Beautiful Tempest Page 67

“No, my father and I never saw her again.”

“Did you look for her in England? That was where Sarah wanted to go.”

“Of course I did, with no luck.”

“Then you might want to check the harbor records in Port Antonio where I left her. That’s if they even keep them this long—it was nineteen years ago, wasn’t it?” At Damon’s nod, James added, “Perhaps she never made it to England. For all I know, she might still be in Port Antonio, or perhaps she went to America.”

“That suggests I’ll be alive to check those records.”

“I regret that I wasn’t able to keep my promise to your mother. A boon for you will remove that regret.”

Chapter Forty-Three

IF YOU DON’T STOP laughing, Tony—”

“Yes, yes, you’ll toss me over the side.” Anthony tried to whistle instead, but it wouldn’t get past his curled lips.

Jacqueline was avidly listening to her father and uncle’s conversation as she finished off a breakfast pastry and tapped her foot impatiently under the dining table. She was torn between wanting to check on Damon’s condition after his second “talk” with her father, and not wanting to miss a single word her father said about him. She had arrived at her father’s cabin directly behind Tony, so she didn’t think she’d missed anything pertinent, even though Jeremy had already been there.

At least now they knew why Damon had gotten involved with Lacross and that he wasn’t a criminal. But why the deuce couldn’t he have told her and Jeremy? Perhaps because he didn’t want them to know that he hated their father, believing what he did? If he’d told them any of that, Jeremy wouldn’t have agreed to an alliance. He would have helped to get rid of the pirates for her sake, but he wouldn’t have agreed to a truce with Damon afterward.

Anthony was still smiling when he added, “But you have to admit, old boy, that your helping a damsel in distress just isn’t—you. You bloody well wouldn’t do it.”

“She cried.”

“Yes, so you said. Don’t like that watery display m’self, but I didn’t think you shared my aversion.”

“She wanted to leave her husband. By all accounts Cyril Ross was a good father, but he was still something of a wastrel and far too fond of gambling. I believe Sarah had her own money, which gave him leave to gamble even more. Even if she wasn’t unhappy with him, it was a situation bound for ruination. So she was right to leave Cyril when she still had money to do so, before he got tossed in prison and she and the boy ended up penniless on the streets.”

“It’s hard to imagine that kidnapper as a boy,” Anthony remarked.

“Well, even as a boy he had quite an aversion to me,” James said in disgust. “Used to bloody well throw rocks at my house as if that might chase me away.”

Anthony started laughing again. Jacqueline couldn’t help grinning, picturing the child throwing stones at a pirate’s house. How brave he’d been!

Jeremy said, “I remember him as a boy, but I remember his mother more. I was utterly infatuated with her, she was such a beauty, but a very sad woman.”

“You were infatuated with anything in skirts back then,” James said with a grin.

“True,” Jeremy allowed, then told Anthony, “But Damon was no more’n six or seven at the time. Of course, Father and I were rarely in residence. Father bought that place to give me some stability after he found me, but we were still more often at sea. And the Rosses were already living there when we moved in. I found Damon on the beach one day and tried to talk to him, but he backed away from me and asked, ‘Are you a pirate, too?’—then ran off before I could answer. Obviously he thought Father was a pirate and objected to one living so close to his family.”

James snorted. “Sarah Ross tried to take the boy with her the day they were supposed to leave with me, but the boy ran off and she started crying, refusing to leave without him. But she was afraid that he was running straight to his father. Apparently, she was desperate enough to try to escape while Cyril was somewhere on their property.”

Jacqueline felt a pang of sadness for the child getting left behind. She remembered Damon’s anger when he’d told her about his mother. She’d assumed he hated her for leaving him, but it had been James he’d hated for taking his mother away.

“Why didn’t you just hide her in your house and deny him entrance?” Anthony asked.

“Did you miss the part about my sailing that day? Jeremy was already on the ship. And I solved her dilemma by insisting she come with me to Port Antonio on the other side of the island, and promising that when I returned, I’d help her fetch the boy. But that was the year I returned to England to even the score with Nicholas Eden by capturing his wife.”

Anthony grinned. “I would have given anything to see your face when you found out the wife you kidnapped was our dearest niece Regina.”

“Not one of my finer moments,” James said sourly.

“But ultimately, it got you back in the fold . . . well, after you let our brothers beat on you some, just retribution, et cetera.”

“You were in that fight, as I recall, and didn’t pull any punches.”

“Of course I didn’t, at least until I realized you weren’t even trying to defend yourself. Good job on that, old man, to appease the elders that way.”

“They were too angry to notice.”

“Well, all under the bridge, as they say. But Jeremy was the clincher. The elders’ finding out you had a son nearly full grown—if they could have gotten him into the family without you, you might not have been forgiven so easily.”

“I don’t need that reminder,” James replied. “But speaking of that eventful year, I had intended to fulfill my promise to Sarah Ross when I went back to Jamaica to sell my plantation.”

“Did you?”

“I never actually got there. As you know, I had a delightfully beautiful cabin boy on that return to the Caribbean.”

Jacqueline smiled at the mention of her parents’ unusual courtship. They still teased each other about it to this day.

Anthony rolled his eyes. “I suppose that’s one way to describe George.”

“But as you know, she spotted one of her brother’s ships when we docked and snuck off on me. So I merely found an agent to sell the plantation for me so I could chase after my future bride instead.”

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