King’s House; June 20, 1820
He was renowned as the greatest gentleman privateer of his era, an accolade that amused him to no end. Gentleman and privateer were two words that should never be uttered in the same sentence, even if he was an exception to that rule. Cliff de Warenne, third and youngest son of the earl of Adare, stared at the newly constructed hanging block, unsmiling. While it was true that he had yet to lose a battle or his quarry, he did not take death lightly. He estimated that he had already used up at least six lives, and hoped he has at least three left.
A hanging always brought out the biggest crowd. Every rogue and planter, every lady and whore, were flocking into the city to watch the pirate hang. Tomorrow they would be breathless with anticipation and excitement. There would be applause when the pirate’s neck was broken with a loud, jarring snap. There would be cheers.
A tall, towering man with tawny, too long, sun-streaked hair and a bronze complexion. Cliff had the brilliant blue eyes; the de Warenne men were famous for. He was clad casually in high boots, pale white doeskin breeches and a fine linen shirt, but he was heavily armed. Even in polite society he kept a dagger in his belt, a stiletto in his boot, for he had gained his fortune the hard way, and he had made his share of enemies. Besides, in the islands, he had no time for fashion.
Cliff realized that he was later for his appointment with colonial the governor. But several fashionably dressed ladies were just entering the square, one a gorgeous beauty. They glanced his way, whispering excitedly. He saw that they were on their way to the scaffolding to inspect the site of tomorrows hanging. Under usual circumstances, he would mark one for his bed, but he could sense their bloodlust and he was frankly disgusted by it.
The imposing entrance of King’s House was directly behind him as he watched the three women stroll to the hanging block. The incessant fascination of the elegant ladies of the ton and island society was convenient; like all the de Warenne men, he was very virile. He recognized the blond, the wife of a gentleman planter he knew well, but the dark beauty was undoubtedly new to the island. She smiled at him, clearly aware of who and what he was, and as clearly offering him her services, should he wish to accept the,.
He did not. He nodded politely at her and he held his gaze before tuning away. He was a nobleman and a legitimate merchantman. When he was not accepting letters of marquee, but, the whispers of “rogue: and “rover” wafted after him anyway. He had even been called a pirate by one particularly passionate lover. The truth was, even having been raised a gentleman, he was more at home in Spanish town than Dublin, in Kingston than London, and he made no secret of it. When he was on the deck of his ship in the midst of the hunt, no man could possibly be a gentleman. Gentility meant death.
But he had never care about the whispers. He made his life into exactly what he wished, without his father’s helping hand, and he had earned his reputation as one of the greatest masters of the sea. Although he always earned for Ireland, the loveliest place in the world, it was on the main that he was free. Even at the earl’s estate, surrounded by the family he cherished, he was aware that he was not at all like his two brothers—the heir and the spare. Compared to his land-and-duty-bound brothers, he was very much a buccaneer. Society accused him of being different, an eccentric and an outsider, and they were right.
Just before Cliff turned to enter King’s House, two more ladies met with the trio, the crowd in the square growing. A gentleman whom he recognised as a successful Kingston merchant had joined the ladies, as had a few sailors.
“Hope he’s enjoyin” his last meal,” one of the sailors laughed.
“Is it true he slit the throat of an English naval officer?” One of the women gasped. “And painted his cabin with the blood?”
“It’s an old pirate tradition,” the sailor replied, grinning.
Cliff rolled his eyes at the absurd accusation.
“Do they hang many pirates here?” the beauty asked breathlessly.
Cliff turned away. The hanging was going to be a circus, he thought grimly.
And the irony of it all was that Rodney Carre was one of the least menacing and unsuccessful rovers at sea; he would hang because Governor Woods was determined to set an example any way the he could. Carre’s crimes were pitiful in comparison to those of the ruthless Cuban rovers now raging in the Caribbean, but Carre was the one inept enough to have been caught.
He knew the man, but not well. Carre was frequently in Kingston Harbor to careen his ship or unload his goods, and Cliff’s island hone, Windsong, was on the northwest end of Harbor Street. They’d exchanged only a few dozen words in the dozen years, and usually merely nodded at on another in passing. He had no real reason to be dismayed over Carre’s fate.
“And the pirate’s daughter?” one of the asked excitedly. “Will they hang her too?”
