Gentle Rogue Page 22

"Actually, Captain," she said in answer to his caustic remark, "it's a matter of preference. I never acquired a taste for brandy. Port, on the other hand—"

"Just how old are you, brat?"

So he'd finally asked, and quite irritably at that. She'd wondered how long he would resist.


He snorted. "I would have thought anyone as lippy as you to be at least twenty-six."

Oh, my, so he was looking for an argument, was he? She grinned suddenly, mischievously deciding not to oblige him.

"Do you think so, James?" she asked sweetly. "I'll take that as a compliment. I've always despaired that I look too young for my age."

"As I said, too bloody lippy."

"My, but you're grouchy this evening." She was just short of laughing. "I wonder why."

"Not at all," he demurred cooly as he opened a drawer on his desk. "And as luck would have it, I just happen to have your preference here, so pull up a chair and join me."

She hadn't anticipated that. She sat up slowly, wondering how she could refuse gracefully, even as she watched him tip the bottle of port to half fill an extra glass, which had also been concealed in the drawer.

But then she shrugged, deciding a half glass wouldn't hurt and might even relax her enough to let her get to sleep. She confiscated his chair from the dining table and dragged the heavy thing over to his desk.

She accepted the glass from him before she sat down, careful not to get trapped by those brooding green eyes or touch his fingers as she did.

Casually, still grinning, she lifted her glass to him before she took a sip. "This is very sociable of you, James, I must say." The use of his name now, when she hadn't used it before, was annoying him as she had figured it would. "Especially," she continued, "since I've had the impression that you're angry with me for some reason."

"Angry? With such a charming brat? Whyever would you think so?"

She almost choked on the sweet red wine, hearing that. "The fire in your eyes?" she offered cheekily.

"Passion, dear girl. Pure . . . unadulterated . . . passion."

Her heart did a double pound as she went very still. Against her better judgment, her eyes rose to his, and there it was, the very passion he just bespoke, hot, mesmerizing, and so sensual it went right to the core of her. Was she a puddle on the floor yet? Good Lord, if not, she ought to be.

She downed the remainder of her port and this time choked on it for real, which was fortunate, since doing so broke the spell for a moment, long enough for her to say sensibly, "I was right. Passionate enrage-ment if I ever saw it."

His lips turned up the slightest bit. "You're in top form, brat. No—no, don't run away," he added quite firmly when she put her glass down and started to rise. "We haven't ascertained yet the cause of my . . .

passionate enragement. I like that, indeed I do. I must remember to use it on Jason the next time he flies through the roof."

"Jason?" Anything to make him let go of this pulse-disturbing subject.

"A brother." He shrugged. "One of many. But let's not digress here, sweet."

"No, let's do. I'm really very tired," she said, frowning as she watched him tip the bottle to her glass again.


He said it with amusement tinging his tone, but she still stiffened at such an outright challenge. "Very well." She swiped up the refilled glass, nearly spilling it since it was more than half full this time, and sat back in her chair to take a fortifying gulp. "What would you like to discuss?"

"My passionate enragement, of course. Now, why, I wonder, would you think of rage when I mention passion?"

"Because . . . because ... oh, devil take it, Malory, you know very well you've been annoyed with me."

"I don't know anything of the kind." He was really smiling now, like a cat moving in for the kill. "Perhaps you'll tell me why I should be annoyed with you?"

Admitting she had struck at his pride would be admitting she had done it deliberately. "I haven't the faintest notion," she insisted, eyes as innocently wide as she could make them.

"Haven't you?" The golden brow arched, and she realized she'd missed that affectation of his these last few days. "Come here, George."

Her eyes widened. "Oh, no," she said, shaking her head emphatically.

"I'm merely going to prove that I'm not the least bit enraged with you."

"I will accept your word on it, I assure you."



"Then I'll come to you."

She leaped up and ludicrously held out her glass as if it might ward him off. "Captain, I must protest."

"So must I," he said on his way around the desk, while she started around the other side to keep it between them. "Don't you trust me, George?"

This was no time to be diplomatic. "No."

His chuckle kept her from elaborating. "Smart girl. They do tell me, after all, that I'm a most reprehensible rake, but I prefer Regan's more discerning 'connoisseur of women.' It has a much nicer ring to it, don't you think?"

"I think you're drunk."

"My brother would take exception to that word."

"Blast your brother and you, too!" she snapped. "This is absurd, Captain."

She stopped moving around the desk only when he did. She'd kept her glass in hand and somehow managed not to spill a drop. She set it down now and glared at him. He looked back with a grin.

"I quite agree, George. You're not really going to make me chase you around this thing, are you? This is the sport of doddering old fools and parlormaids."

"If the shoe fits," she retorted automatically, then gasped, realizing her mistake.

All traces of humor left him. "I'll make you eat the bloody shoe this time," he growled low just before he leaped over the desk.

Georgina was too stunned to flee, but she wouldn't have gotten far in the mere seconds it took James to land in front of her. The next thing she knew, those big, muscular arms were wrapping around her, gathering her in to press close, closer, until she could feel every inch of his hard frame along hers. She should have been stiff, outraged, at least flattened. Instead her body seemed to sigh into his, yielding where it shouldn't, fitting so perfectly it felt like home.

Her mind, working under delayed reaction, began gathering wits to protest, but too late. She fell victim to a leisurely kiss so enticingly sweet and sensual, it wrapped her in a spell of wonder impossible to break. It went on and on, working on her in degrees, until she couldn't say exactly when contentment turned to burgeoning desire.

