Here’s your sneak peek of Beneath Black Sails, book 1 in a new adult fantasy series.
Pirates, magic, and romance, oh my!
“A great fantasy romance with … classic enemies-to-lovers tropes … Recommend for fans of Miranda Honfleur or Alex Lidell’s Tides series.”~ Rachel Feek, Goodreads reviewer
“Unashamedly fun”~ OldBird, Goodreads reviewer
At the bow of the ship’s boat, Vice stood and surveyed the island she’d chosen. A hill rose at its centre, and a slender stream carved a line through the rainforest, so they’d have fresh water. Sun beat upon the curve of a white sandy beach. If they were smart, they’d light a signal fire there, attract the attention of some passing ship.
If they weren’t, they’d die.
There were plenty of ways to die on an island like this. Scorched by the sun. Thirst. Starvation. Poisoned by a tasty-looking manchineel. Or the simple violence of one-time colleagues turned competition for food and water.
“Why do you listen to those animals?” The former captain’s gruff voice rose behind her.
She sighed and rolled her eyes, turning to him.
He huddled in the boat with his surviving crew. Even torn, his blue coat, so like a Navy uniform, must have been baking in this sun, but he kept it on. Maybe he was clinging to some sense of order. The fifteen men around him eyed her from beneath lowered eyebrows, mouths set, some with bloodied noses or cut foreheads.
Between them, ten of The Morrigan’s crew sat at the oars, backs to her. Beyond, at the little craft’s tiller, Perry raised her eyebrows at Vice, a grin making her teeth flash bright against her sun-beaten skin. She was enjoying this almost as much as Vice. It wasn’t every day you got to maroon the officers of a slave ship.
“Those animals?” Vice said, shaking her head. “Tsk, tsk, captain. That’s exactly why you’re in this mess.”
“I’m in this mess because you’re a pirate, but I thought even the notorious Lady Vice would put the wellbeing of her own countrymen above some foreign slaves.”
“My own countrymen understand Albion outlawed slavery centuries ago. My own countrymen understand that owning another person is an affront to the fae and they’d never court such disaster as pissing them off so bloody royally. The moment you took slaves on your ship, you ceased to be Albionic, in my book.”
Never mind the fact it was plain wrong to claim to own another person – the way he spoke, he’d never understand that. She stood over him, looking down at his miserable face. “And away with your damn scruples flew any leniency I might have shown you for the sake of our shared country.”
The muscles in his jaw rippled, seething.
This might require some intervention.
With a breath, she opened her fae-blooded gift to the rolling sea beneath them. The tide pushed its way towards the small island. A current drifted across the shore. Further out, beyond their ship, The Morrigan, anchored a hundred feet away, a stronger current streamed northwest.
It was an extension of her, or rather she an extension of it – it was far larger, far older, far more than her, just another creature in its domain.
Lips thinning, nostrils flaring, the former captain surged towards her.
Bracing, she pulled on the current, stilling it for a second. The boat jolted, and the former captain stumbled, landing on his knees and the fists he’d intended for her.
“Oh, please do” – she drew her fae-worked pistol and aimed at his head – “please give me an excuse to splatter your brains all over your crewmates.” She pressed the muzzle into his forehead and smiled. She wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, but he didn’t need to know that.
Chest heaving, he glared up at her. His shoulders slumped, and he sank back in place with the rest of his men.
“Pity.” She returned the pistol to its holster and hurried along the current. It was light work to move the little boat, and the sooner they were rid of this lot, the better.
A few minutes later, thanks to her gift and the rowers, they bumped against the sandy beach.
Vice jumped out, sighing at the cool water on her feet and legs, the rightness of the sea’s touch. With a firm grip, she held the boat steady and jerked her head towards the island. “This is your stop, gents. Get out of my boat.”
The slaver-ship’s officers exchanged glances, then looked at her, the rowers, then Perry. Yes, they outnumbered the pirates 16 to 12, but they’d be damn fools to try anything unarmed.
Maybe they needed a reminder. She narrowed her eyes at Perry and gave a little nod.
As Perry rose, her pale blonde hair fought to escape its plait, swishing in the wind. That combined with her broad cheekbones and air of calm gave her the look of a Varangian queen, despite her diminutive height. She lifted her chin. “Get out, dogs!”
The officers jumped at her throaty voice right behind them. As they looked over their shoulders, she drew her cutlass. The steel glinted as coldly as her eyes.
The pirates stood and brandished their oars like boarding pikes. Vice drew her pistol for good measure, waving them off the boat.
