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The Pirate’s Baby

Dear Qiao,

I hope this missive finds you and yours happy and healthy. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother. You make a fierce pirate leader, yet I think this baby will find you to be an easy conquest. Please tell me how it feels to hold the child of your child in your arms, since I have nothing to compare, alas.

I am happy for you, my dear, although it means our mid-sea rendezvous will become less frequent, am I right? Please tell me that at lea

st you haven’t given your heart to anyone else but that grandchild.

I write to you today heavy-hearted. Andre and Sophie arrived the other evening, proclaiming they want to spend Christmas with me. You cannot imagine how excited I was. I was sure they were going to tell me I’m a grandpapa. Instead, Andy pulled me aside and told me he’s afraid Sophie is dying. Dying!

Granted, she looks thinner than usual, and has shadows under her eyes, but her personality is still vibrant. I find it very hard to believe that she is wasting away, unless she has been overtaken by some unknown virus. Andre is beside himself with worry, which gladdens my heart to some degree. I never thought I’d see that ungrateful pup settle down and take a wife, let alone fall in love.

Sophie wants to throw a Christmas masquerade ball, the likes no one in New Orleans has seen in years. She is so excited to do so, I can’t tell her no. And if she is ill, I can’t prevent her such a small happiness. So, here I am, stepping out of the way while the long gallery is swept, and dusted, and polished, much like when my dear wife was alive. My reward is the brightness of Sophie’s smile.

Pirate Masquerade

Of course, Andre is not on board with this celebration. He would much rather spend Noël on the open sea, gathering his form of Christmas gifts from unsuspecting merchant vessels. Yet, even my bullheaded son can’t help but notice the transformation in his wife. There is a renewed twinkle in her eye, and a bounce in her step that wasn’t there when they arrived. And, even though they think I don’t notice, I’m aware that they disappear into their room most afternoons.

PirateI hope against hope that, instead of some deathly illness, dearest Sophie is with child. You would think it possible, would you not? They are newlyweds, after all. I hold my breath daily for the news, and in the meantime, my home is readied for the ball.

I toy with the idea of wearing a pirate mask for laughs, but my daughter-in-law doesn’t find that amusing. She tells me I should at least make an attempt at anonymity. I know you see the humor in that request, as well. It has been a long time since you or I have been anonymous.

Sophie wants dancing, about which Andre also complains. Honestly, now that he’s been home for a few days, I’ve noticed he complains a lot. I don’t believe I was ever that vocal during married life. For example, he doesn’t like the minuet; says it’s a prancing dance that makes fools of the men.

Have you ever danced it, dearest Qiao? Or is there something similar in your culture? I tell my son to shut his mouth, and be happy his wife is happy. This younger generation doesn’t know how to get along in the matrimonial sphere. Hopefully, your daughter and son-in-law are managing better.

I feel calmer, now that I’ve voiced my concerns to you, dear friend. Mayhap I will have answers to all my questions by the time this letter reaches you. Pray for Sophie’s health, and my patience with my obstinate son. And, of course, drop a kiss for me on the head of that new grandchild. Congratulations, and know that I miss our time together.

Bon jour,
Louis Dubois

Excerpt

“Sophie? Sophie Bellard? Is that really you?”

Sophie’s head snapped up at the sound of the unforgettable voice from her past, while her purse fell to the cobbled street from suddenly nerveless fingers. Her body began to shudder and vibrate at the nightmare that was Gilbert Harrington’s silky voice.

She felt faint, in danger of collapsing, her past hurtling toward her like an out-of-control mining cart threatening to jump its track. She reached out a steadying hand against the brick wall of the flower shop.

No longer did she occupy a cobbled street of the Vieux Carré during Avent. She’d been transported, trembling and afraid, to that time, five years ago, when she’d lost her innocence. Her innocence, and her youth. Just the sound of his voice, the timbre and its cadence, was enough to catapult her into a shivering mass of fear and dread.

PirateShe had no defense, carried no weapon. How could she? Gone was her pirate garb, her protective armor. In its place, she wore silk and brocade, gilt buttons and a feathered hat. There was no hiding place for a deadly dagger or a one-shot pistol. Just as there was no devilish pirate to come swinging in on a line, clenching a curved blade between his teeth and racing to her rescue. She was his defenseless prey.

