|Blog||Hunting and Fishing||
Available in September 2013 through Mercer University Press, Amazon, Chain Stores
or your local independent bookstore as is the prequel to this novel, Swimming with Serpents
CHAPTER ONE: August 1817
Sabrina Stapleton and Godfrey Lewis Winkel?
Joie scrunched up her thickly lashed, summer-sky, Kincaid-blue eyes…and then opened them again trying to clear her vision. Surely she was not seeing clearly. Her heart beat faster. She pressed her nose against the pane fogging the mullioned window directly beneath the sign of Rules in Convent Garden, London’s favorite gathering spot. For the past year, the weather had been amazingly cold and the days dark. Fowls went to roost at noon and the candles were lighted as at midnight just as they were inside Rules today. One could not have imagined the impact the year with no summer would have on the streets of London!
When sunspots appeared so large they could be seen by the naked eye, religious zealots expected an apocalypse. The London Chronicle had reported on the panic: “The large spots which may now be seen upon the sun's disk have given rise to ridiculous apprehensions and absurd predictions,” the paper read. “These spots are said to be the cause of the remarkable cold and wet weather we have had this Summer; and the increase of these spots is represented to announce a general removal of heat from the globe, the extinction of nature, and the end of the world.”
What she saw inside that tea room upset her so that it drove all thoughts of danger and caution out of her mind! The past year had been a time of fear. Food riots had resulted from the famine caused by the disrupted planting and growing cycles brought about by a sudden change in climate. Suicides were rampant and an epidemic of typhus had struck. The streets of London were littered with the debris of the waves of immigrants that had come in search of food. Beggars lined the roads and thieves and cutthroats kept decent folks confined to their homes.
But Joie had been determined to see her friend once more before leaving England as her brother’s father-in-law, the Duke, had suddenly decided to do. Joie felt she must find Sabrina, perhaps the only girl friend she had ever had, and say goodbye.
She slipped on the clothes she wore when she visited the gypsies on the Estate or helped Lyssa with the horses and ran through the busy streets to the Stapleton London home where she met the Stapleton housekeeper outside the garden gate shaking a rug.
“Oh, Miss Joie, Lady Sabrina has gone for tea.” She turned abruptly to re-enter the house.
Joie touched her arm and with pleading eyes said, “But, I’m leaving for America. I must see her.”
The housekeeper hesitated and then in a whisper confided, “She’s been writing a gentleman who just appeared in town.”
“A gentleman?” said Joie with disbelief. “She never mentioned anyone to me!”
The housekeeper turned once more to enter the house.
Joie grabbed her by the arm. “Where is she meeting this gentleman?”
Her imperious tone of voice would have appeared ludicrous to some, but her regal manner was so like the Dowager Duchess that the housekeeper found herself telling Joie where to find her friend before her mind took control of her tongue.
A man? And she had not told her?
Her dearest friend! With just barely enough time to make it to Rules and back, Joie took off.
And so, with no further thought, Joie braved the horrid weather and artfully eluded the challenges in the streets to find out who in the world her friend dallied with!
And yes -- that was indeed Sabrina Stapleton, her dear friend, daintily sipping tea by candlelight in the middle of the day! And the gentleman? But, could it be possible that the tall, spectacled red-headed dandy dressed like a peacock sitting across from Sabrina might be actually be Godfrey Lewis Winkel … the arrogant bastard she and her sister-in-law Lyssa Rendel Kincaid rescued … five years and an ocean away … from the Fort Mims massacre?
She met Godfrey Lewis when she was eleven years old. Godfrey Lewis Winkel, tall, skinny, cocky, freckle-faced fifteen-year-old, perused her looking down his patrician nose. He sniffed at her work roughened hands and lack of book learning. She shrunk beneath his stare, becoming more aware of her messy black braids, her dusky skin and just the simple fact that she was indeed a “breed,” half Creek Indian and half white. Everyone knew. Her shrewish stepmother shouted those failings over and over while assigning her yet another chore. Godfrey, a city boy coming down the Federal Road from Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, got trapped in the Tensaw area at Mims ferry because of the Red Stick scare while on his way to visit family in Mobile. He came looking for adventure, experiences about which he could write for his family’s New York newspaper that would prepare him for the books he would later write. Or so he planned.
