Captive of My Desires Page 22

“That’sif she’s on his ship.”

“Doesn’t matter, m’dear. Whether she’s one of those pirates or at their mercy, or in hiding as you first guessed, I’ll round up a crew today. So stop worrying about your brother. Whoever instigated this mess will be torn limb from limb. You may depend upon it.”

Chapter 25

GABRIELLE HAD BEEN AWAYfrom the captain’s cabin too long now. It was quite possible that

with no one watching him, Drew had been able to free himself while she was gone, so she took Bixley with her for backup and sent him in first. But she wasn’t kidding herself. She knew that some of her eagerness to get back here had nothing to do with her concern that he’d escaped in her absence.

The captain was still where she’d left him, but she circled his chair, at a good distance, to make sure the ropes were still about his wrists before she dismissed Bixley. Drew hadn’t said anything yet, he just followed her with those disturbing dark eyes of his until she got behind him. He was probably still simmering, and she didn’t doubt he’d turn her over to the authorities if he had the chance, just as he’d said. But he’d have to catch her first, and how likely was that? He didn’t know where she lived in the Caribbean, and it was highly doubtful she’d ever return to England now. Because of him. Because he’d carelessly blackened her name there.

Of course, there was the possibility that he was so furious about losing his ship to her, even though she’d assured him it was only temporary, that he might just hunt her down himself. He might also be angry because he’d thought they were going to kill him. That could be why he was giving her those dagger looks. Now that she thought of it, he had mentioned the possibility of his being being tossed over the side right before he’d asked if he was going to be ravished first.

She blushed again, remembering that, but at least she was standing behind him where he couldn’t see it.

He knew why she was back there, though, and asked with a sigh, “You really thought I’d try that again when the first attempt rubbed my skin raw?”

She frowned and raised the sleeves of his jacket to see the damage he was talking about. It was mostly just red skin, but there were a number of abrasions that had beaded blood. Why hadn’t she noticed that when she’d retied him earlier? And why was her first urge to untie him and find some salve for his abraded skin?

She pursed her lips, annoyed that she’d even had the urge to soothe his discomfort, and came back around his chair to face him. She’d already given her cabin to Margery. Her friend was feeling a little seasick, which had happened before for the first couple days after they left port. So she’d been quick to offer her her own cabin, too quick. It had given her the excuse she needed to keep Drew close at hand.

She just had to tell him now that he was going to be sharing a cabin with her. She was looking forward to his dismay.

But he spoke up first. “My sister and James befriended you and this is how you pay them back?” She tsked and pointed out, “I didn’t take their ship, I took yours.”

“You don’t think they’ll take that personally? I hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but James is a man who holds grudges to the grave. The Malorys aren’t a family to cross or harm, but that particular Malory is the most unreasonable and vengeful of the lot.”

“Sorry, but I was witness to how much hedoesn’t like his brothers-in-law. Care to try again?”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with me, it’s because my sister loves me and she’ll be upset about this.

He’s very protective of her, you know. Gets quite unreasonable about it, actually.”

“Your sister won’t even find out I’ve captured your ship until you’re free again,” she replied, though he was starting to make her feel uneasy about James Malory. Living in his house for a few weeks, she never did get over the nervousness that man caused her.

“Never know what he’ll take offense at. I sure as hell wouldn’t risk him hunting me down, for any reason.”

“And you won’t hunt us down? Weren’t you the one promising to see us all behind bars?”

“Of course, but I’ll just be nicer about it than James will be.” She laughed at him. He said that in such a grumble. He was obviously annoyed that she hadn’t turned so terrified over his dire predictions that she might release him immediately. And just to rub it in a little more…

“By the by,” she said nonchalantly, “I do have some unpleasant information for you.”

“Why am I not surprised?” he replied sarcastically.

She ignored that and continued, “The cabin I was going to move you to is no longer available for your use.”

“So?”

“So you could have been cut loose in it, but since you now will have to remain here—”

“You can’t keep me tied up indefinitely,” he cut in now, his body stiff with indignation. “Or were you going to hand-feed me?”

She shook her head. “No, I wasn’t planning on that. What I’ve decided is that you’ll have to be chained in here, well, that’s if we can find some chains. But I have men looking as we speak.”

“Chained to your bed? And you call that unpleasant information?” She knew he didn’t mean it, but his tone now sounded intrigued…and seductive. He was just trying to embarrass her and it certainly worked. From the very beginning, the man had had no trouble a’tall making her cheeks burn with his risqué remarks that were so improper. Of course, they would be scandalous only in polite company, and he’d thought from the beginning that she was a pirate. He probably figured she was used to such talk, and if he did, that was a good thing. It meant he believed the role she was playing.

It was late morning. She’d requested food be delivered before she returned to the cabin. She hoped the chains arrived first, so the captain could feed himself. She needed to start behaving more like an uncaring pirate, though, so eating in front of him, and letting him go hungry while she did, wasn’t such a bad idea.

As for his remark about her bed, if he really hadn’t been trying to embarrass her, then she could expect more of the same and she’d rather not hear any more comments that set her mind to wondering about things she shouldn’t. She was supposed to be making him want her, not the other way around. She could think of one sure way to put an end to what he kept insinuating, though—if he thought she was already spoken for. That might even further her plan, since it was human nature to want what you can’t have.

She no sooner had the idea than Richard walked in, twirling a chain in his hand, a long one. Most of it he had draped about his neck. And it looked as if there was a shackle attached to the end hanging near his waist.

“Is this what you had in mind, Captain? There were two of them in the hold. I used my brilliant persuasive techniques to get one of their crew to toss it up to me. I told them it was for an Englishman,” he snickered. “Americans, they carry such long grudges, they didn’t even ask who.”