As she continued to stare dumbly at the man before her, one part of her mind, not frozen in fear, noticed that Gilbert Harrington hadn’t changed much in five years. He’d bulked up slightly, bore a man’s frame instead of a youth’s, and his eyes glittered like hardened chips of ice.

Gone was the thin, gentlemanly veneer he’d used to woo a star-struck young girl experiencing the first throes of romance. In its place stood a man used to getting what he wanted with little or no resistance; a man stimulated and aroused by feminine defiance. She recognized these traits after living in the company of men for those same five years. Recognized, but could not articulate a properly scathing response.

Like a predatory shark, he moved in, grabbing hold of her upper arm in a tight grip and leaning forward until his mouth rested mere inches from her ear. “I remember you, Sophie. I remember every moment we were together like it was yesterday. Every touch, every sound, every movement.”

His hand began to smooth up and down her brocade-covered arm in an unsettling caress. She remained statue-still, incoherent whimpers erupting from her throat. This could not be happening. He could not be standing here, in her present life. But he was, she acknowledged through the haze of fear blanketing her, as she stared straight into his smiling visage.

“I’ve never forgotten you, Sophie, though there have been plenty after you.” Here he chuckled, running his forefinger down her cheek. He laughed again, while she closed her eyes to the memories he dredged up.

Leaning in until their noses almost bumped, brows lowering and lips peeling back into a ferocious mask, he continued, “Imagine my surprise when I heard you’d become a pirate, marrying into the Dubois family, and becoming the Commandant’s darling daughter. You did alright for yourself after me, didn’t you, little Sophie?”

And then his lips were on hers, crashing against her mouth in a bruising imitation of a kiss, while both hands clasped her arms as he hauled her up against him.

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About the Author
Cathy Skendrovich has always loved a good story, and spent her formative years scribbling what is now called Fan Fiction. The current heartthrob of the time featured heavily in all her stories. Unfortunately, once she went to college, her writing took the form of term papers, written on typewriters instead of computer keyboards.

Upon graduation, Cathy took a job as an English teacher in a middle school. Along the way, she married her husband of now thirty-three years, had two sons, and moved to southern Orange County, California. She chose to work part-time in the school system there.

Now she has returned to writing. Prisoner of Love is her first published novel, followed closely by The Pirate’s Bride. The sequel to The Pirate’s Bride, The Pirate Bride’s Holiday Masquerade, is due out Oct. 1. Another contemporary romantic suspense, entitled Protecting the Nanny, is due out in 2018.

She likes writing romance because she feels it’s lacking in today’s technological world. While she enjoys writing contemporary stories, creating romance in bygone times fascinates her. She hopes her ability to write in both genres will be the beginning of a long and satisfying writing career.

You can reach Cathy at the following sites. She loves hearing from readers.

http://www.cathyskendrovich.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-Skendrovich-249667925220631/
https://twitter.com/cskendrovich
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14232546.Cathy_Skendrovich
https://www.instagram.com/cathyskendrovich/
https://www.amazon.com/Cathy-Skendrovich/e/B015JJZZOW/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Five

Captain Pershore served the lovely Lady Annamarie himself. A bit of each of the three fish and a loaf of bread. A pile of vegetables. He laid the plate in front of her and hesitated.

“Would you prefer ale or water?” he asked.

“Oh, no.” She swept to her feet. “Allow me to pour.”

Pleased beyond measure, he watched as she poured his glass first. Ale for him and water for her, he noted.

He quickly threw a few items on his plate and sat.

“Please, enjoy,” he said.

But the lovely vision did not eat her food.

“What is the mater?” he asked.

Despite himself, he was growing angry. He did not wish to be angry. He wanted to feel only love for the lady sitting before him. For years, he had loved her from afar. He wished to have her love in return.

Why would she not eat? Was she rejecting the food or himself?

 

***

 

Annamarie could tell that Pershore was growing upset, and so she quickly took a bite of food. She chewed and swallowed hastily.

A bit too hastily. The fish caught in her throat, and she coughed and coughed.

