Beautiful Tempest Page 69

When they neared St. Kitts, James directed the fleet up the coast to anchor at the home of Nathan Brooks, Drew’s father-in-law, which was on the beach but far from the main harbor. This precaution was in case any of Lacross’s men were in town, watching for them. Brooks wasn’t at home, but his servants welcomed his son-in-law and friends.

Only the family and Damon had rowed ashore to the beach house. Jacqueline wasn’t invited to join the war council that night, but of course Jeremy was! Well, at least he wouldn’t be eavesdropping with her outside a window this time, though here she was on a terrace with the French doors wide-open, a warm breeze blowing up from the beach—which ended up being a hindrance. Warren, Drew, Boyd, and Anthony were discussing strategy, but she wasn’t catching every word from where she stood leaning back against the wall next to the open doors because the strong breeze was blowing them right back into the large open room.

Damon said something so quietly that she caught only the word “tavern,” but in response, she definitely heard her father growl, “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner? Jack!”

She wasn’t going to try to hide that she’d been eavesdropping. She immediately walked through the doors and saw how furious her father was.

Damon was telling him, “It can’t be helped. His instructions were explicit. I have to give the tavern keeper the password and have Jack by my side when I do it to prove I captured her. The man won’t give me Pierre’s new location without both.”

“I refuse to put my daughter in danger,” James said adamantly.

“We could threaten the tavern keeper until he gives up the location,” Warren suggested.

“Unless he doesn’t know it,” Drew put in. “Pierre is a wily old bastard. One of his men might be waiting there for Damon, the tavern keeper only serving as a go-between to receive the password before nodding to the pirate. If there are a lot of people there, we’ll be flat out of luck figuring out who the second man is.”

“Then we hire a local woman to pretend to be Jack,” Jeremy said.

Drew snorted. “Good luck finding a blonde her age on this island.”

“We can’t risk that,” Damon put in. “The tavern keeper might question Jack to make sure it’s really her.”

Jacqueline understood now what Damon had meant when he’d told her, “This isn’t the end.” And they weren’t even asking her opinion.

“This is a simple matter,” she said. “I just need to stand there looking angry and coerced to prove Damon completed his mission. Once he gets the location, we leave. What could go wrong?”

“The tavern could be full of bloody pirates, that’s what,” James said.

Drew chuckled. “A handful, maybe. Lacross won’t leave too many of his men sitting idle for months waiting for Damon to show up, if he even stationed any there. But we can go in before Damon and Jack enter to check the place out, pretend to be customers, and be on hand to protect Jack. But not you, James. You would be recognized.”

“We will need to go in with just Reeves’s ship,” Boyd mentioned as if the plan were already agreed upon. “All of our ships arriving at once would be a red flag—in case there are more pirates there. And we should probably go in the morning. The tavern might be too crowded tonight.”

“Nathan has a small stable here,” Drew added. “Some of us can ride to the tavern and be there before Damon and Jack arrive.”

“And I’ll go with Damon and Jack as escort,” Jeremy said. “I can look the part of a pirate if need be. The tavern keeper won’t know the difference.”

“I will as well,” Anthony said, then smirked. “Father and son pirates.” James rolled his eyes at that because the two still looked so much alike, but Tony added, “You denied me the last fight, which ended up not being one. You’re not keeping me from any more, old boy.”

“Then it’s settled?” Damon asked.

James nodded. “I’ll sail with you and stay out of sight. But I’ll be close by if I’m needed. And you will protect my daughter with your life. I hope we understand each other?”

“Perfectly,” Damon said.

No one in the room doubted that James had just issued a polite death threat.

Chapter Forty-Five

A PRETTY MOON was shining on the water and the breeze was warm on Jacqueline’s cheeks as she stood on the balcony of Gabby’s old room, which she’d been given for their brief stay. The yard had a green lawn and a few palm trees, but the lawn didn’t extend far before the beach started. The house was small, local in design with its open, airy rooms, although most of the furniture was English. Warren and Boyd had rowed back out to their ships to sleep in their cabins. James and Anthony were sharing Nathan’s room for the night. She wondered if Jeremy and Damon were sharing a room, or if Damon had one to himself.

She was considering asking one of the servants when she saw Damon below the balcony, walking across the lawn. He wasn’t looking for her window and appeared to be in a pensive mood. “Psst!” She tried a few times to catch his attention. When he looked up, she signaled him to wait. She yanked on her britches, pulled on her boots without stockings, tied her nightgown around her waist, and climbed over the balcony railing to hang from the bottom of it before she even thought to look if there was anything to give purchase for her feet. But then she felt his arms go around her legs and she let go, twisted about, and slowly slid down his body to the ground.

She started to laugh but his mouth cut her off, and that kiss was incredibly voracious, setting off all sorts of delicious sensations inside her. It felt like years since she’d touched him, tasted him, when it had been only a few days, but it hadn’t been enough then and it certainly wasn’t enough now when she needed so much more. So she didn’t object when he took her hand and they started running away from the house along the grass bordering the sand.

He didn’t slow down until the ships anchored by the house were far from view. No watch was likely to have been posted on any of them this far up the coast. It was still nice to feel a little isolated. The beach was empty, illuminated by a bright moon, and the air was balmy on their cheeks. They strolled, hand in hand, on the sand for a while. Jack felt so happy and kept stealing glimpses of Damon’s handsome face.

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