Cornish smuggler Devlin 'Devil' Varcoe braves winter weather and revenue men to fetch the contraband on which Porthinnis depends for survival. Drawn to Jenefer Trevanion, whose father finances the smuggling operation, Devlin is seduced by beautiful wild-child Tamara Gillis. When fire destroys her home, Jenefer is forced to work in the pilchard cellars. Meanwhile, craving Tamara for himself, Thomas Varcoe plots murder to rid himself of the brother he hates. Rejected by Devlin, a pregnant Tamara is pressured to marry Thomas. Finally recognising the love he never felt he deserved, Devlin is on his way home after successfully undertaking a secret mission when a once-in-a-lifetime storm faces him with a terrible choice.
‘For God’s sake, it’s not worth the risk!’
Devlin Varcoe glanced at his brother across the long slender form of the galley in its wooden cradle. He saw narrow sloping shoulders that the greatcoat’s four shoulder capes could not disguise, and guessed that the beaver hat’s narrow brim was the height of fashion. Irony twisted his mouth.
‘Concerned for my safety?’ Devlin hauled a filthy oilskin over his salt-stained blue jacket and thrust the ends of a knotted red neckerchief into the throat of his woollen shirt.
Thomas’s gaze flicked towards a hulking figure waiting beside the wide doorway of the vaulted cellar, water dripping off his oilskin to pool around his booted feet. ‘Wait outside,’ he ordered.
‘Round up the others, Jared,’ Devlin interrupted. ‘Fast as you can. I don’t want that crowd from Brague getting in first.’
With a nod the big man disappeared into the driving rain.
‘I don’t give a damn about your safety,’ Thomas snapped. ‘But you have a run to make tomorrow night –’
‘The schooner’s here now. Once I get a line aboard, she’s mine.’
‘Father would never have permitted –’
‘Better if it had been you.’
Hardened to his brother’s hatred, Devlin ignored him and began lifting long oars from wooden pegs, laying them in the galley.
‘I’ve always thought it strange,’ Thomas said, ‘that no one else was killed.’
Devlin laid another oar in the galley. ‘Nothing strange about it. None of my crew had time to stand still. The sea was rough and we were carrying every stitch of canvas. I warned Father that the privateer would probably have a sniper in the foretop. But he refused to go below.’
Thomas bristled. ‘Naturally. Father was no coward.’
‘He was stubborn as a jackass.’
‘You’re glad he’s dead.’
‘I’m not sorry.’
‘I wouldn’t put it past you to have killed him yourself.’
Devlin straightened up. After a moment one corner of his mouth quirked in a half-smile that left his eyes cold. ‘You’ll never know, will you, Thomas?’ He saw his brother swallow.
‘No wonder they call you Devil.’
Devlin hefted another oar into the galley. ‘Ah, but without me you’d be right in the shit. You won’t take the money across to Uncle Hedley, and who else can you trust?’
‘I’m needed here.’ Thomas said quickly, his voice climbing. ‘The business doesn’t run itself.’
Devlin eyed him briefly. ‘You get seasick.’
‘Bastard,’ Thomas hissed. His chin jutted as he gathered his shredded dignity. ‘I’m calling on Colonel Trevanion tomorrow. It’s to be hoped –’
‘That he has the money for next month’s cargo.’
‘Bled him dry, have you?’
‘It’s a cut-throat business. You have no idea how complex …’
Devlin bared his teeth. ‘Seems plain enough to me. Uncle Hedley buys the goods in Roscoff to your order. Colonel Trevanion provides the finance. I pay our uncle, collect the cargo, land and store it until it’s distributed. I don’t have your book learning, Thomas. But I’m no fool. You’d do well to remember that.’
Thomas couldn’t hide his loathing. ‘We didn’t need you. Father could have hired another boat.’
Devlin eyed his brother in the wintry grey light that spilled through the open doorway. The rain had stopped but the wind howled and waves thundered against the sea wall, splintering into great plumes and fountains of spray.
‘He’d never have done that. Whatever he felt about me he’d never go outside the family. Besides, I’m the best skipper on this coast.’ He reached for his sou’wester.
‘You!’ Thomas’s face contorted. ‘If it hadn’t been for you she’d still be alive. Everything was wonderful with just the three of us. Then you came. No wonder he hated you. It wasn’t just his life you wrecked. I was only seven –’
‘Jesus Christ!’ Devlin exploded. ‘Listen to yourself. Your life was wrecked? You went to a decent school. He wouldn’t pay for me. While you were studying accountancy and attending assemblies up in Truro I was out in the North Sea fishing for herring on Arf Sweet’s boat. Father needed me in the business, but he made you a partner. When he put money into the lugger so I could make the runs faster, he charged me interest until I’d paid him back.’ His laugh was brief and harsh. ‘And you want sympathy?’
Thomas smirked. Having provoked a reaction he was relishing the illusion of power.
The anger that balled Devlin’s fists was directed at himself. He should know better. He let it go and uncurled his fingers. ‘Go home, Thomas. You’re in my way.’
‘You’re mad to go out in this weather.’
Devlin’s wolfish grin held amusement and brief satisfaction. ‘Worried, brother? You should be. Now father’s gone you’re on your own. Just remember, you need me more than I need you.’