Squall line the inland s.., p.1

Squall Line (The Inland Seas Series Book 1), page 1

 

Squall Line (The Inland Seas Series Book 1)
 


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Squall Line (The Inland Seas Series Book 1)


  Squall Line

  The Inland Seas Series - Book 1

  Gwyn McNamee

  Squall Line

  by Gwyn McNamee © 2019

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted by U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior permission of the author.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, establishments, or organizations, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to give a sense of authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Cover Design: Michelle Johnson at Blue Sky Designs

  Cover Models: Jonny James and Tiffany Marie

  Photographer: Wander Aguiar

  Editing: Proofing With Style

  Created with Vellum

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  1. War

  2. Grace

  3. War

  4. Grace

  5. War

  6. Grace

  7. War

  8. Grace

  9. War

  10. Grace

  11. War

  12. Grace

  13. War

  14. Grace

  15. War

  16. Grace

  17. War

  18. Grace

  19. War

  20. Grace

  21. War

  22. Grace

  23. War

  24. Grace

  25. War

  26. Grace

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  OTHER WORKS BY GWYN MCNAMEE

  The tempest within is often more dangerous than the one outside. Stand strong through the storm, and you will find your way to calm waters.

  Acknowledgments

  Thank you to my husband and daughter for always supporting me. I know I get crazy when I’m finishing a book, and this one was no exception.

  To my amazing beta readers (and my super alpha reader Christy), thank you for always being brutally honest and for taking the time to read my early drafts.

  Jacquelyn Burton and Catherine Horn Gianelloni - your expertise on all things maritime has been invaluable. Thank you for helping me assure these stories are as accurate as possible.

  I couldn’t have finished without the love and support of all my friends and family.

  1

  War

  The barrel of the shotgun wavers slightly but remains pointed squarely at my chest.

  Blood surges through my veins and roars in my ears. My hands squeeze around the grip of my .45.

  Pull a fucking gun on me? This won’t end well for you…

  Staring down the business end of a damn shotgun was not on my to-do list today…or any day, for that matter. But in this profession, it was inevitable.

  I can’t do this type of work and expect everything to go smoothly all the time. After five years on the waters, hijacking ships and stealing cargo, it was bound to happen. Someone was going to fight back with more than a few lamely thrown punches eventually.

  Beating someone into submission is just part of the job. Using steel is too.

  But this—she—is unexpected.

  Cargo ships don’t usually have firearms on them, which makes hijacking them a fuck of a lot easier.

  This time should have been the same…yet the reality is right in front of me.

  My stomach churns slightly at having to point my gun at my would-be assailant. But the tiny, redheaded pixie, who looks as pure and innocent as a fresh Wisconsin snowfall, seems rather fucking intent on blowing a hole in my chest.

  What’s a woman like her doing on a cargo ship in the middle of Lake Michigan?

  The shotgun dips slightly. She struggles to regain control and re-center the barrel. That thing must weigh seven or eight pounds—a lot for a small thing like her to handle—and she’s been holding her aim for almost three minutes.

  This standoff won’t last much longer. Rion will notice my radio silence and come looking for me. Either the pixie will give up, or she’s in for a big surprise when he makes an appearance.

  The warm breeze drifting through the open door to the bridge whips her wavy hair around her pale face in crimson swirls. Her green eyes narrow, and she flicks the tip of her tongue around her cupid’s bow lips.

  Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

  Under any other circumstances, I might take her against the wall of the bridge and screw her until the sun goes down. Too bad she’s a giant pain in the ass and the one thing standing between me and what I need.

  She squares her shoulders and raises the gun slightly. “I said, drop your fucking gun.”

  Despite the shaking in her body, her command is strong and unwavering.

  Too bad it’s all a fucking act. She’s scared shitless. And she should be.

  I smirk, and a red flush creeps up her throat and across her lightly freckled cheeks. Yet, she stands her ground.

  She has balls. I’ll give her that. But the blush of her pale skin proves she isn’t immune to my charms. That should make this easier.

  Scare her or seduce her. Either way, I’m getting what I came for.

  A single step brings me closer to her, and the damn gun. At this range, I’d be fucking toast.

  “Sweetheart, you and I both know, there is no way in hell I am going to lower my weapon.”

  Her giving me orders might be adorable if we weren’t in such a time crunch. We’ll have hell to pay if the Marconis don’t get their shipment tonight, and the incoming storm front is already threatening the job. Choppy waters and swells will make the trip to Chicago a real bitch once we get what we came for. The last thing we need is some princess wanna-be Annie Oakley trying to stop us.

  She presses her lips together and clenches her jaw so hard, the muscle at the side tics.

  Red has some attitude, that’s for sure.

