The Magic of You Page 27

She'd started yelling immediately after the door had closed again, demanding he come back, demanding to speak to him. When she'd assumed he couldn't hear her anymore, she'd yelled for someone named Taishi instead. Now, every ten minutes or so, she would bang on her door and repeat her calls for Taishi.

Warren could be grateful, he supposed, that she wasn't aware he'd been placed in the cabin next to her, or she'd be trying to talk to him through the bulkhead, and he didn't know how much of that he could take. It was bad enough that he could hear her voice, at least when she was yelling. She did a lot of grumbling and talking to herself as well, but that wasn't as clear, only a few words, like "wretched"

and "bloody" and "just you wait," coming through to him.

He sincerely hoped she was referring to him rather than to the unknown Taishi. Amy angry was much easier to imagine than Amy the seductress, especially when that brief sight he'd just had of her was with disheveled hair and a gown that was much too low-cut for his memory to deal with comfortably. He should be furious that she'd worn something like that to come and see him. He wouldn't have stood a chance if she'd gotten close enough for him to look down that cleavage. But then, the little wanton had known that, which was why she'd worn it, he didn't doubt.

Warren groaned. This wasn't going to work. He'd known that. Being locked up for an entire month knowing Amy Malory was so close but inaccessible was going to drive him as crazy as if he were confined with her. He had to have a distraction, to involve himself in the running of this ship, something.

Hell, he'd even swab the decks. 335 Pride wasn't at issue here. His sanity was.

The movement of the ship leaving its berth sent Warren to the door to do some pounding of his own. He hadn't expected the ship to leave this soon-- Zhang must have had it readied from the moment he acquired Amy. But this was the perfect time to escape, with all hands busy. And how hard could it be to overpower whoever opened his door, break Amy's door down, and jump ship with her? He could stand her company long enough to get her home, couldn't he? And too soon the opportunity would be gone, the ship out to sea.

The door swung open before he had reached it. A man no bigger than Amy jumped back when he saw Warren's raised fist. Seeing the bowl of food he was carrying, Warren had a feeling he was meeting the unknown Taishi.

He lowered his fist, wanting to put the fellow at ease--at least until he got him into the room. "I was about to pound on the door, is all. Do come in."

It was hard to tell, but it looked like the Chinaman's eyes were about as wide as they could get. "You big-time big, Captain. You no try escape, okay? Taishi no likee tangle with you."

"Afraid, little man?" Warren asked doubtfully, well aware of how deadly the seemingly harmless could be--if it hailed from China. "Let's see if that's so."

Warren reached out and yanked Taishi forward by the front of his tunic, then up into the air with one arm. In a trice his thumb was bent back so far, the attack brought him to his knees, and Taishi back to his feet.

"As I thought," Warren gritted out. "Your capability as a well-chosen keeper has been amply demonstrated, so you can let go now."

Warren got his thumb back, but Taishi moved quickly out of his way, still wary of him. That was a joke, but to his advantage, Warren supposed. The little man probably wasn't used to anyone a good foot taller than he. Taishi had been trained by men his own size, and someone with Warren's height and a body that was in no way skinny was going to make him leery, no matter how capable he knew himself to be.

But Warren certainly didn't let this go to his

head. He already knew firsthand that men 337 shorter than he could make mincemeat out of him.

James Malory had proved that without half trying.

Thinking of James gave Warren an idea he couldn't resist. "I'll make a deal with you, Taishi," he said as he rose to his feet and shook his still smarting hand. "I won't give you any trouble at all, and in return, you teach me your fighting skills."

"So you can use against Taishi? You as funny as the English lady, Captain."

The mention of Amy made Warren almost desperate to get the man's agreement. The lessons would keep him busy enough, and bruised enough, to remove that minx from his thoughts at least for a while, and give him an advantage over James that the Englishman wouldn't be expecting when next they met.

That was assuming, of course, that Warren could extricate himself from this mess in one piece.

"I don't delude myself into thinking you'd teach me all you know, so what have you got to worry about?"

Warren asked. "But as it happens, I wouldn't attack my teacher, and you'd have my word on it."

"Then why you want to learn?"

"What you have is a skill I'd like to use against àround eyes` when this is over. Think about it, Taishi, and consider this while you're at it. You keep me happy and Lord Zhang is pleased with you. Otherwise, I may try to kick down these walls and wring your neck with that pigtail at least once a day, and the day could come when I get lucky."

At that Taishi snorted, but there wasn't much contempt in it. And he didn't come any farther into the cabin to put the food down on the crate of candles that served as Warren's only table. He set the bowl on the floor next to the door, and moved to leave.

Warren wasn't done with him yet. "Ask permission if you like. I guarantee your lord will be delighted by the thought of me getting my ass whipped on a daily basis. He'll probably want to watch."

He'd pricked Taishi's interest with that possibility. "To entertain Lord Yat-sen would be a fine thing."

Warren would prefer the bastard didn't watch, but he'd take what he could get. "Sleep on it and let me know in the morning what you 339 decide. But in either case, I have a deal with your lord that doesn't include incarceration for the duration of this voyage. You might remind him of that. I'm available to work if nothing--was

Pounding came on the bulkhead to interrupt him, and the furious shout: "Who's in there? Is that you, Taishi? If that's you, you'd better get your runty little self over here before I burn this ship down!"

They both stared at the bulkhead for a moment before Taishi asked in a horrified whisper, "Would she really?"

"Of course not," Warren scoffed, but he spoke in a much lower tone than he'd been using. "However, she's been making quite a racket over there. Haven't you gone yet to see what she wants?"

"Orders not to visit, only to feed, but know what lady wants. Tomorrow soon enough to let her try to crack my head again."

Warren took a dangerous step forward. "You didn't hurt her, did you, when you saved your head?"

