Good morning everyone!
First, a quick reminder! The LIE TO ME virtual book tour continues today at Love to Read for Fun! Please drop in -- if you comment you're entered to win a 25.00 Amazon Gift Card.
Next up, it's Tuesday which means it's teaser time! I'm going to kick off the next few weeks of teasers with the introduction from my debut historical, Bound by Decency. It releases August 1st - yay!
~ Prologue ~
Charles Towne, South Carolina,
“Your pardon has been denied.”
A stack of parchment thumped against the roughhewn tabletop. Dust wafted up to blend with the overwhelming scent of urine and mildew that coated The Battery’s stone walls. It tickled Theodore Cathain’s nose, daring him to sneeze. But sneezing would mean inhaling even more of the fetid stench that reminded him of the gutters along the streets of London. In particular, the wharfs. In another time, another place, he would have welcomed the odor.
Today, it only served to remind him of the present hell his life had become.
Careful to lift the chains so the heavy iron cuffs wouldn’t cut into his wrists, Teddy picked up the topmost sheet. Denied? Impossible. Two years ago, Richard had vowed if ghosts from their shared past rose to haunt them, his family would arrange a Royal Pardon. They held the connections. Knew the right families. Possessed the power that came with centuries of royal blood. What in Christ’s name had happened?
Teddy’s eyes narrowed as he found the traitorous words confirming Lieutenant Jacobs’ claim. Fury surged through him. If ever he had wanted to slowly choke the life out of a man, the day had come. Damn Richard. Why?
He took a deep breath, searched for control over his tongue. Choosing his words carefully, he lifted his gaze to the Lieutenant’s. “This is preposterous! The charges alone are not but a work of splendid fiction. For God’s sake, Jacobs, you’ve known me two full years.”
Jacobs set manicured hands on the table, braced his weight, and leaned in close enough that Teddy caught a whiff of the fine powder used to whiten his wig. Dark eyes glinted with hard light. “And for two years, each time you drop anchor in this port, another vessel arrives on your wake missing well over half its cargo.”
“Don’t be ludicrous. The entire coast swells with pirates!” Teddy checked his temper, trained his tongue once more. To slip into the habits of a lifetime on the sea would only condemn him further. “Look out your window. Rovers line the streets. Whores bare their breasts and spread their knees for them from open doorways. Your citizens rush to see the wares the rovers bring. And you accuse me, a man who has done nothing but bring you exceptional goods from around the coasts, of laying siege to another merchant ship?”
One corner of Jacobs’ mouth twisted into a smirk. “It is an odd coincidence, don’t you think, that what lay in your hold was a perfect match to the Virginia Maiden’s stolen cargo?”
Teddy sank his head into his hands and gritted his teeth against a groan. He curled his fingers into his scalp, massaged his temples with the base of his palms. With the patience he would give a petulant child, he answered, “The Virginia Maiden is owned by William Prescott. It’s well known he sails the same route. It’s no small stretch to assume her cargo would match mine.”
“Your flag was seen. Ironic isn’t it how two years have passed since it last appeared on the sea. Two skulls facing one another upon a field of black—does it ring a bell, Cain?”
With one heavy beat, Teddy’s heart stopped. Where fury had turned his blood hot, his veins ran with ice. Three days ago, his arrest had been little more than speculation. The charges of piracy a stretch of infinite proportions. But when Jacobs’ slapped the iron cuffs on Teddy’s wrists, he had still addressed him by his given name. Not the name Teddy had assumed the day he took to sea under Henry Jennings.
Someone had told Jacobs. Teddy didn’t have to guess who. Only one man would have dared. One man who had stood at his side and reveled in the riches they acquired. Richard Grey. His former First Mate. His best friend. His business partner.
The why hit Teddy like lightning. Richard had done all he could to convince Teddy they should take on slaving routes. He’d even gone so far as to commandeer Prescott’s minor fleet, North Atlantic Freight, run a slaving route, and use the profits as persuasion. While their earnings would have tripled, Teddy couldn’t stomach the thought. He’d had the displeasure of sailing aboard a slaver’s ship and wouldn’t subject the Grey and Cathain fleet to such disgrace. Moreover, Richard’s recent engagement to Prescott’s daughter would expedite the proposed merger of two influential shipping companies in Britain. Combine the two, remove Teddy, and Richard Grey would become sole heir to a company of equal influence as the East India.
Another surge of anger threatened to send Teddy bounding to his feet. He pulled in a deep breath. Held it. Dragged his hands down his face. Slowly, he raised his head. “I daresay, I didn’t hear you correctly.”
“I believe you did.” Satisfaction radiated behind Jacobs’ dark eyes. “Cain, the scourge of the sea, brought to his knees at last.” He gestured at the stack of parchment. “Within, I believe you’ll find several charges of murder, along with all the usual things—fraud, treason, evading the Royal Navy. Of course, it contains the general charge of piracy which covers all the rest.”
Jacobs moved around the table with the measured gait of one who had laid a careful trap and intended to snap the snares. He bent near Teddy’s ear. “Tell me, how does it feel to have your life removed so fast? Does it come with the same glory of running a woman through?”
Beneath the taunt, Teddy’s anger ignited. He shot to his feet, rattling the chains that bound his wrists to his ankles. All pretense of composure that he’d so carefully constructed to obscure his baseborn birth shattered as he loosed his tongue. “Bloody hell, you are an accursed prick! I never killed a single woman!”
A short bark of laughter rang through the enclosed chamber. Jacobs turned his back on Teddy and moved to the thick wooden door. “You have nine days to beg forgiveness for your soul.” His thin mouth curled into a sneer. “On the morning of the tenth, you will hang.”