No Choice But Seduction Page 34

“We saw the smaller vessel, but since you were on the empty side of a populated island, we assumed they were merely local friendlies who stopped to see if you wanted a ride out of there.”

“Two boatloads, eh?” James said thoughtfully. “What was the head count?”

“Six per boat. Boyd wasn’t quite done with the first group when the second boat arrived.”

“He had weapons?”

“If you want to call his fists weapons. With the apparent intent to sell him into slavery, they were doing their best not to seriously hurt him. They thought they could bring him down with their bare hands. They thought wrong.”

To that James raised a golden brow at his brother. “Feeling better, old man?”

“That he’s good with his fists?” Anthony grumbled. “Or that after bruising them on twelve faces he was still good with his fists?”

James ended up chuckling. “Good point.”

But Anthony said to her with a frown, “You must have been terrified.”

Katey blinked with the realization that she’d been nothing of the sort, at least she hadn’t really been afraid for herself. In fact…

“I was worried, yes, but at first about Boyd. He’d hid me inland, then went back to ‘take care of them,’ he’d said. I was too nervous to stay put. When I got back to the beach, I saw another boat landing, but Boyd wasn’t quite finished with the first group, and he couldn’t see the new arrivals. That’s when I panicked. I was afraid the new group would surprise Boyd and overwhelm him. So I stepped out to draw their attention to me, to give him a little more time to finish with the two he was still fighting.”

“They didn’t try to overwhelm you?”

Her lips twisted with disgust. “They probably would have, but they were too busy laughing at my attempt to hit them with the rocks I’d gathered. Not one of the stones I threw landed anywhere near them. It was a pathetic attempt to do them harm, but it worked rather perfectly as a distraction, if I do say so myself.”

Anthony sat back in amazement. “So once again you come to the rescue.”

She chuckled at him. “Certainly not. I merely gave Boyd time to sneak up behind them and drop two of them with his club before they even knew he was there! You know, as I look back on it, and I can say this now that the danger is over, it was quite an exciting adventure, the second I’ve had since I began this journey. I even managed to knock one of the pirates out when they turned their backs on me to deal with Boyd’s timely arrival. And he made quick work of the last three. You should have seen him. He was quite magnificent, particularly since he barely took a scratch himself.”

The brothers exchanged glances before Anthony asked carefully, “Katey, you haven’t developed fond feelings for Boyd Anderson, have you?”

“No.”

She said it so quickly, Anthony didn’t delve further. He merely added, “Glad to hear it, because he’s not exactly in our good graces just now.”

James grinned. “When has that barbarian ever been?”

Anthony disagreed. “You weren’t here, old man, but I had reason to be grateful to the Yank recently.”

James feigned a surprised look. “Never say so.”

“It was certainly brief, mind you, but I felt it nonetheless.”

“And long gone,” James said.

“Most definitely,” Anthony agreed with a sour look. “But I’ll have to allow it sounds as if he acquitted himself rather well today—before we arrived.”

“You can allow that if you must, but I bloody well won’t,” James said to his brother, then glancing at Katey, he added, “Katey, m’dear, don’t make the mistake of seeing my annoying brother-in-law as your hero just because he managed to take down twelve miscreants today. With those pirates not wanting to hurt him, as you said, the advantage was completely his. Any man who is the least bit handy with his fists could have done the same thing.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that,” she said tight-lipped. “Certainly not.”

Especially since they would never have been on that isle to begin with, or run into those pirates, if Boyd hadn’t jumped on his golden opportunity, as he’d put it, to get them there. But she wasn’t about to mention that to the Malory brothers.

James, however, picked up on her tone and remarked thoughtfully, “That’s right, you’re currently annoyed with him, aren’t you?”

“Whatever gave you that idea?” she said sarcastically.

James replied with a grin, “The ‘pretend you don’t know me’ remark you made to him would have sufficed, but we could also see that you’d been chewing his head off on the beach.”

She groaned inwardly, realizing they’d probably had spyglasses trained on the island. But this was one subject she wasn’t going to discuss. The Malorys, however, apparently felt they knew her well enough by now to delve.

One of James’s golden brows went up. “Would you like to discuss it?”

“No.”

“It’s nothing that would require punishment?” James pressed in a more menacing tone. He even rubbed his knuckles against his cheek so she’d understand what sort of punishment he was talking about.

“No, don’t hurt him!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, dear girl,” Anthony assured her, albeit with some color in his cheeks.

James chuckled to himself. Katey had no idea why. She saw nothing amusing about the subject. But then these English lords did seem to have a quirky sense of humor.

With dinner pretty much finished and the conversation no longer to her liking, Katey waved away the dessert that was offered to her. “I should be getting back to my cabin,” she told her companions. “It’s been a long, eventful day.”

Anthony said quickly, “Katey, don’t go yet. I need to have a few words with you.” He looked at his brother. “Would you mind?”

James understood, but he started laughing in reply. “Leave?” In other words, he wasn’t budging.

Chapter Forty-Five

KATEY HAD NODDED that she would stay, but she quickly wished she hadn’t. Anthony didn’t get right to the point of whatever he wanted to talk to her about. He didn’t even stay at the table. He marched over to the captain’s desk, James’s desk, since he captained The Maiden George himself, and poured himself a drink from a decanter of spirits there. He even drank it straight down—then paced the floor between the desk and the dining table.

His nervousness was palpable, causing hers to escalate dramatically. She was just about to shoot to her feet and rudely run out of the room with merely a yelled “Good night” when Anthony pinned her with his eyes. Such beautiful eyes he had, purest cobalt blue, exotically slanted just enough to be noticeable, and riveting. She didn’t move.

