By Paula Quinn
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AN INNOCENT STOWAWAY
As the sheltered niece of a Highland chief, Caitrina Grant longs for adventure beyond the lush hills of Scotland. So when a pirate ship glides into the loch, tempting her with promises of exotic lands and hidden treasures, Trina sneaks aboard. But she is unprepared for the consequences-and the seductive captain who demands the ultimate price for her deception . . .
A SINFUL PIRATE
For Alexander Kidd, the sea is no place for a lady. Pursued by deadly enemies from every direction, Alex won’t rest until he claims the bounty of riches left to him by his father, the notorious Captain Kidd. A stowaway will not be tolerated-no matter how beautiful. But soon fighting his desire for Trina becomes his toughest battle yet, and he will have to make an agonizing choice: sacrifice his quest-or lose the woman who has stolen his heart.
Table of Contents
A Preview of The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor
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Cast of Characters
Connor Grant ~ her father
Mairi MacGregor ~ her mother
Cailean Grant ~ her brother
Malcolm Grant ~ her eldest brother
Robert & Davina MacGregor ~ her uncle and aunt
Adam MacGregor ~ their eldest son
Abigail MacGregor ~ their daughter
Tamhas & Braigh MacGregor ~ their twin sons
Tristan & Isobel MacGregor ~ her uncle and aunt
Lucan MacGregor ~ their eldest son
Mailie MacGregor ~ their daughter
Patrick MacGregor ~ their son
Violet MacGregor ~ their daughter
Colin & Gillian MacGregor ~ her uncle and aunt
Edmund MacGregor ~ their eldest son
Kyle MacGregor ~ their son
Captain Alexander Kidd
The ship's crew:
Samuel Pierce ~ his quartermaster
Mr. Bonnet ~ his first mate
Gustaaf ~ the boatswain
Cooper ~ the sailing master
Robbie Owens ~ the cook
Nicky ~ Robbie's brother
Jack Hanson ~ the master gunner
Harry Hanes ~ the carpenter/physician
Simon ~ the musician
Jacques ~ a swabbie
William Kidd ~ Alex's father
Hendrik Andersen ~ William Kidd's boatswain
EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
Captain Alexander Kidd hooked his sapphire-ringed finger into the narrow handle of his jug of rum and brought it to his lips. The woman spread on the table beneath him looked up and moaned while she spread her palms over his sculpted chest. He wiped his mouth and looked at her. The hunger in the slow, salacious smile he lavished on her made her drip around the base of him. He ran his hand up her thigh, withdrew from her hot body, and then drove himself deeper into her, biting down on her pink nipple. Ah, but there was nothing better than warm rum and an even warmer whore. Plundering a ship was a close second, but he'd done that already this morning. He laughed and the wench tightened her legs around his waist. He tipped his jug and drizzled his rum over her breasts and her belly, watching with dark, hungry eyes.
He wasn't sure of her name. He didn't need to know it. He paid her to please him and she did.
He heard the sound of fighting from beyond the door of the candlelit room. Fighting was good, but now was the time for pleasure. He bent forward and drank from her behind his veil of dark hair.
He sank into her, deep and slow, then withdrew almost completely. Teasing her with what she wanted, he spread his palm over her belly and pulled cries from her throat with the gyration of his hips. His smooth thrusts arched her back and brought them both to climax.
Done, he pulled back, fastened his breeches, and took another swig from his jug.
"Will I see you again?" the wench asked when he stood over her, covering his tattoos of Neptune and Poseidon with his shirt.
He looked at her and shook his head. The last thing he wanted in his life was a woman. His father taught him to trust no man, but he'd learned firsthand not to trust a woman. He'd never make that mistake again. He never returned to the same wench's bed twice, providing no hope in forming attachments.
Pity, this one was a lovely thing with eyes as dark as coal and long raven hair. She was likely a native of the Americas and brought here to New York as a slave to work in this backstreet brothel.
He plucked an extra coin from a small pouch tied into his sash and tossed it to her, then stepped out of the room and out of her life, and into a brawl that sent his quartermaster flying across the full length of the front room.
