Pirate's Passion (Sentinels of Savannah)

Chapter One

“What shall we do with the drunken sailor early in the mornin’?” Keegan held the last note over the roar of the crowd at the pub and finished with a flourished bow.

It was a Scallywag tradition to end their concerts with a pirate shanty. ’Course no one in the band, or the crowd, knew he’d been singing the salty tunes for more than two hundred years now.

Keegan scanned the pub for the raven-haired beauty who had caught his eye in the front row. When his gaze met hers, her full red lips curved into a sexy, welcoming smile, and his heart hit a familiar rhythm. She’d be his tonight.

The world had changed around him over the years. He no longer piloted a pirate ship. Instead, he carried a cell phone and fronted a southern rock band, but raw passion, the animal attraction between a man and a woman, that magic remained untouched.

He couldn’t say the same for the woman in the front row.

After he stuffed the mic back into the stand, he approached her and knelt down, shouting over the noise. “What’s your name, lass?”

She grinned. “Char.”

“Meet me backstage. I’ll tell the crew to expect you.” Her eyes sparkled, wild, and damn did he want to taste those lips. “Say yes.”

“Maybe.” She backed up into the crowd as Keegan rose to his full height.

He chuckled and straightened his leather frock coat. Saucy. Usually women were eager for his backstage invitations. He followed the band offstage, grabbing one of the security guys on his way. “Hey, mate, if a gorgeous woman named Char comes looking for me, let her through.”

The man at the door agreed, and Keegan headed for his tiny greenroom. He loved playing at the Moon River Brewing Company. The place was haunted, but hell, so was most of Savannah. That was part of why he stayed. While the rest of the world moved into the future, new buildings, new transportation, and new technology, the historic heart of Savannah, Georgia, did its best to remain the same.

He didn’t feel out of place here.

After hanging up his coat, he ran a comb through his hair and grinned when a knock sounded at his door. He opened it and stared down into a pair of fathomless dark eyes. “A woman of her word. I like that.”

“I didn’t give you my word, just a solid maybe. Call me…curious.” She smiled, her hip jutting to the side. Her stance was nothing like the giddy groupies he usually entertained after shows. “Are you going to invite me in?”

He nodded, taking a step back. Most of the women who came backstage had their lips on his before he could speak, and he carried them inside.

Pleasantries. This was new.

As he closed the door and turned around, he found her inspecting his coat. He chuckled, raising a brow. “Didn’t realize you were a costumer.”

“I’m not.” Her gaze snapped up to meet his, a smile replacing the contemplative stare from a moment before. “Just don’t often see that kind of workmanship unless it’s in a museum.”

He glanced at his coat. The same one he’d worn the night he stood at the helm of the Sea Dog, gripping the wheel as they smashed into the rocks. He’d mended the coat over the years, but the majority of the leather was older than the historic building they were standing in.

“It’s been passed down in my family for generations.” He focused on her again, shoving away thoughts better left under the sea with the remains of the ship. “Did you enjoy the show tonight?”

“I did.” She nodded, coming closer. “You don’t usually end your sets with such a well-known shanty.

She was a fan. He shrugged, an easy smile curving his lips. “Nothing wrong with an old favorite.”

“I guess not.” She shrugged.

Keegan moved a little closer, intrigued by this woman who seemed more interested in his coat than the body that was recently inside it. If he didn’t already know better, he might’ve worried he was losing his touch with the ladies. Usually women who visited his dressing room were sauced from the bar and rubbing all over him. He didn’t need to converse much.

Char’s cheeks were flushed, but she was nowhere near shit-faced.

Her voice was rich, velvety, and thick, like her long hair. “I’ve never come backstage before.”

“I’d love to change that…” A smile teased the corners of his mouth as he took a step closer, reaching for her hand.

She chuckled with a playful spark in her eyes. “Do lines like that work for you?”

He raised a brow. “Often.” He pulled her a little closer, aching to taste her lips. “But I must admit, you intrigue me. Why did you come to my door?”

She wet her lips and whispered, “I promised my friend at work that tonight would be a night of yes.”

Her final word carried a breathiness that had his blood rushing to his groin. His voice dropped to a raw growl more than a whisper. “What if I asked if I could kiss you?”

Her eyes searched his as she whispered, “Yes.”

