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THE PIRATE
by Katherine Garbera

Genre: General Romantic Suspense, Romantic Suspense

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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 aprominent 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. “Somalia — 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 black-and-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.

Really.

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.”