Alex downed what was left in his jug, then smashed the clay vessel over the head of the man who'd done the punching. He watched the culprit go down, then cupped his groin and readjusted. A woman at a table at the other end of the room smiled at him and waved. He returned the salutation but headed to a larger table, preferring, for now, to share drink and laughter with the drunken, rowdy seamen who helped him sail his ship. He tucked in his shirt then slipped into a chair and ordered another jug of rum.
"Cap'n." His tanned, one-eyed first mate turned to him. "Tell this scab-pickin', bottom feeder"—he hooked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing it at another sailor who looked insulted enough to start killing people—"who among us plays the better jig on the pipes?"
"I've already told ya, Mr. Bonnet," Alex answered, giving his attention to his brocade coat and feathered tricorn hat resting where he'd left them on a chair to his right. "I prefer Simon's jigs over yars. That's why he's the ship's musician and ya're me first mate."
Alex paid his one-eyed comrade no mind when Mr. Bonnet cursed him for breathing. He didn't put it past his crew to turn on him if doing so gained them something they wanted bad enough. They were pirates, and just like any pirate, they were loyal to the coin in their pockets and the food on the table. He looked up instead at the man who'd sailed by him a few moments ago.
"I think me tooth came loose that time."
This man was different though. Alex had known his quartermaster, Samuel Pierce, for more than eight years now. Sam was a loyal friend, there with Alex when he learned of his father's arrest, at his side during his father's hanging, with him when Alex's heart was broken, the first and only time, by a woman. They'd plundered many ships together and fought many battles, watching the other's back. Alex trusted him with his very life and loved him like a brother. "The gold one?" he asked, eyebrow raised.
Three of his men who had been deep in conversation stopped talking and turned to eye Sam.
"Not the gold one," the quartermaster growled at them. "But if any of ya be wantin' to try to pry it loose from me jaw, just stick yer fingers in there if ya have the balls."
Alex laughed and swigged his rum. "Robbie Owens there doesn't have 'em."
It was true, poor Robbie had lost his balls two summers ago when the mother of two of his children caught him in her sister's bed. Fortunate for Robbie the ship's carpenter, Harry Hanes, knew how to stop bleeding and sew a man up good as new. Well, perhaps not like new.
"Captain Kidd?" A stranger appeared at the table, drawing all the men's attention to him. Another man would have taken a step back, or at least reconsidered his decision to make himself known to them as pistols came into view, along with blood-stained daggers.
But not this man. He remained unflinchingly cool in his drab but costly attire, clean hands folded in front of him.
"Who's askin'?" Samuel said, reaching for the cutlass tucked into his boot.
"My name is Hendrik Andersen. I was a friend of the captain's father, William Kidd."
"Me father had no friends," Alex corrected, reclining in his chair and slamming his booted foot on the table. "None who were worth more than bilge rat shit."
"I've been looking for you for several years now," the stranger continued as if Alex hadn't spoken.
It didn't bode well for Alex that he'd been searched for and found.
"What do ya want?" Alex asked him. "Make yar plea convincin' or I'll kill ya where ya stand. I should do it now fer claimin' to be a friend to me father. None of his crew stood by him when he was arrested. None watched him die. All had abandoned him."
"But not you."
Alex slowly removed his leg from the table and sat up in his chair. His movements caused Sam and several others to draw their daggers, others their pistols, and they begged Alex to let them fire.
Aye, him, too. He'd abandoned his father along with the rest of them. Oh, he'd been there in the crowd that day in London to watch his father swing, but Alex had abandoned him long before that. And what made it worse was that he'd done it for a woman.
No one but Sam had known that Alex was present at his father's execution. His father hadn't even known. William Kidd began his career as a privateer, authorized by the government to attack foreign or enemy vessels at sea. He never admitted to being a pirate. But Alex knew the truth and had followed in his footsteps, another fact his father had kept secret to his grave, loyal to his outlaw son upon death.