“Tell me about the man who raised you, Katey,” Anthony began.

She blinked. What an odd way to refer to her father. “My father?”

“Yes.”

Oh, good grief, he just wanted to hear her family history? “What would you like to know?”

“What sort of man was he?”

“Kind, generous, cheerful, oh, and very gossipy.” She chuckled. “Of course he had to be. It kept his customers amused.”

“Were you close to him?”

She thought about that for a moment, but had to admit, “Not really. He died when I was only ten, so I don’t have many memories of him that stand out in my mind. And he was rarely home. He spent every day in his shop. He ran it himself. It was a small shop in a very small village. And it was the only place in Gardener for the villagers to gather, so he kept it open late each day. If I wanted to spend time with him other than on Sundays, then I had to go to the shop. Half the year I was usually in bed by the time he got home.”

“So you barely knew him?”

“I wouldn’t say that. I knew him as well as any child that age knows their parents. I loved him, he loved me. He always had a smile, or a hug, for me. But I was much closer to my mother. I spent hours with her every day, either helping her in her garden, or helping her in the kitchen, or with the house chores we did together.”

“She worked—in the kitchen?”

It sounded as if he’d had to spit out those words, that they wouldn’t come out on their own. How odd. What did it matter where she worked? Oh, wait, he was a lord. To him, only servants worked in kitchens.

She chuckled with understanding. “No one had servants in Gardener, Sir Anthony. While my family could have easily afforded them, my mother wanted us to be like everyone else, and besides, she enjoyed her chores and I enjoyed doing them with her. It wasn’t as if we had anything else to do to greatly occupy our time. She didn’t give in and hire Grace until I was much older. But mother took over running the store after my father died, so her time was much more limited after that, and more of the chores came to me, now that I think of it.”

Anthony made a sound that could easily have been likened to pain. He also marched straight out of the cabin without a by-your-leave. And had his complexion gone white? He’d turned too fast for her to be sure. Katey was frowning when James rose, too, and quickly followed his brother.

But he glanced back at her and ordered, “Stay put,” then slammed the door shut behind him.

Katey humphed to herself. What the devil was that about? She didn’t budge, though, much as she wanted to. If anyone else had given her that order, she’d be marching off to her own cabin in high dudgeon at that very moment. But from that particular man, well, she stayed put. Even when something banged against the wall outside and her immediate impulse was to investigate, she stayed put.

Outside, James had Anthony pinned against the wall he’d just slammed him into. “Don’t even think about abandoning ship,” James snarled.

“I wasn’t jumping.”

“I’m talking about Katey in there and leaving her clueless. Have you flipped your bloody gourd, Tony? What the deuce got into you?”

“You heard her. Good God, she grew up in absolute drudgery and it’s my fault!”

“So you have flipped your gourd. It was Adeline’s choice to leave England. You didn’t put her on the ship that took her to America. And you certainly didn’t keep her there. She could have come home at any time.”

“But she never would have got on that ship in the first place if I hadn’t been dragging my feet about proposing, so bloody nervous that she wouldn’t give me the answer I wanted. If she had been more sure about me, she would have come to me and we would have married. Then she would have continued living in the style she was accustomed to, and Katey, God, Katey wouldn’t have been raised like a servant!”

“What are you suggesting? That no one except the upper crust can live happy lives? Don’t be such a bloody arse, Tony, and a snobbish one at that.”

“No,” Anthony growled back, “but we’re talking about my daughter. She shouldn’t have had to live like that. She should have been pampered just like Judy and—”

“Stop and think about that before my fist helps you,” James interrupted. “You do realize that had any of that played out differently, you never would have met and married Roslynn. Then you wouldn’t have two other daughters to be comparing this one to, would you? Judith and Jaime would never have been born, would they?”

Anthony dropped his head back against the wall with a sigh. “I might have overreacted.”

“Might?” James snorted.

“It’s just—why would she even want me for a father at this late date? She’s a young woman of means. There is nothing that I can give her that she can’t give herself.”

“Yes, there is. A family. It would take her an entire lifetime to produce a family the size of the one you’re going to hand her due to a quirk of fate.”

Chapter Forty-Six

THE TWO MALORYS had been gone too long. It wasn’t unreasonable to think they might have forgotten about her. So it wasn’t unreasonable for Katey to risk defying James Malory’s order. Besides, it had been an incredibly eventful day. She was due for a good, long sleep, if she could get out of her mind those hours she’d spent with Boyd before the pirates showed up.

But the two men hadn’t actually gone that far off, she found as she tried sneaking out of the cabin unnoticed. They noticed, both turning their heads her way when the door opened, so she innocently inquired, “Is everything all right?”

“Certainly. I was merely contemplating tossing my brother overboard,” James said drily as he let go of Anthony’s jacket and pretended to be merely dusting off his lapels.

“And I was explaining to this arse why he shouldn’t,” Anthony replied cheerfully, and shouldered his way past James to usher Katey back into the cabin.

She sighed as she took her seat again at the dining table. What about her could Anthony be so interested in, that it couldn’t wait until morning? She should just be rude and say she was exhausted. She wasn’t. The day had been too invigorating. But they didn’t know that. Maybe if she faked a yawn…

“Now where were we?” Anthony said.

He didn’t take his seat. He was back to pacing, and he didn’t look all that cheerful now, either. That had no doubt been feigned.

“You were about to get to the point,” James prompted him.

James didn’t return to the table, either. He sat sideways on the edge of his desk, just enough to have one leg comfortably dangling. His crossed arms looked rather menacing, though, so Katey took her eyes off him. Anthony ignored him altogether.

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