Hello everyone. Welcome to another round of Agent Shop.
If you plan to pitch, please read the rules under the tab above titled Agent/Editor Shop.
Wait until you see the word go posted at the top of this post in big bold letters around 10:00am EST on February 16th.
The awesome Jessica Alvarez w/ Bookends LLC is our guest agent this month, and I wish everyone the best of luck. (She’s really great.)
While the pitches roll in, I’m happy to welcome one of Jessica’s authors, Sharon Cullen with her new release, The Notorious Lady Anne.
Comment for a change to win an e-copy of her book!
I LOVE this cover!
|From rising romance star Sharon Cullen comes a tale of the fiery passion between a noble naval officer and a female pirate that’s as tempestuous and as unpredictable as the sea.Nicholas Addison, celebrated captain of the Blackwell Shipping Fleet, has agreed to take Mrs. Emmaline Sutherland aboard the Pride and ferry the raven-haired beauty across the Atlantic on what he imagines will be a routine trip. But when the ship is attacked by pirates, the seemingly innocent passenger is revealed to be none other than the infamous marauder Lady Anne, whose name strikes fear in the hearts of sailors everywhere—and whose seductive wiles commandeers Nicholas’s affections.Lady Anne, a legend of the high seas, has spent the last eleven years plotting revenge against her father, the owner of Blackwell Shipping. She’s targeted the Pride in hopes of plundering its captain’s company secrets. But beneath her fierce courage and bitter determination, Anne has the delicate heart of a woman—a heart that cannot help falling for Nicholas. Now Anne must make a difficult choice: bring down Blackwell or surrender to love.Here’s a tasty excerpt:
Nicholas Addison tossed back a mouthful of flat champagne and watched the swirling mass of people on the dance floor with a jaded eye. If he didn’t have an important meeting in a few moments he would have left already. Hell, he wouldn’t have attended in the first place.
“We’ve only just arrived. You can’t leave yet.”
Nicholas switched his gaze from the dizzying dancers to his brother, Sebastian, Earl of Claybrook.
Sebastian grinned but the amusement didn’t reach his tired eyes. “So what did Kenmar have to say?” he asked, referring to Nicholas’s earlier appointment with the marquess.
Nicholas shrugged and looked around one more time. You never knew who could be lurking in the shadows. Listening. And he wasn’t taking chances. Not tonight.
He took another swig of champagne and frowned when the alcohol hit his stomach like a round from a twenty-two-pounder. “He’s offering me a captain’s position on one of Hamilton’s ships. I haven’t given him an answer yet.”
“So will you do it?” Sebastian asked quietly, looking around as well. If someone was lurking, Sebastian and Nicholas’s strange behavior would surely tip him off.
Nicholas swirled another swallow of champagne around in his mouth but it didn’t wash away the indecision. The anxiety. “I’m to give him my answer in a few minutes.” He looked around for the marquess but the crush of people made it impossible to see even a few feet beyond him.
“Don’t leave a chap in suspense, Nicholas. What will you tell him?”
“I haven’t made my decision yet.”
When the summons arrived to report to the marquess’s residence, Nicholas’s curiosity had been piqued. Bored, he accepted the somewhat terse invitation even though he knew he couldn’t not accept it. What Kenmar had proposed was the last thing Nicholas had expected and the one thing he wanted most—to command his own ship, to be out on the ocean where he belonged.
But, as with anything in life that seemed too good to be true, it came with provisions. The shipping company had recently been under attack. Some suspected pirates. But not Kenmar. Kenmar suspected the owner of the company, a man named Daniel Blackwell, was purposely sabotaging the ships to gain the insurance money.
Nicholas had inwardly winced when he read the insurance papers. The names scrawled at the bottom were some of the most highly placed noblemen in the country. A few even had the advantage of the king’s ear. If Blackwell was fleecing them of their money, the man was an imbecile.
Nicholas leaned against the wall, desperate to escape the cloying perfume of the ladies, the boisterous boasts of the gentlemen, and the swirling couples on the dance floor. He’d never been a decent dancer, not even an adequate dancer, and with his barely healed leg, adequacy wasn’t a possibility. Not that he wanted to dance. No, what he wanted was to climb those stairs and exit the stifling house. But first he had to speak to Kenmar. First he had to make a decision.
Sebastian slapped Nicholas on the back. “I’m certain you’ll make the right decision, brother.” He made to move away, hailing a friend across the room.
