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Wayward Angel – Excerpt  (Sorry about the change in fonts.  I don't have any way to control that)

 

“I’m going to turn her over my knee, ” Bragen vowed to Clay as he paced the otherwise vacant gentleman’s parlor. “To think that she sneaked on board by lying to the captain and telling him I was her husband, then, apparently, stowed away in my cabin.” (Times new Roman 4 Bold)

 

“I’m doing my best not to say I told you so.”

 

“Damn her!  We’re too far out to sea to send her back.  I have no choice but to move in with you, Clay.”

 

“No.”

 

“What?”

 

“As much as I enjoy your company, I enjoy my privacy more.  Besides, everyone on board thinks you’re married, so there’s no compromise involved.  And just think of how miserable you can make the little imp by staying.”

 

Bragen rubbed the nape of his neck.  Nichole Heatherton had certainly muddled his already chaotic life.  “I wonder how long she plans to remain hidden?”

 

“My guess is she’ll reveal herself today.  As you said, we’re far enough out to sea that there’s no threat of her being returned to Charleston.”

 

“Of course that’s what she’s been waiting for.  I should have guessed, and I should have listened to her brother when he warned me about her.  I should have taken her threat to stow away seriously and had Potter search the whole miserable ship before we departed.”

He jammed his hands into his pockets, his anger rising to a slow simmer.  “Someone should teach that sneaky vixen a lesson.”

 

“So, what’s stopping you?”

 

Bragen stared at his friend in surprise then curved his mouth into a slow, wicked smile.  “Absolutely nothing.”  Straightening to his full height, Bragen gestured toward the door.  “Come on, Clay.  I have an urgent desire to return to my cabin.”

  

Carrying a full tray of food left over from breakfast, Bragen opened the door to his room.

 

They both scanned the room and fixed on a smooth white arm visible on the top bunk.  She was still asleep.

 

Bragen set the tray down, then silently walked past Clay—and slammed the door.  He turned just in time to see the arm disappear.

 

Unable to hide a smile, Bragen snagged  one of two chairs and sat down.  “I don’t know about you, Clay, but I’m starved.”

 

Clay tilted his head but didn’t respond.

 

“Mmm.  Doesn’t this ham smell good?  And I can’t wait to taste that hickory-cured sugar.”

 

They both heard a small, muffled groan.

 

“I just hope there’s enough of it to last until we reach London.  We’re already a day behind, and the current doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.  Hell, we can still see the shoreline,” he fabricated.

 

Dead silence.

 

Clay rolled his eyes, and his mouth split into a huge grin as he caught onto Bragen’s game.

 

“I guess we won’t make it much farther today, either,” Bragen continued.  “I heard one of the crewman say an approaching storm was responsible for the current’s landward pull.  The way things are going, we might remain in this spot for several days.  Are you sure you won’t have one of these berries?  They’re delicious.”

 

“No, thank you,” his friend managed through a laughter-tightened throat.

 

Bragen sucked noisily on a gooseberry.  “Did you hear what happened this morning?”

 

His companion sprawled out in the other chair, blinking rapidly, trying to hold back tears of mirth.  “No.  What?”

 

“Captain Potter found a stowaway down in the hold.”

 

“Really?”

 

“The first mate found a woman, a runaway bond servant, hiding behind a row of water barrels.”

 

“What did they do?”

 

Bragen clasped his hands behind his head, his smile evil.  “They gave her a turn at the lash, then since we were so close to shore, they threw her overboard.”

 

A stifled gasp whispered from the top bunk.

 

Clay gnawed his lip to keep from laughing.  “I’ve never heard of setting lash to a woman before.  I’m surprised she survived.”

 

“No one knows if she did.  She swooned after the first blow and hadn’t regained consciousness when they dumped her over the side.”

 

“That’s barbaric.”

 

“I know.  And at first I thought it might be Jason’s sister, but I’m sure glad it wasn’t.  She was so small and delicate, she couldn’t have withstood the cat-o-nine-tails.”

 

“Don’t the authorities object to such cruel treatment?”

 

“No.  They endorse it.  Stowaways are a real problem in this area.  In fact, it was the constable who suggested harsher punishment.”

 

They both watched the upper bunk but saw no movement.

 

“Surely they could have found a gentler way to deal with women.”

 

“They did.  Women are given only five lashes.  Men are given twenty.”  He saw the woolen blanket give a slight quiver, and suddenly the game didn’t seem so funny anymore.  She was frightened.  Damn it.  Now why did she have to make him feel like a cad?  He came to his feet.  “Come on, Clay.  Let’s see if we can find the Havilands for a game. 

 

Clay rose.  “What about your meal?”

 

“I’ve lost my appetite.”  He strode toward the door.

 

“What about the tray?  Aren’t you going to set it in the hall for the cabin boy to pick up?”

 

Bragen knew Clay wanted him to admit he was leaving the food for the girl, but he’d be damned if he would.  “No.  I’ll nibble on it later.”

 

Clay arched a brow but didn’t speak as they strode out. 

 

In the corridor, Clay asked, “How long are you going to make her think we’re just off the Carolina shore?”

 

“Long enough to teach her some discipline.”

 

“And after that?”

 “Damned if I know.  But I do know the minute we reach London, I’m putting her on the first ship returning to the colonies.  But until her game is brought out into the open, and except for giving her a few minutes to take care of nature’s business, I plan on spending a lot of time in my cabin.”  He smiled.  “Making her thoroughly miserable.”



The Silver Witch -- Excerpt

Her heart slammed viciously against her chest as she ran fantically out the door.  The trees!  She had to get to the trees! 

Vines tangled around her feet, dragging her down.  She scrambled on her knees.  "Help me.  Oh, somebody please." 

The cypress loomed closer--but not close enough.  The man's footsteps pounded right behind her.  She wasn't going to make it!

"Beau," she screamed.  "Oh, God, Beau.  Where are you?"

Cruel fingers snagged her hair, jerking her backward.  A hand closed around her throat.

"Beau!" she cried aloud, jarring herself awake.  Gasping for breath, she sent a paniced glance about her moonlit bedchamber, but there was no cypress...no man.

She clutched her quilt to her chest, trying to still her racing heart.  The dream she'd been having since childhood had never been so vivid.  So real.  She'd always been running and frightened, but until this moment, she'd never known she was fleeing from a man.  And that realization scared her more than the nightmare.

Pushing away the covers, she rose and struck a flint to a bedside candle, then sighed when a warm yellow glow filled the room, forcing remnants of the haunting visions back into the darkness.  All except one.

Who was Beau?

Coming Soon 

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Sue Rich
Grants Pass, Oregon
suerich@richvisions.com