UPON THE TIDE.
A Sneak Peek at my latest Work-in-Progress:
When Bellamy from 2018 meets a handsome rouge pirate in 1718
Hands grabbed at Bellamy, stopping her sensation of sliding down. Rough hands. Strong, unclean smells assaulted her, highlighted by alcohol. Harsh voices, trying and failing at remaining quiet, filled her ears. Instinctively, Bellamy slid into defense mode. Targeting the hands clamped around her left arm, she bent her right arm and swung her elbow horizontally into the creep’s jaw, feeling it crack. She grabbed the length of greasy hair and yanked, bringing him fulling into her elbow. He backed up, moaning.
Swirling, she prepared for a Roundhouse Kick. She raised her leg, horrified to find her jeans replaced by heavy skirting. Shaking off the bewilderment, she drew back, knee bent, and kicked forcefully out at the next attacker, light on the balls of her feet. Or at least she tried to be light. Her sneakers were gone as well, and she nearly tripped on the heeled boots encasing her feet now. Yet the heel would work as a weapon.
Another man down from the kick, she spun, reared back, lifted a length of the skirt and delivered another kick, driving the hard heel into the third man’s midsection. About to congratulate herself on taking down three attackers, and figure out why her clothing was suddenly changed, another attacker slipped in and pinned her arms to her sides.
Brute must have thought she needed arms to fight. Drawing in a breath, she reared her head back, smacking him square on the nose, feeling it yield. He released her and she spun to face him. He clutched his nose, swearing.
Suddenly a man bodily scooped her up from behind and roughly tossed her over his shoulder, as though she were a sack of vegetables. She kicked and pounded, twisting and bite a few times as well. The men waded in, dodging her kicks and punches, and wound lengths of rope around her hands and ankles. Giving the knots good hard tugs, one man grinned at her and smacked her on the butt.
“The little hell-cat is secure now. Let’s get her back.”
Bellamy opened her mouth to scream but clearly they were prepared for that as well and one of them stuffed a cloth into her mouth. She nearly gagged on the sour taste and rotten odors. The scent stung her eyes and made them water.
“The Captain will be pleased,” one oaf commented.
“She will bring a good price.”
Price? Did these Neanderthals intend to sell her? And who was this captain they referred to? He had some explaining to do once she met him.
“I’ve never seen a female that could fight like a man before.”
“Me neither.” His comment was agreed upon, and they launched into a discussion of the hapless women they have known. Unable to budge, and riding in the uncomfortable shoulders of the lout carrying her, Bellamy had no choice but listen silently to their drivel. Every step made her all the angrier. And concerned.
Where was Liza? Where was her clothing? Why didn’t anything around her look familiar? And why did these bohemians want to sell her? To whom?
They left the cobblestoned roads and walled houses, skirted the businesses accumulated at one intersection in what could only be considered the area’s…town…for lack of a better description and entered a plot of trees. Bellamy could smell water coming from the darkness and soon heard water lapping.
The men quickened their pace and soon deposited her into a rowboat. Turning, she saw a big gray ship anchored out in the water. Tall masts stood sentinel against the moonlight. Lights bobbed as the ship rocked. It was a large ship. On a large body of water. In the middle of South Carolina? What was going on here?
Bringing her bound hands up, she yanked the nasty cloth out and tossed it overboard. “I demand to know what is going on,” she said, eyeing each barbaric idiot in turn. A couple laughed at her, the rest ignored her, and concentrated on rowing to the ship. She could not swim in this condition, even if she managed to slip overboard successfully. She’d sink like a rock. It appeared she had no choice but to go to the ship and see what this was all about.
It was a long ship, multiple tiers high, with the back end rising several more feet with additional decks. It reminded Bellamy of the old Colonial ships and the Revolutionary war ships. They drew closer and she made out details. The lights were actually lanterns hanging from pegs and draped along the mast rigging. Lanterns?
