Lucy’s been scouring through her ancestor’s journal in the hope of finding the long lost pirate treasure of Mermaid Isle. But when a sexy stranger walks into her bookstore looking like the very pirates she’s been reading about, she can’t ignore their immediate attraction and soon finds herself throwing caution to the wind and falling for Niall.
Niall’s one goal is to find the treasure his ancestors buried, but he only has one half of the puzzle and he’s convinced that Lucy Nordson holds the other half. If he had to charm someone, then he could do a hell of a lot worse than the gorgeous and talented redhead, but he soon finds himself torn when his hunt for the treasure and the lies he’s told to find it, get in the way of what his heart truly wants.
With the stakes high and their deceptions getting in the way, can they find the treasure and true love or will they risk it all in the end?
*This is the second book in the Mermaid Isle Romance Series, though it can stand alone and is a complete novel that does not end on a cliff hanger. Due to the adult content, this is NOT for readers under 18 years of age and contains a dominant alpha male that may not be to everyone's tastes.*
For Love or Treasure
A Mermaid Isle Romance
By Cali MacKay (Sample)
Lucy Nordson seldom worked with the original leather-bound diary she’d inherited, knowing the ancient gold gilt pages were too fragile to handle, and fully aware that the secrets held there might someday uncover the find of a lifetime. Chances were slim that she’d ever discover the long-lost pirate treasure of Mermaid Isle, and yet she had to believe she’d one day piece together enough of the clues to find the stash her pirate ancestor had buried hundreds of years earlier.
Hundreds of years…and yet the Delphine’s treasure still remained elusive. A few pieces would occasionally turn up—the odd coin usually—but nothing more substantial. Just enough to keep the legend going.
Setting aside her notebook and working copy of her ancestor’s diary, she slid away from her desk behind the old and battered wood counter of her shop and went to get herself a cup of coffee. Her giant pup spared her a glance, but was too lazy to bother following her without the guarantee of food. Come summer, Mermaid Isle would be hopping with tourists, but it was only April and this was Maine. The weather was still too cold and unpredictable to get too many visitors, and so it was just her and Watson for now.
The Book Nook Café stayed open year round—for the most part. It gave the locals a place to hang out, pick up a new read, and get their caffeine buzz going, though Lucy knew
better than to expect many customers past her morning regulars. And truth be told, that was fine by her. The summer months were crazy and she liked her down time, since it afforded her the opportunity to take care of her other interests—like the Delphine’s treasure.
Lucy shuffled off in her shearling boots, mentally contemplating which coffee concoction she’d have. That was the other good thing about the slower winter months—she got to experiment with the selection of coffee and baked goods she offered in the café portion of her book store.
After mentally going through the recipes she’d been working on for her new coffee flavorings, she decided on a macchiato laced with a mixture of sea salt caramel and then a second syrup of burnt sugar and Irish whiskey that she still wasn’t sure would make it into her lineup.
The smell of fresh coffee filled the air as her espresso machine hissed and spit, making it sound like it was possessed by some demon. She topped her coffee with a generous amount of hot frothy milk, and then drizzled the luscious brew with the syrups she’d chosen.
Mug in hand, she wandered back to her notes, circumventing the hundred and thirty pounds of black lab and Dane mix, and got back to work on her treasure hunt. If nothing else, it gave her something else to do during the slow winter months.
She’d managed to track down mention of the Delphine’s treasure prior to her ancestor getting his hands on it, but it had been an elusive prize even back then. Her ancestor, Bjorn Eirikson, had been a notorious pirate in his time, but his fierce rival Ronan Campbell also had his eye on the treasure. That had been sometime in the seventeen hundreds, from what she could tell.
She took a long sip of her coffee and checked the time. In another half an hour, her best friend, Riley, would be stopping by with an armful of wedding magazines to discuss her
upcoming nuptials to Thorsen. Lucy couldn’t be happier for her, though it did leave her wondering if she’d ever find that special someone. She hadn’t had the best of luck with men, usually falling for guys who seemed sweet at first, and then turned out to be jerks. It’s not that she was in any rush, but she was sliding towards thirty and it’d be nice to have someone in her life who didn’t drool and shed.
"Not that I’d be replacing you." She reached down and gave his big cow head a scratch, the dog far too used to her ramblings by now. Well, who else was she going to talk to?