At once, Perhsore leaped to his feet and rounded the table. He patted her back firmly but not too harshly, and the piece dislodged. Her breathing returned to normal.

“Thank you,” she said, feeling flustered and embarrassed.

To her surprise, Pershore reassumed his seat without touching her more than necessary.

Perhaps he read her shock because he said, “When you wish to be held, I will hold you. When you wish to dance, we will dance. If you wish to sing, I will raise my voice too. Although I must confess I am a terrible singer.”

“I am not much of a dancer,” she whispered. “Or a singer.”

A dark cloud crossed over his features, and her fright returned.

“This fish is delicious,” she rushed to say.

When she was not choking on it.

“Did you catch it yourself?” she continued.

Most of that darkness banished away, but not all of it. Annamarie swallowed hard. She must not forget that Pershore was not a good man. He had kidnapped her. He might be trying to act the part of a gentleman, but he clearly was not one.

Would she be doomed to remain on his ship for forever? Or worse, would he force her to marry him whenever they would reach shore?

 

***

 

Barnet was beside himself. Far too much time was passing them by. Annamarie needed him, and here he was, lost at sea with a Landlubber claiming to know the way when he clearly didn’t.

“Haven’t your friends been answering your lantern signals?” Barnet would ask each morning.

“Soon,” Landlubber would answer each morning. “You’ll be gettin’ to your lass soon.”

“Yes, yes, and you’ll kill Pershore. I know.”

“Do not fret. Frettin’ affects the seas.”

“So does sneezing,” Barnet grumbled.

Landlubber laughed. “I know how you be feelin’. Trust me. I know what I be doin’.”

What choice did Barnet have but to trust him?

Hold on, Annamarie. We’ll save you. I promise we won’t be too late.

Barnet just hoped that promise would not prove to be a lie.

 

To be continued…

Read Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here, and Part Four here.

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, which had been a part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts and now contains a bonus end scene.

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter, wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. She suffered through trials to find love herself.

Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke. Her mother insists on Anna befriending a marquess’s son, a man Anna finds far too rude. Can either man be the right one for Anna?

Buy CHRISTMAS KISSES here!

 

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Four

Captain Pershore had his chef prepare a feast fit for a princess of the sea. Once everything was made to his high standards, he bid the man carry it to his cabin and follow him inside.

The lovely Lady Annamarie stood the moment he unlocked the door and swung it open. Behind the swirl of her skirts, he spied a few items. A smirk teased the corners of his lips. Did she plan on escaping? On attacking him?

No matter. Such a venture would be ill conceived. More importantly, any attempt would fail.

Such a concern did not bother him. Lady Annamarie would enjoy this night and be grateful for his company.

Without a word, the chef laid out the spread upon the table. Three kinds of fish, the freshest breads they had, some vegetables, even a few desserts. And ale.

“Fetch a jug of water too,” he demanded.

The chef nodded, left, and returned with the jug a few minutes later before departing once more.

The captain shut the door. “Won’t you please sit?” he asked kindly.

***

What devilry was this? The lunatic of a captain was actually behaving nicely.

Perhaps she should obey. The last thing she wished to do was riley up his anger and wrath.

She crossed over to the table but hesitated, holding onto the high-backed chair instead of sitting.

“I wish to know the name of the man who… who wished to share a meal with me,” she said as calmly as she could.

Her knees quivered with fear, anger, and frustration. A compass, a candlestick holder, and a few other items were all she had collected. Not one of them would be able to help her escape. She had been a fool to think she could save herself while at sea. At port remained her only chance.

And if he saw her gathered items, and his anger sparked, what then? What might he do to her?

“My lady Annamarie, forgive me for not saying so previously. I am Captain… I am Lord Pershore.”

Her eyes widened. He had mentioned that their mothers had been friends, and he had the right of it.

“I last saw you when I was…”

“Five. You were beautiful even then.” He reached toward her as if to touch her cheek but instead moved about the table to her side. The captain pulled out her seat. “Please, won’t you join me for supper?”

“I am hungry,” she admitted, hating herself for her weakness.

“You must keep up your strength. It will be a long while until we reach port.”

