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"Margaret, I will not have you defying me," he warned.
Captain Ambrose Price glanced over the shoulder of his reflection in the mirror at the woman being cinched up into a new corset on the other side of the room. Her platinum-blonde hair was catching the dying light from the window and turning deeper shades of gold and red. He decided he did not like the color on her. Though, with the silhouette she was cutting in her undergarments as the maid worked, he was tempted to forget her mission and ravage her himself.
"Jeanette, tighter," he ordered. "I want to be able to wrap my hands around her waist and meet my own fingers."
Margaret gasped as the girl pulled in response to the order. She thought she was going to be cut in half. "But, sir, I can hardly breathe as it is," she protested, as the new steel boning forced her body into the shape he desired.
He turned away from adjusting his wig and crossed the room to her. He shoved the small black girl out of his way and began to manhandle Margaret's breasts into place to present the most appealing vision. "Get the dress," he ordered, without looking at the slave girl. "Now," he said, his voice deceptively pleasant, "I have told you to call me Captain, haven't I?"
She hung her head, "Aye, Captain," she breathed.
He touched her chin in what began as a tender gesture, then moved her head rudely out of his way. "Now make certain that you bring up the subject of my promotion with subtlety, and a casual, but calculated glimpse of this," he said, giving her décolletage a pat. He set his hands around her waist until his middle fingers touched and frowned to note thequarter inch gap between his thumbs. "It will have to do …for now," he added with considerable menace.
Jeanette wisely approached from behind and climbed on a short stool to be able to get the dress over the girl's head without messing up her elaborate hair. Margaret wiggled to help, but frowned as the bloomers chaffed against her thighs.
"Must I wear these accursed things between my legs?" she pouted.
He cupped her chin and squeezed hard enough to hurt, but not leave a mark. "One: do not frown, it mars your beauty. Two: you must be wearing knickers when he undresses you or you will be seen as a wanton and all my carefully laid plans will be for naught, which will cause you considerable pain. Three," he added, cutting off her next thought, "you will not question me. You do remember your dear brother, don't you? And what your obedience to me means to him?"
She lowered her silvery blue eyes in submission, and it seemed to please him. He let her go and paced back to the vanity and allowed Jeanette to finish working her magic. He opened a drawer and returned with a three strand rope of pearls spread between his hands set with a brilliant sapphire the size of a Spanish doubloon surrounded by diamonds. He set it at her throat and handed the clasp back to Jeanette to fasten.
Margaret ran her slim white fingers along the gleaming ropes. They were breath taking, and they made her think.
"Captain," she ventured.
"Yes," he mused, as he adjusted a curl that was blocking the view of her earrings.
"What news of my pearl?" she asked.
He glanced down at her, and then went back to making his minute adjustments. "It never made it."
"Sir? Captain?" she corrected quickly.
"The ship was attacked by pirates," he answered, as if its loss meant nothing to him. "It was the Mercy's Ransom. No doubt it is even now gracing the neck of some pirate's whore. I wonder if she knows what she has?"
His smile was cold and cruel.
From outside there came the sound of a carriage and he shooed Jeanette away and pulled Margaret into the hallway.
"But…the Mercy's Ransom takes no survivors. How do we know it was her?"
He paused on the top of the stairs, his hand tightening on her elbow. "Because another ship saw her leaving the wreckage and was unable to catch her before she vanished. She was sighted, and you will drop the matter. I have not allowed you to use that pearl for some time now. Its absence will hardly be missed. You will forget about it, and keep your mind on the task at hand tonight. Vice Admiral Trask will be waiting for you."
With that he half dragged her down the stairs to the front door. He stopped in front of the butler and got himself under control, his face once more the nonchalant mask it always was, looked her over for signs of dishevelment, then looked back at the butler. The man nodded minutely, serving as mirror in absence of one, and only then did the Captain signal him to open the door. He was the picture of gentility as he handed her into the black coach and watched them drive into town.
Copyright © 2005 Sandra Leigh