She fingered the material of her skirt, seeing now it was a gown, made of brocade and silk cloth with ruffles and endless layers and silk ribbons. Her ponytail was loosened and she felt her loose curls blowing in the sea breeze. She was beyond dumbfounded. What the blazes has happened? As the rowboat slammed against the gray ship, her heart thudded rapidly. Sold or not, she bet she’d find some answers in just a few moments.
* * *
Bellamy was once more bodily picked up and handed off to the men in the ship above. Two carried her along the wooden deck, along the wood and brass railing, to the next level of decking. They deposited her, pulled her to her feet, and stood, each one clamping a hand around her arms.
“Captain. She’s here.”
A tall man stepped from the shadows, slowly crossing the deck to her. He circled her, lifting a dark eyebrow at her rope bonds, and finally stopped before her. He leaned in, inhaling a deep breath, momentarily closing his eyes as if in bliss. Quick as a cat—or a rattlesnake—his black eyes flew open.
“What is your name?”
His question came like a fiery bullet. “Bellamy Wingate. And I demand to know what is going on here. Who are you?”
“Wyngate?” He stepped back as if she reeked. Had he smelled the oafs surrounding them lately? Their combined stench burned her nostrils as bad as that nasty cloth they had stuffed in her mouth. She nodded her head in affirmation of who she was.
He stepped back to her, and picked up a pendant she hadn’t noticed hanging between her breasts. Large, silver, with a small pearl beneath it, she knew she’d seen that piece of jewelry before. He looked up, a new pallor to his tanned skin. She gasped. “You!”
“How could you possibly know of me?” Dismissing her, he turned to the oaf on her right. “Spaulding, explain the meaning of this immediately.”
He fumbled. “You said to find a pretty young lass and fetch her back, Captain.”
He eyed her again. “You got half of that right. Except she’s not just a lass. She is Earl Wyngate’s daughter. The Earl of Southwycke.”
Strangled gasps went up through the crowd of men. “No I’m not. My name is Bellamy Wingate. I am not Earl anyone’s daughter. My father was named Thomas.”
“Then why do you bear the Wyngate name and wear Lady Elizabeth’s silver pendant?”
She faltered. “I…I don’t know. I can’t explain it.” She shook her head. “What I’m wearing doesn’t matter to you. I demand to know what you are doing by kidnapping me.” She met his cold stare with her own defensive glare. “I demand to be released this moment.”
“You talk like a Lady. This is my ship. I am the captain. I made the demands.” He turned from her, addressing the thug at her right again. “Spaulding, why is she in bonds?”
“Well, Captain, sir, she fought us. We had no choice.”
He raised both eyebrows, dark slashes across his forehead. “A Lady fought so furiously against five men, you had no choice but to bind her?” Sarcasm laced his words, dripping in doubt. “Untie the fair Lady Elizabeth Wyngate.”
Knives were instantly produced, cutting her bonds. She stamped her feet and rubbed her wrists to restore circulation. Again, she glanced at the heavy dress she wore, running her hands over the thick fabric. It was a lovely gown, admittedly, but what happened to the sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirt she had on before?
“Now, Lady Wyngate, I do apologize for my men.” He moved up a step, reaching for her hand.
“You’re men!” she huffed, snatching her hand away. “You mean baboons, don’t you? Your overbearing boors attacked me with brute force. They left me no choice but to defend myself. I will not be man-handled by drunken louts and thugs, captain.” She sneered at his title. “Now take me back to land.”
Amusement lightened his face, and he once more stepped closer. “That will be Captain Ronan Standish, to you, Lady Elizabeth.” He raised a hand, resting his finger gently against her cheek.
She slapped his hand away, and blocked his return with her forearm. “I know who you are, Ronan Standish,” she grit out through clenched teeth. “I know things about you. Lots of things.” He moved again to grab her arm and she tightened her fingers and chopped her open hand alongside his neck. Retreating, he winced, gingerly touching his neck, his eyes round as a cat.
“How does a Lady know how to do that?”
“I am not your Lady Elizabeth. I am Bellamy Wingate and I teach martial arts history.” She stepped into full defense mode, arms raised, expression dark.
