Captive of My Desires Page 35

She rolled her eyes. “And if he doesn’t release my father until I’m standing in his presence?”

“He can’t very well renege just because I deliver the maps to him.”

“Like hell he can’t. Don’t for a minute assume he’s honorable. I need to be there in case your plan backfires and he ends up holding you hostage, too.”

“Does that thought…distress you?”

She blinked, then frowned. Was he fishing for a declaration of some sort? That she was worried about him? That she cared about him? She pushed the thought away, didn’t want it in the same conversation that Pierre was in.

So she said, tongue almost in cheek, “Of course it distresses me. If you get captured, then I’ll have two hostages to rescue, won’t I?”

He laughed, pulled her closer, rubbed his cheek against hers on the way to whispering by her ear, “I find it charming that you’d rescue me.”

She slipped her arms around his neck and smiled as she replied, “I’d have to rescue you so I could shoot you for being dumb enough to get captured in the first place.” He burst out laughing. “Damn, Gabby, you are wonderful for the disposition. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I have since I’ve known you.”

“I bet you say that to all your sweethearts,” she replied with feigned coquetry.

He gave her that stomach-fluttering smile of his. “No, I don’t believe I have. Only to you.”

Chapter 44

THEY ARRIVED MUCH SOONER THANGABRIELLE HAD EXPECTED,the very next day. They docked on the island of Anguilla late in the afternoon. Colonized by English settlers from St. Kitts back in the 1600s, Anguilla wasn’t far at all from her home, which could have been reached before dark.

One of Drew’s crew told her Anguilla was one of his trading stops, so she figured that was why Drew picked it, since things there would be familiar to him, whereas St. Kitts might not be on his usual route.

She never did summon up enough nerve to broach again with Drew the question of whether he was going to let her men go. If he’d said no, that would have ended their truce right then and there. And besides, she figured, now that he’d agreed to help, he would be foolish not to make use of all available men, particularly those willing to go above and beyond in their effort to free Nathan.

Regardless, she was almost holding her breath, standing there at the rail, waiting to see the hold opened and if her friends would be marched off to a dungeon or given their freedom. She’d been forced to come up with a few alternative courses of action, just in case.

Since it was a British-controlled island, and Drew wasn’t the least bit British, there was a slight, though very slight, chance that she could turn the tables on him, if it came to that. Richard could sound like the veriest English nabob if he had to, after all. And the English authorities would be inclined to believe one of their own before they would an American. But she was praying it wouldn’t come to that. The last thing she wanted to do was land Drew in jail when her truce with him was still in effect.

She’d reason with him before that, rail at him, bribe him, cajole him, even throw the contents of his desk at him again if necessary. She just needed at least one plan in case everything else failed.

And then Richard strolled over to say, “What rotten luck, to be let out now. I was losing to Bixley at whist. Needed a few more hours to break even at least.” She was too thrilled to see him standing there without a guard to immediately grasp what he was saying.

But as soon as she’d given him a relieved hug, she realized he was actually complaining about being set free, and sounded quite serious about it.

“You were given cards to pass the time?” she asked.

Richard chuckled. “We’ve had all the luxuries we could have hoped for,chérie. Cards, dice, some of the

best damn food I’ve ever eaten, and still hot, straight from the galley. Nathan needs to steal Anderson’s cook, he really does. We were also given hammocks, and, you won’t believe this one—even a bath.”

“How’d you manage that?”

“Well, there was an old tub down there. Ohr asked for enough water to fill it. He wasn’t really expecting he’d get it, but damned if the buckets didn’t get lowered to us, one by one.” He laughed with the memory. “We drew straws for the order of us all using that single tub. I didn’t do too bad, got it second.” She’d worried herself sick and they’d been having the time of their lives? A vacation was what it sounded like! Drewcould have told her, the bloody sod. So could her friend, for that matter.

She slapped Richard’s shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me that when you were let out for that dinner?” He shrugged. “I thought you knew. These Americans, they weren’t treating us like prisoners, well, other than the lock on the hatch, which Ohr was determined to break, by the way, until I was able to assure him you were fine with the new arrangements.”

And it had obviously looked like she was doing fine at that dinner that Richard was brought up to join; she hadn’t told him differently that night. But it was just as well her friends hadn’t tried to escape, since it looked like they weren’t going to be carted off to a dungeon after all.

“Where is Ohr?”

“Right here,” Ohr said at her back.

She swung around with a glad cry and threw her arms around him. “I was so worried! And I was afraid to ask about you. I didn’t want to bring you to Drew’s attention.” Richard chuckled at her. “I don’t think we were far from his thoughts, Gabby. He even brought us up on deck one day, determined to find out who had bruised his cheek late one night.” She went still, hearing that. “He did? And what did he find out?”

“Nothing,” Richard replied. “Told him I was sworn to secrecy.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you’d done it,” she allowed, recalling her own curiosity. “I’d wondered about that bruise myself.”

“He’s treated you honorably?” Ohr asked, looking too serious by half. She didn’t doubt for a minute that if she gave him the wrong answer, he’d go right for Drew’s jugular the moment he saw him, and he might not even wait that long.

So she said, “Very much so, after we figured out that what he did in England wasn’t intentional. He even offered me marriage.”

She really shouldn’t have added that, since both men were now staring at her, waiting for her to elaborate with the response she’d given Drew. And since she still wasn’t sure about the results of that unexpected conversation with the captain, she ought to just tell them that she’d refused him. Of course, if Drew ended up mentioning it to one of them, that they were engaged…

But she couldn’t go far wrong with the truth, so she continued, “I refused him. He didn’t like that answer and probably considers us engaged.” And then she shrugged. “Imight reconsider, but I would rather not decide until after Papa is free.”

