Captive of My Desires Page 16

“Why yes, thank you,” she replied, and then added with a grin, “I’ve really missed my daily portion of rum.”

He chuckled and extended an arm for her to precede him down the hall. She’d only been teasing about the daily portion of rum, but she had a feeling he thought she was serious. In fact, considering what he seemed to think about her, he probably assumed she was used to imbibing strong spirits. Ah, well, he

had a lot to learn about her, and she hoped to give him the opportunity, because Drew Anderson had most definitely moved from the bottom of her eligibles list to the top.

She was so centered on the man walking behind her, she didn’t even notice that Margery had followed them downstairs until they reached the parlor and she heard the maid yawn loudly. The house was quiet at that time of night. Most of the servants had gone to bed. She knew if she suggested to Margery that she do the same, she’d get a stern refusal. Margery took her chaperoning seriously.

A low fire had been left in the parlor, lit earlier just to take the chill off the room. Only one lamp had been left on, and it, too, had been turned down low. The heat still wasn’t enough for Gabrielle, so she moved to stand in front of the fireplace, was even considering stoking the fire a bit more, but Drew distracted her as he looked over the contents of the bar in the corner of the room.

“As I thought, no rum in this house. Your choices are cognac, brandy, or port.”

“Port sounds interesting,” she replied. “Don’t think I’ve ever tried it.”

“Because it’s more a man’s drink,” Margery put in as she made herself comfortable in one of the reading chairs by the window. “And I’ll have one, too, since you’re keeping me from my bed.” He glanced at Margery. It looked like he wanted to laugh, his dark eyes sparkled so in the lamplight as he brought her a drink first. He wasn’t even looking at Gabrielle and yet her belly started to flutter!

He returned to the bar and took his time pouring two more glasses for them. He kept glancing back at Margery. Gabrielle had a feeling that he was hoping Margery would fall asleep, which was quite possible considering the late hour.

He finally joined her by the fire, handed her the port, then clicked their glasses together. “A toast, sweetheart,” he said in a low, stirring voice, and his grin turned somewhat wicked. “To behaving like pirates.”

The endearment went right to her heart, caused a warmth to spread along her veins—or maybe the first sip of the drink did that. It didn’t last, though. Too quickly she recalled he’d used that same endearment on the docks when he prevented her fall, and other times when he was being sarcastic, so obviously it meant nothing special to him, it was just the way he addressed all women. He could as easily have called her “miss,” or even her name. That’s how unromantic the word was to him.

And then it hit her. He’d toasted to their behaving like pirates? Did he really say that? The remark he’d made the other night at the ball came back to her. He’d wanted her to prove she was a pirate by spending the night with him. Was that the reason he’d shown up at her door with his invitation? Was he going to make another overture? Maybe even kiss her again?

Her heart started to pound with excitement. She barely even noticed him leading her to the sofa, sitting her down, setting her glass on the table in front of them. She shivered. He noticed.

“Cold?”

She was so flustered she had to think about the question. They’d moved away from the fire, so yes, she was cold, and yet, she wasn’t. Because of him. He was sitting so close to her their legs nearly touched and she could feel the heat of his body. She smiled. It was more than enough to warm her.

“No, I’m not cold a’tall,” she replied.

“Really?”

He seemed genuinely surprised by her answer, which made her realize that he now associated that shiver he’d witnessed with himself. And since it was too late to correct her denial, she blushed.

She glanced toward Margery for help or at least a distraction, but the late hour, or the drink, had proven too much for her. She was fast asleep. So Gabrielle tried to wash her embarrassment away with a gulp of port and ended up downing the entire glass. Well, that helped indeed. It no longer felt like she was blushing and, in fact, it seemed silly now that she’d blushed at all.

Her giggle told him the same thing…Oh, good grief, she’d just giggled. Shenever giggled. She found that funny and did it again.

“Not used to port?” he guessed aloud.

“No, rum is more my cup of tea.”

“Teetotaler you mean, don’t you?” he teased with a warm grin.

