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Miss Elizabeth Caulfield was an heiress. She was quite possibly the richest woman in the United States of America. Schooled in England, she had been away from Baltimore, Maryland for fourteen years. She had gone away at the age of twelve and had finished her education at the age of eighteen. But she had remained on in England, living in a variety of locations, including London, Bath, Brighton, and at numerous country estates.
She walked along the dock and whirled about when someone placed a hand on her shoulder. Perturbed at the man's impudence, she stepped back away from him and sniffed disdainfully at the air.
The man was tall, impossibly so. She perused him with unabashed interest. He seemed familiar to her, and yet she could not quite place him. His hair was kissed by the sun and wildly untamed. It was far too long for her sensible tastes, and she almost wished that he would scoot along to the barber.
"Do I know you, sir?" she asked. Her female companion lingered not two feet away from her. For the first time since she had set sail from Portsmouth, she actually felt glad to have Sarah Browning with her.
His black trousers clung to his long legs, and his loose white shirt revealed just the barest glimmer of his blond chest hair. His hand touched her shoulder and rested there. He stared at her with an intense gaze that made her skin tingle. The way he looked at her she felt alone with him even when she was surrounded by the activity of the docks. His hand had slipped down her arm as she had turned around and now rested ever so lightly on the back of her left hand.
Refusing to give him the satisfaction of staringdown at her where his hand lay, she fixed her eyes on his azure blue ones. They were most disturbing and sent a thrill up and down her spine. She did know him.
"Are you one of my father's men?" she asked. Her mind continued to race. She needed to place him and quickly. He had a most disturbing effect on her, one that she didn't like in the slightest. Her heart skipped in her chest, and her palms grew sweaty beneath her gloves.
"I was one of your father's men." He answered curtly. At the mention of her father's name, his warm blue eyes had flickered with Arctic cold.
Oh, this was bloody brilliant. Here stood another man that the great Geoffrey Caulfield had angered.
"Ah, well, I'm sorry for that. Truly," she murmured, dropping her voice to a low contralto. "Since we've exchanged our niceties, I'll just be taking my leave." Shrugging his hand off her shoulder, she started to walk away from him when he grabbed her hand, pulling her back.
"I think not!" he murmured huskily, his eyes glittering with mirth. His full mouth slanted into a smile that made her stomach plunge.
Was he actually contradicting her? No one ever went against her wishes. It just was not done!
"Perhaps, sir, you did not hear me the first time."
"There has never been anything wrong with my hearing. My hearing is as keen as a lad in grammar school."
"Then maybe you're just a daft man." Her snappy retort made his eyes flicker with something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Her suggestion seemed to annoy him for a muscle had begun to twitch in his clean-shaven cheek. He pursed his lips in a distasteful line. Delighting in her clever barb, she once again tried to wrench her wrist free from his ironclad grasp. But it was to no avail. He was stronger than any man she had ever commanded.
She clutched her reticule in her right hand, which blessed be was still free. An uneasy feeling began to grow in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly, everything and everyone around them had become eerily still. Biting her lip in frustration, she winced when she tasted blood. This man unnerved her to her very core. Exhaustion pulled at her, making her irritable, not to mention cranky. All that she wanted was to return to her mansion on the outskirts of Baltimore.
"You, Miss Caulfield, are accompanying me." He gave her a wicked grin, flashing his perfectly straight white teeth at her. She was at a loss for words for exactly two seconds.
"To hell, I am! Straightening to her regal height of 5'4 inches, she watched as that damnable muscle twitched in his cheek again. Narrowing her eyes, she resisted the uncommon urge to laugh in his face.
"You, miss, are not making this easy for me."
"You have me at a loss, sir. What am I not making easy for you?"
"Kidnapping you." His words threw her for a loop, and she snorted indelicately. She could hear her headmistress's voice resonating in her head again.
'Someday, Miss Caulfield, you will learn that you can not always have everything your way.'
