Captive of My Desires Page 26

“Miss Carla is the parrot’s name,” she said with a grin. “But just so you don’t go thinking she was taught to insult herself, you might as well know that Carla is also my mother’s name.”

“Ah, I see. How nice,” he said, sarcasm thick in his voice. “You call your mother a witch. I’m not the least bit surprised a pirate would disrespect her parent that way.” She gritted her teeth for only a moment. She wasnot going to let him annoy her. “That’s a natural conclusion,” she allowed, “even if it is wrong. I loved my mother. It was my father who didn’t like her very much after the bloom wore off their marriage. And the parrot belonged to my father long before he gave her to me, so Miss Carla acquired most of her vocabulary from him, not me.”

“How did such a mismatch even occur? A pirate marrying an English aristocrat? Or was that just a lie you made up so you could snag a lordly husband? Are you even legitimate, or just a pirate’s bastard?”

“I don’t care how derogatory you get about me,” she said stiffly. “But you’ll bloody well keep your derision off my parents.”

Since it must have sounded like the threat she intended, he asked, “Or what?”

“You might want to keep in mind that there is still a plank here with your name etched on it.” He chuckled, confident now that she wasn’t serious, despite her sharp tone. “So why did he marry her?” Gabrielle had to take a moment to regain her composure. Damned man had done it to her again, aggravated her enough to lose control.

“He was treasure hunting at the time. He considered her a shortcut to what he was after.”

“You have to be joking.”

“No, he takes his treasure hunting quite seriously,” she replied.

“I suppose the better question would have been, why did she marry him?” Was he really interested in her family, or just trying to distract himself? Part of getting her own composure back was to discompose him again, and she’d done that with subtle enticements she’d witnessed other women practicing more blatantly, a slow sweep of her long lashes, a look she hoped was sensual, a lazy stretching of muscles that weren’t cramped—but he didn’t know that.

She shrugged. “She married for one of the more common reasons.”

“Love?”

“No, because she wanted children.”

“Ah,that reason.” He chuckled. “So how many siblings did you end up with?”

“None. That may have been part of why the bloom wore off so quickly. My mother never actually said so, but I gathered that she thought she could get my father to settle down and give up the sea. She didn’t become dissatisfied with her marriage until it became clear that he would never do that. I do know that she despised the fact that he was always away at sea and never around when she needed him.” She was touching closer to home, apparently, since his reply was rather defensive. “Comes with the territory, sweetheart. She shouldn’t have married a pirate if she wanted a man in her bed every night.” Blasted with double barrels! It amazed her how he uttered sensual, provocative remarks so easily and naturally, while she had to work so hard at it. He said things to her that he wouldnever say to a lady.

Ironically, she’d heard much worse in recent years and had become immune, or at least there was very little that could make her blush anymore—until she’d met Drew Anderson. He could make her blush without even half trying.

She fought to keep the pink out of her cheeks now by answering him without inflection. “I see you’re under a mistaken assumption. My mother thought she was marrying the captain of a merchantman. She didn’t know what his real occupation was. She died a few years ago without ever finding out. Now it’s your turn. Since marriage has been the subject of your curiosity, care to tell me why you’re so dead set against it?”

He grinned. “Can’t you guess, sweetheart? You’re a pirate. You know what it’s like, sailing from port to port. Most sailors have to come home to a single port for marital bliss, the one they’ve made their home in, where their wife is waiting. And yet how many ports do they sail to where they either drown their sorrows, missing their wives, or are unfaithful, then miserable afterward in their guilt. I’m never falling into that trap. I love the fact that no matter which port I sail into, there’s a woman waiting for me with open arms.”

“Ah, I see. I had thought perhaps you had loved and lost, and that’s why you abhor marriage, but I forgot that you’re merely a true Lothario at heart.”

“I don’t abhor marriage. For some men it’s the perfect state to be in. I just realized long ago that it wasn’t for me. I’m happy in my life. Why would I want to change that?”

She shrugged and said offhandedly, “I don’t know, things happen.”

“Yes, they do. But take my mother, for example. She knew exactly what she was getting when she married my father. She knew he’d rarely be at home. And while she seemed happy enough, raising so many children, I used to catch her in moments when it was obvious how lonely she was, even miserable, missing my father. I was pretty young when I decided I’d never do that to a woman.” It made her sad to know that hewas serious. He believed every word he’d just said. But that left no room for love. Did he really want to go through his entire life without experiencing true love?

“There were two ways you could have abided by that decision. You could have just decided not to go to sea instead,” she pointed out.

“You’re joking, right?”

She gritted her teeth. “Yes, of course I am.”

“The sea is in my blood, sweetheart,” he added, just in case she missed that point, then gave her a knowing look. “You changed the subject too soon. Were you serious before? Your mother really never knew your father was a pirate?”

“Why does that surprise you? When my father visited us, he didn’t bring his crew along, which might have given her a clue. They are a ribald, rowdy bunch, after all. Besides, he was on his best behavior whenever he was in England.”

“What about you? How long have you known?”

“Not until my mother died and I left home to find him,” she replied.

“So only a few years? My, you adapted very quickly, didn’t you?” His sarcastic tone was back. She’d told him things she shouldn’t have, she realized too late.

“Fortunately, I’m a quick learner,” she replied offhandedly, trying to correct his impression of her.

She stood up, stretched sensually, then walked over to stop near him but just out of his reach. His long legs were stretched out across the floor and crossed at the ankles. His arms were crossed over his wide chest. His expression was actually wary for a moment, with her stopping so close to him, but it quickly turned sensual.

“Ready to ravish me?” he asked.