Well, he found adventure. One thousand Red Stick Indians attacked the fort, actually one acre around the Mims home about which a stockade had been built where they all sought refuge.
The Red Sticks killed, raped, mutilated, and burned just about all of the 500 men, women, children; red, white and Black; militia and civilian; slave and free, inside. Only a few managed to escape.
So, why would he be here? At Rules on Maiden Lane in Convent Gardens no less. In London, England, when he should be in America. Having tea and scones (her favorite with clotted cream and strawberry jam) … with her … at one time … best friend?
She would know him anywhere!
She knew he would be trouble!
They should have left him there alone on the trail where he had escaped the burning fort …leg broken and protruding from the skin, staggering, bleeding and feverish to fall at their feet among the rattlesnakes and mosquitoes, alligators and palmetto, pine trees and river oak!
Would have too … but for some crazy reason … she could never explain it to herself … she demanded that Lyssa halt in their flight from the Red Sticks and pull him, near dead, onto Beauty and save him along with the other children who straggled out of the palmetto and cane and into their lives.
Samantha corresponded with Godfrey Lewis Winkel?
Joie stamped her foot and said aloud, “God damn it all to Hell and back, I knew we should have left the bastard to rot on that road! I knew I should never trust another female. I’m a good of mind to march right in there and …”
She looked again and pressed her nose against the pane because maybe, just maybe, the fog on the glass had obscured the view inside … just to make sure what she had seen was still there.
The well-dressed couple just on the other side of that window pane turned and pointed, laughing at the urchin with his nose pressed against the window. A woman in an emerald green day dress carrying a matching parasol tut-tutted at her language as she pressed a lace handkerchief to her nose as she passed. Even her servant stuck up her nose and gave Joie a wide berth!
Everyone was fearful these days what with the 300,000 veterans coming home from Napoleon’s wars looking for jobs at a time when the Irish and Welsh immigrants were fleeing famine in their countries crowding the streets. With her dark hair and bright blue eyes, she probably did look like what she’d heard called “black Irish.” No one would suspect a Creek Indian to be roaming the streets of London.
Joie knew what was happening in the world because those topics were debated at the table during meals by Lyssa, her brother Cade’s wife, whom Joie idolized, and her father, the Duke. The Duke, the only son of the third son of the former Duke of Penbrooke who’d come to America to seek his fortune, was a graduate of the College of New Jersey who’d encouraged his precocious daughter to learn and speak her mind. And she did. Vigorously. Sometimes while at the supper table nursing one of her many children. And when she had caught Joie cringing at how vehemently points were made between her and her father at times, she’d explained that they were not fighting, they were debating, and that was healthy -- open, often heated, discussions that helped order ones thoughts on issues of the day. Quite different from the loud voices that preceded heavy fists in her former life.
Joie caught her reflection in the window and suddenly realized … she was the urchin, the one the patrons inside the tea shop were pointing at! She was attracting too much attention standing there dressed in boy’s clothing, her straight lustrous jet black hair tucked under a cap, with her nose pressed against the window of the popular tea room.
Where sure as the sun came up in the morning … Godfrey Lewis Winkel, having just tucked a cream and strawberry stuffed scone in his mouth, now sat nodding and drinking tea with his pinkie lifted just smiling like a damned Cheshire cat at the girl she had once thought her dearest confidant in all the world.
