The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed one o’clock, echoing throughout the townhouse on a warm summer’s day. For the servants of Lord Willcox, they knew that it was time to serve afternoon tea to the family in the drawing room. Mrs. Bath would bring in the tea tray with an assortment of goodies that she’d baked that morning. Lord and Lady Willcox would join their children for the refreshment and ideally chat about the day thus far. But for Miss Maria, it meant that this boring day wasn’t over yet.
She’d already spent the morning practicing a musical number she wanted to play the next time she visited the orphanage with Mrs. Bath, who liked to cook sweet treats for the children. It was a happy tune that the children could dance to and would hopefully fill them with joy and hope for a brighter future.
Then she’d written a letter to her best friend, Charlotte, who’d married this past spring after a successful Season in London. To the Ton, she’d been the most beautiful and accomplished debutante, and therefore had been the apple of every gentleman’s eye. It didn’t take Charlotte long to be transformed from a Miss to a Lady. But according to Charlotte’s last letter, married life wasn’t all that she’d dreamed it would be. Maria had tried to write something that would cheer her up, even inviting Charlotte to come and stay with her family in Portsmouth for the summer to enjoy the fresh air and the lively coming and going of ships. She did hope that Charlotte would accept her offer because she’d been terribly bored ever since the Season had ended.
As Maria sat reading a novel in the drawing room, her legs tucked under her in a most unladylike way, her thoughts turned back to why she hadn’t been as fortunate as Charlotte. Though Maria possessed stunning looks with her golden hair that hung in ringlets and piercing green eyes that sparkled mysteriously in every ballroom, it was Maria’s choice of words that seemed to always turn a gentleman away from her. She had a tendency to be a bit assertive when she voiced her opinions on different political or social matters, and though a gentleman wanted a beauty for a wife, they did not want one who spoke their mind. And therefore, at the age of eighteen, Maria was still unmarried.
“A penny for your thoughts, dear sister,” Gregory spoke up, pulling Maria from her personal reflection. She hadn’t even heard him come into the room. As she looked up at him, with his blond hair and blue eyes shining back at her, she couldn’t help but smile as she set her novel aside. He was dressed in the latest fashions − trousers of plaid cotton twill, a brown tailcoat of wool broadcloth with velvet collar, a vest of black silk with a cut-velvet woven floral pattern, and to top it off, a silk pongee scarf. He could be considered a dandy with his tight-fitting clothes of the finest quality. In Maria’s opinion, she thought he should just wear a muslin shirt around the house on a warm day such as this.
“It is nothing, Gregory. I was simply thinking about what else to do with my time today. I’m contemplating a walk around the gardens because it is a beautiful day, but I don’t want to become tanned,” Maria said, covering up her own thoughts with a truth. She truly did not want to do anything that might disturb her natural beauty, even though she did love being outdoors and close to the ocean shore. She let her feet fall back to the floor, her slippers meeting the carpet as she smoothed down her white morning gown.
“Well, I might be able to fix that predicament,” Gregory said with a wink as their parents, Lord and Lady Willcox, entered the room before Mrs. Bath and the afternoon tea tray.
Maria took her attention from her brother as she stood and curtsied to her parents. “Mama, I have barely seen you all day. Pray tell, what have you been up to?” Maria asked, hoping to pass the time with conversation.
“Nothing of excitement, I assure you. I’ve just been helping your father with a bit of business, that is all,” Lady Willcox replied as she sat on the adorned settee, one of her favorite pieces in the room. When they had moved to Portsmouth from London a few years ago for her father’s investments, Lady Willcox had enjoyed re-decorating the entire house, intent on bringing the latest fashions to the port. Therefore the room had many elegant furnishings, exquisite carved furniture, and an expensive piano, all set upon a Brussels weave carpet and against a backdrop of crème coloured wallpaper and rich curtains to give the space a feeling of great luxury. At night, the space glittered from the light cast from two ornate chandeliers which highlighted the plaster cornices and intricate ceiling roses. And all of it had been paid for with Lord Willcox’s great wealth.
