Captive of My Desires Page 29

He’d left burning the lamp that was bolted to his desk. So she could see to get settled in? No, he probably just forgot to extinguish it, or maybe it was a habit of his, to sleep with a light. But it made it easy to see that the bedding he’d been given was still there for her to use, as well as the chamber pot, which was thankfully empty at the moment, and his empty plate from dinner.

Her eyes went back to the chamber pot and stayed there with a frown. Good heavens, how was she going to manage that now? Would he give her any privacy at all? If he didn’t, she’d make him wish he had. She’d just have to forget the word “embarrassment” for a while.

She started to change her clothes to get more decent to sleep but stopped, deciding she’d rather have the loose comfort of the robe. Actually…

Why not? She took the robe off, too. Let him have an eyeful in the morning if he bothered to look. It might make him wild with desire, which she could then nip in the bud, because she wasn’t about to letthat happen again. The more he wanted her, the closer she’d get to her revenge. But what if he didn’t want her anymore, now that he’d had her? Damn, she hadn’t thought of that. Well, she wouldn’t know the answer to that until another day. For now, she had totry to get some sleep herself.

With a sigh she lay down and wrapped herself in Drew’s blankets—bloody hell, she could smellhim, too. She was going to have to demand fresh bedding. Tomorrow. Pulling her legs up to curl into a ball, she felt that cold iron scrap against her ankle.

She sighed again and sat back up to examine the metal constriction; precisely, she tested how rough the

shackle was going to be against her skin. It had abraded his. She’d like to avoid that if she could. It had been much tighter on him, of course. It had been built for a man’s foot, not a woman’s. She moved it to see how much give and take she actually had, then stared incredulously as it slipped right off her foot.

She had to put her hand over her mouth to help conceal her laughter. And she didn’t waste a moment, immediately slipping her robe back on and tiptoeing straight to the door. And she found it locked tight.

She silently swore a blue streak to herself as she returned to the bedding on the floor. She heard Drew mumble. He’d heard her. But he didn’t wake and she glared furiously at his na**d back before she got back under the blankets. She even slipped the shackle back over her foot. There would be other opportunities when that door wouldn’t be locked. She smiled and looked forward to tomorrow.

Chapter 35

GABRIELLE WOKE TO FIND HERSELF ALONEin the captain’s cabin. Not much light filtered into the room from the bank of windows. It was morning, but a glance outside showed the sun was covered by dark clouds, which suggested a storm sometime that day.

She dressed quickly in the clothes she’d carried in last night, her ship’s togs. It was the first time she’d ever had the room to herself, without Drew or one of her friends being present. She took advantage of that and went straight to Drew’s desk to rummage through it. She was disappointed to find nothing that she might use as a weapon. A woman’s garter, probably a memento of one of his “sweethearts in every port.” A miniature of Drew’s sister Georgina. Lots of invoices that were all ship or cargo related. No weapons, not even a letter opener.

The ship’s logbook was on top of the desk, though. It hadn’t been there while she’d occupied the cabin.

She glanced through it now to see if he had updated it this morning, but the last entry had been made the morning he’d set sail from London. She hadn’t expected to find any personal thoughts in it anyway.

These books served a purpose, were a record of their ships, not their captains.

She looked toward his trunks next, but since she had no idea how much time she was going to have alone, she moved quickly to test the door instead. And frowned to find it still locked. Why? Did he know the shackle didn’t fit her? Had he put it on her foot merely symbolically, a little revenge of his own? Blast it. She certainly wasn’t going to get out of the room this way.

She’d formulated a plan last night. But it had been based entirely on the assumption that she wouldn’t be locked in this room permanently. Now what? Wait until he was asleep, then bash him over the head again so she could get the key out of his pocket? Did he think she wouldn’t? Bash him over the head, that is.

The chamber pot could be quite handy for that, being the heaviest item in the room other than the lantern hanging from one of the support posts. Or did he really not know that the shackle didn’t fit her?

She didn’t know what to think now, but she did know that she didn’t want to hurt him again, which left her with options that she didn’t like at all. The trouble was, she’d had hopes where he was concerned, so her emotions were still involved. If they weren’t, then she wouldn’t even give bashing him over the head again a second thought. But she’d actually moved him to the top of her list of men she’d like to spend the rest of her life with. He’d ruined that when he’d ruined her, but the anger she’d felt had only masked that disappointment. It was still there, lurking under the surface of her bitterness. But still, despite what he’d done to her, she wanted to leave him with a broken heart, not hurt him physically.

With a deep sigh, because she obviously wasn’t going to get anything accomplished for the moment, she

moved back to her pile of bedding on the floor. She caught the aroma of food this time and found the plate that had been left for her. It had been covered with a large napkin nearly the same color as her blanket, which was probably why she hadn’t noticed it sooner. And it was immediately apparent to her, even before she tasted the breakfast, that Drew’s cook was definitely better in the galley than hers.

Gabrielle was quite bored by the time Drew showed up several hours later. She’d come to no further conclusions, though she did finish her search through the cabin—and his trunks. Which turned out to be at least interesting, if annoying. The annoying part even amazed her when she figured out that it was nothing other than old-fashioned jealousy on her part. But then, one of Drew’s trunks contained nothing but women’s belongings.

Everything in it looked new. A parasol, a silk purse, a gaudy fan, a pretty if cheap locket on a chain, and other assorted baubles. There were also at least half a dozen lacy scarves, but all identical, which made her realize that all the items were probably presents. For his many sweethearts? The thought made her want to burn the entire contents of that trunk, and she even glanced briefly at the lantern hooked to the post. If the smoke wouldn’t travel and cause an alarm, she probably would have done it.

