"Red Charlie! By god, he's a devil and I want him caught, now, today!"
Jackson Shaw remained silent as Avery Townsend smacked his fist on the fine, mahogany dining table, hard enough to make china and crystal rattle. The Governor glared at Jackson as if he were responsible for the infamous pirate who had taken yet another of the Townsend Merchant ships. Jackson could hardly blame him for wanting Red Charlie caught but the man's demanding tone did little to elicit Jackson's service, even if he did hope to have Townsend as his father-in-law some day. Jackson drew on his cigar, stalling while he let his own irritation fade. He'd been summoned to the governor's mansion like a lackey and although he'd been wined and dined to a fare-thee-well, he knew the real reason he was here. The Governor of Massachusetts wanted to engage his services. Jackson blew out the smoke and was about to decline, when a servant entered.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Sir, but Miz Townsend say you been in here long enough. You can't keep Mister Shaw all to yourself."
"Oh, all right, tell her we're coming," Townsend snapped, waving his hand as if to dismiss both the servant and his wife. "Bothersome woman!"
Jackson was glad for the interruption for two reasons. He didn't have to deny Townsend his request, although he was certain it would be presented to him again before the evening was out, and most importantly, he'd get a chance to see Joanna Townsend again. Beautiful, cultured, and highly intelligent, Joanna would swell any father's heart with pride. She was also the woman Jackson hoped to marry one day very soon. He'd made enough money to support the elegant Joanna in the style she was accustomed to, and he was ready to give up his Buccaneering days and become a wealthy landowner, himself. Putting out his cigar, he rose and followed Avery Townsend from the sumptuously appointed dining room into an equally sumptuous drawing room where his wife and daughter sat doing needlework.
"Do come and sit by me, Mister Shaw," Mrs. Townsend trilled, patting the cushion of the settee where she was seated. An older version of her blonde daughter, Melinda Townsend was still a handsome woman and an asset to her husband's political ambitions. "Would you be so kind as to accommodate me?" She handed Jackson a skein of yarn, looping it over both his hands while she began to roll it into a neat ball. "Did you enjoy your dinner?"
"Immensely," Jackson replied, casting an amused glance at Joanna.
She sent him a sly smile then concentrated on her stitchery. He was surprised at her sudden decorum, a far cry from the fiery, uninhibited woman he'd come to know.
"I do hope you'll come to Joanna's wedding, Mister Shaw," Melinda Townsend was saying. "She's to be married in less than a fortnight to that up-and-coming governor from Virginia, Robert Cook. My, he's so handsome, even if he's a little older than Joanna. He's the one she wants, so be it."
She didn't look up from her task to see the damage her statement had caused. Jackson's jaw clenched as he stared at Joanna whose eyes darted wildly around the room as if looking for an escape.
"Momma. I thought we agreed not to tell anyone just yet, at least not until the invitations were sent out." Joanna glanced at Jackson, her expression filled with dismay at being caught in her deception. Her gaze begged him not to make a scene.
Numb at the information of her pending wedding, given the nature of their tryst not three hours before, Jackson sat speechless. Joanna raised her head and a tiny smile curved her lips.
"Don't you want to wish me well, Mr. Shaw?" she asked lightly, her pale-blue eyes gauging his reaction.
Jackson felt the blood roar to his head, but he bit back his anger. "Of course, I do, Miss Townsend. I wish you everything you deserve." He rose, balling the strands of yarn into a snarl. "If you'll excuse me, Mrs. Townsend, Governor, I'm afraid I've just remembered an important matter I must attend to immediately." Without waiting for their polite responses, he turned and stalked toward the grand entrance hall.
"Er, Jackson," Townsend called, wheezing in his effort to overtake the younger man. "About that pirate."
