They're the Savage Seven--a ragged group of mercenaries who trust no one, risk everything, and get the job done, no matter what it takes...
J.P. Lazarus is an ex-Navy Seal who's parlayed his technical expertise into a lucrative and dangerous career. Laz has never lost any sleep over his choices, but then again, he's never met anyone like Dr. Daphne Barrett. She saves lives; he takes them. He changes his persona with every mission; she's straight as an arrow. His latest assignment--setting a trap for Somalian pirates--was risky before, but with the doctor on board his tanker, it's a matter of life, death, and off-the-charts desire...
Working in Africa for a summer seemed like a good way for Daphne to regroup after her divorce. But when her vessel is hijacked, Daphne's status as a senator's ex-wife makes her a perfect target for ransom. If there's one man equipped to protect her, it's Laz. But the more she learns about him, the more questions arise--about the secrets he's hiding, the chemistry that feels too good to fight, and a future that neither of them can take for granted...
"Katherine Garbera rocks!" --Cindy Gerard
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
June 29, 2006
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Excerpt from The Pirate by Katherine Garbera
A warrior must only take care that his spirit is not broken. --CARLOS CASTANEDA
The full moon hung over the Indian Ocean like something out of a fairy tale. Daphne Bennett walked along the deck of the oil tanker Maersk Angus enjoying the sight. The winds were light and the temperature warm on this night in mid-June. A moment of unreality struck her as she paced near the railing.
This was so different from the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C., and her life as the ex-wife of a prominent U.S. Senator. A part of her couldn't believe she was really here. But another part relished the start of her adventure.
"It's a little late for a stroll," a deep masculine voice said.
She stopped and glanced toward the stern of the ship where the glow of a cigarette could be seen in the deep shadows. The voice was American, and she knew immediately it was the captain of the Maersk Angus who spoke to her.
"I couldn't sleep, Captain Lazarus," she said.
Her group had met the crew when they'd boarded the Maersk Angus two days ago.
"Call me Laz," he said.
"I'm Daphne," she said, unsure he remembered her. Her group, Doctors Across Waters, or DAW, wasn't that large, but they'd been a last-minute addition to his tanker. They'd caught the ship in Lisbon when the flight they were scheduled to take had been canceled due to renewed violence in Somalia. She flinched inwardly as she remembered that the violence had been the terrorist bombing of another humanitarian group's chartered plane.
Daphne thought about turning back when she realized that Africa was just as violent as she'd always heard. The news stories she'd read were about to have a direct impact on her life. But she'd spent the last few years living in a kind of stasis and she was tired of never doing anything other than her job. She needed an adventure.
"Excited about your trip?" he asked, stepping out of the shadows.
He was a rough-looking man but still attractive. A light beard shadowed his strong, square jaw. His dark hair was shorn close to his head, revealing a scar twisting up the left side of his neck.
As a surgeon, she could tell that whoever had stitched up what she guessed to be a knife wound hadn't been to medical school. As a woman, she guessed that Laz hadn't minded, since if the wound hadn't been stitched up he probably would have died.
She'd been single for almost two years now, but this man wasn't like any of the men she'd dated. An aura of danger hovered about him. It might be due to the fact that he led a crew of men who looked like they'd be better suited to crew Johnny Depp's Black Pearl in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. Or maybe it was due to the fact that when he looked at her, she had the feeling that he looked past the confines of her profession and saw the woman underneath.
"A little nervous, actually."
He laughed, a rough sound that carried on the wind. "So- malia--hell, all of Africa--has that effect on people."
The sea around the tanker seemed calm, and on this moonlit night with no one else on deck, she felt like . . . like they were alone in the world.
"On you?" she asked. She couldn't imagine this man being nervous in any situation. He radiated the calmness she always experienced when she was in the operating room. It was a calmness born of the fact that he knew what he was doing.
"Nah. I've been around this part of the world for a long time."
"Why is that? You're American, right?"
"Yes, I am. But I was never one for staying put. I wanted to see the world." There was a note in his voice that she easily recognized. It said that he was searching for something that he hadn't found. Something that he might never find. She understood that now.
It was funny, but before her divorce she would have thought he was unfocused or didn't know himself well. But now she understood that sometimes life threw a curve and dreams changed and your way was lost. Hers had been. She'd been drifting without a focus, and she hoped this summer in Africa would help her to find her way back to who she had been.
Did this rough-looking man have dreams? Dreams that she'd be able to relate to? At one point in her not-so-distant past she would have seen Laz as a man she had nothing in common with--a man whose dreams would make absolutely no sense to her. She no longer looked at the world in the blackand- white terms she used to, and she guessed she had to thank Paul and his philandering ways for that.
"Well, you are certainly seeing parts of it that are off the beaten path," Daphne said.
She'd spent all of her life taking the safe route. College followed by medical school. Marriage to an up-and-coming lawyer who morphed his successful career into a successful
Senate bid. She'd had two children with Paul Maxwell and raised them to be very successful teenagers before Paul decided that it was time to trade her in for a newer model. A microbiologist named Cyndy who didn't have stretch marks.
She shook her head. She wasn't bitter.
It was just that when Paul had walked away from their marriage he'd broken something that she'd always claimed as her destiny. He'd broken her dreams of a fifty-year wedding anniversary party. Her dreams of being married to the same man for her entire life. And she was still trying to figure out who she was if she wasn't going to be Mrs. Paul Maxwell.
She realized she'd let the conversation lag while she'd been lost in her thoughts of her ruined marriage. She looked over at Laz.
"Our group goes to the places that really need aid," she said.
He gave her a half-smile that showed her the dangerous- looking man could also be sexy in a rough-hewn sort of way.
"Good for you."
She glanced over at him; it was hard to see much of his features in the dim lighting. "Are you being sarcastic?"
