Dane was tied to the main mast. Things were not looking good at all, especially since Conner and his pirates had recaptured the ladies—and were not the nicest fellows either—and shoved them all back into the hold.
“I have to hand it to you, Fortune. You’re resourceful.” Conner stood in front of him again, the boat gently rocking to and fro.
Dane had tried to get the ladies to safety, but they couldn’t make it off the ship undetected. And now Tia was their prisoner as well. There was only so much one man could do. He needed a backup plan. Hell, he needed a fricking army if he was going to succeed in this insane task. He wasn’t Indiana Jones, dammit.
If he had his gun, Conner would already be dead.
“But not resourceful enough,” Conner said.
“You’re right. I’m not.” Dane forced a smile. This man was really starting to get on his nerves.
Not only did Conner not have a shred of conscience about selling the women into slavery, but he’d managed to kill or seriously wound the few male villagers Tia had rallied. What the hell was he going to do now?
Not a goddamn thing. Especially not tied to this mast. His arms were pulled back around the thing and there was no way in holy hell he was getting out of this mess.
Where was a real pirate when you needed one?
He had a sudden craving for a cigarette, something he’d not had in a long while.
The shout rose up from the surrounding jungle, making all the hairs on his arms stand at attention. It sounded like a very similar war cry to the one he had heard earlier when he was being chased by the villagers and then later when the handful of men stormed the decks of the ship. But there was something different about this one. Something that signaled all hell was about to break loose.
Conner spun and dashed for the railing, as did his men.
“I don’t see them,” Conner said.
Dane could hear something whistling through the air and his instinct told him to duck. No such chance of that happening. He scanned the late afternoon sky, looking for the something—anything—that could make that sound. He saw it then—the arrow arching in the air and headed straight for—
It found its way into the neck of one of Conner’s pirates. He fell backward to the deck, blood streaming from the wound.
“Raise the anchor!” Conner shouted. “Get us out of here now.”
But it was too late. A rain of arrows pelted the ship. A few brave men stood at the railing, firing their flintlock pistols into the jungle, only hoping to hit their targets.
“Jackson, take several men and go below. Fire the cannons!”
Confusion and mass hysteria. If that’s what whoever was in the jungle was going for, they got it. Conner ran toward the helm, shouting orders to lower the sails.
Why couldn’t he get an arrow in the head? Dane watched the madman, thinking what a coward he was.
Rising up on tiptoe, he hoped to stretch tall enough to see what was happening. Suddenly the men at the railing scattered as more arrows rained down and one happened to find a place in the main mast just above Dane’s head.
He didn’t need another sign to get out these bindings. He wiggled his arms and tried to loosen the knots. All the while the ropes burned into his wrists, his hands.
Men from the village swarmed the ship in droves. Every man from that village had to be accounted for. Some carried machetes, others had bows slung over one shoulder and carried a quiver of arrows.
The pirates fired at close range but they didn’t stand a chance. They were cut down mercilessly by the village men and Dane had to wonder who or what could inspire them to fight so passionately.
And then he had his answer. Skye stepped onto the main deck of the ship, a machete in one hand and her beautiful face glistening with sweat, her chest heaving from exertion. She spotted him and her face flooded with relief. For a moment he thought she might burst into tears.
“Skye, what the hell—” he began.
She ran toward him, swinging the machete in a high arc and chopping the ropes in half, freeing him. He shrugged out of the bindings, rubbing his raw wrists. Luckily, he hadn’t thrashed enough to tear the skin.
“Careful with that thing, doll.”
She dropped the machete and collapsed against him, her face buried in his chest and one hand fisting his tunic. His hand slipped into her hair as he held her close.
“I’m happy to see you, too,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
He hoped her sudden arrival meant she had succeeded in getting the time bender back from Ridgewood. Otherwise, they’d be in deep—
“What does it look like?” She tilted her head back to look at him, tears pooling in her indigo eyes. “I’m saving your ass!”
For the first time in his entire life, a woman came riding to his rescue. It seemed fitting it would be Skye. He fought the urge to kiss her senseless. He didn’t deserve her, especially after everything he’d put her through.
“Where’s Ridgewood? Did you get the time bender? And more importantly, how did you manage to get them all fired up?” He nodded toward the villagers.
“I’ll explain everything later. Let’s get the women and get out of here before he sets sail.”
The ship lurched, followed by a loud boom from one of the cannons. Conner’s men were firing on the villagers.
“You get the women,” Dane said. “I’m going below to disarm the bastards.”
“Dane.” She caught his arm before he dashed away. He met her gaze, her face tear-stained and dirty. “I’m glad you’re alive.”
He couldn’t stop himself from cupping her face in his hands and claiming her lips hungrily. She willingly opened her mouth, their tongues doing a tango and each one fighting for control of the other. Their scorching collision of mouth against mouth sent heat surging through him, giving him a problem he really didn’t need right now. When he broke from her, her chest heaved, allowing him a nice view of her cleavage in the low-cut shirt.
“I’ll finish with you later.”
He couldn’t wait to get his hands on her naked ass, because next time…she was going to be naked. And under him.
As he left her there, he heard her shout, “That better be a promise, Dane Fortune!”
It did nothing for the state of affairs in his pants. He’d have to figure out her change of heart later; right now, he had other pressing matters. Another boom sounded as the cannon fired again. As he headed for the hold, she snatched up a gun from one of the dead men.
Great, Dane thought. Maybe I really am a goddamn pirate.
“Go! Help!” Skye shouted.
He saw her waving men in his direction. She was sending in more troops with him. He chuckled. Seeing her in a take-charge moment made him want her all the more.