"I'm sorry, Sir." Jackson swung around abruptly and the Governor pulled up hard so as not to run into him. "I'm afraid I can't accommodate you. I'm sure there are others who could handle the job as well, if not better than I. Good night, Sir." The slamming door cut off any rejoinder the Governor might have made. Jackson didn't pause or look back but stalked down the driveway to where his horse was tied, mounted and rode away as if Red Charlie, himself, was in pursuit. Or maybe it was the feckless Joanna Townsend who had played him for a fool while she insured herself a life of luxury and position as the wife of the Virginia Governor. Jackson was likely one of many lovers she would take in her lifetime, and if he'd understood the rules of the game, he could have enjoyed their liaison, but he'd believed her words of love, fool that he was.
His horse was lathered by the time he reached the quayside where his sloop, The Carolina, was moored. He thought of going aboard and nursing his heart wounds with a bottle of raw whiskey, but he had a need for people--his kind of people--rough sailors and calculating merchants, who if they lied and cheated, did so without pretensions of gentility and noble causes. He dismounted, tied off his horse and entered the first tavern he came to.
The noise and lights beyond the door promised entertainment and forgetfulness. Just what he needed. He took a seat near the fire and ordered rum from the buxom barmaid who flirted with him while she managed to provide an ample view of her equally ample breasts. She was young and clean looking, and he thought before the night was over, he might take her up on her unspoken invitation. Anything to get the taste and feel of Joanna Townsend from his mind. He downed his first drink without regard to breathing and signaled for another.
From the other side of the room came raucous male laughter interspersed with the lighter sound of a feminine giggle followed by a witty retort. The sailors surrounding the woman laughed again. Someone shifted and he caught a glimpse of hair the color of a sunset, a pale, heart-shaped face with dark eyes and an impudent red mouth that wanted kissing.
"Who is she?" Jackson asked the bar maid, who pouted at his interest in any female besides herself.
"Don't you want to know my name?" she asked teasingly, brushing her breast against his shoulder.
"Of course, I do, you sweet thing," Jackson replied and pulled her onto his lap.
He settled his lips over hers and was surprised at the honeyed sweetness of her, but his thoughts were on the auburn-haired beauty across the room. When he released the bar maid's mouth, she simpered up at him.
"My name is Rosy," she whispered, staring into his eyes.
"And who is your friend across the room?"
Rosy's smile faded. "She's no friend of mine and if you want to know, you can ask her, yourself." The girl jumped up from his lap and flounced away.
Jackson sipped his second drink and ordered another as he watched the noisy group. He lost count of the drinks he downed as he studied the woman who was obviously used to entertaining rough seaman and sailors. Even pirates were known to frequent the bars along the quay, knowing full well they'd be safe. Jackson remembered that Tommy Tew, one of the worst pirates in the Eastern seas, had been entertained and presented with a watch by New York's Governor Fletcher. Well-heeled merchants often bankrolled pirates for a share of their profits.
"Who's next t'buy me a drink?" the woman with the flaming hair called and the men around her crowded closer. She pushed them away, her gaze fixed on Jackson. Slowly, knowing every eye was on her, she undulated across the tavern, her hips swaying seductively beneath the rich satin gown she wore. She was a small woman, slim and short of stature, but her bearing was regal, arrogant even. She moved with an easy sensuality that spoke to experience--a prostitute, no doubt. Just what he was looking for tonight. She sauntered to him and paused scant inches away. He could smell her exotic musky perfume, which hinted at tropical breezes and wild sex on hot, sandy beaches.
"Why do you sit here, Sir, studying me as if I were a bug?" Her voice was soft and clear, her words an open challenge that promised much.
"A most interesting bug, Madam," he said, raising his half-empty mug in a salute. Rum sloshed over the rim and splattered on the table. In the time he'd spent observing the denizens of the tavern, he'd downed several more mugs of rum and now doubted he could stand. Still, he'd turn somersaults for an hour with this woman.
She'd made no response to his comment, but her dark eyes regarded him, unwaveringly. Finally, she smiled. "You are an interesting bug, Sir. Be careful, I do not squash you beneath my boot."