His pulse hadn’t raced like this in lifetimes. He bent to kiss her lips and coaxed her to open to him, groaning with desire. She tasted like spiced rum and pineapple. Her tongue tangled slowly with his. He couldn’t get enough. Her hands slid into his hair; her full breasts pressed tight against his chest.

He needed much more. Keegan backed her toward his dressing area and lifted her onto the counter, without ceasing his delicious assault on her warm mouth. She tugged his T-shirt free of his jeans, breaking the kiss long enough to pull it off. She dropped it to the ground as he fused his lips to hers again.

Her fingers explored his chest, her touch setting him on fire. His erection ached for freedom from his jeans as she wrapped her legs around his waist.

He wanted her naked. Now.

Sliding his hands underneath the back of her top, he kissed his way down her neck when something buzzed between them.

“Shit.” She gasped, digging into her pocket for her phone.

Fucking cell phones.

She raked a hand through her hair, then pulled it back from her face. God, she was beautiful.

A crease formed between her brows as she stared at the screen. She shook her head, meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to go.”

For a second, he couldn’t understand her. “Go?”

She nodded. “Yeah. I don’t want to, but this is really important.”

Keegan stepped back, shaking his head, struggling to rein in the yearning she’d kindled inside him. He needed a cold shower. Maybe two.

“Pity,” he muttered.

She hopped off his counter, her gaze wandering over his bare chest as her teeth caught her lower lip. “Damn.” She cleared her throat. “I’m really sorry.”

He took some solace in the way her skin flushed, at the hunger in her eyes. She’d wanted him, too.

He yanked his cell out of his pocket. “Maybe I could call you later.”

She ran her fingers back through her long black hair. “Probably not. This…” She gestured at his dressing room. “I don’t do things like this. Rum always steals my better judgment.”

“Good to know.” He smirked.

She reached for the door and stopped, glancing back over her shoulder, that wicked smile curving on her lips again. “I’m glad I said yes.” She straightened her top and flipped her hair behind her shoulder. “It was great meeting you, Keegan.”

And just like that, Char walked out of his dressing room, leaving him behind with a raging erection. For a moment, he toyed with the idea of trolling the bar for another willing fan, but when he picked up his shirt from the floor, he realized sex with someone else wasn’t what he wanted.

He wanted her.

Odd.

He needed something else to think about. Keegan grabbed his coat and bag and headed out the back door for home. There was definitely a cold shower in his future.

Safe in her car, Charlotte let out a pent-up breath and pulled out her phone again. If Bruce hadn’t sent that text when he did, would she have slept with the lead singer of The Scallywags?

Part of her hoped so. Louise’s challenge to her to try a night of “yes” turned out to be much more fun than Charlotte imagined. She’d started the night dreading it, but after saying yes to a third drink from the bar, she started to embrace the rush.

Next thing she knew, she was making out with the lead singer of her favorite band. Her skin flushed with heat at the thought. She rolled her eyes. Maybe Louise was right. Maybe she did work too much.

Speaking of work. Charlotte pressed her boss’s name on her cell. “Hey, Bruce. What’s so urgent?”

“Charlotte. Good.” He was obviously walking, probably still at the museum. The man never stopped working. She could relate. “There’s a government agent here with questions about a holy relic.”

“Now?” She glanced at the time on the dashboard. “It’s almost midnight.”

“That’s why I’m glad you were still awake.”

She rested her head on the steering wheel. “Holy relics aren’t my area of expertise anyway.”

“But pirates are.”

She frowned at her phone and put it back to her ear. “You’re not making any sense.”

“Can you come to the museum? We’ll be waiting in your office.”

Charlotte stared at her dashboard. She should refuse. It was well after work hours. Who in their right mind would go back to their office this late?

Someone who needed to get a life.

She rolled her eyes at herself. “Yeah. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“You’re the best, Charlotte.”

The called ended, and she started the engine. When she turned on the headlights, a tall man in a long coat passed through the beams of light. Keegan. He walked over to a pickup and took off the coat, tossing it onto the seat, then dropped his bag in the bed of the truck.

When he turned around, his gaze locked on hers, and heat smoldered in her belly. Definitely time to go.

She drove out of the parking lot, watching Keegan in her rearview mirror. Maybe she should have given him her number.

