Beautiful Tempest Page 21

“Unless she left a note about where she was going.”

Damon frowned. He’d have to ask her about that—or not. If she left a note, she probably wouldn’t be able to resist gloating about it.

“And you weren’t expecting another coach full of guards tonight,” Mortimer said, continuing to point out what hadn’t gone according to plan. “That flat you rented to hold the prisoners for a week is going to reek by the end of it, with all the extra bodies in it.”

“Better than killing people who don’t deserve killing. Which is what those damn pirates wanted to do. Hell, they wanted to storm Malory’s house, you know. They would have got us all arrested, trying something that stupid in that part of town. It was hard enough getting them to agree to let me handle the details of Jack’s arrival. I’m still a little surprised it worked.”

“I suppose young ladies love mystery and romance.”

“It was worth a try, though she’s not a typical young lady. And the proof is, I think she came to capture me. She alluded to as much.”

“But how would she have guessed?”

“I don’t know—yet. Now stop being so negative. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. I’m pleased with our progress. My only regret is that we had to involve his daughter again.”

“You had no choice. We already learned Malory is impossible to take down. Trying it twice on our first trip to London just got six of our crew so injured they had to be replaced and forced us to follow Malory and his family to America. At least Malory just thought we were thieves trying to rob him, so he never sent the watch after us. But your target did warn you it would be nigh impossible to capture Malory. Why else would he have told you to take one of Malory’s female relatives instead and given you the ransom note for that scenario?”

His target. The irony was that they were both his targets, but originally there had been three. One was too easy and had been captured in days. The other two were so difficult that Damon had decided to pit them against each other and then deal with the remaining survivor. It had seemed a good plan, but it hadn’t worked the first time around. That failure had landed him in a dungeon where he’d been quite sure he was going to rot.

The scarcity of food had brought despair. He’d eaten nothing the first four days and after that only when someone remembered to feed him. The small dungeon had been newly constructed and so secure, no guard had been needed. Damon had been alone in the single cell, but he had heard Andrew’s screams coming from somewhere aboveground. He’d wondered if that was the fate that awaited him.

Catherine was responsible for his imprisonment in her father’s dungeon. She had blamed her lover, Andrew, for Jacqueline Malory’s escape and Damon for not preventing it. The first time Catherine brought him some food and water, he’d asked her if Andrew was still alive, but she hadn’t answered his questions, so he figured Andrew was dead.

The solitude had given him time to reflect on all the things he could have done differently. He’d been assailed by regrets that he hadn’t succeeded in helping the one person most dear to him. And his ship and crew had been captured. Catherine had taunted him with that, though he’d hoped it was a lie, and it was. But Catherine didn’t admit that until she finally approached him with a new deal three long weeks later.

“Your men are fine,” she’d told him that day. “My father wasn’t interested in punishing them for your failure. He was keeping them on your ship until he decided on a new captain for it. Then I think he forgot about it. He doesn’t go outside often these days and probably failed to notice that it is still anchored in the bay.”

“I’m not surprised, as sickly as he looks.”

“He’s not sick, he’s recovering,” she’d said angrily. “He wasn’t treated well in prison and it hasn’t been that long since he’s been out.”

“Why didn’t my men sail away?”

“And leave you? That big lummox you call a friend probably would have skinned them alive at the suggestion. Treats you like he’s your mother, as protective as he is of you. Why is that?”

“I’m all he has left. He lost his family to a hurricane while he and I were away at school.”

“So you adopted him?” she’d asked sneeringly.

“We were already best friends” was all he’d replied, and he hadn’t meant to say that much.

Giving Catherine any information about himself would be as foolish as succumbing to her seductions, which he was heartily sick of. He’d rebuffed her from the start. She should have stopped trying long ago. But for some reason she didn’t seem to believe that he disliked her.

“He did try to sneak onto the island to rescue you a half dozen times,” she’d gone on to say. “I had to assure him you were chained to my bed enjoying yourself to get him to stop risking his life. But the idiot actually doubted me. So I let him know you would be released soon if he behaved, and that put a stop to his recklessness. You can thank me later.”

“Was that a lie, too?”

“At the time, yes.”

“And now?”

“Now you’re lucky I’m on your side.”

Having her on his side was a curse, not luck, and he’d told her so that day. She’d merely tsked, dangling the key to his freedom on her finger.

“You need to start being nice to me,” she’d said. “You have no idea how difficult it was to talk my father into giving you another chance. I had to convince him we are going to be married.”

“Go away.”

“You’d rather rot in here than marry me?”


She’d left, taking the key with her, but was angry enough to return a moment later to snarl, “I lied. Marriage isn’t a condition. But I did make a lot of promises to gain your release. So we’re going to be successful this time. One way or another, we’re going to deliver James Malory for my father’s vengeance. You don’t know what he’s like when he’s angry, and he’s very angry.”

“Then he did kill your friend?”

“Andrew? Well, not exactly. He thought he did, whipped him so bad it was hard to imagine Andrew had any blood left. But he merely had his body tossed out of the hall. I managed to secrete him onto your ship so your crew could tend him. I have no idea if he survived or not. I didn’t bother to ask. But I suppose we can drop him off at St. Kitts when we stop there to stock up for the voyage—if he’s still alive.”

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