  The shotgun repositions, and she makes sure it’s aimed directly at my face this time.

  Trying to intimidate me, little girl?

  Another step forward and I’m close enough to catch a faint whiff of something floral—lilacs, maybe—and I shift my shoulders back and puff out my chest to provide the maximum effect.

  If my gun isn’t enough to intimidate her, maybe my size and proximity will.

  She stumbles back a step, shaking her head and sending her red locks floating around her face. “Don’t you fucking move, asshole.”

  Another command? Cute.

  But she also just showed I’m a hundred percent right. It’s all an act.

  False bravado.

  I stop my advance, but my smirk widens to a full-blown smile despite my best efforts against it.

  A crack in my armor is never good, which is why smiles don’t come often for me. In this profession, it’s essential to assert dominance, to let people know you are in charge and won’t back down, that you are unbreakable. Smiling shows you are human, and being human means weakness.

  Weakness can’t exist here. Not with her.

  But, since the moment I stepped onto the bridge and found her with that shotgun pointed right at me, I haven’t been able to keep the corner of my mouth from twisting up with just about everything she says.

  That’s dangerous—for me and her.


  “For such a pretty little thing, you sure curse like the big boys.” Having her bent over the captain’s chair screaming four-letter words into the air while I plow into her briefly crosses my mind.

  Too bad. Such a waste of a tight body.

  She scowls, her eyes focusing on the barrel of my gun, currently pointed directly at her surprisingly ample chest.

  I’d rather not shoot her, but if it means getting what I came for, then I’ll do what I have to. She needs to know who’s in charge here, and, despite what she may think, it isn’t her.

  Over her shoulder, through the open door, Rion silently climbs the stairs to the bridge.

  I school my expression. Poor thing has no clue she’s about to lose that false sense of power in her hands.

  Sorry, Red.

  “I’m not telling you again, drop your…”

  Her words trail off the moment the barrel of Rion’s gun touches the back of her head. Standing six foot five, his two-hundred-seventy-pound frame dwarfs her maybe five foot one, one hundred pounds.

  God, she’s tiny.

  Everyone looks small next to Rion—even me—but next to pixie, he looks more like something from the Marvel Universe.

  He grins in my direction.

  I take another step toward her as I holster my gun. The situation is under control now. I won’t be needing it again. My hand wraps around the barrel of her shotgun, and I tug it from her hands and set it on the console next to us. The desire to fight flashes across her face, but she’s smart and lets her hands fall to her sides.

  “Sorry, sweetheart. Valiant effort, though.”

  She glares at me, clenching her small, empty hands.

  There’s something else I would love to have those fists clenched around. Maybe in another place, another time.

  I understand her seething rage. We came onto the ship with clear malcontent, but as long as she and the rest of the crew cooperate, we’ll be on our way quickly and she can go on with her life, forgetting we ever existed.

  The insurance will cover the cargo we take, and, more than likely, the owner of the vessel will file false losses anyway so they’ll end up ahead. That’s the way it always goes. No one has any integrity anymore. But in the end, it’s a win-win for everyone. We get what we need for Il Padrone, plus whatever’s in the safe, and the owner gets some extra cash for a few hours of inconvenience and some added paperwork.

  Rion yanks her arms behind her back.

  “Oww!” She looks over her shoulder at him while he secures her wrists with a zip tie. “What the fuck?”

  When her eyes return to me, they blaze with the fire of a thousand suns.

  “Sorry,” I turn to look for the logbook on the bookcase behind me, “but you’ve already proven you’re too ballsy for your own good. If you tell me what I need to know, this will be a lot quicker and a lot less painful for you.”

  Making threats and being willing to follow through are necessary evils in this job. Each and every one of us will do whatever’s necessary—some, more easily than others. That includes getting rid of anyone in our way, but I’m not totally heartless. These people are just employees doing their jobs, trying to make a living. They don’t deserve to get hurt or to die…as long as they don’t do anything stupid. Then…all bets are off. The job and the guys come first and always will.

  My radio crackles to life, and Cutter’s voice cuts through the static. “Secured the deck and holds. We have six hands on deck. Offload started.”

  Good.

  Recon indicated there would be a crew of seven; that means there isn’t anyone lurking beneath us, calling for rescue or waiting for a chance to pounce on us as we offload the cargo.

  “Bridge secure,” I reply. “We have one. No sign of the captain, though.”

  I glance back at her, hoping she’ll fill me in on where the man in charge might be. He must be with the crew Cutter and Elijah rounded up.

  Anger glints in her eyes, and she squares her shoulders. “I won’t tell you anything. When I get free, you’ll pay for this.”

