This sweeping tale of a daring rescue at sea is a two-time Golden Heart award nominee

Once Upon a Midnight Sea

The heiress of Montague Shipping sets out across Chesapeake Bay to attend a party, but instead finds herself shanghaied by a vengeful thief intending to use her ship—and her jewels—to break a prisoner out of Devil’s Island!

 

 

Chapter One

Chesapeake Bay
May 22, 1874

Revenge tastes bitter.

The acidic taste coating his mouth did nothing to sway his hunger. His long-awaited plan had finally come into play, and Christian was ravenous.

He pulled the collar of his shoreman’s coat higher against the cold breeze as he watched the Lady Luck swaying gently in the harbor. The ninety-five foot schooner posed regally among the other privately owned luxury vessels, a princess among peasants. Her masts reached into the sky, taller, stronger, and more majestic than those around her. Edmund Montague’s pride and joy.

Christian spat on the dock. Such an arrogant spectacle. He clenched his fists, digging his nails into his palms, but his expression revealed nothing. No one on the bustling dock gave him a second look as he eyed his quarry.

His plan was simple, but he hadn’t become known as the Nighthawk, the most notorious jewel thief in Paris, by taking his tasks lightly. His accomplice was expecting him at midnight, which was precisely why Christian had to slip aboard now, before Adriana Montague returned from her party.

He hunched his shoulders and moved into the flow of workmen carrying supplies up and down the dock. Lady Luck seemed to grow as he neared, suddenly dark and foreboding. A cloud passed over the sun and a chill skittered up his spine. Christian shrugged his sixth sense away. This was no ordinary heist. His father’s very life was at stake, and nothing would hold him back.

He mixed in with the workers loading supplies from a parcel by Lady Luck’s ramp and hoisted a sack of coffee beans onto his shoulder. Good God, but it was heavy.

The ship rocked on an ocean swell as he made his way onto the narrow ramp. For a frightening moment, Christian wobbled precariously above the harbor’s dirty water.

As he stepped onto Lady Luck’s deck, the warm excitement of impending success trickled over his flesh. So this was what a luxury ship looked like. Nothing like the rotting packet ship he’d spent six of the sickest weeks of his life aboard on the voyage across the Atlantic. Everywhere glossy polished wood and gleaming brass fittings glinted in the sun.

Lady Luck’s decks did not offer a sufficient place to hide. He would have to stowaway below.

The captain barked out an order from the rear of the ship and Christian heaved the sack to his other shoulder to hide his face. He followed another worker headed to the front and negotiated the narrow ladder into the fore-hold. He threw his sack neatly onto a pile as the worker before him did.

Momentary surprise caught in his throat as he saw four cannons, two on either side of the hull, chained down at shuttered gun ports undetectable from the outside of the ship.

He allowed himself a secret smile. How obliging of Edmund Montague. The uneasy warning he’d felt earlier vanished like a wisp of smoke.

Christian wiped the sweat from his brow and turned to see the other worker heading back up the ladder. True to his reputation, the Nighthawk vanished into the shadows.

 

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