Appalled that she might be spotted spying, Joie Kincaid slipped into the alley, dark despite the fact that it was the middle of the day, beside Rules. In spite of the constant warnings about the unrest in the streets, the Irish running from famine and typhus, the thousands of jobless veterans in addition to the normal dangers of thieves, she had hurried to Rules to see her friend one last time before she boarded the ship to return to America. It was a novelty to her, having a female friend. But, in order to break away from her family without the confinement of a chaperone, she had led them to think she was going to the stables to say goodbye to the horses. She had slipped on the stable boy clothes that she used when she was helping her brother Gabriel in the Duke’s stables or when she visited the gypsies camped on the Duke’s property where she had learned to dance with the horses and throw knives precisely among other things.
Joie had thought her friend, Sabrina Stapleton, would be amused. If the Duke’s mother, her brother Cade’s grandmother-in-law, found out, she most definitely would not be. While the rest of her family had little interest in being accepted by the ton, the Duke’s mother had made it her life’s goal to gain acceptance into that august group. Joie in boy’s clothing would send her into vapors and onto the fainting sofa for sure.
Sabrina was the one thing Joie had thought she would miss in London, besides her brother-in-law, Lancelot Rendel, who was just one year older than she, and her brother, Gabriel Kincaid, of course, who would be staying in England. Joie and the rest of the family would be boarding a ship to return home to America within a few hours. At last. She missed the freedom of home in the Creek Country in America but the family had needed to recover from what they had endured surviving the massacre at Fort Mims and the rigors of the Creek Indian War. The discovery that her brother, Cade, had married not just the granddaughter of Pushmataha, Choctaw chief, but the daughter of a duke who needed to claim his English estates, had come at a time when all were willing to leave the Creek Country … at least for a while.
Jacob Rendel, had recently inherited lands and a title … all a bunch of nonsense to her, but very important to the people who inhabited his lands. This son of a Virginia planter who had thought he had shed ties to that legacy when he married his Choctaw princess now found that it was not quite that easy when you found people depended upon you to accept the responsibilities fate decreed. Now he had lands and people on both sides of the Atlantic … on his father’s lands in Virginia and the newly inherited estates in England. Joie’s brother Cade had married Lyssa Rendel right before the massacre at Fort Mims. Lyssa had rescued Joie and baby Jay who was Cade, Gabe, and Joie’s newborn half-brother. Thanks to Lyssa, they had all survived. And in the process the Rendels had acquired a brood of orphans, survivors of the massacre rescued by Lyssa and Joie. All of those children bonded immediately to Papa Jake, now the Duke of Penbrooke, who, along with his wife Malee, accepted them all with the same love they all showered upon the twins that Lyssa had given birth to right after she finally reunited with Cade. Thence forth Cade and Lyssa had added to the family the traditional way with regularity every two years.
The Duke and his beautiful Duchess, Malee, the adopted daughter of Choctaw chief, Pushmataha, brought the newly reunited family with them to England. Jacob Rendel, Duke of Penbrooke, could not bear to be parted from a single one of his newly acquired and vastly extended family. The blended family had been the source of much conversation among the ton … shocking them by their total disinterest in participating in artifices of what was deemed necessary for polite society in England … which of course made them all the more fascinating.
Jake and Malee’s son, Lancelot Rendel, Lyssa’s brother, would be heir to the dukedom upon Jake’s passing and needed to be indoctrinated into the management of the estate he would inherit which included a stable of race horses. Since Cade was the Duke’s daughter’s husband and the father of their children, there was no question but that he would go with the Rendels to England. Cade had seen England as a safe haven and was pleased that his twin brother Gabe and their sister, Joie, and of course, their half-brother Jay, were included in “Papa” Jake’s affections. Lyssa Rendel Kincaid treated little Jay just as if he were her very own baby and nursed him, though he was months older, along with her twins so others thought she had actually given birth to triplets.
“Poor little thing needs to bond with a mother that loves him just like these other two,” she said as she cuddled and nursed him as well, the first time he crawled up and like a pup in a litter and nudged Lyssa and Cade’s newborn, Marylyssa, aside. This shocked Jake Rendel’s mother, who now referred to herself as the Dowager Duchess.
