No Choice But Seduction Page 31

His explanation hadn’t helped at all. If anything, it had stoked the fire more. And now she had mortified embarrassment to add to it.

“I can’t believe I bought that ridiculous sleepwalking story even for a minute. No, actually, I can’t believe you even came up with it. If you’re going to lie, at least make it sound reasonable.”

“I suppose I should have asked for lessons first.”

She gasped.

He looked immediately contrite and said quickly, “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t believe you are. In fact, I’ll never believe you again. You, sir, can’t be trusted! You have let this lust of yours cloud your judgment far too many times. But this! This is beyond redemption! And how did you get me here without my waking?” She drew in a sharp breath with the realization. “You drugged me, didn’t you? With what? How?”

“Don’t be absurd. Dr. Philips might make me a potent sleeping powder occasionally when I need it, but it didn’t even occur to me to use that. I wouldn’t do that to you, Katey. You have my word.”

“Then how did you accomplish this?”

“It wasn’t planned. I thought about it, certainly, after I suggested that we go ashore together and you flatly refused. But there was no way to get you ashore without your waking, so I gave up the notion—until you imbibed so much wine last night you don’t even remember stumbling out of Tyrus’s cabin. Admit it. You don’t remember, do you?”

She didn’t, but she still didn’t believe him. His cheeks had turned too red at the mention of that sleeping powder. “I wouldn’t remember, would I, if you’d slipped that powder in my glass?” she said sharply.

“Damnit, it would have been much easier and much less nerve-racking for me if I had, but I didn’t!”

“Liar!”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Do you deserve that courtesy?”

“You asked for an explanation. Caught red-handed as it were, why would I bother with anything but the truth right now? So listen to me carefully this time. I did not drug you! I didn’t fill your glass with wine, either, you did. I wasn’t even sitting next to you. I did nudge Tyrus to order more wine when I saw that you’d already emptied the bottle by your plate. I wasn’t nearly as drunk yet myself, so I recognized a golden opportunity when it presented itself. And you even drank a quarter of another bottle before you marched off to find your bed. Without even a good-night, mind you. That’s how tipsy you were.”

Since she couldn’t deny that, and she did remember pouring herself several glasses of wine, she didn’t immediately call him a liar again and scoffed instead, “What was nerve-racking? You wouldn’t have done it if you thought I was going to wake.”

“It was a chance I was willing to take. If you had woken, I knew it would have taken days for you to get over your anger—”

“Make that years—no, centuries!”

“Which is why I was so glad you didn’t wake. I was sure you would when that wave doused us, but you didn’t. All you did was snuggle closer to me in my lap.”

She blushed furiously, hearing that. She wasn’t responsible for what she did in her sleep.

To put him back on the defensive she said, “If you aren’t lying, why did you get so red-faced at the mention of that sleeping powder?”

“Not for the reason you think.”

Bright color spread up his cheeks again. Her brow knitted suspiciously, yet her curiosity had kicked in, too. “Why do you take it?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, looking even more embarrassed.

“Why?”

“It really isn’t important—”

“It is to me. I want to know why you’re looking and sounding guilty.”

“It’s because I suffer seasickness. There, are you happy? That’s something my family doesn’t even know, Katey. It’s why I don’t captain my own ship. It affects me for a good four days every time my ship casts off. It’s why you won’t see me for the next four days when we sail out of here.”

“Four days? Forever is more like it. Do you really think I believe that? The truth now.”

“That is the truth. And it’s why I got desperate enough to do this.”

The word desperate made her think of his lust. She had thought he’d risked his life jumping overboard to save her, that she owed him for that. If that had never occurred to her, would she have instigated their lovemaking today? She didn’t know, and she was too angry to figure it out.

“All of this so you could make love to me?” she choked out, glaring at him.

“If I just wanted to bed you, I wouldn’t have brought you to shore. I was in your room, Katey, and you were inebriated. It would have been a simple matter to make love to you there. Hell, you probably wouldn’t even have remembered it come morning! But that’s not why I gave us this day together. It’s because I was spending more time getting sick in my cabin than I was courting you.”

“Courting me?” she sputtered. “You call blurting out ‘marry me’ courting?”

“Since you’re the only woman I’ve ever wanted to marry and the only one I’ve ever blurted that at, I guess I need lessons in courting, too.”

“I’m beginning to think you need lessons in life. I see now why Anthony Malory referred to you and your brothers as barbarians.”

“He and James do that deliberately, to get a rile out of us.”

She snorted. “Don’t kid yourself. In your case, it’s absolutely true!”

She definitely struck a nerve that time. Tight-lipped, he started to reply, then saw that his crew was about to lower a boat in the water. He waved them off that notion, marched down the beach, and dragged the Oceanus skiff out of the bushes.

Having followed him, Katey heard him say, “There, are you happy? We’ve saved the damned boat.”

She wasn’t happy. She was about as unhappy as she could be. And during the short ride to the ship, having expended her anger, she was choking back her hurt feelings. Boyd was silent, too.

But before they climbed aboard, he did say to her, “Do you really wish today hadn’t happened?”

She didn’t answer him.

Chapter Forty-One

BOYD HAD DRUNK too much wine himself last night during the dinner he’d shared with Katey. Sober, he would have come to his senses and never pulled such a stunt. But he’d acted on the idea as soon as it had come to him. There hadn’t been enough time to think it through.

Looking at Katey’s stiff back in front of him in the boat as he rowed them out to the ship, he reprimanded himself. Whom was he kidding? Desperation had brought him to this, and desperation would have to see it through.