"What is it ya be wantin' to tell me?" Alex demanded quietly.
Andersen didn't bat an eyelash. "I would speak to you alone."
"Nay," Alex said, not risking a stab in the gut the instant they were alone. Anyone could have sent Andersen to hunt Alex down, the Royal Navy, any number of governors from New York, even the throne. They believed Alex knew where to find the treasure that cost his father his life. Sadly, they were mistaken. "Say what ya would now and say it quickly. Ya're tryin' me patience."
The man cleared his throat and glanced at the others. "Very well, then. May I sit?" When Alex nodded, he pulled out the chair nearest Alex's coat and hat and sat down on it. Alex watched him catch his hat before it hit the floor and then place it, with the due respect a captain's expensive leather hat deserved, back on the chair. "I was your father's boatswain. I was with him when he captured the Quedagh Merchant."
Everyone at the table grew silent. They all knew about the rumors of the Quedagh Merchant, the infamous Armenian ship said to be loaded with gold and silver, gems of every size and color, not to mention satins, muslin, and priceless East Indian goods, including silks. It was a treasure any pirate worth his weight in salt would kill for… or die for. His father was rumored to have captured it shortly after Alex left him to begin his own life of adventure and piracy. Since Alex didn't remember ever seeing Andersen on his father's ship, he concluded that the Dutchman would have had to have joined his father's crew right after he left.
No proof was ever discovered against William Kidd but Alex didn't doubt that his father had indeed captured the ship. What he didn't believe was that his father had trusted anyone with its whereabouts.
"Are ya tellin' me ya know where the Quedagh Merchant is?" Alex wouldn't have believed him if Andersen answered with an aye. The first Captain Kidd had been tried and hanged for piracy and murder rather than give up the location of that ship. Since Alex hadn't been with him when he took it, nor had Alex seen him alive since, he didn't know its whereabouts either.
"I'm telling you nothing of the sort, but…" Andersen paused and looked around. When Alex nodded for him to continue, he obliged. "There is a map."
A map. That sounded quite plausible, Alex decided, trying to keep his heart beating at a steady pace. His father may have denied his true profession, but he wouldn't have gone to his grave without a map to his greatest treasure. What if somehow he had come out of the trial alive? His father would have made certain there was a map. Who would he have given it to for safekeeping? He'd told his son that there was only one other man whom he trusted but not who the man was. Was it his boatswain?
"Where is this map?" he asked his guest casually.
Still reluctant, Andersen looked straight at Mr. Bonnet's patched eye and the scar running down beneath it. "You trust these men?"
"Not always, but I need them, same as they need me. Where is the map? Who has it?" If there really was a map, Alex wanted to know who had it. He wouldn't try to steal it. He didn't deserve it. Whoever had it did.
"Where in Scotland?"
"I have a condition, Captain Kidd," Andersen was foolish enough to announce.
Half the men at the table readied their daggers and aimed their pistols again. Metal gleamed against the firelight coming from the hearth.
"If yar condition isn't that ya walk out of here alive"—Alex tipped one corner of his mouth up—"then I'm afraid I must refuse."
"I wish to sail with you."
Alex shook his head. "I already have a boatswain. I don't need any more men."
"You need me."
Alex laughed. "Kill him," he told Sam, rising from his chair.
"You need me to find the people who have your map," Andersen exclaimed as Sam's dagger edged along his throat.
Holding up his hand, Alex halted his quartermaster's next move. Not that his friend was truly going to kill Andersen. At least, not while he knew the whereabouts of this alleged map. After that…
"I was born in Scotland. I don't need ya to find me way 'round. Now tell me who has it."
"Will I sail with you?"
Regaining his seat, Alex narrowed his eyes on him. It was obvious that this man who claimed to be a friend to his father wanted the map for himself. But why not just go to Scotland and get the map himself if he knew where it was? Why did he need Alex?
"You will never find them on your own, Captain," Andersen forged ahead, undaunted by Alex's scowl. "And if you do, they will kill you before your feet touch land. They are hidden in the mists in the Highlands."