“Yes. I mean no.” She sighed, shaking her head. “Don’t try to confuse me. I’m used to strong spirits, really. Just in moderation.”

He ran a finger gently along her cheek. “You’ve softened, Gabby. I noticed it immediately last night. But today, God, that was nice, wasn’t it? Dare I hope you’ve given my suggestion some thought?”

“What suggestion would that be?”

He leaned closer, and still his voice was soft, almost a whisper. “Do I really need to repeat it?” As if she could forget that remark that had plagued her thoughts ever since he uttered it. But that was a temptation she had to resist. It would come to her in a momentwhy she had to resist. The port was muddling her…Oh, yes, she wanted him thinking about marriage, not just bedding her.

“You do know I’m notreally a pir—”

She’d turned her face toward his to explain, but it wasn’t a good time to do that. He was still too close.

And it ended up appearing as if she’d brushed her lips against his deliberately, when that wasn’t the case at all. But he was quick to take advantage of the accident, pressing his mouth more firmly to hers. And she was quick to lose herself in the moment.

Had she really thought that the passion that had flared between them today had been because of the circumstances that led up to it? No indeed. Those same passionate feelings were present again now and so swiftly! It was them. It happened the moment their lips touched.

His arm went around her neck, cradling her head against his shoulder, as his lips moved possessively over hers. Her hand came up to cup his cheek. And when his tongue slipped into her mouth, her fingers moved up into his hair, gripping the soft locks as if she were afraid he was going to stop.

He did stop, but only to change direction as his lips slashed across her cheek and down her neck. She

gasped. Shivers raced across her flesh as he sucked on that sensitive area. She felt pressure on her br**sts at the same time and realized he was touching her there…

He shouldn’t be. She had to tell him. She started to, but got no farther than opening her mouth before another gasp escaped her when her ni**les puckered beneath his palm. She felt so much heat, from him, from herself. And that tingling in her br**sts seemed to travel straight down between her legs.

“I knew you were a pirate,” he said just before his tongue delved into her ear, causing her arms to go around his neck so she could embrace him, encourage him. “God, Gabby! Why did you try to hide this wild nature of yours beneath that ladylike facade? I love it! You want me as much as I want you, don’t you?”

She was close to moaning. She couldn’t think. The sensations coursing through her were overwhelming every one of her senses. She could see his dark eyes glinting with desire, she heard the sounds of satisfaction he was making deep in his throat, she inhaled his heady masculine scent. She tasted him with every kiss, and the way he was touching her, caressing her felt so good she wished he’d never stop.

When she couldn’t help but moan with pleasure, his mouth came quickly back to hers for the deepest kiss yet. Oh, God. How could she feel so many different sensations all at once?

All her good intentions, all her hopes, had gone right out the door, she was so entranced by Drew’s skilled seduction. She didn’t have the will to stop him, didn’t want to, couldn’t even muster a token protest.

So it was a blessing in disguise to hear Boyd complain, “Here now, none of that. Or are your intentions honorable, brother?”

Drew leaned back slightly, enough to break the contact, but then, as if he couldn’t resist, he gave her one more kiss, his lips lingering deliciously on hers before he turned to snarl at his brother, “Shouldn’t you be minding your own damned business?”

“Shouldn’t you be keeping your hands to yourself?” Boyd countered with a snarl of his own. “And thisis my business. The girl is here to acquire a husband. So are you suddenly eligible?” Gabrielle’s embarrassment to have been caught in such a torrid embrace was acute. And sobering. She would have liked to hear the answer to Boyd’s question as well, but on second thought decided she better not. A no from Drew right now might force her to strike his name from her list, whereas not knowing either way, she could at least continue her campaign to get to know him better.

So she stood up abruptly before he could speak. Margery, disoriented, had already done the same, Boyd’s raised voice having awakened her.

“Don’t you young bucks ever sleep?” the older woman said in a disagreeable tone, then yawned widely as she came over to collect Gabrielle.