Well, Miss Grady's words were certainly ringing true now. This man standing in front of her would not be easy to outwit. Why did her father have to anger such an astute and daring man? Couldn't he have bothered to madden a dolt that didn't know his arse from a hole in the ground?
She sighed heavily and coyly batted her eyelashes at him. "If you let me go, I shall pay you my weight in gold." Her eyes rested on Sarah. Her companion was making a discreet getaway. Thank heavens. She knew that Sarah would come through for her by going to fetch help.
He tilted his head to one side and raked her with his searing gaze. "I wouldn't think that to be too much gold." His quip stung and fury began to boil through her. She searched for Sarah but could not find her anywhere. What was taking her so long to summon help?
"If you are seeking the lovely Miss Browning, you will not find her. I'd warrant that she's with my first mate, Ethan. They are no doubt having a lovely time trying to break the bed in the Rembrandt Inn."
She sent him a bewildered look. His throaty chuckle that followed her dumbfounded expression only served to rile her further.
"Did you not know Miss High and Mighty?" Shaking her head she wished desperately that he would explain his little game to her.
"Tell me what you are hedging around."
"I miss do not hedge." His gaze dropped to her heaving chest and then flickered back toward her stern gaze. "Your precious Sarah does not belong to you. Actually she belongs to my first mate. If you missed his name the first time I'll repeat it. It's Ethan." He drawled his first mate's name out as if he thought that she were too dim-witted to understand what he was talking about.
She bristled with indignation at his rude insinuation. "You should tread lightly sir! You have not the right to throw careless insults in my face!"
"That my fair lady was not a careless insult." He grinned cheekily again and watched her face avidly as if he waited for her to entertain him with a right and proper tantrum.
"Sarah is my faithful and dutiful companion." Her voice deadened with hardened cold and her rioting emotions were about to get the better of her.
"Oh she hasn't been your faithful companion for quite some time now."
She didn't like the tone of his voice or the vile suggestion he'd made.
"You sir are a blackguard of the worst sort."
Buoyed by the adrenaline that coursed through her she smiled sweetly tightening her grip on her reticule.
"And you are a total and complete pratt!" She smiled and licked her dry lips.
He belied his true emotions by tightening his fingers ever so slightly around her wrist even though he kept smiling like a besotted fool.
"Watch your barbed tongue Miss Caulfield. You do not sound like the proper young lady that you have been raised to become. Why what would your dear headmistress think?"
"My delicate manners must be discarded since I am talking to an ignorant ruffian."
"At this rate Elizabeth," he said boldly using her first name. "You shall run clear out of insults before dusk."
"I detest having to reiterate what I have previously said. But I will since you seemed too slow to catch on the first time around. Release me!" she shouted this time and made him wince beneath the shattering blow her trained voice dealt. Almost simultaneously she lifted her right arm and whacked him forcefully with her reticule which was heavy with coins.
His jaw snapped back and his grip slipped for the briefest of moments. But it was all of the time she required. Wriggling free of his slackened fingers she smiled when she heard him curse a blue streak.
She began running away from him even though she had no true idea of where she was going. She'd always been bad with directions and since she hadn't planted a foot on American soil in six years she was a little uncertain of the route back to her mansion. But she knew one thing with the utmost confidence. She would have plenty of money to hire a coach to take her back to Silverleigh where she'd be safe. Her father probably missed her by now. Probably being the optimal word. Her dear papa was no doubt rutting with one of his whores right at the moment. He wouldn't remember that she was even due in port until some unfortunate soul reminded him. Then he would go into one of his famous tirades and dismiss whoever had reminded him. But on the other hand if that person had failed to do so he would be enraged as well. So essentially her father's employees were damned if they did and damned if they didn't.
Then there were his slaves to consider. They usually lived in misery most of the time but if her father was in one of his black moods their misery was increased tenfold. Elizabeth knew that she was a great many things but she did not believe in slavery. It was something that her father and she constantly argued over and one of the reasons why she had been so happy to be sent away to England for her education.