The bell on her door rang out with a delicate tinkle, pulling her from her thoughts and announcing the arrival of a customer. She tucked her notebook and journal aside before looking up, half thinking Riley had shown up early.
But that sure as hell wasn’t Riley, and she nearly pinched herself to make sure that she hadn’t just conjured up the man—the pirate—gracing her doorway. It was as if he’d jumped off the pages of her journal.
He had thick, dark hair just long enough to make her think he’d once worn it long, broad muscular shoulders, eyes the color of sapphires, scruffy stubble on a strong jawline, and a couple of small silver hoops through each ear. Add to that a broken-in leather jacket the color of bittersweet chocolate, worn jeans, and some rugged biker boots, and the image of a modern-day pirate was complete.
She got to her feet and found they were a bit wobblier than she’d last remembered them, making her debate whether or not she should attempt to walk out from behind the counter. He was definitely not a local and he sure as hell hadn’t been on the island long. Because Lucy knew
all the locals, and if he’d been in town more than twenty-four hours, he’d have had the gossip mill buzzing. A man like the one standing before her did not go unnoticed.
And then he smiled at her. Not just any smile, but the kind that unleashed a gaggle of butterflies in her stomach and forced her to grab at the counter to keep from melting into a puddle of want and need.
Because, damn…there was no way any hot-blooded woman could not want him.
How she managed to find her voice, she hadn't a clue. And it even sounded somewhat normal, albeit breathy. "Welcome to the Book Nook. Let me know if I can help in any way."
In. Any. Way.
And then his smile kicked up another notch and his eyes locked on hers, sparkling like the summer sun hitting the ocean waves. "I appreciate the offer, lass."
Lass? Who said lass anymore? And oh…was that an accent of some sort? Damn if the man wasn’t going to have her swooning like some damsel. And she was so not the damsel type—normally. But hey, if he was the one catching her, then she was happy to swoon away.
"I don’t suppose you’d have any books on the history of the island?" The accent wasn’t anything full-blown, just enough to have you wondering if you’d actually heard it. Almost as if he’d grown up on this side of the pond, but his parents were originally from some distant land.
"Sure." She took a tentative step to make sure her legs would support her and then wandered over to his side of the counter, ignoring the oh please look her mutt was giving her. "Are you looking for more current books that have been written on the island or older, out-of-print books?"
"I suppose a bit of both." He followed behind her as she moved through the bookstore, his long legs allowing him to easily keep up with her, making him appear to casually amble as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
The building had once been an old mercantile and many of the details, like the old pine plank flooring with its hand-forged nails, the rough-hewn wood beams and best of all, the large stone fireplace, remained intact. It was also large enough to comfortably house her bookstore and the café.
"Over here is the section with the more recently published books on the island. You’ll see that they’re then organized further by subject. The older, out-of-print books are on the shelves in the café area but they’re mixed in with newer second-hand stock." She walked around the corner, circumventing the plush armchairs and sofas to find the bookcase she wanted. "Here’s the section you’re looking for, though the selection is somewhat limited."
"I appreciate the help." He turned to face her, and suddenly it seemed like the distance between them had evaporated and he was standing awfully close. Close enough for her to see that his blue eyes held flecks of gold in them. His smile kicked up on one side, making her think he knew exactly the sort of effect he was having on her. And then he ran a gentle thumb over the corner of her lips as his fingers nearly cupped her cheek. "You have a little something here."
Her tongue darted out to lick where his touch had just been, and his smile went sultry. "Caramel. And sea salt. Whiskey too." She was rambling. His touch had fried her brain.
And then he brought his thumb to his lips and half bit, half licked off what he’d wiped from her lips. "So it is. Pretty damn tasty."
By the gods, she nearly had a coronary then and there. Her heart was racing and her thundering pulse was deafening in her head, though it was nothing compared to the echo she felt in the girly bits between her legs.
Heat had her cheeks roasting, and she knew that her cursedly pale skin must be redder than a baboon’s ass in winter. She took a step back and tried to focus on something other than how long it had been since she’d last had a man’s hands on her. "I’ll…um…be at my desk. Holler if you need anything."
"Anything…?" His gaze danced over her face and then her body, before settling back on her eyes. And the way he said that word, with all its implied meaning and innuendo…Crap. He could be reciting the frigging dictionary and it would have her getting hot and bothered. "I don’t think I caught your name. I’m Niall."
