Captive of My Desires Page 36

Georgina said “Bloody hell” as well and moved over to the group of sofas to sit next to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle felt the need to elaborate on Bixley’s information and told James, “According to Ohr, Pierre added a few more enemies to the count when he turned rogue. It forced the other captains in the alliance to change locations. They didn’t like that. It had been a really nice settlement they’d built up over the years that no one knew about. Most of them were even calling it home. But they didn’t trust Pierre not to give away its location, so they moved out.”

“Would any of these other captains help with this endeavor?” James queried.

“They might. But it would take a while to locate them and—”

“And time is of the essence,” James cut in, but not unkindly. “I understand your concern for Nathan when you don’t know his condition or how he’s been treated all this time. But we have two ships now to pull this off. You can stop worrying.”

“He says that all the time,” Georgina whispered beside her. “You’d think he’d know by now that it doesn’t work, especially since I’m here for that very reason. A woman won’t stop worrying until there’s nothing left to worry about. Well, at least that goes for me.”

“And me,” Gabrielle agreed.

Chapter 46

TWO PLANS WERE FORMULATED,neither of which included hiring a look-alike to take Gabrielle’s place. Drew was annoyed. He’d liked that plan because it kept her out of harm’s way. But when he’d argued the issue, James had pointed out that if something went wrong with their plans, and it became necessary to confront Pierre directly, Gabrielle would be useful in luring the pirate captain out of his

fortress.

Georgina wasn’t that lucky. She’d had her way about not staying home in England, but that had been a safe voyage. They hadn’t even been caught in that bad storm, had been able to avoid it entirely. And James had enjoyed her company on the crossing, as he knew he would, which had influenced his decision to allow her to come along. But now that the rest of the trip involved danger, he couldn’t be budged about her safety. She was going to stay at the inn in Anguilla—where Drew thought Gabrielle ought to be.

They wouldn’t be gone for more than a day, though, possibly not even that long, so his sister wouldn’t have long to worry about them. According to Bixley, Pierre’s stronghold was only a few hours away.

The two plans were nearly identical, just a matter of timing. They could try to break Nathan out in the dead of night, when most of the fortress would be sleeping, or they could use Drew’s ship, and Gabrielle’s presence on it, as a distraction while just a few of them climbed the back walls and sneaked their way to the dungeon.

“It’s not just my father who needs to be rescued, Gabrielle reminded them. “The rest of his crew is with him. He won’t leave them behind.”

As Pierre and his guards would surely notice that many men trying to sneak their way out over the back walls in the bright light of day, going in at night was really the only option. They would leave for the docks after a hearty dinner and a brief rest.

Drew had hoped to spend those few hours with Gabrielle, but his sister had other plans for him. With a look that promised he’d wish he was elsewhere, she’d dragged him outside where they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“I’ve a bone to pick with you,” she began.

“I gathered as much.”

“What the devil do you think you’re doing? Do you even know that you embroiled that girl in a scandal in England with your careless reference to pirates at that last ball you attended?”

“It wasn’t intentional, Georgie. But yes, she informed me of that fact.” Georgina blinked. “So shedid know about it before she left?”

“Indeed. To hear her tell it, it gave her the extra incentive to take my ship—killing two birds with one stone, was the way she put it.”

“Revenge?” she guessed. “Very well, so I’m not all that surprised. Probably would have done the same thing myself under the circumstances.”

He grinned. “No, you wouldn’t have. She actually knows how to run a ship, you don’t, so it never would have occurred to you—”

“Oh, stop,” she cut in. “You aren’t going to distract me from the main problem.”

“There is no problem.”

“The devil there isn’t,” she disagreed. “She’s a young, innocent—”

“Not so innocent now.”

“I see,” she said with a sigh, then amended, “No, I don’t see, and this is exactly what I was afraid of.

You know better. She was under our care. Good God, Drew, what could you have been thinking?”

“She left your care.”

“And went into yours, so she was still under our family’s protection, as it were, which is quite the same thing. You’ll have to marry her, you know. When James finds out, he’ll insist.”

“Then he’ll have to do his insisting with her. I already asked.” She scowled at him for not mentioning that sooner. “Why didn’t you say so?”

“Because she refused me.”

That took the wind out of her sails. “Did she really? I find that unbelievable.” So did he, but he said by way of explanation, “She thinks I’m a Lothario, a cad, a seducer of women.”

“Youare a seducer of women, Drew.”

He smiled at her. “I wouldn’t be one if I married, now would I? Or do you think marriagewouldn’t have a remarkable effect on me?”

“What I think doesn’t really matter when it comes to this.” But then she asked him pointedly, “Do you love her?”

“Of course not,” he said quickly. But he did admit, “I don’t think I’ve ever lusted after a woman quite this much, though. But I’m sure I’ll get over it as soon as the next wench comes along.” Georgina snorted and poked a finger in his chest. “I’d suggest you give that a little more thought, brother mine. It would be much better if you enter this marriage knowing that it’s not just the right thing to do, but also what youwant to do.”

She started to walk away. He called after her, “I told you, she refused me!”

“That won’t be the case after James hears about this. You may depend upon it.”

Chapter 47

GABRIELLE MANAGED TO AVOID ANY INTERROGATIONof the personal sort that night with the excuse of a slight headache. And claiming that she was sure the brief rest they were all going to take would cure her of it, she went up to her room.

She did rest, or tried to, but she kept trembling with fear, with dread, and no matter how many positive thoughts she tried to concentrate on, she couldn’t get the trembling to stop. Now that her father’s rescue

was at hand and she would be sailing to within shouting distance, as it were, of Pierre Lacross, it was all she could think about.

