Captive of My Desires Page 37

“Yes, but there were bars on the hut where they kept us men, and I had nothing better to do than stare out of them. I became very melancholy.”

“You were a hostage. Of course you would—”

“No, it had nothing to do with that. Do you know I watched them carry a chest to the main building while I was there? It was so heavy they dropped it and it broke, spilling gold coins all over the ground.

They just laughed. Wealth was stored in the huts right next to us, trunks of fine woolens and silks, crates of tobacco and rum, all stolen, all stored until it could be sold.”

“They were pirates! That was their business.”

“Exactly,” he said. “But it wasn’t just the wealth to be had. It took me several months to figure it out. It was also the laughter I’d witnessed on that island, the joking, the bonds of friendship. Those men were enjoying themselves. When I thought about going back to my career on a staid English ship—where a simple mistake could get you flogged—I couldn’t do it.”

“You merely sailed under the wrong captains. It’s not like that on all—”

“How the deuce would you know, Gabby? Not that it matters. I made my choice soon after my release, before I even reached England, and sailed directly back to the Caribbean. It took me another month to find one of the pirate captains. The first one wouldn’t take me on, but he saw how determined I was and allowed me to catch a ride back to that island. Pierre was there and short on men, having barely won his last sea battle. He was willing to take a chance on me, and I haven’t disappointed him yet.”

“Then what were you doing back in England?”

“Can’t you guess? I was sent to make sure your friend Bixley didn’t delay in reaching you. I have my own ship now. It was priceless, Gabby! I’m the one who took him to England. He didn’t know me from Adam. He had no idea he was sailing on one of Pierre’s ships. So it was easy enough to trail him when we docked, straight to his friends, and listen in when he apprised them of your father’s dilemma. Heard from them where you were staying. I wasn’t going to reveal myself, but then I heard that rumor circulating about you.”

“And you just had to rub it in?”

“Not at all. I figured, just in case you didn’t know about it, that it would give you even more incentive to head back this way. Which it did. And then I followed you back. I lost you in that storm, but I had a feeling that Anderson would dock in Anguilla before you set out to rescue your father, since it’s so close to here, and he didn’t disappoint me. I was able to overhear most of the plans you made tonight at the inn. While you foolishly wasted time resting, I came straight here to warn Pierre and earn my reward.”

“I thought you were a good man. I was so happy to see you when you came to the Malorys’,” she said with all the contempt she could muster. “But you’re just a two-faced bastard, Avery.” Unfortunately, the insult rolled off of him. He even laughed, though only for a moment. Then he stiffened.

But when he spoke, it wasn’t to her.

“Put it down.”

She tried to turn her head to see whom he was talking to, but it wasn’t necessary. Avery turned them both to place her between himself and Richard, who was pointing the pistol he held at Avery’s head.

It was an excellent time for her to get out of the way. She steeled herself for the pain, then let her legs crumble so she could fall to the deck. It did hurt, but it didn’t work. Avery must have been expecting her to do something of the sort, because the arm about her neck dragged her back up to cover his chest, and the point of a dagger was now pressed against her cheek.

“Nice try, Gabby,” he sneered. “But don’t try it again.”

“You won’t kill her,” Richard said.

“No, but I don’t care if I scar her up some. And this is your last warning. Put it down!” But before Richard could decide either way, he was hit from behind and fell to the deck. And Pierre Lacross stood in his place.

Chapter 48

PIERRE HADN’T AGED WELLin the three years since she’d last seen him. His black beard was still just as matted as before, but there was now a lot of gray streaking through his shoulder-length hair.

However, it was the deep lines in his face that made him look so much older now. The life he led, the things he’d done were taking their toll on his appearance. In fact he was extremely thin now, almost emaciated. It made her think she wouldn’t be completely helpless in his hands. She could fight him. She might even win. But on the way to his fortress wasn’t the time to try, with his men all around them.

He said nothing to her other than the single chilling remark rasped in her ear, “I have wonderful plans for you,chérie. ”

She couldn’t think about that. If she did she’d become so paralyzed by fear that she might as well lie down and die. Instead she noted every little thing around her and on the way, like they seemed to be tossing any of the men that were still alive into the hold to deal with later, including Richard and Timothy.

Like the thick overgrowth in the middle of the island that made it nearly impassable. Like the hidden door

in the back wall when they reached the fortress, which was carelessly left unlocked.

They were all too elated with their victory to think of taking precautions now. She counted how many candles there were in the short passage from there to the main hall. The door through which they entered the hall was also concealed behind an easily movable cabinet, and when in place, it gave no indication a secret passage was behind it.

It was telling that they didn’t care she knew this. Obviously, neither Pierre, nor any of his men, ever expected her to leave that island again.

As Gabrielle looked around the large, barracks-like hall, she noticed two means of escape. One was a wide doorway, open now, which led to a large courtyard. The courtyard was enclosed by high walls.

Bixley’s drawing had been accurate in that respect. It was too bad he hadn’t known about that secret door.

The other means of escape was an open, narrow stairway that led up to a second floor, possibly living quarters where the officers of the fortress used to reside. As it was such an old fortress that had merely been refurbished and not completely renovated, Gabrielle guessed that the kitchens were out in the courtyard, not connected to the main building, and the entrance to the dungeons was probably out there as well.

She saw all of this at a glance since she was led, or rather dragged, straight through the hall and upstairs by Pierre. The bedroom they entered was probably his, filthy, cluttered with mismatched furniture, the bed unmade, dirty dishes on a small table. That he didn’t close the door when he pulled her in there was her only hope for the moment. It indicated he might not be staying.

