Tortured Souls Series Book 2
by R.C. Matthews
Genre: Historical Romance, Paranormal
Victor Blackburn is living on borrowed time. An ancient curse violently claims the life of each Blackburn male on his twenty-seventh birthday. As his approaches, his only hope of survival is a witch who vanished long ago without a trace.
Mercy Seymour eagerly counts down the days until the curse will claim Victor’s life. She watched him murder her mother, and only his death will free her of the hatred and anger she harbors.
When fate throws them together in Devil’s Cove, desire simmers between the handsome pirate and the spirited barkeeper’s niece until they learn the truth about each other. Desperate for her cooperation, Victor spirits her away to Blackburn Castle in the Scottish Highlands, where forces of magic and mists from beyond the grave weaken her resolve, opening her eyes to the truth of the past.
As Victor and Mercy unearth the fabled stones needed to break the curse, they discover that the only weapon powerful enough to destroy hate is love. But will they have to sacrifice their relationship to save what means the most to them?
RELEASE DATE of April 10, 2017
The fine hairs on her neck prickled, and her instincts flared to life, warning her to flee. Whatever business these pirates had with Charles Mitchell was best left between them and their Maker. She glanced at the tavern door, mentally calculating the odds of sneaking inside now without notice. Quite poor, considering the angle at which Charles stood. But with the pirates’ backs to her, it was now or never.
Just as she crept from behind the barrel, Hatchet sidled up behind Charles and clasped his upper arms in an iron grip, both men now facing her. The deadly glimmer in the pirate’s eyes halted Mercy in her tracks, and she crouched lower.
“Tarnation,” she grumbled under her breath while peeking over the top of the barrel.
Charles grunted in shock, before he struggled to break free. His fair skin paled a shade further when Victor grasped a handful of his shirt. “What can I do for you, Victor?”
“Well, you can start by keeping your fucking mouth shut,” he said, slamming one fist and then the other into Charles’s jaw in rapid succession.
The dull thud of bone on bone rippled through Mercy, and she shuddered as blood spewed from Charles’s battered mouth. Well, that had escalated quite quickly. She clasped her hands to her chest, praying for Freya’s guidance. Should she hold her tongue or scream? Would anyone come to her rescue? Not likely, given the boisterous patrons of The Black Serpent. No, best to remain silent. They wouldn’t kill the man in an alley, would they?
“I’ll keep it shut,” Charles said, slumping forward. “Tell me what I’ve said wrong, and I promise not to say another word.”
Good man. Yes, listen close and keep your mouth shut.
Victor sank his hand into Charles’s hair and yanked his head up. “Stop spreading filthy lies about your wife and daughter, you rat bastard.”
Charles snarled, his lip curling in an unsightly manner. “Eveline isn’t my daughter! She’s Deveraux’s bastard.”
Mercy shoved her fist into her mouth. She had met Eveline the day she moved to Devil’s Cove. Her aunt had hoped they would become friends, being of an age with one another. But then Charles Mitchell had sent his daughter to live at the priory under Brother Anselm’s care and renamed her Grace. An odd business, that. Or, perhaps not so odd, considering this bit of news.
Without warning, Victor pummeled Charles in the stomach with so much force that the man doubled over and vomited with great, heaving gulps. The second he recovered, Hatchet held him up for another round of beatings from Victor’s effectual fists. He was relentless, pounding his victim without mercy until he hung like a rag doll in Hatchet’s firm grip.
Bile threatened to choke her. Despite years of working in her uncle’s tavern, she’d never witnessed a beating as prolonged and vicious.
Victor’s shoulders heaved with every breath, and he shook out his hands before taking a step back to assess the damage. “Not another goddamned word, Charles,” he said, motioning for Hatchet to hold up the man’s lolling head. “The next time I catch wind of your rantings, you’re a dead man.”
Mercy gasped then sank to her haunches. Stupid mistake! Blood rushed into her ears, and her heart thundered with each passing second. Had they heard her over Charles’s groans and feverish pleas for mercy?
“Drag the bloody blighter home, Hatchet, and leave him on the doorstep.”
She closed her eyes and rocked softly, tapping her head against her knees as she counted to twenty. Please go away. Taking one final, deep breath, she opened her eyes—and screamed.
Victor pressed his hand against her mouth, muffling her cries as he hauled her to her feet and backed her against the wall, covering her body with his. She stiffened, unable to move a single inch. His touch was firm but exerting only the requisite pressure to ensure her compliance. Pressing his lips into a grim line, he regarded her with his emerald eyes.
The hue was unusual, so calm, almost beckoning her to lay down her defenses. Oh, dear, she shouldn’t gaze into his eyes. But he held her head in place, so she glanced down instead and was met with a view of his cracked and bloodied knuckles.
Her stomach lurched, and she struggled to break free from his hold, using every ounce of strength she possessed.
