Captive of My Desires Page 4

hands before they came into his possession. Most of Nathan’s maps were very hard to decipher because each owner of the treasure who drew the maps used very few landmarks, just enough to lead himself back to his loot, but not enough for anyone else who might get hold of the maps to figure them out. And some of his maps had been torn apart to make them next to impossible to figure out, the pieces hidden in different places, or given to different members of a family, the meanings of them lost over the years, so some people didn’t even know what they possessed. Her father had two maps that were missing pieces.

Margery never did catch that ship back to England, as she’d sworn she would do when they’d first arrived in St. Kitts. Although she hadn’t taken well to the heat in the islands, she’d stayed because she wouldn’t leave Gabrielle alone among “pirates.” She got to know some of those pirates quite well herself, though, at least the members of Nathan’s crew. They both did. Gabrielle even considered a few of them dear friends. Actually, most of the members of Nathan’s crew were surprisingly quite decent and honorable, though perhaps too free-spirited and adventure-loving to fit into proper society.

Nathan did a good job of shielding her from unsavory men, like Pierre Lacross, though she never did lose her fear of that man, not even after she’d heard he’d taken up with the female pirate called Red. And she did see him again once, at sea, when she and her father had been treasure hunting. Pierre had just captured a ship. That was when she found out that if Nathan didn’t take Pierre’s hostages off his hands, he would have killed them. And before Pierre departed, he managed to get close to her for a moment and whisper, out of her father’s hearing, “Do not think I have forgotten you, my pet. Our time will come.” That was probably the only black mark on a spotless tapestry of wonderful experiences she enjoyed while living with her father in the islands. She knew it wouldn’t last forever. She’d get married eventually, was even looking forward to it. She dearly wanted what she’d missed as a child—to have a stable, loving family who stuck together. She even had a few flirtations with handsome sailors, but they always sailed away, which was fine with her because during those first couple of years on St. Kitts all she really wanted to do was spend time with her father and make up for all the years they’d been apart.

For nearly three years she’d felt that way, until Charles Millford returned from his schooling abroad. The very handsome son of a fine English family who owned a sugar plantation on the island, Charles had seemed quite interested in her as well—until he found out who her father was and was rude enough to explain why he couldn’t further their acquaintance. And it wasn’t that Nathan was a pirate! No one on St. Kitts knew that. It was because they considered him a commoner. The Millfords were snobbish enough to presume that she wasn’t good enough for their only son because of that.

Gabrielle was crushed when Charles gave her the cold shoulder after that, though she hid it well. She wasn’t about to let her father know that the one man who’d made her seriously think about matrimony wouldn’t have her because of him.

But it was a small island. Somehow Nathan found out about it. She should have guessed by his suddenly pensive mood, which was so unlike him, but since he said nothing, she was loath to bring it up herself. It was when she mentioned that she’d soon reach her majority and Ohr, one of Nathan’s loyal crew members, overheard her and remarked, “And she isn’t married yet?” that Nathan actually paled and she was summoned to his study that very night.

After his reaction to Ohr’s remark, she guessed he was going to talk about her matrimonial prospects on the island. She never could have guessed the decision he’d already made.

No sooner did she sit down across from him at the other side of his desk than he said, “I’m sending you back to England.”

Her reaction was immediate. She didn’t even have to think about it. “No.” He smiled at her. It was a sad smile. And he didn’t try to argue with her. Since he liked making her happy, she usually won any disagreements they had.

He simply explained, “You know your mother and I were a mismatched pair. She was gentry, while I came from the other side of the coin. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of, mind you, not where my rearing was concerned. I grew up in Dover. My parents were good, hardworking people. But your mother never saw it that way and made up grand stories for her friends about my background and why I was rarely at home. She didn’t even want her friends to know I was in trade, which wasn’t the case, but was what she thought.”

“I know all that, Papa.”

“Yes, I know you do, but you see, you have aristocratic blood due to your mother’s lineage. However, no one is going to believe that in this part of the world. And besides, I realized today what I’ve denied you by keeping you with me, a Season in London, all the grand balls and parties a young girl of the upper crust can expect—everything your mother wanted for you, including a fine gentleman for a husband.” She lowered her head. “You know about Charles Millford, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said quietly. “I even toyed with the idea of calling old man Millford out.” Her head shot up. “You didn’t!”

He grinned. “Actually I did, but I thought I ought to ask you first if you really loved the boy.” She gave that a moment’s consideration, then admitted, “Not really. I’m sure I could have, but to be honest, I think I was just ready to fall in love, and Charles was the first man I’ve met here that I felt would make a fine husband.”

“Whether he would have or not, Gabby, think about what you just said. In all your time here, he’s the only one you’ve even considered for matrimony. That’s an appalling number of choices, my dear, when you should have dozens of young men to choose from, and in England you will have. No, you’re going back to claim your inheritance and have the Season your mother always planned for you to have, and in the process find a proper husband.”

She knew he was right, that she probably had no other options. But an English husband meant living in England again and she hated the thought of giving up her idyllic life here. On the other hand, if she got really lucky, she might find an Englishman adventurous enough to move to the Caribbean for the sake of love. Nowthat would be perfect and even made her feel excited about the journey.

“You’re right,” she said. “I would like to meet someone I can fall in love with and marry, but how can I do that in England without an entrée into society?”

“Not to worry, my dear. I may not have the connections that your mother did, but there’s a man I know who owes me a favor and he’s upper crust with all the right connections. His name is Malory—James Malory.”

Chapter 4

“D’ YOU THINKDREW WILL MIND?”Georgina Malory asked her husband as she prepared for dinner.

