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Hostage to Passion (The Falcon and the Rose) by Cora Buhlert - Romance>Action/AdventureEn route from Spain to the New World, the ship carrying Dona Rosaria is attacked by English pirates under the command of Sir Nicholas Harcourt, the infamous Black Falcon. Rosaria fears the worst, when she is taken prisoner, but Sir Nicholas proves himself surprisingly courteous – until he places a noose around Rosaria's neck and threatens to hang her, should her wealthy uncle fail to pay a ransom in exchange for Rosaria's life and virtue.
Sir Nicholas Harcourt has a reputation of being the most merciless pirate to prowl the Spanish Main. But his beautiful prisoner Dona Rosaria both manages to touch his heart and stir the fire of passion in his chest. Nicholas is resolved to have her by any means. However, he has also sworn to hang her on the deck of his ship, should her notoriously stingy uncle refuse to pay the ransom.
Can Rosaria resist her growing attraction to a man she knows is a pirate and a heretic? And would Sir Nicholas really hang the woman who has captured his heart?
Warning: This novelette contains some fairly hot sex and not overly graphic violence, so sensitive readers should tread carefully. What is more, this is part one of a two-part story, so don't expect an ending that ties up all loose threads.
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Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Excerpt:Doña Rosaria de Mendoza y Vega knelt in a corner of her cabin, her rosary clutched to her breast. Smoke was seeping through the locked door, making her cough. All around, there was the sound of splintering wood and cracking planks, the roar of cannons. The battle was not going well.
All of a sudden, there was an explosion. The ship lurched violently. Chairs, tables, chests, trunks and trinkets, in short everything that was not bolted down, was hurled across the cabin. Rosaria, too, was thrown to the floor and soon found herself jammed between a heavy wooden chest and the bed.
Madre de Dios, that must have been a direct hit. To her alarm, she noticed that the floor was tilting to one side. The ship was sinking. The mighty galleon Santa Teresa was indeed sinking.
“Quick, Doña Margarita, help me,” she called to her duenna.
Doña Margarita pushed her considerable bulk against the heavy chest and finally succeeded in freeing Rosaria. And not a moment too soon, for the vessel was rocked by another explosion, throwing both women against the far wall.
From above, the thumping of heavy boots on wooden planks could be heard. The clatter of metal on metal, the explosive discharge of muskets and pistols, the screams of men fighting and dying. The Santa Teresa had been boarded. Those English devils had taken yet another ship of Spain’s proud fleet.
Rosaria had never seen an Englishman, but like every Spaniard she knew that England was an isle of heretics, ruled by a cruel hag who sent faithful Catholics to the stake by the dozens. The English pirates, it was said, were in league with the devil himself, for how else could their small and light ships appear seemingly out of nowhere to strike at galleons twice as large?
In spite of her sheltered upbringing, Rosaria had heard half-whispered tales about the atrocities committed by those heathen pirates. She had heard of plundered galleons that had been found adrift, their rigging heavy with the hanged bodies of passengers and crew. She had heard of virtuous Spanish maidens sold like cattle in the West Indies. And she had heard of the twelve Carmelite nuns on a pilgrimage who had fallen into the hands of the English. They had been led on deck, stripped naked and ravished by the pirates before being put into irons and consigned to the waves without even the attentions of a priest. If the English did such things to nuns, then what horrors were in store for Rosaria and Doña Margarita?
The battle sounds above had ceased. Still, maybe all was not yet lost. Maybe the Spanish had prevailed, maybe they had beaten the English and driven those dogs back to their miserable island. But the voices beyond the cabin door were not Spanish. Instead they were speaking a strange barbaric tongue Rosaria had never heard before. The English were coming.
Quickly, Rosaria and Doña Margarita shoved a heavy chest in front of the door. Still, the English were determined and makeshift barricades would not hold them off for long. But Rosaria would not allow herself to fall into the hands of these devils. She would not be stripped, ravished, consigned to the waves or sold off like cattle. No, better to die. Determinedly, Rosaria grabbed a dagger and put its tip to her chest. The kiss of the cold steel sent goosebumps spreading across her skin.
“No, Señorita, you must not do it,” Doña Margarita exclaimed, “Tis a deadly sin for which you will burn in the fires of hell for all eternity. I beg you, Señorita, consider the welfare of your soul.”
Rosaria shook her head. “Does Lucretia burn in hell for choosing death over disgrace? No, ’tis not a sin to defend ones chastity by all means necessary.”
Thumping footsteps could be heard in the narrow passageway next to the cabin. A hail of fists pounded on the cabin door. Shouts in an unknown language. The door, made of sturdy wood, quivered and finally exploded inwards. And Rosaria got her first look at an English devil.
The two men who pressed into the cabin looked as fearsome as legend had painted them. They were coarse fellows, veritable giants, with wild hair and beards of untamed copper. They pushed the heavy chest blocking the door aside as if it was nothing. One of the men bent down to examine the chest. His comrade continued towards the two Spanish ladies, mumbling something in that barbaric tongue of his. There was hunger in his eyes.
Rosaria glanced down at the gleaming dagger pressed to her milky white skin, considering whether to plunge it into her own heart or into that of the English pirate. Beside her, Doña Margarita was praying out loud, imploring the Virgin Mary to aid them in this their darkest hour.
The Englishman was almost upon them now. In the struggle that was going on within Rosaria’s soul, brave hidalgo blood finally won out over maidenly martyrdom. Rosaria turned the dagger away from her own body and fiercely thrust it at the giant towering above her. But before she could draw blood, the man grabbed hold of her wrist. Laughing, he twisted the dagger from her grasp, leaving Rosaria utterly defenseless. Lost! All was lost.
