Beautiful Tempest Page 68

“Did you actually know you wanted to marry her at that point?”

“Not quite. I was too bloody annoyed by her defection to wonder why it bothered me quite as much as it did. And then George and I returned to England after her brothers dragged me to the altar.”

“So you left your amazing attempt at heroics vis-à-vis Mrs. Ross half undone?”

James gave his brother a dark look. “It’s one of my few regrets. But I’ve assumed all these years that when she gave up waiting for me, she paid someone else to fetch the boy for her so they could sail to England together, or she went home to get her family to help. Neither of which apparently happened.”

“If she left to protect the boy’s future, it seems odd that she never went back for him,” Anthony remarked.

“I agree, and unfortunately, it likely means she died before she could. I know she loved her son. I can think of no other reason she wouldn’t have returned for him. So for his mother’s sake, I’m going to help him get his father back.”

Thrilled to hear those words, Jacqueline got up and headed to the door until her father queried, “And where do you think you’re going, Jack?”

She turned about. “I want to see how much damage Damon sustained during your talk.”

“A few paltry bruises.”

“I still want to see—”

“Jeremy, go with your sister.”

She stiffened. “You won’t let me talk to him alone?”

“That, poppet, isn’t going to happen—ever.”

Jacqueline flounced out of the room. Unfortunately, Jeremy stayed right on her heels. But after what her father had just said, she accused her brother, “You told him about Damon and me, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t.”

“Did Percy?”

“Percy was on deck a lot after the pirates were captured. He might have seen you and Damon with your arms around each other at the wheel. But he’s not good at guessing, Jack. If he let anything slip to Father, I’m sure it was just that you and Damon got quite chummy. Course, Father is good at guessing.”

She groaned. “Is Damon still locked up?”

“Why wouldn’t he be? Father’s help doesn’t mean make the man comfy.”

“I merely thought—damnit, Jeremy, we’re his allies! And he had good reasons for doing what he did. He shouldn’t have to remain in that tiny little cell any longer!”

Jeremy shrugged. “I’ll mention it to Father later. You shouldn’t, or Damon won’t get released until we reach St. Kitts.”

On the lower deck, she stopped at her cabin first without telling Jeremy why. She grabbed a jar of ointment to use on Damon’s new bruises, which her father no doubt gave him. Jeremy just rolled his eyes at her when he saw it.

When they reached the cell, Damon immediately came to the bars. Jeremy at least turned his back on them, but he still didn’t leave her side. Jack barely noticed, her eyes looking worriedly for injuries on Damon, but he had moved normally, quickly, and she saw only a slight bruise forming on his chin. Still, she opened the jar and reached through the bars to apply the ointment to his wound.

“You can’t seem to stop taking care of me, Jack.” Damon grinned.

“You can’t seem to stop getting in the way of a Malory.”

He caressed her cheek through the bars and said softly, “I’m sorry for abducting you—twice. I intend to make it up to you one day.”

“Better not try it, mate,” Jeremy warned without turning around.

“I was sorry to hear about your father—and what you thought about mine.”

Damon sighed. “I don’t know why my mother left, and I may never know. But I could have prevented what happened to my father if he’d just let me know he was in trouble. His letters never gave a clue, even came from Jamaica, as if he still lived there. I can only assume he asked one of his old friends to send his letters and intercept mine, so I wouldn’t know what had befallen him. I’d even told him about receiving an inheritance while in England, but he still didn’t ask for my help.”

“Pride?” she guessed.

“Enough to keep him rotting in prison until I got home,” Damon replied in disgust. “I don’t understand that sort of pride.”

She couldn’t begin to imagine the shock he’d had, coming home to that. “Why would he even send you to England if he couldn’t really afford it?”

“But he could. The crops were very lucrative, weather permitting, and he’d even purchased a ship to double his profits. I liked that ship. I learned to sail on it. But England was what my mother wanted for me. She often said to Father and me when I was a child that it was expected of a Reeves to have an extensive education. Despite her leaving us, he still loved her and wanted to honor that wish. What I didn’t know was that he liked to gamble.”

“Ah, that fondness causes more ruination than it does riches.”

Jeremy turned about. “Time’s up, Jack. You got your assurance that he doesn’t need a sickbed.”

As Jeremy pulled her away, she sighed, and glanced back for another look at Damon. It had better not be the last time she saw him, and she was encouraged when Damon called out, “This isn’t the end, Jack.” She just wasn’t sure what he meant by that.

Chapter Forty-Four

JAMES WAS TRUE TO his word. For the few remaining days that Damon was on The Maiden George with them, Jacqueline wasn’t left alone for a moment. Damon had been let out of his cell and given a cabin, but she might as well have been in the cell herself since even a guard stood night duty outside her door. During the day, one of her relatives or another guard was constantly at her side. If she tried to whisper something to Damon, she got dragged away.

It was intolerable! And what was the bloody point? But she was afraid she knew. She’d showed a little too much concern for Damon aboard his ship, and her father had decided their “friendship” was over. He might be willing to help Damon because of that ancient history they shared, but that didn’t mean he had forgiven Damon for his part in all this. She should just be happy for the resolution that had occurred and let it go at that since he had survived meeting her father, but—she wasn’t done with him, hadn’t enjoyed him nearly enough thanks to her brother’s interference.

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