The officers scrambled out, splashing into the water, casting fearful glances between the pirates.
“Much obliged,” Vice said, smiling her most winning smile as she bowed with a flourish. Perry threw them a duffle bag of supplies and waved.
Vice nodded in approval. Whatever the law might say, she wasn’t a monster – she’d packed rope, a few tools, and canteens of fresh water to give the men a chance to live. Who knew? Maybe they’d see the error of their ways.
And maybe she’d grow gills to go with her sea magic.
Still, these men had bought and sold people. The fae would disown them and that was punishment enough. Elusive as the fair folk were, without their favour, who knew what bad luck might find these fools? They were damned.
The longboat crew turned the vessel around, angling back towards deeper water as the former captain and his officers splashed to shore. Soaked breeches dragging her down, Vice clambered into the boat and resumed her spot at the bow.
The Morrigan bobbed gently in the waves, awaiting their return. Alongside, the slaver ship, a pot-bellied brig, pitched to and fro.
She sighed. This little excursion to maroon the officers had made her almost a captain, albeit of the longboat, but once they were back on The Morrigan, she’d be under Captain FitzRoy once more. Not literally – they’d stopped doing that months and months ago – but she was under his command, and that was enough to chafe. She wanted to set her own course, to –
“You might have taken our ship,” the former slaver captain bellowed across the waves, “but the days of Lady Vice are numbered!”
She scoffed. Everyone’s days were numbered. Some just had fewer than others.
Smiling brightly, she turned and waved. “Not as numbered as yours, marooned dog!”
“Enjoy it while you can.” Even from this distance, his eyes smouldered with hatred. “The price on your head is 1,000 guineas. Maybe your crew should hand you over themselves.”
She stuck a finger up at the slavers, before turning and grinning at Perry. “1,000 guineas? That’s more than doubled. I’m going up in the world.”
Chuckling, Perry shook her head and adjusted the tiller.
Pulling her tricorne hat low against the harsh sun, Vice fixed her gaze on The Morrigan. With a bounty like that, someone had realised her worth.
Shame not everyone did.
Pursing her lips, she pushed their boat through the waves a little faster than necessary, the effort burning her muscles and making her stomach growl.
It had been her idea to chase the brig into the wind where it would be slowed, and she’d led the boarding party. She knew how to catch a prize and captain a ship, damn it.
Maybe now FitzRoy would realise that and finally grant her the captaincy he’d promised.
Maybe that pot-bellied brig, ugly and clumsy as it was, would be hers.
It was a week’s work to get the fat brig repaired and disguised – ready for sale, not for Vice’s captaincy. But at least she’d managed to persuade FitzRoy to split the proceeds with the men and women who’d been enslaved.
Up in the shrouds, her sigh mingled with the breeze as they pulled into Port Royal’s harbour, skirting as far from Fort Boudicca’s guns as possible. She’d helped trim the sails to bring them in slowly and prepare for anchor, and now she wrapped one arm around a line and leant out, fingers reaching for the wide sky.
Beyond the ships docked at numerous wharves, the city rose. Stone, brick, and timber buildings housed taverns, brothels, craftsfolk, tradesmen, warehouses, workshops, cooperages, and the homes of rich and poor alike. As its three forts and barracks suggested, the city was a stronghold for the Albionic Navy. Perry said this had once been a pirate haven like Nassau, but now Port Royal had, for the most part, gone legit.
As they drew closer, the bustle of voices and work joined the constant shush of the sea. The shrill cries of parrots pierced the air as they flew between palm trees and nests tucked into the stonework of waterfront towers. Distant music drifted from somewhere – most likely one of the many taverns.
Legit didn’t necessarily mean boring.
Maybe she’d get some time on shore leave for a spot of fun.
That was assuming their disguise as The Three rather than The Morrigan held long enough to let them stay …
Eyes narrow, she scanned the ships already here, watching for old enemies to avoid or potential targets they might follow out when they left.
The slaver brig bobbed behind, its fat hull just as slow and stiff as she’d expected. She almost felt sorry for Bricus running it. The first mate had a contingent from The Morrigan plus the former slaves, so plenty of hands, but the thing looked uncontrollable.
Much as she hated to admit it, FitzRoy was right – it was no pirate vessel. He’d promised they’d take a fast, sleek creature for her to captain. Something fine and low-profiled with –
“Ooh.” The sound breathed out of her.