He was nibbling gently at her lips when she knew for certain she didn't want to be let go. Her hands twisting in his thick mane of hair told him. Her body pressing for closer contact told him. Finally she told him in the soft whisper of his name, which got her that heartwarming smile of his that could turn her to mush.

"Has prim little George actually retired for the night?" he inquired huskily.

"He's fast asleep."

"And here I thought I was losing my touch ... in my old age."

"Ouch." She winced, to give him his due.

"Sorry, love," he said, but he was grinning unrepentently just the same.

"That's quite all right. I'm used to men who simply can't resist a little gloating."

"In that case, does it taste good?"


"The shoe."

The man was a veritable devil, to be able to make her laugh when all she wanted to do was crawl into him. "Not especially. But you do."


Her tongue came out to lick sensually at his lower lip. "Taste good."

Georgina's breath choked off, he squeezed her so tightly. "Remarks like that will get you an apology and anything else you want."

"And if all I want is you?"

"My darling girl, that goes without question," he assured her as he swept her into his arms to carry her to his bed.

Georgina held on tight, despite feeling weightless in his strong arms. She simply wanted the closer contact and was reluctant to let go even long enough to allow him to remove their clothes. Had she really thought she could ignore the things this man had made her feel before, the same things she was feeling now? She'd tried to these last days, she really had. His anger had made it easier to do so. But he wasn't angry anymore, and she was tired of trying to resist something as powerful as this. God, the feelings . . .

She gasped at the heat that seared her skin as his mouth settled over one of her breasts. And she was squirming before he finished with the other. She wanted him right now, but he was taking his time with her, turning her over, driving her crazy in his devotion to every inch of her, in particular the firm globes of her derriere, which he kneaded, kissed, and nipped until she thought she was going up in flames. When he finally rolled her back over, it was the finger that moved into her that was her undoing. She cried out, and his mouth came back to hers to accept this accolade to his skill. And when he entered her moments later, and treated her to a further demonstration of his experience, each thrust different, somehow more pleasurable than the one before, each with the power to draw forth another gasp if he weren't still kissing her. Connoisseur of women? Thank God.

* * *

A short while later, Georgina found herself stretched out on one side of the bed, with James on the other side, and a sturdy chessboard between them. Whatever had possessed her to answer yes when he asked if she played the game? But now that it was started, the challenge had her wide awake, and the promise that she could spend the morning in bed kept the play at an unhurried pace. Also, the prospect of beating James Malory had been too tempting to resist and still was, particularly since she suspected he was trying to destroy her concentration by keeping a conversation going while they played. He'd find that wouldn't work, since she'd been taught the game with her whole family present, and her family was never quiet when they were in the same room together.

"Very good, George," James said as she captured a pawn, opening a path to his bishop and leaving him nothing of hers to take, and his own bishop to protect.

"Well, you didn't think this would be easy, did you?"

"I'd hoped not. So good of you not to disappoint me." He moved his queen over a space to protect his bishop, a wasted move, and they both knew it. "Now, who did you say MacDonell is to you?"

She almost laughed at the way he'd slipped that in, probably hoping she'd answer without thinking about

it. She had to give him points for cleverness, but it wasn't necessary. There was no longer aneed to pretend Mac was her brother.

"I didn't say. Are you asking?"

"Well, we have established he's not your brother."

"Oh? When did we establish that?"

"Damnation, George, he's not, is he?"

She made him wait while she made her next move, which put his queen in jeopardy. "No, he's not. Mac is just a very good friend of the family, sort of like a beloved uncle, actually. He's always been around, and he sort of thinks of me as the daughter he never had. Your move, James."

"Quite so."

Instead of blocking her last move to protect his queen, he captured one of her pawns with his knight, a move that put her own queen in danger. And since neither of them was ready to lose a queen yet, Geor-gina retreated for the moment, giving James the advantage of attack. He wasn't expecting that, and so had to take a moment to study the board.

She decided two could use his strategy of distraction. "Why the interest in Mac all of a sudden? Have you spoken with him?"

" 'Course I have, love. He is my bo's'n, after all."

Georgina went very still. It might not matter that he knew Mac wasn't her brother, but she still didn't want him recognizing Mac and remembering their first meeting in a tavern. That would lead to a whole set of questions that she didn't care to answer—in particular, what she was doing there. And besides, James might get angry at what he could very well see as a double deceit, not just her disguise, but the fact that

she'd met him before.

"And?" she asked carefully.

"And what, George?"

"Devil take it, James, did you rec— Ah, that is, did you say anything to him about us?"


"You know exactly what I mean, James Malory, and if you don't answer me this minute, I'll—I'll bash you with this chessboard!"

He burst into laughter. "Gad, I adore this temper of yours, sweet, indeed I do. Such spit and fire insuch a little package." He reached across the board to tweak her hair. " 'Course I didn't mention us to your friend. We spoke of the ship, nothing personal."

And he would have said something if he'd recognized Mac, wouldn't he? Mac would have, too.

Georgina relaxed with that conclusion.

"You should have let me bash you with the board," she said now, her humor returned. "You're losing, after all."

"The devil I am." He snorted. "I'll have your king in three more moves.

Four moves later, James found himself on the defensive, so he tried distraction again and tried toappease his curiosity at the same time. "Why are you going to Jamaica?"

Georgina grinned cheekily. "Because you are."

Up went the single brow, just as she expected it would for such an answer. "Dare I be flattered?"

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