“La Sauvage?” The gentleman spoke. “She hasn’t been captured, and besides, I don’t think anyone on this island accuse her of a crime.”
Cliff realized why he was so disturbed. Carre was leaving behind a daughter. She was too young to be charged with piracy. Even if she had sailed with her father.
It was not really his affair, he thought grimly as he turned back to King’s House. Yet he recalled her vividly now, for he had glimpsed her from time to time, riding the waves like a porpoise in nothing but a chemise or standing boldly in the bow of her canoe, recklessly denying the wind and the sea. They had never met, but like everyone else on the island, he knew her instantly upon a single glimpse. She seemed to run wild about the island beaches and on the city streets and was impossible to miss with her long, tangled moon–colored hair. She was wild and free and he had admired her from a distance for years.
Uneasy. He shifted his thoughts. He would not even be in Spanishtown tomorrow when Carre was hanged. Instead he wondered at Wood’s summons. They were friends—they had frequently worked together on island policy and even on legislation, and in Woods’s term of office, Cliff had accepted two commissions from him. Successfully capturing the foreign brigands. Woods was a resolute politician and governor and Cliff respected him. On one or two occasions, they had caroused together, as well—Woods was fond of the ladies, too, when his wife was not in residence.
Two British solders sprang forward as he strode past the six Ionic columns that supported a pediment displaying the British coat of arms to the huge doors to the governor’s residence, the gold and ruby spurs he wore jangling. “Captain de Warenne, sir” one said, relaxing. “Governor Woods said you are to go in immediately.”
Cliff nodded at him and entered a vast foyer with a crystal chandelier. Standing on the waxed parquet floors of the circular entry, he could glimpse a formal salon done up in red velvets and brocades.
Thomas Woods rose from behind a desk, smiling as he saw him. “Cliff! Come in, my good man, come in!”
Cliff strode in to the salon, shaking Woods hand. The governor was a lean, handsome man in his thirties, with a dark moustache. “Good day, Thomas. I see the hanging will happen as scheduled.” The words slipped, unbidden
Woods nodded, pleased. “You have been gone for almost three months—you have no idea what this means.”
“Of course I do,” Cliff said, that odd tension filling him again, as he wondered at the pirate’s daughter’s future. It crossed his that maybe he would visit Carre at the garrison in Port Royal. “Does Carre remain at Fort Charles?”
“He has been moved to the courthouse jail.” Woods responded. The newly constructed courthouse, completed the previous year, was directly across the square from King’s House. Woods went to the bar built into the huge Dutch sideboard on one wall and poured two glasses of wine. He handed Cliff a glass. “To the morrow’s hanging, Cliff.”
Cliff did not join him in the toast. “Maybe you should attempt to capture the pirates flying the flag of Jose Artigas,” he said, referring to the gaucho general who was at war with both Portugal and Spain. “Rodney Carre has nothing in common with those murdering villains, my friend.”
Woods smiled firmly. “Ah, I was hoping you could tackle Artigas’s men.”
Cliff was interested, as the hunt was in his blood. Woods was now offering him a dangerous commission, one he would not usually think twice about accepting. However, he remained on another tack. “Carre has never been foolish enough to attack British interests,” he commented, taking a sip of his claret.
Woods started. “So he is a decent pirate? A good pirate? And what is the point of your defence? He has been tried and found guilty, he hangs tomorrow at noon.”
An image came to mind, one he could not chase away. Her hair as pale as a bright star, her shirt and breeches soaking wet, La Sauvage lifted her slim arms overhead and dived off the bow of her father’s sloop into the sea below. He had been coming home last year and standing the quarterdeck of his favorite frigate. The Fair Lady, when he had spotted her through his spyglass. He had paused to watch her surface, laughing, and had almost wished he could dive into the calm turquoise sea with her.
“What about the child?” he heard himself say. He had no idea of her age, but she was small and slender and he guessed she was somewhere between twelve and fourteen.
Woods seemed startled. ‘Carre’s daughter—La Sauvage?”
“I heard their farm was forfeit to the Crown. What will become of her?”
“Good God, Cliff I do not know. Rumor has it she has family in England. Maybe she will go there. Or I suppose she could go to the Sisters of St. Anne’s in Seville—they have an asylum for the orphaned.”
Cliff was shocked. He just could not imagine a spirit like that imprisoned in such a manner. And this was the first he heard of the child having family in Britain. But then, Carre had once been a British naval officer, so it was certainly possible.
