Authors: Dara Joy
Tags: #Romance, #Historical romance, #Historical fiction, #Love Stories
Avast ye, matey.
Don ye best seafaring garb and come adventuring with us on the bounding main. There be grog aplenty just a waitin yoer roguish hide. Ye scalawag and rich booty to go around for the lot of ye! Iffen ye fancy the brethren life and all the tomfoolery a body can reasonably handle. Well, what are you waitin’ on? (Ye might even find a lusty romance fer yer trouble me heartie).
Enquire at the turtle and peg tavern at port rogue. Ask for Hack, or Slash. The Panther and we, his inimitable crew, are expectin’ yer timely arrival with nothing but smiles and innocence in our dastardly hearts. We assure ye. Arrg.
Posted by the crew of the Chameleon and by permission from that dreaded scourge, the Panther.
We look forward to sailin’ with ye.
I did not love him at first.
He was a rake, a libertine, a seducer, a gambler, and a ne'er-do-well.
And those were his good qualities.
Later, I would discover he was brash, arrogant, reckless, insanely wild, daring, and altogether lethal.
What woman could resist such a wondrous package?
(And I say that with the utmost sincerity. Ahem.)
Why, the scalawag was a walking blessing. Ha!
He was everything BAD.
Any acquaintance I had with such a scoundrel would surely not be to my benefit. So how, then, did a sheltered, innocent girl come into his sphere?
Well, my story is a complex one and I beg you who might chance upon these writings to bear with me and allow me the telling in the entire, for my life has been a strange and wondrous journey. The course of it, not by any means, mundane.
These pages are my legacy, and the truth must be told–
even if there is little chance this diary will be found.
If you are to experience the breadth and scope of my story, I must begin the tale when I was young, immature, and full of vinegar. The young and immature aspect would soon change. Alas, the vinegar is probably a lifelong affliction.
You see, I was born a seeker of adventure.
I was never a fashionably silly girl; I was a smart, well-read, daring girl who unfortunately sought out the comedic potential in most of life's odd situations. (I do love a good laugh.)
Still, when the time came, I was blind to what would prove to be the greatest adventure of all. I had no clue upon meeting him that my life and the life of my closest companions would alter in ways I could never imagine.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start anew...
“He is a fiend straight from the innards of Hell!”
A collective gasp went up from the group sitting at Lord Gingridge’s table.
Eighteen powdered, perfumed, bewigged heads turned to the head of the table, attention riveted, as Lord Gingridge told of his encounter with the infamous, dreaded pirate, the Panther. Scourge of the seven seas.
One head, unpowdered, without a wig, but somewhat perfumed, continued to face the plate in front of it; its sweet confection apparently having more appeal to this guest than the current topic of conversation.
“Hair like a barbarian, don’t you know, flows down his back in a tangle– They say some of it is in narrow braids, it is, God’s truth! And at the ends of those braids are bones...” Lord Gingridge paused dramatically, his rheumy eyes scanning each and every guest, making sure he had his audience’s full attention.
He lowered his voice to a raspy whisper. “There’s some what say they are human bones.”
A piercing shriek issued from the far end of the banquet table.
Eighteen heads turned in unison to the source of said shriek.
Lady Flumia– her sensibilities apparently damaged beyond repair by the very idea of either human bones or manly braids, fainted dead away in her chair. Fulfilling on the promise it held all evening, her heaving chest spilled out of her low bodice exposing enormous pendulous breasts to the entire assemblage.
The room went introspectively silent at the momentous display.
Lord Flumia, a small ghost of a man who had never been able to complete a single sentence without the intrepid guidance of his wife, lifted a cloth napkin from the table and released it over her ladyship’s décolletage.
It floated down and landed as gently as a feather upon mountain snow.
All eighteen heads turned eagerly back to their host.
Using the distraction to his advantage, Lord Gingridge quaffed down another glass of wine before continuing. “But ‘twas his eyes I’ll never forget. They haunt me to this very day! Like a cat’s eyes they were–
not green, not blue, but somewheres twixt the two.
Pale and bright at the same time! Rimmed with lashes black as night. When those eyes fall on a body,” he paused and shuddered. “Well, I can tell you, ‘tis enough to scare the shi... shoes off your feet.”
Lord Henley Henry, awash in perfume and lace, leaned over to the young woman on his left to whisper in her ear. “Ginny, I’d say he’s got the latitude a bit wrong, what?”
Lady Regina Thomlinson looked up from her very sweet dessert and burst out laughing. Noticing the disapproving expressions around her, she quickly converted to a coughing fit. “So sorry. Wine went down wrong.”
Discreetly, she covered her mouth with her napkin to hide the smile she couldn’t control. And unfortunately locked eyes with her uncle sitting across from her.
His stern expression did not bode well.
It wasn’t often her uncle allowed her to socialize these days. The mean little toad had become a complete tyrant these past two years. She sighed. Uncle Jediah was not afraid of bone waving, cat-eyed, phantom pirates.
Uncle Jediah was deathly afraid of losing control of her inheritance.
