The Magic of You Page 31

Chapter 37

The weather remained mild and uneventful for the duration of the voyage, but the closer they sailed to the east coast of America, the more restless Warren became. He hadn't come up with a foolproof plan yet to turn over the vase without getting executed the moment he did.

There were a number of possibilities that would work very well, but each one depended solely on the situation in Bridgeport when they arrived: whether any of his brothers were still there; whether any Skylark ships were in port; whether Ian

MacDonell, or Mac, as he was 385 known to everyone, was still keeping the vase safe for them, or if Clinton had changed its location when he'd arrived back in town a few weeks ago.

The last was unlikely, but it would be a hell of a note if Warren couldn't find the damn thing after all this.

Zhang wouldn't stand for an excuse like that, quite naturally, and where would that leave him?

Amy, on the other hand, had every confidence that Warren would save them both. It was almost annoying, how certain she was of that, and because of that, she wasn't the least bit worried.

He was also in a quandary every time he thought of Amy. He had no idea what he was going to do about her--if they came through this alive and he had an opportunity to do something. She was behaving as if their little affaire wasn't going to end when they reached land, when that would, in fact, be the end of it. And he'd have to stay away from her again, far away, because even though he'd been able to gorge himself on her charms, so to speak, he still couldn't manage to keep his hands off her when he put it to the test.

If he'd thought it had been hard to resist her before, that was nothing compared to now, with the sure knowledge behind him of how uniquely special it was, making love to her. And he wasn't even sure why making love to Amy was like nothing he'd ever experienced before.

Of course, she was unique herself. There was no denying that he'd never known anyone like her. The plain fact was, she was all that a man could ask for if a man wanted a wife. Warren still didn't.

It had bothered him also, why he'd been given this time with her. One day during their lessons, which Warren still insisted on calling them, despite the fact that Taishi didn't know the first thing about teaching and taught strictly by example, which wasn't the easiest way to learn such complicated moves, he asked Taishi why Zhang had agreed to let Amy stay with him.

"Told my lord that you no can stand the little missee, that you big-time furious that she was put next door where you can hear her. So he say lock her in with you." Then, sternly, "It would help, Captain, if you no lookee so pleased about new arrangement."

Warren hadn't expected that kind of help from the little man, and he'd expressed his gratitude by suggesting to Taishi, "If you ever get tired of

working for that tyrant, come see me about a 387 job."

"Get dressed," Warren said, shaking Amy awake. "Zhang has pulled a fast one, coming in at night. I suppose he thinks the less people around to notice his presence here, the easier it'll be for him to depart as soon as he gets what he wants."

"I take that to mean we've arrived in Bridgeport?" Amy replied sleepily.

"At last."

"But how did they find the town without your help?" she asked.

"Did I forget to mention that they were here last month?"

Her eyes narrowed on him. "You most certainly did."

Warren shrugged. "Taishi mentioned it. Zhang knew where I hailed from. He also knew about the Skylark line. That was the only lead he had to find me, so his first place to look was right here."

"Do you think there will be anything left of your house?"

Her dry tone brought a grin to his lips.

"You mean after they ransacked it? His people are a bit more meticulous than that, and, of course, the vase wasn't left there. But he found out that I'd sailed for England. That's why he showed up there."

"Just where is that vase?"

"It was given to an old friend of the family for safekeeping."

With most of her questions answered, Amy started dressing. She had just one more question she considered rather pertinent. "What is your plan?"

"A little drama on your part for starters."

"That sounds interesting."

"I hope you still think so when you hear about it. I want you to insist you be allowed to go with me."

"I would have done so anyway."

"But I'm going to insist you stay here--was

"Blister it, Warren--was

"Hear me out, dammit. Zhang just loves to disaccommodate me. Whatever I don't want, he's more than willing to see that I get, so he's got to think I don't want you along, getting in the way. But no matter what I say, you have to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to go with me. Now hurry up. I doubt we've got much

time." 389

"You haven't said what happens if our little drama doesn't work."

"If it comes to that, I'll have to grudgingly allow your presence, but I don't think that will be necessary. If Zhang stays true to form, he'll insist you have to accompany me."

"Then what?"

"Then--I still don't know."

He expected her to get upset at that point, but she just smiled and said, "Don't worry about it. Something will occur to you."

They had only a few more minutes before Taishi, quite serious-faced for once, opened the door. Li Liang stood just behind him. And as they stepped out of the cabin, they found that Zhang had deigned to leave his luxurious accommodations for the send-off. Of course, he undoubtedly assumed it would be the last he would see of Warren, and he'd want to personally savor the revenge he had planned for him.

"We trust the recovery of the vase will not take long, Captain?" Li asked for Zhang.

"Depends on how long it will take for me to locate the man who has it. Do I go alone, or with an escort?"

"You will be accompanied, of course. Americans cannot be trusted."

"And you Chinese can? That's a laugh," Warren said with sneering contempt.

Amy interrupted at that point, before they were both goaded into confessing to their plans. Since trust was supposed to be all that Warren had to count on now, it was too bad of him to admit he didn't have any.

"Why don't we get on with this, gentlemen, and reserve the name-calling for some other time?"

Warren turned her way. "We? Where the hell do you think you're going?"

"With you, of course."

"Not on your life," he said and turned back to Liang. "Enough is enough, and I've had too damn much of her infuriating company. If my sister wouldn't have held it against me, I would have slit that scrawny neck of hers. But we're here now, and I don't have to put up with her any longer, so keep her the hell away from me."

