In the dim light of a dank and smoky cave in the cliff above the rocks where Hanson and his Doctor were still erotically entwined, a man called Wall-Eye Robinson was giving the Black Orchid some not wholly unexpected news. Apparently, Lord Robert Howard had not been entirely honest with his old school friend.
"I've heard tell," Wall-Eye said, poking the fire with a stick, "that the man was a gambler. 'e brought 'is debts from London and 'e found a way to pay them off 'ere. Apparently, he 'ad some lucrative kind of connection from way back and apparently, 'e was in deep with the worse kind of scum."
Tom raised his black eyebrows. Coming from a pirate, that could only mean one thing.
"A pirate hunter," The Bear confirmed, fixing Tom with a grave stare. "You need to be watching your back, my boy."
Tom stared into the flames, remembering how Robert had sought him out in the taverns of Bridgetown and pleaded him for that loan and how he had acquiesced so easily just because of their shared childhood memories, of those happy times spent playing by the banks of a river in Kent, of running wild through summer woods and the not so happy times shivering together in empty school rooms. He had so easily fallen into the trap. If anyone had found him at the house that night, if Letitia had cried out, he might be swinging from a gallows right now. His hand went to his neck.
"Who?" he rasped, his throat suddenly dry. "Who is the pirate hunter?"
"No one seems to know," the Bear said. "But he can't keep masked for much longer. We'll get the bastard, don't you worry. In the meantime, you be careful. Don't be taking any foolish risks."
Tom almost laughed.
"And that hostage of yours," The Bear said as an afterthought.
Tom looked up at him warily.
"I reckon you need to get rid of her as soon as possible. She looks like trouble."
Trouble was a kind way if putting it, Tom thought. He had the widow of lord Robert Howard captive and some unidentified pirate hunter who had been in collusion with Howard was somewhere out there hot on his trail. Trouble was a mild way of putting it.
He wasn't getting rid of her though, not yet. If Letitia regained her memory she might be able to tell him exactly who this pirate hunter was.
"You look familiar" Dr Ferris whispered to Letitia, peering at her through the smoke of the bonfire that had drifted down to the far reaches of the beach.
Letitia shivered slightly in the cool night breeze as the Doctor's clear blue eyes scrutinized her with a frank gaze. It was a pleasant change to be looked upon with detached inquiry rather than lust. The Doctor's hat was jammed back onto her head, but a strand of her blonde hair had escaped the hastily retied pigtail, and her cheeks were still slightly flushed. Letitia wondered for a moment whether to admit that she knew her secret, but something was holding her back from revealing too much.
"Apparently…" Letitia said, longing to have some kind of confidence, "I am betrothed to the Black Orchid."
Dr Ferris gave a sudden laugh and then quickly swallowed it, glancing over to where the Black Orchid himself had appeared and was deep in conversation with his First Mate.
"I'm sorry for my rather rude reaction," the Doctor said. "But it seems so unlikely."
They both watched the Captain towering above even Hanson, his shoulders broad in his dark coat, the long tails flapping in the wind that had suddenly strengthened.
"How did you meet?" she asked.
"That's the thing. I have no idea. I have lost my memory, you see. He tells me I was abducted and suffered a blow to the head and now I remember nothing since the night I was found wandering a country road."
The doctor brought her face closer to Letitia and seemed to be peering into her eyes, as if she could find what ailed her there.
"I have heard of such afflictions after a blow to the head," she said. "That part of the story is likely to be true, but Thomas Ashdown engaged to be married?" she said staring at the man standing tall in the sand. "That part is most unlikely." The Captain was turning towards them, so the Doctor quickly added, "It is obvious you are a Lady. How on earth would you have ended up involved with a reprobate like him?" Then she looked at the leather restraints still wrapped round Letitia's wrists, "At least not voluntarily?"
But the Captain had a reached them and all Letitia could do was stare at the Doctor open mouthed, realisation dawning in her foggy mind, the vision of the Black Orchid standing above her bed now beginning to slot into place.
"Time to return to ship," the Captain ordered, ignoring the Doctor and sweeping Letitia into his arms so suddenly she had no option but to cling onto his shoulders and grasp a handful of his wool frock coat to steady herself. His dark face was just inches from hers and he looked down at her, his long black eye lashes sweeping low, his lips full and sensuous, his strong chin shadowed with thick stubble. His hand cupped the swell of her breast and his tongue ran along his top lip as he grinned down at her and Letitia's traitorous body responded with a great leap of arousal, an unmistakable shot of pure lust that went straight to her groin. She closed her eyes and prayed for control.
He started striding over the sand towards the rowing boat they had pulled up the beach earlier. Letitia looked back to see Hanson nodding a hurried goodbye to the Doctor.
"He's coming with us," the Captain shouted, making Letitia jump.
"What?" Hanson had caught them up and was looking unusually flustered.
"I'm giving him passage to Nassau," the Captain said, gently placing Letitia in the boat. Letitia saw that the Doctor was standing just behind them with a carefully impassive expression on her face, but she saw the wicked gleam in her eyes as Hanson furiously stalked back up the beach to take his temper out on the crew.