No Choice But Seduction Page 33

“Pack our trunks, we’re changing ships” was all Katey had said.

“When?”

“Now, or as soon as the other ship gets close enough to board.”

“But—why?”

“Because the Malorys have come to fetch us.”

“But—why?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. They might even have been joking. Those two brothers seem to be in the habit of doing that and making it sound like they’re serious. Actually, they probably were joking, since they also said they were here to kill Boyd, and they couldn’t have meant that.”

“So we’re not leaving then?”

“We are. Whatever reason really brought them here, I’m going to hold them to their remark about ‘fetching’ us. They have a ship and I don’t even care where it’s going, though my guess would be back to England. I’m just happy to be leaving this ship.”

“What about your rental agreement?”

“It was only a verbal agreement, and besides, I really doubt Boyd will mention that at this point. Renting The Oceanus was a good idea and it would have continued to be a good idea—if its owner hadn’t insisted on coming along.”

“But—”

“No more buts,” Katey had cut in, still too angry for long explanations.

That picnic excuse Grace had been given had just fueled Katey’s anger, since she would wager Boyd hadn’t once thought about her servants and how her absence would be explained to them. Or did he actually think they wouldn’t notice that she wasn’t on the ship all day? Or maybe he thought she was a thoughtless, imperious employer who merely gave her servants orders without taking the time to explain anything to them.

Tyrus had come up with the excuse of a picnic, which had been better than no excuse at all, and certainly better than the truth, which he had been privy to. But that excuse still made it look as if Katey had been inconsiderate for not giving Grace prior warning.

“I’m sorry I didn’t think to leave you a note,” she said to Grace now as she sat up in her bed looking as guilty as she felt. “It was a—a spur-of-the-moment decision to go ashore. Boyd wanted me to catch the sunrise from the beach.”

Lying to her maid! Not for the first time, of course, but that was a real lie, not the sort she cooked up to entertain Grace.

“Did you?” Grace asked curiously as she set about unpacking Katey’s trunks again.

“No, but we saw it from the rowboat on the way in. It was lovely, reflecting on the few thin clouds near it, and on the water.”

Katey blushed immediately. She wasn’t used to lying for real, certainly not to Grace. She needed to stop elaborating and just change the subject!

“It sounds like a nice outing,” Grace said with a sniff. “What turned it sour?”

Katey groaned inwardly. “When does that man not do something to annoy me? He brought up the subject of marriage again and wouldn’t drop it.”

Grace turned to her wide-eyed. “Again? When was the first time?”

“That was on the spur of the moment, too. Out of the blue, without even leading up to it, he just asked me to marry him. I was insulted.”

Grace gasped. “How can you be insulted over a compliment like that?”

Katey was not going to tell her maid that Boyd had mentioned bedding her in the same breath. “It was his abruptness,” she hedged. “For some reason he doesn’t think that I might like to be courted first.”

Grace chuckled at that and said in her superior I-know-more-than-you voice, “I had a feeling you were smitten. I don’t know why you’ve kept it to yourself. Why don’t you put both of you out of your respective miseries and marry the man?”

“I’m not smitten.”

Grace snorted. “I know you, remember? You’ve been giving all the signs since you met up with Boyd Anderson again. You’re well and truly smitten, so don’t try to deny it.”

Katey shook her head. “Attracted, certainly. How could I not find him handsome? Infatuated, maybe a little. But his emotions run in extremes and I’m not so sure I’d want to deal with that for the rest of my life.”

That was the biggest lie yet. She’d found out today what Boyd was like when he wasn’t lusting after her. He’d shown a completely different side of himself, as if he were two different men. And the relaxed, playful one would be easy to fall in love with. Too easy.

“I wasn’t planning on marrying until I’ve finished this trip.”

“Love doesn’t care about plans, Katey. It never does. It just happens.”

“I disagree. It can be avoided, nipped in the bud. Steps can be taken to keep it from happening.”

“So that’s why we’ve jumped ship, as they say? It’s not just because you’re furious with him again, you’re running from love?”

Katey gritted her teeth. “No, I already told you. The Malorys came here to fetch me, at least that’s what they said. And it seemed a good time to take a vacation from Boyd Anderson. A permanent one.”

“Because you’re furious with him.”

“Fine! Because I’m furious with him!”

Back came Grace’s I-know-more-than-you tone. “Putting distance between yourself and him isn’t going to weaken what you’re feeling.”

Since what Katey was feeling was rage, she certainly hoped that wasn’t the case. She wouldn’t like to sail all the way back to England stewing with this anger. But she knew that wasn’t what Grace was talking about.

“I don’t love him,” she insisted again. “It might have been sneaking up on me a little, but it’s already fading. And never seeing him again will take care of any remaining feelings I have for him.”

Please let that be true, she said to herself. As for her anger, she could curb that, she was sure. It might take a few days to settle down, but with the cause of it no longer in her immediate vicinity, it would be much easier to set aside than if she had to see Boyd every day.

“I’m still incredulous that you wanted to abandon ship just because of a spat with him,” Grace remarked.

“I can’t enjoy this trip if I’m constantly in an aggravated state.”

“Well, that’s true enough, I suppose.” Grace added, “He followed us, you know.”

“What?”

“They even had a shouting match from ship to ship when The Oceanus sailed up alongside this ship.”

“What?!”

Grace nodded. “I went up on deck to listen, but that blond lord ordered me to return to my cabin, and, well, I didn’t feel like arguing with him.”

Katey stared at her maid wide-eyed for a moment, but then she almost grinned over her last remark. Perfectly understandable for Grace not to want to argue with James Malory. Neither would Katey.

