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Royal Navy Captain
Kidnapped and blackmailed into marriage, Captain Devin Winthrop now has a wife. One who’s beautiful, smart, willing in bed, and a pirate’s daughter. And she has a few pirate tendencies of her own.
Set to finish his career with smooth sailing in the Caribbean, Devin knows a storm is coming. Can he raise sail and outrun the dangers, or will he be sunk to the ocean floor?
Captain of Her Destiny
A captain in her papa’s merchant fleet, Mia Cadley doesn’t willingly give up the helm. Nor does she always sail above board.
When her father forces her to wed as a means to protect her, she resists letting her husband become her master and commander. But can she hold course against a tide of pleasure beyond imagining?
Devin tugged at the bonds, causing the back legs of the chair to scrape the floor. He’d successfully broken those free hours ago, but the front was securely anchored.
“They’re coming,” the fat man chained to the wall called. “They’re coming back.”
Devin tugged again, the bonds held and he, too, could hear the heavy footfalls. He gave one last valiant attempt to break free. Settling back to the defeated countenance he’d maintained since the moment he was grabbed outside the tavern. As the door opened the five men chained against the wall started to struggle. They could only hear the goings on, as they’d sacks over their heads, tied with twine at their necks. Devin wasn’t treated to the same which made him far more alert to everything around him. For whatever reason they were taken, their captors had a very specific plan.
He counted seven men entering the room. It was plain these men were pirates given their hard demeanor and crude dress. They stepped aside as the last man entered the room. This man could easily pass for any other gentleman of wealth and status, but Captain Robert Devin Winthrop of His Majesty’s Royal Navy spent the last nine years of his career spotting pirates, buccaneers, raiders, rovers, filibusters, marauders—whatever the criminals chose to call themselves at the moment. Pirates had a look to them. Perhaps it was the cold brutality of their acts. The sinister way they preyed on the merchant and passenger vessels while naval ships tried to keep peace on the waters as so many nations continued to fight among themselves. That man turned to look at him and Devin felt a chill roll through. This wasn’t going to end well.
The other men went to the wall and unchained the captives. More than a few screams of terror rang out. They were in fact gentlemen of some prominence, all of them accustomed to the soft lives they lived. The begging started as soon as they were lined up and forced to move, blindly, forward.
“Please, please. I have money. My family can pay you, make you rich beyond your knowing,” one man said only to be met with wild laughter.
“Where are you taking us?” the fat man asked. Devin knew him to be a newly set in governor on one of the smaller islands. He’d been on the ship Devin’s own guided through only last week.
“Have no cares, Governor Lowe,” the leader of this group finally said, not taking his eyes from Devin. “As long as the good captain cooperates, you’ll be sent home in fine shape.”
The statement clearly startled everyone as much as it did Devin. “Do whatever he asks, Captain.” Governor Lowe called back over his shoulder. “Do whatever he asks.”
Devin watched them go as another man brought in a chair then moved to cut the ropes holding Devin. “That’ll be all for now Smithe. Leave us,” the leader said as he took a seat.
“Aye, Commodore,” Smithe said, and walked out closing the door firmly behind him.
As the commodore settled more comfortably, Devin took time to rub feeling back into his wrists. He could take the man before him. He was older, unarmed, if he was quick he might do it before others were alerted to the fight.
“Ah, yes. I see you thinking carefully on all the options.” The man, rather than tighten up and prepare for a fight, settled further back in the chair and crossed his left ankle over his right knee. “It’s something I’ve admired about you. A man who thinks before he acts.”
Devin remained silent and for now, still. The purpose for his being here would come out, but it’d be in the commodore’s good time.
“Robert Winthrop, Captain, on the two-decker brig Iron Rose. Guns, fourteen six pounders. Sufficient in these waters. Crew of sixty-two, including yourself. Last three years on assignment to hold the Crown’s western territories and colonies. Born, 1798 in South York, put on your first ship at age six by a father you’re still estranged from. Mother, living. Brothers, two, no sisters,” the man laughed, “shame, little girls are—a delight.”
