Authors: Connie Mason
“Taken By You is…
filled with adventure!”
“DON’T COME ANY CLOSER!”
“Your virtue is safe for the moment. I doubt if I could rouse myself enough to partake of your dubious charms.”
she thought, awash in relief.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t feel differently tomorrow, or even ten minutes from now. If I want you, I will have you.”
He was so close Luca could feel the hot rush of his breath against her cheek. “If you return me to Spain, I will remember you in my prayers until the day I die.”
“I do not want your prayers, Luca. Perhaps I want something else from you.”
Luca went still, enthralled by the intensity of Morgan’s eyes. His head lowered, his blond hair brushing her forehead as his lips touched hers. Fire. Pure fire …
© 1996, 2011 Connie Mason. All rights reserved.
Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean
organ Scott poised briefly on the prow of the sinking galleon, arched his scarred, emaciated body, and dove into the dark, wind-tossed sea below. His arms and legs churning furiously, he struggled to escape the sucking wake of the sinking
He looked back but once, silently rejoicing when he saw the Devil’s ship slowly sinking beneath the surface, taking her brutal Spanish master and crew with her.
Then he laughed.
Laughed until his sides ached and he was in danger of drowning.
Abruptly, he turned toward the English frigate whose guns were still smoking, and he swam like hell.
“She’s sinking. Captain Dunsworth,” First Mate Nickols reported as he lowered the spyglass and smiled at the captain.
“Good riddance,” Dunsworth snarled. “That’s one more Spanish bastard who won’t interfere again with English shipping. His first mistake was taking us on, his second was thinking he could sink one of Her Majesty’s finest Any survivors, Mr. Nickols?”
Nickols raised the glass again to scan the whitecaps being plowed by the rising wind. “Doesn’t look like it, sir.”
Dunsworth nodded. “Just as well. Let’s get out of here, there’s a storm brewing. Set a course for England. We need to repair the damage done by me
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Nickols made one last sweep of the sea through the glass, lowered it, men suddenly swung it back up to his eye.
“What is it, Mr. Nickols, do you see something?”
“Aye, Captain. Looks like a man’s head bobbing in the waves.” He handed the glass to Dunsworth, who trained it in the direction in which Nickols was pointing. “Do you see him?”
“Aye. I’ve a notion to let the bastard drown, but I’m no barbarian. Lower a longboat and bring him aboard.”
“He looks about done in, Captain,” Nickols remarked as he stared down at the half-drowned man sprawled on the deck. “Look at his back, poor devil. Whoever he is, he wasn’t coddled aboard the
He’s no more than a lad. I would doubt he’s even a Spaniard with all that blond hair.”
“Take him below and have the ship’s doctor look him over. And for God’s sake, feed him. I can count every one of his ribs. Until we hear his story, it won’t hurt to treat him as decently as possible.”
Morgan stirred, turned to his side, and spewed out some of the seawater he had swallowed. Then he lay on his back, staring up at the Englishmen who had pulled him from the sea. Despite his weakness and utter exhaustion, he smiled in genuine joy. It was the first time he’d seen an Englishman in five years, and the sight nearly overwhelmed him with relief.
“Do you speak English?” Captain Dunsworth asked.
Though his throat was raw from swallowing copious amounts of seawater during his desperate swim, Morgan answered without hesitation.
“I speak English very well, sir. My name is Morgan Scott My father was Sir Duncan Scott. Five years ago he was appointed envoy to Italy by the queen. Our ship,
was attacked and sunk by the
and I was the only survivor. My mother, father, brother, sister—dead… all dead.”
The captain looked incredulous. “The
My God, man, I recall the incident very well. Nothing was ever heard from the ship, and it was assumed all hands and passengers were lost Where have you been these past five years?”
“Consigned to Hell,” Morgan said, struggling to rise. A sailor rushed forward to help ram. “I haven’t set foot off the
in five years. I’ve been starved, beaten, humiliated, and forced into virtual slavery. I grew up fast, forced from youthful innocence and thrust into the bowels of Hell at the age of seventeen.”
Captain Dunsworth shook his head in commiseration. “Thank God we crossed paths with the
when we did. You’re free now, Morgan Scott I’m sure the queen will restore all your family’s wealth and holdings to you once she learns you’re alive.”
“I suppose,” Morgan said dully.
“I’m Captain Dunsworth of the Royal Navy. The ship’s doctor will take a look at you directly. By the time we reach England you’ll be in shipshape condition. You’re young, you’ll recover. In no time at all you’ll be among your own kind leading a privileged life.”
Hollow-eyed and gaunt, Morgan stared at Dunsworth. No one but he would ever really know how severely he had suffered at the hands of the Spanish. They could guess but would never know unless they’d experienced it themselves. Never again could he live the kind of useless life he’d been accustomed to before his years of captivity. His soul burned with hatred, his heart lusted for revenge. The cruel death of his family and his subsequent captivity had left an indelible mark upon him.
“I will use my wealth to avenge my family’s death,” he said in a voice so filled with menace that Dunsworth shivered and looked away. “From this day forward, no Spaniard—man, woman, or child—is safe from me. I will seek the queen’s sanction, outfit a ship, and hunt them down on the high seas like the animals they are.”
“I admire your ambition, Master Scott, but aren’t you rather young to captain your own ship? Have you the skills needed to control men?”
Morgan’s blue eyes blazed hotly with vindictive fervor. “After five years of captivity on the high seas I’ve learned all there is to know about ships and sailing. Just as I’ve learned to hate Spaniards. I think that more man qualifies me for taking them on Nothing will stop me. Captain.” He raised his fist toward the dark, threatening sky. “I vow on the heads of my dead family to become merciless and single-minded in my pursuit of Spaniards. I will hunt them down ruthlessly and give no quarter. So help me God.”
don’t care how pious you are, daughter, the family honor is at stake,” Don Eduardo Santiego stated emphatically. “You
leave the convent, and you
travel to Cuba to marry Don Diego del Fugo.”
Shrouded in a shapeless gray habit, Luca Santiego stiffened perceptibly, and her chin tilted upward in an almost unheard-of act of defiance. Ten years of submission and obedience, drummed into her by the abbess and nuns at the Mother Of God convent, fled, for this was something she could not let go unchallenged. She would not be sacrificed to her father’s honor.
“I do not wish to marry Don Diego, Father. Nor do I wish to leave Spain. I am quite content here at the convent. In another month I will take my final vows and happily serve God forever.” If her zeal was a bit too forced, she pretended not to notice. Becoming a nun was her ultimate goal in life.
“That is precisely why I am here, Luca,” Don Eduardo told her. “I never intended you for a religious life. You were an incorrigible ten year old when I brought you here to be tamed and educated by the good nuns at the convent. Your mother had just died, and I could not handle one as spirited as you. I had all I could do to raise your brothers. But never intended to leave you here forever. You have been promised to Don Diego del Fugo all these years, and he is growing impatient The abbess has assured me that you are quite ready to become a wife.”