Captive of My Desires Page 23

She realized rather late, after her friends had left, that she’d have to do without the normal necessities while she shared the room with her captive. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time she’d slept in her clothes without removing them. She hadn’t once removed her clothes on that pirate island, when she’d been a captive herself. She didn’t mind sleeping in them now…

She went very still when the question entered her mind. Why make exceptions for him? Good grief, it was actually a perfect opportunity to start tempting him beyond what he could stand, by showing him a little bare skin. She just needed to garner the nerve to do it, and the easiest way would be to pretend.

She didn’twant him to think she was doing it deliberately.

So very quickly, before she could change her mind, she let her skirt fall to her feet and she yanked her blouse off over her head. She couldn’t help but feel satisfied when she heard his sharply indrawn breath.

“Damn, woman, what the hell are you doing?” he nearly shouted.

As she stood before him in her chemise and pantalets, which showed off her derriere to perfection, she glanced over her shoulder at him and said coquettishly, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot you were there.” Then she turned toward him so he could appreciate the full upper curves of her breasts, which were revealed by the low-cut chemise. She heard him groan as his gaze fixed on her chest, and she had to bite back a laugh as she jumped into his bed in her skimpy underclothes. A double attack, one against his senses and another against his pride, that she could forget his presence in the room.

But if she thought that she’d managed a telling blow for her revenge for the day, she was sadly mistaken.

He made sure of that.

No sooner did she extinguish the lamp by his bed and lie back on the pillow than he said, “You know this shackle is rusted?”

She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, not that she could see it in the dark, but it was in that

direction that she stared. He’s quiet all night, but when the lamp goes out he starts to talk? she thought in irritation. She probably should have said something to him before she retired, at least let him know that his position on the floor wasn’t her idea, that she would have supplied him with a hammock if he’d asked for one.

Then again, did she really want him to think she had a soft side? Before, when he’d been at the top of her list for matrimonial choices, she’d wanted him to know the real her and stop erroneously assuming things about her. But it was too late for that. Now she wanted just the opposite.

“Determined to see me get blood poisoning, aren’t you?” he said next.

She gritted her teeth. She debated whether to just ignore him. Maybe he’d get the hint, or maybe he’d think she was asleep already.

“Ah, I see,” his voice drifted across to her. “The plan was to toss me over the side and kill me all along?”

She sat up, but it was too dark to see him in his corner. “You should have left your boots on, you know,” she pointed out reasonably.

“You think it would have made a difference, when this shackle is so rusty it would have eaten right through that leather?”

She lay back down, slamming her head against the pillow twice. “This was a really bad idea,” she gritted out. “If we were in warmer waters, you can be sure I’d go sleep on the deck myself.” He didn’t reply. He was actually quiet for a while, which encouraged her to try to fall asleep.

And then out of the dark she heard him say, “I’m going to need a chamber pot, wench, or did you want me to relieve myself on the floor?”

Her eyes flew open even as her cheeks bloomed with color. She shot off the bed, quickly found a match to light the hanging lantern she’d extinguished earlier. He was sitting exactly where he’d been when she took over his bed. That was probably sticking in his craw, that she was going to sleep in his bed while he was on the floor wearing a chain. She located the chamber pot, set it down, and used her foot to shove it toward his end of the room. She then moved to one of his trunks to rummage through it.

“What are you doing?”

She ignored his offended tone. No doubt he was bothered because she was going throughhis trunks.

“I’m looking for something for you to stick under that shackle,” she said pertly. “I’m pretty sure I have nothing suitable, well, not without ripping up any of my clothes, which I’m not inclined to do.”

“So you did hear me?”

“Certainly.”

“I suppose that means you didn’t intend for me to get blood poisoning?” She snorted and tossed him two stockings she’d found. “I’d double those up and stuff them under the metal, rather than put them on. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like some quiet so I can get to sleep.”

“If you wanted quiet, you should have moved to a different room.”

“Putting you up on deck is still an option,” she warned.

He didn’t say another word.

Chapter 27

DAMNED WOMAN COULD HAVE TOSSED ME SOME BEDDING, Drew fumed as he sat on the hard wooden floor of his cabin. It was raining outside—pouring, actually—and a cold draft seeped into the room from under the door. Usually Drew found the sound of rain soothing. He even enjoyed taking over the steering of his ship during storms. There was something primal about them that stimulated all his senses. He wasn’t going to get the opportunity tonight.

He couldn’t sleep. He’d tried, with his head against the wall. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d slept in an uncomfortable place, and sitting up, for that matter. But it just wasn’t going to happen here, not with a beautiful woman sleeping in a soft bed only a few feet away from him.

Actually, that was just one of the reasons why sleep was eluding him. The emotions churning in his gut were a bigger deterrent. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this angry and he was having a difficult time dealing with it. But then, he’d never had his ship taken from him before.

He couldn’t believe Gabby was doing this. She was so angry at him that she couldn’t just ask him for passage? He’d been heading to his usual trade routes and he could have easily been persuaded to bring Gabrielle Brooks along. Well, maybe not easily. Shewas the reason he’d decided to sail a few days earlier than he’d originally planned. He’d wanted to get as far away from her as he could because of the temptation she presented.

That temptation had grown stronger over the last few weeks. As soon as she’d stopped being disagreeable, he’d started thinking of how nice she’d look in his bed. It got to the point where he’d wanted her so much, he’d thrown caution to the wind and actually tried to get her to come to his room.

