The first time Miss Bryn Rutherford meets Captain Kitt Sherard, he scales her balcony and kisses her breathless! And after years of trying to behave, she can't help but think Kitt's piratical wildness is just what she needs. So when she must venture across the Caribbean seas, only one man will do
Daredevil Kitt agrees to helpas long as Bryn plays by his rules. And that means hands off! Except, trapped aboard, the chemistry between them hits fever pitch. Now it's only a question of who'll break the rules first!
Rakes of the Caribbean
Sun, Sand and Sizzling Seduction
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The CaribbeanJune 1836
'Protect the rum!' Kitt Sherard raced forward on the beach to throw himself between the oncoming attackers and the newly unloaded cargo of precious barrels. 'It's a trap!' A pistol flashed in one hand, his knife in the other as the words left his mouth, the cry carrying down the line to be taken up by his men. 'Protect the rum! Protect the rum!' He felt his men surge behind him, his first mate, Will Passemore, at his right, digging his bare feet into the sand, ready to take on the thick of the fighting.
Anger fuelled Kitt, pumping through his body over the betrayal. This was supposed to have been a standard trade done in the light of broad day; rum for farming supplies. The afternoon sun beating down on them was proof enough of that, but somewhere, something had gone wrong. There was no time to sort through it at present.
Cries echoed throughout the deserted cove as the first of the attackers emerged from the pack. Kitt took aim at the man's shoulder and fired, hoping the draw of first blood would cause the bandits to retreat. He meant business when rum was on the line, especially when that rum belonged to a friend, but he never liked to take a life.
The man clutched his arm and fell back, only to be overrun by his fellow outlaws. So much for deterrence. 'Get ready, this means war,' Kitt muttered under his breath. 'These bastards won't go easily.'
'We'll manage them, Captain.' Beside him, Passe-more's jaw was set with grim determination.
The horde was on them, then. With one roar, Kitt's men met the m lée. Kitt threw aside his pistol. This was knife work now. He stabbed wherever he could, quick, sharp jabs to shoulders, thighs, an occasional belly when there was no choice. Sweat ran in his face and he fought the urge to wipe it away with a hand. The bandits were tenacious, Kitt would give them that. At last they began to fall backthe sight of their fallen comrades was persuasion enough that whatever they were being paid wasn't worth it. 'Come on, boys, we've got them on the run!' Kitt yelled over the fighting, leading the charge to drive the bandits from the cove.
They fled with relative speed, dragging their wounded with them. Will was ahead of him, firing a pistol into the fleeing rabble. A man went down and Will leapt on him, blade drawn. 'No!' Kitt swerved to Will's side. 'We need him alive. Get him back to the ship and get him patched up. I want to know who is behind this.'
'Aye, aye!' Will said with a relish that made Kitt grin. The younger man reminded him of himself six or so years ago when he'd begun this adventure. Will hefted the man over a shoulder with a grunt. 'C'mon, you stupid bastard.'
With Will headed back to the bumboats with the wounded man and the bandits scrambling the island hills to protection, Kitt organised the beach. 'Let's get the barrels back on board, men! Look livelywe don't want them thinking about organising a counter-attack.' Kitt doubted they would. His men had given them quite a drubbing, but he knew from experience one did not take chances in this business.
Even though he'd not expected trouble this afternoon, he'd come armed, just in case. Kitt helped roll a barrel towards the bumboats, his thoughts chasing each other around in his mind. There'd been reports these last four months of bandit crews operating in the area, stealing rum and sugar from small merchant trading ships that sailed between the islands.
For the most part, Kitt hadn't taken those reports seriously. Small merchant ships, many of them more like boats and not in the best of shape, were often unarmed and undermanned when it came to fighting. They made easy targets, unlike his ship, Queen of the Main. Small-time bandits would prefer small-time targets. Only today, they hadn't.
Kitt ran a hand through his hair, surveying the beach. All the barrels were loaded and the men were ready to go. Kitt gave the signal to shove off and leapt into the bow of the nearest boat. It had been the worst of luck the bandits had chosen today, when he'd been hauling his friend Ren Dryden's rum. Ren would be disappointed.
