Under threat of arrest, Ben fled England for Port Royal, leaving behind everything except his hard-won skills. He’s heard of the Brethren of the Coast, a rough brotherhood of men who take what they want and love where they please. If they are welcome in the most sinful city in the New World, Ben is certain he can build a new life there.
But Port Royal is a dangerous place for new arrivals. Ben is saved from a dreadful fate by Robert Lightfoot, a ruthless pirate whose smile is as vivid as the scar that ruined his face.
Rob leads Ben down a path he never believed possible. And then dumps him as casually as he picked him up. Furious and hurt, Ben vows to never be any man’s fool again.
But are Rob’s actions what they seem? Before Ben knows it, a gang of pirates draw him into a daring and dangerous adventure. If he survives, he’ll never be the same again.
Pirate Booty, coming soon to your favourite ebook store!
Rhythmic rush of water. Cool breeze tickling his skin. Jesu, why was it so cold? Ben groped for the blankets. A soft, grainy surface yielded beneath his searching hands.
Not his bed at the Feathers. Not a floor either. He cracked open his eyes. Pale blades of grass poked up through sandy dirt. He was outside. Had he passed out in the street?
Groaning, he rolled over and sat up. Pain speared through his skull, taking a sharp path down his spine. He yelped, clutching his head, panting as he fought the urge to spew. The nausea subsided slowly. He rubbed grit from his eyes, taking stock of his surroundings.
Grey sea, touched with silver by dawn’s tentative fingers, spread to a dim horizon. Just beyond his toes, clear waves lapped the pale sand. Behind him, lush bushes and palm trees dotted the higher ground. To his right, empty beach disappeared around a headland. More beach stretched to his left, and in the distance rose dark mountains.
He was not even in Port Royal.
“Where the hell am I?” he muttered under his breath. “And how the hell did I get here?”
Closing his eyes, he cradled his aching head. Last night he had left the Feathers for a punch house on the other side of town. And then? He searched his fractured memory for clues.
A crowded room, thick with smoke, echoing with music and chatter. Rum punch, tangy on his tongue with sweet pine and sour lemon. A handsome man, all smiling blue eyes and wandering hands. Leaving the tavern arm in arm in search of privacy. A dark, noisome alley and a shove in his back. Sprawling face first. Hands inside his coat. The chink of coin as his purse was taken. A low laugh, the swish of a cudgel, and then black nothing.
Ben grimaced. He should have known better than to trust a stranger in a town like Port Royal.
“Only got yourself to blame, Ben,” he groaned.
Well, himself and the local kill-devil rum, which had led him to throw his usual caution to the winds. Or rather, had unlocked his shameful needs. All things considered, he was lucky to be alive. Being robbed, knocked out, and dumped in the middle of nowhere was a fitting punishment for both his foolishness and his sin.
He had to still be in Jamaica, but where? Perhaps someone could direct him back to Port Royal. He cocked an ear. Naught but the hush of the waves and the calls of birds greeting the rising sun. He sniffed. The only smells were briny sea air and the nutty scent of vegetation. No wood smoke or cooking food that would indicate a nearby house or settlement.
He was alone.
Yet he could not rid himself of the sensation he was being watched. He tried to shake it off. The sheer loneliness of this deserted beach was affecting his imagination.
Licking dry lips with a tongue that felt like a piece of leather, he cast a longing glance at the sea. Undrinkable. He should go in search of water, if nothing else. He rose to one knee, wincing when a sharp rock stabbed. He looked down.
Ben fell back onto his arse. Seeing his feet bare had not sunk through his foggy thoughts, and now he touched his torso to reinforce what his eyes told him. That slimy shit-sack thief had not just taken his purse. His new boots and every stitch of clothing on his back were gone.
He cradled his head again, cursing himself. If only he had the strength to deny his sinful desires, he would not be in this position.
“If only you had, you wouldn’t be in bloody Jamaica,” he told himself savagely. “Seems even exile can’t teach you the lesson.”
But there was no point bemoaning his fate. Naked or clothed, he had to find his way back to town. Limbs stiff, head aching, he staggered to his feet.