Devin worked to hold his expression. That the man knew so much about the ship didn’t strike him as odd. That he knew so much about him chilled, but his last words, they didn’t seem ominous. In fact, they sounded indulging, spoken like a man whose heart was quite soft. Not like a bloodletting, murdering pirate. For a moment, Devin wondered if his judgment was correct.
“You’re not nobility, but you haven’t squandered your monies, invested well, a man of means if not wealth. You plan to retire when they recall you to port.”
Devin did respond to those words. Maybe four men knew he was ready to give up his commission. Pirates where under control, a fading enterprise, outnumbered and outgunned with the newer ships and more cohesive navies. He didn’t know yet what he might do. He’d been offered a place at the new academy in Portsmouth, but had not decided if teaching was what he wanted. And again, only four people were privy to that information. “You know a great deal about my person,” Devin said, shifting in his chair.
“I take more time to know my allies than my enemies, as my enemies aren’t long for this world.”
“You know nothing if you call me ally.” Devin searched his memory for the moment he might have met this man. Nothing came to mind. No party, no table at an inn, no words in passing. “And no one would believe I’d have associations with a pirate if you think to ruin—”
The sharp bark of laughter refocused him on the man sitting easily across from him. “Not yet, but soon. You see, we’ll have a common... interest. An… association, if you will. That’s why you’re here. Why I chose you. Although I suspect I’ll be told, rather forcefully, I had no right to go about it this way. In the end I’ll have what I’ll have, and I’ll have you.”
“Have me? For what?” Devin could always feel when the winds were picking up in a bad way, and without a doubt the squall about to hit would put not only him in peril.
“My daughter’s husband.”
Devin was pretty sure he’d misheard. Which was why he gave in to the laughter. How absurd for anyone to think he’d become anyone’s husband, let alone husband to a, a pirate’s daughter. He could only imagine what the ghastly female must look like, let alone how she’d behave. If she wasn’t so young as to make it criminal to wed her she was likely already collecting coppers in the cribs along the docks.
And to hell with any of that. He was barely twenty-nine, far too young to take a wife, even if his plans to retire were set. Should he change his mind and remain in the navy, he was forbidden to marry. When the man across from him continued to sit in silence, Devin began to wonder if he wasn’t somehow more serious than he thought possible. Clearing his throat Devin sat back and returned the intent stare.
“It’s good to see you can laugh,” the commodore said. “You’ll need a good humor with Mia. She can be quite the riptide at times, but more often she’s little more than willful and stubborn. Marriage should see the winds spill out.”
“You aren’t serious that I should marry your daughter?” Devin asked, then saw the man’s expression and knew he was deadly serious. “I’m not going to marry… why would I marry… I can’t marry…” Devin sputtered.
“You’ll marry her. Because if you don’t, the deaths of those men will be on your head,” the man said, causing Devin to shot to his feet.
“I’m not responsible for them,” he said.
“You misunderstand. Their deaths, well you’ll be blamed for them, or rather it’ll be found you murdered them.” The commodore motioned for him to retake his seat and Devin did as he felt his knees weaken. “Yes, I’ve arranged it so when you leave here you’ll either be a hero or a criminal and no one will doubt any of it.”
“Why me?” Devin asked.
“You, because as limited as my choices are, I’m not sure I’d find a man better suited for Mia. It’s my hope, as I said, that marriage will take the wind from her sails.”
“Take the wind?” He was more than sure now the woman was a whore drawing the wrong kind of attention to her father’s activities. Perhaps even, given this man’s obvious fondness of the chit, he worried she’d fall to an enemy. “You need a husband to control her? Have you not heard a father can command a daughter?” He chuckled. “It sounds like what you need is a strap not a husband. Control your child with a spanking, but don’t think you’ll foist her on me.”
