Regina Mariana Drake knows a lot more than swarming up and down the sides of a fighting galleon. She has taken ships aplenty, and hearts too. She’s watched men fighting and whoring to the edge of endurance, but until the intrepid Captain Artignola comes into her sights she has only killed them. Now, she wants to take one as he should be taken. (M/F)
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Arturo rubbed his crown just where his straight, thick, unbound hair parted. “By Jesu, who taught you to cast like that from the yards?”
The question both surprised and softened her. “No one,” Reg replied. “I shot at rooks in Cornwall, long before I snuck aboard the Hinde, pretending I was a boy….” She cut herself short. She didn’t want to share anything of her personal life with him, or to feel anything more for him than bare desire; yet, she couldn’t keep herself from asking, “How could you know that was me up there in the shrouds and not just any ship’s boy? We were in the midst of battle.”
“I tell you this, Querida.” When he smiled in just that teasing manner, there were dimples. “Even bellowing commands as you were doing, with the fighting fever on you, no man with heart in breast would think you just a common boy. Mi Amor, I died upon the Madre’s deck the instant I saw you as surely as if your stone had hit me square.”
Reg stalled him with a raised hand before he could continue. “Oh, please, Captain. Did I hit you that hard? Spare me your Spanish fervour.” Never had a man talked to her so, with his heart in his eyes. “I… I expect nothing more from you than agreement and my ship returned.”
Arturo’s grin faded and the passion in his face was replaced with a look of regret. Oh, lord, she wanted to go to him and change that look to one of pleasure….
“For what?” he replied, “A promise and a knife? Never have I in my twenty-seven years desired anyone so much as I desire you, my little sea-fury. You pierce my heart with your bluster and your courage. I will not deny I have had women, ah yes, but never one such as you, Cariña, commander of the Hinde. And to love you as you deserve… ah, it is tempting even to risk that dirk in your belt,” He closed his glorious eyes briefly, as though in pain. “Yet I am no fool, nor will I force love from a place it is not given… I cannot do as you ask and return your ship to you. Not even to repay the debt I owed to your Papa.”
“A debt?” said Reg, surprised once more.
“Sí. I was telling you this earlier, but then you interrupted me. Upon the Nuéstra de Conception, he did, at great risk, save my father’s life.”