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Summons from Abroad



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*Note: This is the novella now sold as a single from the Regency Christmas Anthology Summons from the Castle. If you'd like to see more of the Anthology you can find them here.*

Summons from Abroad

Blackmailed by a British Naval Commander, Captain Randall Whitton, a smuggler with a penchant for gold is rescued by Jewel Derington, a feisty plantation owner and the very woman who betrayed him in the jungles of Barbados. Escaping danger has never been so thrilling. Together they are drawn into a political game of winner takes all from which only his grandfather, the Duke of Danby, can rescue them.

  Fascinated by the glitter of his Caribbean Jewel, Randall's lust for gold soon fades. His quest to tame this fiery treasure catapults them both into an adventure where the stakes are higher and the prize greater than either of them have ever dared dream.

Chapter One

Barbados
Fall 1812
Smuggling had its disadvantages, especially inside a tavern full of British soldiers. The crackle of the fire filled the silence. Captain Randall Whitton eased back in his seat as the proprietress filled his tankard. He nodded his thanks and returned his gaze to the man seated across from him.
Unease snaked its way up Rand’s spine. This prearranged meeting hadn’t gone quite as planned. First, had he known he would be meeting in a tavern filled with British officers, he would have never come. And secondly, had he known it was a British commander who’d requested his presence, he would have run like hell in the opposite direction.
Commander Blythe studied him through dark blue eyes narrowed in the dim light. “Would you care for anything to eat, Captain? Put it on my tab.”        
Glass clinked in the establishment and a soft drone of voices carried through the public house. They were the only two people in the upper balcony of the tavern, but it didn’t alleviate Rand’s anxiety in the least. He shook his head. “No, thank you. Why don’t we set aside all pretenses, Commander? I find I’m rather curious about your reasons behind the invitation.”
The slightest smile brushed the commander’s features. “Indeed.” Silence descended once again as the man sliced through his mutton chops. “I hope you’re comfortable. I would hate to think I’ve not made you feel welcome.”
Rand glanced over his shoulder at the only visible exit in the main hall. Comfortable?Indeed, like a mouse being pawed by a cat.
The clatter of dishes brought Rand to his feet and a hand on his Rigby flintlock pistol. When all eyes turned in his direction, Rand cleared his throat and reseated himself with a muffled apology. “I must confess to being on a schedule and I’m anxious to be on my way.”
The commander smiled. “Understandable. This was a rather spontaneous meeting. I do hope you’ll forgive me. After all, we’ll both profit from this encounter, or at least that’s my wish.”
“Excellent, what can I help you with?”
The uniformed soldiers resumed their previous endeavors one-by-one, and the normal drone of voices continued. Rand leaned back in his seat and sweat trickled down his temple.
Reputation colored him a criminal and being in a roomful of “His Majesty’s finest” made Rand extremely nervous. He wiped his moist palms across his black knee-breeches but kept one hand close to his weapons.
“I’ve brought you here, Whitton, because I hear you’re the best.”
How often had he heard that phrase? Pride bloomed in his chest as he realized the truth of those words. He’d taken a useless skill and perfected it until there was no equal. The Admiralty must know of his reputation. He was a legend in Barbados. He’d made sure of that.
Money made the world go ‘round, and he had plenty of it. But it would never be enough. Not for Randall Whitton. He refused to die a lonely, old man living in squalid conditions like his father before him. Never again would he be indebted to anyone.
Blythe placed the silver utensils down and peered closely at him. “You’re the man to do business with, or so I hear. You get the job done, no matter the cost.”
“All of this is true, Commander, but forgive me for being blunt. What has this to do with you? And let’s dispense with the polite conversation, because we both know what I am and what I do. So why don’t you go ahead and tell me what you want? Otherwise, I have a previous engagement that requires my attention.”
The commander chuckled. “You’re a man who doesn’t mince words, Whitton. I like that. And as to what I need, I need a man of your skills for a special mission. I have a delivery—a rather important delivery—and I need a man who’ll make sure it gets there.”
Rand nodded. “Sounds good. What is it and where is it headed?”
Commander Blythe winced. “That’s the problem. No one can learn of its contents, nor can they learn who funded this little venture. Understand?”
Disquiet settled over Rand. Something seemed out of place, and an alarm rang inside his head. “I’m listening.”
“I have a business partner in Charleston who will be looking for this shipment by February of next year. I’m offering fifteen hundred pounds. Half now and half once the shipment arrives.”
Rand stilled. A small fortune. For a single run? His heartbeat suspended and then barreled ahead like a race horse. That was more money than he’d made in the last three runs put together. He didn’t move. To show any sign of distress could mean certain death, but warning bells tolled inside his head. Whatever his next words were, he must consider them carefully. Any mistakes now could be disastrous.
Pretending interest, he leaned forward, while mapping out how many steps to reach the exit beyond Blythe’s shoulder. It would take an incredible amount of luck to make it to the door without taking a bullet. “Are you sure you wish to discuss this now?” He lifted a sardonic eyebrow.
The commander smiled. “These are all my men. You have nothing to fear here.”
 “What kind of shipment, Commander? Don’t give me any lines about secrecy. Nothing gets loaded on my ship without my knowledge. I refuse to risk my life for a run without knowing all the details. If that’s the kind of captain you’re looking for, then I suggest you find another.”
The commander wiped his mouth with the sullied cloth napkin, a stark contrast to the conjoined line of white eyebrows across his forehead. “Indeed.”
Rand laid down the battle lines. “Those are my stipulations, Commander. Take them or leave them.”        
Seconds ticked by as the Officer studied him. Then Commander Blythe chuckled and placed the napkin in his lap. “All right, Captain. We do this your way. For now. When my business partner gets the shipment, I’ll be paid—more than you can ever imagine in your lifetime.”
“I can imagine a lot.”
“It will be more money than I’ve ever received from the British government. Do you comprehend now?”
“I want to hear you say it.”
“Weapons. We’re at war with the Americans, and I plan to get paid. I’ve spent years toiling for a nation who’s given me little for my losses. And believe me I’ve paid in blood.” He held up his right hand which was missing the last two digits. “And I’ve since learned the competition pays better. I’ve commandeered a shipment of guns from the War Office that were supposed to come to my regiment. I plan to tell my superiors the shipment was stolen out from under our noses and sell the weapons to our enemies, Captain. And then I plan to retire here in Barbados and never wear this blasted uniform again. I need a man of your caliber to pull this off for me. Like I said, you will be well-paid for your service, as will I.”
Caution skittered down his spine and tingled through his fingers. “And if I refuse?”
Commander Blythe smiled and opened his arms wide. “You’re free to leave.” He leaned one elbow on the table, his gaze hard, unforgiving. “But choose carefully. I am a very powerful man.”
Rand stood, swallowed the rest of his rum, and set the mug back on the tabletop. The commander remained seated, his dark-blue gaze unblinking and intense. “I would love to comply, but I am a business man first. We both know I’m a smuggler...” Rand released the mug and straightened his spine. “But I’m not a traitor. Do have a good day, sir.”
Rand turned on his heel and headed for the stairs, leaving the bill of his drink to the commander. With nerves strung tight, Rand anticipated a warning shout from the commander, but none came. It wasn’t until he reached the entrance that the man called out his name. He paused, tensed, and prepared to spring out the door. He refused to face the commander, another subtle way of letting the man know who Rand believed was the real criminal in this establishment.
“Captain Whitton,” Blythe said, “we will meet again. And next time, conditions won’t be quite so...shall I say, comfortable.”

© Suzie Grant

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