Little Jay’s real mother, Leona Loughman Kincaid, Joie’s stepmother, had never wanted a baby in the first place. It was Joie and Lyssa who had kept Jay alive after the massacre.
If they hadn’t known how much Cade adored Lyssa before then, even after seeing his despair when he had thought her killed at Fort Mims, then his valiant rescue of her from the clutches of Savannah Jack at Horseshoe Bend, then just one look at his face as his brave, determined, ever loyal wife, gently and lovingly cuddled and loved his children and half-brother would have tipped even the most ardent skeptic off to the fact.
Theirs was a love that Joie knew would never be her good fortune. She had never known love before reuniting with her brothers. She did not know if she would recognize it if she had it. Her stepmother had done all she could to let her know how unworthy a “breed” was. Her brothers told Joie that she was the image of their mother, other than having their father’s startling blue eyes, and they said everyone told them she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.
But, at eleven, Joie had seen her stepmother’s same contempt in the eyes of Godfrey Lewis Winkel. She knew the truth.
Joie had been separated from her brothers shortly after her birth and their Creek mother’s death to be raised by her father and his second wife. Now that Cade, Gabriel and Joie had just been reunited, Cade feared that if they did not stick together, something might happen and they would not get together again. Savannah Jack, who had nearly killed Cade twice, might still be alive and ready to wreak more vengeance by hurting those Cade loved. Cade and Lyssa’s newest addition was just six months old. Oliver had joined Alexander, nearly two, Jay and the twins, Jace and MaryLyssa in the nursery. They had now been in England for three years
But now, one in fourteen in the city of London had died of a dreadful disease called typhus and it was spreading throughout the countryside. Papa Jake decided the little ones needed to leave England and he needed to return to Virginia and see to his father’s estates. Prompted by the typhoid epidemic, he decided to sail immediately for America. They would board the ship later today when the tide was right. Lance, like Joie, just turned sixteen, would stay on the English estate to learn more from the steward and his uncle, Gabe. Joie would go with Papa Jake and GranMalee home to America.
But, first, Joie had wanted to see her friend once more.
And so, now she stood with her back against the wall in an alley in London in Convent Gardens close to the Thames, so totally absorbed in her thoughts that when the burlap sack came down over her head she was caught totally unaware.
Godfrey Lewis Winkel had actually left the lady in mid-sentence when he saw those eyes and that nose pressed against the mullioned window directly beneath Thomas Rules' fine new sign for what was formerly simply an oyster bar. Whatever had possessed him to erupt from the London tea room in such a disreputable manner he asked himself as he now stood foolishly looking up and down the street?
Blue eyes and an urchin’s face? Would he forever chase blue eyes and an urchin’s face? It was a flaw in his otherwise rational character that he simply must overcome! And a truly embarrassing one, he thought as he recalled the last time he had followed such an impulse down a busy New York street only to be reported to a policeman as a stalker. He had apologized profusely explaining that he had thought she was someone he knew.
Why could he not be satisfied with the ladies who were truly charmed by his wit and intelligence? Why could he not forget the hoyden who had saved his life?
She had simply disappeared. Dropped off the face of the earth!
Godfrey ran his fingers through his stylishly short reddish blond curls mussing the hour long effort as he looked both ways down the busy street. Gad! He was going mad!
Still, he remembered his manners and smiled at a passing lady who was eying him curiously and tipped the black top hat he’d been holding on his lap before he bounded through the door. He adjusted his fine wool double-breasted tail coat with turned-back cuffs and a matching high collar of velvet wondering if he looked as foolish as he felt. The tailor had assured him this outfit was in the best of taste. Beau Brummel himself would have worn this outfit the man said.
