The Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England October, 1748
Kitty Ransom awoke as a heavy hand clamped against her mouth. She started to yelp, but her startled breath was cut short against the large palm, and her eyes flew wide in the darkness. At first, still dazed with sleep, she thought it might be Michael Urry and other young men from the nearby village of Totland; they had snuck out to the bluffs, to her father's estate, Rosneath to have a spot of fun with her, a wicked prank of some sort. After a moment, however, it occurred to her that the hand against her face was rough and calloused, as if from a lifetime of harsh labor-something scrawny, privileged Michael Urry and his friends had never known.
That realization left her seized with sudden fear, a fright that only mounted as the man seized her above the crook of...