“The war has been over for a number of years,” she reminded him.

“Doesn’t matter, it worked to get me the chain. I’d suggest the other for the first mate, but as big as he is, I doubt any of us would care to get that close to him to try to put it on. At least this one is already restrained.”

He was referring to Drew, who’d been watching him with narrowed eyes since he’d walked in.

Immediately she realized that Richard was the perfect candidate to give Drew the impression she wanted him to have.

She moved closer to Richard, patted his cheek tenderly, and said in a low purring voice, “Thank you, chérie, for the chain,” and promptly kissed him on the mouth in what she hoped was a lover-like manner.

But she really should have discussed her impromptu plan with Richard first, because without warning him, she took him so by surprise that his immediate reaction was to push her away from him.

Unfortunately, he shoved her away, which caused her equal surprise, since it landed her on her arse.

Richard was too busy wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve to notice her new position, and was indignantly demanding, “What the devil are you doing, Gabby?”

“Sitting on the floor, blast you!”

“Oh,” he said as he looked down at her, and then, “Oh!” as he offered a hand. “Sorry about that.” She slapped his hand away, got to her feet, dusted off her skirt. Drew was laughing. He obviously didn’t need to ask why she’d kissed Richard; he’d figured that out quite easily for himself when Richard hadn’t reciprocated even a little bit.

“Shall we try that again,chérie ?” Richard asked.

“Not in this lifetime,” she snorted. “And don’tchérie me, you dense man.” He chuckled. Drew laughed harder. She would have liked to throw something at both of them, but most everything in the cabin was bolted down. No knickknacks, no clutter, though there were several large chests not counting hers, so maybe the captain just hadn’t unpacked yet.

She pointed a stiff finger at the door and said to her friend, “Go, before I add your head to the growing number of them being bashed today.”

Then, seeing Richard opening the door and taking the chain with him, she called him back. “Before you go, redeem yourself by getting the captain shackled to that chain first, and make damn sure it’s secure.” Richard winced. “I need redeeming?”

She just narrowed her eyes at him in reply.

Chapter 26

OHR ANDRICHARD JOINEDGABRIELLEin her cabin for dinner. Ohr glanced at the captain a few times and finally voiced his concern.

“You’re going to leave him in here like this?”

“You mean chained? For now, yes. It will keep him from getting hurt again.”

“When did he get hurt?”

She shouldn’t have mentioned that, but since she did, Gabrielle decided the truth might be better than any trite assurances she could give. It would also explain why she wanted him to stay chained.

“He managed to escape,” she said, then quickly added, “I managed to tie him up again. No real harm was done.”

“I could just chain him to the deck instead,” Ohr offered.

“Swab those decks!” Miss Carla squawked.

They laughed at the parrot. It was typical of her to say one of her many phrases if she heard a word from them. But Gabrielle should have covered the bird, as late as it was. She did that now, then returned to the table. She noticed Drew staring at the parrot’s cage. He probably hadn’t heard her talk before then.

As for Ohr’s suggestion, it happened to be raining that night, but even if it hadn’t been, Gabrielle couldn’t bring herself to confine Drew topside.

She told her friends, “I’d rather he not be moved.”

“You can have our cabin, then,” Richard pointed out. “We can sleep in here.” She thought about it for a moment. For propriety’s sake, she should do that, though it was a bit late to worry about propriety when she’d branded herself a pirate. Besides, this room, the captain’s domain, and her occupying it, was about the only thing that really supported her ruse. The men were calling her captain, yes, but Drew needed to see that they were coming to her for their orders, and their frequent stops in this room today showed that they were. And how could she enact her revenge against the captain if she didn’t have constant access to him?

So she shook her head. “I’ll be fine here.” Fortunately, they didn’t argue with her, though she was sure they would have if Drew weren’t within hearing distance.

They stayed with her a while after dinner, with Richard going above and beyond in an effort to make her laugh. He was still feeling guilty for ruining what she’d tried to pull off that afternoon, and she hadn’t had a chance yet to talk to him about it, or assure him that it had been a silly idea on her part anyway.

The captain remained quietly in his corner all night, just watching them, and probably listening to their every word. The only restraint on him now was the shackle about his ankle. She’d removed the ropes from him herself earlier. That had been tricky, and quite nerve-wracking. She’d had to just loosen them

enough so he could work them off himself while she shot out of his reach before he did.

He hadn’t sat in that chair again since he’d left it. He’d stood up and stretched his long limbs for a while, which had caught her eye and nearly had her ogling him again, much to her own annoyance.

He’d sat on the floor after that, his back leaning against the bulkhead, his knees bent in front of him, feet planted far apart. He’d eaten his meal there, too, after Bixley slid a plate across the floor to him. No one wanted to get within his reach, which was wise. He wasn’t nearly as intimidating as that big bear first mate of his, Timothy Sawyer, but Drew was still a really tall, muscular man, so a person would just be asking for trouble if he got within access of his long arms.

He’d taken off his boots, probably to see if he could slip the shackle over his ankle to remove it completely. It would have been too tight with the boot on under it. She’d been watching him and he was aware of it, so he hadn’t tried it yet, but that just worried her enough to insist he lift his pant leg to show her.

He’d actually just stared at her. He wasn’t going to comply. She’d gritted her teeth. He made the most annoying captive. Belligerent, uncooperative, insulting. She decided not to press it. It was a damned leg shackle, after all, designednot to come off once it was put on, and his legs were probably thicker than most, as tall and nicely filled out as his body was.

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