Devil's Cove (Tortured Souls)(7)

By: R.C. Matthews

Her mother had gazed often into her eyes and proclaimed their beauty when she was a child. Bluer than the bluest sky on a bright spring morning. That was a long time ago and much had changed. The brothers of the priory couldn’t afford much, but she was thankful for the simple prosthetic eyes they’d procured. Brother Anselm assured her the dark-brown shade was appealing.

She shoved the treasured memory to the back of her mind and resumed cutting a piece of roasted beef on her plate. Let the man stare if he must. Bowing her head, she pulled the fork toward her mouth and welcomed the taste of the savory beef, seasoned to perfection. It melted on her tongue, tender as it was.

The footfalls resumed against the wooden planks, and the noise of the tavern reached its normal deafening pitch. Grace lifted her head toward her supper mate as the tension left her body. She must know about the newest patron of The Black Serpent. That he should bring the entire establishment to dead silence spoke volumes about the man, yet she yearned for specifics.

“Brother Anselm,” she began, licking her lips. “Please.”

She needn’t say more. After living in each other’s company for nearly fifteen years, he understood her plea. What she didn’t know was whether he would comply and provide the details she sought.

A soft chortle from across the table was enough to bring a smile to her face. Brother Anselm was amused, so the tale must be a good one. As she waited for him to collect his thoughts, she fished for a potato on her plate. They were always the largest pieces, and her fork sank into them with ease. She speared a tasty morsel and bit into it, delighting at the creamy gravy rolling over her tongue.

“It’s Captain Devlin Limmerick,” Brother Anselm said in a hushed tone.

Grace stopped in midchew and her stomach fell to the floor. “The pirate?”

“Privateer,” he countered. “Or at least that is what he would have the good people of Devil’s Cove believe. He has taken residence at Devil’s Cove Manor. Can you imagine?”

She forced the potato down her throat and washed it away with a sip of ale. That was only one of many rumors she’d heard about the man. A shudder ran through her. “No, I can’t imagine living there. The man must be the very devil himself to reside in a mansion reputed to house the gatekeeper of Hell. Pray tell, does he look like the devil?”

“Ah, my dear girl,” Brother Anselm said with an amused lilt. “You cannot believe the nonsensical rumors whispered about the gatekeeper. But the man … should you like to hear that his hair is black as night, and that he sports a chiseled jaw capable of ripping his opponents to shreds? Tall, with rippled muscles that will crush every foe? Eyes so dark and sinister that to even look into their depths would send a man screaming in the other direction?”

Grace’s lips twitched as the heat of a blush rushed up her neck and into her cheeks. That was exactly what she wished to hear. But from the sound of her mentor’s voice, it wasn’t entirely the case.

“Oh, that would be fine, indeed,” she said on a sigh. “Is it not so?”

Brother Anselm laughed and pulled her hand into his. “I would liken him to an archangel. Golden hair kept long and pulled away at the nape of his neck. Quite unconventional. Chiseled jaw, that much is true. But his eyes. From what I could see in this dim light, I believe they must be as dark blue as the fathomless sea upon which he commands his ships.”

Not what she had been hoping for, but all was not lost. There must be more to the man in order to command a room with only his presence. Perhaps he towered over everyone and wielded an axe or sword. Yes, that would do nicely. “Would you say he’s as big as Goliath?”

“Quite,” came the answer from an amused baritone at the edge of their table, and Grace froze.

Good Lord, the pirate was standing right there. Brother Anselm could’ve forewarned her, at the very least. More likely he was enjoying himself. What a jest! She often wondered at his dedication to the cloth, but there were few opportunities for intrigue in their day-to-day lives, so who was she to rob him of a little fun?

How much of their conversation had the captain heard?

Reaching for her napkin, Grace wiped delicately at her lips and turned to their unwelcomed guest. “Pardon me. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Allow me the honors,” the man said, and Grace imagined he dipped a proper bow in her direction.

It was the swishing of his waistcoat that gave him away. She pressed her lips together to hide her smile. She could not see him, so the gesture was wasted on her, though she secretly enjoyed the chivalry of it all. It said something about the man that he found her deserving of the required social graces. Odd, for a pirate, for that’s exactly what she believed him to be. Privateers didn’t elicit such fanciful rumors in a place like Devil’s Cove.

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