A small ship sat in dock. She was three-masted and shaped like a frigate with raised decks to fore and aft, but at only 90 feet long she was far smaller than any frigate Vice had seen. She wasn’t much bigger than a schooner, and a touch shorter than The Morrigan.
At that size and fully rigged with such a sleek hull, she’d be fast. 11 knots, maybe more? And that was without any help from Vice’s gift driving the current onward. What was this beauty’s name?
She leant further into the wind, lifting her spyglass, just one foot and one hand keeping her tethered to the shrouds.
On the hull painted in gold, Venatrix. Huntress.
Oh, Lords and Ladies. Something like that. That was a ship of beauty. A perfect vessel for piracy.
A perfect vessel for her.
How had she ever even thought of captaining that slaver brig when something like the Venatrix existed?
Skin buzzing with excitement, she tucked the spyglass away and hurried down the shrouds. She jumped the last few feet to the deck and compressed into a low landing.
Perry pulled up short as Vice blocked her path. She raised one eyebrow, lips pursed to one side – her withering look as Vice liked to call it. “What’s got you so excited?”
“Did you see that – that” – what to call it? – “I suppose it’s a miniature frigate? The Venatrix.” She grabbed Perry’s shoulder and pulled her to the rail, pointing to her intended “Isn’t he gorgeous? I think it’s love.”
Perry snorted and pulled the spyglass from her. “You, talking of love? Never thought I’d see the day.” She scanned the ship, a sound of approval in her throat. “He cuts a mighty fine line, I’ll give you that. You could fall in love with a worse fellow.”
Vice fished in her pocket for a cashew nut and tossed one in her mouth, munching as she watched the moored ship.
There had to be a way they could take the Venatrix. FitzRoy could be persuaded, surely. He’d been prickly recently – something had soured his mood, maybe the continued elusiveness of Drake’s treasure, maybe something else. Maybe it was the fact he wasn’t laying anyone currently, since their liaison had ended half a year ago.
Maybe she could use her feminine wiles to persuade him – he had to be susceptible after such a long drought.
“What’re you grinning at?” Perry nudged her in the belly with the spyglass, releasing it into her grasp.
“If we take that ship” – another nut in her hand, she gestured to the Venatrix – “the Captain will have to give it to me.” The slaver wasn’t suitable for piracy, but the Venatrix? “It’s perfect – the start of FitzRoy’s own fleet.” She flashed a grin and popped the cashew in her mouth.
“Hmm.” The skin around Perry’s eyes crinkled, and she looked away to the Venatrix again. “You want to captain it? You think you’re ready?”
Chewing, Vice frowned and searched Perry’s profile. What did she mean by that? “Of course I’m ready. I’m brave, bold, clever – my idea to chase the brig into the wind worked like a charm, didn’t it?”
“But what if it hadn’t worked? What was your back-up plan?”
She laughed and clapped Perry on the shoulder. “Back-up plans are for people without confidence in their first plans. And for people who can’t command the waves.” She winked and glanced down at the froth forming against their hull as they glided into place between a wharf and a tall brigantine.
She didn’t really command it, not any more than a person commanded their arm to rise and fall. Command was what one person did to another. It was for things that were separate. She and the sea were one.
“Anyway,” she said, putting her arm around Perry’s shoulder and squeezing her close, “FitzRoy’s been promising me long enough, we just haven’t found the right ship, yet. Well, if that isn’t the right ship, then I don’t know what is.”
It was going to be hers, she could feel it in the tides.
“But you don’t know the first thing about it, about whose it is. I thought you didn’t like attacking the Queen’s ships – it has a whiff of the Navy about it to me.”
“Here’s Barrels, let’s find out. Ahoy!” She waved at the pot-bellied docker, throwing him a broad smile and then one of The Morrigan’s mooring lines.
Glancing up, he barely caught the line in time but smiled back anyway. “Nearly got me, miss.” He touched his forelock as if he didn’t know her, but used the gesture to wink without anyone else on the bustling docks seeing.
Miss. That meant there were people around he didn’t trust. If he’d called her Vice, it would have been around port within an hour that Lady Vice, notorious pirate, was here.
And in a place like Port Royal, not every pair of ears was friendly. Here, they had to operate in disguise as a merchantman – they’d covered half The Morrigan’s gunports and name and had raised their white sails, rather than the black.
The Morrigan eased into place, and Vice helped Perry and Saba with the gangway, with Barrels securing the other end. She was first up there, striding across to the jetty, Perry not far behind.
