My readers and I have been participating characters in these adventures, one every month. Cool, huh?
By joining my newsletter list, readers got to make the decisions about our heroine's love life (via a Poll), plus they received each chapter a month in advance of the website. Majority ruled and our girl did what she was told - well, sort of. Kate was a feisty little piece, fatally attracted to bad, bad men. Don't think she liked me much. *evil chuckle* She certainly argued an awful lot...
All good healthy wicked fun. Oh, and lots of hot, kinky sex. Yeah!
Scroll down to the read the first chapters and download the rest. Ahoy me 'earties!
|Chapters 1 to 5 in Adobe Acrobat (pdf format) includes -
Kate's lips twisted as she glared at bright procession of books on the shelf. "Laugh Your Way to Wealth", "Perfect Love, Perfect Life".
Bah! Written in snake oil, not ink. No such thing as perfect. No such thing as love.
She should know. She'd been looking all her life.
Sex though - there was plenty of that. Kate ran a perfectly manicured nail over the cheerful, glossy covers while a spasm of longing tightened her belly.
She'd been thrilled with Raoul, so certain he was The One, all Latin charm and flashing teeth. And he'd actually managed to make her come. Well, once.
But then she'd discovered he'd been lying from that first smouldering glance across the bar. He was just Dwayne - ordinary, married Dwayne from Smalltown USA who sold cisterns and sinks. Nothing wrong with plumbing - every home needed an S-bend - but somehow, the magic sprang a leak right there.
What an idiot! She should have known from the start. No one real was called Raoul. Hell, she'd never been able to say the name without sounding like she was gargling with mouthwash.
And the worst thing? She was a consistent idiot, drawn to the wrong man like iron filings to a magnet, time after time. The slightest whiff of complete bastard and she was gone. Hopeless.
Totally depressed, Kate shifted her feet in the red, high-heeled pumps and pressed a hand to the ache in her lower back. The impeccably tailored suit in charcoal gray and the cream silk shirt, she was prepared to tolerate, but the shoes were her own less than subtle way of giving Law the finger. Rossetti shoes, her friend Alice had called them, but then Alice was definitely a bit crazy. Crazy in love with Will. Kate squeezed her eyes shut against the burn of tears.
She shouldn't be jealous. It made her a crap friend. But she'd never seen Alice so happy. Shit, she'd never seen anyone as happy, period.
And, oh God, how she wanted that for herself!
Not Will though, she didn't want Will. He belonged to Alice. Wistfully, Kate thought of the expression in Will's clear gray eyes when they rested on her friend. All of him was in that look - body, heart and soul - a future for two.
Glancing at the thin, dainty watch on her wrist, she bit her lip. Not a Rolex, but very nearly. Five of the six partners at Windsor, Nott and Choke, Attorneys at Law, sported Rolex watches and wore Armani. Also aftershave, but that was because they were men.
Damn, her lunch hour was over. Time to get back to the office and resume her career as Potential Junior Partner material. Conscious of a tremendous reluctance, Kate cast a last look at the cover photo on "Corporate Piracy for Do-Gooders". A smile tugged at her lips. Now that was the sort of self-help she could do with.
It was a Caribbean beach scene, with sand like a field of fine, white sugar and an azure ocean stretching clear to the horizon. A comfortable sunlounge sat slap bang in the middle of the beach, a tall, frosty drink and a pair of sunglasses on a small table by its side. The lounger was vacant save for a laptop computer, the lid open. Kate's grin kicked up a notch. The whole setup was shaded by a big beach umbrella - a black one, with a skull and crossbones on it. She loved that kind of dark humour.
But her brows rose when she picked up the slim volume. $39.95. Now that really was piracy. A closer look startled a chuckle out of her. The drink had one of those little tropical umbrellas stuck in it. And it too was a Jolly Roger, a teeny, weeny one.