Maria simply sighed as she looked at it all, taking a sip of the lavender tea Mrs. Bath had made that afternoon. Maria particularly enjoyed this type of tea and was thankful for the small comfort. But Maria worried that her mother had sensed her state of mood as Lady Willcox turned her attention to her daughter.
“Come, child, what has you all melancholy this fine day?” Lady Willcox asked before taking a dainty bite of a blueberry scone, as a lady should.
Maria put on a smile for her mother as she set aside her teacup. “I’m not sad, Mother, simply bored. I miss the excitement of the Season and feel like I have no friends left in Portsmouth,” Maria explained. She didn’t want to give her mother the wrong impression or else she might be scolded for not using her time wisely.
“Then perhaps I could purpose an outing, dear sister?” Gregory piped up before Lady Willcox could enlighten Maria with a lesson on running a household.
“And what is it that you suggest?” Maria asked, a true smile coming over her lips.
“I’m expecting a visit from Lord Crawford. He wants to visit the port’s market and see the privateer packet ship that has docked this morning. I’m afraid my dear friend has a heart for excitement and wants to gaze upon the brave souls who go out to fight pirates,” Gregory explained with a gleeful smile, making it obvious to Maria that he was equally as excited to see these fighting men. And not wanting to disappoint her brother, she couldn’t help but indulge him.
“I’m sure a walk around the port’s market would be lovely,” Maria replied as she returned to her tea.
“And Lord Crawford is a good man,” Lord Willcox spoke up, giving Maria a pointed look. It was from her father that she had inherited her piercing green eyes, while her hair was from her mother. And now although those green eyes bore into Maria, she did not dare look away.
“I agree that Lord Crawford is a charming gentleman. He has a large fortune. I hear ten thousand pounds a year. Indeed, he would make a fantastic match for any young lady. Perhaps you’d like to sell me to him to increase your own fortune, just like you sell and buy slaves for your plantations in the West Indies,” Maria said, her voice rising with her temper. She often came to speak harsh words with her father, and her proud nature often encouraged her to speak her mind with the man.
“Hush your mouth, young lady. That is no way to speak to your father,” Lady Willcox said, setting her teacup down with a loud clank. Maria was afraid her mother might have chipped the fine china, another expensive item bought by the hands of slaves. Maria couldn’t forgive her father for entering into such a business investment, and therefore they often argued over the matter.
“You should be grateful,” Lady Willcox continued, “because all we have is thanks to your father’s investments. I don’t remember you complaining about your elegant gowns this past Season, or the many balls that you were able to attend. All thanks to your father, no doubt.” Lady Willcox huffed as she looked away from her daughter, clearly upset. Maria dearly hated to upset her mother and felt guilty for her outburst.
“I’m sorry, Mother…Father,” Maria said, shifting her green eyes back to her father for a moment. Deep down, she wasn’t sorry for what she had said to him. “I’ll go and prepare for the outdoors, Gregory, so that we may go on an outing with Lord Crawford.”
“I’ll meet you in the foyer. I’m sure Lord Crawford will be by any moment now,” Gregory said softly. Maria hoped that he would try to pacify their parents the moment she was out of the room. Gregory was thankfully accustomed to Maria’s proud personality, even though she had a soft heart and showed kindness to all, regardless of their social status. Maria was also used to him coming to her rescue when she needed him most.
Maria stood and curtsied to her parents, keeping her eyes on the carpet as she left the room. She then pulled the drawing room doors tightly together and quickly walked away, her slippers making no sound on the marble floor as she made her way to the stairs. She didn’t care what her parents said about her. Maria was determined to live her life as much as she could by her own choosing. And that meant that sometimes she just had to speak her mind.
After returning from her room on the second floor, changing into a muslin walking gown and half-boots made of leather, Maria put on a happy face for Gregory and Lord Crawford as she descended the engraved, wooden stairway carrying her lace parasol.
“A vision of beauty,” Lord Crawford said by way of greeting as he saw Miss Maria coming their way from the stairs. She smiled at him and his eyes sparkled with delight.