The bellowing laughter that erupted out of the man was almost comical. He laughed so long and hard, Devin was too surprised to take advantage and attack. When he finally regained some calm, all he could do was shake his head at Devin. “I’m hardly a man to admit it, but with Mia, I’ve no will to discourage, let alone discipline her. She’s had my heart from the moment she took breath. But now,” again the man shook his head, more sadly than before, “now her activities have put a decade’s worth of my work in jeopardy as well as her own life. No, she’ll wed. You’ll take her to England, take the position on land and you’ll keep her off the sea until I have finished with my purpose.”
Her activities? Was this woman not a whore, but a pirate? It wasn’t unheard of, women pirates. “I’m not marrying your daughter and once I’m free I’ll put an end to your purpose. You’ll be at the end of a rope the way all pirates find themselves.”
“No,” the older man said again, settling back in his seat. “Not until I find the man who stole my greatest treasure. A man responsible for other criminal acts, but those aren’t my concern. Although, I suspect it’d be yours if your king wasn’t so clueless.” The man dropped his foot hard to the floor and abruptly sat forward. “You, Robert Winthrop, will wed my daughter as I’ve said.”
“Why must I wed her? Why must she wed at all?” Devin couldn’t help but ask. The man’s words intrigued him. What didn’t the king know about in the Caribbean? What criminal acts?
“I’ve tried, for the last five years I’ve tried, to keep Mia from working to take my vengeance from me. She’s become too emboldened, too willing to risk her life in her pursuit. And yet she won’t hear any word as to the dangers.”
“A whip speaks loudly,” Devin stated flatly. This woman sounded like nothing but trouble and yet sitting before her father, a pirate no less, an urge to protect her washed over him.
“As I’ve said, I’m no man to be heavy handed with her. She’s special.”
Devin groaned, wondering now if he was saying his daughter had a weak mind. “I can’t marry her. I’m sure there’s any number of suitable men.”
“You will wed her. I’ve chosen you.” The man stood, walking to the closed door, he pounded on it before moving back to his seat. “You’ll wed her or before you’re swinging for the deaths of the governor, the youngest son of the Duke of Pembroke, and those other three members of the ton, you’ll hear of the downfall and death of the rest of your family. And even with only brothers, I’m sure it’ll be a great unpleasant telling. And your poor mother.”
“You son of a…” Devin yelled coming out of his chair and going straight for the man’s throat only to have the points of more than a few swords press against his breast. The threats enraged him past reasonable actions, but he’d no recourse at the moment. And as he tried to take in a deep breath he saw a short, nearly bald man pushed into the room.
The friar came in calmly, subdued, nothing like the wildly flailing and screeching female carried in over the shoulder of a man so large he had to turn sideways and duck to make it through the doorway.
He watched as the well-shaped woman was gently set on her feet by the giant who made sure she was steady before stepping back. He didn’t step back far enough though as the woman, whose face didn’t matter given the fine creation her body was, balled her fists and pounded on the man’s chest. The giant simply stood there and took her assault. Not flinching until she stepped back and tried to strike him in the groin with her knee. She was blocked and Devin felt his heart leap to his throat when the man set his big hands on either side of her head. Rather than snap her neck, he bent down and kissed her forehead. The soft act must have had some witchcraft attached. It was all it took to still the female.
“You crusty barnacle,” she said with a voice as soft as the lapping waves.
“Mia?” the commodore called, with no authority at all in his voice.
“Papa?” The woman spun around, clear surprise on her very beautiful face at seeing the man. “Papa,” she cried out and flung herself against him. “I should’ve known.” Devin saw her arms tighten as she tried to get closer.
“Mia, my little siren,” the commodore said, pushing her backwards and giving her the same full appraisal Devin was giving her, though for Devin it wasn’t given with a fatherly eye.
The woman was stunning. Even in the poor lighting, Devin wouldn’t be able to miss those full high breasts, the tight curve of her waist, the flare of her hips, and considering she wore britches, her long trim legs. Her loose flowing shirt covered her ass and the tops of her thighs, though he’d guess they were as fit as the rest of her. The swirling cloud of thick black hair swished wistfully around her knees as the commodore tried to push it back from her face.
