Every muscle in Marcus’ body ached when he breathed. It especially hurt to open his eyes. He hadn’t consumed so much alcohol before that it had caused such an ill effect on him. The sun peeked in through his window, making him squint. What time of the day was it? Looked to be somewhere near the noon hour. Why did he sleep so long? There was much to do.

Then he remembered Isabelle, the kiss, and the moment she thrust the dagger between his ribs. It took much effort to lift his throbbing head to glance at his wound, so instead, he moved his hands to the bandage wrapped around him. Apparently, he wasn’t dead, especially if his body screamed in pain.

Where was Isabelle? Did his men know she’d tried to kill him?

He groaned and turned his head on the pillow. The table where they’d had dinner still stood with dishes on top—minus the food. One chair lay on the ground.

Why had she wanted him dead? The way she’d melted in his arms let him know she enjoyed his kiss. But what had she said before he blacked out? Something about not meaning to? The more he thought about her words, the more he was convinced she blamed him.

The pulsation in his head intensified, and he lifted his hand to rub his temple. A goose egg size bump rose on his skull. Why couldn’t he remember everything that had happened? He did, however, recall she’d confessed her knowledge about her father’s death. If she knew he’d killed her father, why had she pretended to be someone else? Obviously, she wanted to gain his trust, which he foolishly gave.

The door creaked open and he moved his attention to the visitor. Simon carried in a tray of food. When the crewmember looked at Marcus, the man’s eyes widened.

“You’re awake now,” Simon cheered.

Marcus nodded. “That, I am, although I wish I wasn’t.”

“We thought you weren’t going to make it, Captain.” Simon placed the tray on the bed beside Marcus. “For days we waited patiently—”

“Did you say days?”

“Indeed. You’ve been in and out of consciousness for three days.”

Marcus swiped shaky fingers through his grimy strands, and the proof of his unwashed hair was a testament to Simon’s words.

“This is the first time you’ve been awake enough to eat.”

Simon helped him to an upright position as the crewmember fluffed pillows behind Marcus’ back. “I tell you, we’ve never been so worried in our lives.”

“I appreciate everyone’s concern.” Steam from the broth rose to his nose, making the mere soup smell like a king’s meal. His stomach grumbled. “Tell me, where is Miss Stanley?”

Simon’s expression darkened into a scowl. “We wanted to string her from her toenails and hang her from a tree, leaving her for the bears and wolves to feast upon. If it weren’t for Gabe—”

“You knew she stabbed me?”

“Aye, Captain. Theo caught her right after she’d done the deed and locked her in the empty room.” Simon motioned his head in the direction. “She’s been there ever since.”

“Are you feeding her?”

“Only mere scraps, Sir. Why should we waste our good food on someone we’re just going to kill?”

Although Marcus wanted to wring the woman’s slender neck for what she’d done, his gut clenched from the thought of her half starved. He didn’t know what kind of punishment to issue. Killing her was out of the question, not without fulfilling his thirst for revenge against her father.

“Simon, feed her the same thing you’re giving the other prisoners. On second thought, give her more. We need to fatten her up a bit.”

“But, Captain—”

“Don’t argue with me. My mind is made up.”

“Aye, Sir.” Simon turned and walked toward the door.

“One more thing,” Marcus called out.


“Send Gabe in as soon as possible.”

“Aye, Sir.”

Simon walked out of the room and shut the door. Marcus lifted the bowl of broth to his lips and sipped. The broth coated his stomach, making him hungry for more.

He moved his attention around the room once more. The place was a disaster. Clothes scattered everywhere. Bloodied bandages discarded on the floor in a pile as if whoever put them there didn’t think to dispose of them. Dishes from three days ago still sat on the table. Since his serving boy had died, Marcus had hired a twelve-year-old from the orphanage to do the duties of the powder monkey. Now that they were on land, Marcus had the lad help clean rooms. Unfortunately, David, the cook, had Monkey occupied of late. Marcus didn’t have time to find another boy to clean his room. Now he wished he had, only because he didn’t want to have to look at this mess until he was strong enough to clean it himself.

As the broth filled his empty stomach, ideas consumed his mind. He leaned back against the pillows and grinned. Actually, he did have a cabin boy…or girl. Didn’t matter what her gender, Miss Stanhope would clean his room and take care of him as he recovered. She wouldn’t enjoy it, but the punishment fit the crime.

He’d issue commands as if she were one of his crew members. She’d want to lash her vicious tongue at him, of course, but he’d scorn her for that, too. Schemes raced through his head, making him smile wider. The first order of business would be giving him a bath in his hip tub. Hopefully, he’d be strong enough to walk to and from the bath without difficulty.

The knock on the door brought him out of his daydreams. Gabe strode inside.

“I must say, Captain, you look remarkably better than you have of late. There’s more color in your face.”

Marcus nodded. “Simon tells me I almost died.”

“We thought you had a couple of times. Your physician stayed by your side night and day until he was certain you would live. You lost a lot of blood, and we feared the worst.”

“Thankfully, I have one of the best physicians in Devon.”

“Indeed you do.” Gabe stepped closer. “Simon said you wanted to see me, Sir.”

Marcus drank the last of his broth and put the bowl down. “Did you find anything more on the stagecoach?”

“We went through all the trunks, and found nothing. We stripped every board and cushion off the conveyance, and still nothing. I’m now beginning to wonder if the information we received was false.”

“I’m starting to wonder the same thing. I think I should threaten the prisoners again. If one of them is keeping this information from me, they may not live to see the next day.”

“Splendid idea.” Gabe nodded. “But wait until you are stronger.”

“I will.” Marcus carefully rubbed his bandaged wound. “But I know a way to recover from my injury quickly.”

“You do? How?”

Marcus grinned wide. “I’ll have a pretty little nursemaid attending me during the remainder of our journey.”

Gabe gasped. “You must be jesting. She tried to kill you.”

“I’m actually very serious. The punishment is perfect for her, don’t you think? It may just teach her humility. Besides, you or one of the others can stand outside my room in case I need you.”

His friend snickered. “I’d never thought of that, but you’re right, Captain.”

“I instructed Simon to feed her properly. After all, she needs to gain strength to be my cabin boy, correct?”

Gabe laughed.

“Also, I would like you to prepare a bath for her. I want a clean smelling woman in my room if she’s going to be nursing me back to health.” He pointed to his tub. “She can use mine this time.”

“Aye, Sir.” Gabe’s hearty laugh echoed through the hallways when he left the room.

Marcus smiled to himself, pleased with his decision. Now he couldn’t wait until she started her punishment.

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