Kate turned the book over and her smile congealed. All the breath left her lungs with a whoosh. The author's photo was captioned, "Jack Cavanagh, Corporate Raider and Forbes Lister" and God, he looked it, every inch of him. He'd been posed like a cover model on a romance novel, one booted foot propped on a treasure chest, a puffy white shirt open to show a wedge of tanned chest. In one hand, he carried a sword, in the other, a laptop case. The only men Kate knew who could have carried off a costume like that were gay. Or Johnny Depp.
But she'd swear Jack Cavanagh wasn't gay, not with that amused, to-hell-with-it glint in his dark eyes. Every hormone in Kate's trim little body sat up and shrieked, "Bad boy! Gimme!" Her eye slid down the line of his broad back and swept over breeches pulled tight over taut, powerful buttocks. He was clean-shaven, but his hair was a little longer than regulation for a CEO, long enough to flirt with his collar. Squinting, Kate tilted the book, trying to catch a better light. It had a rich auburn undertone to it, enough to shine chestnut if the sun struck it the right way.
Holy shit. Hands trembling, Kate put Jack Cavanagh back on the shelf - where dreams belonged. Don't worry, her practical self whispered. You memorized the website, there might be more pictures there.
"May I help you?" said a woman's voice.
Kate jerked around so quickly, she almost broke an ankle in the process.
The clerk stared hard at Kate's handbag. "You've been looking at the same shelf for half an hour."
What the - ?
Oh yes. Kate's eyes narrowed. This must be the woman who'd been so rude to Alice, the day she met Will. Right in front of the erotic romance section. On the other hand, Alice hadn't made a whole lot of sense, babbling about dreams and fairies and a giant beaver, for God's sake.
Kate thought of the gleam in Jack Cavanagh's eyes and drew strength. She kept her cool with opposing Counsel and difficult Judges, didn't she? No one got the better of Kate O'Reilly in Court. Therefore no dried up prune of a clerk was going to faze her in a bookstore. With a long, lonely weekend ahead, why not indulge? Chocolate ice-cream and gin and an erotic romance. She'd pick up some extra batteries too.
There was a particular author Alice had mentioned, in between the laughter and the tears. Now who - ? Kate trawled through her memory. Ah yes. "Got anything by a woman called Rossetti?" she asked.
The clerk stiffened. "Oh," she said, and sniffed. "You mean those books. Just over there." She stalked off in an almost perceptible cloud of disapproval.
Full of evil satisfaction, Kate moved to the area the woman had indicated. She blinked. Goodness. What incredible covers. Enough hard male flesh to keep a girl in fantasies for months. And there were the Rossetti books, right on the top shelf. Kate stared, everything feminine in her rising up with a PHROARRRR!! of appreciation. God, what a totally gorgeous man! He reminded her a little of Jack Cavanagh, even though he had an amazing dragon tattoo and his face was hidden. Cursing her lack of inches, she went up on tiptoe, but despite the heels, she finished up scrabbling with her fingertips.
No way would she ask the clerk for help. Kate set her jaw and gave a little jump, just managing to snag the book. But as it dropped into her hands, the shelf wobbled. Open-mouthed, she watched it tilt toward her, seemingly in slow motion. An avalanche of beautiful men with dragon tattoos bounced off her head and shoulders and she opened her mouth to scream. With a kind of awful inevitability, several million of words of hot sex toppled over and onto Kate. Something incredibly solid struck her temple and everything went away in a shower of sparks.
Jeez, this had to be the worst hangover she'd ever had. The whole room was still swinging and her head was full of a strange rushing noise. Kate fumbled a hand to her forehead, stifling a groan. She usually drank plenty of water on a night out, but Lord, she was thirsty! Better get up and -
She opened her eyes and blinked. Nah. Couldn't be. She squeezed them shut, but now her nose was aware of strange smells. Something salty and also musty and strangely spicy. Huh?
Cautiously, Kate cracked one eyelid open. The room was dim, but it wasn't her bedroom - not unless it had shrunk to the point that all her furniture had disappeared into some dark vortex. On the other hand, the pathetic whimpering noise was probably her. Which was a strange sort of comfort. The bed lurched suddenly and the whole room creaked, the unlit lamp swinging in a crazy arc. Kate shot bolt upright and banged her head.
