Beautiful Tempest Page 49

“Which begs the question, did you pass any other ships heading this way?”

“No, and believe me, we were looking. I hoped I would find them first, play the hero, get them home before you even knew Jack was gone, though I’m not sure how I could have captured them with an unarmed merchantman.”

“It’s called ramming and it works fairly well.”

“I suppose my captain would have suggested that if we’d found them first. I confess I do want to get my hands on Bastard, if it is Bastard this time. I know we’ve all assumed it is, but what d’you think?”

“It sounds like it, but that doesn’t make it a certainty. Bloody hell, I wish you’d waited for the note so I wouldn’t need to assume.” James suddenly sighed. “But Jason was right to send you ahead. It’s far better to know what’s happened, so don’t doubt that I’m glad you’re here.”

“There’s no place I’d rather be at a time like this than standing by your side, Brother.” Anthony’s tone was darkly serious. “I want to catch those blackguards as much as you do. We will, never doubt it.”

“I know, but it’s going to be hell in the meantime.”

Anthony nodded in agreement. “Then I’ll do my best to distract you. I actually thought I’d already be here, you know. When you got me foxed the night before you sailed, I was sure you were going to shanghai me. Ros even thought so and had a bag packed for me.”

“She did suggest it to me. She was worried that you would be miserable with me gone as well as Judy off on her wedding trip.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“Because this trip was—will take more’n a couple months, while Judith will be back from her trip long before then. You would have been climbing the bloody walls if you weren’t there to be assured she’s still happy when she gets back.”

“Oh, but now it’s okay for me to climb walls? Actually—” Anthony bolted out of the cabin, but stopped in his tracks when he saw the ship he’d arrived on was no longer next to The Maiden George. It had tacked to the east to circle around for the return to London and was already far away.

“Suck it up, dear boy,” James, beside him, said. “You just claimed to want a piece of Bastard. You won’t get it unless you stay with me. And your daughter was in love. You know very well she’s going to come home just as happy as she was when she left on her trip.”

Anthony elbowed James. “I was joking, old man. Told you I’d be a distraction for you. Did it work?”

James snorted. “Yes.”

“But once we have the younguns back, you can remind me that my baby returned home as happy as she was on her wedding day.”

James didn’t agree to that; he mentioned instead, “I still have that boxing ring in the hold that Nathan built me.”

“An excellent—” After a glance at James, Anthony amended, “Actually, if you don’t mind, I’ll wait until you stop looking like you need to murder someone.”

James sighed. “All right, but only because Ros expects me to bring you home.”

Chapter Thirty-One

YOU DIDN’T NEED TO manhandle me,” Jacqueline growled as soon as Mortimer released her. “A simple explanation would have sufficed.”

“That was a really risky thing for him to do, taking you down there with most of the pirates on that lower deck. And look where that’s got us, me punished and you—whatever you are.”

“How are you punished?”

“Getting stuck with you for the rest of the day, that’s how.”

She snorted. The man truly didn’t like her. As if she cared. But she was back inside Damon’s cabin, back behind a locked door, and that was intolerable, especially since the danger was already over. Or was it?

“What the devil is the plan you mentioned?”

He didn’t answer. He’d gone over to Damon’s desk to open the locked drawer and pulled four pistols from it. He sat down at the desk to check that they were loaded.

She waited for him to get around to answering when he was done, but when he didn’t, she demanded, “Take me to Damon so I can ask him.”

“You bedevil him enough.”

“I want to know—!”

“Good God, woman, shut up. You are the most stubborn, ill-tempered she-devil I’ve ever—”

“You’re too kind,” she cut in sweetly as she moved to a chair at the table and sat down facing him.

He was giving her a fierce look. “I’m only going to tell you this once. Behave, be very quiet, and you can probably go back on deck tomorrow—if we survive the day.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Again he was ignoring her, which made her yell, “I want to know why we’re being punished!”

“Damnit, lower your voice! And stop asking questions. You aren’t even being punished. You’ve got things to do in here now. I know, because I helped find some of those bloody books he wanted for you.”

“How would you like it if you were buried in a black hole?”

“Eh? There’s nothing dark about these quarters.”

“I meant the hole you’ll be in after I kill you,” she said nastily.

“Save your threats for someone who cares. If you make me shut you up, no one’s going to like that, least of all me, so for the last time, be quiet.”

“For the last time, tell me why I need to be or get Damon in here to tell me!”

He got up to do as she asked. Finally! But he didn’t cross the room to leave to get Damon. He took her by surprise instead, yanking her out of her chair and setting off all sorts of warning bells in her mind so her reaction was normal—for her. And the punch caught him nicely near his eye before she dodged out of the way of any retaliation. But his arms were just as long as Damon’s. He got a handful of her hair and pulled her over to her cot and shoved her facedown on it.

“You couldn’t make this easy, eh?” Mortimer growled as he put a knee in the center of her back. “How in hell he puts up with you is a bloody mystery. I wouldn’t. I’d chain you to the damn bulkhead!”

“And that surprises me?” she hissed, then louder when he got her hands together and started wrapping a rope around them, “What are you doing?!”

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