It was fortunate that his expression had warned her he was going to say something like that. She was able to reply calmly, even with a little feigned regret, “Sorry, but you’re not my type.” His short bark of laughter said he didn’t believe her. “Then who is? Richard?” She managed a grin. “Good grief, no. I was just playing around with him the other day and merely took him by surprise. He’s a good friend. We actually joke around like that a lot.”

“Then that pallid English snob?”

“Who? Oh, you mean Wilbur? No, I found him rather boring, if you must know. Besides, even though you’re an American, you seemed a little too at home in the London ballrooms for my taste. I want a man who will go horseback riding on the beach with me, who will dive with me into crystal-clear coves and explore coral reefs, a man who will get as excited as I do about chasing after lost treasure. I want a man who will swim na**d with me in the sea on a moonlit night and make love to me on a sandy beach.” Gabrielle realized dreamily that she really did want all that. But she’d managed to stun Drew. He’d been hanging on every word of her romantic fantasy.

Seeing that she’d turned the tables on him, she said abruptly, “Now, can I get you anything before I leave you to your lonely confinement?”

He replied abruptly, “Don’t leave yet.”

“Sorry, but I have a nice hot bath waiting for me.”

“Actually, I’ll take one of those myself.”

“Very well, I’ll have some buckets of water brought in to you. If you’re a good prisoner, I’ll even have them set down for your use, rather than tossed on you.” Her tone implied she was dealing with a child, even the words did. It was deliberate on her part and it was obvious by the sour twist of his lips that he didn’t like it.

She left him then, but not before she stuffed her hands in her pants pockets in a casual manner. She knew very well that would lift the back of her shirt so he could see just how snugly the pants molded to her derriere. Innocently done, or so it would seem to him, and she had to fight back a laugh when she heard his groan as he watched her saunter out of the cabin.

Chapter 31

“IFMISSCARLA TELLS ME ONE MORE TIME TO GET NAKED,she’s going to find out just how cold that ocean is out there,” Margery said in a huff when she entered the captain’s cabin for dinner that night.

Margery was the last to arrive. Richard, Ohr, and Bixley just stared at her incredulously. Gabrielle drew in her breath so fast she choked on it, and she started coughing. Drew, sitting on the floor in his corner of the room, leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, but there was a definite smirk on his lips.

Then Richard started laughing and Bixley said with a leering grin, “That ain’t a half-bad idea, wench.” The Irishman probably wasn’t joking. He and Margery shared an easy relationship that included sexual innuendo, a private drink now and then, and, Gabrielle suspected, more intimacy than that on occasion.

But Margery wasn’t going to be distracted with ribald banter and demanded, “Where did Miss Carla pick that up, I’d like to know? She said it a half dozen times today when I was in and out of Gabby’s room.”

Margery was glaring at the three pirates, one of whom she’d suspected was the guilty party. But

Gabrielle saw no reason not to put the blame where it belonged.

She pointed toward Drew across the room and said, “You don’t need to look any farther than over there for your culprit. He’s been trying to get me in his bed since he met me.” She grinned to let them know she found that amusing, even added, “It’s too bad he doesn’t have one now.” Drew actually blushed. She found that interesting, but it was probably no more than that three unpredictable men were staring at him now, all humor gone. It was Margery he ought to be worried about, though, and she even went over and kicked the foot he had stretched out on the floor.

“You’ll be keeping such notions to yourself, Yank, if you know what’s good for you. Our Gabby isn’t for the likes of you.”

Drew pulled his bare foot back to rub it and replied, “Who is she for, then?” Gabrielle went very still. She was about to interrupt, but Margery was too quick with her rejoinder. “For the husband she’ll be having soon, which won’t be you, now, will it?” Margery returned to the table. Drew mumbled something, but no one caught it and he was ignored after that.

Bixley started reminiscing about how long he’d been with Nathan. “Ohr vouched for me, but from that very first meeting, Nathan treated me like an old friend. He’s like that. Sees the good in everyone. I love that man like a father.”

“You just love treasure hunting,” Ohr scoffed.

“Well, there’s that, too.” Bixley grinned and teased his friend. “Tell me you don’t. Go on, I dare you.”

“I just like sailing with Nathan,” Ohr said. “You aren’t the only one who loves him like a father.”

“That’s right, you never did finish searching for your real father, did you? When that’s what brought you to this part of the world.”

Ohr stared across the room. Gabrielle thought for a moment that he might be looking at Drew, but his gaze seemed focused on something far more distant. He said quietly, “I found him, or rather, found out he’s dead.”

“Oh, Ohr!” Gabrielle cried, and moved around the table to hug him. “I’m so sorry.” He patted her back. “Don’t be. It’s not as if I ever knew the man. And he had another family. I may make myself known to them someday—or I might not. I have my own family now,” he ended, and gave Gabrielle a fond smile as she returned to her chair.

He meant her and Nathan, and Nathan’s crew. Richard confirmed that when he threw a napkin at Ohr and said, “I already claimed this family as mine.”

And Bixley pushed Richard out of his chair with the rejoinder, “Too bad, mate. We were with Nathan before you showed up.”

“Now, now,” Margery intervened. “Nathan’s got a heart big enough to include all of you.”

Gabrielle suddenly felt tears welling in her eyes. They’d spent so many nights bantering like this, with Nathan quick to join in the fun. But he wasn’t here now, he was in some dark, dank dungeon and…

“Don’t cry, Gabby,” Drew suddenly said. “Your father will be back with you before long.” Everyone turned to Drew, surprised by his remark, which had sounded quite tender. The man immediately clammed up, probably annoyed with himself for speaking at all. And the rest of them repeated the sentiment until they had her laughing again.

After dinner when she left the cabin, Richard followed her out. They stopped to lean against the railing.

Prev Next