“Calm down before you attract every bloody man in the tavern,” he said, his gaze steely. “I won’t hurt you. Do you hear me?”
She nodded vigorously while tears stung her eyes. What would he do to a nosey young lady who’d witnessed his ruthless deeds?
“I’m going to remove my hand so you can answer my questions. No more screaming. Or I’ll be forced to cover your mouth with mine.”
His mouth on mine? Better than his bloodied hand, but no, feeling his lips pressed against hers would not be good. Well, it would certainly feel good, but it would not be good. Because he would wish for more. And more, until … Questions? The pirate wanted to ask her questions? She nodded again.
His brow furrowed. “How much did you see or hear?”
What did he expect her to say? Every single blow of his lethal fists upon a man half his size. Secrets capable of destroying Eveline’s already tenuous reputation. Threats against his victim’s life. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, and she swallowed hard before finding her voice.
“Nothing,” she whispered, avoiding his piercing gaze. “I didn’t hear or see anything, I tell you.”
He chuckled, drawing her gaze back to him. A wisp of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he studied her face, and a blush heated her cheeks. She was a horrible liar.
“Good girl,” he crooned, rubbing the soft pad of his thumb absently over her cheek. “I believe you. What’s your name, lass?”
She breathed for what felt like the first time in five minutes and inhaled a rich mixture of sandalwood and his perspiration. His eyes burned with desire as they dropped to her mouth, lingering there for a few heart-stopping moments before he met her gaze again.
Her belly quaked under his possessive stare. Goodness, he wanted to kiss her with those full, supple lips … and a small part of her longed for his kiss, to feel the warmth of his mouth. ’Twas useless to deny her physical attraction to the man. But succumbing to his charms would be foolish. He would only offer a taste of passion, bringing her ruin and shame. Yet, she couldn’t fight him off if he wanted to take her innocence in the dark alley, so why did he not ravish her?
Instead, he traced his thumb along her jaw until his hand threaded into her hair at the nape, holding her prisoner to his steady gaze. “You tremble in my embrace. I would never hurt a woman or force her into submission. Do you believe me?”
She nodded, though, in truth, her instincts warned her otherwise. He had brutally beaten another man only minutes before. And he was first mate on The Savior to the Devil himself, a renowned pirate. She didn’t wish to reveal her name to him. Best that he forget her.
“Come, tell me your name, sweet lass.”
Tortured Souls Book 1
Shrouded in unspeakable horror and spoken of only in whispers, the abandoned Devil's Cove Manor lures Captain Devlin Limmerick and his unquenchable thirst for revenge to its doors. Feared as the Devil on the high seas, the pirate's desire to avenge his past is matched only by his hunger for the powerful young medium he has coerced to aid him in his nefarious quest.
Blinded from youth and touched with an ability to communicate beyond the grave, Grace is both feared and revered by the uneasy town folk. Yet she is powerless against the unrest brewing within the manor walls and finds herself drawn to the Devil's darkness. Still, she refuses to sacrifice her soul to set Devlin's unspeakable plans in motion.
But an evil lurks within these walls, and their very souls are in jeopardy. Grace's presence at the manor spurs inexplicable happenings, forcing Devlin to believe nothing is as dead as it seems - not even his heart. Plunged into the throes of passion and danger, they discover the only way out is to search deep within and summon the courage to believe in true love.
A gust of wind blew through Grace’s hair, sending gooseflesh racing down her arms and reminding her why she despised sitting close to the tavern entrance. Only this time it was different as a hush settled over the boisterous room. Grace cocked her head to one side and listened closely. Nothing but the hiss of the gas lanterns could be heard. Not even the telltale squeak of the wooden floorboards as Mercy Seymour made her rounds, racing from table to table in a never-ending attempt to keep the tankards full. This was odd, indeed.
But even odder was the sense of foreboding that crept into Grace’s veins. She inhaled a deep breath, and her nostrils itched. Fear had a distinctive scent, and the air was rife with it. She shivered.
Mercy shuffled past Grace’s table, mumbling under her breath, and just like that, the muted voices resumed and the unsettling moment passed. As the clanking of forks against plates grew louder, Grace exhaled and tuned out every last speck of noise, homing in on the conversation taking place at the entrance. Ever since she had gone blind at the age of seven, her cochlear and olfactory nerves had sharpened to an astonishing level, almost as if God mourned the loss of her sight as much as she had and gifted her with heightened sense of sound, taste, and smell.
“Evening, sir,” Mercy said with the tiniest of tremors lilting on her words. “I’ve a fine table for you this way. Please follow me.”