“Look at you. Have you grown?” the commodore asked and sounded exactly like Devin thought an over-indulgent father might.
The woman snorted, “Only fat. The sloop I bought takes no effort.”
Fat? She was anything but.
“You let her buy a ship?” The question was directed at the three men standing in the doorway and the tone was anything but indulgent.
“Oh stop, Papa.” She giggled. “How might they have stopped me? I wanted to buy it, so I did. It’s a fine ship, fast. I’m sure I’ll be able to—” Devin wondered if the man heard how she sounded exactly like he did. She wanted something; she’d have it. The commodore wanted something; he’d have it. Too bad the commodore didn’t also only want a ship.
“Sell it back. You’ll have no need of it. I’ve other plans for you.” It was as close as sounding like an authority figure as Devin had heard. And it wasn’t in any way enough for the girl.
“I won’t. And whatever plans you think, I won’t those either, especially if you think to send me back to school.” She stepped back on her own and folded her arms across her chest which only pushed the swell of those tits higher.
“Mia,” her father started, only to stop when she stomped her foot.
“I won’t, and you can’t make me.”
Her complete belligerence was shocking and Devin gave in. “That strap I mentioned, Commodore,” he said and felt all eyes turn towards him, “Now would be a good time for it.”
“Indeed, but I’ve told you.”
“What kind of fish shit do you think you are?” Mia snarled at Devin.
“I know,” Devin started, unable to resist rising to her challenge, “I’m the kind of man that will set you true north if you don’t watch that flapping tongue. You speak to your father, to a ship captain like that? And you’re a woman with family and means, not a dock crawler.” He watched her draw back at the insult, though it wasn’t unlikely she was, if not working the cribs, at least a wealthy man’s mistress to be able to buy her own ship with her earnings.
When she stepped towards him and raised her arm he was ready. Her hand didn’t get close to his face and while her knee managed to catch him in the outer thigh as he turned his foot to avoid the blow to his balls, he was able to twist her arm behind her and pull her full length against him. He caught the second fist before it managed to clip his chin and pinning that behind her back as well he yanked her hard against his body. The jarring motion stilled her. She was trapped and she knew it.
“Papa,” she called in desperation to the man she a moment ago disrespected so completely. “Papa?” Her tone rang with impatience. “Grim?” she cried and Devin looked up from her face long enough to see the giant who’d carried her in step forward. The commodore stayed him with only a minimal motion.
No longer fearing he’d be broken in half, he looked back down into her amazing sea foam green eyes. A moment ago, they were filled with defiance, but now that was replaced by a rising tide of worry and confusion.
Devin let his arms go slack, waited for her to lean away as much as she could then jerked her forward again. “You’ll beg pardon from your sire, and you’ll mean it.”
Every bit of her face registered her rage. And the heat in her voice hissed like the lava that spilt into the sea off some other islands. “I’ll burn in hell before I beg anything from that man.”
“Mia,” the commodore called softly as he reached for her. He said something in a language Devin might guess to be Portuguese. He didn’t know and it didn’t matter. He only knew English and some French. Devin gave up his grip as the two continued to converse. Although he couldn’t understand a single word, everything about the tone and Mia’s body language said she wasn’t being any more respectful now than when she arrived. And as before, her father did nothing to put her in her place. The conversation ended only when the slightest edge entered his voice. Mia drew in a sharp breath through her nose then with a stomp of her foot and a huff she spun away and walked straight into Grim’s arms. The big man patted her shoulder encouragingly, but said nothing.
She was without a doubt a beauty, and not, as he feared, dumb. But she was a brat, a childish, spoiled brat beyond what any man should be expected to take on as a wife. Let the pirate do his best to destroy everything Devin built. “There is no way you’re going to force me to marry that,” he stated and made it clear that was the end of this little parley.
Mia Lyn Cadley lifted the book from the floor and threw it against the wall with every bit of strength she had. She’d much rather over turn the tables or break the glass panes along the stern, but the larger furniture was anchored to the floor, and it took two people to get it loose, and broken windows on a ship left it vulnerable to flooding. A flooded ship was an assured death. She was angry but she wasn’t insane.