Smirking, he advanced. She Roundhouse kicked him to the abdomen and again, pivoting, to the groin. For good measure she slashed her fingernails across his cheek, eliciting a pained snarl from him. A man stepped in, to assist, and she blocked him with another palm-heel strike.
“Bind her,” Standish rasped, as he doubled over. “Take her below to the brig. Mind that she is tightly secured and behind bars!”
Hands engulfed her, too many to fight off. She managed a few kicks and jabs, but not enough to keep calloused hands from grabbing her. More ropes encircled her hands and feet again, pulled taunt. Scooped up by two, she was carried like a corpse toward a black hole in the deck, down a set of stairs. Another man went ahead to carry the torch and light lanterns along the way.
They carried her another set of stairs, and down yet another set. The first two levels had windows to allow light in. Further levels were void of windows, light, or fresh air. Stale and musty air assaulted Bellamy, making her cough. Finally they reached what had to the bottom of the ship. She was afraid they’d open a hatch and toss her into the sea.
Instead one of the man opened a rusty iron gate. They bore her in, set her on a pile of musty straw, rising dust and making her cough again. Leaving, they wordlessly closed the gate, enclosing her in what could only be called a jail cell.
“Hey, aren’t you going to untie me?” she called to their retreating backs. Wriggling, she realized she could only move a few inches in any direction. “You can’t leave me tied up like this!” Ignoring her, they took their lights, leaving her only two small lanterns swinging outside her cell.
As her eyes adjusted, she picked out the darkened shapes of barrels and crates, another bale of strew and piles of rope. The whole placed smelled rank and foul with odors she could not begin to identify. Everything was wood and rope, it seemed. And they used fire for lighting? How intelligent was that?
So she’d met Captain Ronan Standish. He was every bit as glorious as his pictures. Yes, he could definitely grace one of her book covers, better than many of the models used. Except he was long dead. So what was she doing here? Dressed like this? Wearing a necklace from one of her very distant ancestors?
Squirming around, she spotted a spider hanging in a large web. Gasping, she tried to squiggle away. She hated spiders. She looked around for a weapon. Except, bound hand and foot, she was powerless to flatten it. She rolled as far away as she could, choking on the dust rising from the old straw in her wake. Resting her head against the wall of the ship, she felt the rough wood on her cheek and heard the slosh of water on the other side. Doubtlessly this part of the boat was under the water’s surface. Great. Hopefully the darn thing didn’t spring a hole. She could feel movement as the boat slowly chugged, clearly leaving the port.
Not one to usually give in to her miseries, Bellamy felt two hot tears trickle down her cheeks, followed by more. She missed Liza. She had no clue what was happening. She really met the most gorgeous man ever—dead or alive--and he had her kidnapped, trussed, and thrown in a ship’s jail. Now he was taking her out into the water to who knew where.
Yeah, she had a reason to cry.
COFFEE CAKE CHAOS
Nearing the Steele Mansion, her hands tightened around the wheel. This was not her first time here. Once, Sawyer had her come over for a swim in their pool. The elegance of the place took her breath away then. How would it look now that she was older?
She reached the long Steele drive and slowed down, suddenly self-conscious. Passing along the tree-lined drive, doubts and memories rose like ethereal shadows. Her car wasn’t new, but it looked nice and her mechanic cousin kept it running for her. Some of the other caterers in town had company vans. She wasn’t there just yet. The roof came first. In the meantime, she borrowed her sister’s minivan when she needed more space. With two hundred guests, she would need it.
Her first visit had been in July when she came to swim. It was hot and Sawyer thought it a good plan. His folks were out of town. They’d swam, played, and splashed, laughing and kissing beneath the watchful eyes of the servants. Sawyer taught her how to cannonball off the high dive and how to kiss underwater.
Later, they slipped up to his room, certain they’d escaped the servants’ monitoring.
The house spilled into view and she paused, taking it in once more. Three vaulted stories covered in verandas, porches, and patios All covered by an impressive roof.