Kitt had protected the rum, which was no small thing in this part of the world where rum and sugar were still the currency of the land. But on the downside, Ren had been counting on this trade to purchase much-needed farming supplies. Now, Ren was without a sale and without the goods he and his wife needed for the upcoming harvest. He didn't relish telling Ren he'd failed.
Ahead in the water, Kitt could see the first boat bump up against the side of the Queen. He could make out Will hauling their prisoner up to the deck in a rope sling. Kitt hoped the prisoner would provide some answers.
Aboard ship, Will had bad news. 'I don't think we can save him, Captain. He took the ball in the back. It's lodged in his spine. You'd better come quick. It's beyond O'Reilly's skill.' Not surprising news given that O'Reilly's 'skill' was relegated to stitching knife wounds.
The man was laid out on the deck, unable to be moved any further. The pain of his injury was evident in the pallor of his skin. Fear was evident, too, Kitt thought as he knelt beside him. The man knew death was coming. Kitt saw it in his eyes. 'Aye, man, it won't be long now,' Kitt said softly, motioning for his crew to give them room.
Kitt lay a hand on the man's forehead. 'Is there anything you want to tell me? Anyone you want me to notify?'
The manor was he a boy?shook his head. Up close, beneath the dirt and sweat, he didn't look as old as Passemore. Or perhaps they all looked like boys when they died, all pretence of bravery stripped away when it came right down to it. His brother had looked very much the same way in the last hour they'd spent together, the enormity of what was about to transpire etched in every ashen line of his face.
'All right then,' Kitt soothed him. 'May I ask who sent you? Who paid you?'
The man struggled to speak as the pain took him. There was urgency in his gaze. His words were halting. 'They. Are. Waiting. For. You. If. We. Failed. Don't. Go. Back.' His features relaxed, his breathing rattled. 'Am. I. Forgiven?' The question of every dying man.
Kitt pressed a kiss to the man's forehead and gave him the only absolution he could. 'Your debt is paid. Rest in peace.' The man breathed once more and was gone. Kitt rose. His crew was solemn around him. Kitt clapped a hand on O'Reilly's shoulder, his tone sombre. 'You know what to do, take it from here. Make sure I have anything of note that he carried.' In case there was a message to convey after all, or a clue as to who 'they' were, or even the man's name.
Shadows were falling by the time they put into port at Carlisle Bay and rowed ashore. Bridgetown was quiet for the evening, all the shops closed, people at home with their families. Out at Sugarland, Ren and Emma would be preparing to sit down to an evening meal. Kitt smiled, thinking of his friend and Ren's newfound happiness as a husband, a landowner, a man in charge of shaping his own destiny. It was what Ren wanted out of life. It was what Kitt had once assumed would have been his, too, by right, a future he'd been raised to expect without question up until the hour it was snatched away, no longer an option. Six years in and he was still grasping just how long for ever was.
Don't think on it, remembering can't change anything. The dying man had made him maudlin. Tonight, such ruminations were best set aside in light of the dead man's warning. He couldn't afford the distraction no matter what sentiments the man had conjured.
Normally, this was a time of day Kitt enjoyed, for a while anyway. Dusk was a break between the hustle of his days and the activity of his nights. Staying busy was critical in keeping his mind focused on the present. Too much solitude, too much quiet, and he knew from experience his mind would drift to less pleasant considerations best left in the past. This evening, though, the usual peace of dusk was absent. Menace stalked the stillness.
Maybe he was paranoid. Did he believe the dying man's warning? Or was it one last lie? If so, it was certainly a powerful one. Kitt could hardly afford to ignore it. He dipped his hand into the top of his boot and drew his knife. If there was an attack, there'd be no time to draw it later. He had rooms in a boarding house just off Bay Street past the governor's mansion for nights when it was too late to go home or when business detained him in town, as it did this evening. He was due at the Crenshaws' for dinner. The distance wasn't far, although tonight it seemed like miles.
