Captive of My Desires Page 10

He didn’t seem to be paying her the least bit of attention, though, so she almost managed to relax. Then out of nowhere he asked, “Are you really here to catch a husband, pirate lady?” She drew in her breath. So he’d been told about her father, too? Was he simply insulting her by calling her a pirate—or did he really believe she was one?

Actually, as a seafaring man, he wouldn’t doubt that there were women pirates and had likely heard of such females during the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean. Pierre even had such a woman with him now.

Red, they called her, and she could fight as well as any man, even more viciously, it was rumored. He probably liked that about her, as evil as he was himself.

Gabrielle shivered at the memory of that particular captain. And she never did lose her fear of him while she remained in the Caribbean, even when she’d heard that he’d taken up with Red. But having returned to England now, she was sure she never would see him again. England was a whole ocean away from his normal haunts, after all.

“Cold?” Drew speculated. “Or maybe you don’t want a husband after all?” He’d noticed her shiver. Why would he relate it to his first question about her looking for a husband?

And why did he sound a tad hopeful? His question was far too personal for her to answer, especially after he’d addressed her with the derogatory term “pirate lady.”

“Look, Captain—”

“It’s Drew,” he cut in. “Drew Anderson.”

“Yes, I know,” she said. “I had a long chat with your sister today.”

“Did you? I’m amazed she’s agreed to help you. In fact, I’m surprised she’d even deign to consort with a pirate long enough tochat. Then again, damn, I must take that back, she’s done it before.” He’d started out by insulting her, which had got her hackles up, but he’d ended with an intriguing comment that piqued her curiosity. She doubted he would elaborate if she asked for further detail.

Her curiosity prompted her to try anyway. “What brought that about?”

“It was quite unintentional. She didn’t know she was dealing with a pirate. Actually, to be fair, I should say ex-pirate.”

“Her husband, I suppose? How did she come to marry such a brute?” Even before he frowned at her in such a way that warned she’d stepped out of bounds, she regretted the question. It was natural enough for her to be curious about the people she was staying with, but since those people happened to include him, she’d just as soon he not be made aware of it. And she really shouldn’t be making disparaging remarks about his brother-in-law, the very man she’d foisted herself upon. That had been rude of her.

Before she could apologize, he surprised her by asking, “Do you really think he’s a brute? My brothers and I have always thought so, but personally, I’ve wondered how a woman perceives James Malory.”

“A definite brute. But I suppose your sister doesn’t think so.”

“No, she adores him,” he replied. “Hard to imagine, isn’t it?” She detected the humor in his tone and wondered briefly if it was at her expense, or because they were sharing the same opinion. She decided not to find out and kept her eyes off him. The man was far too attractive for her to be able to look at him indifferently.

“Actually,” she said after a moment, “if you can get past the feeling that all he wants to do is clobber you, then I’d have to allow he’s a handsome man.”

“I wouldn’t go so far as to saythat. ”

“To say what?” Georgina asked as she returned to them with her niece in tow.

Gabrielle’s cheeks reddened. Considering how disagreeable the man had been to her, she didn’t doubt that he was going to confess all. It was the perfect opportunity to embarrass her, and he seemed determined to do that. He might have let up enough to have a conversation with her, but she hadn’t forgotten how it had started.

Again he surprised her, by making light of it and only mentioning, “She thinks that brute you married is a handsome fellow.”

“Of course she does,” Georgina replied. “I’ve never met a woman who didn’t. But I wish you’d remove the word ‘brute’ from your vocabulary.”

“Not until he removes ‘barbarian’ from his,” Drew said with a smile.

The woman with Georgina chuckled. “I’m glad my Nick isn’t present to hear this.” Regina Eden was quite stunning. She had black hair and the most amazing cobalt-blue eyes that were slanted just enough to appear exotic. And her chuckle left behind a smile that was warmly welcoming.

Georgina explained to Gabrielle, “You’ll find that Reggie’s husband doesn’t like mine very much. They

used to try to kill each other.”

Georgina spoke in such a teasing tone that Gabrielle didn’t take her comment seriously. But then Regina added, “And nearly succeeded a few times, but they get along famously now—at least in comparison.”

“I wouldn’t call it famously,” Georgina grinned. “But I’ll allow it’s probably just old habits dying hard.

They still go toe-to-toe verbally. My brothers are the same way,” she added with a disapproving look at Drew.

He didn’t appear at all abashed, even grinned cheekily. “I know when I’m outnumbered, which is a good time to go find some libation while you ladies get acquainted.” He sauntered off, but only one of them watched him go. Gabrielle caught herself staring after him and groaned inwardly. It was going to be a problem, keeping her eyes off that man when he was around.

He’d insulted her enough that she should want to ignore him at all costs, but she simply couldn’t. She was so powerfully attracted to him that even when he raised her ire, he affected her in other ways she couldn’t control.

But she was going to have to figure out how to deal with his proximity. The man wasn’t just a sailor who might, with enough incentive, be convinced to give up the sea. He was captain of his own vessel and his family even owned their own shipping company! He couldn’t be a more inappropriate man for her to get better acquainted with.

Chapter 12

“DID WE MISS HER?”

“Has she not come down yet?”

Drew put his fork aside and smiled at the two young girls who’d just run into the breakfast room. Their excitement was obvious. And he didn’t need to ask whom they were talking about. He’d just been thinking about the same female and asking himself the same questions!

He told his niece, “If you mean the pirate, she’s probably still abed. We returned rather late last night from your cousin Regina’s party.”

“Did she have fun there?” Judith asked.

“Probably,” he replied, and managed to keep his tone neutral, though he found the thought irritating.

“She was swarmed by every bachelor in attendance.”

“She said she’s not a pirate,” Jacqueline corrected him as she came over and swiped a sausage from his plate.

