Her family name tainted by her great-grandfather’s crimes of piracy, Meriden Cummings is far from the typical 18th century woman. A social outcast, she works in a carpentry shop in a small village, where the people barely tolerate unconventional behavior.
However, her life takes a turn after a gang of pirates attack her village and her blood reveals an ancient map adorned with Mayan glyphs leading to Death Island. An island legends say is ruled by the Mayan god of the underworld, Ah Puch. Her great-grandfather had sought after the island before he vanished without a trace. Now, Meriden is about to journey across the sea to understand her family history.
There are only a few problems: her growing feelings toward a mysterious stranger linked to her great-grandfather’s past; a greedy band of pirates after her great-grandfather’s legendary treasure; and a contract she has unwittingly signed in blood with Ah Puch himself.
“My apologies,” I told her. I attempted to move, but found myself paralyzed to the spot. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
My voice slightly broke at the end of my sentence, which made my cheeks burn hotter. Maybe this was a bad idea after all, but the mere thought of climbing the shrouds back down curdled the acid building in my stomach.
What the hell was I thinking coming up here?
I felt Meriden’s eyes study me. “May I ask why you followed me?”
“It didn’t seem to me that a woman like yourself should be alone at night,” I answered with a shaky laugh. “Particularly seeing how certain members of the crew perceive you.”
It might’ve been an on-the-spot lie, but thinking on Lemmon, Scrapper, and Harrows, I was probably not far from the truth. If they were here instead of me, who knows what they would’ve done. Images such as rape and killing flooded my mind. They terrified me more than the sway of the ship or the height of the mast.
“You’re sweet, but I want to be alone,” she said rather coldly. Damn, she really was upset with me. All because I was trying to be a gentleman.
I attempted to get my feet back on the Jacob’s ladder, but they wouldn’t work. My legs were jelly. The only thing supporting me being the bit of mast at my back. “I’d love to oblige.” I chuckled from nerves. “But I’ve seemed to have lost my sea legs.”
Meriden shifted her waist to face me. Her hip brushing my thigh while she moved about. “You’re scared of heights?”
She let go of the guardrail and crossed her arms. “How is it that you’ve gone all this time without getting at least one shift up here?”
Hearing the laughter in her voice, I ran my fingers through my hair. “Just lucky, I guess. Not much rigging work in the galley of the ship.” I paused to take in Meriden’s form before me. God, she was so easy to talk to. Even about things I didn’t want to admit. “Not that climbing the shrouds is a bother. I found it invigorating. But standing here, feeling the full force of the ship sway, it’s a bit—”
“Unsteadying?” she finished for me. I nodded, then she laughed. “I was the same way when my father first brought me to a crow’s nest he was repairing back home. And that ship was anchored, even. Here.” She took my arm and pulled me toward her. At the same time, she moved her own body so her abdomen was pressed to the railing. She laid my hand on the guardrail next to her. “Place your hand here.” When I had a firm grip, she grasped my other hand. “And your other one here.”
Hesitantly, she placed my palm gently on her waist. My eyes widened in shock, my first instinct being to pull away. Yet my mind and heart were at odds. Giving into what I wanted verses what was appropriate, I pressed my hand more firmly, which almost became a death grip when we dipped forward a bit. The motion of the ship securing my hip against her backside. Meriden didn’t even flinch. She just stared at the stars above. For the first time, I could see her face. Her skin shimmered in the light of the moon and stars, and her eyes glittered with specks of gold.
“Amazing, isn’t it,” Meriden breathed. “I love coming up here and gazing at them once and a while.”
Not really wanting to take my eyes off her, I focused on the horizon and the stars above. It was brilliant, to say the least. Thousands of stars, including miniature ones, dazzled the navy sky. The Milky Way a gorgeous arch over our heads.
And here she is...
Kelsey Ketch is a young-adult/new-adult author, who works as a Wildlife Biologist in the state of North Carolina. During her free time, she can often be found working on her latest work in progress or organizing the New Adult Scavenger Hunt, a biannual blog hop. She also enjoys history, mythology, traveling, and reading.