Godfrey pulled at the canary yellow waistcoat and bemoaned once again the tight-laced corset the tailor had insisted was a part of every gentleman’s dress that made his simple bow difficult. Though he might be a bit soft-- the amusement of those who’d watched him spar with Gentleman Jack had assured him that-- he truly hadn’t thought himself in real need of that garment. Eyeing himself in the reflection of the window pane he once again wondered at the bright yellow waistcoat; gleaming white, stiffly starched shirt; turquoise cravat; and fawn-colored pantaloons he had worn … at the tailor’s advice … to the meeting requested by the young lady.
She had written him telling him she admired his article about the map he had found locating the treasure of Captain Kidd. A brief correspondence had followed regarding Kidd’s English appearances near her home in Cornwall. Indeed, gossip was Kidd was from a family of Cornish gold miners. When Godfrey mentioned he would soon speak at the British Museum on the article which had been published in the London Examiner, she had requested a meeting.
Godfrey, whose curse and gift it was to remember everything he had ever read as well as the date, time, and details surrounding him of every day he’d lived (perhaps back to the womb though his mother could not confirm it), sniffed the breeze and mentally recorded his surroundings imagining it to be much the same as in Kidd’s day. Drifting up from the harbor he identified the scent of the cargoes – cinnabar, ginger, tea, sandalwood, hemp – and, of course, the unmistakable rich whiff of sea worn ropes and tar lifting from the harbor. From where he stood he glimpsed a forest of masts all pressed within the stretch of river from London Bridge all the way down river to the first bend. And beneath it all lay the acrid stench of human waste and unwashed bodies in addition to the horses and dung from the drays that hauled cargo through the city streets to and from the harbor.
Appalled by his impetuous act, he was about to turn back into Rules to apologize to the very attractive and intelligent (she did like his work) lady when he heard a muffled oath and a grunt coming from the alley. Godfrey quickly turned the corner to see two ruffians and a canvas sea bag which obviously held an unwilling and very human individual attempting to pummel and kick his way loose from the confines of the bag.
“I say there, you dastardly villains,” he called.
“Miles,” said sailor with a decidedly acute case of hogs breath and body odor that even the aroma of the Thames could not mask. “Me thinks the man insulted us.”
“Well, Cedric, invites the gentleman into our parlor,” he said, showing his blackened teeth in a semblance of a genial grin, as he tossed the bag over his shoulder. A loud “Oooof” indicating a person in physical distress followed the act.
“Ah, so, it will be like that, will it?" Godfrey said, as he drew up into the boxer’s stance which he’d only recently learned from Boxing Champ Jack Randall just to let them know what they were up against.
He hoped the two villains could not see how his fists shook. Hoping to catch them off guard, as a surprise move, he ran in for a head butt. The villain closest, Miles, he now knew, stepped quickly aside and threw him an upper cut as he sailed past. Godfrey went down, gasping, confined by the corset, his breath and motion impeded. Suddenly, with a well-aimed kick to the head by the aforementioned villain, named Cedric… everything went black.
Godfrey felt her before he saw her. The cackle of a chicken woke him. He opened his eyes to find the last person he expected to see and the one person he’d longed to find staring at him with a strangely vague look. He was bound hand and foot with the same rope that bound Joie Kincaid. No doubt she was even now plotting some diabolical scenario to wreak havoc on that ship and their captors. And then she would turn her infinite capacity for torment upon him.
Yet, she said nothing. She just lay there on her side grimacing at the mosquito that had hovered and landed on her cheek, staring at him with the most peculiar expression on her face. A red dot of blood marred her smooth skin when at last the mosquito reacted to her lifted shoulder and Godfrey’s blow of air to rid her of the pesky insect. Unconsciously, he registered the insect with the thought that the boat in which they were now held captive must have originated in some tropical area to bring mosquitoes with it in its fetid, malodorous hold .
Finally, he decided to break the uncomfortable silence.
“Well, hello,” he said, wondering if she noticed the even baritone of his voice amidst the cacophy of the animal sounds in cages about them, provisions for a long voyage, apparently.