“You’re too kind, Lord Crawford,” Maria replied, reaching the landing and allowing the gentleman to take her hand and kiss the air above it. She curtsied in return. “I hear from my brother that you are excited to see the privateer’s packet ship?” Maria said as Mr. Thatcher, the butler, opened the front door for them to depart. Lord Crawford offered his arm to Maria, and although she hesitated because she preferred to walk next to her brother, she didn’t want to offend her brother’s best friend. So Maria took his arm as they descended the front steps of the townhouse.
“Indeed, Miss Maria. I’ve always had an interest in the navy, and I have an uncle who is friends with an admiral. Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by men in uniform. And now that pirates have become such an issue for Britain, I find privateers very interesting. Once I received word that a packet ship had docked in the port, I wrote to your brother right away and received his message promptly.” Lord Crawford smiled down at Maria, his dark brown hair and eyes giving him a handsome appearance. Maria couldn’t deny that Lord Crawford could truly please any young lady as he was a dandy in society, wearing the highest quality fabrics. “Yet the best part of this whole outing is getting to share it with my best friend and his beautiful sister,” he added.
Maria laughed with Gregory, although a small blush came across her cheeks. Though she’d spent plenty of time with Lord Crawford in the past because he was so close to her brother, she never had an inkling that he’d consider her as anything more than his best friend’s sister. But as Maria felt the way Lord Crawford held her arm closely to him, it made her wonder if his words to her meant more than just friendship.
Maria became flustered with her thoughts and the possibilities as they entered the port’s market, the smells of faraway lands greeting her. She smiled and made sure to include herself in the conversation between Lord Crawford and Gregory, but she felt very overwhelmed at the possibility of being courted by someone she’d known for so long but never considered more than a good friend. Though she looked around at all the goods, silks, and fabrics with the gentlemen, she was starting to worry about what would happen between Lord Crawford and Gregory if she were to deny a proposal by him. Or even what her father would say to her if she denied such a prestigious offer. Lord Crawford was an Earl, after all.
Maria tried to focus instead on the wares of the market. She loved coming down to the port’s market simply to see what new goods had arrived. Many merchants proudly displayed their hard-earned goods on sunny days such as today, and Maria enjoyed tilting back her parasol to see all that was being shown. As Maria neared a spice stall, she let go of Lord Crawford’s arm so she could get a better look. She loved inhaling their exotic scents, imagining where in the world they had come from. Maria stood for a few minutes, taking deep breaths, closing her eyes and envisioning far off places that only sailing on a ship would take her.
Commotion pulled Maria from her daydream as she opened her eyes to cries and shouts. She looked around her, puzzled, as she dropped her parasol. She peered through the crowd, who were all staring at something in the distance. Then, they were running.
“Pirates! Pirates!” people were shouting as they ran between the merchant stalls, trying to find a way to escape or a place to hide. Panicked, Maria looked around for Gregory and Lord Crawford, but couldn’t see them. Did they turn and flee back home? Were they down by the packet ship to get a better look?
Taking a chance, Maria gripped her muslin gown and the layers underneath and lifted them a little higher than was ladylike before she darted towards the packet ship, down a dock riddled with crates. If her mother would have seen her, Maria knew that she would have been lectured all evening over the way she ran, with her ankles and lower calves showing to reveal her stockings. But at that moment, Maria wasn’t worried about appearances. She was more concerned about finding her brother and getting to safety.
The further down the dock she ran, the more she realised that she was away from the majority of the chaos. With it being quieter there and deciding that hiding was better than running for the time being, Maria ducked behind a stack of crates, kneeling as she waited for whatever was transpiring in the market to be over. Were the pirates here to steal goods from the market? Are they going to kidnap anyone? Panicked thoughts stole through Maria’s mind as she tried to listen to what was going on around her. Shouts. Cries. Screams. Madness was all Maria could hear and she silently prayed for a savior.
Feeling a presence on her leg, Maria looked down to see a rat trying to scurry up her stocking. Surprised and worried about being seen by the pirates, Maria tried to shoo the rat away, shaking her leg to make the rat drop down onto the wooden planks of the dock, but as the rat approached her again, Maria was forced to take several steps back.