No.

Better to fantasize about how the evening might have turned out. If he called her later, he would discover she wasn’t really the wild woman he’d inspired at the concert. The woman who made out with him and stripped off his shirt, the one who surrendered to her desire and took what she wanted… Yeah, that was about as far from Charlotte as you could get.

She was the one who left a hot half-naked guy to take a call from her boss.

Shit. She did need to get a life.

Charlotte sighed, driving the dark abandoned streets to the maritime museum. She parked next to Bruce’s Jaguar and got out. A gust of wind blew her hair across her face. Shoot. She glanced down at her leather pants and black off-the-shoulder top with laces up the front.

Not exactly work attire.

Usually she was in a pantsuit or pencil skirt, her long black hair up in a no-nonsense bun. She dug around her purse for a hair rubber band and came up empty. Damn it. She did her best to contain her long hair and headed for the building.

Bruce wouldn’t notice anyway. Only two-hundred-year-old artifacts ever seemed to catch his eye. She gave up trying months ago. Or at least she thought she had.

Charlotte’s black boots echoed up the stone steps of the historic William Scarbrough House, home of the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. Inside, she passed through the darkened gift shop and headed down to the basement to the administrative offices. Bruce was seated behind his desk, and a tall man in a black suit stood in the opposite corner.

The stranger came forward as she entered, offering his hand. “You must be Dr. Charlotte Sinclair?”

She took his hand. “Yes, and you are?”

“Agent David Bale.” He released her hand and pulled out a business card. “Thank you for coming in so late.”

Bruce stood, staring at her boots and working his way up until he met her eyes. “Was I…interrupting something?”

Keegan’s muscled torso filled her head, and she struggled to bite back a smile. “Yeah, actually, you were.” She did her best to keep a straight face. “I was at a concert.”

Bruce looked puzzled by her answer, then shook his head. “I, uh, I guess I’ll leave you two to work.”

Charlotte sat behind her desk and stashed her purse while she inspected Agent Bale’s plain white card. She lifted her gaze. “This doesn’t say who you work for.”

He nodded. “My agency is top secret.”

She raised a brow. “I’m curious. Why would a top secret agency of the government need a historian?”

He pulled the other chair over and sat across from her, lowering his voice. “I’m told you’re an expert in Savannah’s history with pirates.”

She chuckled. “I am, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

He got up and closed the door. When he took his seat again, his expression was all business. “This is a matter of national security, so before we go any further, I need to be sure you understand that nothing in this conversation can leave this room, or you could face federal prosecution.”

“This has to be a joke, right?” She glanced at her door, but Bruce didn’t pop his head inside. He wasn’t really much of a joker anyway.

Agent Bale shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”

“I’m a historian specializing in privateering on the Atlantic coast from the 1600s to the 1800s. How could that have anything to do with national security?”

He crossed his long legs. “Let me explain.” He paused, straightening in his chair. “I work in a small branch of the government that protects Americans from paranormal threats. We call ourselves Department 13.”

Laughter erupted from her throat. “Okay, let me get this straight. The X-Files needs to know about pirates?”

His lips almost curved into a smile. “There’s another department to handle alien threats.”

Her eyes widened. “No way.” She cleared her throat, shaking her head. “Even if I took this insane leap, why in the world would you need me?”

He steepled his fingers under his chin. “I have to find all the sea tales that involve the Holy Grail.”

“Wow. Okay.” She chuckled, resting her arm on her desk. “The story goes that the Sea Dog plundered the Lord’s cup, but they sank just off the coast here. Plenty of divers and treasure hunters have searched the wreckage. No Holy Grail has ever been found.” She checked the time on her phone and glanced back at Agent Bale. “I’ve written numerous articles on the subject, which is probably why you’re in my office, but that’s all I know. Sorry I can’t be of more help. It’s getting late…”

He leaned forward, his forearms on his legs. In spite of his casual posture, his gaze was intent, locked on hers. “I need you to do some digging and find out if there were any other captains or crews who claimed to have found the Holy Grail before the Sea Dog.”

She settled back in her executive chair, cocking a brow. “You think the Holy Grail is real?”

He nodded without a trace of a smile. “Dr. Sinclair, I know it’s real.”