That voice had replaced the cracking adolescent voice that had afflicted him when last she saw him. That quavering, crackling emasculation had only added to his mortification at being saved and forced to submit to having all his bodily needs tended to while he wandered in an out of consciousness for several months by two females. One of them happened to have been the very one he had once so arrogantly tormented who now lay facing him so intimately with body parts touching his that told him that she was no longer the little girl he once knew – watching every nuance of his facial expressions with a blank look upon her face.
Good Lord. What had happened to the spitfire he’d once known?
“Who are you?” she whispered, with a quaver in her voice.
“You don’t recognize me?” Godfrey asked, all at once crestfallen.
He’d caught himself searching for her on every street and corner knowing her new life as the sister-in-law of the daughter of a duke would probably take her far away from where he had last seen her. That was at St. Stephens right after the Creek War had ended with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and they had spent months searching for Cade and Lyssa who had simply disappeared in the Tallapoosa River. Cade Kincaid had brought Lyssa and their twins home at last. Lyssa had survived being kidnapped by Savannah Jack and Cade lived Jack’s brutal attack.
Geoffrey had found out through his investigations that Savannah Jack still lived and still sought revenge. That was probably why Pushmataha, Lyssa Kincaid’s grandfather, had been reluctant to tell anyone anything about their whereabouts. All who had been in that room when Jake Rendel discovered he was the heir to a title and estates in England as well as his father’s estates in America were sworn to secrecy. Savannah Jack was relentless and brutal. Fortunately, Godfrey had been in that hotel room in St. Stephens when Jake Rendel found out that he had inherited the English title.
Godfrey knew that his reaction to women who looked like he imagined Joie might now look was irrational. And that was more than a rational, intellectual like himself could bear. He simply could not help it.
He finally decided the only rational thing for him to do was to focus all of his prodigious intellect on finding Joie, confronting her, and apologizing to her for being such an ass. That was the reason Godfrey decided to come to London when the invitation to speak had arrived from the British Museum. That and the fact that he owed her so much and wanted to show her that he had been worth saving. He wanted to invite her to the meeting so she could see him well-dressed and highly respected. He wanted her to hear how his voice had settled into such a pleasant register, one the local Episcopal Church sought for its choir.
But the note he had sent to the Duke’s estate had arrived too late. His messenger had returned saying the family was no longer residing at the estate.
… and she’d simply forgotten all about him?
“I have been lying here, trying my very best to remember just who I am. Should I know you?”
Though the light was dim, Godfrey was able to see the bruise on Joie’s forehead partially covered by the cap she had pulled over the lustrous blue black hair Godfrey remembered so well. It hadn’t come from a light tap. Someone had knocked her in the head with such great force the eye on that side on which she lay looked as if it might be swollen shut now that he noticed. Godfrey felt an anger rise in him like he’d never known before.
Why was she alone on a London street dressed in the clothes of a stable boy … and her a member of a duke’s household? Jake Kincaid, duke or no duke, and Cade and Gabe Kincaid, her big, muscular, powerful, Creek warrior brothers would have to answer to him. His fists clenched unconsciously tightening the ropes. He saw her wince.
“Oh, oh, I am so sorry!”
Those Kincaid-blue eyes that before that had only regarded him with spitfire spirit were now filled with fear. Fear of him because he had hurt her? His anger at her family for their carelessness must have shown on his face!
He had not realized how tiny she was. Or was it just that he had grown so much larger. His hands, tied there so close to hers, seemed massive next to her delicate hands. His anger grew as he saw how chafed her hands were by the rough rope with which they were bound. Delicate was not a word he would ever have used for Joie Kincaid! And yet, with her memory gone and along with it her strong willed personality, this delicate flower was now his to protect.
He wanted to reassure her but their surroundings left him little fodder for optimism. From the casks that surrounded them, it was quite easy to deduce that they were tied tightly together in the hold of a ship stuffed amid barrels, casks, and cages of cackling chickens-- supplies necessary for a sea voyage. From the rocking, it was apparent that ship was underway.
