No Choice But Seduction Page 37

Hesitantly, Katey asked, “Your family accepted Jeremy without any qualms?”

“My dear girl, that’s been the point of my sharing this tale with you. Of course they did, wholeheartedly. You will find that Malorys are very, very strong on family ties. We nourish and protect our own.”

“Yes, we even love our black sheep,” Anthony added with a smirk toward his brother.

But James was quick to retort ominously, “Stuff it, old chap, before—”

Anthony cut in with a roll of his eyes, “Yes, yes, I know, before you help me.”

Katey, glancing back and forth between them, had to ask, “Do you two—hate each other?”

“Good God, whatever gave you that idea?” they both nearly said in unison.

Katey choked back a laugh.

Chapter Forty-Nine

IT SEEMED TO TAKE no time at all to get back to England. Long before Katey was expecting it, James announced they would be docking later that very day. The difference in the time getting them there so quickly had nothing to do with strong winds pushing them northward either, she realized. It was the simple fact that on The Oceanus she had anticipated seeing Boyd every single day, and when that didn’t happen, time had dragged by at a snail’s pace. And that had been more than half that voyage!

She knew why now. And it had been bothering her that many of her reactions to him had been tinged with anger because she’d thought he had been ignoring her. But his long absences hadn’t been intentional at all.

Time was flying by on the return voyage because of the company she was sharing. Her father. Her uncle. Her family.

She and Anthony spent nearly every waking hour together. They took long, leisurely walks around the deck and talked. They stood at the rail together for hours and talked some more, barely noticing that the weather was getting colder by the day as they left the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

Lunches and dinners lasted three times as long as they normally would in James’s cabin! Anthony had years of Malory history to impart to her, and she soaked it all in, by turns surprised, shocked, amused. Good God, they were a fascinating family.

She did her share of talking, and not just about herself. Anthony got her to discuss her mother more and more, and each time she did, some of her anger at her mother would go away, until there was barely any left.

“So Adeline was happy in this village?” he asked her one evening during dinner.

She didn’t have to think about that long before saying, “Not once did I ever catch her in a moment of melancholy, probably because she was always too busy for idle moments!”

Katey was trying to make light of it, but he was much too concerned about it to be amused. He seemed to have it stuck in his mind that a woman from his class couldn’t step so far down the social ladder and live a happy life. Which was absurd. A certain way of life did not guarantee happiness.

James appeared to be of the same opinion. “My brother’s a snob,” he explained.

“The devil I am,” Anthony shot back.

“You bloody well are, and a vain one at that!” But to Katey James added, “He’s afraid your mother suffered a broken heart for having to give him up, for whatever reason. And considering that I know for a fact that he left broken hearts all over England during his rakehell years, I was having the same thought.”

Katey understood and assured them, “If she did have a broken heart, she got over it by the time I was old enough to notice. But now that you’ve made me think about it—it’s not something I ever really took note of back then—I doubt my parents shared a great love of the sort you mean.” She paused, wincing over the word parents. “I’m sorry, but he raised me. I can’t not think of him as my parent.”

“Don’t be silly, puss,” Anthony said. “While I would have liked to have been the one to raise you, that doesn’t make him any less your father, too.”

She nodded. “Well, I can say with certainty that they did like each other. It might have only been that they had become great friends, or it might have been more, but they got along wonderfully, never arguing. They laughed a lot together, too. And they shared the same goals, raising me and running the store. They were even planning on enlarging it with a taproom before he died. Gardener didn’t have a tavern.”

They both stared at her with such horror over that news, she laughed. “Well, I told you it was a small village. And my mother gave up those plans when my father died. But she seemed to thrive, running the store by herself after that. She mourned, though, for quite a long time, so whether she loved him or not to begin with, I’m sure she grew to love him.”

That appeared to be what Anthony needed to hear. “You have set my mind at ease, m’dear. Thank you.”

Another time, when they were alone on the deck, she confessed her fabrication of tales and why she’d picked up the habit in the first place. Though since beginning her trip, she’d been getting more than enough entertainment, so that the imaginary sort was no longer necessary—one hope for the trip that had come true.

Katey felt she could talk to Anthony about anything—except Boyd. She definitely didn’t want to talk about him. And anytime the Andersons were mentioned—they were part of the family now—she steered the conversation to other topics.

“Does your wife know about me?” Katey asked when they got closer to England, where Anthony had already told her he intended to take her home with him.

“Certainly. We haven’t told Judy yet, though. We decided to wait until you were present to spring that delightful news on her. She would have been impossible to live with otherwise. The chit does not seem to understand the word patience when she’s excited.”

“Roslynn didn’t mind?”

“She was a bit annoyed at me at first, but only because she mistakenly thought that I knew all along that you were mine and had kept it a secret from her. But she eavesdropped outside the door that day I found out, when James and I were discussing it, and she was in complete agreement that I go straight to your grandmother for the truth of the matter. So don’t worry, m’dear. My wife is a very loving woman and will be all over you like a mother hen.”

Katey gave him a relieved grin, but she latched on to that remark about Sophie. “So you met my grandmother? My aunt wouldn’t let me see her when I was there.”

“Must be a habit of hers, barricading the door,” Anthony said, trying to make light of it, but the memory drew a frown from him. “I’m afraid we had to push our way in. The information I was after was too important to be denied. But what did Letitia expect after informing me about you and demanding I keep you away from there? The tone of her note was practically an assumption that I already knew about you, when how could I? What a miserable, hateful—”

“No need to elaborate!” Katey laughed. “I agree! But as for her assumption, well, that might have been my fault for mentioning to her that I was staying at Haverston. Which had been Judith’s suggestion, you know. She was sure it would pave the way a little, since I was ‘going to face the lions,’ which was how she put it. Are you sure she’s only seven? Her perception and intelligence are absolutely amazing for a child that age.”