His brother turned and raised a brow in inquiry. Nicholas was taken aback by the fatigue on Sebastian’s face. Small lines etched the corners of his eyes and deep grooves creased the sides of his mouth. A mouth that smiled little lately.
“Thank you,” Nicholas said quietly.
Sebastian smiled, erasing the serious expression that seemed to be a constant lately. “That’s what families are for, Nick.” His gaze flickered behind Nicholas. “Kenmar’s approaching.” Then he disappeared into the crowd, giving Nicholas only a few moments to prepare himself.
“Addison.” Kenmar stopped beside him. An older gentleman who clung to the tradition of wearing a white wig in public, the man was well respected and a close acquaintance of the king.
Nicholas nodded. “Kenmar.”
“Have you given my proposal any thought?”
Kenmar took a sip from his glass. “Before you give me your answer, I’ll have you know I received more information after you left this afternoon. Inside sources tell me Blackwell is launching a shipment of gold that’s to leave the colonies in a month or so. If you choose to accept this mission, I’ll need you to discover more about the gold. Where it’s headed and what it’s being used for.”
“You don’t believe Lady Anne is behind the attacks?” According to Blackwell, the notorious female pirate, Lady Anne, was behind them.
“I don’t believe Lady Anne exists.” Kenmar swirled the wine in his glass.
The London papers were full of the lady pirate’s exploits. Young girls wanted to be like her. Men claimed to have bedded her. The elite whispered about her in their ballrooms and she was the major source of entertainment in what would otherwise have been an ordinary season of soirees and balls.
Nicholas didn’t know anyone who’d actually seen Lady Anne, let alone met her. Whether she existed or not had been little concern to him. Until now.
The prospect of the gold fascinated him. Hell, who was he kidding? The entire proposal intrigued him. He’d been away from the sea for two long years. It was time he regained his sea legs and this was the perfect opportunity.
“I will do it,” he said. And the weight that had settled on his shoulders after his injury shifted.
Kenmar nodded, his expression unchanging, as if he’d expected no other answer. “Be ready to sail in five days.” He put his glass on the tray of a passing waiter. “Now I’m off to the club. Have a good evening, Addison.” And he disappeared into the crowd, leaving Nicholas alone with his newfound trepidation and anxiety. But also with anticipation.
“Do you find these things as boring as I?”
His gaze collided with eyes the color of the sea on a clear day, a combination of blue and green. They smiled at him, those eyes. Crinkling at the corners and dancing with merriment.
Slowly his startled gaze swept over her, taking in shiny black hair piled high. One curled, ebony lock rested seductively on the top of a firm, golden breast encased in an off-white gown.
With all that dark hair and glowing skin, she reminded him of a Gypsy.
But what fascinated him the most, what caught his attention more than the curve of her breasts and the bewitching color of her eyes, were the dimples peeking out at him when she smiled.
The stunning vision held out her hand. “Emmaline Sutherland. And you are?”
He hesitated. He might disdain society, preferring the open ocean to a stuffy ballroom, but he knew the rules, and one of the biggest was that a lady did not introduce herself to a gentleman. Intrigued, he smiled, bowed over her hand and kissed it.
“Captain Nicholas Addison.”
“Well, Captain Addison, why don’t you ask me to dance? Maybe a sarabande will alleviate our boredom.”
If women didn’t introduce themselves to men, they certainly didn’t ask men to dance. Who was this woman? The fear of making a fool of himself kept his feet rooted to the gleaming wood floor. Would his leg withstand the complicated dance moves? If it didn’t, did he deserve the captain’s position just offered to him?
He held out his arm for her to take. “Would you prefer a stroll instead?”
She tilted her head, studying him while his elbow remained crooked for her hand.
Finally she took his arm. “I’d be delighted.”
As he guided her through the crush of people, he recalled his brother mentioning something about this ball being held for an Emmaline Sutherland. “So, Miss Sutherland, to what do we owe the honor of this route?”
She grimaced, her gaze glancing over the dancers. “No honor. Aunt Dorothy will take any excuse to give a ball. I happened to be in town at the moment.”
“You are not from London?”
Her hand felt nearly weightless on his arm, yet he was well aware of its warmth beneath her glove.
“Originally, yes. But I live abroad now and return infrequently. And you, sir? Are you from London?”
“Yes, but like you, I am rarely here. I’m a sea captain and will set sail in a few days for Boston.” Not completely the truth. He was rarely in town because he preferred the family’s country home, where he didn’t have to encounter pitiful stares and whispers behind his back. If not for Kenmar’s summons, and Sebastian’s plea to attend this ball, Nicholas wouldn’t be here now.
