The Black Pirate
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by Temple Hogan
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Fighting for Benjamin Franklin in America's war against Britain, Captain Caleb Howard and his crew brave the cold North Irish sea, plundering British ships of their men and supplies bound for the colonies to aid enemy soldiers. Caleb's goal is to rescue his brother and the other prisoners who languish in English prisons. He also rescues Mary Cormick from the sea and finds passion and love he never expected. Together, they struggle to overcome their adversaries and their own mutual mistrust of each other as they explore a flaming passion that binds them.
eBook Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, LLC, 2012 February
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [142 KB]
Reading time: 89-125 min.
The black, oily sea washed over the stern of the little fishing boat, keeling it so sharply its sails barely cleared the thundering waves. Mary Cormick hung on for dear life, her hands gripping the halyards so tightly her knuckles whitened like the bones of a skeleton washed from the ocean's bottom.
Superstitious and fearful at the very thought of those poor drowned souls, she muttered a curse, followed by a crossing of herself before she concentrated on what she must do. The great wolf made no resistance as she tied him to the mast with a piece of loose rope. Sure that he wouldn't be washed overboard, she lashed herself to the tiller and focused on steering against the monstrous waves that washed over them again and again. Each time, the cold waves took away her breath and the salty brine stung her eyes, so she blinked against the pain. Her chest heaved with the need for air, but the seawater filled her nose and mouth. She coughed, struggling to clear her windpipe.
Felan stirred, reminding her she was not alone. The great wolf braced himself against the swaying of the boat and snapped at the waves as if able to subdue them for her. Affectionately, she reached out a hand to touch his wet coat.
"We'll be all right," she said, wishing it so. At least, if they died, she'd not be alone and just as quickly as the thought came, it fled. She couldn't wish death on her dearest friend. She shouldn't have brought him, but he'd whined and insisted almost as if he'd had a premonition there would be trouble. And so it had been between the two of them ever since her father had returned with him, a straggly, half-starved wolf pup left abandoned on a lonely bit of Welsh shoreline.
She had no wish for him to perish now due to her own foolhardiness. And it was her fault they were caught in such a predicament. She should have returned to shore sooner, but the exhilaration of being on the water, of having no demands for at least a short time, was too heady to end it so quickly. She'd ignored the signs of ominous clouds and increased waves and had continued on her way until it was too late to save herself and the little boat on which her family relied to make a living. She'd not been this foolish since she was a little girl who'd thrown away the potato water instead of using it to water the kitchen plants or as a base for soup. Nothing was wasted, nothing used carelessly. The rocky northeast coast of Ireland was too poor a place to sustain life with any hint of luxury.
Eyes squinting, she fought against the elements as she'd been taught to do since she was a lass, praying she'd be able to bring the boat back to land without too much damage. She wondered how far north the terrible wind and waves were carrying her. She would send word to her family as soon as she made land again. She knew they'd be worried beyond belief. Even Dowan would go out to search for her in his own boat the minute the storm ended.
A shiver of gratitude ran through her at the thought of Dowan with his flaming red hair and matching temper. He was a stout, steady man with a no nonsense attitude who met the challenges of life on the sea and the stony Island of Magee with a stoic acceptance, but she'd never seen him smile. Perhaps that was the reason she'd refused his offers of marriage. Yet, she knew it was more than that. She loved him but more as a brother.
One day, she might relent and agree to be his wife, but she doubted it even though hers was too practical a nature to turn aside a perfectly good marriage from a good man like Dowan McClanahan without serious consideration. She'd not want for anything while married to him, nor have any need of body and soul unmet. But what of the heart?
She didn't love Dowan the way he wanted her to and she knew she never would. If she were to marry him, she feared she'd never be able to laugh again or remember how to smile. The thought was not to be born.
A gust of wind tore at her sails, and she hurried to reset them, stumbling against the lurching sides of the boat. The heavy deluge of rain increased, rattling against the wooden planking of the deck with an angry staccato rattle. Mary huddled against the tiller and hunched her shoulders against the attack of rain pellets beating at her. Felan pulled against the rope, trying to creep closer to provide some of his warmth, such as it was.
She'd brought herself to this, she thought miserably, just because she needed to get away from the grim reality of her life onshore. She had been troubled by her parents' demands that she take a husband. Sure and it would ease their burden with a strong young man to help, but she'd resisted, unable to make that commitment. Now, staring into the misty, gray veil of the storm, she thought suddenly of the good things in her life, and her choices didn't seem as bad as she'd thought.
A sudden cracking above her head drew her gaze upward. The main mast had been sheared as if by a helmsman's ax and was falling in slow motion. She saw it swing downward, aimed right at her, but she was too mesmerized to move. Felan growled. The wind howled a warning, the rain rattled around her and she threw up her arms as a pitiful shield against the falling timber. She was about to die, she realized and had no time to call on a final blessing of the Virgin Mary before the mast landed.
The boat shuddered with the weight of it falling against the stern boards where she sat. She felt the terrible intensity in the air as it landed near her, grazing her head as it came to a resting place half out of the boat.
"Felan," she cried out then felt an intense pain such as she'd never known before; the rain and roaring wind swept her away to another place of downy softness where there was no pain. Dimly, she felt Felan's tongue against her chin until even that comfort faded. All was silent save for the beat of her heart, until that sound slowed and disappeared. Mary gave a sigh and surrendered to the blessed darkness.