Within A Captain’s Hold by Lisa Olech
Captain Jaxon Steele is a tall, sun-bronzed, fierce-fighting Pirate King. He and the notorious crew of the Scarlet Night are both feared and respected for their ruthless reputation. The Captain’s only love is the open sea and the ship he calls home. When it comes to women, he has three rules: never sleep with another’s wife, don’t take virgins into bed, and most importantly, never bring a woman aboard—that brings the worst luck of all.
Annalise Gatherone has to leave London—tonight! Usually her only concern is the color of her latest gown, but now she’s choosing between life and death. Desperate to escape the clutches of an evil Duke, she stows away aboard the Scarlet Night, hoping she’s bound for Port St. Maria. Winning Captain Jaxon’s affections, she just might sneak by unharmed. But when her plans are altered in ways she never imagined, she must batten down the hatches for a journey into unknown waters…
Captain Jaxon Steele buttoned the flap of his breeches. He turned and tossed his favorite wench a coin. She slipped the gold piece into the tight cleft of her cleavage. How many coins had disappeared into that fleshy purse?
“Madam, a pleasure.”
Giselle rose, pulled the edges of her worn silk robe closed, and tied the belt loosely about her waist. She handed him his linen shirt and stayed close as he pulled it over his head.
“Can’t you stay?” She ran her hands over his shoulders, smoothing the fabric and pressing her body against his. “You smell like fresh sea air. So handsome, too. Your whole body’s been kissed golden by the sun.” She toyed with his earring and ran her fingertips down his chest, tugging gently on the dark hair.
“Do you have any idea the pale, ugly creatures I’m called to service?” Her voice purred low and graveled like the sand beneath his feet when he walked along the shore.
Jaxon caught her hand as she slid it boldly past his waist. The silver bracelets crowding her wrist clattered.
“The Scarlet Night sails on the tide.”
“Leaky tub. Sail tomorrow.”
He put her away from him and continued dressing. “Set sail on a Friday?” He wound a crimson sash snug about his waist. No seaman would take such a risk. “It’s bad luck.”
“Well, how about another go? I won’t even charge you.”
“I’ve dallied too long already.” Jaxon crossed the cluttered room to the looking glass. Paste beads and a length of faded pink feathers hung from its corners.
He pulled his hair back into a tidy queue.
Giselle went to the mirror and pushed at the stray curls circling her painted face. She fixed a smudged red lip and splashed more foul-smelling, floral stink behind each ear from a crystal stopped bottle. “Fine.” She flicked her hand at him. “If you’re going, go. I’ve more important things to do. I may have to strangle a man.” Giselle moved back to the bed, jerked up the faded cover, and punched at its garish pillows. “I swear if I cross paths with a certain duke, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”
“You’ve lost me.”
Giselle heaved a dramatic sigh and pouted as she examined her fingernails. “Weren’t you in a hurry to leave?”
You’re between me and the door, woman. “Nay.” Impatience clipped his words. The muscle in his jaw twitched. “Tell me about this soon-to-be strangled duke. Did he forget the proper gratuity?”
“If only it were that simple, I’d just have his noble nose broken.” She rolled her eyes. “No, he came to the house two nights back and paid three times the rate for an innocent. He told me he only wanted the girl if I could swear she was a virgin. A real popinjay with lace cuffs, high wig, and red-heeled shoes.”
Giselle poured herself a glass of wine and took a healthy swallow. “We found her almost dead next morning. He’d torn her and beat her. She was a bloody mess. Cost me a pretty coin to call a surgeon, too. He didn’t think she’d survive. I’m not sure she’ll ever be right in her mind again.
Next day, the duke sends his man. Stuck-up jackanapes. With a damn sack of coins. Said he’d shut me down if I talked, or worse.”
Disgust turned sour in Jaxon’s stomach. “Bloody hell. What’s the bastard’s name?”
She scoffed. “I don’t ask names, and they sure as hell don’t pull up to my door in their crested coaches. Our doorman said his hitch bore a gilt monogram on its door. It read BW.”
“I could leave a couple of my men behind.”
“He wouldn’t be fool enough to come back. I told his man I’d dump his satined arse in the Thames with the rest of the filth if he ever crossed my threshold again, and no amount of gold would save his hide.” Giselle finished her wine. “Besides, I’ve got my own protection. The last thing I need is two of your pirates around here sniffing after my girls.”
“Privateers now, my dear.” Jaxon picked up his buff leather coat and thick baldric.
“Pirates, privateers. You mean to tell me there’s a difference?”
Jaxon puffed his chest a bit. “Means King Willie can’t fit me for a necktie and the well-heeled gentlemen of the ton tolerate my presence for a scant minute longer than before.”
“How lucky for you.” Giselle flipped the end of her nose with a finger. “Would you care to hear how long they tolerate me?”
He laughed as he bent to slide his feet into tall, black bucket-topped boots. “I’d guess about thirty seconds longer than it takes them to drop their pants.”
He dodged the pillow she threw at him.
“Take your smart mouth and get out before I forget my fondness for you.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to leave some protection behind? Suppose he is fool enough to come back?”
Giselle shook her head. “I’m not afraid. He would never get past the boys downstairs. I’m safer than the bloody crown jewels.”
* * * *
About the Author:
Lisa is an artist/writer living in her dream house nestled among the lakes in New England. She loves getting lost in a steamy book, finding the perfect pair of sexy shoes, and hearing the laughter of her men. Being an estrogen island in a sea of testosterone makes her queen. She believes in ghosts, silver linings, the power of a man in a tuxedo, and happy endings.
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