Miss Sutherland raised an ebony eyebrow. “Boston. How exciting.” Her tone lacked the aforementioned excitement, as if her mind was far away. “And who do you sail for?”
“Blackwell Shipping.” Pride welled in his chest. Pride that he was once again doing something. Sailing instead of rusticating, as his brother called it. Sailing instead of recuperating. Sailing instead of feeling sorry for himself. “Where do you live, if not in London?” he asked.
“Barbados?” He turned to look at her.
Amusement lurked in those curiously colored eyes. “Does that shock you?”
More like fascinated. While Nicholas was well traveled, he didn’t know many women who were. In fact, he didn’t know any women who were. “No,” he lied.
“My husband and I own a sugar plantation on the island.”
Disappointment washed through him at the mention of a husband even though he had no right to his disappointment. It wasn’t as if he was able to pursue a courtship with Miss, or rather, Mrs. Sutherland. He was leaving in five days, after all.
“And is your husband present tonight?” He glanced around the room, searching for an angry gentleman staring holes in his back.
“He’s in Barbados overseeing the plantation. He never travels to London.”
“I see.” But he didn’t see. If he had a wife as beautiful and charming as Emmaline Sutherland, he wouldn’t let her out of his sight. Definitely not to travel from Barbados to London alone. “Are you frightened traveling alone?”
A smile touched her lips. “What would I be frightened of?”
He shrugged, his discussion with Kenmar still fresh in his mind. “Pirates.”
“Pirates are the things of fairy tales, are they not?”
“Pirates are a very real threat, I’m afraid.”
“Are you speaking of a certain lady pirate who attacks ships and eats men?”
Nicholas chuckled. “Lady Anne they call her.”
“Ah, yes. Lady Anne,” Emmaline said with a slight smile.
“I’m afraid tales of her are most likely exaggerated. Especially the man-eating tales.”
“You don’t believe in Lady Anne?”
Nicholas hesitated, recognizing the same question he’d asked Kenmar. “I’m afraid not. Sailing is difficult enough for men. It’s not a lifestyle a woman would become accustomed to.”
“But I sail frequently.”
He detected a note in her voice warning that he was treading on unstable ground. Yet, a little devil stood on his shoulder and he felt an unholy need to goad this woman. Not a very gentlemanly thing to do, but that what-the-hell attitude took root again.
“As a passenger. Not as a crewman. The work is strenuous and taxing. Not to mention dangerous.”
“And you don’t think a woman is able to engage in such dangerous work?” Her voice was tight, her shoulders even tighter.
He bit back the urge to smile. What a virago this woman was and what fun it would be to debate with her. He’d met very few men, let alone women, he’d had the pleasure to clash verbal swords with.
“I believe a woman has her place in a man’s world, but not on the sea.”
Silence stretched between them as they completed a circuit of the room and stopped where they’d started. Mrs. Sutherland looked up at him, seeming to assess him. He was relieved to see she wasn’t angry, merely interested, as if she were studying a bug pinned to a board. Or, better yet, an unknown creature pulled from the sea. Her gaze drew him in, made him think thoughts that were entirely inappropriate.
He cleared his throat and stepped back. She’s married, Addison. You don’t dally with married women.
She curtsied, although he had the impression the move was less etiquette and more mockery, which delighted him and had him forcing back a smile he was sure she wouldn’t appreciate. “Thank you for alleviating my boredom, kind sir. Your conversation was . . . enlightening.”
He bowed, finding it more and more difficult not to smile. She certainly was peeved with him, and he found to his chagrin that he wasn’t at all pleased she was taking leave of his company. He would have liked to debate with her for the rest of the night. But that would be inappropriate. Besides, he was sailing in a few days and had to prepare for it. “My pleasure, Mrs. Sutherland.”
* * *
A mere hour later, Emmaline observed Nicholas Addison leave with his brother, the Earl of Claybrook. Both men climbed the stairs, twin specimens of masculinity that had every female eye riveted to their wide shoulders and full heads of black-as-sin hair. Neither wore the wigs that were so in fashion. Emmaline had a feeling that others would soon follow in their footsteps, because the two were decidedly delicious looking without them. Each moved with an animal-like grace, although Nicholas had a hitch to his step that had her wondering what happened to him. The limp was his only physical flaw, although she didn’t consider it a flaw, just another fascinating aspect of a man who captivated her attention.