"Ow! Shit!" Automatically, she rubbed the spot and hit her elbow a painful blow on the wall. God, it was a bunk! She was sitting in a bunk, no - a hammock, in a room with a very low ceiling, paneled in dark wood, containing nothing but a stout wooden chest banded with leather. And the sound of water swished along outside the walls, which meant she was on a sh.
No. Couldn't be. This was nuts.
Cautiously, Kate swung her feet to the floor, the coarse rug prickly on her bare feet. Bare feet? Where were her killer heels? She looked down.
Because she seemed to have forgotten how to breathe, the full-blooded scream emerged as a kind of pained yelp. All she was wearing was a thin, loose shift. Frantic patting confirmed a dreadful suspicion. No underwear. Not a stitch.
Wait a minute. Kate rubbed her forehead. She'd been in a perfectly ordinary bookstore, in the mall, the same place Alice had met Will. That's right. And she'd been about to buy a book by that Rossetti woman, the one Alice said had sent her the weird dreams. Rossetti and her readers, making choices for Alice. What absolute nonsense!
From outside, she heard the brisk thump of approaching boots, a heavy, masculine stride. Her eye fell on a chamber pot in the corner. It looked solid, utilitarian. A good weapon. Over the sound of the footsteps and the rushing of the sea, another noise insinuated itself into Kate's consciousness.
Tap, tap. Tap, tap.
Jesus! Her blood congealed and her heart stopped. As vividly as if Alice stood beside her, she heard her friend's voice. "I'd hear her tapping at the keyboard, writing the story. Writing my life, Kate." Alice had shuddered. "She's crazy, you know, that Rossetti. If it hadn't been for her readers." Alice shook her head, swallowing.
Tap, tap, tap.
The door rattled and Kate set her jaw. Rossetti would find Kate O'Reilly a very different proposition from sweet Alice!
The door banged back and a giant of a man filled the opening. White teeth flashed in a bushy beard. "C'mon, ye lazy wench!" he roared. He ducked his head under the lintel. "Yer mistress is callin'. Though." A big hand rose to rub his nose and his eyes twinkled, though the room was too dim for Kate to make out their colour. "Ye're a fine, tasty little piece." He surveyed her in a leisurely manner, lingering on her breasts and hips.
His masculinity was overpowering in the small space. Kate gasped, her senses swamped with the smell of sunwarmed flesh and sandalwood and leather. To her irritation, her breasts tightened and her belly clenched. But the sword and dagger thrust through his belt were obvious enough and so was the healthy bulge in his breeches. In fact, it was growing healthier by the second.
The man propped himself against the doorframe. "Her High an' Mightiness can wait, I'm thinkin'." He grinned again. "While we get better acquainted. What's yer name, pretty lass?" Taking a step into the cabin, he pulled the door shut behind him with a decisive snap. "I never kiss a wench less'n I know her name."What should Kate do?
- Throw the chamber pot at his head. (Guess we'll find out later if there's anything in it!)
- Stay cool and ask his name.
- Kiss him so she can steal the dagger from his belt.
"Who the hell are you?" Kate propped her hands on her hips and refused to take a step backward. Which was fine in theory. In practice, it meant the giant stepped right into her personal space, smelling delightfully of fresh, salty air and warm man.
Her nose was about level with a chest a mile wide, the top couple of buttons of his shirt carelessly undone. Oooh look, Katie, her hormones caroled, just how we like it. Tanned and hairy, but not a rug.
Jeeezus! The Hormone Harlots. "Shaddup", she gritted.
"Eh, ye got a mouth on ye, lass." A broad palm cradled her jaw, tilting it so that she had to meet his eyes. Straight white teeth flashed in the brown beard and eyes as blue as her own twinkled down at her. The voice lowered to a happy rumble. "Aye, that ye have." A brawny arm slid around her waist, his head dipped and his mouth slanted over hers.
"Mmpf!" mumbled Kate, wriggling furiously.
