Can lost souls reunite when all hope at love has been abandoned, and demons of the past refuse to go away?
Pitched from a ship during a violent storm in the year 1746, Victoria Porter washes ashore, soon to be rescued by a man on a strange mechanical beast who whisks her into a world beyond anything she could have imagined.
In 2014, Colton MacKenzie fears he has written his last bestselling horror novel until he discovers two things—The Cult of Teach, and a tantalizing nymph wandering the shore on his way to Ocracoke Village. Fascinated by the history that surrounds the Legend of Blackbeard’s Chalice, he seeks to learn more about these modern-day pirates, and hopefully write a bestseller using the premise.
He’d planned on riding this ride solo until the strange waif on the back of his Harley touches him in ways his demons hadn’t let anyone touch him in a long, long time....
The village on Ocracoke Island, 1746
A calloused hand inched up Victoria Porter’s thigh beneath her chemise. A shiver of anticipation rattled through her as large as the fingers that plundered nearer to the tender flesh of her center. Eyes closed, she threw back her head and listened to the sounds around her: the clatter of dishes in the back room, the bawdy laughter of women, the snorts of men who long ago forgot the wives they should be heading home to. The tavern smelled of fish, the malodorous stench of randy sailors, and stale ale. A hint of rum. And the salty permanence of uncounted men who passed through those tavern doors on their way to and from their first love—the sea.
Tory brought her head up with a bubble of laughter and a wicked grin. She was glad for the darkened corner of the tavern that hid her from view and the faint flicker of the oil lamp that softened the craggy features of the sailor on whose lap she sat. His fingers inched between her thighs and parted them slightly. She felt wanton and wild. Nary a care in the world. The dreaded and sought after tingles a woman was not supposed to feel churned inside her belly. She wiggled a little on the sailor’s lap and realized quite readily he liked it. The rigid member next to her bottom grew harder at the movement. His free hand grabbed a handful of her behind, pushing her closer as he chuckled deep in his throat. His lustful gaze fell upon her face and then to her bosom, where she had tucked the top of her chemise low into the corset rim earlier that evening.
Her sailor groaned and lowered his head to her breast, the rough stubble of his beard grazing over her plump mounds. Deep inside her, the tingles grew stronger. His fingers parted the opening to her drawers. Two short pants of breath exited Tory’s mouth. His ridge pushed harder into her hip. His lips brushed the outside of her chemise and her nipples grew pebble hard; the tingles shot up to the points of her taut breasts.
His hand cupped her naked flesh. His fingers plunged.
Tory gasped. The quivering surged lower….
With a gust of salty sea air and a hearty shout, the tavern door burst open. At once, the room stood noiseless. Heavy footfall crossed the floor. The sailor withdrew his fumbling fingers and abruptly pushed her off his lap. Tory fell to the floor. The sailor stood and backed away.
Stunned, she shook her head to right her world and then took a deep breath. “Damnation.”
There was but a second’s hesitation before the voice boomed through the musty atmosphere in the dimly lit tavern.
“Amabel Victoria Porter!”
Tory’s gaze shot up to the man looming over her. Jeremiah! Good Lord, no. He found her. Again. How would she explain? Couldn’t her brother, for once, simply leave her alone?
Dear Lord, sometimes I wish he’d go away. Far, far away. Like Jackson.
She clamped a hand over her mouth. Did she say that aloud? She did not mean that. Not really.
Jeremiah’s stare seared into hers. One false move on any person’s part and he would tear into a rampage like no other. She knew it could happen. She lived with the man entirely too long to think otherwise.
“Aye?” she returned with a demure smile on her face. She broke their gaze and glanced lower, fiddling with the top of her chemise and adjusting it squarely over her bosom. She then smoothed her skirt down over her knees and ankles.
“‘Tis a bit late for that, don’t you think?”
“I think ‘tis a bit late for all of us.” She glanced up again, yawned, and offered her hand. “Would you be so kind as to help me off this wretched floor? You wouldn’t believe the slop and filth down here.”
Jeremiah looked at her and scowled. “I would believe.”
Reaching down, he grasped her hand and pulled until she found her feet. Momentarily, she stood, back straight, head high, and swiped at the back of her skirt to rid it of the filth. Then she shot a defiant stare straight into Jeremiah’s eyes.
He glared back. “In God’s name, why is it that I’m doomed to a life of strife, protector of a mite hellion who has no more sense than to escape the warmth of her bed and enter a pit such as this place? If Mother were alive, she….”
“I am ready whenever you are, Jeremiah.” She glanced about her, hoping to spare herself a sermon. “Would you like to stay for some ale?” She lifted one brow in question as she challenged her brother head on, as she had done so many times in the past. He may have found her this time, and in a most precarious situation, but she would not let him know how humiliated she was by that fact. Yet she was sure he surmised he had rescued her from another scrape.
Only this time, she didn’t want to be rescued.
If only she could quell those urgings, those cravings, deep down inside her belly, to find out—to really find out—what this union between a man and a woman was all about. What the tingles led to. What happened after the touches? Why her body swelled in anticipation. Most women her age already had children and were quite experienced in the art of lovemaking. But she, God help her, had nary an opportunity to find a good man on this near-deserted island her parents were so adamant to call home. So if she couldn’t find a decent man to marry and love her after twenty-three years, she might as well find out what copulation was from an indecent one.
Lord, she almost found out tonight.
If Jeremiah hadn’t come looking…if not for the fact he had some addle-brained notion it was his life’s duty to watch her every single solitary minute of the day and night, she would have found out.
Ever since their older brother left a year ago, Jeremiah took the idea of family, and her protection, so seriously.
Of course, they only had each other. Their parents died a week before Jackson disappeared.
Resigned, she stepped forward, grasped Jeremiah’s arm and started for the door. Behind her, she heard the shuffle of leaden feet and the stumbled gait of the drunken sailor.
She turned slightly as a heavy hand slapped her brother’s shoulder.
“I’ll have you know that woman was mine first, you bloody thief.”
Jeremiah turned and gave the man a narrow-eyed stare. “I’ll have you know that the woman is my sister and I’m thankfully taking her out of this place of filth.”
The sailor cackled. “Over me d-dead body, you say?”
Jeremiah slowly loosened Tory’s hold on his arm. He moved one step closer to the man and shoved an index finger into his chest. The sailor teetered backward.
“Actually, my good man, I said nothing about your dead body, but if you’re spoiling for a fight, then let’s step out into the night’s chill and I will fight ‘til the death of one of us. If you’re not up to it, then I suggest you sit your ass in the chair there and down your ale for the rest of the night. I assure you another woman, a whore no doubt, will make her way to you in due time, more than willing to milk your seed ‘til the wee hours of the morning. My sister, however, will not be that woman. She’s a mite too good for the likes of you, I’ll have you know, even though she doesn’t have the good sense to know it herself!”
Jeremiah didn’t wait for a response but turned on his heel and grasped Tory by the arm again, half dragging her toward the door.
“When we get home, my dear little sister, you’ll be lucky if I don’t thrash you until the sun comes—”
Tory heard the horrendous echo of the shot within the tavern about the same time she felt the life go out of Jeremiah’s body. And no mistaking, she felt his very spirit leave him. In an instant, he slumped forward to the floor, nearly pulling her with him, blood spurting out his back, soaking his coat. Screams went up from the women and then an awful silence. A scuffle sounded from behind.
Stunned, Tory glanced to the back of the tavern where two men were wrestling her brother’s killer to the ground—the sailor whose lap she kept warm some moments earlier.
In the next instant, her own hysterical screams split the air.
Jeremiah was dead. It was all her fault.