Her gaze issued the challenge, one that Jackson couldn't ignore. He lashed out and grabbed her arm, jerking her forward onto his lap. She squawked and flailed against him, but his arms held her against his chest while he lowered his mouth and claimed her lips. He'd expected her kiss to be sweet, but he hadn't expected the hot spicy taste that filled his mouth, like some exotic fruit. His tongue probed her tightly closed lips until finally, she opened to his onslaught and lay still against him, yielding the heady nectar of her mouth. He probed with his tongue, found hers and dueled, then subdued her while he set up a rhythmic stroking that had his cock rising against the softness of her buttocks. Her scent filled his senses. True, he'd bedded Joanna a few hours earlier, but a hunger rose within him. His need for this woman was as insistent as a man who'd been without a female for days, weeks even. He shifted her, so he could brush a hand over her bodice and touch the silken mound above the lace.
"Here now, mate, that's goin' a bit far," a rough male voice cried out and Jackson's hand was jerked away.
He ignored the voice, too mesmerized by her eyes, all dark and soulful that he felt their heat deep inside himself, in a place he'd never known before.
"What is your name?" He'd had to clear his throat before he could ask.
She stared up at him and he thought she meant not to answer.
"Charity," she said suddenly and sat up on his lap. "I'm Charity and don't get any ideas I'm an easy woman, because I'm not, see?"
"I would never think you a woman without virtue," Jackson said. "Let me buy you a drink."
"Well, all right." She tossed her head like a skittish stallion.
Jackson saw her hair was cut short and curled around her head like a fiery halo. She'd pinned a feather in it, which had become somewhat bedraggled and flopped across her forehead and down one cheek. With aplomb, she shoved it aside and raised her chin.
"I'll have a brandy, if you please," she said drawing herself up like a proper lady in a fine parlor.
More proper than the one who'd entertained him earlier that day, Jackson thought bitterly. His cock shriveled at the memory of Joanna Townsend. He turned his thoughts back to the sprightly lass on his lap. She was younger than he'd thought, hardly out of her teens if that, he figured, and full of her power as a woman. She shifted on his lap and her soft buttocks awakened his cock, so it swelled.
"Ooh," she said and looked at him with interest. "Have you been t'sea, then?" she asked, lifting her glass of brandy and tossing it back with the expertise of a drinking man.
"A few days back," he answered and returned to his rum.
"Ooh, and you have no lady friends to take care of you?" She eyed him knowingly.
"None I care to have," he answered, dismissing his dalliance with Joanna. At the moment, she seemed a distant memory. He leaned forward and whispered in the shell-pink ear beneath the riotous red curls. "Will you take pity on a poor sailor who's been out to sea overly long?"
Her gaze sharpened. "What ship are you with?"
"The Carolina," he replied and nuzzled her neck, her cheek and her soft pale throat.
She arched her head so he had better access to the slim column. "I know that ship," she said as his lips trailed a path back to hers. "A tidy sloop, it is. Who is your captain?"
He kissed her first, repeating the thrusting tongue into the sweet well. They were both breathless when he released her mouth to take a huge swallow of rum.
"Well?" She shook his arm impatiently, causing him to spill some of the rum on the white mounds of her breast and the lacy bodice.
"I'm so sorry," he murmured and lowered his head to lick away every drop. When his tongue dipped into the pale shadow between her breasts, she squirmed in his arms.
"Let us get to know each other first," she whispered.
He sat back and regarded her impish face. Her soft buttocks against his hard cock felt just right. He might be able to last like this for at least another two minutes.
"My captain is some fool who doesn't know his head from a hole in the ground," he said. "I don't want to talk about him. Let's talk about something else." He looked around. "I want to be alone with you, Joanna." Somehow the woman on his lap was all mixed up in his head with the beautiful blonde woman he'd wanted as his wife. He swept her against his chest and kissed her soundly. His head felt as big as a cabbage--both heads.
