Marisol Castellan is in trouble--again. Against her pirate father's orders, she snuck off their ship to intercept a message meant for a rival captain, one that offers a clue to the whereabouts of her estranged brother Monte.
Pirate captain Blade Tyburn is not pleased to find the letter he's been waiting for is missing. He's even less pleased when he discovers the thief is a raven-haired beauty who bewitches his senses and muddles his thinking. The note gives the location of a silver-laden ship that'll make his fortune; Blade must find it, and if that means bringing Marisol along on the voyage, so be it.
Marisol believes Monte sails on the very ship Blade is to meet and strikes a deal with the handsome rogue. If he will give her passage to her brother, she will give him the exact location he needs. And both will get more than they expected...
Puerto Plata, Hispaniola, 1726
"Crazy wench. Let go!"
Marisol tightened her grip on the coarse barrel of the pistol poised a mere inch from her face. Death's diseased aroma wafted over her with the depraved wretch's breath. A frenzy of alarm pumped through her veins, fueling new untapped strength. "Bloody hell, I will!"
She struggled with him, unwilling to release his gun and reach for her own weapon. She pushed and pulled with the ruffian in a gruesome dance of sorts, a ballet amid the squalid dregs and wet filth of the dark alley. Their curses and grunts chased the shrouded silence back up the stone walls. No passerby would take notice, no more than they would a cheap strumpet and her jack.
Marisol slipped on the slick cobblestones and, losing her balance, brought the vile man down with her.
The pistol went off. An unforgiving percussion echoed down the alley.
He landed on top of her, knocking the wind from her lungs. Sharp pain sliced through her back with the force of the fall. A moment passed, then another.
The man's weight crushed against her. She gulped shallow, tainted breaths in the pocket of air between his shirt collar and sweaty neck. I must get free. Marisol thrashed beneath the cur. Fear urging her on, she pressed against his chest and shoved him off, rolling him to his back. She scuttled to her knees. But he didn't move, didn't get up to finish her off.
What have I done?
Marisol dropped the gun. Blood on her hands trickled down between shaky fingers. She stared at them, turning her hands over to see the crooked red pathways on her skin. Even in the shadows, the deep color glistened. Slowly, she curled her fingers into fists, resting them on her knees, and looked down at the dead man before her. The blood from his chest wound filtered through his tunic, spreading down his side. Spent gunpowder still singed her nose.
Numb emotions lingered beneath her breastbone. She willed herself not to think of him as a man who might be mourned by someone who loved him, a mother, or a wife with children. Would they be waiting for him? Wondering when he would return home?
No. No pity would be spared for the likes of him, a paltry criminal. Had Alain taught her nothing about survival? Warm your rum with the blood of another, for if the bastard gets the chance, your course will be run and the devil will have you.
She would not let the compassion seize her heart. Leave that for the weak-minded.
Marisol took one quick glance around the darkened back street. She wiped the blood against her lap then reached into the dead man's coat, searching his pockets. She pulled out a pouch containing silver coins, three of them. Marisol forced a smile. How fortunate. Something for her troubles. She stuffed the pouch into the folds of her dress.
Continuing her search, her hand grazed across paper in another pocket. She smiled again as she picked up and read the letter for which she'd been searching. The missive was cryptic but given more time she would be able to decipher it. With any luck, it would reveal the information she so desperately sought, information that could lead her to her missing brother. She would do anything to find Monte. Marisol glanced down at the corpse. Perhaps she had become too desperate. Foolish man. You really should've been more careful.