You're the Rogue That I WantBy: Samantha Holt
Rogues of Redmere Book 1
Red spat out another mouthful of salty water. The sea spray struck him across the face, bitter and unpleasant. Waves rolled in, sloshing over the edge of his boots and filling them. He grimaced. The seas were particularly rough tonight. They’d be lucky to haul in all the goods before sunrise. His muscles burned as he dragged what had to be the tenth keg of the night to shore.
Cold wind slapped his face and ruffled his shirt. He cursed the unpredictable English weather through his teeth. Though, truth be told, they’d dealt with worse. However, considering the mood he was in tonight, he did not much fancy dealing with anything other than a shot of whiskey. Some days he wondered what possessed him to drag his arse out in the middle of the night and fight the weather—and sometimes the local excise men—all in the name of a profit.
Beside him, two other men worked hard to fight the waves and ensure their cargo was not lost. Frosty ribbons of moonlight glinted off the white tips of the waves farther out. The rowboats that had been used to bring in the goods were long since stowed away and the ship would be headed to the docks.
As another strong wave nearly toppled him, he muttered what could perhaps have been conceived as sarcastic thanks. At least they had avoided the worst of it when rowing in, but could that damned wind have not waited until after they’d brought in their haul?
Red glanced over at Knight, who worked a darned sight faster than he or Nate. Of course, the muscle-bound man had quite the advantage over them and seemed to cut through the waves like a frigate.
“Nearly done,” Knight declared over the wind, hefting a trunk onto the cart.
Red pushed his sodden hair from his face with one hand and dragged the cask out of the sea by the fishing net. He paused to squint into the sea. Once upon a time they had been able to unload their cargo in broad daylight while the weather was calm, but the customs men had increased their patrols of late. Red and his crew had been forced to become sneakier.
Nate brought in what looked to be the last keg and paused to take a breath. “At least it isn’t raining,” he said with a grin.
“That’s all of them?” Red asked.
They all paused to study the surf as it churned and bubbled. Their haul had been left in fishermen’s nets just past where the waves broke. The nets could be spotted easily enough in the light but the knotted floats were not so easy to spy in the inky ocean at night. However, their new method of bringing smuggled goods in from France was worth it. It gave them time to bring in the cargo—and time, they had discovered, could be vitally important when it came to the customs men.
“Let’s get this stowed away before we get any wetter. I have a hankering for a whiskey.”
Nate chuckled. “When do you not?”
Red grunted at this. “Don’t be jealous of my finer tastes. You’ll enjoy the nicer things in life one day—once your balls have dropped.”
Nate, only two years his junior and his brother, laughed again. Knight clapped him hard on the shoulder, and Red saw Nate wince. Sometimes the giant of a man seemed to forget he was twice the size of them all.
“We had better get moving. Louisa said the excise men had already been in tonight.” Knight nodded to the cart.
Red nodded. “Hopefully that means they have been and gone but—”
“They’re sneaky bastards,” finished Nate.
“Yes,” he agreed. He let a grin break across his face. “But we are sneakier.”
They all chuckled. After he and Nate clambered onto the cart, he took the reins and urged the horses forward. With the help of a push from the behemoth that was Knight, they eased the vehicle off the stony shore and onto the grass. Knight walked behind them until they hit the dirt tracks and then he climbed onto the cart. He understood well enough that they could do without his extra weight until they were on the roads.
Red directed the wagon along the narrow track until the hedgerows grew close. The road itself could hardly be considered a road—more like a dirt track—and was impassable when it rained. On days like those they were forced to bring in the haul on foot, stowing it in a cave not far from their landing spot until the path dried out.