"You don't want to marry that Governor from Virginia, do you? It's me you love. I was going to ask you to marry me, didn't you know that? Will you marry me, Joanna? Marry me now, right here." He raised his head and looked around the tavern blearily. "Is there a preacher in the house? I need a preacher man to marry us."
"A preacher man?" someone called. "Aye, there's a preacher here. Reverend Walker, where d'ye be?"
The crowd parted and in the corner sat a man in a black frock coat and white collar, nursing a mug of ale.
"Have ye got yer bible, Reverend?" someone called gleefully. "Ye've got a wedding to perform."
"No," the girl on Jackson's lap shouted.
"You know you don't mean that, lass. You love me, I know you do, otherwise you wouldn't have let me fuck you like I did."
"Oh ho!" cried the onlookers. "He's got ye there, Charity. The man wants t'marry ye and make ye an honest woman. Ye can't say him nay."
"Well, I do," she cried angrily.
"Well, ye can't." One of the men grabbed hold of her shoulders and stood her up beside Jackson.
He grinned down at her, delighted that Joanna had changed her mind.
"C'mon, Reverend," the men called. "The bride and groom be ready."
They helped the man of cloth stagger to his feet, pressed a coin into his hand and stood him before Jackson and the girl. Reverend Walker bit the coin, ordered another mug of ale and pulled out his battered Holy book.
"I demand you stop this farce at once," the girl cried, her gaze taking on a shine of desperation. "I don't even know this man."
"Of course, you do," Jackson said. "It's me, Jackson Shaw, honey. We're going to be married and everything will be all right. I promise you, I'll take good care of you. I've got land and I'll build you a fine home and we'll have children, lots of children to work the land. I'll be able to afford a few slaves to help us out. It'll be a good life, Joanna. I promise you won't be sorry." He held her arms gently, bending down to look into her eyes. "I love you, lass," he said and kissed her tenderly. When he released her mouth, she seemed speechless.
"On with the wedding," the crowd shouted.
The Reverend stepped up and began the wedding service. Jackson beamed. The girl beside him was silent, her face pale, her hair a flame to light his way.
"Do you take this woman as your lawfully wedded wife?" the reverend asked.
"I do," Jackson shouted and a cheer went up around the room.
"Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?" The girl made no answer.
"She does," a man shouted from somewhere behind her and the whole tavern took up the chant, quieting only long enough for the Reverend to declare them man and wife.
"Drinks for everyone," Jackson ordered and bedlam ensued. Weaving slightly, he bent to the girl who had become his wife. "Is there someplace we can go? Do you have a room here?"
"Yes." Her answer was little more than a breath against his mouth.
"Then let's go there."
He pushed through the crowd. He was surprised when he stumbled. He hadn't thought he'd imbibed that much, but she steadied him against her slender body and led him toward the stairs. A man stepped forward, the same one who'd protested earlier. She waved him away. Together, they climbed the stairs and a sea chantey came to Jackson.
"A Yankee ship came down the river, blow, boys, blow." His voice boomed out over the crowd. Half the men took up the song, joining in the chorus. "And all her sails they shone like silver, blow, boys, blow."
Jackson hiccupped, laughed and sang it again, all twelve verses, which lasted through the time she led him to her room, eased him onto the bed and took off his boots. He grabbed hold of her slender shoulders and pulled her down on top of him.
"Give me a kiss, darlin'," he cried, but she pushed away from him and rose, straightening her skirts.
"I'll give you my bed, you drunken sod," she snapped, "but that's all you'll get this night."
"What?" he roared, staggering to his feet. "You're my wife. I have my rights."
"No one has rights over me," she said from between clenched teeth.
She shoved him and he fell back on the bed again, but he had the good sense to grab hold of her waist and pull her down with him. Jackson kissed her. At first she struggled, then her lips softened, became pliable beneath his and her body molded to his, all soft and womanly. Jackson felt his cock rise to the occasion yet again and he ground it against her mons, grasping her soft buttocks tightly. She yielded, then pushed away.