But he hadn’t planned to make love to her. He’d never dreamed that would have been a result of his day on the beach with her. He’d just wanted some time where they could get to know each other better, without her maid nearby as had been the case on their outing in Cartagena. And he’d needed it to be on solid ground. Spending most of his time in his cabin on this trip was getting him nowhere. And when he did steal a few minutes with her on the ship, his desire for her kept him making a fool of himself.

The Malory brothers had given him good advice, but he wasn’t like them. He was a sailor. He’d never been in one port for long. He’d never had time to be subtle with a woman, so it wasn’t something he’d attempted before. And his feelings kept getting in the way with Katey. Wanting her so damn much, he couldn’t even be himself with her. Until today. Briefly. Too briefly. He should have killed those damn pirates for interrupting what had been the sweetest day of his life.

Katey’s silence was killing him. She hadn’t answered his question, but that was an answer in itself. Of course, now she wished today hadn’t happened. But before she’d found out how he’d arranged for them to be alone on the beach, she’d seemed to have no regrets. But she still wouldn’t marry him. Stubborn woman. But, my God, she did ask him if he’d wait for her! Now, he’d be lucky if she didn’t spend the rest of the voyage in her cabin. Actually, he’d be lucky if she didn’t leave The Oceanus altogether at the next port.

Reaching the ship, she climbed the ladder rather hastily, so he was surprised she was still standing there when he came over the side behind her. Tyrus was there, too, looking utterly ashamed, which was probably why she hadn’t walked away. She wasn’t going to let him escape her anger.

“There she is, Cap’n,” a crewman shouted from the quarterdeck. “We didn’t lose her.”

The crewman wasn’t talking about Katey, of course. He’d just lowered his spyglass, but he wasn’t facing in the direction of the pirate ship.

“What ship is he talking about?” Boyd asked Tyrus.

“Theirs,” Tyrus said, nodding behind him. “By taking the same northern Mediterranean course and checking they found us a few hours ago and came aboard. Their ship was following us, but we lost sight of her when we came around the isle.”

Boyd turned abruptly to see whom Tyrus was talking about and then went perfectly still. Leaning against the railing, both of them looking as inscrutable as ever, stood Anthony and James Malory. James looked no different from the way he had the last time he’d boarded The Oceanus—and stolen her cargo!—all those years ago when he’d amused himself by living the life of a gentleman pirate in the Caribbean. His white shirt was loosely tucked into tight breeches, his blond hair was windblown, and a gold earring flashed in his ear. Anthony wasn’t looking quite as immaculate as usual, either, with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up because of the heat. Boyd was incredulous. He hadn’t even noticed them there when he’d climbed aboard. He couldn’t think of a single reason why they would be there. And then he did, and he blanched.

“Georgina?”

“She’s got a pretty big bone to pick with you, but otherwise she’s fine,” James said.

“My brothers?”

“No idea,” James replied. “But they’re probably as well as the last time you saw them.”

The color came back to his checks with his immediate relief, but a frown quickly followed. “Then what are you doing here?”

This question hadn’t been directed at one of them in particular, but Anthony answered, “I came to collect Katey and kill you.”

Since he spoke without any change in expression whatsoever, Boyd assumed Anthony was just being annoying as usual. But Katey latched on to his remark.

“That sounds like a splendid plan to me on both counts,” she said to the Malorys. “But you might want to wait to kill him until he’s back on dry land. Here on the ship, he’ll no doubt gain your sympathy with his seasickness. It will probably start up any moment now,” she added as the ship dipped low in the water. “Hard to kill a man if he’s puking all over you.”

Boyd groaned inwardly. “Thanks, Katey. Just the two I would have preferred didn’t know about that.”

“You are quite welcome,” she snapped at him. “And as long as I’m talking to you for the moment, I’ll say good-bye now. If I ever see you again, Boyd Anderson, please pretend you don’t know me. You’re as good at pretenses as I am, so I’m sure you can manage it just fine.”

She stomped off in the direction of her cabin, all four men watching her go. James actually waited until she was out of sight before he doubled over with laughter. Boyd steeled himself for a good deal of humor—at his expense. He didn’t have to wait long for it.

“His entire family in shipping and he can’t ‘stomach’ the sea,” James said with another round of laughter. “Priceless. And I guarantee his family doesn’t know. I suppose we should keep it to ourselves,” he said to his brother.

“The hell I will,” Anthony replied. “I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops until every member of Skylark and his family hears it.”

“That implies he’ll be breathing to suffer the shame,” James said, still obviously amused. “So you aren’t going to kill him now?”

“Only a little.” Anthony slammed his fist into Boyd’s face.

Boyd was caught completely off guard. He really wasn’t expecting that. But Anthony was fast. He would probably have got in that punch even if Boyd was anticipating it.

Picking himself up off the deck, Boyd snarled, “Why are you two here?”

“That was already answered,” James put in, leaning against the rail again with his arms crossed.

James’s making himself comfortable to watch the entertainment should have given Boyd warning, but damned if Anthony didn’t get in another punch. This one didn’t knock Boyd down, but his cheek exploded with pain. He ignored it and raised his fists. He wasn’t going to be caught off guard a third time.

He even smiled slightly as he told Anthony, “You know, I’ve waited years for this, an opportunity to test my skills against a master, which I’ve always considered you to be.”

“Should have said so, Yank. I would have been glad to accommodate you.”

“But I’d like to know why you’re granting my fondest wish.” Then Boyd added politely, “If you don’t mind?”

“If Katey wasn’t furious with you, which implies you didn’t manage to seduce her after all, I wouldn’t be holding m’self back,” Anthony informed him.

Boyd rubbed his cheek gently. “You call this holding yourself back?”

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