Tom fled from Letitia's rumpled bed feeling dazed and more than a little disorientated. He should be feeling triumphant since he had finally spilled his seed between her creamy thighs, but instead he felt as if he had been set upon by a gang of marauding thieves, particularly beguiling thieves, knocked unconscious and left fighting for his life. His breath was shallow in his chest and his head swam, and he did not like the sensation one bit.
He arranged his neckcloth as he stomped down the staircase, attempting to clear his head, but before exiting the house he paused briefly and made a sudden, deft detour into the library. The letter was still lying on the desk where Letitia had left it when Tom had surprised her. He picked it up, immediately noting the signature of Henry Lucas and read it, his blood boiling as a he deduced the obvious message in the unctuous lines. It took all his control not to storm back upstairs and pin Letitia down under him, ordering her to make love to no one but himself. Damn her to high hell! She belonged to him! Henry Lucas could not have her! He would be damned if another man, least of all a pirate hunter, was going to go anywhere near his woman!
Then when he had calmed down a little he realised that the important information that he had in his hands was the whereabouts of Henry Lucas, at least his whereabouts in the very near future. And he must not say anything to Letitia because he wanted Henry Lucas to come for her, and he wanted her to receive him, so he must make himself scarce and wait for his moment, no matter how painful that might be.
Letitia's world had changed. She still worked herself to the bone from dawn to dusk to keep her house running and her plantation barely afloat but instead of suppressing haunting memories of captivity she now allowed herself to indulge in more pleasurable thoughts. How easily the axis had shifted from pain to pleasure, from resistance to submission. She trembled every time she remembered the sensation of being possessed so completely, of having a man with such confidence take her with such determination. How she missed his firm touch. How she yearned for his strong body. Her bed felt so empty at night she wrapped her arms around herself and curled up tightly and wept. Where was he? Why had he not returned?
Then Henry Lucas came back. He marched into her dining room while she was having breakfast one morning, unexpected and unannounced which meant that she was dressed in one of her most simple gowns and her hair was loose around her shoulders. Letitia saw the startled look cross his handsome face, but he composed himself almost immediately and gave her a practiced smile.
"Letitia! You look as lovely as ever."
Proof that he's a liar, thought Letitia. She looked him up and down. He had changed too. Gone were the elaborate pink tail coats and waistcoats and powdered wigs. He was dressed in more simple attire, his dark hair tied back in a pigtail under a tricorn hat. He looked manly and more handsome than before. There was a shadow of beard on his chin and Letitia noticed his thighs looked strong and muscular in his tight breeches. She felt a surprising stirring of awareness as he smiled at her.
"Henry," she said coolly, determined to at least behave like the old regal Lady Howard. "Welcome back. Please sit and have some breakfast."
He took the seat next to hers and boldly took her hand in his. "Letitia, we have both been through so much since we last met. It is so good to see you!"
"Yes," she replied. "I have been waiting to ask you about that terrible night, Henry. You see I have no memory of it. What happened? Who attacked me?"
"My darling," he replied, keeping tight hold of her hand. "Prepare yourself for terrible news. I do believe it was pirates. As you know, I managed to escape and in my subsequent travels I gained some intelligence. The man responsible was a particularly vile individual who goes by the name of The Black Orchid."
Letitia went cold. She pulled her hand from Henry's and clasped it in her lap, her whole body trembling. "No, that cannot be," she stammered.
"I am afraid it's true. You were fortunate not to have been abducted by them." Then looking at the stricken expression on her face, he said, "My God! You weren't were you? They didn't abduct you my sweet?"
Letitia gathered herself together enough to say, "No Henry. A kind neighbour found me and I stayed with them until I was well enough to return home."
"And you were left...unmolested?" he asked, Letitia noticing his eyes darkening as he said the word.
The honest answer was not simple. The dishonest answer, however, was easy. "Yes Henry, despite my memory loss I am fairly certain they left me untouched. Apart from a blow to the head that is."
"Thank God! If they had abducted you or abused you, I would have seen them hanging from the gallows. Now enough of this unsettling talk, is that a pot of coffee I spy?"
