Storm & Shelter - A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends
When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers.
The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.
One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.
Mary's story: An Improbable Hero
A runaway heiress, a mysterious stranger.
When Letty’s ship founders in a violent storm, she forges a rare bond with her rescuer.
Simon is a troubled man on a final, deadly mission—until the spirited yet soothing Letty makes him question everything. Hiding in plain sight among the refugees at The Queen’s Barque, Simon is more than capable of protecting them both. But when the floods recede, can either of them say goodbye?
Enjoy this excerpt from An Improbable Hero
Letty had never been truly afraid in her life before. She realized that within moments of stumbling onto the heaving deck beneath one wildly swinging lantern. At once, rain and wind drove into her, trying to push her below again. A horrible creaking sound of breaking wood screamed above the noise of the storm.
“We’ve been blown back against the rocks!” one of the sailors shouted at the captain, who was peering over the side, until he slipped on the now wildly sloping deck.
“I can see that!” the captain yelled amid a string of curses. “We’re going down! Man the boats! Abandon ship!”
“The boats have no chance in seas like this!” someone shouted at him. By the lantern’s weird, swirling light, she saw he was not dressed in sailor’s garb, but in an incongruous morning coat, with an open overcoat billowing over the top. Another passenger?
“No chance here either!” the captain said brutally.
“Who the devil is that?” the passenger demanded. His eyes glowed intermittently in Letty’s direction. “Damnation, did you bring another passenger aboard?”
“She paid for her passage!” the captain said, urging his crew to hurry with the lowering of the boats.
“Well, you took her money, damn you, so look after her!” the passenger commanded, clinging to the rail as he made for the other boat. He didn’t look back.
Letty, realizing all at once that her great adventure was about to end in disaster and drowning, staggered across the deck, fighting the wind and the chopping of the ship. There was no contest. She would have fallen and been washed over the side if the wind hadn’t held her up long enough for the captain to seize her and drag her toward the second boat which was now in the sea with several sailors, being tossed around like a lump of seaweed.
The ship screamed again and listed.
“Go!” yelled the captain, thrusting her at the rail.
It was the other passenger who grabbed her, clamping her to his side. The wind or the currents were trying to spin the tossing boat away from the ship.
“Close your eyes,” the other passenger shouted, and then she seemed to be flying through the air, only to land with a jolt on something that heaved beneath her more horribly even than the ship’s deck.
The sailors were trying to row away from the ship. But there was even less light now to see where to aim for in the maelstrom.
The sailors heaved the oars with all their might. Even her fellow-passenger who seemed to have taken her under his wing, added his weight. They made progress away from the ship, heaved and tossed on the massive waves. Her whole body felt numb from the battering of wind and rain. She had never felt so useless, so utterly helpless. So resigned.
The end of my great adventure. If I’d stayed with my aunt, I would at least live…
Imminent, terrible death certainly changed one’s priorities.
She fixed her gaze on the other passenger who felt, somehow, like her one link left with the living. Because he had helped her, because he was closest to her. Because he was still trying.
However, it seemed inevitable when the huge wave seized the boat, tossing it high and tipping them all into the angry, swirling sea. Apparently, she wasn’t numb at all, for the shocking cold of the water smacked her, filling her mouth and nose, consuming her.
In moments, I will be dead and gone. It will all be over.
In sheer panic, she lashed out with arms and legs, refusing to give in. She was rewarded a brief, blessed gulp of air and then the sea caught her once more, dragging her down.
But then something else scooped her up, a human arm that seemed, temporarily at least, even stronger than the sea. She emerged coughing and gasping, clamped to someone’s side.
A man’s voice was yelling, “Hold on!” Her hands were dragged across something hard, a jagged object. Wooden. Part of their boat, or the ship, perhaps “Hold on!”
Her scrabbling fingers found a grip, and clung, and she saw that her savior was her fellow passenger. A ridiculous sense of safety washed over her.
“Look, we’re close to the shore and being carried in that direction,” he shouted in her ear, and indeed there were lights in the distance in a long, uneven row. “We’ll live if you don’t let go.”
We are close... We will live… It was that we, that connection with another still living soul that gave her the strength, the courage to cling on, even to gasp out, “Thank you!”
The sea heaved around her, carrying her and her companion where it willed.
“What’s your name?” she panted, because they seemed to be tying each other to life.
His head turned in the darkness. There was a distinct, baffled pause. “Simon.”
“Letty.” She even risked sliding her hand across to touch his. It was as close as they could come to shaking hands.
A sound like laughter escaped him, though it might just have been a gulp of breath. “Honored to live or die with you, Letty,” he said.
And then, the sea hurled something against her head. The darkness fuzzed in an explosion of pain, and the last thing she remembered was his hand slamming over hers as she fell into nothing.