Ginny would wager the toad had checked out every guest present before allowing her to attend. He always made sure there were no threats to his security.
Her gaze traveled the table. No one under forty or unmarried except for Lord Henry and herself.
And everyone knew Lord Henry’s tastes did not run to women.
“What of this Lord Lion– that other pirate we hear so much about?” Lady Simmons inquired, breaking into Ginny’s thoughts.
“Some say they are the same man,” Lord Frockney replied, scratching at his wig. “Though I dare see how that is possible.”
“Must be two of the jackanapes, I say.” Uncle Jediah added his brilliant piece to the conversation.
“Is he a real lord, I wonder?” Frockney picked up a candle snuffer to better dig at the irksome spot under his wig. Ginny and Henley exchanged horrified looks.
Lord Gingridge hiccupped into his empty cup.
“Never heard no stories ‘bout bones in Lord Lion’s hair.”
“But the descriptions are remarkably similar, wouldn’t you say, Lord Gingridge?” Lord Frockney yanked at the snuffer, pulling out a thatch of natty grey hair.
“Rather. They say the Panther will sneak up on a ship and be upon it before the ship’s captain even knows he’s being stalked; whereas the Lion will reign a mighty battle down.”
“I wouldn’t mind if I were captured by either one of them. Or both,” Lord Henry said in an aside to Ginny. “Think of it– Two lusty pirates fighting over me! Gives me the shivers.”
“Everything gives you the shivers, Henley.” Ginny smiled at him. She rather liked Sir Henley Henry. He often came to visit her, having the dubious distinction of being the only male allowed to darken her doorway.
They were dear friends and distant cousins.
“I say, Gingridge, what do you think of Les Fetes de l’Hymen et de l ‘Amour?” Lord Baldric addressed their host. It’s opening for yet another run at the theater “Cacophonous! Opera doesn’t amount to much in the long run. Especially French opera.”
Henley raised his eyebrow, giving Ginny an ironic look. “There speaks the true heart and soul of the artistic mind.”
Lord Gingridge chose that exact moment to belch.
It was all Ginny could do to not collapse into laughter.
“Never mind this musician; tell us what happened to you, Lord Gingridge.” Lady Simmons leaned forward in her chair; her attention fixated on their host’s exciting tale. “How did you ever escape the Panther?”
“’Twas an act of Providence; it was. They set their grappling hooks to our ship, boarding her in a flash.
The scurvy cutthroats swarmed the deck like a tide of locusts. The battle began and like the Devil himself, the Panther strode across the deck, right in the middle of the fray! Fearing neither man, nor blade, he cut a path straight to the quarter deck.” Lord Gingridge paused a beat to pierce each guest with his beady-eyed stare, making sure he had the lock on his already captive audience.
He lowered his voice to mimic the brazen pirate captain. “‘Do y’give quarter?’, the rogue demanded of our captain, flicking out his blade in a blink of an eye only to hold it to Captain Stone’s throat.”
The table at large dutifully gasped.
“What happened then?” Lady Simmons fanned herself.
“Well, our Captain asked whether the pirate would give his word as a gentleman to let the passengers and crew go free.”
“What did the horrible rogue say to that?”
“Why, the Panther threw back his head and laughed! And an eerie laugh it was. We all figured we were dead where we stood.”
Ginny looked up at her host. “Did he kill you then, Lord Gingridge?” She asked, rather too innocently.
Henley kicked her foot under the table.
“No, my dear girl,” Gingridge answered seriously.
“The Panther says to Captain Stone, ‘My word as a gentleman? Well that is something to consider. I had planned to kill you all but ’tis too nice a day for all that bothersome work. I’ve a mind to get drunk and lie in the sun on the deck of my ship, where I can leisurely gloat over the treasure I’ve taken from you.’”
The eighteen heads conferred among themselves on the barbarity of such a man who would balance the outcome of a life to getting drunk and lolling about on ship’s deck.
Lord Gingridge continued. “It didn’t take long for Captain Stone to give quarter after those chilling words were spoken. Soon, the scalawags had stripped the ship completely clean. They even took the ship’s cat, they did. We could not believe our eyes when they set the charges. They were going to sink her! As fast as that they set us all out on two small boats, Captain Stone yelling to the Panther that he would see him hang, and the Panther saluting him from the bow of his ship with a bottle of rum.”
“Doesn’t make much sense.” Lord Slocum murmured.
“Why sink a ship? Did he not have enough of a crew to take her in tow?”
“Aye, he did. ‘Twas very puzzling. They say the Panther will more oft’ sink a ship than take it.”
Jediah was appalled. “What an utter waste!”
Leave it to Uncle to think of the monetary loss, Ginny rued.
Lord Gingridge shrugged his shoulders. “Truth be told; we passengers were glad to get away with our lives. We watched that black-sailed ship of his until it disappeared on the horizon.”
“What an amazing tale, Lord Gingridge!” Henley said straight-faced. Ginny kicked his foot under the table.
“Thank you, Lord Henry.” Gingridge picked up a linen table napkin to mop at his sweating brow. “I’ll never forget it.”