Captive of My Desires Page 33

She still had nothing to occupy her time, though she wondered if Drew would really object if she just started helping around the ship. She’d have to try that later, but for the moment, she simply enjoyed the sun and fresh air after being denied it for several days, and the view of the quarterdeck, where Drew was manning the wheel. He was such a big man. His extraordinary height and breadth would give most men pause, but he’d never intimidated her. He’d inspired many different responses in her, but fear wasn’t one of them.

His love of the sea was obvious. He had an exhilarated look about him, as if there was no other place he’d prefer to be. She’d seen that look on her father, too, many times. But seeing it on Drew made her feel a little sad. No wonder he’d decided never to marry. No woman could ever come close to what he felt for his ship, and the sea.

Not that she cared anymore. Good heavens, no! She wouldn’t marry him now if he begged her. But she did realize that most of her anger toward him was gone. She wasn’t sure if she could even continue any sort of revenge against him now. If he did end up helping to free her father, they would be even, like he’d said.

Timothy stopped by to have a word with her that turned into quite a few. The first mate apparently loved to talk once he got started, about ships, about his hometown—Bridgeport, Connecticut—about anything that came to mind. With nothing else to do, Gabrielle certainly didn’t mind listening to him.

As he was winding down he said, “I was surprised to find you out and about this morning.”

“Gabby didn’t tell you about the deal she and I struck last night?” Drew said, having come up silently behind them. “She managed to use her powers of…persuasion to gain her freedom again.” Gabrielle was speechless. What Drew had just said, or rather implied, was horrid, and no doubt a deliberate attempt to embarrass her. But Timothy was even more embarrassed, and with red cheeks, he muttered something and hurried off.

“That was fairly close to an accurate explanation, don’t you think? It shut Tim up,” Drew said, as if he’d been doing her a favor instead of profoundly embarrassing her.

If one of his crew hadn’t walked past them just then, the first words out of her mouth would have been rather shrill, but she managed to keep her voice down as she demanded,“Why did you do that?”

“What?” he asked with a perfect display of innocence as he made himself comfortable against the railing next to her. “You looked like you needed rescuing. When Tim gets started like that, he’ll talk your ear off.”

So hewas going to pretend he’d been doing her a favor? She just didn’t buy it. Nor was she going to let him slip by with an excuse like that.

“I didn’t need rescuing, but even if I did, why the devil would you say a thing like that?” He gave a careless shrug. “It was the first thing that came to mind.”

“Liar,” she snarled. “That was a deliberate attempt to make him think the worst of me!” He noticeably stiffened at that. The charge of “liar,” which had been hasty on her part, would offend most men. He was apparently no different.

His annoyance was there now in his derisive tone when he shot back, “You seem to manage that well enough on your own, sweetheart.”

She gasped sharply. “How dare you?!”

“Easily enough,” he replied. “Besides, I could have thought of a number of other things that would have been much more damaging than a mere insinuation.”

“Such as?”

“The truth.”

“The only truth is that you got into my bed when I was sleeping and took advantage of the fact that I thought you were a dream.”

The mention of that night abruptly changed his demeanor. A lazy smile spread across his face. “That was one hell of a nice dream, wasn’t it?”

She’d never seen a man turn sensual so fast, but Drew managed it with ease. From offended ire to seductive charmer within seconds! His eyes got heavy-lidded with a lambent glow. And the turning of his lips, just so, warned her that he was done with the original subject and was going to pursue in earnest the new one she’d unwittingly introduced.

“I’d prefer not to think of it,” she said stiffly, trying desperately to ignore that fluttering in her belly that his sensual look aroused in her.

He chuckled. “You can try, but you know you won’t succeed.”

“Stop it,” she said.

She wasn’t done upbraiding him or she would have walked away. But she made an attempt to at least give him her back. If she wasn’t actually looking at him, her pulse would slow down and she could think clearly and—

He slipped his arm over her shoulder and beneath her neck, so that his fingers were able to caress her cheek with a feather-light touch. It caused gooseflesh to spread along that side of her body.

She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting the sensations that threatened to overpower her. He’d managed to pull her back against him with that arm, and the weight of it rested on her breasts. He wasn’t even touching her nipples, but they responded anyway; tingling and tightening, as she imagined his fingers on them.

“Face it, Gabby, what we shared was so nice, it’s worth repeating—many times.” So husky his tone! But it was those potent words that were shredding her resistance. She had to give it one more try before she succumbed completely to the desire he was so easily provoking.

“You wanted Timothy to assume the worst. Why?”

He sighed over her stubborn persistence. “I’m crushed that you’re still dwelling on that,” he said, though he didn’t sound the least bit crushed. “I was just teasing you, you know. I figured we’re close enough now that you wouldn’t mind. And besides, my crew knows me very well. You’ve spent several nights with me in my cabin. They already assume we’re lovers.” Just teasing.Something she really wouldn’t have minded if they really were lovers. But they weren’t.

She started to point that out when she said, “We aren’t—” only to have the thought interrupted when he swung her around abruptly and kissed her.

She should have seen it coming. She should have had her willpower firmly in hand before his lips touched hers. What willpower? Her resistance crumbled relentlessly and soon she was slipping her arms around his neck and nearly purring as he gathered her closer.

There was a chuckle as another of his crew passed by them. She didn’t hear it, but he must have, because he whispered against her lips, “Let’s go to the cabin and continue this in private.” If he hadn’t suggested that, if he’d just taken her to his cabin without mentioning it, she probably wouldn’t have been able to muster a protest. But his words broke the trance he’d put her in, and in that one moment of clarity, she was able to tear herself out of his arms and hurry away from the temptation he presented.