Her mother had been dead since she was ten. She clung desperately to the memory of her mother for Susan Caulfield was the only decent and loving relative she had ever had. Her mother had been the daughter of an English viscount though she had never met her mother's side of the family she'd heard some heart-racing tales about the illustrious St. Martins. As he quickly shortened the distance between them her thoughts abandoned her. She was overtaken by him sooner than she had expected. She grunted when he pulled her around. She slammed against his rock solid chest. Suddenly she was more than aware of the sensations that rolled between them. The friction of their two fabrics rubbing together made her mind reel. She needed to know who this man was. Why did he arouse such delicious feelings inside of her and why did she know the look in his blue eyes? She knew she knew him ... but from where? The question that had been nagging her for quite some time now finally spilled out of her mouth.
"Who are you?"
"I Miss Caulfield am your worst nightmare."
Mallory St. Martin stared at the struggling hellcat he held captive in his arms. She began screaming and he freed one hand and pressed it against her mouth successfully smothering her screams.
"You can scream all that you like Elizabeth but you will not bring anyone to your aid. I've effectively disposed of your father's hired men and my men are re-supplying The Valiant as we speak. Anyone that wasn't employed by your dear father has been bought off. They will care not whether you scream bloody murder or go quietly. I however would prefer it if you could manage to keep your lovely kissable lips sealed together." He studied her once again and felt an unusual sensation course through him when her intense cognac colored eyes flashed with fire.
He watched her for a moment and studied every facet of her beautiful face. She couldn't remember him. He knew that by the distant expression in her luminescent eyes. But he remembered her well. He knew why she didn't recognize him. He had looked very different when she had seen him last since they had been at a masquerade ball. He had also been using his native voice and accent which differed greatly from the raspy voice and rough sea-faring accent that he currently employed.
The fire faded from her eyes only to be replaced by a carefully guarded expression. She became limp in his arms and stopped beating against him with her fists. Dropping her arms limply to her side she encouraged him to gingerly remove his hand from over her mouth. Her plump rose red lips were puckered into something resembling a sneer. She was trying desperately to seem like she hated him but there was something in her eyes and body language that told him otherwise. He felt certain that if she'd truly desired to escape from him she could have almost succeeded. She was a force to be reckoned with but then so was he. He would have eventually caught her but he would have at least enjoyed the chase.
"I shall not scream again," she muttered.
Something flickered in her eyes and he smiled smugly when he recognized it for what it was. She didn't desire to escape from him because she wanted to be seduced by him.
Her mind might not yet recollect him but her body still knew him. She responded to him like no other woman ever had even when he threatened her in such a dire way. In truth he would no more cause her harm than he would hurt a member of his own family. He had no choice in the matter. He needed her money to save his family from ruination. His plundering as of late had been scarce even though his reputation hadn't suffered in the slightest. Her father was a bastard of the first class and getting her away from his abusive presence was a service to her. He knew the wretched man wouldn't last much longer as he already had one foot in the grave.
One of these days Geoffrey Caulfield would shag himself to death. On that day Mallory would jump for joy. By that time he'd have Elizabeth safely in England and she'd be his wife. Then he could take her money and save his family.
The St. Martins were an old blue-blooded noble family dating back to William the Conqueror. Geoffrey Caulfield had had a hand in plucking his family's coffers dry so in the end greedy Geoffrey would refill the St. Martin's bank accounts with his own gold and money. It would be sweet justice and he knew that it would add years to his mother's life.
He had to take Elizabeth by brute force because he highly doubted that she would go with him willingly once she discovered his true intentions. Besides he couldn't very well demand that she marry him and expect her to run away with him. He was charming and exceedingly handsome by society's standards but even he couldn't woo Elizabeth that quickly.