“Nice to know I still have the option to run like hell.” Gabrielle winced at the sound of Drew’s voice. Was everyone going to sneak up on her today?

Drew sounded as if he was joking, but he probably wasn’t. He’d made that offer, for whatever reason, without much conviction, and got adamant about it only when she’d given him answers he wasn’t expecting.

She turned around to see his grin, and before she could make a reply, his arm slipped about her waist.

That was a clear indication to her friends that they were more to each other than she’d been letting on.

But before she could correct that impression, Drew added, “Shall we adjourn to the inn to formulate our plans? I already have a perfect one in mind, but I’d like to hear what you think of it.” And just like that, he took full command of the rescue and had Richard and Ohr’s support. And later, when they heard his plan, those two were all for leaving her behind and out of Pierre’s grasp. Which probably would have been just what happened—if James Malory hadn’t shown up.

Chapter 45

“IS THIS EVEN ACCURATE?”James asked, looking over the drawing Bixley had scribbled to give them an idea of what Pierre’s stronghold looked like.

No one answered him for a few moments. They were all in shock that he was even there, and James hadn’t offered any explanation for his presence yet. Looking rather dashing and even piratical with a flowing cravat tied loosely over his full-sleeved lawn shirt, high black boots, and no jacket, he made Gabrielle remember the time the Anderson brothers had let it slip that James was an ex-pirate. Seeing him now with his darker tan from the ocean crossing, his hair windblown, she no longer doubted it.

Drew finally exclaimed, “What the devil are you doing here, James!?” The look James turned on Drew was quite intimidating. It certainly had Richard slumping lower in his chair to try to avoid James’s notice. Gabrielle cringed as well.

“I’m here at your sister’s behest,” James said in a calm tone. “She worries about you. Bloody well can’t imagine why, but she does.” And then he tapped the drawing on the table again and repeated his question, “Is this accurate?” And they guessed, at least Gabrielle did, that he must have overheard them discussing some of their plan before he joined them.

Bixley hesitated in answering the question, but then nodded. “The fort was recently refurbished.” There were many more questions. Having James Malory asking them was making Bixley think long and hard about every word out of his mouth before he gave any response. Malory seemed to have that effect on people—including Gabrielle. This was the James Malory she’d first met, the one who’d so frightened her, not the one she’d ended up liking toward the end of her stay in London.

She would have been biting her nails if she wasn’t trying very hard not to look guilty. She was dreading the moment when his questioning turned to her, and it would. She was sure of it.

But so far he hadn’t asked her a thing. He’d merely looked at her hard, then looked just as hard at Drew sitting next to her on the sofa in the gathering room at the inn, and obviously came to his own conclusions about why they were there together.

Unfortunately, James hadn’t come alone. Georgina walked in only a few minutes after him. She was hatless, her brown hair braided down her back. And she was wearing a skirt and a loose comfortable shirt that was belted on the outside and was so big on her it might well have been one of James’s shirts.

She looked marvelous, as if she had thoroughly enjoyed the sea voyage.

She took one look at the couple on the sofa and said, “Well, this is a relief. Both present and accounted for. So there weren’t any pirates involved after all?” Richard, that rogue, grinned and raised his hand to draw Georgina’s attention to him before he remarked, “I wouldn’t say that.”

Georgina had merely glanced at her husband and asked, “Does he count?”

“Most definitely,” James replied, then added, “Though he’ll wish he didn’t.” Richard didn’t say another word after that, realizing that James was no longer talking about pirates, but Richard’s interest in his wife. Georgina realized that, too, but she merely tsked on her way to her brother for a hug.

It had taken a few moments for Drew to get past his new amazement, but now he demanded, “What the devil areyou doing here, Georgie?”

“You really have to ask, when one of your crew showed up to warn usThe Triton had been overrun by pirates? Or was that not the truth?”

“It was true, but you didn’t think I could handle that on my own?” She actually blushed slightly. “Well, certainly, but that wasn’t my only concern. Gabby disappeared, leaving a note that her father was in trouble. We gathered she might be with you, but since she is our responsibility, we couldn’t just guess about it, we had to make sure.” Gabrielle was the one blushing now. She hadn’t expected ever to see the Malorys again, so hadn’t expected to have to deal with the guilt she felt for the way she’d sneaked off.

“I was desperate,” Gabrielle tried to explain. “Having just learned that my father had been in a dungeon for nearly a month, and it might take that long again before I could get him out.”

“We understand, Gabby,” Georgina said.

She might have said more, but James, studying the drawing again, said to Bixley, “High wallsand a gate?”

Bixley nodded again. “Pierre keeps it locked, and manned, too.”

“Bloody hell,” James mumbled, but then in a resigned tone added, “Very well, I haven’t climbed any walls in a while, I suppose I’m due.”

“You’re due for no such thing,” Georgina countered, and moved over to stand next to her husband.

Then she suggested, “Why don’t we just blow those gates up? Our ships can get close enough, can’t they?”

It was beginning to sound like Malory was taking over the rescue operation. Gabrielle wasn’t surprised that he would put himself in charge. He was a man who wouldn’t just participate, he’d command, organize, give orders, and shoot down any objections. And he wouldn’t bother to ask if his help was needed.

James tapped the drawing now and dryly asked his wife, “Did you fail to note these cannons on the walls, m’dear?”

She glanced down at the drawing, said just as dryly, “It’s an old fortress. Those cannons are probably ancient and unusable, wouldn’t you think?”

“No, ma’am,” Bixley put in before James could give his opinion. “Pierre refurbished that place. It’s like new, well, aboveground it is. He did no work on the old dungeon, other than to make sure the doors would lock tight.”

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