“Here, Barrels” – she sidled next to him as he coiled the spare line with an expert twist, tattooed knuckles flexing – “what do you know about that small frigate over there, the Venatrix?”
He straightened from his work, rubbing his brow. “Ah, well.” He glanced left and right, then ushered her and Perry away from his colleagues. “That’s something I was going to warn you about.”
Perry’s eyebrows dropped into a frown, and she leant towards him.
Vice scoffed. “Warn? Too late for that, I’m afraid – I’m already in love.”
“Not with that ship, I hope – she’s a pirate hunter.”
“Huh.” A pirate hunter’s vessel. Low profile, swift, well-armed. Made sense. And would make taking her all the sweeter. She raised an eyebrow. “Well, that just makes things more interesting.”
“Not interesting, Vice, dangerous,” Barrels murmured. “The hunter’s here for you.”
“Who’s here for my sea witch?” the Captain’s low voice behind her cut through their hush.
She turned and smiled up at him.
Despite the pallor from too many days shut in his cabin, FitzRoy cut a fine figure in the sleek black coat he saved for visiting shore. The gold braid and brass buttons gleamed in the sun. His hazel eyes narrowed at her, red around the edges but just as intense as always. A flicker of a smirk pulled at the corner of his shapely mouth. “Vice” – one eyebrow raised – “what have you been up to?” There was a tease in his tone, like someone telling off a wayward lover.
She licked her lips and swallowed, heartbeat speeding. She might not have rolled with him recently, but he was still a damned handsome man. And that tone …
“There’s a pirate hunter in dock, captain,” Perry muttered, arms folded, turning to Vice with a low-key version of her withering look. “And he’s here for her.”
Vice lifted her chin, hands on hips. A pirate hunter here for her. That would make Fitz see – she was enough for the Navy to send someone after her, surely, she was enough to be a captain.
“Come all the way from Albion. He’s meeting with the governor after her ball tonight,” Barrels chimed in, raising his eyebrows at Fitz.
Fitz glowered, mouth flat, brow creasing. “And he’s come for Vice specifically, not her captain?”
She raised her hands and shrugged, helpless. It wasn’t her fault people liked telling tales of a woman pirate, who was also a sea witch, more than they did of her captain.
And it wasn’t his fault, either. It was the fae blood. Even those only blessed by the fair folk – the fae-touched – possessed a charm that was difficult to resist.
For FitzRoy, the last straw had been the songs about her when they’d last returned to Albion six months ago. The Song of the Pirate Queen, especially. They’d argued, and he hadn’t touched her since. Even with her fae charm.
Those folk singing and telling tales weren’t her fault, but hopefully she could steer it to her advantage. The more stories they told, the more likely she’d win her own captaincy. He couldn’t keep her cooped up under his command forever, and the sooner he set her free, the sooner she’d stop overshadowing him.
At least that was the theory. She was starting to have doubts …
She cocked her head and gave him an apologetic smile before looking sidelong at Barrels. “The governor’s ball tonight – I take it that’ll be up at her mansion.” If she could sneak in, she might be able to find out something about this pirate hunter. And if she knew something of him, of his weaknesses, then she’d have the upper hand in stealing his pretty ship.
“And the hunter’s going?”
“Aye, she’s invited him – reckon she wants to dangle her daughter in front of him like some prize.”
Perry narrowed her eyes. “What are you plotting, Vice?”
“Reconnaissance.” For her eventual capture of the Venatrix, yes, but also for her own curiosity. Who was this man who’d sailed all the way from Albion for the chance to catch her? He had to be an optimistic fool to believe he’d succeed. But, Lords and Ladies, he’d chosen a tempting lure to dangle in front of her.
“No, you can’t be –”
“I can. If this man’s after me, then by extension he’s after The Morrigan, so it’s best we know about him, isn’t it, Captain?” She looked up at him from lowered lashes.
“Something, at least,” he conceded with a tilt of his shoulders.
“And I’m the best person for the job, considering …” She swallowed, and her smile grew tight for a second.
That girl was long dead, her past a distant memory, but she still knew how to summon her manners when necessary. Etiquette couldn’t have changed in three years. A nagging discomfort tickled the back of her throat.
She took a quick breath. “Considering my background.”
There, that was the closest she’d venture towards saying it. No way would she mention that foolish girl Lady Avice Ferrers. As far as the world was concerned, she was dead. Only Perry, Fitz, and those who’d served on The Morrigan three years ago knew she’d become Lady Vice – and they all knew to keep quiet about it.