MacGregors. Alex had heard of them. "They are outlawed, are they not?"
Sam nodded. "King William re-enacted the proscription against them when he gained the throne."
"Their reputation of savagery precedes them," Alex said, remembering tales he'd heard about them.
"Your father knew the clan chief," Andersen told him. "He took a few others and me with him as witnesses when he brought the map to them to guard. The chief agreed to surrender the map to you… and to you alone."
"What do ya mean to me?"
"It was your father's map," Andersen said. "He left it to his son."
Alex leaned back in his chair and took in what he was hearing. His father had found the Quedagh Merchant and left the map of its whereabouts to him? Had William Kidd forgiven him for leaving? Nay, he couldn't absorb it all now. Perhaps tomorrow…
"So when do we leave?"
Alex smiled at him. "Bring to me mind the reason I need ya again?"
"Because the chief doesn't know you, or whose son you are. If you happen to find them on your own you will have no way to convince them of your identity. They'll kill all of you for finding them. They value their privacy highly."
"So ya intend on provin' me identity?" Alex asked him. "How?" he asked when Andersen nodded his head.
Alex cocked his brow. "A letter?"
"From your father to the chief, stating that you are his son and the map should be handed over to you. I have been made privy to things about you that can prove who you are. And because I traveled with your father and already met them, my word will validate."
Believable and clever on his father's part. Alex would take this Dutchman with him. He wondered how much Andersen knew about him. He hadn't seen his father in a little under a decade and he'd changed much in that time. How could anyone prove his identity?
"And what of these folks who have the map?" he asked. "How do ya know they haven't already looked fer the ship?"
"They are Highlanders, not pirates. Their island is their treasure and they guard it unceasingly."
Alex thought about everything he'd been told so far. He shared a look with Samuel. As his quartermaster, Sam had as much say in what treasures they sought and plundered as the captain. If Sam didn't feel right about Andersen and his claim of a map, Alex wouldn't ask the crew to go with him on his voyage to Scotland.
Sam ran his fingers through the blond waves on his uncovered head and nodded.
"I'll let ya board me ship." Alex turned back to their guest. "But I have a few conditions of me own. First, ya'll take four successive watches fer the first three nights at sea while we travel to Scotland. The crew can use the rest to recuperate from our time ashore. Second, ya'll aid our navigator and cook, Mr. Cooper, in any way he commands to get us to our destination as safely and as quickly as possible. I inherited my father's enemies, from the Royal Navy on up to the throne itself. If word of a map… nay, a whisper of it, reaches their ears, we will have to fly over waves or hoist our flag and kill some soldiers. I'm prepared to do either. Are ya?"
"If you command it."
Alex grinned at him and sank languorously into his chair. "I'm almost certain that at some point in our journey we'll discover if ya speak true." He held up another jewel-encircled finger to quiet him when Andersen would have spoken. "Next, I want the letter me father wrote and would hear of his adventures from ya. We parted long ago." Alex missed his father. Captain William Kidd had been an ornery man, wary of every sailor in his company. He taught Alex everything he knew about ships and sailing.
"He spoke of you often," Andersen told him.
Hell. What would he have told this man? That his son never returned to his father's ship after their brief anchor in Lisbon? That his son never tried to find him? But Alex had tried at first. "Ya will tell me what he said."
"Very good. Then I've one last condition before I allow ya aboard me ship."
"What is it?"
"Pay fer our drinks. Do ya agree to these conditions?"
Alex grinned at him. "Then welcome to Poseidon's Adventure. We sail at dawn." He cut his dark gaze across the room, to the woman who had waved at him earlier. She crooked her finger at him now. He sprang to his feet with the grace of a great cat and smoothed back any stray strands of chestnut hair that had fallen over his forehead. Tonight was a good night. He felt redeemed, released from a weight he'd carried for years. He wanted to celebrate. "Andersen," he said on his way. "Ya're in charge of me coat and hat. Guard them well, or 'twill cost ya a finger."