Woods stared, “You are behaving oddly, my friend. I asked you to come here today because I was hoping you would accept a commission from me.”
Cliff shoved his thoughts of Carre’s daughter aside. He felt himself smile. “May I hope that you seek El Toreador?” he asked, referring to the most vicious of the rovers plaguing the area.
Woods grinned. “You may.”
“I am more than pleased to accept the commission,” Cliff said meaning it. The hunt would surely erase his irascible mood and the restlessness gnawing at him. He had been at Windsong for precisely three weeks—usually he stayed a month or two—and his only regret would be leaving his children. He had both a son and a daughter at his island home, and when he was at sea or abroad, he missed them terribly.
“Shall we go in and dine? I have asked my chef to make your favorite dishes,” Woods said happily, clasping Cliff’s arm. “We can discuss the details of the commission. I am also eager to ask for your opinions on the new venture in the East Indies. Surely you have heard of the Phelps Company?”
Cliff was about to affirm that he had, when he heard the soldiers at the governor’s front door shouting in alarm. Instantly he drew his sabre. “Get back,” he ordered Woods.
The governor paled, a small pistol appearing in his hand, but he obeyed, hurrying to the far end of the salon while Cliff strode in the foyer. He heard a soldier gasping in pain, and another fellow shout, “You cannot go inside!”
The front door burst open and a small, slender woman with a pass of pale hair ran through it, waving a pistol.
‘Where is the governor?” She demanded wildly, pointing the gun at him.
The most vivid green eyes he had ever beheld locked with his and he forgot that a pistol was pointed at his forehead. He stared, shocked. La Sauvage was not a child: she was a young woman and a very beautiful young woman, at that. Her face was triangular, her cheekbones high, her nose small and straight, her mouth lush and full. But it was her eyes, as exotic as a jungle cat’s.
His gaze swept down her figure. Her moon-colored hair was exactly as he had thought—a wild curly mane that reached her waist. She wore a huge man’s shirt, hanging to mid-thigh, but there was no mistaking the suggestion of a bosom beneath it. Her legs were encased in breeches and a lad’s boots, and were unmistakably long and feminine.
How could he have assumes, even from a distance, that she was a child, he wondered inanely.
“Are you a dimwit?” She shouted at him. “Where is Woods?”
He drew a breath and somehow smiled, his composure returned. “Miss Carre, please do not point the pistol at me. Is it loaded?” He asked very calmly.
She paled as if just recognizing him. “de Warenne.” She swallowed. The pistol wavered. “Woods. I must see Woods.”
So she knew him, somewhat. Then she knew he was not to be toyed with. Did she know that anyone else would die for brandishing a weapon at him in such a manner? Was she that brave, or that foolish—and desperate? His smile intensified, but he was not feeling amused. He had to swiftly end the crisis, before she was hurt or arrested. “Give me the pistol, Miss Carre.”
She shook her head. “Where is he?”
He sighed—and moved. Before she knew it, he had her wrist in his hands, and an instant later, he had her pistol.
Tears filled her eyes and he knew they were tears of rage. “Damm you!” She struck at him with both fists, pummelling his chest.
He handed the pistol to one of the wary soldiers and caught her wrists again, more gently, not wanting to hurt her. He was surprised at her strength; she was so slender she appeared frail, but she was not. However, she had no power compare to him. ‘Please cease. You will hurt yourself,” he said softly.
She was writhing in his grasp like a wildcat, hissing and spitting like one too, and even attempting to claw at his face.
“Stop,” he ordered, becoming annoyed. “You cannot triumph over me.”
Suddenly her eyes met his and she stilled, panting heavily. And as their gaze held, he felt a stirring of compassion for her. Even if she was eighteen, he sensed she was a child in many ways due to her unorthodox upbringing. And new he recognised more than desperation in her eyes; he saw her fear.
Tomorrow, her father would hang. Today she thought to accost the governor. “Surely you do not think to murder my friend Woods?”
“I would if I could,” she spat at him. “But no, I will delay his murder for another day!” She began to struggle uselessly again. “I have come to beg him for mercy for my father.”
His heart seemed to break. “If I release you, will you be still? I can arrange an audience with the governor.”