When Drew finally walked in around noon, she was sitting on her pile of blankets, leaning back against the wall, her feet flat on the floor, her knees bent in front of her. She gave him a sultry look as he crossed the room, but she was so furious it probably looked more like a glare.

Heneeded no practice for sultry looks. The one he turned on her made her catch her breath and scramble quickly for a distraction before that sensual stirring in her belly got the better of her.

“I’m bored,” she blurted out.

That brought their reversed circumstances immediately back to his mind and had him smirking. “Too bad,” he said as he continued across the room to the table that had his charts spread out over it.

He studied the one on top for a few minutes, made some notations on it, then moved over to the desk and got comfortable in his chair, legs stretched out under the desk, fingers twined with his hands resting on his belly. He wasn’t planning on ignoring her. As soon as he was settled, his eyes came back to her.

She glanced away before she caught his look, but she could feel his dark eyes moving leisurely over her now. As long as she didn’t actually meet his gaze, she should be able to avoid getting flustered by him again. She could hope.

While he wasn’t there, she’d managed to avoid thinking about last night and the amazing pleasure he’d given her. It was much more difficult to push it out of her mind when he was present and stirring her senses with the attraction to him that she couldn’t seem to shake.

“Now, explain to me why I should make an effort to amuse you, when you didn’t exactly relieve my boredom when I was sitting where you are,” he reminded her.

“I don’t recall you mentioning it,” she said with a thoughtful frown, then raised a brow at him. “Still working on tit for tat, are we? If you want to get specific, I didn’t steal your virginity either, as it happens, butyou certainly added that new wrinkle. You ruined me socially, stole my virginity. No decent man will want me now!”

“You’re a pirate!” He almost laughed. “No decent man would have married you anyway.”

She sucked in her breath. “What a rotten thing to say, and it’s not even true! A man who’d had a chance to fall in love with me might have overlooked my father’s occupation. But not now, after you stole my virginity.”

He coughed, sat forward, and no longer looked the least bit comfortable. But he did point out, “I didn’t steal it. Your cooperation was delightfully noted.”

“I thought you were a dream, you bloody sod!” she snarled at him.

“Did you really? Many ladies who share my bed say the same thing—that I’m a dream.” He sounded too amused now. “That’s not what I meant!” she snapped angrily. “I really thought I was dreaming.”

“Did you?”

“Yes.”

“I wish to hell I had dreams like that.” He grinned. “But now that you mention it, I’ve always found lovemaking to be the perfect remedy for boredom. Care to while away the afternoon in my bed?”

“Thatisn’t going to happen again!”

He shrugged. “I’m sure you mean that quite sincerely at the moment. But you’ve had a taste,” he said.

Then, with complete confidence and a winsome smile, he assured her, “You’ll want more.”

“Possibly,” she allowed, then added with her own shrug, “Just not with you.” His lips tightened just enough for her to notice. She was delighted to know she’d struck a chord at last.

And now would be a good time to change the subject, before she got caught up in that same chord.

“What have you done with Margery?” she asked.

“I assume you mean your maid?”

“Housekeeper,” she corrected.

“Whatever,” he said with little interest. “I’ve allowed her to retain the cabin she was using. She’s fine.

She slept through the commotion.”

“May I see her?”

“Want to start bargaining for favors?” he countered with a roguish grin.

She drew in her breath and glared at him. “What I want is to be put to work to occupy my time. There isn’t much that I don’t know how to do on a ship.”

He actually seemed to give it some thought, then said, “The decks need swabbing.” She nodded, thinking he was serious. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve tackled that job.”

“Are you joking?”

“No.” And then she sighed. “But I suppose you were?”

“Of course I was. You’re not leaving this cabin until we make port, sweetheart. Sorry, but I don’t trust you any further than I can see you.”

“I don’t have my crew at my back, so what are you worried about?”

“That you’ll try to get them at your back again. And this isn’t up for debate, so forget it.”

“But—”

“Want me to remember that I was gagged some of the time while I was your captive?” he cut in sharply.

She got the point and shut up—for now.

Chapter 36

DREW HAD THE THREE MISCREANTSbrought before him on the quarterdeck, the three he’d shared his cabin with after Gabby had taken the cowardly route and moved out of it. One of them had planted a fist in his face last week when he’d been sleeping. He’d never been able to guess which one had done it, nor had he asked, since he’d been in no position to retaliate or protect himself at the time.

But that situation had changed nicely.

They each had their hands tied behind them. He made them wait nearly an hour before he approached them to get his answers.

He knew them by name now, after sharing the cabin with all three of them. Bixley looked wary about why Drew had had them brought up from the hold, but then Bixley was the last one he would suspect of having a reason to assault him when he wasn’t looking, as it were.

Richard was wearing a cocky grin as usual. The Frenchman, if he even was French, which Drew suspected he wasn’t, appeared not to have a serious bone in his body. He was always joking about something with his friends, including Gabby. That might have annoyed Drew; hell, it did annoy him.

Ohr was the enigma among them. He seemed to be close to Gabby, but he wasn’t demonstrative. The man kept his emotions, whatever they were, strictly to himself.

Of the two, Drew suspected Ohr was the one who’d hit him. Richard was too happy-go-lucky. Nothing appeared to bother him; in fact, he reminded Drew a lot of himself. But Ohr was too serious. There was no telling what emotions simmered beneath his quiet demeanor. Drew intended to find out, though.

“What’s this about, Captain?” Bixley asked in a nervous tone when Drew moved over to stand in front of them.

He didn’t answer immediately. Suspense could make the men uneasy, which would benefit him. Besides, having the upper hand with these particular fellows was distinctly satisfying, so he was in no hurry to rush through the interrogation.

“Relax,” he finally said. “I just have some questions for you. I merely have to determine which of you will have the answers.”

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