Stately trees and manicured lawns, landscaped gardens, and flower beds anchored the mansion. There was a lot of catering potential. Elizabeth wanted an outside event, which might mean a tent.
After parking, she stared for a moment at the house and marshaled her courage. Fingers gripped around her portfolio, she approached the twin wooden front doors at the end of the winding brick walk. Steeling her nerves, she inhaled deeply, swept her hair into place, and knocked.
A portly housemaid swung the door open, her mouth pursed into a silent inquiry. Aviana broke into a smile, shoulders straight.
“Hello. I’m with Aviana’s Tasteful Affairs Catering. I have an appointment with Mrs. Steele.”
“One moment.” The maid ushered her into the tiled foyer and motioned for her to wait. Feeling like a dog commanded to stay, she waited, spinning around to study the[mel1] area. It probably looked the same, but she didn’t remember. It spoke of elegance and wealth. Sawyer was lucky to have grown up surrounded by such lavishness. She might not have had things growing up like he did, but she always had the love of her family.
She whirled at the soft purr of her name, her breath escaping. “Sawyer?”
His long hair was now neatly clipped, but still dark with a little wave she remembered. The impetuous grin he always wore was replaced with seriousness about his firm mouth and darkening his storm gray eyes. The boy of her memory was gone. Here stood the man he’d become. An electric thrill shot through her.
He nodded, looking almost relieved as he stretched out a hand. Touching, warmth shifted from him, spreading quickly through her.
“It’s nice to see you again,” he said. “Come on in.” Cupping her elbow, he guided her along the hall to a narrow archway. Squeezing through, the room opened into a spacious, sunny solarium. He led her to an upholstered chair and released his hold.
Folding into the chair, Aviana realized how quickly she missed his touch. How much she had missed it. He slid into the chair opposite her and quietly studied her a moment, his hand resting against his chin.
“So you’re a caterer now?”
“I am. A fairly successful one. A well respected one.”
He smiled, reminding her of the Sawyer from their youth. Her heart skipped at the simple sight of his dimpled smile. Not as carefree as he used to be, his smile could still melt ice.
“And you’re getting married. Congratulations.” Forcing the words out, she knew she didn’t sound very complimentary but it seemed appropriate. His smile immediately faded and a heaviness filled his face.
“Thanks. Okay, so would like to see the preliminary plans?”
When she got this job, she wondered how she was going to balance a professional air while every muscle in her heart was constricting. She congratulated him because it was expected, but instead of making him pleased, he actually looked unhappy.
“Sure,” she said slowly, struggling to understand why.
He rose and stretched a hand to her. She stepped into his hold like the years between them never happened. Their eyes met and held, as Aviana held her breath. She knew she’d never be able to stand by and watch him announce his engagement to some other woman. The pounding in her heart did not lie. She still desired Sawyer.
“You dance, yes?” Marita asked, swaying to the beat, her long dark hair swinging.
“Well, uh...” Piper looked over at Kade, red heat rushing to her face. He offered a smile.
Marita grabbed both their hands, joining them. “Dance. Before the food is done.” Giving a tug, she brought them up.
Giving in, Kade set his drink down, liking whatever sweet concoction it was, and wrapped an arm around Piper, enjoying how natural it seemed to feel resting there.
“I promise not to bite,” he teased, guiding her to the sandy beach, holding both her hands once they found a spot. Other couples found their spots.
“You dance well,” Piper said softly, amazed at how fluidly he swayed. “Like a born dancer and one of the best partners I’ve had in a long while.”
“I love that dress,” he murmured low, holding her hands to his shoulders, molding her to him.
She closed her eyes, resting her head against his chest, following his natural rhythm. A soft moan escaped her, igniting him. “You remind me of another man.” She murmured softly
“Really?” Jealousy stabbed him like a knife, stealing his breath. “And who is that?”
“The blond haired, blue eyed man with a mask that Molly, and dozens of others, had swooned over.”
“Oh yes, you had mentioned him before.” How well he remembered the blush in her cheeks when she talked about the man when they’d been in his cabin.