He shrugged. "Not really. I admire people who walk the walk."
She had no idea if he was sincere or not. But she'd always tried to be honest about who she was and what she wanted. She heard the sound of another engine. "Did you hear that?"
"Yes, ma'am. I think you should go below," Laz said, standing up straighter. He tossed his cigarette over the railing.
"Pirates operate in these waters, and Americans are some of their favorite targets. Go below where I know you'll be safe."
She hesitated for a moment but then saw him draw out a handgun. Moonlight glinted off the well-polished steel of his weapon. His entire demeanor changed. He no longer wore an aura of danger. He was danger. She'd think twice about talking to this man if she saw him on the street back home. In fact she'd do her best to avoid him.
She turned and headed for the stairs, stopping when she heard a voice call out in the dark.
"Bonjour, le bateau."
"Bonjour. Arr?t. Ne parlez pas encore." Laz said. He spoke French like a native, she realized, as he continued conversing with someone she couldn't see. Telling them to hold until he gave them the signal.
She was a little rusty on her French since she'd last lived in Paris during her college career, but she knew enough to make out what he was saying. She hesitated, knowing she shouldn't eavesdrop but wanting to make sure he was okay and not in any danger.
She knew she should get belowdecks to her quarters, but waited to see if there was anything she could do to help. The captain certainly looked like he could take care of himself, but her conscience wouldn't let her leave him alone up there with a potential threat.
Another man joined Laz on the deck. She recognized him as Hammond Macintyre, the second in command. "What's going on?"
"Someone was just up on the deck and I don't want anyone to know what we are doing," Laz said.
"That's fine but Savage has radioed twice."
"I know that," Laz said, turning toward his second in command.
"Why haven't you responded?"
"Don't question me, Hamm," Laz said.
"Are you ready for them to come aboard?"
Laz turned back to where she'd disappeared and she felt like he could see her. She huddled close to the wall of the stairwell, trying to keep still and avoid being seen. What was going on with Captain Lazarus? Was he a pirate?
"Yes," Laz said.
Daphne stayed where she was on the gangway. A part of her wanted to just go back to her sleeping quarters but another part demanded that she see what was going on. She was one of the more senior members of their group.
Although this was her first trip with Doctors Across Waters, she'd served on the board of directors for the last fourteen years.
Who were they trying to let on board? She didn't want to believe that Captain Lazarus--Laz--would betray them but . . . to be honest she didn't trust men. Paul had taken that from her as well when he'd left her.
It made her a little sad but lately she believed the worst of men all the time. Even her sons. That was the main reason she knew she had to get away.
She crept back up the stairs and hid in the shadows watching as Laz used a flashlight to signal someone. She saw the answering flashes of light and then heard nothing but the gentle thwap of waves against the hull of their boat.
Was her imagination getting the better of her? She walked carefully toward the shadow cast by one of the containers that were on the deck. She crouched there in the shadows and watched as Laz lowered a rope over the side of the deck. Two minutes later four men had climbed up and stood in a circle around Laz.
Daphne knew that this wasn't a good thing. Each of the men wore camouflage face paint and dark clothing, but that wasn't what really disturbed her. No, what bothered her was the fact that they were all carrying semiautomatic weapons, and Laz seemed perfectly at ease with them. No wonder the captain had tried to hurry her off the deck; she stayed where she was.
What was he up to?
Crouched in the shadows she listened intently to the men as they talked. Their voices were little more than a whisper, and she couldn't make out the conversation. The men moved away from the gangway and she was tempted to follow them.
She heard footsteps on the stairs behind her and stood up as a crew member walked around the corner. He was a tall man, probably about six feet. His jeans had seen better days and the T-shirt he wore had a hole near the shoulder. He apparently hadn't shaved since they'd left Lisbon three days ago, and he smelled a bit sweaty.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in heavily accented English.
"I couldn't sleep," she said. His accent sounded Dutch to her, which made sense given that this was a Danish ship with an international crew that was mostly comprised of men from along the North Sea.
She'd learned a long time ago that lies didn't serve her well. Was this man part of the group with Laz or someone she should notify of the captain's moves? But she suspected if she said she was spying on the captain this man might not like it.
"The seas aren't that rough tonight," he said.
"No, they aren't. I'm Daphne," she said.
"I'm Fridjtof," he said. "You should go back to your quarters now."
She wasn't ready to leave yet--not until she saw more of the men that the captain had been talking to, and got some of her questions answered. She knew that this part of the world wasn't exactly the safest. If there was a problem she wanted all the information she could lay her hands on.
"Why isn't your captain a Dane?" she asked, trying to keep him talking and hoping he'd reveal if he was in league with the captain.
Fridjtof shrugged. "We're a multinational crew. He came over on a boat from Alaska over a year ago and stayed."
"How long have you been working with him?" she asked.
"Just this voyage. Why you ask?"
"No reason. Just curious. I decided when I signed up for this summer trip to learn as much as I could about the people and cultures I encountered."
"Good for you. Now head back to your quarters so that you will be rested when we make berth in Somalia."
She realized Fridjtof was done with her and was on his way somewhere else.
"Good night," she said, walking down the stairs to the corridor that led to her room.
She thought of just letting it go, but that didn't seem like a good idea. She'd watched CNN and Sky TV. She'd seen all the news reports about the pirates that operated in this area and Laz talking to those armed men alarmed her.
The one thing that didn't quite make sense to her was the fact that everything she'd seen or read about the piracy here in the Indian Ocean had indicated that the perpetrators were Somali. And Laz was definitely American.
She started back toward the gangway, but stopped when two of the men she'd seen on deck came down. They turned right without seeing her. She stayed where she was for a minute and then followed them.
This was silly.