He had two months left to acquire the necessary funds. He had already tried to plunder and loot his way to the bank but he'd narrowly escaped with his neck intact and the loot hadn't turned out to be worth the trouble. Then he had considered gambling for the funds but that hadn't worked out either. Elizabeth was most assuredly a better gambler than he was. So the only other option was marrying an heiress. But he couldn't settle for any heiress. Oh no Mallory St. Martin had to set his eyes on the richest one of them all.
Since desire flared in her eyes he would make sure that as soon as they set foot on English soil that she would be nearly begging him to make her an honest woman. And he'd make sure that on the road to ruination she'd take pleasure in each and every damnable step.
"Shall you come with me willingly?" he inquired regretting the question as soon as he uttered it.
"Rot in the fires of hell," she shot back. Wrenching around in his grasp she kicked him in the shins. And she was off again.
Will you never learn Mallory? He sped after her knocked over a few barrels and nearly collided with a flower cart. She was faster than she had been the last time. Maybe the full meaning of his intentions had finally soaked into her cunning brain. The spot where she had kicked him still smarted and he knew that he was swearing like a common street rat. He shouldn't have expected anything less from a St. Martin no matter how distantly they were related.
She had molten fire coursing through her blood. If she had reacted any differently he would have been appalled and genuinely worried. After all how would he be able to stand the voyage back with a shrew that acted like a true blue Caulfield? He came up upon her when she'd been cornered by two of his men. He gave them a look that told them to get back to work. Then he easily scooped her up into his arms.
Her tantalizing bottom rubbed up against his abdomen and he had to grit his teeth to control the red-hot desire that pulsed through him. He was tempted to take her aboard The Valiant straight away and make sweet torturous love to her. He would have her screaming oh aye but she'd be screaming for more and begging him to kiss her again and again.
"Let me go!" she cried thrashing out with all of the strength and energy that she could muster. She was a hellion of the worst sort. If he succeeded in getting her aboard The Valiant without losing an eye or having a popped kneecap then he'd be eternally grateful. He ducked when one of her swinging elbows made its way toward his head.
"Christ's teeth woman you are pushing me toward the brink!" She stilled for just a moment and then resumed her struggling.
"Well, that's bloody good for me!" Her voice was laced with hard-edged malice and he nearly dropped her at the intensity of it. To think that she was the same tame and timid creature he had fallen in love with at Lady Brighton's masquerade ball.
"I wouldn't be saying that. In case you still haven't figured out who I am then you will be discovering one of my identities in due course. And I will not be surprised if you faint dead away."
"I have a strong constitution. I do not faint like so many of my sister women."
"Aye and I'm a bloody saint!" he snorted and then grunted when her elbow slammed into his gut. He stepped onto the plank leading up to The Valiant and caught the perceptive eye of his cook.
"Welcome aboard Captain," His cook said eyeing Elizabeth with inquiring eyes. He puffed on the pipe he held in his heads and silently sized Elizabeth up. "I take it that she's the booty we came for?" Seamus Riley's Limerick accent was thick and sometimes hard to understand but this time Mallory understood him completely.
"Aye," he answered earning a reprieve from Elizabeth's magnificent struggles when she stopped to inspect the stupidly beaming Seamus.
"You're Irish," she muttered seemingly perplexed.
"Aye and you are a woman," Seamus rebutted chuckling as he left the deck to go down into the galley.
"Do you always speak so eloquently?" he asked as one of his men handed him some rope. He placed Elizabeth down on her feet and pulled her hands out in front of her. Her reticule still hung around her wrist. He slipped it off her wrist and tied her hands together.
She was nearly spitting molten fire now and he was enjoying every moment of it. He dragged her down to her cabin. Pushing her into it he slammed the door and locked it. Tucking the key back into his pocket he opened the reticule and peered inside.
Hells Bells but the woman confounded him. Nestled safely inside of her reticule was a lady's pistol.
Posted November 5, 2009
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