Oh, but his lips were warm, the whiskers surprisingly soft. And though his chest was as solid as a teak bulkhead against her, he wasn't invading her mouth, just crooning under his breath and nibbling, while a huge hand clamped right across one buttock to hold her still.
Yum, yum, yummy! shrilled the Hormone Harlots. Go, Katie!
The man's tongue licked the seam of her lips and Kate's hand clenched in the fabric of his shirt. God, when had she grabbed him? She hauled her eyes open, just as his tongue flicked inside her mouth to flirt with hers. He was watching her. Absurdly long eyelashes fluttered over one blue eye in a saucy wink.
Oh. Well then, just for a minute.
Kate relaxed in his hold and smiled into the kiss.
A delighted grunt and he surged right in, swamping her senses. Lord, the man was good! The Harlots were in hormonal heaven. So was Kate.
And he was so solid, so hard. So damn big. Her free hand flapped about, coming to rest on his belt. She curled her fingers over the hard leather, hanging on.
And common sense returned, like a deluge of icy water. Kate froze, while her brain creaked back into gear.
What the hell was she thinking? She had to get out of here, out of whatever this was - a dream, a nightmare, a book by that weird Rossetti woman. Oz. Real life was back there somewhere, waiting. A hard palm slid up and down her spine, caressing and comforting and warm. Kate's head swam. Her tiny apartment, always spotless, sterile even. Echoing, empty.
The heel of her hand brushed something hard. A hilt. Slowly, she closed her fingers over it.
Nothing and no one told Kate O'Reilly, Attorney at Law, what to do. No one took advantage. Not even if she was enjoying the hell out of it.
With one hand, she grabbed his hair, finding he had it tied back. Very convenient. With the other, she ripped the blade out of his belt and dug the sharp point into his lower back. Jerking his head back, she hissed, "Let me go!" She wiggled the weapon for emphasis. Hopefully, she had it over his kidney, or somewhere vulnerable.
The man didn't seem particularly fazed. He grinned. Lord, his eyes were the exact shade of blue of a noonday sky. Clear and bright and guileless. "Careful with that now, lassie."
"I am not a lassie," snapped Kate. "And who are you?"
"Tom Cavanagh." Almost casually, he clamped a huge paw over her fingers and pushed the dagger aside. "First officer."
What the-? Kate shoved back. Workouts four times a week and a personal trainer had to be worth something. But they weren't.
She might as well have tried to budge a mountain.
Tom Cavanagh pried the knife out of her grip and thrust it back into the scabbard on his belt. He chuckled, his face alight with anticipation and boyish pleasure. "Fierce as a fishwife," he rumbled. He winked again. "Good."
The great lump. She wouldn't smile. She wouldn't.
Someone scratched at the door. A high imperious voice said, "Perrrowww!"
Tom chuckled, easing the door open a crack. A sleek gray tabby eeled in to rub herself against his boots. "Mornin' sweetheart," said Tom.
"Purrrurrt," replied the cat, head-butting his calf. Then she sat, neat and tall, her tail wrapped securely around his ankle.
Huge golden-green eyes glared at Kate and the cat's ears went flat.
Flexing her numb fingers, Kate took a wary step backward. "I have to go home."
Tom frowned. "Yer place is with yer mistress, lass." He shrugged his massive shoulders. "The Indies ain't so bad, once ye get used to the heat. And the rum's bloody fine."
Kate's mouth fell open. She had so many questions they jostled each other on her tongue. Mistress? What mistress? The Indies? "Just tell me." She licked her dry lips. "Where is this?"
"Surely ye know?" Tom cocked his head to one side, his gaze suddenly shrewd and hard. Not such a buffoon then. "Well, s'pose ye might not, since ye been so seasick ye hardly came out o' the cabin." After a beat, he swept her a bow, surprisingly graceful for such a large man. "This is the Lady Meroe, little one."
"The ship, lass." He waved a hand. beaming. "The Meroe's an East Indiaman, purpose built. The best, the fastest. She's got the prettiest pair o' heels."
