Beautiful Tempest Page 30

Damon leaned against the doorframe, a pistol in his hand, the two guards behind him, also armed. He should have paid Jack’s hirelings a visit yesterday before he’d been wounded. He wasn’t exactly going to strike fear into either of them today with a bandage wrapped around his torso, not that he cared to go that route.

The younger of the two, the bigger one, was quite injured, his face bruised and swollen. Damon imagined the rest of him hadn’t fared much better. It was too bad it had taken so long to knock him out. Damon should probably send the pirate’s doctor in to check on both of them, if Mortimer hadn’t already seen to that, not that the pirate sawbones was anything close to a real doctor. Actually, the man might make matters worse. Not for the first time, Damon wished that Dr. Caruthers, whom he had obtained for Andrew, hadn’t abandoned them as soon as they’d reached London.

The larger man who had chaperoned Jacqueline was sitting on the edge of the narrow bed, half bent over, an arm protectively about his middle, and he didn’t change his position when the door opened. His friend had pulled a chair over to the bedside next to him. This fellow, who looked older and was rather portly, was a little too well dressed for destitute gentry, but Damon supposed even poor ones would want to keep up appearances.

Both men were staring at Damon, not wary, not bothering to hide their antipathy for him. Damon supposed he wouldn’t either if the situation were reversed. But then the younger man suddenly pushed off the bed and lunged at Damon.

“Where’s Jack? If you’ve hurt her—!”

Damon cocked his pistol, a loud sound between them that stopped the young man’s hand from reaching for his throat. “You’re injured enough,” Damon warned the man coldly. “Do you really want to make it worse?”

“Answer me?! You’ll get off one shot but I’ll still snap your neck before your guards get off theirs.”

“You can try, but there’s no reason for anyone here to die. Sit back down and you’ll have your answer. I’ve already gotten mine. She tried to convince me you’re not her brother, but you have the same temper. You’re obviously a Malory.”

“I’m not,” the younger man denied sharply, but he backed up and sat down again carefully. “How is she?”

“Fine, and the least of your worries.”

Damon’s assurance only relaxed the man a little. His glare and antipathy remained potent. His risking his life merely to find out how Jack was faring convinced Damon that both Malorys were lying to him. This one might not be her brother since there was no remarkable family resemblance, but he did strongly resemble Anthony Malory, so he was sure they were somehow related. But for the moment Damon could play along with their denials to humor his illustrious prisoner.

“You won the toss for the bed?” he said to the younger one, who was sitting on it.

“We’ll be taking turns.”

“I confess I didn’t plan on capturing you, so there are no spare cots aboard, but there might be extra hammocks. I’ll have one brought round if there are, and some books to help you pass the time.”

“We don’t want any favors from you,” the younger man snarled back at him.

“A little too late for that, when I asked my first mate to give up his cabin for you. He wasn’t at all pleased about it, so other accommodations can be arranged if you’d prefer, though I doubt you’ll like sleeping with the livestock, which would of course require some chains, too, since we can’t have you doing damage down there. You might have noticed you aren’t restrained in here?”

“Appreciate it,” the other man said. “ ’Deed I do. But I insist you return us to London.”

“My friend speaks for himself. I’m staying right here as long as Jack is here.”

“You both are, but restrained or unrestrained is the question. Did you miss that it was a question?”

“If you think I’m asking for bloody chains, I’m not.”

“Excellent,” Damon replied. “I agree that wouldn’t be a pleasant way to spend the next month. All that is required to keep these accommodations is that you don’t try to vacate them. If you can restrain yourselves, then you won’t be restrained—no pun intended. Now then, it’s time for you to tell me who you are.”

“Who did Jack say I am?”

Damon laughed at the cautious reply. The man was making it hard for Damon to humor him with answers like that. But he didn’t need confirmation when neither of these two would come to further harm on his ship.

“I’d still like an actual name, but Jeremy will do if you’re hesitant to give one. She says you look like her older brother. Do you?”

“From a distance, I suppose I do. That name is fine, if you have to call me anything.”

“And you?” Damon asked the other.

“Lord Percival—”

“Percy talks too much,” Jeremy interrupted in a warning tone.

“So a couple of destitute lords, after all?”

“Eh?” Percival said quite indignantly.

“We’re not all rich like the Malorys,” Jeremy said quickly.

Before Damon could reply, the man elbowing his way past the guards poked his head in the cabin, then complained bitterly, “That’s the toff who nearly broke me jaw. Why’s ’e being treated so royally when ’e ought to be in chains down in the ’old, eh?”

Damon walked the intruder backward by not giving him any choice but to move or get knocked over. “Did I ask for your opinion?”

“No, but—”

“Tolerated but silent, that was the deal. Stay out of my way or you will find out just how unnecessary you are to the completion of this mission.”

“That goes both ways—Captain,” the man sneered before he scurried up the stairs.

Damon closed his eyes for a moment. It was telling by the pirate’s answer that he was confident he and his cutthroat friends still held the upper hand. Damon couldn’t protect Jack if he gave in to his rage and failed to rid his ship of its infestation. He turned back to the open door, but his eyes passed over the two guards. One looked indignant on his behalf, the other looked uneasy. It was still too soon to try. And considering what had just happened, the key to this room probably shouldn’t be left where anyone could grab it.

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