Amy supposed he'd said allthat for Zhang's benefit, but it still hurt to hear it. "I'm going with you, Captain, or the scream

you're about to hear will have the authorities 391 arriving within moments to investigate. And I happen

to know that small towns like this post guards on their docks, as well as on these other ships around us, so don't think I won't be heard."

Zhang spat out a few words, and in the next moment Li said, "She goes with you, Captain. You will understand that we do not care to draw attention to ourselves."

Of course he understood, since they planned to leave two murdered bodies behind, and this ship was not exactly equipped for war or defense. The Chinese wouldn't be safe until they had cleared American waters entirely.

With Amy not part of the party, Warren might not have had so many sent along with him, but with her presence, six men served as escort, including Li Liang and two of Zhang's personal bodyguards. Warren didn't delude himself into thinking he might be able to take them on, even with Taishi's lessons under his belt. Which was why he was never so glad in his life to see a Skylark ship in the berth next to theirs, and not just any Skylark ship. She was The Amphitrite, Georgina's own craft, and the situation had just turned entirely in his favor.

"We're in luck," he said for Li's benefit as he stopped below the gangplank of his sister's ship to call out,

"Ahoy The Amphitrite."

Liang pushed his way to Warren's side to demand, "Your friend is on that ship?"

"Could be," Warren replied evasively while he waited for the watch to appear.

It took a few tense moments, in which time Liang could have spirited them away. But he didn't. Warren's luck was improving by leaps and bounds. He even knew the man who finally appeared at the rail.

"Is that you, Captain Anderson?"

"It is indeed, Mr. Cates."

"We'd heard you was in England."

"A change of plans has brought me back. Did you notice the ship that just berthed beside you?"

"Couldn't miss her, Captain."

"If I haven't returned in the next hour and come aboard to join you, blast her out of the water. So mark the time, Mr. Cates. One hour exactly."

There was only the barest pause before Mr.

Cates replied, "Aye, aye, 393 Captain."

But there were some furiously hissed orders at Warren's back, and he turned to see one of Zhang's men running toward their ship to warn his master. "Call him back, Li," Warren said, "or I change that order to right now."

With another furious hiss, the man came trotting back to them. Warren smiled at Li. "Merely my insurance, you understand. You can have the damn vase, but you're not getting me and the girl with it."

"And what assurance do we have that you will not give that order again once you are safely aboard this ship?" Li wanted to know.

"My word will have to do."


"But all you've got."

Amy could have kicked Warren. He wasn't giving them any choice but to do something drastic.

She told Li, "I happen to know that his pride has been damaged by this whole ordeal, and he is not going to want it known, in his hometown of all places, that he was coerced into coming here against his will, which will surely come out if he has to explain

why he's littered the harbor with dead bodies and a ship's debris. He'll let you leave with the vase, Mr.

Liang, you may depend upon it. Now, shall we proceed?"

Warren gave her a disgusted look for ruining his own revenge, however brief it would have lasted. Li took her words to heart, however, and indicated they should proceed.

Timing was everything now, and since it was less than twenty minutes to Ian MacDonell's house on the direct route, Warren took them there indirectly, through a maze of side streets and back alleys. This

accounted for an extra ten minutes and just thirty to return to the dock, which they'd now have a hard time finding their way back to without him, especially if Li had thought to try a mad dash for it, to set sail under the allotted hour.

Mac's house wasn't all that far from Warren's. If Amy weren't with him, he might have tried some mad dashing of his own, to elude his escort long enough to get Zhang blown out of the water. It was certainly a thought worth savoring, considering what Zhang had planned for him. But Warren would never take that kind of chance with Amy's

life. 395

As it happened, it took another five minutes of pounding on Mac's front door before the Scotsman was roused from his bed to answer. "Dinna ye ken what time it is?" were the first disgruntled words out of his mouth, before he even noted who'd disturbed his sleep.

"We're aware of the time, Mac."

"Is that yerself, then, Warren?"

"Yes, and I'll explain later. Right now we're in a bit of a rush, so could you fetch that Tang vase for me?"

Mac glanced at Amy beside him, then at the Chinese men behind him. "As it happens, I put it in the bank. It'd be safer there, I was thinking."

Warren grinned. "As it happens, I was afraid you might have done that--but I can see now that you didn't. It's all right, Mac. Fetch it for me."

"Ye sure ye want me to do that, laddie?"

"Yes. The damn thing has proved more trouble than it's worth. I'm sending it back to its rightful owner.

And the time, Mac. Do hurry."

Mac nodded and moved off down the hallway.

They waited in the foyer. The doors were all closed around it. Mac had left only one candle burning to see by, and it was enough to see that Li was suffering some indecision.

It wasn't over yet, Warren realized. Li had been given specific orders about two executions, and the

Chinese were fanatics about carrying out their orders. He was frantically trying to figure out a way he could still do that and keep his master from getting killed.

"It can't be done," Warren remarked casually, drawing the Chinaman's furious gaze to him. "You'd never make it back in time. Do you really think Zhang wants to die for a little revenge--when what's most important here is the vase?"

Li didn't reply, and Mac returned at that moment with the vase. Li reached for it, but the Scotsman held it aloft, well out of his reach, until he could hand it over to Warren.

Amy moved closer to get a better look at the antique that had caused her to be transported across the sea, a voyage she couldn't regret at the moment, despite the tension she sensed in the room, and the knowledge that she and Warren weren't out of this dilemma yet. It was an exquisite work of art, though, that ancient piece of 397 porcelain. It was so delicate it was almost translucent, worked in gold on white, an Oriental scene in minute detail. It had to be worth a fortune, but right now it was worth their lives.

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