She tried to sound nonchalant as she asked, “So you didn’t hear what they were shouting?”

“No, but what do you think? He’s asked you to marry him, but they’re hying off with you. He no doubt wants you back on his ship so he can finish courting you.”

Katey rolled her eyes. “He was not courting me. I doubt he knows the first thing about it.”

Grace snorted. “Neither do you. Sure, you don’t have a house where he can come calling on you, but what do you think all that was about in Cartagena, when he spent the entire day with you? And that picnic? And wanting to watch the sunrise with you?”

Katey would have banged her head on a table if there had been one in front of her. Two out of three of the things Grace had just mentioned were lies, and the one that wasn’t just didn’t wash when she knew very well that every single thing that man had done was because of his physical desire for her, not because he wanted to court her.

But Grace wasn’t finished. She had only paused long enough to dig a small box out of one of Katey’s trunks. “And this?” Grace said, handing the box to her. “I found it in your cabin when you went on that picnic. It could have been delivered earlier. Since it’s still unopened—you didn’t see it?”

“No.” Katey frowned as she took the little package and removed the thin silk wrapping.

When she opened the small wooden trinket box, her eyes widened. Dangling from a gold chain was a lovely scrimshaw pendant, delicately carved and an immediate reminder of home—and Boyd. She draped the chain over her neck before she examined it more closely.

Grace was smirking now. “Pretty, but of course he couldn’t have given it to you because he was courting you. Not that it matters now. His ship is no longer following us, or if it is, it’s fallen far behind. I went up to check before I came to tell you the Malorys are holding dinner for you.”

Katey blinked and flew off the bed, yelling, “Why didn’t you say so?!”

“I just did. And there’s no need to fly into a panic. So you keep them waiting. It’s—”

“No, I do not keep them waiting.” Katey grabbed one of the dresses that Grace had just put in the standing wardrobe. “One brother scares the heck out of me. And you. Don’t deny it, you just said as much. He seems to be cloaked in menace all the time, that one! I’ve yet to feel relaxed in his presence. The other, Judith’s father, well, he’s been nothing but nice. I can’t deny that. But I get this strange feeling around him that nearly makes me just as nervous.”

“Strange how?”

Katey didn’t pause in changing her clothes. “It’s hard to describe. It’s as if for Judith’s sake, I want to impress him. He saw me as his daughter’s heroine.”

Grace laughed. “You can’t get much more impressive than that.”

“I know. And I guess I just don’t want to tarnish that image he has of me. I shouldn’t care, but for some reason I do.”

Grace fastened the back of Katey’s dress. “Impressing and not disappointing are pretty much the same thing so it’s understandable that you’d feel that way about Judith’s father. You did form a fast close bond with that child. I don’t doubt you and Judith will remain friends and keep in touch.”

“You think that’s all it is?”

“Why else would you worry about what Sir Anthony Malory thinks of you?”

Chapter Forty-Four

IT WAS AN UNPLEASANT DINNER. Katey couldn’t think of a more appropriate word to describe it. She was uncomfortable. The two Malory men were just as uncomfortable. And it didn’t help that James had nearly insulted her when he’d remarked on the pendant she was wearing close to her heart, asking if it was made of ivory.

She’d smiled and told him, “No, it’s called scrimshaw, carvings that have become popular in New England recently. It’s made of whalebone.”

He’d looked appalled. “You’re wearing—whale?”

She’d stiffened and said, “I think it’s beautiful. A lot of thought and talent went into making it.”

“Quite right,” he’d amended. “Very pretty.”

For whatever reason, they seemed to be as nervous as she was tonight. Or perhaps they were just responding to her mood.

The food was delicious though. The Malorys even attempted to make normal conversation, but it was pretty terse. And she caught quite a few pointed looks between the brothers, as if they were communicating without words. Their odd behavior began to worry her. She had intended to ask what they were doing in the Mediterranean. Now she was quite sure she didn’t want to know.

“Pure foolishness on his part, taking you through that particular sea,” James was saying to her. “There is ample warm weather in the Caribbean. That’s where Boyd should have sailed you.”

“I didn’t want to travel that far yet,” Katey replied. “He did suggest it. I declined.”

“Then the fault was yours, m’dear,” James didn’t hesitate to scold. “You have to take into account what is happening in the part of the world you intend to visit. Most of the pirates in the Caribbean were done away with toward the end of the last century. The few that are still operating there are mostly just the annoying sort that will ransom you back to your family if you’re captured.”

“What my brother is getting at,” Anthony added, “is that pirates are much more prevalent in the Mediterranean. The governments who have suffered losses because of them haven’t become sufficiently annoyed to declare war on them. They will eventually, but in the meantime, if those pirates capture you, they won’t ransom you to your family, they’ll sell you into slavery. A very big difference.”

Katey didn’t take offense. When someone scolded her out of concern for her, she tended to feel guilt, not anger. But Katey felt neither emotion now. At least they were no longer tiptoeing around with their words, which enabled her to relax just a little.

“I was assured that we would be relatively safe if we avoided the Barbary Coast, which we did,” Katey told them. “Was I misinformed? Is that why you came looking for us? Do you know something about this area that Boyd and his captain don’t know?”

“My brother is being overly dramatic,” Anthony said. “You were probably fine.”

“Not so fine,” Katey was forced to say. “Had we stayed on ship, we would have been, no doubt. But going on that outing so far from any settlements left us exposed. Some pirates did show up today. They spotted us on the beach and came ashore to capture us. Boyd took care of both boats they sent it. You didn’t notice their ship scurrying away at the first sight of The Oceanus?”

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