She yanked her hand loose easily enough. She hadn’t even tried to do so before now. A little more hope. Maybe he was as weak as he looked. He wasn’t even very tall. She’d forgotten that, or maybe she never noticed before because she’d never met men as tall as…

She couldn’t think about Drew yet, didn’t dare ask what had happened to him. If he was dead, she was afraid she’d just give up and not care what happened to her. All concentration and reason would be lost, and she needed all of her wits to survive this.

She moved away from Pierre. It didn’t work; he followed her closely, keeping her within reach.

“I don’t suppose you want the maps?” she asked, turning around to face him.

“Maps?” He chuckled. “I knew you would be amusing. No, you know why you are here.” She did; it just would have been so nice to be wrong. “Are you going to let my father and the others go now?”

“When you tried to cheat me?” he said with a tsk. “I should kill them all.” She paled, almost lost her balance, her legs turned so weak. But he laughed.

“Certainly I will release them. Do you think I would waste food on them when I do not have to?”

“You’re lying.”

“You wound me, Gabrielle. Why would you think such a thing?” His grin belied that she was insulting him. “You know they’ll try to rescue me. You won’t risk—”

“Risk what?” he cut in. “As long as they stay away, you stay alive, this is what they will be told. You thinkthey will risk that? Besides, I will assure your papa that I will only take my fill of you, then you can go.” And then he laughed again. “Red, she will not tolerate your presence for more than a few days. She is very jealous.”

She was surprised that he would tell her that, but then maybe it wasn’t true. She gave him a skeptical look. “Then why have you even bothered with this elaborate scheme to get me here?” Pierre shrugged. “Because a few days may be enough for me. Or I may decide to get rid of Red and keep you. I have not decided yet. Would you like me to keep you?”

“I’d like you to go to hell.”

He laughed yet again. She was definitely amusing him, which wasn’t a good thing. She needed to make him not want her around, not give him reasons to keep her.

He raised a hand to touch her. She immediately slapped it away, but he was quick and caught her wrist instead. And this time when she tried to yank it away, he proved he was stronger than he appeared.

“Do not mistake your position,” he said coldly. “Your papa, he is not gone yet.”

“May I see him?”


“How do I know he’s still alive?”

He shrugged and let go of her wrist. “You do not. However, since I had no reason to kill him, you may assume he is. But shall we put it to the test, just how much you want him to leave—unharmed? Remove your clothes. This room is warm, you will not need them here.” She was paralyzed for a moment. She’d worn one of her thinner island skirts and a thin blouse for the trip, a matching pair that could have been mistaken for a dress. But with only bloomers and a chemise under them, it wasn’t going to take her long to remove them. The door being open had misled her into thinking he wasn’t going to touch her yet, that she still might have time to escape. She glanced at it. He did as well. His laughter returned.

“No, no,” he said. “Chasing after wenches is one thing I will not do. If you run, I will have every last man in my dungeon killed.”

She stiffened. He said that with a bloody smile on his lips, as if he were savoring the thought.

“I will be back shortly,” Pierre growled as he moved to the door. “Be in that bed waiting for me, or I will have your papa brought here and flogged before your eyes.”

Chapter 49

“HOW TIGHT ARE YOUR BONDS?”Drew asked James, who was sitting next to him, tied to the same tree.

“I’ve been bound with better knots,” James replied.

“Then you can break them?”

“Yes,” James said, raising Drew’s hopes, only to dash those hopes when he added, “Eventually.”

“We don’t have all night! You heard that bastard. They’ll be back here soon. God, if it’s the last thing I ever do, I’m going to kill Lacross,” Drew said as he strained at the ropes around his own wrists.

“You’ll have to get in line,” James replied.

Drew snarled, “For once, Malory,you’ll have to get in line.” They’d left the ships armed to the teeth. It hadn’t done them any good when they’d been ambushed.

There must have been twenty pistols pointed at them when they were surrounded on the beach, halfway to the fortress. Someone had warned the pirates that they were coming. The pirates had even bragged about it.

Their wrists had been tied behind them, but they’d merely been held there on the beach until Pierre Lacross showed up. Bixley knew some of Pierre’s men and had hurled a long string of curses at them until one of the pirates got annoyed enough to gag them all.

“So these are the men who tried to cheat me of my prize?” Lacross had said when he arrived with another large group of men.

“You want we should kill them?” someone had asked.

“There is little entertainment in that,” Pierre replied in an amused tone of voice, and then he pointed at Ohr. “That one, he goes with us. We have two ships to capture, every man will be needed. These other three will not be going anywhere. Collect them when we are done.” Ohr had been taken with them to make it possible for the pirates to easily board the ships by trickery.

The pirates even sat around and waited nearly an hour just so the crews on the two ships would think enough time had passed for the rescue to have been a success. Ohr’s presence with them was to give that impression.

Not a single man had been left to guard them. None were needed, since the pirates had spent the time they had to kill making sure their prisoners were better secured. More ropes had been produced. One was even used to wrap them to a palm tree. There was no doubt that they’d be there when someone came back to collect them.

It had been easy enough to spit out the gags, but the ropes were a different matter. Those around Drew’s wrists had gone beyond painful, they were so tight he had no feeling in his hands now. And too much time had passed, plenty of time for Pierre’s trap to have been sprung. Had Gabrielle already been captured? It was killing him, thinking about what was happening to her.

“They’ll be celebrating tonight,” Bixley said, finally getting his own gag loose. “It’s what they did after

they captured Nathan. They jump on any excuse to break open another cask, and you heard them crowing ’bout getting the jump on us.”

And they’d have a lot more to crow about now if their other trap was a success. Two more fine ships to sell or put to use, and the most beautiful woman…

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