An Excerpt from Her Wicked Captain
Light reflected off a tray and a bottle of wine.
Dell smiled. Even pirates could be gracious hosts. She brought the tray inside and
devoured its contents—tasteless canned beans, corn, and blackberry cobbler—in minutes.
Stomach full yet wide-awake, she went out, leaving the tray where she’d found it. Owl-eyed
in the darkness, she felt her way along the deck’s rail.
Wolves started a plaintive symphony in the nearby woods, and although the sound was
as familiar to her as breathing, she still felt hair rise on her arms. She looked for the chairs
she’d seen that morning. With luck, she might find a deer to watch as it wandered to the
Chickasaw Landing riverbank for a midnight drink.
Rounding the helm, she spotted the form of someone strung between the two seats
in a swatch of soft lantern light. A gray wool blanket spread across the man from head to
shoes. Curious. Who would want to sleep in such a place? She crept closer to see, but her
toe bumped the man’s holstered gun on the ground, causing a rattle that roused him. The
blanket dropped, revealing Rory’s tousled sandy head, and a book fell from his lap to the
Blinking at her, he murmured, “It’s usually considered good form to allow the captain
a quiet night’s sleep.”
At the same moment, a whippoorwill broke into a noisy cadence.
She grinned. “Sleep? Here? I’d hardly call this quiet.” Nevertheless she tried to match
his lowered voice.
He eased upright, sliding his gun under the chair. “True. Before you collected your
dinner tray, I had the pleasure of listening to some beavers thrashing in the water doing
God-knows-what. Join me.” His teeth flashed in a groggy smile.
She glimpsed the title on the book’s cover. The Count of Monte Cristo. Fitting for a
gambler, she supposed. Her opinion of him elevated a notch.
“I can’t believe you didn’t wake me. I’ve never slept so long in my life.” Dell settled in
the chair across from him. Feeling the brush of his knees against her skirt, she sidled away.
His eyes glittered with mischief. “I suspected as much. Although we missed your
company, I wanted you to rest. You have a big day tomorrow, thirteen years or so overdue.”
“You’re not”—she gestured at the gun beneath the chair and swallowed—“guarding my
door, are you?”
He grunted. “No. Should I? Are you considerin’ jumping overboard to join the mosquito
minions of Chickasaw Landing? We’re several hours away from Memphis yet.”
She’d meant he might be guarding her from his men. She rolled her eyes. “No. It hadn’t
crossed my mind. I’ve nowhere to go.”
“I always carry a gun on the river. Habit. My boss has his enemies, and his enemies are
As a woman who carried her own rifle, she knew she shouldn’t be surprised he felt the
need to arm himself, but she was. “I shouldn’t have bothered you. Why aren’t you in the
quarters with your men?”
“My men say I’m a poor bedmate, but I, ah, don’t recall any ladies complaining.” He
cocked his head thoughtfully. “Of course, I can’t remember getting much sleep on those
Dell wrinkled her nose at his brazenness. The wind stirred her hair, reminding her
she’d left it unbound. She trembled and pulled the heavy waves close to cover the back of
“You’re cold. May I?” He extended the blanket, and Dell nodded.
He stood and enveloped her in both the warm cover and his arms, pulling her into his
lap. Dell squeaked in protest, but he immediately settled her snugly against him. His strong
arms wrapped securely around her so she couldn’t wriggle free, and he tucked his chin
against the curve of her shoulder. He murmured dreamily, “Warmer already.”
Awareness flared heat into her cheeks. In his movement, she’d seen his shirt was
completely unbuttoned and untucked from his trousers so that her back now rested against
his naked skin. She cleared her throat, grappling for civility in the face of her panic. “You
must think me the biggest bumpkin.”
He smiled, slowly chafing heat into her arms. “Not in the least. The crew is spellbound.
I fought the riffraff all day to keep them from knocking at your door. They’re dying to have
their fortunes read.”
“Would you like me to read yours?”
Oh, God, why ask? How fickle she must seem, professing her retirement from cards
earlier only to offer to read now.
“Another time perhaps.” His lips moved close to her ear, and his breath whispered
across her neck.
Needing to distract herself from his tempting nearness, she asked, “Do you really need
a gun? I know Quintus is a gambler, but is his lifestyle honestly as dangerous as that?”
Rory went still. “There are moments…but I promise I’ll keep you safe.” His thumb
drummed on her arm.
Or least something he felt uncomfortable about. Dell twisted to face him, feeling the
angry thrum of her heart. “I don’t believe you. What sort of danger are you bringing me
“Nothing for you to worry about. I’m good with pistols. I’m good with lots of things.”
His voice held a smile, and he flicked the top button of her dress open with the tiniest
motion of his index finger.
“Stop that.” Shock zinged through her. She planted her hands on his shoulders to
push away, but he resisted, anchoring her in the circle of his brawny arms. “Let me go!
Stop teasing. You’re trying to distract me. I demand to know what trouble you’re bringing
Jeremiah and me into.”
“You demand?” His laughter vibrated his chest beneath her palms. “Lady, you can’t
make demands on my ship. The cardsharps who frequent Moreaux’s gaming salons are a
different breed than the fur traders and muleskinners you know. They’d as soon put a bullet
in your chest than lose a hand of cards, but as long as you’re with me, you’ve got no one to
worry about.” He ran his index finger gently along her cheek. “’Cept maybe me.”
A sharp retort sprang to her tongue, but the hungry look in his eyes froze her. His gaze
fell to her mouth, and he eased forward. Anticipation held her captive as his lips brushed
over hers, warm and gentle, fitting like the missing half of a pair. Her eyelids fell shut against
the sparks in her mind, and she swore she felt them ignite, the heat flowing up her chest
When he sat back, she opened her eyes to find him regarding her through dark eyes of
Wanting more, she folded her lips together, savoring the wondrous sensation of his
mouth on hers a moment longer.
“Did you see that coming, angel?” he whispered.