Captive of My Desires Page 38

“That might give us a little more time,” James said.

“Time for what?” Drew snarled.

“To turn the tables, of course. You don’t think I’m going to let George fret if we’re not back by dawn, do you?”

“I’d like to know how the hell you think—”

“Quiet, someone’s coming back this way,” Bixley hissed.

Drew had never felt so much frustration. If he didn’t break these bonds soon…He couldn’t even feel if he was making progress, but he was straining for all he was worth.

He could make out six men coming down the beach toward them, laughing, taking their time. So the trap had been sprung successfully?

“Told you they’d still be here, that it didn’t matter how big they were,” one of the pirates said to his buddy as he bent over to cut the rope from the tree. “No one ties knots better’n I do.”

“Let’s go, mates,” another man said, nudging Drew with his foot. “We’ve a nice dungeon waiting for you.”

James had gotten to his feet the moment the rope fell away from his chest. Drew slid up the tree trunk to do the same. With his longer legs, both of which had fallen asleep, it was a bit slower going. He stamped some feeling back into them. Bixley got to his knees first and didn’t move further, so someone yanked him the rest of the way.

James shook his head back to toss his hair out of his face. That was when he was recognized.

“Don’t I know you?” one of the pirates said to James. The man was older than the others.

“Highly doubtful,” James replied, and turned around, dismissing the fellow.

The man persisted, came around so he could see James’s face again, and insisted, “You look damn familiar. I’m pretty good with faces. I never forget—”

“Senility changes that,” James cut in dryly. “So let me put it in terms even a child can understand. You don’t know me, you have never known me, and, most important, you don’twant to know me.” That got some chuckles from the pirates’ friends and a taunt from one of them. “Thinks ’e’s too good for the likes o’ ye, Mort.”

Annoyed now, Mort stepped closer to peer up at James, and then his expression turned to one of surprise. “I’ll be damned. I told you I never forget a face. You’re Captain Hawke! I knew it! I sailed

with you for a couple months, but you were too wild and dan…ger…” The word trailed off warily as Mort tried to step back, but he wasn’t quick enough.

“Should have remembered that as well, old chap,” James said as he slammed a fist into Mort’s face.

Drew was as surprised as the pirates were that James was free of his bonds. Another of them went down with an amazingly fast right to his cheek, before any of them even had a chance to move. The last four pirates still standing then tried to converge on James. Drew managed to trip two of them with one long leg. Bixley fell on one of them to keep him down, while Drew kicked the other squarely in the face, knocking him out. James had already dropped another, sent him flying several feet, actually. The last man standing panicked and tried to run. Drew tackled him, but with his own arms still bound, he was having trouble keeping him down. And James wasn’t coming immediately to give him a hand, as he had gone to dispatch the pirate that Bixley had a leg-lock on. But Drew was angry enough to head-butt the fellow.

Not the preferred way to do it, but it worked.

Drew rolled over to see that all six pirates were no longer moving. The entire fight had taken less than a minute, but then James Malory always had been fast, and lethal, with his fists.

Getting to his feet, he told James, “Nice work, but you could have given me a little warning.”

“Didn’t I?” James replied. “Thought breaking Mort’s jaw would give you a clue.”

“The ropes?” Drew said impatiently. Now that the tables had been turned, so to speak, he didn’t want to waste another minute getting to Gabrielle.

James took a dagger from one of the pirates and came over to slice through his ropes. And in a moment of compassion that he rarely revealed to anyone other than his wife, he said, “She’s going to be all right, Drew.”

“I know. She has to be. But I’d rather see that for myself sooner than later.” He didn’t add “before he hurts her,” but it was there in his mind and added extra speed to his race to the fortress.

Chapter 50

“IF HE TOUCHES YOU,I’m going to have to kill you.”

It wasn’t just the words that told Gabrielle she had company other than Pierre. So did the blade pressing against her throat. Yet again? Did all of Pierre’s friends have a fixation with throat cutting?

Gabrielle had been lying on the bed where Pierre had told her to wait, but she’d been unable to bring herself to remove her clothes. She opened her eyes to see the woman with one knee on the bed, leaning toward her. The bright red hair was a dead giveaway.

She’d never met or seen Red before, and was surprised to find that she was a handsome woman, too pretty for someone like Pierre. She did have a few scars on her left cheek, but they weren’t very wide and were faded, barely noticeable. Somewhere in her middle thirties in age, she was wearing men’s clothes that fit her snugly. Too many of the buttons on her shirt were left open, showing off a pair of hefty br**sts that were barely covered. A small black scarf was tied around her head to keep her wildly disarrayed hair out of her face, and so the linked gold loops on both ears dangled freely.

Her remark struck Gabrielle as bizarre. The woman must know that was Pierre’s plan.

“Why don’t you kill him instead?” Gabrielle asked curiously.

“Kill him? I love him, that bastard.”

“Then help us to escape.”

Gabrielle’s hopes shot up when Red actually appeared to give it some thought, but then she shook her head. “That isn’t one of my options, which are simple. I either kill you, or make you less appealing. You want the choice?”

It sounded like angry bravado, so she ignored the threat and asked, “How did you get in here without him seeing you?”

“He wasn’t watching my door. I just waited until he went outside to relieve himself.”

“If you’re not going to help me, then you might as well kill me. The man I love is, God, I don’t even know if he’s still alive!” Gabrielle cried.

Red stood up straight with a snort. “How melodramatic, like I’d fall for that. But you needn’t worry about your father. I like that old buzzard. I’ll make sure he’s released.” A little compassion in the midst of murder? She had a feeling Red might not be as bloodthirsty as she was making herself out to be, and that gave her more hope than she’d had all night.

“Thank you,” Gabrielle said. “But I wasn’t talking about him.”