“When? Where?” she asked, hoping her eagerness would not be noticed.

But his eyes gleamed with understanding. “Come now. It has been over a dozen years since last I saw you. Let us catch up first. Do tell me all about yourself.”

She sighed as he went about filling her plate. Perhaps if she played nicely, he would give her some information.

But the moment he sat across from her, that wicked gleam in his eyes told her all she needed to know.

He would never allow her to leave his side.

***

“How can it be that we have no bearing on their position?” Barnet grumbled.

Larry “Landlubber” Lancaster grimaced and let out a deep laugh. “You be actin’ like you won’t ever be seein’ your lass again. Relax. We be findin’ her. You be savin’ her. I be killin’ Pershore. All will be well.”

“When?” Barnet demanded.

“Soon enough. I’ll be sending out signals with my lantern tonight. If any of the nearby ships know of Pershore’s destination, where he be headin’, we will soon know.”

Barnet nodded. He cursed the sun for her brightness for he felt no happiness. He cursed her light for it meant no signals. He cursed himself for his inability to locate Annamarie himself.

Most of all, he cursed himself for having never worked up the courage to tell her that he loved her.

Annamarie, don’t be afraid. I’ll save you somehow. I will ask your father permission to court you. No. Rather, I will ask you first. You deserve to have some control over your life given that that despicable, vile, repugnant pirate has kidnapped you against your will.

Please, Annamarie. Wait for me. Trust in me.

But in his heart, he knew she could not. She did not know how he felt nor did she know that he was coming for her.

“Soon,” he murmured with all the hope in his being. “I will be with you soon.”

To be continued…

Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, which had been a part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts and now contains a bonus end scene.

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter, wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. She suffered through trials to find love herself.

Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke. Her mother insists on Anna befriending a marquess’s son, a man Anna finds far too rude. Can either man be the right one for Anna?

Buy CHRISTMAS KISSES here!

 

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Three

Captain Pershore was in a foul mood. The nighttime sky glittered with thousands of sparkling crystals in lieu of stars, but he could not appreciate the majestic sight. Even the calmness of the peaceful waters did not soothe him.

Annamarie did not know him! Yes, he had changed his name, but they had met on occasions before. Their mothers were close friends.

Regardless, he would make her remember. She would come around. One day, and one day soon, she would be his.

***

The door was locked. Annamarie heard it click when the pirate stormed off. She had forgotten him? When would she have ever come across him before? Had he mistaken her for someone else?

It did not matter. She had more pressing concerns to worry about, such as how to unlock the door. Of course, she could not flee until they reached a port, but having a means to free herself when the time came around would be prudent.

Quickly, she searched the room again and again. She placed all items that might help in a pile. It felt almost rewarding to work so hard, and yet her fear and her worries never left her.

***

Larry “Landlubber” Lancaster was the name of the man helping Barnet. He gave no details about his past with Pershore. To pass the hours as they sailed, Barnet found himself confessing his feelings for Lady Annamarie to the pirate. He had not even made his intentions known to her. In fact, that had been why he went to her manor in the first place!

“Ya need to be relaxin,” Landlubber grumbled. “Ya fit to be tied. Bad energy ya be givin’ off. It’ll affect the waters. Ya’ll see. Relax. All will be well.”

“How can you be so calm?” Barnet blurted, eyeing the pirate’s cutlass. The pirate almost always had a hand resting on the gilded hilt. “You’re preparing to kill another man!”

“Pershore isn’t a man. He be a monster. If you be lucky, your lady will not be ruined by him yet.”

There was no hope of Barnet relaxing now, not after hearing that statement. Despair, fear, worry, and anger all warred within him. He had known for some time now that he cared for Annamarie. It wasn’t until she was taken away that he realized that he actually truly loved her.

Don’t worry, Annamarie. I’m coming for you.
To be continued…

Read Part One here and Part Two here.

 

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts available now from various retailers. 25% of proceeds will go to the Malala Fund.

hollyhopefulheartsAbout the Book

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

About the Stories

A Suitable Husbandby Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below. 

Valuing Vanessaby Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life. 

A Kiss for Charityby Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarianby Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy. 

Christmas Kissesby Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts. 

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snowby Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

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