Stupid thing to do, that. It had just made him want her more. And she hadn’t come to him. Instead, she’d continued her husband hunting. That was like adding a spark to the smoldering fire, and was probably why he’d gotten so drunk those last two nights in port, and why he had gone to that ball and foolishly tried to sabotage her husband hunt. And then seeing her with Wilbur at that ball, the one suitor she seemed to favor the most…he wasn’t surprised he’d embarrassed her as she claimed he did. He couldn’t recall exactly what he’d said, but he certainly remembered his sister scolding him for it.

He sighed to himself. It appeared that he’d succeeded and she’d revealed her true colors now. Damned woman really was a pirate. Like father like daughter. But he should have had her amenable to him already. She was attracted to him. He’d noticed it from the beginning. He could have at least cajoled her into a better sleeping arrangement. But his anger was getting in the way. The thought of trying to charm her was abhorrent to him right now. Because she held the upper hand? Because she’d stolen his ship, cracked him over the head with his own pistol, chained him to the blasted floor? Or because despite all that, he still wanted her?

He’d tasted her again, that was the trouble. Why in hell had he done that? He’d been so close to his freedom, to getting his ship back and turning the tables on these pirates, and he had to go and get tempted by a pair of lush lips. He’d simply been unable to resist kissing her with her mouth that close to

him, her derriere squirming in his lap, the scent of her filling his nostrils.

He felt his manhood stir just thinking about that kiss again. Blasted wench…

“Broke a hole in one of the cabins,” his first mate whispered. “Didn’t think you’d mind, Captain.” Drew abruptly sat forward away from the wall. He was so incredulous he nearly laughed out loud. He’d been so deep in thought that he hadn’t even heard Timothy Sawyer sneak into the cabin, and apparently he’d done so without waking the lady pirate sleeping across the room. He couldn’t see his first mate. No light came in through the bank of windows because of the rain, and Gabby had extinguished the lamp again before she returned to his bed, so it was pitch dark in the cabin. His bed. Damn, that infuriated him, that she was sleeping in it—without him.

“Not at all,” he said in the same low whisper Timothy had just used. “What took you so long?”

“Had to make sure no one was on the other side to give warning.”

“Did you release the crew yet?”

“Figured I’d cut you loose first.”

“I knew I could depend on you, Tim.”

“Was the least I could do, Captain, after I let them get the better of me today,” the man said gruffly.

“Well, actually, I doubt anyone else would have thought to break through walls,” Drew pointed out.

He was grinning, though Timothy couldn’t see it. The man had been with him for quite a few years now, was usually a quiet, amiable fellow who never caused any trouble. For all his size, he had one of the milder dispositions Drew had ever come across—unless he was riled. And when that happened, all hell could break loose.

It didn’t happen often, but like Drew, Timothy didn’t like confinement. They’d caused too much ruckus one night in Bridgeport and ended up spending the night in jail to sleep it off. After Timothy had sobered up, he’d been like a bear in a tiny cage, frantic to break the bars, and damned if he hadn’t bent them.

Drew had had to pay for those damages, too.

“Let’s get your ropes undone,” Timothy said.

“No ropes. I got out of them once, so I’m wearing an iron shackle now.”

“Now, that may pose a problem. Does the lady pirate have the tools to get you out of it? Or was it padlocked with a key?”

“There’s no key, and one of her men has the…” Drew didn’t finish. He was facing the door and saw the light appear under it. “Careful,” he softly hissed, “I think we may have company arriving.” There was no time to prepare for it. The door was shoved open even as he was giving the warning. The handsome pirate stood there, the one Gabby had attempted to kiss that afternoon. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone. The tall Chinaman that Gabby seemed to be fond of was with him, and two others. One of them must have seen what was happening, or had come across that hole in the wall, and had the

presence of mind to bring along reinforcements.

It was an utterly tense moment. The four pirates were armed, had come just inside the door, and all four pistols were pointed directly at Timothy’s chest.

Drew was afraid this was one of those times that his first mate wasn’t going to back down. He could feel his tension, and his anger, that he hadn’t accomplished what he’d set out to do. And it wouldn’t be the first time the big man had plowed through unrealistic odds. He was probably too angry to even notice the damn pistols and was going to get himself killed.

Gabrielle suddenly shot out of the bed, her body wrapped in a blanket, and placed herself directly between the two groups. And she was bristling with anger herself.

“I’ve bloody well had enough excitement for the day, gentlemen,” she snarled. “So you’re all going to rethink this situation and realize that sleep is much more appealing right now than spilling blood.” Drew let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. But it didn’t sit well with him to suddenly be feeling gratitude to the lady. He had to admit, though, that had been quick thinking on her part, to realize that Timothy wouldn’t try to get through her to get at her men. The big man had no trouble cracking a dozen male heads together, but he’d never harm a woman. She’d been in a sound sleep, but apparently had no trouble waking alert and ready to make instant judgments like that.

“Damned women pirates,” Timothy mumbled in a subdued tone. Drew knew then that the danger was over.

“I have had just about enough of you, Mr. Sawyer,” Gabby remarked. “Do you really have so little care for your personage that you’d ask to be shot?”

“Is that what I was doing?” Timothy said with an abashed look. “My apologies.” She tsked in disgust, but glanced behind her to tell her men, “Take him back—”

“To where,chérie ?” Richard cut in. “There is a hole next to the door of the cabin he was in.”

“He broke through the bloody wall?” Gabby asked incredulously. And then she sighed as she looked back at Timothy. She even gave him a disappointed look. “You, sir, are an outrageous nuisance. What am I going to do with you?”

Drew was incredulous to hear Timothy say, shamefaced, “I won’t cause anymore trouble, miss.” Drew groaned. Scolded by a pretty woman and the man was a complete pushover!

But Gabby wasn’t done. “I’ll have your word on it.” This time Timothy just stared at her. Perhaps he was debating whether he would have to keep his word if he gave it to a pirate.

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