"Let me go, you bastard. I'm not a whore to be giving myself to every man who wants me, even if you had words said over us. I decide when and where I take a man to my bed." She fought herself free and stood over him, eyes flashing, hands on her hips. Her hair made a flaming halo around her heart-shaped face. "Why would you be thinking I'd give m'self t'the likes of you without a ring on my finger. D'you think I'm not as good as this Joanna you're mooning about?"
"Joanna," he reasoned. "If it's a ring, you're wanting, I have one for you. He tore off the diamond and gold ring he'd taken from an English duke once at the gaming tables. With great ceremony, he placed it on her finger. "It's too big," he said, studying the ring with disappointment. Her hand, he saw was quite small and dainty. "I'll get you another one that fits," he offered.
"Oh, I don't want your ring," she snapped and threw it across the room.
"Well, what do you want?" he asked self-righteously. "If that isn't just like a woman. I do everything you say and you're still not happy. Didn't you want to marry me?"
"No, I did not. I mean, maybe I did. I don't know. But I don't want a marriage like this, in a tavern with you drunk and wanting some other woman as your wife."
"I don't want any other woman," he said and swept her into his arms and to the bed. He kissed her, taking time to woo her lips apart, mastering her tart tongue, which would, no doubt, flail him to death, given half the chance.
"It's you I want," he whispered and somewhere beyond the rum induced lust, he realized it was true. This woman wasn't Joanna, nor could she ever be, but she was beautiful and sexy. Her lips tasted of some exotic fruit and he imagined the rest of her body would be the same. He put a hand on her bodice and tugged, freeing the pale, full mounds with the enticing areolas the color of dark cinnamon. He lowered his head and suckled her nipple. A heady desire roared through him at the taste of her, the feel of her warm breasts, the touch of his tongue against her skin. She gasped beneath him and raised her chin giving him permission to explore more. He kissed and licked the hollow beneath her ear, nibbled her ear lobe until she was bucking beneath him. Raising his head, he stared into her eyes, dark, deep brown pools that a man could get lost in.
"I want you, wife, and you want me, too. Take off these ruffles and gee gaws, so a man can get at you."
She held his gaze then nodded. He rolled off her to give her freedom to move and helped her unlace and unfasten all the garments a woman thought she needed to wear. When she was down to her pantaloons and thin linen bodice, which clung to her breasts as lightly as a butterfly on a flower petal, she paused, crossing her arms over her chest and stared at him with a gaze that was filled with emotions he couldn't decipher. Was she afraid? No, a woman such as she would be experienced in the ways between a man and woman. Why then her hesitation?
"You are still dressed," she said softly.
He decided that was the reason for her uncertainty. He grinned and sat on the edge of the bed to tug off his boots, then his trousers. She moved to the far side of the room and watched him, unsmiling, her eyes richly dark and mysterious.
Jackson drew off his coat and shirt and finally, totally nude, with his cock straining forward like an eager pup, he faced her. He knew what she was seeing. He was a tall man with broad shoulders and a flat belly, well tanned by the sun save for his scars, while his hips and legs were pale as befit a man. He gave no further thought to himself, but went to stand before her and slowly move her crossed arms so he might look at this bride of his. Her gaze caught and held his, dark, liquid chocolate eyes that had a swirl of emotions. Slowly, he pulled the linen bodice down to her waist and drew in his breath at the sheer beauty of her. Her breasts were full for such a petite woman and her waist was small enough a man could span it with his two hands.
He pushed away the rest of her garments, sliding the linen over gently curving hips, a slightly concave stomach and revealed a patch of hair the same red as covered her head. He paused studying the unusual sight, then shoved the pantaloons so they dropped from slender, creamy thighs and straight, firm calves. She stood in a pool of her clothes and watched him, waiting, neither encouraging nor denying. She was exquisitely made, like fine English porcelain, and he hesitated, loathing to sully such beauty. But she'd already been sullied, and he was but one of many men. And he'd married her. She was his to enjoy as he saw fit.
