Ghost Memories - By Heather Graham Page 0,1

it was a place where a young man, once a Brit, once a privateer, once a rover of the world, might find a future. He would still find his fortune at sea, but as a merchant. He would be able to build himself a fine house soon enough and lead the life of a gentleman.

He had but one dream. And a fine house would be part of that dream.

They returned to port where Jim Torn and his men saw to the three half-dead prisoners they had taken from the sea. One, Scurvy Pete, had a horror of drowning; he would take the noose. Two others had simply not managed to die.

Mariah’s Bar, a popular place for seamen, stood near the deep water docks, and Bartholomew headed in for a pint. He was especially weary though, and after the pint, he left, intending to seek a long night’s rest in his rental rooms. But, as he left the bar, he saw her.

His dream.

He saw that she had come to the docks to collect a purchase, and it appeared that the purchase was heavy or awkward as she seemed to have some trouble gathering the long package.

“Mistress, I implore you, do allow me to help you with that!” Bartholomew said, hurrying to her where she stood by the merchant’s carts.

Victoria Wyeth looked up at him with blue eyes—no, violet eyes, like huge pools of wonder. They were set in a face of absolute and stunning perfection, perfectly sculpted cheekbones, a fine chin, small nose and a high forehead. Her hair was like the proverbial raven’s wing, sleek and coifed. A large straw hat shadowed her features to save her porcelain skin from the merciless heat of the sun; her day gown was sewn from the most delicately fashioned cotton, cool despite its cumbersome skirts and form-hugging bodice.

In the midst of the rough town that was Key West, she was a breath of freshness, cool air and society, all that was right and structured and noble in the world. When she moved, it was with grace, and when she spoke it was a fluid melody.

They had met briefly upon many an occasion, though he had not been invited into her home—nor was such an event likely to come about.

Not until he had proven himself a good and responsible citizen, worthy of such a prize. Not until he had managed a real income at trade, and had built a fine house. Not until he had earned the respect of her father, who wanted far more for her than an ex-privateer, a man without family—or prospects of any great inheritance.

“Captain Miller!” she said. And the melody of her voice touched him as the seductive hand of many another had never done. In his time he had known many a tavern wench, and many a whore. He’d slept with fine ladies as well—divorced or widowed and, because the poor woman had been so mistreated by her husband that it had seemed a mercy to show her tender love, one who was married. He had felt desire, and he had known amusement and laughter, but in his life he had not known this feeling, this deep ache inside, to have and to hold and protect against all odds.

She smiled, and he, who had survived many a sea battle, fought the Spanish and the British on land and sea, felt as if all strength deserted him, as if knees became the very substance of salt water.

He helped her with the parcel she had acquired from the ship that had just docked, the Langley, out of Norfolk, Virginia. The well-wrapped package read “Timmons of London,” and he knew that it must contain some of the finest crafted fabric to be had. She never appeared to be overly interested in clothing or decoration; she just had the ability to make simple elegant. Despite her high role in the social strata of a country where “every man was born equal,” she was kind and gentle, never affected. He had seen her handing out coins to the little children of Caribbean fishermen, and tossing a ball to them in play.

“My deepest thanks,” she said, flushing.

He gathered the parcel. Her fine house was down on Duval Street—named after the territorial governor—almost a mile from his own lodgings, closer to the water. He found that he was suddenly wide awake, that he could walk on air.

“Sir, I saw men arrested,” she said. “Were you responsible?”

“Pie-Eyed Wallace’s ship was racing south, and we came upon