The rising sun hid behind the mountains. Movement caught his eye in the growing light. Two men, one carrying a burlap sack, the other wearing a bright blue doublet, ambled through the brush. Heart lifting, he shouted and waved. Picking up speed, they altered their course to head in his direction.
Feeling as exposed as a bishop caught in a brothel, Ben looked around for something to cover himself. A fallen palm leaf was large enough to protect his dignity. Careful to avoid the spines, he held it in front of his groin.
Blue Doublet called out, “Are you lost?” His accent was strange to Ben’s ears.
“Ay,” called Ben. “And, er—” He gestured to the leaf sheltering his privates. “I was robbed.”
They were closer now, and Ben could see their faces. They looked foreign, somehow. Not English, anyway. Spaniards? A frisson of fear trickled down his spine. While England and Spain were at peace, treaties mattered little across that invisible line separating the Old World from the New. Here in the Caribbean, Spaniards were the enemy of all.
Mayhap his apprehension showed in his face, for Blue Doublet smiled and splayed his hands to show he had no weapon. “Never fear, we shall help you.”
Ben let out his breath, his shoulders relaxing. Suddenly, a waist-high thicket nearby shook wildly. Ben’s heart seized. Was some deadly creature hidden within, about to attack?
A musket roared, splitting the peace of the morning.
Ben choked off a scream. Blue Doublet reeled backwards, clutching his chest. He crashed into his mate, and they both fell to the ground. Ears ringing from the shocking explosion, Ben turned to run.
“Stop!” barked a voice.
A man rose from the bush, freeing himself from tangling twigs with a curse as he stepped onto the bare ground. With his tall boots and weapon-heavy baldric, he looked like one of the infamous pirates that infested Port Royal. Or used to, before most of them fled Jamaica. Ben was too busy staring at the dark eye of a pistol in the pirate’s hand to take in much else.
“Don’t you go nowhere,” said the pirate.
The sensual growl echoed through Ben. Warmth swirled in his blood while his skin prickled as if teased by a feather. Distantly, he noted an oddity. Most English sailors, pirate or otherwise, hailed from port cities like Bristol or Portsmouth, but this pirate had an accent straight from the streets of London.
Blue Doublet lay facedown in the sand. His mate was scrambling to his knees. Seeing the pirate approach, he cowered and held out his hands in supplication. The pirate rolled Blue Doublet over with a booted foot. Blood flowered red on his white shirt, and his jaw sagged open.
He was dead.
Ben hauled in a swift breath. He had just witnessed a cold-blooded murder. His mind leapt about frantically, looking for a way to survive this situation. He had no weapon. No way to defend himself or to stop the pirate killing the other man. The best course was to run for help. There had to be some sort of settlement or plantation nearby.
But he was well within range of that long-nosed pistol. He might risk running from another man, but he dared not from this one. The pirates of Port Royal—the Brethren of the Coast, as they called themselves—were famed for their deadly marksmanship.
The pirate pointed his weapon at the kneeling man. “Who are you?”
“Rubio! Me llamo Rubio!”
“I have questions, Rubio. Answer me soothly or die.”
“Te lo contaré todo,” whined the man. “Promise to me I shall live!”
After a tense moment, during which Rubio hiccoughed a terrified sob, the pirate replied, “Very well, I give you my word. Prometo que vivirás.”
Occupied with Rubio, the pirate seemed to have forgotten Ben existed. Reason urged him to run and not look back, yet something tempted him to stay and watch. Something? Nay, nothing more than sheer, sordid lust. The thing that had already plunged him into so much trouble.
Listen to your bloody reason for once, Ben. Get the hell out of here.
Ben sidled backwards. He got no more than three steps when the pirate swung around, yanking out a second pistol and levelling it at his face. Ben jerked to a stop, staring at his captor. The pirate’s eyes were strikingly pale against his deep tan. Pale and cold; the eyes of a predator, penetrating to Ben’s very thoughts. A warning shivered across his skin.
As he stared, unable to look away, and a gleam lightened the ice-blue gaze.
It should have been reassuring.
It was not.