No Choice But Seduction Page 30

Without even thinking about it, she took the largest of the rocks she had left, let the others slide to the ground so she could grip the big one with both hands, and, coming up behind the pirate, slammed it against the back of his head. He dropped to the ground. She stared down incredulously that she’d managed to knock him out.

Glancing back up, she saw that Boyd wasn’t nearly finished yet. He was having a fistfight with two of the pirates. He must have disarmed them in the fight. They no longer had their weapons, and he was winning. Their faces were getting bloody, his wasn’t. The other man was still holding his ear and shouting in some foreign language, probably swearing. But he was also reaching for the gun in his belt, and he definitely looked angry enough to use it.

Katey went cold with fear. It was hard to even think, she was suddenly so afraid—for Boyd. She started to shout to him with a warning, but realized he might not hear her in his efforts, and distracting him just then might be the worst thing she could do, when the two men he was fighting were as brawny as he was. So she lifted the heavy rock she still had in her hand, but remembered in time her lousy aim. Fast running out of options, a flash of light, sun against metal, made her look down, and she dove at the pistol by her feet that the unconscious pirate had dropped before he hit the ground.

She didn’t take a chance either that her pointing it at that angry pirate would make him drop or lower his weapon, which he already had in hand. He hadn’t fired it yet, but probably because he didn’t have a clear shot at Boyd, with his mates in the way. And he wasn’t looking at her and didn’t notice she was also armed. His hearing might currently be impaired, too, so she wasn’t going to trust shouting at him, either. But he’d hear a shot fired she was sure, so she simply did that, fired off a harmless shot.

She definitely had his attention now, and everyone else’s. She nearly knocked herself over from the blast. Damned old-fashioned pistols, too long-nosed and too heavy for her. And she knew as well as everyone else that it only had one shot in it. But once again, her action allowed Boyd to minimize the danger. He’d only paused a second from her shot. And since she was facing the angry pirate, Boyd gave him some attention, too, going straight for the remaining pistol in the man’s hand. With it in his own hand now, he slammed it against the man’s other ear. That time he went down for good. Boyd then cracked the barrel against another head and smashed in into the face of the last man.

All of them out of action! She shared Boyd’s thrill of success. Actually, he just looked tired. But she was so excited by his victory, she was nearly jumping up and down with it—until she remembered the ship anchored nearby.

“Will they send in more?” she asked him as he bent over, a hand on each knee, to rest a moment.

He glanced up at her to say, “Probably. So gather up the pistols here while I tie up the first bunch. I think I’ll just shoot any others that show up.”

She noticed he hadn’t said a word about her presence, that she hadn’t stayed where he’d told her to stay. To keep him from realizing that she hadn’t followed his instructions, she asked, “What are you going to tie them with?”

“I already made some ropes while waiting for that first boat to land. Palm leaves, fresh or dry, are quite sturdy if manipulated just right, and tie together easily. I’ll need to make more though. I wasn’t counting on this many pirates coming ashore.”

“Wouldn’t vines work?” she ventured. “They’re all over the place.”

“Too slippery, and they can snap at their joints, so they’re not as dependable. Besides, I merely need to make sure that if any of them wake, they don’t become further problems. I’d as soon not have to kill them. They might be guilty of piracy, but they make no difference in the greater scheme of things. Their captain will just replace them and go on about business as usual.”

He sounded disgusted as he said that, but then he quickly walked off to take care of the business of tying. She stared at the spot he was heading to, where he’d left the first bunch of bodies.

He’d have to work quickly. He had twelve men to tie up before any more arrived. No, actually, she’d just have to help him to get it done speedily. So she gathered up the pistols as he’d said, and she ran as best she could over those tiny pinecones and needles to join Boyd. He already had three men tied and was stripping the leaves off another palm frond. She dumped the pistols on top of the pile that he’d taken the time to collect from this first crew and started helping him strip leaves. He was pretty good at tying them together. Well, he was a sailor. He would be. And he was soon heading back to the second crew with six more improvised ropes in hand.

She followed him. He didn’t object. But when she started to help him tie the men, he told her to keep a watch on the ship instead. It figured he wouldn’t trust her to make a decent knot out of a leaf end.

But he was only tying wrists behind backs for the moment, so he was almost done when she was forced to say, “They’re lowering another small boat in the water.”

She heard Boyd’s sigh behind her. He had to be seriously exhausted by now. My God, he’d taken on twelve pirates and won! Granted, they had been trying to capture him without doing any real harm to him, but still, it had been his exertions that had brought them down, and he’d made it look so easy! She might have helped a little by distracting them, but it had been his brawn and skill that had ended the danger quickly. Now he had to face even more coming ashore.

A glance back at him showed he hadn’t paused in what he was doing. Nor did he rush to finish it. He took time to make sure the bonds would hold.

Looking back toward the ship, her eyes widened and she was delighted to say, “They may have changed their mind.”

“What do you mean?” He stood up to see for himself.

The little boat that had been put in the water and filled with men hadn’t launched to shore; in fact, the men in it were climbing rapidly back on the ship. A moment later Katey and Boyd saw why. Another ship had sailed into view.

Chapter Forty

THE OCEANUS had come into view. Katey couldn’t recognize it from such a distance, could barely even tell that it was three-masted from the angle at which it was coming toward them, but Boyd had no trouble doing so. With rescue imminent and the danger over—the pirate ship had sailed off with cowardly haste—she sat down on the beach to wait.

Boyd spent the time making more ropes and tying up the feet of many of the pirates. He didn’t want them getting loose too soon, he explained, but he didn’t want them to never get loose, either.

