In national bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ Destiny series, the Yates men play hard and live hard. And when they find that special woman, they fall hard . . .
Noah Yates fully believes in the joys of a happy family and a good wife. But that’s not the life for him. No, he would much rather sail the wild seas in search of adventure, not tied down. But then the unthinkable happens . . . he finds himself literally tied down. To a bed. By a woman.
And Pilar isn’t just an ordinary woman. She’s descended from pirates. And after giving him one of the worst nights of his life, she steals his ship! Now Noah is on the hunt, and he’ll stop at nothing to find this extraordinary woman . . . and make her his.
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Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Francisco
“Hold him while I teach him some obedience.” The knife sliced through the cheek of eighteen-year-old Noah Yates, and the searing pain made him cry out as he struggled against the three men keeping him in place.
“Yer face is too pretty anyway.” Captain Alfred Simmons chuckled malevolently, holding the bloody blade in his hand.
“My mother will pay for my release!” Noah pleaded, hating that he was begging, but it was all he had.
The watching crewmen laughed and a voice rang out, “Got us a mama’s boy, do we?”
“She as pretty as you?” another yelled. Bruised from all the fighting he’d done since being shanghaied last evening, Noah Yates was weary, and yes, afraid of what might happen next. His older brothers, Logan and Drew, were un-doubtedly turning San Francisco upside down in an effort to ascertain his whereabouts, but they’d never find him—not on a ship far out at sea. His fate and that of the others unwillingly forced aboard the ship rested in the hands of the foul- breathed Captain Simmons.
“I’m going to ask you one more time: Do you want to sign on with my crew?”
“Take him belowdecks and put him in irons! He’ll change his tune. Bring that next one over here.” So Noah was dragged belowdecks and chained to the floor by his wrists and ankles. Earlier, the captain expressed an aversion to confiscating re-ligious items, so he’d let Noah keep the gold cross hanging from a chain around his neck, but his boots had been taken along with his other possessions, leaving him clad in his shirt and trousers.
Two other men eventually joined him in the dark, damp hold. One, who appeared to be about Noah’s age, introduced himself as Kingston Howard, a dockworker from Los Angeles. The third offered neither name nor conversation. He simply sat and wept. Blood from the knife wound seeped into the corner of Noah’s mouth and as he used his shirted shoulder to staunch the flow, the pain burned bright. Closing his eye until the fiery wave ebbed, he tried not to think about how frantic his family must be over not knowing his fate and how terrified he was about what might lie ahead. And what lay ahead were weeks upon weeks of darkness, rats scurrying over his body at night and being given just enough food and water to stay alive.
Captain Simmons never ventured below. Noah and Kingston tried to maintain their sanity by telling each other stories of their lives. Kingston spoke of his wife and son. Noah, who’d been abducted while celebrating his eighteenth birthday, talked about his family and his love for music and books. The third man was seasick for days on end and the hold was filled with the stench of his retching . . . He was finally taken above deck but never returned.
Over time, due to the damp conditions and lack of nourishment, infection settled into Noah’s wounded cheek, bringing with it fever, and as the poison spread though his body, delusion. Kings- ton told him later that the ship’s doctor came down to treat him, but Noah had no recollections of the visit, only the body-wracking chills and monstrous dreams filled with the face of Captain Simmons.
Noah had no idea how many days had passed when he and Kingston were roughly awakened by members of the crew. Their chains were undone and they were prodded to their feet. Noah’s legs immediately gave way, as did Kingston’s. The crewmen laughed and forced them to crawl up to the deck. It was the first full sun Noah had been under in what seemed years and the brightness stung his eyes. The air, unlike the cool breezes of his Northern California home was thick and humid, letting him know he was somewhere far from home. He saw Kingston clearly for the first time since their capture and was shocked at his filthy clothes, full growth of beard, and how emaciated the once big man appeared. Noah looked down at his own filthy self and guessed Kingston’s condition mirrored his own.
Captain Simmons sneered, “How’d you like the hold?” Noah’s eyes blazed hatred. “Have to admit, you got more stones than I gave you credit for. Figured you’d be begging to be free of the chains weeks ago. You ready to sign the crew articles now?”
Noah thought how easy it would be to just surrender and give himself over to the man who’d stolen his life, but he refused. “No.”
Simmons shrugged and turned to Kingston. “How ’bout you?”
“Go to hell!” came his weary-toned reply.
Simmons chuckled. “And that’s where you’re going. Throw ’em in the longboat, boys!” Noah did his best to resist, but in his weakened state he was easily forced into the longboat where one of the crewmen held a pistol on him and Kingston as they were lowered to the surface of the sea.
Simmons called down from above. “Be back to get you—someday. In the meantime, enjoy yerselves!” The crew’s derisive laughter rang out as they were rowed away from the ship towards an island in the distance.
Simmons was right. It was hell. An island prison camp. Noah had no idea how the captain knew about the place but it didn’t matter. He and Kingston were turned over to uniformed soldiers and led away. During the day, it was the job of the one hundred male prisoners to transport felled trees to
the small dock, where tied up ships waited in the shark-infested waters. At night, they were herded like cattle into the confines of an old stone prison left behind by the Spanish and locked in without food, water, or protection from each other. With no guards to ensure peace, it was every man for himself against murderers, rapists, and the deranged. The first night, Noah got no sleep because of the screams—some of which were his own. As his stay lengthened and the horrors continued, he prayed the nightmare would end, but was convinced God wasn’t listening.
To feed themselves after hours, prisoners roasted rats over makeshift fires. Others ate cockroaches, lizards, and anything else unfortunate enough to cross their paths. Noah and Kingston joined them. It was either that or starve.
In the months that followed, Noah grew stronger from the forced labor and from fighting to stay alive. Both he and Kingston were challenged by those who’d carved the prison’s population into fiefdoms and were looking for more subjects to rule, provide them with food, and be their lovers when called upon, but the two men proved their mettle by being as craven and fierce as their opponents and were eventually left alone. The uniformed guards, themselves disgraced Spanish soldiers, turned a blind eye to the nocturnal mayhem. They spent their days patrolling the work sites—bayonet-fitted rifles at the ready— and their nights buying favors from the local women. Their only concern was that the work be done, and that each morning enough men were still alive to ensure that it would be.
After six months on the island, Noah no longer identified himself with the pampered youngest son of his illustrious California family. The night before, he’d thrust a man’s face into a fire for ambushing Kingston and breaking his collarbone. He’d become as feral as the tigers that hunted in the mountains, and as deadly as the sharks circling the coasts. His humanity had been shed in order to stay alive and he had no way of knowing if he’d ever reclaim that other self again.
A week later, he and Kingston, whose arm still hung in a makeshift sling, were pulled from their work detail without explanation and driven by wagon to the docks. Waiting there stood the smug Captain Simmons. “You boys ready to sign on with me now?”
Neither man hesitated. They affixed their signatures to the articles and followed him back to his ship.
About the Author
Beverly Jenkins is the author of thirty historical and contemporary novels, including four previous books in her beloved Blessings series. She has been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People, the Dallas Morning News, and Vibe. She lives in Michigan.