Beautiful Tempest Page 62

She didn’t laugh at what had him so concerned, but she did confess, “You can’t imagine how hard it was not to gloat over your failing on this second mission before you even got started because Father sailed before you did. But that was before we knew you wanted his help. I still don’t understand why you didn’t just present your story to my father when you were in London before your first mission.”

“I considered it, but I wanted to do it on my terms, which is why I tried to capture him instead of you, not to deliver him to Lacross, but to get him to hear me out and agree to deal with Lacross with my help.”

She sighed. “That is not the way to get on my father’s good side.”

“He has one?”

She snorted. “I meant an actual sit-down civilized talk.”

“For reasons better left buried, I don’t like your father. I was afraid that would get in the way of convincing him to listen to my explanation, and any number of things could have gone wrong because of it.”

“Don’t you think it’s time you explained that?” When he didn’t answer, she tsked. “What you don’t know is that he sailed fully laden with cannons this time, so you probably took the lead less than a week out of London.”

“Really?” He looked relieved until he added, “He still won’t know where to find us.”

She grinned. “But we know where to find him. We can wait for him on St. Kitts, where he’s going to meet up with my uncle Drew, or on Anguilla.”

“Anguilla? Why the devil would he go there?” An uncharacteristic sharpness was in Damon’s tone.

Apparently, she hadn’t reassured him enough yet. “Because we could only assume Pierre was behind this. He seemed the most likely culprit, but Father wanted to confirm absolutely that he wasn’t still in prison. However, my uncle Drew Anderson has had ample time to find that out, so Father will want to confer with him first. So you needn’t worry that you’ll miss the big fight, if that was your concern. We’ll get there first and we can tell Drew what’s happened. And you might want to let him warn my father first, or my brother can, so he doesn’t try to kill you on sight.”

“Not your brother. He still wants a piece of me for ruining you.”

She rolled her eyes and got comfortable again, leaning against his chest, using his two legs stretched out on either side of her as armrests. “I walked right into that ruination. You were just an innocent bystander.”

“The men in your family won’t take that view—unless we marry. As I’m stronger than you, you know very well I could have stopped you instead of letting you have your way with me.”

She chuckled at his phrasing, delighted that they could joke about this. “It’s silly of you to feel guilty—if you are feeling guilty—because I’m not the least bit ruined. So don’t worry, you won’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice. I never intended to be a virginal bride, or d’you really think I’d commit myself to a lifelong union without finding out first that I and my intended will be compatible in all ways?”

“That sounds like something a ‘ruined’ lady might say—after the fact.”

She burst out laughing. “What a polite way of calling me a liar. But I’m not your everyday lady, Damon, and I’m pretty sure you can agree with that.”

“Indeed, a beautiful tempest, outrageously bold and opinionated, dangerously daring, willfully—”

“Okay! So I’m a hoyden. But I know love can make people do stupid things and ignore what’s sensible. I don’t intend to let that happen to me because love won’t matter a’tall if a man isn’t a good lover, isn’t fun in and out of bed, ends up being a prude who wants to make love with his clothes on. The bedroom is a big part of marriage, and I refuse to get stuck with only half of the good part.”

“And yet, an annulment can fix the unhappy-bed part if it came to that.”

“Not in my family! We make sure first, then get the happy ever after.”

“So—we aren’t going to marry?”

She sat up and turned around, her brows snapped together. “This sort of teasing is no longer funny, so stop it. I still need the love part of the equation, which you and I don’t have, so don’t try to turn this ridiculous guilt you’re feeling into something it’s not.”

“You want me.”

She blinked at the reminder. “What has that got to do with anything? I’m attracted more’n I ought to be, which is why we had a delightful time in bed. It was fun and we could have had more fun if my brother didn’t turn into a bloody guard dog. I’m the first to admit how frustrating that is because, yes, I do want you again before we run out of time. None of which negates what happened before this unexpected alliance, Damon. You hurt my family and I wanted you dead for it, for God’s sake! That doesn’t just go—”

He kissed her hard to shut her up. She stood up to kiss him back even harder, nearly knocking him back on the deck. Six days of abstinence when she wanted him this much . . .

He stood and picked her up. She loved being in his arms, pressed against his chest, having her arm around his neck. She couldn’t resist kissing him again even though they were in full view of anyone walking out his cabin door. She wished he would take her somewhere private where she could do so much more, but they both knew Jeremy would find them all too quickly if they did because he never left them alone for long. But Damon quickly moved away from the lantern light to the shadowed side of his cabin, toward the back of the ship. For the moment, no one would see them there, but they had to be quiet with Jeremy on the other side of the wall.

When Damon put her on her feet, she stopped caring if anyone saw them because he started kissing her and soon whispered, “I know you’re comfortable on a ship. I’ve seen you take the wheel, climb the mast. So you might enjoy this.” He turned her around before he added, “Brace yourself, Jack.”

She put her hands against the wall without asking why, but gasped when she felt him raise her shirt and pull down her britches and drawers. But she really sucked in her breath when she felt him kissing what he’d exposed, including her derriere. She peeked over her shoulder and saw him kneeling, his mouth moving over her tender flesh. He didn’t stop kissing her and caressing her with one hand when he moved his other hand between her legs and slipped his finger inside her. Moving it slowly and then more quickly, he was driving her wild. She gasped as her body trembled, delicious sensations overwhelming her. This is what she’d wanted, needed, for too long! She slapped a hand over her mouth to stanch her cry of pleasure.

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