Devil's Cove (Tortured Souls)(8)

By: R.C. Matthews

“Captain Devlin Limmerick, at your service.”

The deep pitch of his voice was menacing in its own right—enough to send shivers down her spine—and the man had only said “at your service.” She had no doubt he could incite fear in even the burliest of men. He stood quietly, like a cat prepared to pounce, awaiting her response. Tension settled between her shoulders, and she suddenly felt like a juicy little mouse.

She shook away the ridiculous thought. “I’m Grace, and this is Brother Anselm.”

“Just Grace?” he asked.

She nodded. “Just Grace.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Miss Grace. And you, Brother.” Again, the swish of fabric, a slight breeze on the air. They were shaking hands. She was certain of it. Brother Anselm would speak of it for days, to be sure, having shaken the hand of a pirate.

“May I be of service to you?” Brother Anselm asked.

“No,” the pirate said. “However, I hope Miss Grace will consider an offer of employment, room and board included, of course. She comes highly recommended from my cook, Mrs. Abigail Stevens. I’m afraid my servants are not settling well into Devil’s Cove Manor and would rest better if Miss Grace would extricate our”—he cleared his throat—“unwelcome guests.”

Grace ran her hand along her neck and chest, where a dull pressure pulsed against her breastbone. Live at the mansion? The man was crazy if he believed she would consider it. Her own mother had been carted away to the insane asylum after the disastrous events that took place in that manor fifteen years ago. An entire party of guests and every single servant massacred, left lying in the pool of their own blood. Grace could only imagine the level of unrest that reverberated through the walls. Absolutely not. It might be the death of her.

“Thank you for the offer, Captain,” she said, holding her chin high. “But I’m afraid there isn’t an offer high enough that would entice me to accept. You’re mad to live in that mansion.” She shook her head with a disbelieving huff. “And the villagers call me insane.”

The jibe clawed its way out of her like a demon escaping the fires of Hell. All of her senses were on high alert, warning her that accepting his offer would be the height of folly. The man was dangerous. She felt the raw, powerful energy radiating off of him deep within her bones. Perhaps more dangerous even than the evil spirits lurking in his home.

“Name your price, and it shall be done.” A waft of sandalwood filled her nostrils, and she gasped. The warmth of his next words caressed her ears. “I don’t take no for an answer. Ever.”

A sheen of sweat coated her palms. He would dare to threaten her? A blind woman most likely half his size. The man was despicable, and apparently deaf. She’d spoken quite plainly but found the need to repeat herself in case he hadn’t heard the first time. “I’ll not do it for any price. I must ask that you leave us alone at once.”

“God’s grace go with you,” Brother Anselm said, but the warning was clear in his tone. Though a man of the cloth, he wasn’t small of stature, and he had proven on more than one occasion his willingness to rise to Grace’s defense. She felt safe in his presence, though a niggling worry tugged at her gut, for her champion was getting on in years and had never faced such a formidable foe. Still, she placed her faith in God as Brother Anselm often begged her to do, but held her breath all the same.

She sensed the frustration building in Captain Limmerick, so great it threatened to squash her existence, but she would not yield. Battling against evil spirits for years had stiffened her spine and filled her with the knowledge of her own inner strength. The man would learn he could not bully her into bending to his will.

“This is not over.” His words cut through the silence. “I bid you good evening, for now.”

He stormed away, the heels of his boots pounding against the floorboards. He wasn’t happy about her refusal. That much was apparent. The last ounce of her courage seeped out of her, and she slumped into the bench seat.

“Don’t lose your bravado quite yet, my dear,” Brother Anselm whispered. “It seems your services are required by more than one tonight.”

Grace sat up and rubbed her forehead. What in the devil was going on? Monday evenings were quiet at the tavern and offered the respite she and Brother Anselm enjoyed so much. One evening a week. That was all they allowed themselves for venturing into the village center to partake of a glorious meal. And now that odious pirate had ruined it. Who else dared to threaten her peace of mind?

She didn’t have to wait long to find out. Stale ale and fetid fish washed over her, and she knew instantly that Willie Jackson stood glaring down at her. Or at least she imagined he was glaring. The perpetually snide tone of his voice always gave her the impression he was glaring at her. Just like he had that afternoon when she was a young girl of seven, too innocent to know that when a boy glared in that manner, one should run screaming in the other direction.

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