn’t quite make out his face.
That voice, though. There was something oddly familiar about that voice.
Suddenly a flood of memories came rushing back. The fight at the inn. That same thick, strong arm wound tightly about my waist, guiding me to safety. The humorous quirk to his lips as the Captain watched me from the corner. The hard glint in his eyes as he’d downed tumbler after tumbler of rum.
The pounding in my head gave way to a sudden sinking in my stomach.
More bits and pieces of last evening came floating back, like wisps of a bad dream. Someone brandishing a bottle, hurtling toward us. The Captain turning to face the oncoming danger. My hands smacking hard against the cool plaster wall of the inn. But as for what had happened afterwards? I could dredge up no trace of it.
So now I was – well, where exactly was I?
As if reading my thoughts, the shadowy figure huffed and slid back down in the bed again, one arm flung across his face.
“’Twas a most exciting night for both of us, it seems,” he growled. “With far too much rum in it, on my part at least. As for how you came to be here, I confess I’m as much in the dark as you are, though I do have my suspicions. Nevertheless, as you can see, somehow or other we’ve managed to spend the night tucked snug away in my bunk together.”
“Your bunk?!” I gulped. “We’re on your ship?”
That explained the whole rock-a-bye feeling. But now a new set of questions raised their ugly heads.
I straightened to a sitting position on the floor, ignoring the persistent throb in my head.
“Are we still at New London?” A beat went by in silence. I found myself holding my breath as I waited.
“Afraid not. By the feel of the waves, we’re already well beyond Long Island Sound and out into open ocean.”
Another drawn-out pause. Then a soft, wry chuckle. “So I suppose I should bid you a proper ‘welcome aboard’ the Tarolinta. My name is Phillip. Now perhaps you’d care to tell me yours, since it seems we’ve never been properly introduced?”
Really? This stranger and I were to be first-name acquaintances, as if we were cousins or had known each other all our lives? My initial instinct was to sputter a tart objection. But I quickly thought the better of it and instead clamped my lips shut.
Whoever this stranger was, he and I had apparently both been caught up by surprise. I wasn’t afraid of him – after all, he’d tried to rescue me at the inn. I checked myself. Well, so far he’d given me no reason to be afraid.
Better to keep a friend than make an enemy.
“Hetty. My name’s Hetty Pritchard.” I flicked a hand to my left shoulder, where a cool breeze had been tickling my bare skin. Ah, an open seam where my dress had torn apart. Lovely. Well, that explained the feeling of exposed skin.
I was, quite clearly, going nowhere right now.
Phillip – he still hadn’t shared his last name – must have felt my legs sliding uneasily back in the bunk. Unseen in the darkness, a hand tugged the rough woolen blanket up to my waist. Then the shape beside me rolled over, shifted deeper into the shadows. Was he trying to offer me a touch of modesty?
Flat on my back again, I stared up at the inky darkness. My head still throbbed from its unhappy encounter with the beam. But as the minutes ticked by, the rolling of my stomach managed to subside, bit by bit. As long as I was flat on my back, it seemed, my traitorous stomach would remain blessedly under control.
Soon, a series of soft snores from the shape beside me added their cadence to the rush of the waves against the hull.
At first, my fingers knotted the edge of the blanket. The skin on my arms tingled, as if all-too-aware of the large, warm, male body not a foot away in the bunk.
Waking up in a bunk together? Seasickness and throbbing head aside, this was a completely unthinkable mess.
I needed answers. What exactly had happened to bring me here? And what on earth was I going to do now? Or more properly, what were we going to do? Because this complete stranger and I were now part of this pickle together.
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