No Choice But Seduction Page 25

James, guessing exactly what Anthony was thinking by the murderous look that came over him, began reasonably, “Now wait a minute, Tony—”

There was no place for reason in Anthony’s mind just then. He cut in, “If he’s already seduced her, I’m going to have to kill him.”

“We’re talking about George’s brother here,” James reminded him.

“No, we’re talking about my daughter.”

“A daughter you only just found out is yours. If she even is. So the lad has lusted after her. Why wouldn’t he? She’s a pretty chit. If he manages to get lucky, he’ll just have to marry her is all. You even said he’d make a good husband, if you’ll recall.”

“No, you said that, I didn’t. And you know bloody well I’m going to have to kill him if he’s laid even one inappropriate hand on her.”

James sighed. He did know that. He’d given what arguments he could merely for his wife’s sake, but the fact was, if Katey did turn out to be his niece, he’d be right there helping Anthony kill the Yank.

Chapter Thirty-Two

FEELING ANY BETTER?” Tyrus stuck his head around the door to ask.

“God, no.”

Boyd didn’t lift his head from the pillow to say it. He didn’t even open his eyes. Any sort of movement at all usually prompted another mad dash for the chamber pot. His seasickness didn’t take into account that his stomach was already empty.

“When’s the last time you ate?”

“Before we left Cartagena.”

Tyrus sighed sympathetically since that was nearly two days ago. “You’re going to starve yourself on this trip. I can’t believe you even suggested the Mediterranean to her, where she’s going to want to make port every few days. What was the point of you even coming along, when you knew you’d end up spending most of the voyage sick in bed?”

Boyd knew that very well. To make amends to Katey, he was going to go through this again and again, when he had thought he’d come to the end of this sort of suffering with his decision to landlock himself. But it wasn’t as if he weren’t used to this malady. He’d been dealing with it for over fifteen years. Grin and bear it had been his usual outlook. That just didn’t take into account having on board a woman who he wanted to spend every minute with.

“I need help, Tyrus, not criticism.”

“Would you like for me to get one of Philips’s drafts to knock you out till we make port again?”

He should. The Oceanus’s doctor made a potent concoction that could put him to sleep for a good ten hours whether he was tired or not. The ship could go down with a blast of cannons and he wouldn’t know it. And the drink didn’t even taste foul as most beneficial drafts tended to. But he wasn’t going to sleep through this voyage or, as Tyrus had said, he might as well have remained in England. This was his chance to win Katey, and he was going to do everything possible to accomplish that. If he could get his arse out of bed.

“I didn’t mean that kind of help,” Boyd said. “I’m serious about her. I want to marry her. But I made a really big mistake treating her like a criminal. I can’t court her properly because of that. It stands squarely between us.”

He’d told Tyrus about the Northampton incident. They’d been sailing together for over seven years. Sail into any port after a long voyage and they’d be off to find the nearest tavern together. Tyrus was probably the closest friend Boyd had aside from his brothers.

“Are you forgetting her confession?” Tyrus reminded him. “That she’s really married?”

Boyd snorted. “You missed her saying just the opposite the very next day. And looking damned guilty when she admitted she lied to us.”

“Which lie? I’m losing track.”

“She’s not married, Tyrus. While she was in England, she told my family she wasn’t, that she’d only pretended to be so men would keep their distance from her. It was a ruse that worked amazingly well on the Atlantic crossing, if you’ll remember.”

“I remember she had you so tied in knots that I couldn’t talk to you, no one could, without getting our heads snapped off. I don’t mind admitting I was afraid that’s how this voyage was going to go as well.”

“There’s a big difference between believing she isn’t available and knowing she actually is. I know damn well her confession the other day is true.”

“You mean it’s the one you want to believe,” Tyrus replied skeptically.

There was that, but he was onto her tactics now, simply because they were so obvious. Deliberate on her part? Was it a subtle, or rather, not so subtle point she was making? Or did she really think she could still fool him, after that kiss they’d shared?

God, that had been sweet, to finally taste her, touch her, hold her in his arms. His desire had gone through the roof, but he’d managed to keep it under control so he didn’t frighten her with it. He had no idea how he’d managed that, as much as he wanted her.

But she had shocked him with her remark about being married, right after that kiss. A definite cold dousing that had been. He hadn’t known what to believe. And he’d spent the rest of the day brooding over it in his cabin. And then she approached him the next morning on deck.

“I have a confession to make,” she’d told him, staring down at her feet instead of looking at him. “I lied.”

He’d tried not to growl at her. “Forgetful? You made that confession last night.”

She still wouldn’t look up at him. “That’s the lie I’m talking about. Really, I’ve never been married.”

“Then why—?”

“You shouldn’t have kissed me,” she’d said primly. “That isn’t part of our rental agreement.”

And so he understood, vaguely, what had prompted the lie. And once again, he was too delighted to get angry with her. He had been a little annoyed though. She couldn’t keep jerking his cords like that. But she didn’t stay there to discuss it. Pink-cheeked with embarrassment, she’d run off.

To his friend he said, “She’s changed that story three times already since we set sail, so it’s not just hopefulness on my part.”

“Three?” Tyrus choked out.

“That’s not even counting the first two times prior to this trip. So if I catch her in an appropriate mood, one where she doesn’t currently have a ‘husband,’ and drag her before you to marry us, do not ask questions. Just do it.”

“Just what do you mean by appropriate?” Tyrus asked suspiciously. “I’ll tell you right now, bucko, I’m not wedding anyone not properly dressed for it.”

Boyd actually laughed. “I didn’t mean straight from bedding her, though that would be about as appropriate as it gets, wouldn’t it?”

“Then what did you mean?”

Boyd took a moment to see if he could explain how he would know when the right time was. He’d had no difficulty recognizing it in Cartagena.