He grinned, turning fully to address his crew. "I'll meet ya all in an hour to stock the ship. Until then, enjoy yarselves. Who knows when we'll be ashore again?"
He smiled at the woman rising from her chair at his approach. She was eager to be pillaged and he was willing to oblige.
Caitrina Grant hurried toward her father's solar, her blood thrashing like a storm through her veins. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't. Her father would never have consented to a marriage between her and Hugh MacDonald, and never without telling her!
She paused a moment in her tracks. What if her father was tired of her refusing every offer of marriage that came to her? What in blazes would she do if it was true?
She came to the solar door and heard her parents laughing inside. She knocked and then, without waiting for an invitation, she plunged inside.
Her parents were locked in each other's embrace and came apart slowly upon seeing her. Caitrina was used to seeing them showing their affection for each other. She hated to be the one to ruin their evening but they needed to talk.
"Tell me it isna' true," she pleaded, moving like a rushing wind toward them. "Tell me ye havena' promised me to Hugh MacDonald."
When her father looked away, guilt plaguing his vivid blue eyes, she knew it was true. "How could ye?" she demanded. "Ye know I dinna' want to wed anyone!"
"Cait, sit doun," her mother offered. "Let us speak of this like—"
"I dinna' wish to sit," she insisted, desperation marring her voice. "Mother, we have spoken of this already. I want more than to be a wife and a mother. I want to know what else is oot there fer me!"
"Daughter," her father tried a bit more soothingly. "Ye don't know what the world is like beyond Skye."
"I wish to find oot."
"There are dangers at every turn," he continued over her. "I cannot… I will not take the chance of any calamity befallin' ye. We love ye and we don't want to see ye alone. Ye need a good, strong man to see to yer comfort and yer protection. Ye've turned down everyone who has asked fer yer hand, but 'tis time—"
She shook her head and went to her father. "Papa, please," she begged him, taking hold of his sleeve. "Dinna' sentence me to a life of such tedium. Ye know I dislike sewin'. I canna' cook. I dinna' want to read aboot other peoples' adventures. I want to live them fer myself."
Connor Grant let out a long sigh and turned to her mother. "She's just like ye, Mairi." His wife nodded her head, which did little for Caitrina's cause since, if all the tales she heard were true, Mairi MacGregor had once been an active spy with a group of militia who hunted down those who tried to maintain their doctrine as sole religion in Scotland.
"We're proscribed, Caitrina," her father reminded her. "The instant ye leave Camlochlin yer life would be in danger. I'm sorry, but I cannot allow ye the life ye desire."
Her eyes filled up with tears and she looked toward her mother for help. None came. No! She loved her parents but she would not obey them in this. Not this.
She ran from the solar and out of the manor house. She would figure something out, think of a way to convince them that she would be safe away from Skye. She had to, or she would go mad.
Sometime later, she stood on the rocky shore of Loch nan Leachd and set her gaze over the water toward Loch Scavaig in the distance. Beneath the late setting sun her eyes matched the tumultuous blue depths swelling and breaking before her. The song of the waves crashing against sheer walls of rock played like a hypnotizing symphony to her ears. She closed her eyes and slowed her breath to rein in her riotous heart. It wouldn't do to begin her night aching for something indefinable and unrealistic.
It wasn't the water that pulled her in but what lay beyond it. Directions. So many of them, it made her head spin thinking of the different paths her life could take. Oh, she couldn't marry Hugh, or anyone else for that matter. She sought adventure, felt curiosity burning through her veins. She wanted to meet new people, learn new customs, live vicariously without the net of home to guard her. But her father would never let her leave.
No one left Camlochlin. Not for good. Nor would she. It was home, a mother's love, a promise of safety in a treacherous world. Caitrina loved it as much as anyone else. But she wanted more. She might even want a little danger.
"Dinna' smile at the water lest ye tempt jealous sirens to swim ashore and kill ye."
She opened her eyes and sighed at her cousin, who wasn't there a moment ago. "Kyle, ye really must learn to announce yerself. Ye're too quiet."