“Shoo you mangy rat,” Maria whispered harshly at the rodent, hoping to scare it away. She was surprised then when she bumped into someone, causing her to quickly turn in the hope that it was her brother.
Maria’s eyes grew large as she looked upon the man, who was equally as surprised to see her. No longer was Maria worried about the rat as she looked into the man’s dark green eyes, his long brown hair swaying in the breeze around his shoulders. His skin was tanned, darker than any gentlemen she’d ever seen, yet his tall frame and broad shoulders didn’t remind her of any slave she had ever seen in pictures. He was dressed in fine leather trousers and boots, and a cotton shirt that was unbuttoned just enough to give Maria an unexpected look at his tanned chest. A rapier hung at his hip, along with a long spiral of cord. Then realization dawned on her as she placed a hand over her heart in fear.
“You’re a pirate?!” she softly said as fear steeled over her, freezing her in place, her legs feeling too heavy to lift and flee.
James had never seen such a beautiful creature in all his travels through the Barbary Coast and the British Isles. When she’d stumbled upon him, he’d been completely surprised by both the fact that such a young lady would be close to the pirate packet ship alone, and the fact that her golden hair and piercing green eyes did something to him he’d never had happened before – he hesitated.
Regaining his senses, James took quick action. Grabbing her arms, James quickly tied them up with the rope he always had fastened to his belt. The lady didn’t even have time to react as James pulled her near, securing her tied wrists behind her back, and before she could scream, he’d gagged her with a piece of cloth and secured a piece of rope around her head to keep the cloth in place. Having done the same thing many times before, for many years, James was an expert at kidnapping. Knowing that the rest of the crew would be returning any minute, James bent and pulled the lady up over his shoulder, making quick work of carrying her up the ramp and onto the waiting ship.
Maria couldn’t believe what was happening. One minute she was in the port’s market enjoying the sights and smells, and the next she was being kidnapped by a pirate. She tried to scream despite the gag in her mouth, which was a foul-tasting rag that made her mouth water, with her lips sore from where the cord kept it in place. She hung over the shoulder of her kidnapper, the view of the dock passing her by as his strong arm held her waist securely to his shoulder, his other arm holding her legs to his chest. Never had she been touched by a man in this manner, sending panic rippling through her body as her cheeks blushed a crimson red.
She felt the sway of a ship as her kidnapper took her on board the packet ship. But she couldn’t understand why this pirate was taking her onto a privateer ship. Surely, he would be caught by the officials once they came back on board. In fact, she could guess that right now the privateers were fighting the pirates that had stormed the port’s market. She could only hope that was the truth as she was taken through a door that met a set of narrow wooden stairs which led deep below.
Maria was assaulted by the harsh smells of sea, salt, and grime. The air was thick with humidity that made her sweat against her petticoat, stay, and shift. The space was dark, but her captor seemed to know where he was going. Before too long another door was opened, and this time when her kidnapper stepped through the door, he set her roughly on a grouping of sacks that barely broke her fall. A small candle lit the tiny space that was barely a fourth of the size of her bedroom.
Despite the terror running through her, Maria glared at her captor as she fought against the cords that bound her. She pulled at the cords around her wrists as she screamed at the man until her lungs burned. In response, the man just stared at her, his hands on his leather-clad hips, his dark hair falling over his green eyes as he simply looked at her as though studying her behavior.
“I’d save my strength if I was you, kalos,” the man said in a deep voice that sent pleasant shivers down her spine. Never had she heard such a rich voice before, and his use of the Greek word for ‘beauty’ made her stop screaming. She was completely afraid of what was going to happen to her, but also slightly intrigued by this man. She stared up at him with wide eyes, pleading silently that he’d change his mind and release her. But when she heard a commotion above, as though many people were returning back to the ship in a hurry as the sound of heavy footfall sounded all around her, along with many other shouts and screams, Maria began to hope that her rescuers had come for her.