They had spent two days in that ancient seaport, there was so much to see, and Boyd had offered to escort Katey and her maid on tours through the old Roman forums, what little was left of the castle on the hill, and the Roman amphitheater where gladiators had once tested their skills and died, or went on to fight in other arenas across the extended Roman empire. There wasn’t much left of those ancient ruins since their building blocks were constantly being confiscated for the erection of new buildings, but enough was left for Katey to get the flavor of the area she wanted. Cartagena had passed through many hands over the centuries, and most of them had left their marks. All of which had put Katey in a delightful mood. In awe, bubbly with excitement, she’d actually been treating him like a friend instead of her worst enemy.

Forgetful? That’s probably all that was, the easy camaraderie, yet it had allowed him to get close to her again. And when he got too close he made her blush. And when she blushed, he knew he was affecting her so much that she had to hold up a “husband” like a sword to back him off. She’d done exactly that again, before they left Cartagena.

He said to Tyrus, “You already know she has this grand agenda of seeing the world, and it’s a fine goal, but because of it, she has it set in her mind that marriage can’t be part of this agenda. And yet I know that she isn’t immune to me. If anything, I get the feeling that she’s afraid her trip will end if she lets me into her heart.”

“But who better to marry than a man with a ship who can take her anywhere she wants to go?”

“Exactly.”

Tyrus chuckled. “What rotten irony, that you want to settle down on land—with a woman who wants to sail around the world.”

“I know.”

“But you still want her?”

“Absolutely. And if it means not retiring from the sea, so be it.”

“Does she know what the sea does to you?” Tyrus asked carefully.

“No, nor will she. My family doesn’t even know. You’re the only one who does.”

“She’s going to find out if you do manage to get yourself married to her before the end of this voyage. It will be hard to miss if you’re puking all over her in bed.”

“Not funny, Tyrus. But I’ll assure her that it’s not going to end her world tour.”

“Don’t be dense, man. If she loves you, she’ll end it—for your sake. And then she’ll always have it in the back of her mind, the regret that she gave up her goals for you. Bitterness will show up, then resentment, then—”

Boyd sat up. “When did you get to be such a damned doomsayer?”

Tyrus shrugged. “Just pointing out some very real possibilities that could show up later.”

“Well, don’t. She doesn’t know that I was ready to give up the sea, nor does she ever need to know that. She does know that I’ve always sailed with my ship. Enough said. I’ve managed to bear with this for nearly half my life. I think I can manage a few more years so she can have her tour of the world.”

Since Boyd hadn’t dashed for the chamber pot with his abrupt movement, Tyrus raised a brow. “The seasickness leaving you a bit early this time?”

It did seem to be gone. “For the moment.”

“Well, she did ask after you yesterday, at both luncheon and dinner. Being evasive in my replies doesn’t sit well with me. You need to come up with a reason for her, for why you aren’t joining us for meals—if you don’t want to confess the real reason.”

“You’re joking, right? What reason could there possibly be to avoid her when she knows I want her? Hell, I want to spend every minute with her. In fact, what I really need is some time alone with her, without interruptions, where we can get to know each other better and she can’t run off every time I get a little too close to her emotions.”

Tyrus chuckled. “It’s too bad you can’t be shipwrecked together on some deserted island. You can’t get much more alone than that.”

Boyd snorted. “I’m not wrecking my ship just to…”

He didn’t finish. In fact, what just occurred to him was outlandish and more than a little silly, yet it fascinated him, which must have shown in his expression.

Tyrus, guessing his thoughts, exclaimed, “Now just a damn minute! I’m not going down with this ship just so you can court your lady!”

“There aren’t any deserted islands in this area, are there?” Boyd replied thoughtfully.

“Did you hear me? We’re not wrecking The Oceanus!”

Chapter Thirty-Three

KATEY WOKE TO A WARM, balmy breeze against her cheeks. It caused her to stretch luxuriously before she even opened her eyes, but she cut that short abruptly when she felt her damp nightgown clinging to her skin. Dampness? As if she’d soaked it in a feverish sweat, or put it on before it was completely dry from washing, neither of which…

Confused, she opened her eyes to find Boyd leaning over her, a palm tree behind him, the fronds moving gently in the warm breeze. A dream then? Well, she might as well enjoy it if that’s all it was!

She smiled up at him. He seemed surprised by that, but only for a second. She hoped he was going to kiss her. This wasn’t one of her daydreams where she could control his actions and make him kiss her. She had to take what she could get in a real dream. But he must have seen her wish in her eyes. He started to lean closer to her. Excited anticipation had her stomach already fluttering sensually. His mouth was almost touching hers—

The shrill call of a bird gave her a start. Boyd glanced toward the sound behind her. She twisted her head back to look in the same direction. She didn’t see a bird, but was amazed by so much greenery at the edge of a pristine beach, towering pines mixed with palm trees of varying sizes, and sprinkled here and there, flowering bushes.

It was ironic that she was putting this tropical flavor into her dream. Just a few days ago Boyd had asked her how much she knew about the Mediterranean, and she’d had to admit it was next to nothing.

“My tutor, while quite brilliant, didn’t have a wealth of material to work with,” she’d told him. “At the most he had an old map of the world that wasn’t even up-to-date. He was able to spark my curiosity about the world, but without pictures I wasn’t able to envision any of it, which is why I always wanted to see it for myself.”

And just yesterday Boyd had suggested they take a day off to enjoy a beach on one of the islands in the area—just the two of them. He’d made it sound innocent. And it would have been a fun thing to do! He even told her to think about it, not to answer immediately. But there was nothing to think about and she’d told him no. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust his passions, she was beginning not to trust her own. But she didn’t tell him that!

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