Devil's Embrace
was facing. A towering wave slammed against the bow, and the yacht yawed, jerking the wheel to starboard. She felt sharp pain in her arms as she tried to pull the massive wheel back to port.
    The earl knew he had placed her in unfair disadvantage, but fought the impulse to help her. He rested his hands lightly on her shoulders and felt her muscles tighten as she struggled to control the wheel.
    “I believe you said we were too high in the wind?” he said coolly, as the yacht glided smoothly, for the moment, in the trough of a wave.
    “Aye,” she said. She clutched at the handles and threw her weight to port, pulling with all her strength. She overshot and knew an instant of panic as the yacht heeled sharply. Her feet slipped out from under her, but she did not release the wheel. She felt the earl’s hands about her waist, hauling her upright, but he made no move to pull her out of the way. With her arms stretched wide to encircle the wheel, she did not have the strength to steady it. She chewed furiously on her lower lip, smiled suddenly into the battering wind, and placed both hands on one side of the wheel. Slowly, panting with effort, she bent her knees to gain the needed leverage, and pulled upward. She gave a shout as the yacht righted.
    “Bravo, Cassandra. An ingenious solution. With practice and of course my instruction, you’ll make a fine helmsman.”
    “I have no need and no desire for any instruction from you, my lord.”
    He merely smiled at her. “You think not, Cassandra? Well, we shall just have to see.”
    Although she did not like his tone, she held her peace and concentrated her attention on the demands of the yacht. When he took the wheel from her after some fifteen minutes, she was not loath to give it up, for her arms were trembling with fatigue. The ease with which he brought the yacht to obey his slightest command did nothing to improve her temper.
    “Look to starboard, Cassandra.”
    Cassie followed the earl’s direction and saw a blurred rainbow across the horizon, illuminated like a brilliant stained window by a sliver of late afternoon sun that sliced through the dark clouds. She breathed in the beauty of it, but said nothing. There was nothing she would share with this man.
    “Angelo is back to relieve us. You are soaked through, Cassandra. It’s time for a hot bath.”
    She shook her head vigorously, wet strands of hair slapping her cheek. He released the wheel to Angelo and turned to her. His hands closed about her shoulders and she shivered, not from cold, but from the threat of him.
    His voice grew hard. “Do not forget, Cassandra, that I am the captain. You will do as I tell you, just as everyone else does on this yacht.”
    “And just what will you do if I do not obey your orders, captain? Toss me to the fishes? Keep me prisoner in that wretched cabin all of the time?”
    The earl gazed down at her upturned face, flushed and rain-streaked, framed by the woolen cap pulled nearly to her eyebrows. He felt her fear of him and imagined that if he allowed it she would remain above deck until she collapsed from cold and fatigue.
    A smile touched his lips. “I could beat you, I suppose. Your arms are likely so tired, though, that you would scarce give me a good fight. Do not make me carry you below-deck, Cassandra, in front of my men.”
    Cassie eyed the small Angelo and hoped that he did not understand English. She felt humiliated and helpless, without choices.
    The earl arched a black eyebrow at her and said to the helmsman, “The helm is yours, Angelo. The weather is clearing and your evening should not be too unpleasant.
    “Come, Cassandra.”
    The short command brooked no refusal. Cassie bit her lower lip and reluctantly placed her arm into his.
    As they left the quarterdeck, she was thinking of Angelo and whether she would be able to enlist his support. It seemed unlikely. There was another man, though, the earl’s first mate. Perhaps he would not be so loyal to the earl as

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