At the end of Bay Street, the shadows moved. In one stealthy motion, they were upon him, three against one. One of them leapt on his back, trying to push him down, but Kitt was ready. He smashed the body into the wall of a nearby building, stunning the first attacker. His back to the wall, Kitt whirled, knife in hand, to face the other two. They were big, swarthy men. Kitt assessed the situation instantly. They would want to make the first move, would want to crowd him against the wall so that he had no room to move. They were operating under the assumption that he would fight. Kitt grinned. He would seize the advantage and take them by surprise. Knife at the ready, head lowered like a bull, he rushed them, pushing one aside with enough of a shove to keep the man off balance, and then he kept going.
But the men were fast and willing to give chase. They were closing on him. Kitt spied a house with lights on. That would do. He tore through the little gate separating the house from the street and streaked through the garden. He needed to get up and in. Ah, a trellis! A balcony! Perfect.
Kitt planted his foot on the bottom rung of the trellis and climbed upward, feeling the trellis bend under the pressure of his weight at every step. He grabbed the railing of the balcony and hauled himself up, his foot kicking the trellis to the ground as a precaution just in case the men were fool enough to try. Kitt threw himself over the railing and drew a breath of relief. He lay on his back, looking up at the sky and exhaled. It had been one hell of a day. Maybe he was getting too old for this.
He'd just got to his feet, feeling assured the would-be assassins had given up and ready to think about what to do next, when the balcony door opened. 'Who's there?' A woman in a white-satin dressing gown stepped outside, her mouth falling open at the sight of him.
Only quick thinking and quicker reflexes prevented a scream from erupting. Kitt grabbed the woman and pulled her to him, his mouth covering hers, swallowing her scream. He'd only meant to silence her, but God, those soft, full breasts of hers felt good against him. She was naked beneath the dressing robe, a fact every curve and plane of her pressed against him made evident.
Maybe it was the adrenaline of the day, but all he wanted to do was fall into her. His intrepid lady didn't seem to mind. She'd not shut her mouth against his invasion, her body had not tried to pull away. It was all the invitation he needed. His lips started to move, his tongue caressing the inside of her mouth, running over her teeth. Ah, his lady had a sweet tooth! She tasted of peppermints and smelled of her bath, all lemon and lavender where he breathed in her skin. She was all womanly heat against him, her tongue answering him with an exploration of its own.
Kitt nipped at her lower lip, eliciting a surprised gasp. His hand moved to cup her breast, kneading it through the slippery satin, the belt of her robe coming loose. He slipped a hand inside, making contact with warm, lemon-and-lavender-scented skin, his arousal starting to peak. He had no doubt she could feel it against her thighs where their bodies met.
An ill-timed knock on her door interrupted the pleasant interlude, followed by worried masculine tones. 'Is everything all right in there?' Kitt knew a moment's panic. There were only so many explanations for a voice like that. A father? A brother? A fiancé? Or worst of all, a husband?
His lady jumped away, her grey eyes wide as she mouthed the words, My father! But she was cool under pressure. Panic was already receding as she stared at him, assessing her choices and their advantages. Would she give him away? Kitt gave her a wicked smile to indicate there were definite benefits to keeping his secret. She smiled back. Apparently the decision was made.
She called into the room, loud enough to be heard through the door. 'Everything's fine, I heard a crash. It's nothing, just the trellis again.' And then, perhaps realising someone might come in anyway to be sure she was safe, she added hastily, 'I'm, um, getting dressed. I'll be down in a moment.'
Satisfied she would be left alone, she turned towards Kitt, hands on hips. 'Now, for the question of the night, who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?'
Kitt grinned, letting his eyes appreciably roam the length of her. His rescuer was strikingly attractive. Long chestnut hair hung down her back in a heavy, shiny curtain, the sharp planes of her cheek bones and cool grey eyes creating the impression of intelligence. This was no unseasoned Miss. Maybe things were starting to look up. His cock certainly thought so. He leaned back against the railing, arms crossed over his chest, making no attempt to hide his arousal. 'My name is Kitt and what I'm doing in your bedroom is entirely up to you.'