“You intend to ask him?” James replied.

“Well, certainly.”

“You didn’t ask me,” he reminded her.

She snorted. “As if you’d let me go alone.”

“’Course I wouldn’t, but there was the possibility that I would have told you to stay home.” She blinked in surprise. “Was there really?”

He groaned inwardly. She’d miscarried their last child. They didn’t talk about it, but it had been recent enough that James would have agreed to anything she wanted, even though he could barely tolerate her brothers, and the thought of sailing with one of them when he wouldn’t be in control of the ship himself was the last thing he would have normally agreed to do.

In fact, he was considering buying another ship himself so he wouldn’t have to, though he wasn’t sure he could manage that in the short time frame Georgina was planning on. Then again, taking her to America himself wouldn’t give her the extra time with her brother, which she was also looking forward to. Bloody hell.

“I’ve already agreed, George, so it’s moot. But he’s your brother. What do you think?” Georgina bit her lip, though she didn’t appear to be worried. “It is perfect timing, isn’t it?” she asked, wanting a little reassurance. “Drew was already scheduled to sail in a couple weeks, and not off on one of his Caribbean routes, but home to Bridgeport, so he’ll have room for passengers this trip, and won’t have to go out of his way to oblige me. And I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sailing a week earlier. He was only going to stay here longer to visit with me.”

James raised a single golden brow at her. It was an affectation that used to annoy his wife before they married, but now she found it quite endearing.

“And you wouldn’t have asked him otherwise?” he queried.

“Well, certainly I would have. There’s no better time to go, after all. It’s late summer, so we’ll be home before winter. And the date for Jeremy’s wedding in a few days is even accommodating. We’ll be back in London from the wedding with plenty of time to pack if we sail next week. I just wouldn’t have felt as comfortable asking him to make a detour to take me to Bridgeport, but since he’s already going there…”

“You forget, he adores Jack. He’d do anything for her, if not for you. And like you, he’ll be delighted with the notion of taking her to Connecticut to see firsthand where the barbaric side of her family comes from. For years now your brothers have been mentioning that she ought to make the trip. If they had their way, she’d be raised there, not here.”

She ignored the “barbaric” remark to point out, “I don’t think they meant for her to go while she’s this young, though. If you must know, they’re hoping she’ll marry an American, so they wanted her to make

that particular visit when she’d reached an age to attract a husband.”

“Bite your tongue, George. She’s going to marry an Englishman—if I allow any of them to get close enough to her to make her acquaintance.”

The last was said in a mumble that had Georgina grinning. “Well, the thought was that if she fell in love with an American, you wouldn’t prevent the marriage. You’d object, of course, but since the little darling fits in one of your few soft spots, you’d give in, in the end.”

“Appreciate the warning.”

Since he didn’t elaborate, she frowned. “In other words, you won’t allow her anywhere near Connecticut when she reaches a marriageable age?”

“Exactly.”

The frown eased. She even chuckled. “I hate to inform you of this, but more and more Americans visit England these days. And you can be sure that when the time comes, my brothers will be trotting every eligible one of them by here to meet their beloved niece.”

“I wouldn’t place any wagers on that, m’dear.”

She sighed, imagining how unpleasant it would be if her husband and brothers put aside their truce. It was only a grudging truce, after all. It wasn’t as if they liked each other or hadn’t tried to kill each other in the past. In fact, her brothers had trounced James soundly, all five of them at the same time. Of course, they wouldn’t have succeeded if they’d been fair about it, but they had been furious when he’d announced to them that he’d compromised their only sister,and they’d been quite willing to have him hanged for piracy if he didn’t agree to marry her. Not a very good start to the wonderful marriage they had now, but she certainly couldn’t say getting to know James Malory, ex-rake, ex-gentleman pirate, hadn’t been incredibly exciting.

She finally tsked and complained, “I don’t know how we got onto the subject of Jacqueline’s future marriage, which is years away. We should be discussing Jeremy’s instead, which is only days away. You do know he’s coming to dinner, right? And that he needs cheering up? I’ve also invited Percy and Tony and his family.”

James came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “You mentioned all that at breakfast.

What I didn’t know was that you were nervous, and don’t deny it. You wouldn’t be repeating yourself if you weren’t. Fess up, George.”

“I’m not nervous a’tall. I expect Drew to be quite pleased to take us on as passengers once I mention it to him, and I’ll do that tonight.”

“Then what is it?”

She sighed again. “It’s occurred to me that we’re getting old, James.”

“The devil we are.”

She turned around, put her arms around him as well, which was no easy task considering how wide and solidly muscled James Malory was. “We are,” she insisted. “With Jeremy getting married, I don’t doubt

he’ll make us grandparents soon, and I’m going to feel positively ancient when he does!” He burst out laughing. “What a silly chit you are, and I thought you only get that way when…you’re…pregnant. Good God, George, you aren’t pregnantagain, are you?” She huffed. “Not that I know of. Really, I don’t think so.”

“Then stop being silly, or must I remind you that Jeremy is only your stepson,and that he’s only a few years younger than you are. You’re only going to be a step-grandmother. And don’t even think of calling me ancient again, or were you planning on serving shoes for dinner?” She pushed out of his arms, laughing at the memory of his chasing her around his desk on his ship,The Maiden Anne, after she’d told him “if the shoe fits” in relation to his being ancient. He’d told her he was going to make her eat that shoe, and he probably would have, too. She’d wounded his vanity, after all, quite deliberately, of course. But shoes and the eating of them were a standard joke with them now.

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