Rosaria struggled, but it was to no avail. The pirate was stronger. A giant hand clawed at her exposed throat. For an instant, Rosaria thought that the man was going to throttle her with his bare hands. But his fingers closed around her garnet cross pendant instead and brutally tore it from her neck. Triumphantly, the man held Rosaria’s necklace up to his comrade, who had just succeeded in prying the chest open. “Look, what pretty trinkets the Spaniards have. And pretty wenches, too.”
His loathsome hands were all over her body, tearing at her gown, ripping through the fine scarlet silk as if it was paper. To defend her charge, Doña Margarita launched herself at the pirate, repeatedly banging her prayer book against his head. The man just laughed and brushed her aside. Never one to give up easily, the formidable duenna stumbled to her feet to rush at the man again. But before Doña Margarita could reach him, his comrade had already grabbed hold of her, securely pinning her arms to her body. “Spirited little vixens they are,” he said.
Meanwhile, his friend was clawing at Rosaria’s corset. He finally succeeded in tearing the lacings open, exposing Rosaria’s bosom to the Englishmen’s greedy eyes. His hands grabbed Rosaria’s breasts, thrusting them outward like a fruit vendor proffering his wares. “Will, take a look at these Spanish oranges. And the little Spanish rosebuds.” He gave her nipple a squeeze.
“Come on, Jake, this is a prize best examined on deck for the enjoyment of all,” his comrade replied.
And so the women were dragged away by the two Englishmen. Doña Margarita protested loudly, but the pirates paid her no heed. Rosaria dug her fingernails into the doorframe, as she was shoved out of the cabin, but the men quickly pried her loose. In the passageway outside the cabin, the only other passenger of the Santa Teresa, a priest named Padre Sebastián was being manhandled by two pirates who were in the process of tearing the silver crucifix from his chest.
Together they were brought on deck. Padre Sebastián and Doña Margarita were shoved up the narrow staircase without much resistance, their spirits exhausted. But Rosaria still struggled and managed to scratch the ruddy cheek of one of the pirates. Undaunted, the man wiped away the blood. “So the kitten has claws, eh? We’ll soon deal with that.” He tore a strip of silk from Rosaria’s ruined gown and used it to bind her hands. Then, without further ado, he threw her slight body over his shoulder and carried her up the stairs.
Due to her unfortunate position, Rosaria could not see much of what was going on on deck. But what she saw was enough. The Santa Teresa, once a proud and beautiful vessel, had been reduced to a gutted husk by the battle. Her foremast had fallen, felled by a well-aimed cannon ball from the privateer, and crashed onto the deck, crushing all in its path. The planks were running red with blood. Dead bodies, both English and Spaniard, were lying everywhere. The pirates had descended like vultures upon the dead, taking everything of value and even going as far as cutting off the hair and tearing out the teeth of their fallen comrades and enemies. Above it all lay the thick smoke of burnt powder, intermingling with the sweetish stench of death.
Suddenly, Rosaria found herself lifted over the railing of the Santa Teresa. In horror she stared at the gurgling water so far below, fearing that she too was headed for a grave in the fathomless depth of the ocean like those unfortunate Carmelite nuns. But then she realized that the pirate had crossed the railing as well and was now carrying her along a narrow and precariously wobbling plank. The walk was mercifully short and after a few yards Rosaria was dumped onto the deck of the pirate ship. Padre Sebastián and Doña Margarita had been forced across the plank as well, the padre praying and Doña Margarita complaining, and landed on deck next to her.
More pirates were streaming across the plank, carrying trunks, chests, barrels. The entire cargo of the Santa Teresa was brought aboard the pirate vessel, it seemed. At any rate, the English were far too occupied with plundering the galleon to pay any heed to their prisoners. This was their chance… to do what exactly? Escape was impossible. There were only the two ships and nothing but ocean for miles all around. Even if they should manage to slip away unnoticed, where could they go? Returning to the Santa Teresa was out of the question. The galleon was mortally hit and sinking fast. To flee there would mean death. Still, better dead beneath the waves than alive at the mercy of pirates.
Rosaria struggled to her feet, with considerable difficulties due to her bound hands and bulky skirts. Dizzy, she looked around. The surviving crew of the Santa Teresa had been brought aboard the English ship and were lined up on the deck, guarded by pirates armed with muskets and cutlasses. Other men were hacking at the ropes that bound the Santa Teresa to the pirate vessel. Another moment and it would be too late. “Quick, Doña Margarita,” she whispered, “Padre…”
All of a sudden, a blow caught her in the back. “Down,” a voice bellowed into her ear, “To your knees, wench.” A vicelike paw pressed Rosaria to the deck.
“It seems he wishes us to kneel,” Padre Sebastián translated, “I think, Señoritas, it would be wisest to do as they say.”
So Rosaria knelt on the wooden planks, demurely as she would in mass, hands bound before her, head lowered in submission. And as in mass she prayed, prayed to the God Almighty and the Virgin Mary and all the saints that she and her companions would be spared.
“Captain on deck,” an English voice yelled and at once a hush fell over the assembled pirates and their prisoners. All sounds, all movement ceased. All sounds except for one. Footsteps. Heavy footsteps. Three, four, five, then a pause. An English voice addressed the prisoners. Capitán Ortega answered in hesitant English. Clanking sounds echoed across the deck, as chests and trunks were opened.
“I think…” Padre Sebastián explained in hushed tones, “…that this is the captain of the pirate ship, inspecting the day’s loot.” Loot, Rosaria realized, that included them.
Hostage to PassionBy: Cora Buhlert