The floorboards groaned under a heavy set of boots, and a mixture of fresh sea air and sandalwood assaulted Grace’s senses. She bit down on her lip when the footsteps paused, and her fingers tensed around the fork and knife she held steady over her plate. His heavenly scent enveloped her; he must be a fine fellow to smell so good. Her heartbeat thumped painfully against her ribs, and she hated herself in that moment for falling victim to vanity. However, she couldn’t help but wonder if the man stared at her in disgust, drawn with a morbid curiosity to gawk at the sightless spheres that rested in her eye sockets.
Her mother had gazed often into her eyes and proclaimed their beauty when she was a child. Bluer than the bluest sky on a bright spring morning. That was a long time ago and much had changed. The brothers of the priory couldn’t afford much, but she was thankful for the simple prosthetic eyes they’d procured. Brother Anselm assured her the dark-brown shade was appealing.
She shoved the treasured memory to the back of her mind and resumed cutting a piece of roasted beef on her plate. Let the man stare if he must. Bowing her head, she pulled the fork toward her mouth and welcomed the taste of the savory beef, seasoned to perfection. It melted on her tongue, tender as it was.
The footfalls resumed against the wooden planks, and the noise of the tavern reached its normal deafening pitch. Grace lifted her head toward her supper mate as the tension left her body. She must know about the newest patron of The Black Serpent. That he should bring the entire establishment to dead silence spoke volumes about the man, yet she yearned for specifics.
“Brother Anselm,” she began, licking her lips. “Please.”
She needn’t say more. After living in each other’s company for nearly fifteen years, he understood her plea. What she didn’t know was whether he would comply and provide the details she sought.
A soft chortle from across the table was enough to bring a smile to her face. Brother Anselm was amused, so the tale must be a good one. As she waited for him to collect his thoughts, she fished for a potato on her plate. They were always the largest pieces, and her fork sank into them with ease. She speared a tasty morsel and bit into it, delighting at the creamy gravy rolling over her tongue.
“It’s Captain Devlin Limmerick,” Brother Anselm said in a hushed tone.
Grace stopped in midchew and her stomach fell to the floor. “The pirate?”
“Privateer,” he countered. “Or at least that is what he would have the good people of Devil’s Cove believe. He has taken residence at Devil’s Cove Manor. Can you imagine?”
She forced the potato down her throat and washed it away with a sip of ale. That was only one of many rumors she’d heard about the man. A shudder ran through her. “No, I can’t imagine living there. The man must be the very devil himself to reside in a mansion reputed to house the gatekeeper of Hell. Pray tell, does he look like the devil?”
“Ah, my dear girl,” Brother Anselm said with an amused lilt. “You cannot believe the nonsensical rumors whispered about the gatekeeper. But the man … should you like to hear that his hair is black as night, and that he sports a chiseled jaw capable of ripping his opponents to shreds? Tall, with rippled muscles that will crush every foe? Eyes so dark and sinister that to even look into their depths would send a man screaming in the other direction?”
Grace’s lips twitched as the heat of a blush rushed up her neck and into her cheeks. That was exactly what she wished to hear. But from the sound of her mentor’s voice, it wasn’t entirely the case.
“Oh, that would be fine, indeed,” she said on a sigh. “Is it not so?”
Brother Anselm laughed and pulled her hand into his. “I would liken him to an archangel. Golden hair kept long and pulled away at the nape of his neck. Quite unconventional. Chiseled jaw, that much is true. But his eyes. From what I could see in this dim light, I believe they must be as dark blue as the fathomless sea upon which he commands his ships.”
Not what she had been hoping for, but all was not lost. There must be more to the man in order to command a room with only his presence. Perhaps he towered over everyone and wielded an axe or sword. Yes, that would do nicely. “Would you say he’s as big as Goliath?”
“Quite,” came the answer from an amused baritone at the edge of their table, and Grace froze.
Good Lord, the pirate was standing right there. Brother Anselm could’ve forewarned her, at the very least.
R.C. Matthews’ debut book entitled Little White Lies, was conceived in 1997 while living in Cologne, Germany. However, marriage, children and a day job that paid the bills put writing the book on the back burner until 2012 when she discovered the folder with her research in the basement while reorganizing! Determined to finally realize her life-long dream of writing a book, R.C. Matthews spent 15 months writing on weekends to complete the manuscript.
R.C. Matthews was raised in the Metro-Detroit area by deaf parents along with four siblings. She graduated from a liberal arts college with a B.A. in Accounting and German and continues to work as a certified public accountant. She enjoys traveling with her loving husband and children, reading, down-hill skiing, and playing board games. Talisman and LIFE are high on the list of favorites at her home.
R.C. Matthews is the author of contemporary and historical romances featuring bold, sassy heroines and magnetic alpha heroes. Warning! The chemistry between her characters is off the charts hot, so read at your own risk. She resides in the Midwest and is surrounded by men: her husband and three sons. During her free time you'll find her watching The Walking Dead, reading a fabulous book or hanging out with her family.