Urgh, enough wincing at the embarrassment of Avice Ferrers. She was a pirate now, tough and free of a little girl’s stupid ideas.
She lifted her chin, pulling back her shoulders.
Fitz tilted his head, mouth pouting as it did when he was thoughtful.
Perry’s lips pursed. As quartermaster, she had no say in this decision unless the Captain asked, but Vice knew what she’d say if asked. No. Too reckless.
Sweet fae Lords and Ladies, she loved Perry dearly – she was her closest friend, practically family – but that woman did love to say the word reckless a lot. Everything was reckless in her book. Or at least everything Vice wanted to do.
Vice eyed Fitz – still thinking. If she could persuade him before he asked for Perry’s input …
With a light brush of her fingers, she flicked away an imagined spot of dust from his shoulder. That would push his sartorial buttons. “Besides, we took that chest of fancy ladies’ clothes from the brig last week. Would be a shame to let it all go to waste.”
His brows flashed up, and his gaze flowed down her. He had to be picturing her in full stays and gown, hair brushed and curled and dressed. Gods, when had been the last time she’d done that? Surely not since they’d snuck into that masked ball together. And all night he’d strutted like a duke who owned a particularly beautiful sabrecat and showed it off on a diamond-studded leash.
Her captain wasn’t easily led by his loins, but he did enjoy possessing the finer things in life. And, as he’d once told her, a true lady in a fine gown is one of the finest things a man may possess.
“Very well, Vice.” He rubbed a lock of her hair between thumb and fingertips. “Just try not to get in trouble.”
Oh, she intended to.
Hunting the Huntsman
There was something about a man in uniform. Especially one who wore it so well.
Vice watched his profile sidelong as she poured a glass of punch. He was perhaps a couple of years older than her with mid-brown hair that was short at the sides and long and thick on top, swept back as if he’d run his fingers through it. It was nothing special, except that it framed a remarkably handsome face, all angled jaw accentuated by trimmed sideburns and high cheekbones.
Tall and broad in shoulder and chest, he stood imposing by the ballroom’s high windows, peering out, apparently more interested in the world outside.
She couldn’t blame him. Just like back in Albion, the people here were hypocrites more interested in gowns and etiquette than anything real.
“Oh, won’t you look at those spills on the tablecloth,” a grey-haired lady said at her shoulder. “What are they teaching girls these days?”
Maybe something more interesting than how to pour punch without spilling it? Vice raised an eyebrow and flashed the woman a brief smile. “Quite.” To avoid having to say any more, she sipped her drink.
He was still there, still absorbed by something outside.
Vice had been here an hour and heard no word of the pirate hunter. But maybe this wouldn’t be a wasted trip. Men on shore leave could be persuaded to take a tumble before returning to weeks and weeks at sea without sight of a woman.
His fingers curved around a little punch glass, making his hands look almost comically large in comparison.
Large hands, powerful shoulders that didn’t need epaulettes to exaggerate them, and long, lean legs. He would make an excellent candidate, now the Captain was off the boil.
The lady at her shoulder was saying something about a gentlewoman’s education and now paused, expecting an answer.
Vice rolled her eyes. “Excuse me.” She didn’t spare the lady a look before sauntering towards the uniformed man.
To be invited here, he was some sort of officer. She hadn’t bothered to learn all the silly little details that marked a man as lieutenant, commodore, or captain. Whatever his rank, he might let slip some useful information about ships in the area, naval movements, this pirate hunter …
Men could be very talkative between the sheets.
Just what was he looking at? She circled behind, peering past him through the window. Ah, the harbour.
“Keeping an eye on your ship?” she murmured, not quite in his ear.
He didn’t jump, but he straightened slowly and turned towards her, brows raised in controlled lines.
Damn, even better face-on. His grey eyes surveyed her and what had looked like such unremarkable hair gleamed in the last rays of sunlight slanting through the window. This angle also revealed a pure white shock at the parting above his left eye. Below that, just crossing into the edge of his eyebrow, a scar traced a silvery line. What was that from?
And double-damn, a lady wasn’t supposed to approach a man like this. She could deal with that, but she also wasn’t meant to just address him out of nowhere without so much as a title. She was out of practice.
She added, far too late, “Ser.”
Her naval gent cleared his throat, gaze falling to the floor. “I’m afraid so, madam.” His eyes wrinkled in a charming wince. “I apologise, I’m afraid it’s been some time since I’ve been in polite society and it’s left me more at home on board a vessel than in a ballroom.”