Inside she was still smiling at their conversation. So, Captain Addison believed sailing too strenuous for women. She couldn’t help herself as she laughed out loud, causing a few heads to turn her way.
Even though she disagreed with his assessment of females, she thoroughly enjoyed their verbal sparring, but something about him bothered her. Normally she was good at sizing up a man’s character. He’d been interested, but the interest in those deep navy eyes definitely cooled when she mentioned a husband. So he had morals.
He’d been a gentleman, sincerely concerned for her safety when he spoke of pirates in that smooth-as-velvet voice. Which meant he was caring.
He firmly believed a woman had no place on the sea, yet he wasn’t harsh about his belief. Merely naïve, as most men were. Unlike most of the gentlemen at the ball, who’d gone soft with drink and too much fine food, she felt his strength in the muscles of his arm, and in his wide shoulders unpadded beneath his coat. He was lean, the bones in his face finely chiseled, the pale skin stretched taut. There was no excess about him, as if he’d gone to hell and back, and the journey had taken everything from him, leaving him with nothing but what he needed to survive.
There were shadows in his blue eyes, a weariness and deep grief. Yet when he spoke of sailing she glimpsed a man who commanded authority and demanded respect. No doubt he was a very good captain.
No doubt she had her work cut out for her.
Kenmar had picked his spy well.
Nicholas spun away from the sight of yet another ship leaving port, only to come face-to-face with his motley crew.
Bumbling fools, the lot of them.
Apparently word had spread that Blackwell ships were being targeted by pirates. No competent sailor would set foot on the Pride. And no amount of walking the wharf and entering the lowliest of taverns to unearth better men helped.
He feared these drunken louts didn’t know the difference between a spanker sail and a foresail.
This was not at all going to plan.
His hope was that this would be the first voyage of many. That success on this sailing would resurrect his career so that he would later captain larger ships. But that hope was slowly disintegrating.
He ran a hand through his hair, feeling his dreams slip away with the ships leaving port. They were far behind schedule but, surprisingly, their tardiness had nothing to do with his crew. Rather, their lone passenger hadn’t arrived.
A passenger. He hadn’t expected a passenger on this voyage, but apparently this person paid quite a sum of money to sail on the Pride. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was an unexpected wrinkle in what was quickly becoming a mess.
Nicholas glanced at the sun high above his head. If they didn’t leave soon, they’d be far behind the other vessels. The first ship to make port always received the better prices.
Not that Nicholas needed to make a profit—that wasn’t the point of this voyage—but the sailor in him still strained at the bit, wanting to be the first in port.
“Passenger’s here, Cap’n.” A young, fresh-faced boy of about fifteen bounded up the companionway like an unbroken colt, all spindly legs and arms and endless energy. A pleasing contrast to the others.
“Make sail, Samuel.”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” Samuel cupped his hands around his mouth and leaned back to yell, “Away aloft!”
Men scurried up ratlines to the rigging. At the command “Let fall” they loosened the ropes holding the sails. Nicholas kept a keen eye on the topmen, ensuring they released each sail in the designated order, first at the yardarm, then at the bunt. To release them any other way would cause the sail to fill too soon, knocking the man off the yardarm, causing him to fall to his death.
Much to his relief, no one fell and the sails quickly filled.
The ship jumped forward and Nicholas’s heart jumped with it. With the sun beating down on his head and the screeching gulls circling the ship, he’d almost forgotten the horror of the hospital and the paralyzing fear that he might never walk again, let alone sail a ship.
He smiled for the first time in days. If those doctors could see him now.
“Good day, Captain.”
Nicholas’s head snapped around to the husky, very female voice behind him. Emmaline Sutherland stood in a shaft of sunlight, absolutely beautiful and sensuous in deep green, her hair precariously piled on top of her head, the sun beating down on her golden skin.
“Mrs. Sutherland.” How he managed to execute a bow without falling on his face was beyond him. Much to his chagrin, he hadn’t been able to erase her image from his mind since the night of the ball. And now, suddenly, she was standing before him. On his ship.
“Shocked to see me, Captain?”
“Very. I wasn’t expecting our lone passenger to be . . .”
She raised a brow, her lips curling into a smile. “A woman?”
He cleared his throat. “Well, yes.”
And damn it, why a woman? Why this particular woman? In his experience women were notoriously bad passengers, prone to seasickness and frightening easily. Exactly what he didn’t need. Of course, in hindsight, he should have known. Only a woman wouldn’t understand the concept of being on time.