“But she’s a treasure hunter!” Judith volunteered.

“And Papa said she’d tell us all about it,” Jacqueline added.

He stared pointedly at his niece, but she merely gave him a cheeky grin, then promptly finished off the sausage anyway. He shook his head with a chuckle. Jack was an adorable minx, graceful, not the least

bit gangly, and too lovely by half for her age. She was going to be an incorrigible handful when she got older, he was sure.

“This late in the morning and you two haven’t eaten yet?” he asked.

“Oh, we did, long ago,” Jacqueline said.

“We’ve just been checking back,” Judith explained. “Didn’t want to miss the lady. And I go home today. I’ll be ever so disappointed if I don’t get to hear about the treasure hunting firsthand.”

“If I see her, moppets, I’ll send her straightaway to find you both.” They took him at his word and ran back out of the room as exuberantly as they’d entered it. But with the room quiet again, his thoughts went right back to where they’d been, centered on his sister’s guest.

Her arrival had changed Georgina’s plans, and thus his as well. Since his sister and her family wouldn’t be accompanying him on the voyage back to Connecticut, he could revert to his original schedule, which allowed him to spend another week or two with his sister here, but he wasn’t sure if he should stay now.

He could visit Georgie at another time. He didn’t feel comfortable staying at her house while she had a houseguest that he was attracted to, especially since his sister’s unexpected guest was off-limits to him.

Pirates. He’d never run into any himself, but his brother Boyd had. Pirates had stolen his cargo at sea.

The same thing had happened to his brother Thomas, who’d had to limp back to port, his ship had been so damaged in that fight. It hadn’t upset Thomas, though, but then nothing ever did. He was the most patient of all six Andersons.

Ironically it had been James Malory who’d tangled with both his brothers at sea and won. They all laughed over it now, though not at the time. A gentleman pirate, he’d called himself back then.

For a decade James had amused himself on the high seas, indiscriminately bedeviling any ship that appeared to offer a challenge, even English ships. It had been a game to him, a test of his skills, and according to Georgina, for a man who’d gotten so jaded being one of London’s most notorious rakes that even duels couldn’t stir his emotions anymore, the life of a gentleman pirate had been his salvation.

Drew found it amazing that Gabrielle Brooks had actually guessed that James was the pirate that Georgina had consorted with in the past. Pirates recognizing pirates? He didn’t think so.

When James and Georgie had explained their houseguest to him, James had admitted that the girl’s father didn’t know thathe’d been a pirate as well, merely that he’d gone by the name Captain Hawke back then. It was his real identity he’d revealed in his delirium. So it was more likely that Gabrielle had merely been sarcastic when she’d made her guess and called James a brute.

Rude, ungrateful wench. The strikes against her were adding up, but the worst one was that she was here to find a husband. If not for that, he might have made an effort to patch things up with her. But he didn’t want them patched. Hell no. He needed the buffer of her disagreeable disposition to remind him that she was off-limits.

Not that he needed much reminding when the mere sight of her yesterday had instantly recalled how annoyed he’d been with her on the dock. Which was odd. It just wasn’t in his nature to let things affect him to such a degree that he couldn’t shrug them off. He was too carefree. He could even withstand arguments and knockdown fights with his brother Warren, who used to be so glum he could annoy a

saint, and not be bothered by them at all. But this wench bothered him too much.

Boyd appeared in the doorway and tried to lean on it, but nearly fell into the room instead. Drew had been so deep in thought that he hadn’t heard the front door open, but it was obvious his brother was just getting in. He looked as if he hadn’t slept all night.

Boyd had the same color hair as he did—light brown with golden highlights—but his brother hadn’t cut his since he’d docked, probably hadn’t combed it either by the shaggy look of it. While Boyd’s brown eyes were lighter than his own, they were also quite bloodshot at the moment. Of the five brothers, only Boyd and Thomas hadn’t inherited their father’s extraordinary height.

“You haven’t been to bed yet?” Drew guessed.

“I slept, just no idea where,” Boyd replied.

“Is that what happened the other night? You deserted me for a soft bed?”

“Very soft, I vaguely recall, but I’m sure you found your way home without me.” Drew chuckled. “Yes, at a decent hour, too.” But then he shook his head. “You really go overboard when you reach port. Was your last trip really that long?”

“No; I just had a passenger that drove me mad with lust for two damn weeks.” Drew raised a brow. “Couldn’t do anything about it on board?”

“She was married, had two children with her, and was so damned pleased to be on her way to meet her husband that I wasn’t going to let her know how I felt.”

“Well, got it out of your system now?”

“Ask me that after I sober up,” Boyd said, but then added with a snicker, “But how was your evening?”

“Why don’t you askme that after you meet the pirate,” Drew shot back.

“No thanks. I’ve already got a long list of excuses lined up for our dear sister. She won’t be dragging me to any of these virginal affairs. I’ve been taking notes from Malory on how to avoid them. Besides, you’re much better than I am at being bored.”

Drew burst out laughing. “You’re all heart, brother. But what do you want to bet you’ll change your mind—after you meet the pirate?”

Boyd just grinned at him. “I’m not falling for that. If she was such a great looker, you’d be making sure my ship sails tomorrow.”

“Suit yourself,” Drew said with a shrug.

Boyd narrowed his eyes on him.“Is she pretty?”

“What’s it matter?” Drew countered offhandedly. “The wench is here to catch a husband, remember?

Or are you ready to settle down?”

Boyd gave that a moment’s thought. “Unlike you, I don’t have a sweetheart in every port, so I wouldn’t mind having a pretty wife to sail home to. Remember, I’m not the one who said he was never getting hitched, that was you. But when I do settle down, it sure as hell won’t be with a wench whose father is a pirate.”

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