Maria glared at the man, trying to show him that she wasn’t afraid and that pretty soon he’d probably be in trouble for trying to kidnap Lord Willcox’s daughter. However, the man just glared back at her with the same expression, as though he knew something that she didn’t.
Then he was gone, closing the door behind him and locking it up quickly. For a few minutes, Maria just stared at the door, listening to the sounds of pounding feet, shouts, and yells in the distance while all she had was a dim light from a single candle and shadows all around her. She listened until the sounds appeared to be coming from further away. This was followed by a swaying motion that caused Maria to tumble onto her side, pain flooding her body as her hands were still tied around her back. As she lay there for a few moments, trying to recover her breath, feeling the grime on the wooden planks below her, she felt the sway of the ship as it moved through the water.
Maria cried out in fear as she heard the ship’s cannons firing off the sides, which brought a ringing into her ears that took many minutes to subside. Then she heard shouts of joy from the deck, as though a great celebration was taking place instead of fighting. Maria felt so confused as she continued to feel the sway of the ship, the sensation causing her to feel sick to her stomach.
Pushing herself back up into a sitting position with the rest of the strength she had in her body, Maria pulled her knees up to her chest as she rested her head on top of them, tears streaming down her face as she feared the worst. That she’d been kidnapped and now her captor’s ship was setting sail for the sea. Maria had never been on a ship before and wasn’t sure what was going on around her, but all she could do was feel a great despair knowing that what was going to happen next wasn’t going to be good for her.
She’d heard of smuggling before, how pirates would come to port in disguise and kidnap people from high society families. They would then be held for ransom and either later dropped off at a port where their family could rescue them once the pirates acquired their payment, or they would be sold as slaves down in the Barbary Coast.
As Maria kept thinking about her current situation and what would happen to her next, with tears streaming down her cheeks and her golden hair framing her face, the one thing she knew for sure is that she would probably never see her family again.
James didn’t want to leave the beauty he’d kidnapped, mostly because he was curious about her, but he knew the sounds of the ship and could recognize that the rest of his crew, a total of 56 of them, had returned from their raid. The goal had been to steal all the goods from this port’s market, but he’d ended up with something extra. He’d have to speak with the Captain in order to find out if she’d be sold as a slave or held for a ransom. By the way, her high-quality muslin dress felt in his hands, he could only guess that she came from a wealthy family and would be worth the ransom, even though it could always be a troublesome business. The easiest thing to do would be to sell her as a slave and be done with it.
“Aye, James. It’s good to see ye. I’m guessing you kept our lady of sea safe while we were gone?” Leonardo said as he clapped his hand to James’ back in celebration. The older man was one of the few people James remembered from his childhood growing up in Tripoli. Leonardo had been a young man when James was forced to work on a pirate’s ship, and Leonardo had taken him under his wing to show him how a ship ran. Now, Leonardo had graying hair around his temples and several scars adorned his face and hands. Indeed, Leonardo had seen many fights and skirmishes at sea but still lived to tell the tale. And his tall, strong frame allowed him to still work the ship like he was still James’ age.
“Of course, Leonardo. You know you can always count on me. And though I missed what sounds like a good raid, I have a feeling the Captain will like what I smuggled aboard,” James said with a proud smile, his thoughts turning back to the young lady.
“Oh really, young sir? And what would that be?” Leonardo asked with raised eyebrows.
“A beautiful, fair maiden,” James whispered, leaning close to Leonardo before he clasped the man on the back and went in search for the Captain.
“Ye best be sharing her with me!” Leonardo called after him before moving onto his duties.
James just smiled and shook his head as he watched varies groups of men moving crates to the lower decks via the pulley system. As James looked into the belly of the ship, he whistled as he saw the number of crates the pirates had been able to steal. He hoped that by the time they returned to the Barbary Coast, they’d all make a lovely profit.
It appeared that the raid had been successful, but as James turned his eyes towards the side deck, there stood a group of men with somber, bowed heads. James didn’t need to approach them to know what they were doing. He wasn’t sure which men had lost their lives during the raid, but now they’d receive a proper sea burial for their service to Captain Maidus of the Emerald, their lady of the sea.