Taishi leapt back this time, landing outside the

door. "No hurt your lady,"Taishi quickly assured him. "Little bruise maybe, here." He pointed to his bottom. "But she no complain of that. Complain of everything else, but not that."

Warren realized his mistake too late, but still tried to correct it. "She's not my lady."

"If you say so, Captain."

"Don't humor me, man," Warren snapped impatiently. "She's really not. And for God's sake, if she asks, do not tell her I'm right next door to her. She'll damn well drive me crazy with her incessant chatter, and I'll damn well take it out on you if she does."

Warren wasn't sure if he'd convinced the Chinaman, but at least Taishi looked a bit confused before he closed and locked the door. Warren was furious with himself, however, for making that slip, and doing it without even realizing what he was doing. How stupid could he get? The last thing he needed was for his keeper to be able to assure Zhang that he was most definitely concerned over Amy's welfare. Warren just wished to hell it weren't true.

Chapter 32

Amy moved away from the bulkhead to find her pallet and curl up in a dejected ball. Her ear hurt from pressing against the rough wood, but she ached worse in the region of her heart.

So Warren didn't want to talk to her. He'd never wanted to talk to her, so it shouldn't hurt to hear him say it. But it did.

She actually felt like crying. She wouldn't, of course. She'd known from the beginning that it wasn't going to be easy to win Warren, that she had a lot of bitterness and distrust to overcome. And he was a man set in his ways, ways that kept women at an unbreachable distance. He didn't want to be happy. He liked being miserable. So much to overcome ...

The next morning brought a return of Amy's confidence, at least where Warren was concerned. She still believed, wholeheartedly, that making love to him was the answer, the miracle that was going to change their relationship, or rather, get one started.

As for last night and her doubts, it was this situation that was getting her down, and the uncertainty of it.

She didn't doubt for a minute that Warren

wouldn't be here if he'd had a choice. Her uncle James had probably figured out what was happening and insisted Warren rescue her. This didn't exactly seem like rescuing yet, but she was optimistic enough to assume Warren knew what he was doing.

Still, a few reassurances wouldn't hurt, would definitely be nice. Only Warren wasn't willing to talk to her long enough, even through the wall, to supply them. Dratted man could at least make an exception to his standoffishness this once, but no, heaven forbid he should show the slightest compassion or concern.

Why, she might think he actually cared if he did, and he wouldn't like that a'tall.

The movement of the ship told her they were out to sea. The light under the door told her it was indeed

the next day. The silence from the next cabin told her nothing. And she was working herself into another fine rage that would have her pounding on Warren's side of the bulkhead again if she wasn't careful. She didn't want to do that. If he wanted silence, he'd get silence, and she hoped that would drive him crazy.

But Taishi got a full dose of her

irritation when he showed up with more rice and 343 vegetables for her breakfast. She took one look at the food and said, "Again? I do believe it's time to chop off your cook's hand. He must be the most unimaginative man in existence."

"Very filling, this," Taishi assured her. "Put meat on bones, big-time."

"Just what I always wanted," she returned dryly. "And hold it right there," she added when he started backing out the door. "Before you disappear again, tell me how Lord Zhang managed to capture him."

"Who?"

"Let's not play dense. The man next door? The one you're also feeding? The one who asked you not to tell me where he is? That one?"

Taishi grinned at her. "You say so much, to say so little. Is that English trait, missee, or shared by American captains, too?"

"How about answering my question first?"

He shrugged. "No one tell Taishi about captain. Just told to feed and takee care. You have to ask him, missee."

"By all means, bring him over."

He chuckled, shaking his head at her. "You

funny lady. You heard he no likee talk to you. Orders to keep him happy, and seeing you no makee happy, Taishi thinking."

"So his happiness takes precedence over mine, does it?" Her irritation was definitely mounting. "I suppose because he's the only one who knows where that bloody vase is. You have heard about the vase?"

"Everyone know about vase, missee. Belong to Emperor, not Lord Yat-sen. Lord Yat-sen in big-time trouble if he no get it back."

Amy wondered if Warren knew that, but she couldn't very well ask him when he refused to talk to her.

"I don't suppose it's occurred to anyone that Warren is a very uncooperative man, and he's only being cooperative now because of me. So what happens if I'm not here? Just how cooperative do you think he'll be then?"

"Where you go, missee?"

"I'll think of something," she said impatiently, then, realizing he wasn't the least bit impressed with her capabilities, added, "Never mind that just now. But as to seeing me, you ought to know the captain is just being stubborn about it. We had a lover's spat, is all," she lied baldly, since nothing else was working. 345 "I'm sure you know how it is. He doesn't think I'll forgive him, which is why he doesn't want to talk to me or see me now, but I have already forgiven him. I just need a chance to convince him of that, but how can I if you people won't let me see him?"

He was shaking his head at her again, telling her he didn't believe her. Well, it had been a good try, and maybe if she stuck to that story, she'd eventually convince him. In the meantime, she was too frustrated about getting nowhere to continue being pleasant to the little man.

"Since you are so very accommodating, Taishi," she said with dripping sarcasm, "I also need a change of clothes, and a hairbrush wouldn't be amiss. And for God's sake, some water for washing. If you're supposed to be taking care of us, you'll have to start doing a better job. I'm a hostage, not a prisoner, and for that matter, I demand some fresh air occasionally. You will see to it, won't you?"

"What will be allowed, missee, you can have."

She heard a little wounded dignity there. So now she had guilt to add to the other unpleasant emotions she had to cope with. But she didn't apologize. She was the injured party here, the one being held against her will, taken from her home to God knew where. Where would that vase be hidden, anyway? America? Well, she'd said she'd go there if it became necessary in her campaign to win Warren, but she really hadn't planned on it.

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