Hope flared in her eyes. She nodded, wetting her lips. “Yes”
He hesitated, confused at his odd emotions. It wasn’t appropriate, but he wondered how old she was. Of course, he was not interested in her, not that way. How could he be? She too young, and she was a pirate’s daughter. His last mistress had been a Hapsburg Princes, acclaimed to the greatest beauty on the Continent. His daughter’s mother, who was deceased, had been an exotic and beautiful concubine, enslave in the harem of a Barbary prince. Rachel had been a Jewess, highly educated and one of the most intelligent women he had ever met. He was very discriminating when it came to the ladies who shared his bed. He could not be interest in w eirld0wyes waif brandishing a pistol the way other carried parasols.
She was regarding him with a very neutral expression now. His instincts sharpened. “You will behave,” It wasn’t a question.
Her mouth formed a small, unenthusiastic smile.
Now he was alarmed. Was she hiding another weapon perhaps beneath that voluminous shirt? While she was not a lay, he did not feel comfortable searching her. “Miss Carre, give me your word that you will behave in a courteous and respectful manner while in the governor’s house.”
She gave him a puzzled look, as if she did not under a word he had said, but she nodded.
He briefly touched her arm, in the hopes of guiding her toward the salon, but she flinched and he did not attempt to touch her again. “Thomas? Would you mind stepping out? I should like to introduce you to Miss Carre.”
Woods strode forward to the threshold of the salon. He was grim, his color now high. “A mere waif got by my guards?” He was disbelieving.
Cliff recognised his rising temper. “She is worried about her father, and rightly so. I promised her you would allow her to speak.”
Woods seemed about to refuse. “She assaults my men! Robards, are you harmed in any manner?”
The British soldier remained alert and stiffly at attention in the foyer his fellow officer inside the house by the front door. He was flushed. “No, sir, Governor, I apologise for the terrible intrusion.”
“How did he manage to get past you?” Woods was incredulous.
Robard’s high color increased. “Sir, I don’t know—“
“I asked them to help me find my little lost puppy doe,” La Sauvage said, her tone absurdly coy, and she batted her lashes at Governor Woods. Then she swung her hips from side to side and shed a tear. “They were so concerned!”
Cliff stared, quickly reassessing La Sauvage, She had known how to use her considerable female allure to entrap the soldiers. She wasn’t as innocent, then, as she appeared.
Woods turned a cold regard on her, “Arrest her>”
She gasped, and whirled to gaze at Cliff with shock. The surprise became an accusation as the soldiers stepped towards her. “You promised!”
He stepped in front of her, blocking the two soldiers and preventing them from seizing her. “Do not,” he warned very softly. His tone was one he only used when he intended to follow it up with a dire consequence.
Both soldiers froze.
“Cliff! She assaulted my!” Woods objected.
She turned to face the governor. “And you are hanging my father!” She shouted furiously.
Cliff took her arm, intending to restrain her if need be, but also aware of the urge to protect her. “Thomas, you owe me more than one favor, if I recall, I am collecting now. Hear her out.”
Woods stared, dismayed. “Damm it, de Warenne,” he said, very low. “Why are you doing this?”
“Hear her out,” Cliff said even more softly. It was a command.
Woods expression filled with distaste. He gestured for La Sauvage to precede him into the salon.
She shook her head, her beautiful green eyes narrowing shrewdly. “You first.” She smiled coldly. “I never walk ahead of my enemies.”
Silently, Cliff applauded her. He worried again, however, that she might be concealing more weapons.
Woods sighed. “Robards, you may wait where you are. Johns, please return to your post outside of the front door.” As both soldiers obeyed, he strode grimly into the salon. La Sauvage was about to follow, but Cliff had seen her hide a smile and he seized her arm. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” She demanded.
Very softly, so Woods could not hear, he murmured, “You are unarmed, are you not?”
She stared into his eyes. “Am I a fool? Of course I’m not armed.”
She did not blink, not once. Her cheeks did not color. Her gaze did not waver. Yet he knew, without a doubt that she was lying.
His grip tightened. She began to protest, trying to pull back, but he restrained her. “I beg your pardon,” he said grimly, aware that he was flushing. With his free hand, over her shirt, he touched her waist, expecting to find another pistol strapped inside her shirt there. Instead, he was stunned at how narrow her waist was with no flesh to spare. He could probably close both of his hands around her, if he tried.
“Get your paws off me,” she gasped, outraged.