James made his way to the other side of the ship and knocked on the door below the highest deck that housed the ship’s wheel. He waited a few minutes before he heard the voice of his captain, summoning him in. Taking a deep breath, James opened the door and stepped into Captain Maidus’ private quarters.
Several lanterns hung from the rafters, giving the spacious room plenty of light. James first spotted a barrel of oranges, and noticed the room smelling of them and of varies spices that he found around the space, reminding him of home. These were good finds that would help them all return home safely.
“What is it, James? I’m a little busy at the moment, as you can see,” Captain Maidus said as he looked up from his desk where he sat writing out several documents, no doubt taking inventory of all the crew had stolen.
Captain Maidus was a handsome gentleman with flowing light brown hair that he tied behind his shoulders. He wore fine clothing of leather trousers, silk shirts, and always a vest of black silk that showed his status amongst their community. If he could afford such clothing, it showed others that he was a man of means, of power, and could wield it over the open seas. James knew him to be an intelligent man who used his mind to always be successful. From his previous experience fighting alongside Captain Maidus, he knew he could trust this captain with his life.
“You should add one young lady to your list, Captain Maidus. I found her down by the docks while I was keeping nix for the ship. Depending on who her family is, she could fetch a handsome ransom,” James explained, enjoying the surprised look on the Captain’s face.
“Is she beautiful?” he asked, putting his quill down as he stood from the desk.
“Very,” James replied with a proud grin as he crossed his arms over his muscular chest. “I think you will be pleased with her, no matter what you choose to do with her.”
“You’re so bright, my boy. Before too long, you’ll be captain of a ship like this, commanding your crew to plunder and steal all across the seven seas,” Captain Maidus said happily as he rubbed his hands together with excitement. “I assume you have her down below in the slave quarters?”
“Yes, Captain. She is bound and gagged, but not worse for wear. She’ll survive the attack,” James said, his voice turning serious to assure his Captain.
“Very good, James, very good. You have done me a large favor and for that, I will reward you for such. For now, take these oranges to enjoy,” Captain Maidus replied as he handed James ten oranges, surprising James with his generosity. Normally citrus fruit was rationed amongst the crew till they returned to port, so having ten would give James leverage for trading amongst the crew.
“Thank you, sir. I’m grateful for this offering,” James said, taking the fruit and dipping his head in response.
“Now now, you know I’m a generous captain. Return to your duties, and we’ll discuss the young lady with the crew at a later time,” Captain Maidus said, returning to his desk to focus on documenting the new inventory. James knew that the Capitan enjoyed collecting the wealth of what the crew had stolen, so he was swift to leave his quarters with his prize in hand.
“A Pirate’s Tantalizing Passion” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Miss Maria, daughter of Lord and Lady Willcox has been regretting her scandalous behavior the past summer, which cost her a possible match. On the bright side though, she now has plenty of time to think about her future. As Maria ventures out for a stroll through the market of Portsmouth, along with her brother and her best friend, the last thing she would expect was an ambush of pirates. In an attempt to flee the chaos, Maria comes face to face with the most handsome man she’s ever seen. His eyes tantalize her. Will she be able to resist this forbidden temptation?
When James, a pirate who has traveled from the Barbary Coast to the British Islands, sees Maria he can’t help but think that he’s never seen a more beautiful creature ever in his life. His tanned skin, long brown hair and his mysterious green eyes make him the most wanted pirate in town. But from the moment he spotted her, he knew she should be his, at any cost. How much will he be willing to risk for her?
As Maria is thrown into a whole new world where survival becomes crucial, she’ll quickly realize that there is a whole other side to the man that kidnapped her. The more Maria tries to escape, the more her heart beats in an insane speed for the man with the dark, green eyes. What kind of games will fate play?
“A Pirate’s Tantalizing Passion” is a Regency romance full of passion, forbidden love and adventure. If you like powerful heroines and mysterious lovers, then you’ll adore Lucy Langton’s Regency tale.
“A Pirate’s Tantalizing Passion” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.