He put out his hand and she took it, trying to ignore the zing of electricity that seemed to come from his mere touch. And his hands…bloody hell, his hands were big and just a little rough, and they looked capable—capable of oh so much.
"Lucy." Sole proprietor of the Book Nook Café and having very, very indecent thoughts about her new customer. "Will you be staying on Mermaid Isle for any length of time or are you just passing through? I could"—drag you off to my bed—"try to locate any books you need if we don’t have them in stock."
"I really like what I’ve seen of the island so far, so I might stay for a wee bit." The way he said it and the way he looked at her with that intense, sultry gaze made her think that he might not be talking about the island alone. "Might look into renting a place for a month. Maybe two. I noticed there’s a carriage house in the rear of the shop. Don’t suppose that’d be available? I like how central it is to town."
"Sorry. That’s actually my place. Makes it an easy commute in the winter, especially when I have to get up early to bake. But I could ask around. There are plenty of homes that are used only as summer residences." Lucy tried not to think of the trouble she could get into if this man was wandering about the island for the next few months. And just like that, she felt another flush of heat bloom across her cheeks.
"I’d appreciate the help. I don’t know anyone on the island—except for you, now."
The door chimed once more, and she decided she best make her escape before she tackled the poor man onto the sofa, or blushed any worse than she already had. "Gotta get that."
"I know where to find you if I need help with anything." He stuck his hands in the pockets of his worn, and yet oh so perfectly fitting jeans, and gave her a parting smile that nearly had her walking into a bookcase.
She made a quick recovery, hoping he didn’t notice and yet sure he had, before turning the corner to find Riley in the front of the store. Knowing her hunky pirate couldn’t see her from where she’d left him, she grabbed Riley’s arm, nearly dislodging the stack of magazines Riley was holding against her chest, and dragged her friend to the back room of the store.
"Okay…what was that about, crazy woman?" Riley laughed and put the magazines on a nearby table, before bending down to pet Watson. Since Riley was one of his favorite humans, he’d actually gotten up off the floor and was now wagging his tail hard enough to take out small buildings in its path.
"Words fail me." Lucy nearly picked up a magazine to start fanning herself. "Looks like we might have a new visitor to the island and he is…oh so very nice."
"Ah! Nice, huh?" Riley let out a laugh and poked her head out past the doorway. "Is he still here? I might just have to check out this nice guy for myself."
"He’s in the café." And then it occurred to her that Riley might be able to cut Niall a deal on one of her cottages up at the Siren Song Inn. "Actually, he’s looking for a place to stay for a month or two. Given that it’s the off-season, I don’t suppose you have any deals going?"
"Sure. Most of the rooms and cottages stay empty this time of year anyway, so I’d be happy to." Riley then bumped her shoulder with hers and gave her a teasing smile. "Not to mention, it might do you some good to have a handsome distraction around before things get crazy for the summer."
"I don’t know what you’re talking about, cupcake, but it’s clear your mind’s in the gutter on account of all that sex you’ve been having with that big ole Viking of yours." Not that Riley was fooling anyone. They’d been the best of friends for close to a decade, and they knew each other like they were twins. "That said, I may as well introduce you while he’s still here."
"To have you, of all people, reacting like this?" Riley’s eyebrows perked up with amusement. "I cannot wait to meet him."
"Come on then." Lucy just shook her head with a smile and led the way. They found him in the far corner of the café, squatting in front of one of the bookshelves, his back to them.
Niall must have heard them coming, because he turned in their direction and stood, a smile dancing on his lips. Riley threw her a sideways glance, her eyes discreetly wide with excitement—and that could only mean Riley would be grilling her later.
"Niall, this is my friend, Riley. She might be able to help you with those room accommodations." Lucy took a step back, so they could conduct their business. "I’ll leave you guys to it."
Grabbing the stack of bridal magazines, Lucy got settled in at her desk and polished off the rest of her coffee before it went completely cold. Each of the magazines bristled with colored
sticky notes, no doubt color-coded. She flipped through the pages, making note of the gowns Riley seemed to like. Nothing over the top, especially since she’d be getting married outdoors by the ocean cliffs near the inn. Mostly elegant A-lines or flowing sheaths with just enough detail to make them special. Riley would be gorgeous—not that she needed a wedding gown for that.