“They’re awake,” yelled someone just out of sight at the top of the hold.
A leg appeared on the top rung of the ladder coming down into the hold. And then another. With each step of that gargantuan bare foot came another length of leg until the hip appeared on what must be the tallest man on earth, or so it seemed to Godfrey from where he lay at the foot of that ladder. And from the way all light was blocked with the man’s descent, the rest of him was proportionately large. His skin was as black as pitch and glistened -- with perspiration from his exertions, no doubt, for the weather, which had been unprecedentedly cool for a late August day in England and the hold in which they were kept was not only cold, but damp. He wore only old canvas slop trousers and the cutlass that hung at his waist clanking against the wooden steps with each step. And a huge gold earring dangling from one ear. His cleanly shaved head made him ever more menacing.
“The Captain wants to see you,” came the booming bass voice of the massive man.
“I’m a bit tied up at the moment,” said Godfrey, with an attempt at humor. His levity apparently fell quite flat as the man crossed his arms and scowled down at him where he lay a quaking mass of nerves.
Well, Hell, he thought. This is indeed a pickle. He glanced at Joie and saw the fear in her eyes. The man before him drawing blood from his forearm as he tested the blade on his cutlass did not appear to be an official in any government or private enterprise with which he was acquainted. He looked more like one of the pirates about which Godfrey had been writing and speaking. On a scholarly level. Why, he could have stepped straight from the page of his last article published in his father’s New York newspaper. Godfrey’s articles had caused quite a stir and, he had been told, actually stirred Congress to send ships into the Gulf to end their activities threatening life and property. It was merely academic when one spoke of economics in the abstract.
But this man surely looked like a flesh and blood pirate.
Oh my God. That was it! They had been captured by pirates! But they had been captured on land. And he had no treasure! Though he did have a treasure map… He’d never intended to get this close to pirates!
Godfrey swallowed hard. There appeared to be a huge lump lodged in his throat, perhaps bile from the fetid stench of the hold. His mouth was as dry as the straw in his stable.
“Sir,” he said. “I am your servant. But, indeed, at the moment, these bonds do impede my effort to accede to your command.”
With a single slashing movement the cutlass fell. Godfrey gasped. He would have passed out with simple shock and fear had he not felt the bonds at his hands fall away. He opened his eyes that had automatically shut tight when he saw the cutlass descend. Joie looked at him wide-eyed all color drained from her face.
They still had both hands. He looked up again at the man standing menacingly above them.
Merciful God! Had they truly been kidnapped by pirates?
Pirates had become a hobby of his ever since he found the copy of the treasure map that he believed was actually drawn by Captain William Kidd in the New York Society Library in an obscure book of early maps drawing lines of Indian treaties. He was researching those maps for a paper he was writing for his studies at Princeton from which he had graduated Summa Cum Laude. The fact that Jake Rendel, now Duke of Penbrooke, had attended Princeton when it was known as the College of New Jersey had, he would admit, influenced his choice of university upon his return to New York after his southern near death experience.
College was a hurdle his parents had required of him. But Godfrey was impatient. He could hardly wait to embark upon his newspaper career and had begun contributing articles before actually graduating. His father’s newspaper readers had seemed to enjoy the articles he wrote about piracy in the Gulf of Mexico. Why, he received more mail in response to his articles than any other writer at the newspaper … and he had not actually joined the staff as of yet! Indeed, his articles had influenced Congress to commission ships to combat piracy. Or so New York’s new representative to Congress, James Tallmadge, informed him. (He might, however, have also been hoping for a favorable article to help his efforts to prevent the extension of slavery into Missouri.)