He ignored her, sliding his hand to the small of her back and trying not to this about drifting it lower. She started to struggle. “Lecher!”
“Be still,” he growled, feeling the other side of her waist.
‘Are you happy now?” she demanded, remaining scarlet but wriggling impossibly.
“You are making this difficult.” He said, and then he stopped. Something was strapped beneath her shirt on the ledt side of her waist.
She started to pull against him
He gave her a look, slid his ghand under her shirt and over the sharp edge of the dagger taped to her ribs.
“Damm you!” she hissed, attempting to twist away.
To his shock, the heavy underside of a full and bare breast bumped into his hand as he seize the knife.
She went still and so did he.
“Bastars!” She pulled free.
He tried to breathe, but he was aroused. Beneath that loose oversize shirst was an intriguing bodu, one that belonged to a mature woman. He slid her dagger into his belt. It was a moment before he could speak. “You lied.”
She gave him a furious look and marched after Woods into the salon.
He hoped she did not have another dagger taped somewhere else, perhaps on her hip or high thight/ He could not understand his respionse to her body, so lim in some places and far too soft in others. He’s had hundreds of beautiful, alluring women. He allowed himself desire when the moment was appropriate or when it suited him. He was not a green boy and he could control his lust. He did not want to feel any stirrings, now or ever, for La Sauvage. But his body had betrayed him.
He was very displeased,
He strode into the salon, leaving the door open. The governor had chosen to sit in a huge armchair, so that he appeared more royalty appointed. He indicated that she might speak, the gesture abrript and somehow disrespectful.
Cliff didn’t care for his manner. Clearly, Woods had made up his mind and nothing La Sauvage could day or do would change it.
But she began to cry, tears running down her breathtaking face. He knew the tears were contrived, born of her fear and desperation.
“Give her a genuine opportunity to speak,” he said to Woods.
“I do not need this,” Woods groused. He was angry.
“Please,” she whispered, the sound soft and feminine, a plea, and she clasped her hands as if in prayer before her chest. The gesture drew her shirt tight, revealing the shape of her surprising lush bosom. Cliff stared, instantly distracted, and so did Woods, apparently not oblivious to her allure, either.
“My lord, my father is all I’ve got. He is a good man. Sir, a good gather. He’s not really a pirate, you know. He’s a planter and you can got to Belle Mer to see for yourself. We have one of the best crops in years!”
“I think we both know he has committed numerous acts of piracy.” Woods said sternly.
Tears streaked her lovely face and she sank to her knees.
Cliff tensed. Her face was level with the governor’s lap. Did she know how
provocative her position was? “He has never been a pirate, you are wrong,
sir! The jury was wrong! He has been a privateer. He has worked for Britain,
hunting pirates—just like Captain de Warenne. If you will pardon him, he
will never sail again, ever.”
“Miss Carre, please get up. We both know your father has nothing common with Lord de Warenne.”
She didn’t move. Her full, lush mouth began to tremble. Even she had been standing, it was so provocative it would have been impossible to ignore. But she was on her knees, as if a skilled whore before a paying client. Woods was staring at her mouth. His face had become taut, his dark eyes turning black.
Cliff did not like what was happening.
“I can’t lose him,” she whispered throatily. “If you pardon him, he will obey the law like a saint. And I…” she stopped, licking her lips, “I will be so grateful, sir, forever grateful, no matter what…you ask me…to do.”
Woods eyes were wide, but he did not move.
She would prostitute herself for her father? Cliff seized her arm, hauling her to her feet. “I believe that’s enough.”
She turned a murderous glare at him. “No one wants you here! Leave me be! I am talking to the governor! Go mind your own affairs!”
“Propositioning him, is more like it,” Cliff said, feeling quite furious himself. He yanked her once. “Be quiet.” He faced Woods. “Thomas, why not pardon Carre? If his daughter is being truthful, he will give up his roving. If not, I promise you I will bring him in myself.”
Woods slowly stood. He briefly glanced at Cliff but then his gaze returned to La Sauvage. Although she stood straight and tall, she was trembling. I am going to consider your proposal, Miss Carre.”
Her eyes widened. So did Cliff’s. “You are?”
“I intend to spend the night doing so.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in.
And Cliff was livid, for he understood.