He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her, carrying her to the bed where he placed her on the pillows. She stared up at him, no longer trying to cover herself, her eyes, lustrous wells in which a man could dive and never surface for air. Bending, he cupped one breast and lowered his mouth to the other, catching the nipple between his teeth as his fingers lightly tweaked the other nipple. At first, he could feel her body shrink from the contact, then suddenly, she gasped and arched her back. Still caressing her breasts, Jackson rose above her and kissed her, thrusting his tongue deep into her mouth in a rhythm he meant to very quickly imitate with his cock. He ended the kiss and pulled her up so she was sitting, then stood beside the bed and thrust his cock toward her. Startled, she glanced up at him.
"Suck me," he commanded.
Tentatively, she took his cock in her soft hands and brought it to her mouth. She placed her full lips on the end of his bulb in an uncertain kiss, but he thrust his hips forward, shoving his cock deep into her hot, moist mouth. When she made no move to pleasure him, he thrust his cock in and out, holding her head still so he might make full use of her. He was disappointed she showed no initiative in this part of fucking, but some women had no taste for it. He released her head and she gazed up at him, surprise on her face.
"You don't like to do that?" he asked. "No matter." He shoved her back on the bed and nudged her legs apart. "Maybe you'll like this better," he said and raising her knees high, he centered himself over her and thrust, hard and fast.
He felt the hot ripple of flesh around the head of his cock, felt the mounting roar of desire claiming him. He thrust harder and felt a barrier, then the barrier was gone, torn apart, making way for his ramming cock to thrust deep within her. She gasped as her maidenhead was torn and lay silent and still beneath him. Slowly, Jackson hovered over her, his cock buried deep, his lust burning away from him as he realized what had just happened.
"My god," he growled. "You were a god-damned virgin." He reared up on his hands to stare down at her. Tears had run down her temples and puddled in her hair. "Why didn't you tell me? I thought you were a whore."
"I told you I wasn't," she said, her voice wavering with suppressed sobs.
"Christ, I never would have taken you. I wouldn't have married you if I'd known the truth."
"You would rather I were a whore?" she asked.
"You're damned right. A whore knows what's expected of her. A whore knows what to do. Of all the bloody luck." He withdrew from her and sank down on the bed, his feet dangling on the floor. "What the hell were you doing down here? Don't you know you were just asking for this to happen? Don't you have any family, any one to keep you away from places like this?" He shook his head and cast disbelieving, rebuking glances at her.
She had remained pale and silent during his tirade, but now she raised her foot and kicked him in the buttocks. "If you'll be so good as to remove yourself from my bed," she said, "I'll get dressed and remove myself from your presence."
"Where are you going? You can't go anywhere. You're my wife, now. I'm responsible for you." Jackson rose and stalked about the room, unmindful of his nudity until he saw her face, then he reached for his breeches and pulled them on. In the meantime, she had gathered her clothes and was hastily dressing.
"You have no need to worry about me, Mr. Shaw. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself." Her voice trembled with anger and outrage. "And I have people who care about me, yes, I do, so you see you need not worry about me. I will return to my own lodging and you may have this room. It's been paid for until tomorrow. Please be out on time." By this time, she had donned her shoes and with short, quick steps, she crossed the room to the door and slammed it behind her.
"Wait a minute," Jackson called. "You can't just walk out like this." He hurried after her, but she was already down the steps and shoving her way past the bawdy drunks to the inn's door. Before he could descend, she was gone. Jackson stood staring at the door where she'd disappeared. Who the hell was she? he thought groggily. He gripped the banister to keep from falling down the steps as the rum he'd imbibed made itself known. Cursing, he stumbled back to the room. He had to get dressed and go search for her. He couldn't just leave her to roam around the docks. She'd get hurt. But his head was reeling and he fell across the bed, trying to sort out what had happened before darkness claimed him.