Two days locked in Captain Winthrop’s cabin aboard the Iron Rose. A prisoner on a royal naval ship. No worse, a wife? How in the name of Calypso was she made to wed that odious man? “Oh,” she grumbled, and kicked at the netting tangling her feet. She knew how. Her papa bent her to his will with his ship’s articles. Articles she’d signed and was honor bound to comply with. The stupid man standing next to her while they wed seemed to have no understanding of honor. He was clearly surprised she’d followed her captain’s orders.
So Mia knew how Papa forced her to wed. What she didn’t know was why? And who. Who was Captain Robert Winthrop? Devin. Devin. That was the name he’d offered several times now. His name should be devil for all his fine-mannered speech and even finer body. Mia felt that heat again. The same one she’d felt when she first laid eyes on him. The same one that burned through her more when he pulled her against him and held her. His strength was obvious although he did nothing to cause her pain. The places their bodies touched, Mia felt nothing but hardness. Every curve of her person was forced to arch against the stiffness of his. That included the stiffness she’d felt against the front of his pants.
She screamed, sweeping up the tangled netting from the floor and flinging it across the cabin. Who was this man? What hold on Papa did he have to be able to make a claim on her? And why in all of Poseidon’s realm did he claim her as his wife? Taking a deep breath, she prepared to let loose her best scream. The kind that always made every member of the crew scramble to do her bidding. Before she could fill her lungs, the door pushed open.
“Quit that noise,” Quiggly, the quartermaster, said as he came in with a tray. “And I told you to clean up this mess. Captain keeps a tight ship.” The man spoke like he believed Mia would follow orders given by a navy man. He set the tray on the table and despite her hunger Mia stepped up and swept it to the floor, creating more of a mess.
“Shove off you gibfaced flapdoodle,” Mia said and glared at the man.
“You little…” Quiggly snarled, reaching for her with malice in his eyes.
“Mr. Quiggly,” Captain Winthrop said as the quartermaster’s hands took hold of Mia’s arms, “you’re dismissed.” The crisp sharpness of the command wasn’t missed by either Mia or Quiggly.
“Aye, Captain,” Quiggly snapped upright, turned on his toes and marched out.
Mia watched him go, then watched as Captain Winthrop stepped inside. The man’s proper demeanor felt both cold and threatening. Not so much as one black strand of hair on the man’s head was out of place. The white lapels of his navy jacket were perfectly clean, as were his regulation white breeches, shirt and vest. The tall brown boots were polished and without crease and matched the brown leather of the wide belt he wore around his middle. Mia’s wandering eyes were drawn to his hands as he worked to pull off the leather gloves and tuck them into his side pocket. She looked up in time to catch his dark blue eyes surveying the mess she’d created in the once perfectly orderly quarters.
Much of it she made when she’d torn apart every bit of the room looking for a weapon, anything she could use to escape. The rest was a result of her frustration and temper. She knew even when she started she’d not find so much as a pen she might use to stab the man in the eye. He took the time she was held on dock to clear the cabin of anything useful and like his regimented bearing stated he’d be, he was thorough. There was nothing sloppy about the man before her. Mia smiled. There was nothing sloppy about him until now. She’d destroyed his neat little living space. Given the chance, she’d destroy his ship to the point it would be good only for scuttling. She’d be damned before she submitted to royal navy. She’d be double damned before she be forced to change course.
“You’ve been busy,” Winthrop said catching her eyes and holding her stare. “I shouldn’t expect more from a pirate’s daughter.” He stepped further in and clasped his hands behind his back.
Pirate’s daughter could be how all navy saw the merchant sailors. Jealous of their freedoms and their efficiency.
“To think anyone who mixes with that ilk might have even the slightest idea how to keep a ship as proper seaman should would be stupidity worthy of drowning to spare the world. Pirates are notoriously filthy scum.”
