Grace watched the ship's First Mate agilely shin down the last few feet of the mast and leep onto the deck, landing lightly on his bare feet like a sleek blonde panther. He was shirtless and his white breeches stretched across his tight buttocks leaving very little to the imagination. The damned man was a fevered fantasy in the flesh, and Grace could still feel the wicked pleasure his hands could mete out on the most intimate parts of her. She clamped her legs together as her nipples stiffened under her taught bindings, and took a lungful of head-clearing sea air. But then he looked straight at her and grinned and her mind fogged again, unable to think of nothing but his mouth on hers, his brazen tongue thrusting between her lips.
"A good morning to you, Doctor Ferris!" he called cheerfully. "Did you sleep well Sir?"
She managed to grimace slightly in an imitation of a polite smile. He knew full well she had not had a wink of sleep in that narrow hammock surrounded by snoring brutes and unable to stop thinking about his clever hands. He was beside her now, looking down at her with that infuriating grin, running his hand over the bronzed skin of his bare chest, over the tight ridges of his abdominal muscles, down further, down to the waistband of his breeches…Oh Lord, she had to tear her eyes away from him and think of something else.
"Will we make good progress today?" she asked, her voice coming out in a croak and sounding rather manly for once.
"Wind is good! Should be in Nassau tomorrow," he replied, not taking his eyes from her mouth.
She pointedly looked away from him and at the horizon. It was a glorious day, the sky a deep blue with a few perfectly fluffy white clouds. But she was distracted by the smell of Hanson's sweat; a deliciously fresh scent that made her want to reach out and lick him.
"We have a casualty for you to see," he added.
"Oh yes!" she said a little too enthusiastically. This was exactly what she needed to get her spirits back on an even keel.
"The cook has scalded himself quite severely. If you'll come down below, he's in the galley."
Grace recognised the cook immediately. Fergus Tuck, the ugly ingrate. Where had she last seen him? Barbados?
He watched her dress his wound in silence, grunting when in pain but bearing the whole procedure with reasonable fortitude. Hanson hovered in the background for a while, but much to Grace's relief soon got bored and drifted away.
"Little Grace Ferris," Tuck eventually muttered. "What you doing dressed as a man?"
"Keep your trap shut Fergus Tuck," she said, deliberately pulling the bandage a little too tight. "Don't you breathe a word to anyone."
"You have my word, but what are you doing, on board a pirate ship? You're putting yourself in terrible danger."
"Don't you think I know that?"
"Your poor father must be turning in 'is grave."
"Don't you bring my father into this. He's the reason why I'm here. Now you just keep your trap shut," she said securing the ends of the bandage round his arm, "and I'll be fine." She was just about to leave him when a thought struck her. "What are you doing on a pirate ship Fergus? Weren't you on some plantation in Barbados?"
He grunted. "I was and right happy until the whole place was burnt to the ground. You remember that Lady Howard? You gave her a potion for her headaches? She disappeared, most likely dead, poor Lady."
Grace remembered Lady Howard vividly, mainly because she had been wearing an exquisitely beautiful dress, the kind of dress that Grace could only dream of wearing. It had been made of taffeta silk and the bodice had been so low cut her breasts had almost spilled out, her modesty protected only by a fringing of fine lace. Grace also remembered her glorious black curls that rather shockingly fell loose around her shoulders…oh Lord!
"What is it Grace?" Fergus asked, seeing the look of amazement suddenly freeze the Doctor's expression.
"Nothing," Grace stammered, hurriedly collecting her equipment and ramming it into her doctor's bag. "There's someone I need to speak to quite urgently."
The Black Orchid sat at his desk with the maps and navigation equipment spread in front of him but unable to concentrate on the task in hand. He could not tear his mind away from the hauntingly beautiful woman locked in a cabin mere feet away from him.
Last night, when he had scooped her into his arms, she had felt so soft and warm and so right against him that it had taken all of his strength not to just sweep her on board and straight into his bed and pour out the truth into her lovely ear. He wanted to unburden himself. He needed to unburden himself and to be damned with the consequences. He stood up and slammed a fist down onto the desk. He was going to tell her the truth.