1629 A.D. -Gabriel Hardacre is one of three orphan brothers with a talent for acrobatics and performing.
It’s how they make their living… mostly. If a few jewels and trinkets make it into their hands from time to time… well, a man has to eat after all. Their haunt is the Wharf Street Tavern at the docks in Barnstaple.
Perspicacity Glenwood, known as Cassie to her friends, is a forthright and determined young woman. She runs a small school that teaches the children of the docks – as well as some of the adults – who want to learn to read and write.
One of her older students is the handsome Gabriel, but a burgeoning romance between them is thwarted when Cassie receives word that an ailing aunt in Ireland needs her care.
The voyage across the Irish Sea is a short one and ought to be without peril, but the evil Dutch pirate Jan Janszoon controls Lundy Island just outside the Bristol Channel, picking off ships for their bounty of goods – and people to sell as slaves in North Africa.
Gabriel learns from a mysterious man, who simply calls himself de Wolfe, that Cassie’s ship has been taken. The man’s wife is also among the captives and he’s putting together ‘a wolf pack’ to destroy Janszoon’s base of operations for good.
The mission will be hazardous, it will be deadly – and it has to be done within the next two weeks before Cassie and the other captives are taken out of reach forever.
Can Gabriel save the woman he’s fallen in love with?
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“Read to me,” he said.
“Read? What makes you think I brought a book?”
“You always have a book,” he said.
She conceded the point with an incline to her head and joined him on the blanket. “I thought you might like to know more of Shakespeare the playwright. I found a poem of his I’ve not yet read.”
“Then sit up against me so I can follow over your shoulder,” he said.
Cassie picked the volume from the basket and did as he suggested, leaning her back against his chest.
Cassie started to read while Gabriel’s hands roamed freely about her waist.
“And yet not cloy thy lips with loathed satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh variety,
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
A summer’s day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.”
And they played a sport of their own as he hands now strayed across her breasts. How long could she pretend his caresses were having no effect on her? Yet she knew that even if she lost this game, she would win.
She gasped as he reached down and wrapped his hand around her ankle to draw it up to her thigh. His chuckle in her ear sent shivers down her spine. Cassie leaned into him. The hand at her ankle inched up her calf, the warmth of his palm through her stocking sent a charge up her body, arousing her.
His other hand swept aside a stray lock of her hair before sweeping down her arm. His lips trailed kisses down the column of her neck to her collarbone.
Her breath came out as a hitch and the words trailed away. No longer could she see the print in the book. Cassie let the volume fall to her lap and allowed his hands to roam where they would.
There was no hurry in his lovemaking, as though they had this to look forward to today, tomorrow, and forever. It was a delightful illusion and she gave herself to it.
His hand reached her stocking, his fingers played with the be-ribboned edge of it, a tease which was part torment, part pleasure.
“Keep reading to me,” Gabriel’s breath sent heat through her.
“You’re a fine teacher.”
“How do you expect me to when you keep touching me like this?” she asked.
He offered no suggestions, instead chuckling at her ear. One hand tugged the garter ribbon and the stocking loosened at her knee, while his other hand had found its way into the neckline of her bodice.