"Merrrowwow!" said the cat insistently.
"Oh aye, I ain't forgot ye, love," said Tom. "This dainty piece is also the Lady Meroe. Senior ship's cat."
Kate struggled. She had enough distractions without an idiot who was besotted with his cat. "Heels?" she asked, returning to the matter at hand. "A ship has heels?"
Tom's mouth thinned. "Aye. Twice now we've given Bloody Jack the slip." He smiled, but those pretty eyes didn't warm. "I'm bettin' he ain't pleased."
Putting a hand to her head, Kate sagged against the wooden chest. "Bloody Jack?" she faltered. "Who's he?"
Tom stared. "Only the worst pirate in the Indies." His mouth twisted. "For all he calls hisself a privateer."
Tap, tap, tap. The sound seemed to come from above and to the left.
Their eyes met and Tom's brow creased. "Ship's carpenter," he said, but he didn't sound convinced.
The cat rose, stretching.
Tap, tap, tap. Clatter.
Her tail rose, a vertical flag. Stalking to the door, she raised a small paw and scratched. "Perrroww!"
"Aye, Meroe, you're right," said Tom. He held out a big hand. "Time to go, lass. And what is your name?"
"Kate." She backed away. "And I'm not going anywhere except home."
This time, Tom's grin was blinding. "Oh, but you are."
He swooped, big hands firm around her waist, and hoisted her over his shoulder, driving the breath out of her in the process. "Lead on, darlin'" he said, apparently to that damned cat.
Kate hauled in a breath and shrieked, pounding her fists against his broad back as he ducked out into a narrow passageway. He paid no attention whatsoever except to chuckle, banding a heavy arm over her thrashing legs. "Such language." He swatted her on the bottom and Kate choked. Shit, he had a heavy hand!
Neanderthal. Idiot. Bastard.
Nimbly, Tom climbed a short ladder, as if her weight was of no significance. They emerged into a light so bright Kate blinked. A chorus of catcalls and whistles broke out. Tom came to a halt.
Kate's guts turned over. Oh God- She clutched at his back, hanging on for dear life.
"Lookit thet arse," growled a rough voice. "Better'n any cabin boy."
"The first man to touch her feeds the fishes." She hadn't thought it possible for the genial Tom to sound so cold, so deadly.
The silence was absolute.
The mumbles of assent ran together. "Aye, Sor." "Aye." "Right, Sor."
Gently, Tom tipped her right side up, the wooden deck hot against the soles of her feet. "Go on, lass." He gave her a little push. "Across the quarter deck and follow Meroe."
Kate cast a single terrified glance at the circle of hungry eyes, the weather-beaten faces and grasping hands. On the periphery of her vision, she was aware of forests of ropes and canvas flapping, an achingly blue sky and a few fluffy white clouds. A couple of gulls screeched overhead. With a gulp, she turned and darted across the deck, diving down the set of steps in front of her, as close to Meroe's elegant tail as she could get. Behind her, she heard Tom's firm tread. God, she was actually grateful for his presence! She shivered.
"Keep going," he said.
"Where are-?" She turned, halting him with her hands braced against his chest.
"The Captain's cabin. Yer mistress is takin' a bath." He gestured at the wooden door ahead of them on the right.
From behind it, Kate heard the sound of languid splashing, a low musical laugh. Was that a man's voice, murmuring low? The cat reared up against the door, elongating herself in the way of felines. She sniffed at the keyhole, whiskers fanning forward.
"Aye," said Tom. "We could, at that. What d' ye want to do, pretty Kate?" A pause and he went on thoughtfully. ""Tis a wicked thing to spy. And yon keyhole is so low a body'd have t' kneel right down."What should Kate do?
- Knock briskly and throw the door open wide.
- Insist Tom kneel down and look through the keyhole.
- Kneel down and peer through the keyhole herself.
All site content and design © 2009 Denise Rossetti unless otherwise stated
All site content and design © 2008 Denise Rossetti unless otherwise stated
Rose graphic courtesy of Corbis