But La Sauvage was not as experienced as either of the men and it took her a moment. Then she drew herself up straighter. She was not red-faced. ‘Can I wait here, for your decision?”
“Of course.” He finally smiled at her.
Cliff stepped in front of him. “And to think I have thought of you as a friend,” he said tersely.
Woods raised both brows. “I am certain you would avail yourself of such an opportunity, as well. Now you defend her virtue?” He was amused.
It seemed that was what he was doing. “May I assume Mrs. Woods remains in London?”
“She is actually in France.” He was not perturbed. “Come, Cliff, do calm down. We shall adjourn to our delayed luncheon, while Miss Carre rest and awaits my decision.”
“I’m sorry, I have lost my appetite.” He turned to La Sauvage. “Let’s go.”
She was standing there, appearing very young and very grim—and very resolute. She might have been on the way to the gallows. She shook her head. “I’m staying.”
“Like hell,” he said softly and dangerously.
And the tears filled her eyes—real tears. “Go away de Warenne. Leave me be.”
Cliff fought with himself. Why did he care? She seemed young, but she couldn’t possibly be innocent, not having lived the kind of life she had. He wasn’t her protector.
“You heard the…lady,” Woods said softly. “She won’t be hurt, Cliff. In fact, she might be pleased.
He was blinded by a kind of rage he hadn’t ever experience. Images danced in his mind. Woods embracing La Sauvage, Woods ruthlessly availing himself on her slender, yet lush body. He fought to breathe, and when he could speak, he looked at the governor. “Don’t do this.”
“Why? She’s a beauty, even if her odor is offensive.”
She smelled of the sea and Cliff did not find it offensive at all. “She is expecting a pardon.”
“And are you her champion?” Woods was amused.
“I wish to champion no one,” he said sharply.
“Stop talking about me as if I am not here,” she cried to them both
Cliff slowly faced her. “Come with me,” he said. “You do not need to do this.”
She stared at him, as white as a sheet. “I need to free my father.”
Then get a written contract—your services for his pardon.” He was terse.
She seemed puzzled. “I can’t read.”
He made a harsh sound and faced the governor. “Will you be able to live with yourself afterward?”
He shook his head. “Good God, Cliff she’s a pirates daughter.”
Cliff turned back to her but she refused to look at him, her arms folded across her chest. He was furious with her, with Woods, and even with himself. He stalked out, leaving them to their lurid affair.
Outside, the clouds were gathering, a fresh breeze of almost twenty knots coming onshore. Spanishtown was a dozen miles from the coast, and he had come by coach, not the river, but he knew that the waves had swells and it would be a food day for sailing. In fact, just then he wished to race the wind, running full said before it.
His temples throbbed. Now he wished to runaway? He rubbed his forehead firmly. La Sauvage was not his concern
But she hadn’t understood, for she was naïve in so many ways. She thought to buy her father’s amnesty with her body, but Woods was going to use her and then hang her father anyways.
Jamaican was his home. And although he only spent a few months of the year there, he was one of the island’s leading citizens and very little happened on the island without his consent. Had he been present during Carre’s capture, he would have made sure his case never came to trial. But it had, and the news had been reported not just in the Jamaican Royal Times but on most of the other islands, too. Even the American newspapers had reported the pirate’s conviction. It was too late now to stop the hanging.
And Woods was a strong governor. There had been a few better, there had been many worse. Cliff supported his new policy of attempting to quell the Cuban rovers. No matter what happened now, he needed to remain on good terms with him. They had too many interests in common.
I am begging you, sir, begging you not to take my father from me. He’s a good man, a good father, and he’s all I have in the world!
She was not going to save her father, and certainly not in Woods bed. Cliff turned, starting at the imposing front doors beneath the white temple pediment of King’s House. By damm, he had to act.
He strode back to the house. “I’m afraid I have need of the governor again.”
Robards was chagrined, “I’m sorry, Captain. The Governor is not to be disturbed this afternoon.”
Cliff was in disbelief, but only for a moment. “This cannot wait.” Unconsciously, his tone had become soft and so very warning.
The young soldier flushed. “Sir, I am sorry…” he began.
Cliff put his hand on the hilt of his scabbard. He gave Robards a look and stepped past him, pushing open the front door. The silence of the house wrapped itself around him and he knew they were together. His heart raced. He knew all the principal rooms were on the ground floor, as was the governor’s private suite. As Woods has decided not to allow La Sauvage an afternoon’s respite, he doubted they were in a guest room. No, he had taken La Sauvage to his rooms. Cliff was certain.