Boldly, almost daringly, she stared at him. Her eyes were more green than blue today, matching her shimmering gown. At any other time, in other circumstances, he would have admired her beauty, but his frustration wouldn’t allow it. Not when she was an interloper on his ship.
“You are aware we are sailing to Boston?” he asked. “Boston is nowhere near Barbados.”
Her smile didn’t dim. In fact it appeared to brighten, as if she knew he was irritated and it pleased her. Which only served to drive his irritation straight into anger. Emmaline Sutherland was a distraction he could ill afford. Good God, they would spend five weeks together on this ship.
Impossible. He simply could not take her to Boston.
Except they’d already left port and if he was to stay on schedule, he couldn’t possibly drop anchor now.
“I am aware of the location of Boston on the map, Captain.”
“And what business have you in Boston, Mrs. Sutherland?”
He swore her jaw muscles tensed, but more than likely it was the shadow cast by the sails.
“Personal business, sir.”
What possible “personal business” did a woman have in Boston? If her husband were any sort of man, he wouldn’t allow his wife to gallivant around the world unprotected, on some mysterious “personal business.” His irritation now encompassed Mr. Sutherland. For allowing his wife to travel alone, for not protecting her. For not being here. Because if he were here, Nicholas wouldn’t be responsible for her.
“I admit to being away from society for some time. I wasn’t aware that the best dressmakers are now in the colonies rather than England and France.” What the hell happened to him when he was around this woman? His tongue had a mind of its own, it seemed. He was about to apologize for his lack of manners, but her narrowed eyes stayed the words and suddenly he wanted to see that back straighten again, and those eyes flash fire at him. Because she was exquisitely beautiful when angry.
“Not all women are concerned with fashion,” she said between clenched teeth.
He barely stopped himself from grinning. Damn but she was beautiful. “I can’t imagine what other personal business a woman alone would have in Boston.”
Did she bare her teeth at him?
“That’s why it’s called personal business, sir. It’s personal. I wasn’t aware a sea captain need be informed of a paying passenger’s reason for travel.”
As much as he enjoyed their conversation, she was correct. It wasn’t his business, nor did he want it to be. His job was to get her to Boston. Period. “I trust your cabins are adequate for you and your companion, Mrs. Sutherland?”
“I travel alone, Captain.”
His gaze flew to hers. “You travel without a companion?”
She raised her arms out at her sides, her smile now full-blown. “Only me.”
“But . . .” Such a thing was unheard of.
She stepped back. “I’ll leave you to whatever it is captains of ships do. If you’re not too busy later, would you do me the honor of showing me around your fine ship?”
His jaw muscle worked. The last thing he wanted to do was escort her around his ship. “I would be delighted, Mrs. Sutherland. However, it might be a day or two.” Because he had to whip his sorry crew into shape.
He paused, disliking what he had to say next, but ’twas only proper and expected of a captain. “Won’t you join me for dinner tonight?” His mother, God rest her soul, would be ashamed of him. While the words were correct, his tone conveyed his annoyance.
She was an unwanted distraction, with that mass of ebony hair threatening to fall loose, those eyes that mocked him and appraised him at the same time and the quick wit he admired despite his resolve to stay impartial to her.
Leave it be, Addison. She’s married.
“Thank you for the offer, Captain, but I prefer to dine in my cabin.”
He fought to conceal his relief. As much as he enjoyed their dueling conversation, he didn’t want the distraction. “Of course. If there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. As always, I am at your service.” He steadfastly ignored the images that sprang to his mind of services he would like to render.
If you liked this excerpt order THE NOTORIOUS LADY ANNE here for just $2.99!
Release date: February 11, 2013 and is available here as well:
Sharon’s bio and links to find her on the web:
After earning a degree in journalism from Ohio University, Sharon found the stories inside her head were more interesting than what was going on in the world around her. Yet, it wasn’t until years later that she decided to pursue her secret dream of writing a romance novel. Since then she’s been published in romantic suspense, paranormal romance and contemporary romance and historical romance.
Sharon’s other job descriptions include chauffer, laundress, cook and mediator to her three very busy kids, her husband and two dogs. She lives in southwest Ohio with her brood although her dream is to someday retire to St. Maarten and live on the beach.
If you’d like to find out more about Sharon and her books, you can visit her at her website. She’s addicted to social networking so you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Friend her! Like her! Follow her! She’d love to hang out with you and talk about her passion—books.