She couldn’t blame him. The place was so stuffy, not helped by all the layers of clothing polite society demanded. Three petticoats, an overskirt, a chemise, stays, and then an open-fronted gown pulled on over the top of all that and buttoned down the front from bust to waist.
The soft voices of ladies and gentlemen drifted around the huge room – Lords and Ladies, they spoke so quietly, it was eerie. Glasses clinked occasionally, and a pianoforte sat unplayed. But there was no other sound. Not the groaning of timber or the shushing of waves or the whip of sails. Even her legs felt uncertain without the rolling deck beneath her feet.
Down in the bay, it was all movement. The gentle bob of ships at anchor, flags flapping, and the hive of activity – men and a few women at work, all with purpose. The people in here just milled about doing … nothing.
She sighed. “Ballrooms are so still, aren’t they?”
His head cocked, and those steel-grey eyes narrowed for an instant as if he were confused by her comment.
Shrugging, she drank a cool mouthful of sweet punch. At least they had cold drinks here, though gods knew where they got the ice from.
He was still giving her that odd look as if she were something puzzling he’d found wrapped around an anchor. She swept her glass to indicate the room. “No creaking planks, no snap and furl of sail, no touch of salty breeze or spray, no sun on your skin.”
The faintest of controlled smiles touched his lips.
What would they feel like if she touched them with hers? He wore no wedding ring, not that that always stopped sailors far from home, but with a little luck, it would make him more susceptible to her advances.
“Have you sailed much, madam?”
She laughed. What a question to ask a pirate. But she wasn’t meant to be a pirate in here. She was a lady. “Only here from Albion. My family was terribly seasick the whole time.” Just like he’d been all those years ago. He’d complained, and even when he’d stopped throwing up, he’d moaned and groaned in their bunk.
Lords and Ladies, how had she ever imagined they were a good match? The poor man dragged halfway across the world by her foolishness.
Blinking, she shook off his spectre. “But I found it most … exhilarating.”
“Exhilarating?” The officer raised an eyebrow, the rest of his face still. Gods, did the Navy teach men to drill their facial expressions as well as everything else? “There aren’t many young ladies who’d think that of cramped life on a boat for weeks and weeks.” He glanced out towards the bay, but those steel eyes quickly returned to her. “Your family? So, your husband or parents or …?”
Checking if she was married or under the protection of a wealthy father. Ah, so he was interested. Excellent.
She smirked. “My aunt and cousins. My husband died some years ago.” That bit was true – the best lies came from a seed of truth, after all. And being a widow said she was available and had no virginity to fret over losing. “Oh, I am sorry, here I am having leapt upon you in your moment of solitude without so much as an introduction.” With a little luck, she’d be leaping on him later, literally. “Lady Lyons.”
His name. Technically it was hers since she’d ceased being a Ferrers when they’d married, but it had never felt like her own.
Maybe that had been her subconscious trying to warn her childish self. Their little game of romance was doomed from the start. She should have listened, rather than playing the idealist.
Ah well, that was an age ago. At least he’d been a better choice than the pathetic Villiers boy Papa had betrothed her to.
“Captain Knigh Blackwood,” the officer said with a stiff bow. “My condolences for your loss.”
“A pleasure, ser.” She bowed in return. “And it was long ago, but thank you.”
As she straightened, a beautiful blonde lady in a lilac gown stopped in her tracks at the edge of the ballroom. Her eyes widened, and her mouth fell open, just for a second before she clamped it shut again, almost the picture of ladylike restraint.
Oh dear, with that hair and the delicate features, she had to be Governor deLacy’s daughter. Hadn’t Barrels said deLacy would be dangling her as a carrot before the officers?
The woman stiffened, glared at Vice, and spun on her heel, stalking away into the crowd.
Bad luck, Miss deLacy – this officer was taken.
With a feline smile, Vice slid her gaze back to said officer. “So, Captain Blackwood, what brings you to the shores of Xaymaca?”
Blast. She raised her eyebrows in question, and his cheeks flushed.
“Not in the way you might imagine. She’s a pirate – perhaps you’ve heard of her. Even back in Albion, she’s rather notorious.”
Her throat constricted with the threat of a laugh. Oh, this was just too –
“They call her Lady Vice.”
Of course they did. She chuckled, shaking her head.
He cleared his throat. “Though I’d wager that isn’t her real name.”
She scoffed and drained the rest of her punch. “You’re the pirate hunter.” She’d come to find him, hadn’t she?
Damn the gods and the Lords and Ladies, they had sent her a truly tempting huntsman.
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