Robards had followed him to the threshold of the foyer. “Sir! Please!”
Cliff smiled mirthlessly at him and kicked the door closed his face. Then he locked it. He strode down the hall, the calm of that moment before a fierce battle settling over him. It was a feeling he relished. The lull before the explosion…
The house remained stunningly quiet. As he traversed its depths, he could imagine them naked, hot, entwined, Woods overcome with lust. His silent rage grew.
He had never been to the governor’s private rooms, but King’s House had been built fifty-odd years earlier and he assumed the suite was in the west wing, as it was in so many Georgian homes.
He tried four doors as he went down the west hall, all
opening onto unoccupied guest rooms. And when he came to the door at the
end, he heard soft male laughter.
His blood surged and thickened.
He turned the knob and pushed open the door.
Instantly, he saw them.
Woods stood in the centre of the bedroom, a massive canopied bed behind him. He had shed his jacket, waistcoat and shirt, revealing a muscular torso. His trousers were open, revealing his manhood.
She stood by the bed, clad in a mans sapphire-blue silk dressing gown, but it was unbelted and ipen, revealing her lean golden thighs, soft belly and full breasts. Her expression was one of despair, but it was also fierce and determined. She would not stand down.
Cliff prayed he was not too late.
He strode to Woods, who was so preoccupied with his victim that he did not see him until Cliff raised his fist. Woods cried out but Cliff knocked him backward into the wall, the blow so stunning he slid down it into a heap, as if unconscious.
He stepped over him, reaching for his hair, yanking his head back. Dazed eyes met his. “Society would love this bit of gossip, don’t you think?” he snarled. The threat was impulsive but ideal; Woods had a reputation to maintain, and his wife would be livid should she ever hear of his scandalous behaviour.
“We are…friends!” Woods gasped.
“Not anymore.” Cliff had to fight himself not to hit him again. The he heard her choke.
He whirled, hurrying to her. She was on all hours, fighting for composure. He knelt, sliding his arm around her, terribly aware of her exposed body and also aware that Woods had probably used in the most despicable and disrespectful manner possible. Slowly she looked at him, her green cat eyes huge, and hurt and beseeching.
He hoped that what he thought had happened hadn’t. “I’m taking you out of here,” He said softly.
She shook her head, shocking him. “Leave me…be,” she whispered brokenly.
He wanted to kill his onetime friend; he cradled her face in his hands. “Listen to me!” he said urgently. “He is not going to pardon your father no matter what you do, or how many times you do it! Do you comprehend me?”
“But it’s the only chance I have to save him,” she gasped.
He realized her mouth was bruised. He lifted her into his arms and was surprised again, because she clung. Now there was no mistaking the fact that he wanted to protect her, but he was also aware of her open robe and her soft breasts, pressed to his chest. He had glimpsed the wet treasure between her thighs. “There was never a chance,” he said roughly, carrying her from the room.
In the hall he paused, suddenly realizing that soldiers were outside the front door, and he had just assaulted the royal governor. They’d have to make a hasty retreat through a window—and he had quite a bit of political manoeuvring to do in the days that followed. Woods might not be a friend anymore, but they needed to work together if he was to remain a viable and influential resident of the island. Suddenly he realised his burden was oddly still.
He looked at her.
She looked up at him, her hands remaining looped around his neck. She was blushing.
His gaze veered to her beautiful breasts, then lower to her slender torso, her rib cage faintly delineated, her small pink navel and the champagne-colored delta below. Buccaneer or not, he was a gentleman, and he jerked his gaze to her face feeling his own cheeks warm. With one hand, awkwardly, he tugged the wrapper somewhat closed. “How badly did he hurt you?” he asked roughly.
“Can you put me down?” She asked instead of replying.
Instantly he complied.
She smiled at him, and kicked him very hard in the shin. And then she pushed at him and started to run.
Stunned, he reached for her, but she was agile, swift and determined. She ducked his grasp and raced down the hall, her wrapper flowing behind her nude body like a banner. He started after her more slowly, unhappily aware of a terrible turmoil in him. He almost wished he had not gotten involved, for he senses this was just the beginning. And when he reached the entry, no one was there.
La Sauvage was gone.