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May, 1802

It is your sex that makes us go forth, and seems to tell us, ‘None but the brave deserve the fair,’ and if we fall we still live in the hearts of those females who are dear to us. It is your sex that rewards us; it is your sex who cherish our memories; and you, my dear honoured friend, are believe me, the first, the best of your sex.”

— British Admiral Lord Nelson, in a letter to Emma, Lady Hamilton

Chapter 1

He was the scourge of the Spanish Main.

Nearly a century before, the pirate Blackbeard had taken some sixteen lovers in New Providence alone, and Gray, not to be outdone, was determined to best that score in the Caribbean that he now ruled.

Tonight, the lucky lady was one of his particular favorites—the delightfully wicked, carnally creative, Lady Catherine Fairfield, daughter of the richest sugar merchant on Barbados.

No pirate who’d ever swung a cutlass in these lawless waters ever looked more formidable. A hoop of gold pierced his ear and a patch covered one eye, though there was nothing amiss with the dark orb it concealed. To his other eye, Gray held his night glass, a heavy, brass and leather-bound instrument that he steadied against his arm and now, trained on the blaze of distant light that marked the palatial residence of Lord Fairfield. . .

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