Anthony chuckled. “I know what you mean. She bowls me over constantly with some of the things she says, which is why it’s always a relief to see her and Jack together and giggling like normal seven-year-olds. But I can see why her strategy might have backfired on you that day. Your aunt has always had something against me, or perhaps it was against my family, I was never sure which, and she kept it to herself. I have no clue what her problem is.”

“I hope my grandmother isn’t like her.”

“Not in the least. She wasn’t well, or I would have pressed her for more information. But she promised we would speak again in greater detail when she’s better. I’ll take you to visit her m’self. I’m sure you’re as curious as I am, to find out why your mother ran off with you to America, instead of coming to me.”

Those were halcyon days Katey spent with her father and uncle, and she was grateful for every little tidbit about the Malorys they cared to share with her, which was a lot! But when she lay in bed each night, alone, the only thing filling her mind was Boyd.

She had overreacted to his high-handedness. What had he done except get past her defenses, and she was glad he’d done that. She even remembered at that last dinner with him, before she got so intoxicated, that he’d suggested they spend a day at one of the island beaches they would soon be passing, and despite how wonderful that had sounded, she’d quickly declined, afraid, considering how she felt about Boyd, to spend any time alone with him. She’d been right to fear that! Look what had happened! But she wouldn’t undo those hours with him, not for the world.

From the moment he’d mentioned marriage and her in the same breath, she had been too thrilled—which brought on the panic. Because she knew he would be the end of her trip, that she’d gladly give it up for him. Every one of the reasons she had given him for why they shouldn’t marry were true, but she’d held them up to convince herself more than him. Because if she did give in, she knew she would regret it later. She had too many doubts not to expect regrets.

And while he’d been working his way deeply into her mind and heart from as far back as that first voyage with him to England, she was afraid that he didn’t feel the same, that it was all just lust on his part. What had he ever said to her to make her think otherwise? Not that she hadn’t experienced a lot of that herself. Her passion for that man amazed her. But she felt much more than that. And the very next day after he’d been left in the wake of The Maiden George, she’d already been missing him.

Chapter Fifty

HERE WE ARE, only a day behind them, and we didn’t have to toss the cannon overboard,” Tyrus said as he came to stand beside Boyd at the rail.

Boyd didn’t take his eyes off the busy London wharf to glance down at the shorter man. The Oceanus, like many other ships anchored in the Thames, would have to wait its turn to dock, which would take days. That was why a skiff was already being lowered to take him and some of the crew ashore now. Not for the first time, he thought Skylark should buy a private dock away from the congestion of the city.

He knew Tyrus made the cannon remark to get a grin out of him. It didn’t work.

“If I thought it would have got us here more quickly, I probably would have ordered the cannon tossed over the side. They probably arrived here more than a day ago—that was a damn fast ship Malory had. But it doesn’t matter. Katey will be ensconced at her father’s house, so there’s no point in even trying to see her.”

“Is that going to stop you?”

Now that did get a grin out of Boyd. “Not a chance. But you know how the Malorys are. I’ve grouched about them enough times to you. So I think I need a little ammunition on my side in the form of my sister. At least Georgie can keep James out of it. Anthony I can handle, but not him and his brother together.”

“I hate to mention it, bucko, but your real opposition is going to be the little lady herself. I warned you not to sneak her off the ship like that, but having done so, you should have been straight up about it.”

“I was going to tell her before you arrived at the island, but the pirates showed up first. Hell, the night I took her off the ship I didn’t even think I’d get her all the way to shore before she woke up, but when I did, I was so relieved not to be in the middle of a very long argument with her that I relaxed and got some sleep myself. I only woke a little while before she did, so on the spur of the moment I spun a crazy tale to account for us being there. I figured she’d find it amusing later, since she’s so good at spinning tales herself. She might even have thought it was romantic on my part.” Tyrus snorted at that, to which Boyd added, “Some women might have seen it that way. Of course, I thought I’d have her agreement to marry me by then, too.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Hell no. Her finding out before I could mention it took all amusement out of it. Besides, she wasn’t believing anything I said by then.”

As soon as Katey left The Oceanus for The Maiden George, he’d regretted not having made a full confession to Katey. That’s why he’d gotten so furious with the Malorys once he caught up to them, because they wouldn’t even let him see her so he could tell her that. He still didn’t think she’d believe him. She’d been too angry. But he’d wanted to at least try before the seasickness brought him to his knees.

But for the first time ever, he didn’t get seasick as soon as his ship sailed. Was the extreme emotion he’d been in the throes of responsible for that? Or was it the beating Anthony had given him? No, he doubted the latter. He’d sailed before after having a good fight with one of his brothers, and a few aches and pains hadn’t stopped the nausea from overtaking him then.

Besides, the punches that Anthony had delivered were nothing he couldn’t shrug off. He’d had worse from his brothers. He might have been knocked out briefly, but he’d managed to easily block the punches that could have broken bones.

He’d expected much worse from Anthony, so he had a feeling the older man had held back, and the reason was pretty obvious. Anthony assumed he’d gotten there in time to stop “the seduction,” so he’d just administered a mere warning with his fists.

But did they know now? It was possible. Katey had just spent a lot of time with them and could have mentioned it. Boyd could be walking right into a situation where his head would be blown off by an angry father. God, why did Katey have to turn out to be a Malory? It was bad enough when the family had merely been grateful to her for rescuing Judith. But now she was one of their own, and the Malorys went above and beyond when it came to family.

Prev Next