  The bravado in her voice is fake. We both know it, but I’ll let her cling to the comfort her act of defiance holds for a while. It makes people feel better to talk back, to think they have any say or ability to control what’s happening around them—even when it’s all in their heads.

  Rion covers his mouth to hide his laughter, and I chuckle to myself.

  She glowers at him over her shoulder then focuses on me.

  This girl is a piece of work.

  It isn’t often we find a woman on a cargo vessel. I can only think of one, and she was nothing like pixie over there. Suffice it to say, women working on cargo ships generally don’t look like swimsuit models.

  The tiny redhead, on the other hand, is every man’s wet dream. At least, any man who likes redheads, and, God knows, I have a weakness for those of the ginger persuasion. Which means keeping my guard up is even more important. I can’t let my dick get in the way of what needs to happen to get out of here safely with what we need.

  Her forest-green eyes bore into me, and I have a sneaking suspicion she can see into my soul—a terrifying prospect for someone like me. Someone who depends on people’s fear to succeed.

  She’s ready for a fight and is just looking for an opportunity to get the upper hand again. I may not want to use that gun, but I will if I have to. There’s too much at stake. And Rion, Elijah, and Cutter will pull the trigger before there’s even time to consider it. She needs to know we’re a real threat.

  An unusual tightness forms in my chest, but I ignore it in favor of returning my attention to the bookcase.

  A blue logbook sits on the second shelf, exactly where it should be. I grab it and carry it across the bridge to the captain’s chair in front of the console, the metal floor creaking with every step. I drop onto the seat, and plush leather cradles me. I prop my feet up on the console and open the book across my thighs.

  “Get your damn feet off the console.”

  I glance over.

  Those damn eyes drill me again as she looks between my boots and my face, like a mother annoyed her kid has his feet on the coffee table.

  Why does she care so much where I put my damn feet?

  “Where is the captain?” I tap my boots against the console intentionally, letting little bits of dirt and who the hell knows what else drop off them onto the clean surface.

  Tipping her chin up, she snarls. “Fuck you.”

  Her non-answer almost brings another smile, but I’m finished with games.

  Whoever manages the logbook has impeccable penmanship. The names of the six crewmen appear below that of the captain. “Captain G.A. Albright, where is he?”

  No women on the crew list.

  So, who the fuck is she?

  “And who are you?”

  She presses her lips together until they’re white. I radio to Cutter. “Bring me a member of the crew.”

  Her shoulders tense, and the fear finally begins to show in her eyes despite her best efforts to appear unaffected.

  She gets points for that, at least.

  “Roger that, Cap. Two minutes.”

  I raise an eyebrow, waiting for some verbal response from her, but she remains silent. “Still have nothing to say? That’s okay, I’ll get what I need from someone else in about two minutes.” I flash her my best panty-dropping smile. “I always get what I need, from someone.”

  She clenches her jaw, clearly picking up the innuendo in my comment.

  Good. I was laying it on fairly thick.

  Footsteps on the metal stairs alert me to Cutter’s arrival. He doesn’t bother sneaking up here the way Rion did. He nudges a zip tied and terrified man into the room. Sweat beads the crewman’s weather-beaten forehead and temples, and his eyes immediately fall on me, then move to Rion, and then the feisty redhead.

  This guy will be easy. I’ll have my answer in no time.

  Cutter nods at me then disappears back down the stairs to help ge
t what we came for loaded onto the boat.

  “Thank you for joining us.” I drop my boots to the floor, rise to my full height, and toss the logbook onto the chair. “I’m hoping you can answer a few questions for me.”

  His gaze immediately flicks to the pixie, and I don’t miss the subtle shake of her head.

  Now, this is interesting.

  Men rarely look to women for permission or direction, especially on the water. Most are misogynist pigs who believe women belong barefoot, naked, and pregnant in the kitchen. In reality, women are probably better than ninety percent of men at seventy-five percent of the things men try to do. Most men are too macho to ever publicly admit they look to women for guidance. That is doubly true for seamen.

  “Don’t look at her, look at me.” I step up to him, putting my face, and my chest, mere inches from his own. “Where is the captain?”

  For a flicker of a second, his eyes land on her. I follow his gaze.

  She shakes her head at him.

  He quickly recovers, looking at me and shaking his head, but it is too late—I saw it and he knows.

  “I…uh…I don’t know, sir.”

  I step between him and pixie and force her back until she hits the wall. Her face barely comes to the middle of my chest. I look down at her, and she tilts her head up, rebellion in her stance and eyes. A glance over my shoulder at the crewman tells me I’ve hit a nerve.

  His tense body and skin shining with sweat scream he doesn’t want me anywhere near her, but his tied hands and Rion towering over him prevent him from making whatever move he’s clearly considering.

 
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