She hadn’t voiced her fears to the others, but what if her father and his crew were in no condition to escape? As they’d been incarcerated for close to two months, anything could have happened. And Pierre was evil! Had he fed them decently, or did he just give them mere crumbs, barely enough to keep them alive? Had he abused them in other ways, just for his amusement? Had he even kept Nathan’s crew alive, when they meant nothing to him and weren’t part of the deal?

She managed to get the trembling under control before she joined the others downstairs again. She had no chance to speak privately with Drew on that short voyage. He’d taken the task of steering the ship himself and was in conference with Ohr most of the way. It had been decided that Ohr was going ashore with him and James. Richard hadn’t been included in the rescue party, not because he wouldn’t have been useful, but because James had made an offhand remark that Richard would be left behind in the dungeon if he had his way. James had been joking. Possibly. But Richard decided not to put it to the test.

They anchoredThe Triton and James’s ship in a small cove on the west side of the island, which wasn’t very big. Bixley guessed they’d have a fifteen-minute walk to the fortress, most of which could be done on the beach. And there were about five hours left of darkness to get in and out of the dungeon, which was plenty of time if they didn’t run into any trouble.

Gabrielle watched the rowboat being lowered into the water. There was enough moonlight peeking through the clouds to see that James was already rowing ashore from his ship. She felt calmer now, had managed to fight back her fears, but they were still just below the surface. The slightest thing could set off the trembling again.

She should have insisted on going with them. But in her few rational moments, she knew she’d only be in the way. If they had to fight their way in, she couldn’t contribute much to the effort. But it was going to be pure agony, waiting for them to return to the ship.

Ohr hugged her briefly before he went over the side. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “You will see Nathan before the night is over.”

“I know. Just be careful.”

She barely had time to say that before Drew gathered her in his arms. And in front of his entire crew he gave her the most tender, heart-stirring kiss—the one thing guaranteed to break through the fragile control she had over her fears. As she kissed him back, reveling in his closeness and the delicious sensations that ran up and down her body, she began to feel anxious. The trembling started again, but he let her go before he felt it—and besides, he might have attributed it to her passionate response. She pressed her fingertips to her lips as she watched him go over the railing.

“I don’t see what there is to love about him,” Richard remarked at her side.

“Are you kidding? He’s—”

Gabrielle stopped, realizing what she was admitting to. Good heavens, was that why she was more afraid than she should be? Because Drew was walking into danger? She loved him. What a foolish thing to do.

Richard put his arm around her shoulder. “It will work out,chérie. He adores you.”

“He adores all women.”

He chuckled softly. “So do I, but I would give them all up for—”

“Shush!” she told him earnestly. “Richard, please, stop pining for another man’s wife. Malory won’t tolerate another trespass. You make me fear for your life by not being reasonable about this.”

“Who said love was reasonable?”

Bloody hell, Richard was right. Love wasn’t reasonable at all.

She sighed and bid him good night. She hoped she’d be able to sleep during the tense wait for the men to return, but she couldn’t still her trembling nerves. She didn’t know how long she lay in Drew’s comfortable bed, but she finally gave up on falling asleep and came back on deck—just in time to see the two boats returning, both filled to the brim with men.

They’d been successful! Her relief was incredible, almost draining. She staggered to the railing, trying to spot her father in one of the two boats, but the moon was well hidden now and the only man she recognized was Ohr. She could just barely make him out, and only because he was standing in the boat rowing to—James’s ship? Why wouldn’t he come back toThe Triton ? And why the devil was he standing up? He knew that wasn’t safe.

Every muscle in her body seemed to tighten. Something was wrong, very wrong…

She no sooner came to that conclusion than Ohr shouted, “It’s a trap!” just before he dove into the water.

Several shots were immediately fired at him, the guns apparently having been pointed at him all the while.

Ohr didn’t resurface.

Gabrielle gripped the rail, nearly paralyzed by the sudden grief washing over her. Ohr couldn’t be dead.

Not her dear friend. And his warning had been too late. He’d died for nothing! Others had swum out in advance and were already climbing aboard both ships, no, just more were joining the fray, too many were already on board.

The sounds of struggles and pistol shots were all around her now. She turned and saw one man leaning over an unmoving body. He glanced up at her and grinned. She didn’t recognize him, nor the man who pushed him aside to throw a dagger at one of Drew’s crewmen, who was trying to escape over the side.

The man went over. The dagger went over with him, embedded in his back.

She realized she had no weapon of any sort. She didn’t think Drew would have any in his cabin either; he’d been fully armed when he’d left. But his cabin was too far away anyway, and the railing was right next to her. Her only chance was to slip over the side herself.

She gave it no further thought and did that now, only to be yanked back against a wet chest and have a strong arm pressed against her neck. Her breath was cut off and she began to panic, her arms and legs flailing wildly.

Then a voice that sounded vaguely familiar said, “And just where did you think you were going, Gabby, my dear?”

She gasped out, “Avery? Avery Dobs? What are you doing here? Let me go. We have to—”

“You aren’t going anywhere except into Pierre’s waiting arms,” he cut in. He eased his grip on her so that she could turn to face him.

His wet clothes, the smirk on his face, the conclusion hit her hard. Horrified, she said, “My God, what have you done?”

“My job.”

“I don’t under—You can’t mean that you take orders from Pierre?”

“Why does that surprise you?” he asked. “You forget that I was on that pirate island with you and witnessed the same things you did.”

“What are you talking about? We were captives!” she exclaimed.

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