Mia didn’t recall moving, raising her hand or taking the swing, but the sound of the slap echoed and the red mark on the captain’s face bloomed bright. She’d put some strength behind the act, yet barely made his head turn. She expected to be slapped back but Devin’s hands stayed clasped behind his back as he worked his jaw. His lips pressed into a firm line and his eyes narrowed but he made no move to retaliate. Rather he turned sharply and paced across the room, stopping near one of the ship’s open hatches. The soft breeze ruffled his hair. He stood a moment then lifted a wooden slat from the wall where it hung waiting to be used to secure the small hatch. He examined it, turned back, and tapping it absently against his thigh walked back to her.
“You are scum,” Mia hissed turning to stay facing him as he paced slowly past her. “Weak, unable to make even a basic decision without directions from your betters. Lapdog to a crown who doesn’t even know your name.” Mia pulled her shoulders back and sent him her best glare. The one that often made other members of the crew look around nervously. “You know nothing of how to master the sea. You know nothing of the power in commanding the waves and you’ll not master or command me. I demand you put me ashore and that you do it n—.” Mia screeched as the wooden slat connected with her ass hard enough it lifted her up on her toes.
Before she could ascertain how he came to be standing so close to her left side, holding her forearm with a grip almost crushing, the piece of wood connected again. Then again, with more force. Mia was barely able to draw in air as the captain cracked the wood down for a fourth time. For all the pain, she was slow to begin the struggle to escape. The board landed again and Mia’s knees buckled, but she was held up by the sure hand of Captain Winthrop who managed to strike her in the same place.
Her scream was choked with sobs. Not even the sting of jellyfish burned like this. And more than the fire on her skin, the throbbing ache went deep and was worse than anything Mia had ever felt. She tried again to pull away, then sink to the floor, but each move only caused him to yank her back in place and follow with another blow of the board.
Her strength slipped. She no longer stood under her own power, had in fact grabbed hold of his arm, keeping herself in place for the beating. She could manage no words, but she couldn’t be silent. Even after several minutes without the burst of pain crossing her backside, she couldn’t bring enough air into her lungs to say anything or to find a calm silence.
The grip on her arm disappeared and Mia felt herself slipping downward. Before her knees hit the floor, his arm came around her waist, lifting her back to her feet then pulling her so she leaned on him. As much as she wanted to pull away she couldn’t. She didn’t have the strength, but it was more than that. It was something she couldn’t identify. She leaned against him and gasped for air, moaning at the continual throbbing in her seat that seemed still to be growing.
“What I know, Mia,” she heard him say, “is enough. What you should know,” he leaned in close enough she felt his lips against her ear and his breath against her neck, “is I’m not your father. The commodore might not be willing to keep you on course, but I assure you, I am, I can, and I will. Behave like a spoiled child, Mia mine, and earn the punishment of one.”
He let her go and Mia stumbled first to her right then back before his hand again took hold and steadied her. His grip this time was firm but not painful. He tossed his wicked weapon on the table then reached into his coat and removed a fine linen handkerchief. He urged her to turn and face him, using the soft material to wipe her face.
Mia lifted her eyes from his chest to his face. She wasn’t sure what she expected to find. Vindictiveness, victory, malice, spite, something telling about his cruel nature. Those things wouldn’t have surprised her. The look of concern and perhaps regret or remorse caused a pain to pinch her chest. The hurt wasn’t new. She’d felt it many times before when she’d disappointed Papa. Usually though, by the time it cut her, he’d already sailed off and she knew in the months before she saw him again it would fade and be forgotten. This time she was trapped here with the cause of both the hurts she felt. She was trapped without any idea how to ease either pain. Trapped? Trapped. And with that thought, frightened. More so because her papa let it happen and wouldn’t be fishing her out of the drink this time.