"I thought ye might have heard Goliath and Sage barking up the slope," he answered. When she shook her head and looked over her shoulder at the giant mixed wolfhounds racing up the side of Sgurr na Stri, he offered her a knowing look. "Ye lose yerself too deeply to yer thoughts, Trina."
"Kyle," she said, ignoring his warning, "did ye hear aboot my betrothal to Hugh MacDonald?"
"Aye," he said softly, not pushing her as to whether or not she would go along with it. He knew her, perhaps better than anyone else did.
"Do ye think my faither will allow me to travel to France if I agree to wed Hugh upon my return?" One adventure. Was that asking too much? "To see our grandparents," she added after he began shaking his head.
"What's in France, Trina? And dinna' say our grandparents. Ye'll be seeing them in a month."
She shrugged, turning toward the loch. No sense in lying to Kyle. He could see right through deceit. Besides, she loved him too much to lie to him. "The same thing that's in England, I suppose. Stuffy nobles and feigned smiles. But I dinna' want to spend my last free summer before I'm forced to be someone's wife hunting deer and rabbits, or embroidering, or even reading!"
They looked at each other, Trina expecting the scandalous arch of Kyle's brow. Most of her cousins adored books as much as swords. Not her, unless the books were about adventure—or archery. She loved arrows; the height and the distance they reached on the wind. The precision achieved by dedicated practice.
She quirked her mouth at him. "Come now, Kyle, ye know how I feel aboot living nestled away in the mountains while the world—which I learned aboot from books—goes on withoot me? And now I'm to be saddled doun with babes…"
A veil of mist passed across his cerulean gaze, briefly transforming him into the cool, calculating performer who could sniff out the truth better than a hound on the trail of its prey. "Ye're trouble fer some poor sot oot there, Caitrina Grant, and I dinna' believe 'twill be Hugh MacDonald. Ye'll go to France and not return fer a year or two." He wouldn't tell her parents her plans. Kyle would never betray her. Even as children he had protected her, though she had brothers who were more than happy to do so. Kyle had kept all her secrets, even when she practiced swordplay with the boys when she was supposed to be learning to sew.
The veil lifted; his smile on her was soft, indulgent. "Come now, the others are waiting."
She nodded and followed him on the path behind the mountain as the mist began to roll in from the Cuillins to the north.
"Speak to yer faither, Kyle. Please."
"Aboot speaking to my faither aboot me going to France to see our grandparents. I'll return. I promise."
He shook his head as he made his way over the steep rocky incline. His steps were sure and silent enough not to disturb the others waiting for them… or the deer they meant to hunt. "Yer faither willna' let ye go alone, Trina. No matter who speaks to him."
"Come with me then," she offered, holding back his wrist before they reached their hunting party. "He'll let me go if ye're with me. He knows that ye're clear-headed and confident, and ye could fight us oot of trouble if ye need to."
"4 1/2 stars! Top Pick! The final book in Quinn's Children of the Mist series is Scottish romance at its best: captivating, tender and sensual with characters readers care about."
--RT Book Reviews on Conquered by a Highlander
"Rich, evocative historical detail and enthralling characters fill the pages of this fast-paced tale."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Conquered by a Highlander
"Another winning mix of fascinating history and lush romance...Readers will be captivated."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Tamed by a Highlander
"Top pick! Quinn delivers top-notch Highland romance!"
--RT Book Reviews on Tamed by a Highlander
"Seduced by a Highlander is sparkling, sexy and seductive! I couldn't put it down! Paula Quinn is a rising star!"
--Karen Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author
"Scottish romance at its very best! Deliciously romantic and sensual, Paula Quinn captures the heart of the Highlands in a tender, passionate romance that you won't be able to put down."
--Monica McCarty, New York Times bestselling author on Seduced by a Highlander.
"Deftly combines historical fact and powerful romance...Quinn's seamless prose and passionate storytelling will leave readers hungry for future installments."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Ravished by a Highlander.
- On Sale
- Oct 28, 2014
- Page Count
- 400 pages