Chapter 42

IT TOOK A WHILE FORDREWto get his body back under control. He remained at the railing where Gabby had left him. Stubborn wench! They weren’t going to be at sea forever. They should be taking advantage of every minute they could get alone. So why did she fight it?

They’d shared one of the more enjoyable nights of his life—twice—and he knew damn well she’d felt the same about it. The damage was done. She was no longer a virgin. There was noreason for her to deny herself that pleasure. But she was obviously going to. Because he’d ruined her chances for a good marriage in England?

Damn, he hadn’t meant for that to happen. He’d been drunk, yes, but that was no excuse. That he was ending his visit with his sister sooner than he had to had him annoyed, too. Because of Gabrielle. Because he had to get away from her before the temptation became too much for him. Because she was still husband hunting and immune to his charms and it was starting to irritate the hell out of him.

His guilt was extreme now that he knew what his careless words at that ball had done. “Payback,” she’d wanted for it; that had been the word she’d used. He recalled all the temptation she’d presented him with when he’d been in chains and unable to do anything about it. How often she’d shown off her curves with a supposed innocent stretch of her limbs. The unusual looks she’d thrown at him that he might have called sexy if he hadn’t thought she was immune to him. The silly wench hadwanted him to want her, to drive

him mad with lust so she could have more revenge in denying him. And she’d nearly succeeded.

Did she really not know that he’d already wanted her so much it was barely all he could think about?

And having her hadn’t changed that one bit.

He really did need to get as far away from Gabrielle Brooks as possible. This voyage couldn’t end soon enough for him. And yet that wouldn’t end it. He’d promised to help her free her father. Damn. But he had no choice in that. He did owe her something for inadvertently embroiling her in a scandal and after taking her virginity, too.

The honorable thing to do would be to…

He stopped the thought before it started. It wasn’t the first time it had snuck up on him since that amazing night in her bed. An unexpected virgin demanded certain things of a man, after all, the least of which was to make an offer to turn the occurrence respectable. And if Gabrielle hadn’t stolen his ship, he probably would have been foolish enough to make that offer, out of guilt, out of—lust, or for whatever reason. His guilt would have prevailed.

She would have refused, of course. She wanted nothing to do with him. She had stressed that from the start. Or would she? Her friend had said that day that she’d entertained thoughts of marriage to Drew.

Was that a lie Richard had came up with to get him to stop questioning him about that punch?

He sighed and headed back to the quarterdeck. He’d never been in such a muddled state of mind over a woman before. And jealousy! Where the hell had that come from? But he couldn’t deny it. First that fop Wilbur, then her friend Richard, now his own friend Timothy, who he knew damn well didn’t entertain any thoughts about her. Why was jealousy rearing its head now, when Drew had never experienced it before? Well, he could only assume that it was because he wasn’t the least bit done with her himself.

Lovers! Gabrielle no sooner entered Drew’s cabin, where her eyes moved straight to his bed, than the fury she’d felt up on deck returned with a vengeance. Everyone on board thought she and Drew were lovers and he found that amusing!

It was too bad he didn’t delay returning to his room that evening, since she apparently needed more than a few hours to get her emotions under control. He probably realized that when she began throwing things at him the moment he walked through the door.

He ducked the first missile she launched but wasn’t as lucky with the second, which prompted the sharp command, “Put that down!”

She didn’t. She was standing behind his desk with two drawers open, which gave her a wealth of items that weren’t nailed down to throw at him. An inkwell was next. She wished it had splattered all over him, but it was securely stoppered and didn’t even break. Then she aimed a well-worn nautical book at him.

She paused only long enough to hiss, “We aren’t lovers! We are never going to be lovers! And you damn well better let your crew know that!”

He’d been on his way to reach her but stopped abruptly at that demand. He even grinned now, the blackguard.

“We’ve made love twice. Sorry, sweetheart, but that officially makes us lovers.”

“The devil it does!” She snorted and hurled a handful of old coins at his head.

One coin caught him on the cheek and prompted him to move again, quite quickly. In fact, he was around the desk and behind her, dragging her hand out of the drawer before her fingers could close on the next missile. Safety, his own, prompted him to grasp her other hand as well and place both of them at the small of her back, where he had no trouble keeping them. That position put her rather close to him, so she still struggled for her release. It wasn’t going to happen.

“I think you owe me for this gash on the cheek,” he told her.

She didn’t believe there was one there, but she eyed both his cheeks first before she said, “What gash?

You’re not bleeding, more’s the pity.”

“Feels like it.”

“It probably won’t even bruise, which wasn’t the idea a’tall, so don’t think I’m done!” He tsked. And he was putting so little effort into restraining her in that position that his voice was almost soothingly calm.

He said, “Your problem is that you’re as frustrated as I am. You couldn’t get this angry over a little teasing if you weren’t. It’s got nothing to do with what I said. It’s got everything to do with your desire—for me. Admit it. You want me, Gabby.”

“I don’t!”

“Liar. I happen to recognize the signs—since I just went through it myself. For God’s sake, I was even jealous of Tim today for spending time with you!”

She stopped struggling for a moment and said, “Now who’s lying? A man with a sweetheart in every port wouldn’t know the meaning of jealousy.”

“I would have been the first to agree with you—before I met you,” he said.

“Timothy is rather sweet, like a big, lovable bear,” she said provokingly.

His eyes narrowed. “You’renot making me jealous again, wench.”

“Wasn’t trying to,” she insisted, then said heatedly, “And let go of me!” She shouldn’t have made that demand. It brought it immediately to both their minds, just how close she was to him. His arms were already around her. Their chests were already touching. He didn’t have to move very far to bring their mouths together.

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