“Then who…?”

They both heard the footsteps approaching the door. Red panicked and leapt over the bed to crouch on the other side of it. What Gabrielle felt was worse than panic. She was out of time, her brief reprieve gone.

The door opened. Pierre swayed there for a moment before he regained his balance. His eyes were glassy. He was drunk.

But he didn’t sound it when he said, “You don’t follow orders well,chérie, but you will learn. I am sorry to have kept you waiting, but I could not resist savoring this triumph for a little while. Too long, I have wanted you. And for too long I thought you were out of my reach. But not anymore, eh?” She’d heard the gasp when he said he wanted her. It wasn’t hers. She could imagine what Red felt hearing that—if she really did love him. But what had the woman expected to happen? Had she really just closed a blind eye to the outcome of his scheme, hoping it wouldn’t come to pass? Or was she as helpless to do anything about it as Gabrielle was?

Gabrielle said nothing, couldn’t get any words out past her fear and revulsion as he approached the bed.

The sound of a pistol shot outside in the courtyard made Pierre pause.

“What are those fools doing?” he growled. He added a few French expletives as he left to find out.

Gabrielle realized the distraction might be her only chance to escape. She bolted off the bed and was halfway to the door before she remembered Red might try to stop her. She glanced back. Red was standing on the other side of the bed. She looked furious, but it wasn’t because Gabrielle was attempting to flee.

“Go on, go!” Red spat out. “Get out of here while you have the chance!” Gabrielle hesitated. “What will you tell him?”

“Tell him? After what I heard him say to you, he’ll be lucky if I don’t kill him. I’m done with him!” Gabrielle didn’t waste another moment. The hall below was empty. Whatever was happening in the courtyard had drawn all of the pirates outside. More shots were being fired before she reached the outer door, and what she witnessed in the courtyard was pure mayhem.

The men from the ships! They were everywhere, fighting with whatever weapons they’d found, and some of them just with their fists. She saw Ohr, oh, thank God, he was alive! She realized he must have released the men from the ships. But she looked frantically for just one man in the crowd. The tallest man there—she would have spotted him immediately if it were daylight, but in the moonlight it took a few moments for her eyes to lock on him, and her knees went weak when she did, so much relief filled her.

Drew, pounding his fist into some pirate he was holding by the shirt-front. He was all right!

She almost ran to him, had to fight back the urge to do so. He looked so magnificent, swinging his fists, leaping from one pirate to the next. She knew it wasn’t a good time to interrupt him, but it was the perfect time to find her father, while the yard was in such chaos that no one would notice her.

She made her way carefully around the edges of the fighting, had to pause only once when two men fell nearly at her feet, grappling on the ground. The first door she found that looked like it might be the entrance to the dungeon just led to a cold cellar. The second door was the right one. The narrow stairs were lit by a torch hanging there at the top. There wasn’t much left of it, but there were a half dozen fresh ones in a basket on the floor just inside the door. She lit a new one. The brighter light illuminated the large ring with a single key on it, hanging from a hook on the wall. She grabbed it and descended.

That there was only one key worried her, but she understood when she got to the bottom of the stairs.

There were only two doors off the long corridor down there, one on each side of it. Military cells designed to hold many prisoners together. One was open to a big empty cell not in use. The other was locked. She could hear voices on the other side of it, discussing the commotion up in the courtyard.

“Papa?”

“Gabby?” she heard from deep in the cell, then closer as he moved to the door. “My God, what are you doing here?”

She dropped the torch to fight with the lock, her hands suddenly trembling. “I—I figured it was my turn to rescue you.”

She was starting to cry, but she couldn’t help it. She’d been so worried about him all these weeks, her worst fear being that Pierre, as evil as he was, wouldn’t keep Nathan and his crew alive.

“Tell me you’re all right?”

“We’re fine. The food has been plentiful, exercise once a week, though we could have done with a change in odors.”

She got the door open, was able to see for herself. Her father stood there grinning at her with his long hair and beard. She started to laugh as she hugged him. “Look at you, you’re shaggy.”

“I swear I asked for a barber, but they thought I was joking,” he teased. “But how did you get here, and what’s happening up top?”

“I brought a lot of help. James Malory and his American brother-in-law, and both their crews.”

“Pierre?”

“I don’t know,” she had to admit. “They’re still all fighting.” He took her hand. “Let’s get out of here. Damn, I hope Pierre is still alive. I want a piece of him myself.”

Chapter 51

DREW HAD NEVER BEEN THIS FRANTIC BEFORE.He’d fought his way to the main building, but after he got inside and searched the few rooms upstairs where he’d been sure he’d find Gabrielle, all he found was a red-haired woman angrily packing her belongings.

“Where did Lacross take the woman?” Drew demanded of her.

She only gave him a brief glance before she said, “I let her go when the shooting started. If she’s smart, she’s hiding.”

He ran back downstairs and outside. He saw immediately that more men had shown up and were helping to fight the last few pirates still standing. From the look of them, he guessed they were the prisoners, released from the dungeon, and he didn’t have to guess who’d let them out. He saw her, standing back out of the way, and started running to her.

Gabrielle saw him racing across the courtyard to her. She helped him close the distance and threw her arms around his neck when he reached her. Her feet left the ground, he hugged her so tightly, and then he was kissing her, and kissing her, and he wouldn’t stop kissing her.

“My God, when I thought he’d gotten his hands on you—” he began.

She said at the same time, “I was so frightened when I thought you’d been captured!”

“We were, but James got loose and turned the tables—”

“Oh God, Drew, a few minutes longer…”

“He didn’t touch you?”

“No, the pistol shots drew him away. And with no one left in the hall to stop me, I found the dungeon and released my father.”

Prev Next