Rewarding as those articles had been, Godfrey’s secret desire was to be a novelist. The pirates in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe had stirred his imagination. He wanted to write from the pirate’s perspective. Not all pirates had to be villains! The British hero, Sir Francis Drake, had been labeled a pirate as he conducted his piratical activities under a letter of marque of the Queen of England. He was more a privateer than a pirate – perhaps a distinction without a difference if you happened to be upon the ship they attacked, boarded, pillaged, confiscated and sold as booty. Godfrey wanted to create a heroic pirate like Sir Francis Drake.
Or William Kidd! His research on Captain Kidd had led Godfrey to believe that Kidd thought he, like Drake, was also operating under the will of the king’s government. Godfrey’s theory was that Kidd had been keelhauled -- so to speak -- by very powerful people in England who covered their own involvement by implicating Kidd, demonizing him to deflect attention from themselves! The character had already claimed his place in Godfrey’s imagination. His name was Caleb Connory and he was bold and resourceful … and he could read a sextant and a quadrant. As could Godfrey. He learned it from his grandfather’s sea captains.
It was fine and dandy to consort with pirates in his mind – in the abstract. But, this was flesh and blood. A true reality check.
If only it were Caleb Connory lying here instead of Godfrey Lewis Winkel!
Godfrey’s one act of courage had been refusing to leave St. Stephens, staying with Judge Harry Toulmin, until after Cade Kincaid returned with news of Lyssa, who, along with Joie, had saved his life. Godfrey had then willingly acceded to his parents wishes and returned to security of New York civilization where he immediately fled to the hallowed halls of academia where he could simply read and write of adventure from the security of his rooms at Princeton and his father’s library. He had only accepted the invitation from the British Museum in the hope that he might find Joie Kincaid on the estate of her brother’s father-in-law and thank her in person for her efforts on his behalf.
Perhaps grovel before her--and thereby assuage his guilt, expiating himself of his obsession for her.
Well, he had found Joie Kincaid.
But Joie Kincaid deserved a hero to rescue her and not the gelatinous animalcule with a useless Summa Cum Laude after his name quivering away at the feet of the giant looming above him wielding a cutlass. They would never survive in the world of pirates that he knew so well through his research.
Caleb Connory on the other hand … Perhaps he could act the part.
He had, after all, acquitted himself well on the stage when he had tried his hand at acting, though his greatest contribution was simply not tripping as he played the rear end of an ass, Godfrey recalled.
He caught Joie’s glance and once again felt her confusion and apprehension.
It was worth a try.
Though trembling inwardly, he supported himself upon an elbow with insouciance he did not feel. He gazed up – and up -- at the man looming above him and, grateful for the deepened timber of his voice which made him sound much more powerful and in control than he felt, said the first thing that popped into his head, “My servant boy, Joe, will accompany me.”
The giant shrugged and Godfrey assumed that meant yes.
Hmm. That went well. He continued, “The boy has the gift of communicating with horses, though he cannot communicate with people. I intended to check out some horseflesh for racing back home and brought him along.”
He really should shut up now. Caleb Connory was a man of few words.
Who knew? Joie Kincaid might have inherited her brother Gabe’s gift with animals. That should provide reason enough for the presence of a lad named Joe to be accompanying him while giving the “lad” enough worth to perhaps save her life. There was actually a tinge of authority in the colloquy, he thought with surprise.
As he untangled the two of them from the web of ropes that had bound them, he whispered to Joie, “Go along with what I say. Our lives may depend upon it.”
“Caesar! The Captain wants to know what’s keeping you,” a voice called down.
While the giant was distracted, Godfrey whispered, “Keep your hat pulled down with your hair covered and your eyes cast down. Remember, you are unable to speak. Keep behind me and say nothing.”
Joie did not know who this man was who was commanding her, but somehow he seemed familiar. And at that moment in that place, that was something to cling to. She would follow his command.
Godfrey struggled to his feet feeling a thousand pin pricks in his blood starved feet. Joie stumbled and Godfrey grabbed for her and then realized that for her own good, he must not treat her like anything but a servant.
Oh, God, he thought, gasping for breath as he took the first step up the ladder, the damned corset had to go!