Best of all, the bridesmaid dresses were no less elegant. She might not have many opportunities to wear the dress again, but at least she’d look great on the big day.
She could hear them coming, Niall’s voice deep and rich, whereas Riley’s was light and carrying a tone of humor. Lucy could tell that her friend hadn’t been fully immune to the man’s charms. Not that she could blame her. The man oozed the sort of charm and charisma that people were drawn to despite themselves.
Riley tapped the counter. "I’m going to run. If you have a chance to go through those magazines, just mark the sticky notes of the dresses you like." She then turned back to Niall. "I’ll let the front desk at the Siren know the details of our arrangement. It’s been a pleasure."
With Riley gone, the butterflies took up residence in her stomach again. "Looks like you found a few books."
"Also found a place to stay, and for that I need to thank you." Niall put his books on the counter and then leaned against it, closing the distance between them, when Watson finally decided to get up and check out the competition. "Now there’s a big fella. What’s his name?" Niall let Watson have a sniff before giving him a good scratch behind the ears.
"It’s Watson—the loyal companion. Great dog, though he’d probably roll over to have his belly rubbed at the first sight of a burglar." Unless she was in danger. Then he’d tear them limb from limb. Watson had been a rescue, and Lucy truly believed he appreciated getting a second chance.
Niall continued to lavish attention on the hairy beast until the dog plopped himself down at the man’s feet, and Niall turned back to her with those bright blue eyes. "Don’t suppose I can take you out to dinner? I owe you big time for helping me get my new digs."
And pass up going out with her modern-day pirate? Not a chance. "A girl’s gotta eat. Should we say seven?"
He tugged on one of her red curls and watched it spring back. "Sounds perfect."
Niall pulled his bags out of his old Rover and quickly unpacked, before taking a good look at his new—albeit temporary—home. It was a hell of a lot nicer than most of the places he usually stayed in, and there’d be no chance he could have afforded the place if it wasn’t off-season. Maybe for a week or two, but certainly not for a couple of months.
There was still a bitter chill in the April air, but Niall now had a nice stone fireplace at his disposal and he had every intention of putting it to good use. He built himself a small enough fire that it’d be out in time for him to go to dinner with Lucy, and then grabbed himself a beer and his pack. Settling in on the long sofa in front of the fire, he pulled out his materials and got to work, doing his best to tamp down his excitement.
He’d been looking for the Delphine his entire life, just like his father and grandfather before him. And though he knew he’d never been closer to it than he was now, he also knew how elusive hidden treasures could be. His ancestor, Ronan Campbell, was said to have been a clever man and he no doubt used it to his advantage when it came time to stash his treasure and keep it safe.
He was betting that Ronan and his feisty lass, Molly, had ended up right here on Mermaid Isle. He damn well hoped so, at any rate. With them had been Bjorn Eirikson, another notorious pirate and Ronan’s fierce rival, not only for the spoils and open seas, but for Molly as well.
And yet they’d set aside their animosity for the Delphine’s treasure and for Molly, whom they both were in love with.
He knew that wherever there was an island, there were also rumors of pirate treasure, but the latest clues he’d uncovered pointed to Mermaid Isle—and one Lucy Nordson, descendant of Bjorn and already living on the island in question.
It had taken him awhile to decipher Ronan’s logbook, the leather-bound pages filled with cryptic messages. Add to it the additional headache of it being written in eighteenth-century Gaelic, and it was no wonder that the treasure remained hidden. But there was more. The location was marked on an encrypted map, but that was only one piece to the puzzle. The other piece was a pendant Ronan had specially made. A pendant with a mermaid engraved on the back of it. It could be just a decorative touch, or it could be pointing to Mermaid Isle.
When the two pirates parted ways, Ronan had the pendant and the girl, and Bjorn had the map. Now all he needed to do was figure out if Lucy had the map in her possession.
Because the pendant? That was already dangling from around his neck.
Cali MacKay lives in New England with her husband, two girls and their crazy mutt. When not tapping away on her laptop and getting her characters into trouble, she can be found designing book covers for other authors, wrangling her girls, and splicing DNA.
She's also a decent potter, adventurous cook, and horrible gardener.
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