“Yes, Margery and I are late for bed,” Gabrielle agreed. “I should have no trouble sleeping now, after that nice glass of port. Good night, gentlemen.”

She lagged behind Margery and wasn’t quite to the stairs when she heard Boyd say accusingly, “Getting her drunk to seduce her? That’s pretty damned low.”

“You’re kidding, right? That’s standard procedure you employ as well, so don’t be a blasted hypocrite.”

“Standard for women who’ve been around the block a few times, not for husband-hunting virgins.”

“Did that pretty face make you forget so quickly who she is? The daughter of a pirate is no more a virgin than you or I.”

Chapter 18

“MISSBROOKS, MAYIBE FRANK?”

Gabrielle hadn’t really been paying attention to Wilbur Carlisle, who was twirling her about the dance floor in Lady Dunstan’s large ballroom. This was her third ball since she’d come to London, and the gown for this one almost didn’t arrive in time.

It was pale lilac in color. Margery even dug out an old necklace of Gabrielle’s that her mother had given her years ago, in the hopes it would cheer her up. It was a miniature painting of an English coastline that depicted a small fishing village very like the one close to where she’d grown up, so she’d always assumed the miniature depicted that village. Hung on a chain of pearls, the small oval painting was frame by a border of tiny roses that nearly matched the lilac silk of her gown. If she’d been in better spirits, she would’ve been pleased at how well the necklace complemented her gown.

She’d almost begged off from going out tonight, just as she’d done the last two nights. She’d pretended not to be feeling well, enough so that she wouldn’t have to leave her room. It was a lie, but Georgina didn’t question her too much about it after Gabrielle implied it had to do with her monthlies. And besides, she might not really be sick, but she certainly felt sick at heart.

She’d been staying in her room in order to avoid Drew. Finding out what he really thought about her last week had hurt her terribly. She could try to correct his opinion, but she had a feeling he wouldn’t believe her. The aversion his family had for pirates ran too deep. And there was nothing she could do about that.

They were seamen in legitimate trade. Of course they’d hate the men who tried to steal that trade from them.

But did he have to paint her with the same brush, and assume she was a woman of loose morals because of her parentage? And yet, what had she done to prove otherwise? Drink with him? Let him kiss her and caress her? She winced at the memory of her own wanton behavior. In trying to get to know him better, she’d actually reinforced his low opinion of her, so it was her own fault.

God, she wished she hadn’t been so flustered that she’d gulped down that glass of port that night in the parlor. It had gone right to her head. She never should have let him take such liberties, wouldn’t have if she’d been clearheaded, well, she liked to think she wouldn’t have, but oh, God, everything he’d done, his touch, his kisses, it had been so nice she hadn’t wanted any of it to end. But it had meant nothing to him. If she’d learned anything from that night, it was that she’d been a fool to even consider a cad like him for her husband.

And her feelings had just got more and more downtrodden as the week had progressed, until it got so bad she had trouble concealing them and so she hid in her room instead. Drew had made no further overtures to her, not even in jest. In fact, it seemed as if having remindedhimself of her background that night, he utterly regretted having made any at all. He’d continued to escort her and his sister to whatever party was on the agenda, but he’d also continued to desert them as soon as they’d arrived where they were going.

And she even saw him pursuing several other young women, not just once, but twice, at two different parties they attended. He didn’t even try to be subtle about it. It was as if he wanted her to notice!

His sister noticed, too. Unfortunately, Georgina also noticed the effect it had on Gabrielle and took her aside to tell her, “I’ve been rather thoughtless in not warning you sooner about Drew. I forget sometimes how handsome he is and how easily he breaks hearts without even trying.”

“It’s all right. He hasn’t broken mine,” Gabrielle replied, forcing herself to smile.

“Good, then I’m not too late in mentioning it. I’m sure he likes you, I just don’t want you to get the wrong impression and think something might come of it. It won’t. While our family would love to see it happen, he’s made it clear he has no intention of ever settling down.” Georgina had the best of intentions, but she wasn’t telling Gabrielle anything she didn’t already know.

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