“If their captain doesn’t come back later to look for them, they should have no trouble chewing through each other’s bonds with their teeth. But he’ll probably be back before dark, especially since he will have already noticed that The Oceanus isn’t going to give chase.”

“You’re being too kind to men who wanted to turn you into a slave.”

“You think so? There’s an arsenal of weapons here, I suppose I could kill them.”

He was only teasing. If he’d had any intention of doing that, he would have done it before he started tying them up.

But the pirates he was being so lenient with had given her quite a few real scares today, so she mumbled at him, “I don’t see why we aren’t going to take them with us and turn them over to the authorities.”

“Which authorities would that be?” he countered, obviously trying not to grin over her apparent ignorance. “We don’t know which port these fellows are based out of, and many different countries border this sea. They could be privateers with agreements from their country to operate in this area, in which case those authorities would just laugh and let them go with a pat on the hand. And I’m not joking. The Barbary Coast pirates, which would end up behind bars, don’t usually come this far north. They prefer easy merchant vessels that aren’t armed, since their tactics are to board quickly, subdue fast, and reap the easy rewards.”

When he was done with his task, he sat down next to her on the sand, their shoulders touching. Recalling what she’d found hidden in the bushes farther down the beach, she moved away from him. He didn’t remark on that, might not have noticed since he was staring at his ship, which was close enough now to have started lowering sails so as to stop.

“Are you ready to leave? We can use one of these boats to row out to the ship.” He’d waved toward the two pirate boats on the beach in front of them.

“Why one of these? Why not the one you used to get us here?”

She was staring at him now. Was that a flinch? No, he’d have to have a guilty conscience to flinch. But the silence grew thick enough to cut.

Her words became the knife. “You were just going to abandon it here, weren’t you? A cost of doing business, or in this case, the expendable cost of a seduction?”

“I can explain,” he finally got out.

“Of course you can. But is it going to help?”

“From the sound of your voice, probably not,” he said with a sigh.

She stood up and glared down at him. “Did you really think I wouldn’t get angry? No, wait. What you thought was I’d never find out that this little outing was all arranged by you. Does that sum it up accurately?”

He stood up as well, his posture suddenly defensive from her sarcasm. “You aren’t the only one who can lie, so don’t even think about getting angry because I took a clue from you, to arrange a little time alone with you with a lie.”

“If that was all you did then you might be right. Might be!” she added sharply. “But you did much, much more than that, didn’t you? My God, you even got me wet! What’d you do, dunk me in the water after we got here just so it would seem like you swam us ashore?”

“No, a wave washed over the boat on the way in, so that wasn’t necessary. Though I probably would have done exactly that!”

They were shouting at each other by this point. She was so furious she was shaking. The details he had cooked up! She was getting more and more incredulous as each one occurred to her. The list would unfold and hit the sand, it was so damn long.

“The fish?” she demanded.

“A gift of the tide as I said.”

“The convenient lens you carry around in your pocket?”

“A pretty good lie if I do say so myself,” he shot back smugly.

She bristled more. How dare he get angry and sarcastic? Or was this his reaction to guilt? And he had a lot to be guilty about.

“The pirates? Did you arrange them, too, so you could ‘save me’ and play the hero?”

“They would have been a good idea, wouldn’t they?” he shot back with a feigned thoughtful look that just scratched her bristles even more. “But pirates are rather hard to hire these days and probably aren’t the least bit trustworthy. Sorry, they weren’t part of the plan.”

He was leaving it at that. He didn’t point out that he did save her. Though it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference to her at the moment.

“Is this island even deserted?” She was pacing now in the sand in front of him, too angry to stand still.

“No, it’s one of the larger islands in the Balearic chain, though this corner of it isn’t settled, so it wouldn’t have been an easy trek to reach one of the villages. You’d be surprised how big an island is—if you’re on foot.”

“Of course you would have shot down the suggestion to find out if a settlement or town was nearby, if I’d made it,” she guessed.

“Of course.”

“Your ship was hiding on the other side of this island all the time, wasn’t it? So it didn’t just arrive in the nick of time. You probably told Tyrus exactly when to pick us up.” She was mortified with the thought: “My God, they all know about this, don’t they?”

“No,” he said quickly, and with no heat now. “Most of them think we just went on an outing for the day.”

“Oh, sure, so I went on an outing in my bedclothes?!” she replied scathingly.

Looking down at her robe, he blanched. She realized he’d missed that detail, or he just hadn’t thought that far ahead in his elaborate scheme.

But before she remarked on that, he told her, “Put these on.”

It was a good thing he said it first, because he then started to strip off his belt. For one brief second, what they had done on the island, together, before the pirates showed up, filled her mind and made her nearly gasp. But she was far too angry right now to let those memories intrude, and he was merely handing her his belt to wear. He gave her his coat, too.

“Your belt buckle is too big,” she mumbled after fastening the belt around her waist. “It’s obvious that it belongs to a man.”

“Slide the buckle around to your back, the coat will cover it. There, now it looks like you’re wearing a dress instead of nightclothes, albeit a thin one. But considering the warm weather, thin is pretty normal around here.”

It didn’t really look like a dress, but as long as she wasn’t looked at closely, it would do. Except for anyone who had helped him.

“Tyrus knows, doesn’t he?” she gasped, red-cheeked with embarrassment.

Boyd nodded. “If it helps, I had to twist his arm and call in every favor he owes me. He was not going to assist me in this. He doesn’t handle secrecy very well. And I had to convince him he’d be marrying us when we returned to the ship, or he never would have agreed.”

“That isn’t happening!”

“Obviously,” Boyd replied with a sigh.

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