“Haul in your sheets, pirate,” he said as his hands rubbed up and down her back. The pressure caused her to lean forward and when she did, he stepped in so her cheek rested on his chest and the spicy scent of him filled her nose.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d cried the way she was trying to stop from crying now. For so long, if she so much as whimpered, someone was there to strike at whatever caused the upset and to soothe her, usually with some gift. Captain Winthrop not only caused this, he was soothing it all with nothing more than a simple touch. How was he capable?
She had enough sense not to believe those stories of dark magic spun by the African in the crew. Still the man always commanded respect on board and when he spoke of ill winds coming he was taken seriously. Papa never dismissed the man outright, even if he didn’t give much value to the voodoo. Now Mia was left to wonder if Tumo’s stories of men possessed of evil powers were more true than not.
She thought about searching the captain’s person for the straw dolls Tumo made to stab at with his knife. What else could be making her want to lean in further, feel more of his warm body, smell his skin without the shirt between them. She felt him shift, step back and she almost followed, catching herself before she did. Letting go his arms, and not until then had she known she held them, she stepped back. Another step back and she felt the spell breaking, her compass resetting. Not wanting to reach out again she tugged down her left cuff and held onto her own wrist as she used her sleeve to wipe her nose. He held out the handkerchief. She took two large steps back, then turned and moved to the far side of the cabin. His satisfied-sounding chuckle ran up her spine, stiffening it against the indignity she’d suffered.
Mia straightened, pulling back her shoulders and lifting her chin as she ground her teeth together. She had nothing to use now to slit his throat, but she’d eventually find a way to cut his heart from his chest. That was if he had one in there.
“Your trunks are aboard. Clean up this mess and I’ll have them delivered. You can change and come topside. We left port short on supplies and will be setting anchor at Bahari to bring on fresh water and whatever else might be had from the island. The winds have died off, but it should be no more than a week.”
Mia turned and faced him, but she could not tell his course. “Bahari?” she queried back. “What is wrong with Nevis?” If she could get to any of the ports, she could make her way back to Barbados and from there to her home port where her own ship sat ready and waiting. Bahari was a small rock in the middle of nothing, good only for its ability to resupply ships with fresh water and sometimes good fruits. Maybe a hog or two from the wild packs making their home there.
“Because,” Captain Winthrop said reaching to pick up that vile board and examine it, “I was warned, by your father—”
“My papa,” she corrected. The very word father made her sick to her stomach.
“The commodore,” he said which was better, and proper too, “warned me. Until I’m assured of your acceptance of the situation, I should refrain from entering ports where you might think to jump ship. Bahari is en route. I’ve made use of it before and given the way you’re looking at me right now, I’ve a willingness to take the man’s advice.”
Mia dropped her head and stared at the floor. She’d given away something in her expression, as she often did. That was her weakness.
“Straighten these quarters, Mia.” Her head came up at his words. “Have it stowed correctly before I return. Your belongings will need to be sorted. There’s not space enough here for everything carried on board. And,” he said, looking at the remains of her meal on the floor, “I’ll have another meal sent to you. Don’t,” he said, and slapped the board down against his open palm few times, “let it end up on the floor a second time.”
He turned smoothly and exited the room as stealthily as he’d entered, pulling the door shut softly behind him. Mia heard the lock click. The sound took her to her knees. Holding herself up on one arm she reached back and rubbed at the pain resonating across her ass. The sense of betrayal ran deeper than the ocean. Why had Papa given away the means to her escape? Had she somehow truly dishonored him that he no longer wanted her? She wouldn’t believe it. She’d done everything he asked. Even attending the ridiculous school for ladies. Learning how to hold a tea cup just so was mind numbing, unlike her schooling before when she’d studied every subject offered, working hard to earn the praise of her instructors so when Papa came to visit he’d hear of her achievements and be quick to return again for more visits. She could think of nothing she’d done to make him forsake her. He’d not known she purchased the sloop before he’d arranged this, this—marriage. It couldn’t be she displeased Papa. It had to be this man. It had to be Winthrop. He was behind this cast off. He was behind it. Mia would discover why and how he’d managed this and when she did she’d stake him down on some beach and let him burn in the sun for everything he’d done.