Henry reached over the table to grab the coffee pot and Letitia sat rigid in her chair attempting to absorb this shocking information. Oh Tom! She thought back the tears. He had told her he had found her with amnesia at Madam Lafitte's brothel. She thought he had finished with his nefarious lies. A leopard doesn't change its spots. A lying dog is always a two faced curr. She couldn't believe how easily she had succumbed to Thomas Ashdown's persuasive kisses. She ought to have known that a man who goes by so many names should not be trusted.
Tom swung his leg over the wooden balustrade and silently as possible eased the verandah door open so he could steal into the room. He nudged the mosquito net aside, no need for theatrical brandishings of swords any more, and resting his hand on one post he looked down at Letitia's sleeping form and thanked the lord that Henry Lucas was not yet sharing her bed. If he had found them lying together who knows what his temper would have made him do?
He watched her for a while, bathed by the moonlight coming through the window. It was a warm night and she was clad in just a thin nightgown, a white linen sheet barely covering her legs. Her hair was longer, her wild curls covered the pillow and her dark lashes fluttered on her cheeks. She had freckles on her nose and he was seized with a sudden desire to kiss them and then kiss her red lips and her long neck and carry on down to the collar of her nightgown where he would undo all those little buttons very slowly and kiss the skin he would expose... Then he saw her toes lying inches from his hand, those pretty perfect toes that had once refused to leave his mind. He smiled and reached out and touched them. She was so fast asleep, she barely stirred but when he ran his hot hand over her foot and gently clasped her ankle, a soft moan escaped her and her foot quivered. He smiled. She was so responsive, even in her sleep. He slowly slid his hands up her inner thighs, pushing up her nightgown as he went, her legs parting invitingly until he found her fragrant centre, already slick and wet for him. He was so hard now he was biting back the urge to leap on her but he wanted to wake her gently, preferably with a glorious climax brought about by his mouth and his tongue. He would remind her what she had been missing. He carefully parted her lips and lowered his mouth, barely touching her bud with light flicks of his tongue until she began to squirm under him and he pressed more firmly down on her and lapped, and when he pushed a finger inside her a small hand suddenly clamped down on his head.
"Oh, Tom!" she moaned and then she abruptly stilled, the hand on his head pulling away and the air was suddenly split with an ear piercing scream. It was so loud and so unexpected he was left immobilised with shock as she tore herself away from him and the door of the bedroom suddenly slammed open and the next thing he knew he was pinned to the bed with a musket jabbed in his chest.
"Are you alright Letitia?" the man asked, as Letitia cowered behind him. "Did he touch you?"
"No," she stammered. "I mean...Yes Henry, I am alright."
Tom stared past the gun and the man, straight at Letitia, completely dumbfounded at her behaviour. What in the hell was wrong with her? The man was staring fixedly at Tom with an excited glint in his eyes. He was staring at his neck.
"Well, well. The Black Orchid!" the stranger sneered . "I've been hunting you for months and here you turn up, right on my doorstep."
Tom managed to tear his eyes away from Letitia. "Henry Lucas," he growled. "I've been looking for you too." Yes, Lady Howard, he thought, that will give you something to think about.
"Well isn't that nice," he slurred. "We meet at last." Then jabbing the gun further into his chest he barked, "Letitia, go to my room. You will find a black bag. In it are some handcuffs. Bring them to me."
Much to Tom's disgust, Letitia did as she was told and when she came back she even put the cuffs on him as Lucas directed. He noticed, with slight satisfaction that her hands were trembling and she was completely unable to look him in the eye.
Once he was cuffed Lucas withdrew the gun and leaning towards him asked in an intimidatingly quiet voice, "What were you doing in Lady Howard's bedroom in the middle of the night?"
Tom looked at Letitia standing by the door. She seemed smaller and more vulnerable than usual in her thin nightgown and bare feet. He could have his revenge on her, he realised. He could tell Henry Lucas exactly what he had been doing in Lady Howard's bed, and exactly how much she had been enjoying it and exactly how much she had enjoyed it in the past. But she was staring at him with such a frightened look in her beautiful dark eyes, with such supplication, and he had to face it, he was already done for anyway.
"I am a pirate. What do you think I was doing?" was all he said.
Henry Lucas swung his gun and struck him across the cheekbone with the heavy butt. Tom heard Letitia cry out as the agonising pain tore through his skull and he fell back on the bed, darkness engulfing him.