He was damned right there would be consequences, Grace fumed to herself as she stomped back through the town, her heart hammering with pent up fury. She was not going to allow that evil bastard to intimidate her. She had come too far now and cared nothing for what he could do to her. Letitia and Tom, on the other hand, she did care about and now their fate lay in her hands. She was not going to let Letitia marry an abusive bully, and she was not going to let them hang Tom for crimes far lesser than the crimes committed by the crown itself and the unprincipled men they paid to perpetrate those crimes. And then there was Joshua, Oh God Joshua! He was not safe now her cover had been blown! Now Lucas knew she was in Port Royal, Joshua must not be seen with her. She must persuade him to leave on the next available ship.
But when she returned to their room above the tavern he was gone. There was just the empty bed, the sheets still rumpled, the indent of his head still in the pillow, his blunderbuss missing from the sideboard. She sat down heavily on the bed, her chest clenching in panic. Where in hell had he gone?
"I do love a pirate trial," a pretty young lady said to Letitia as she handed her a plate of dainty cakes. "It provides such an exciting distraction," her blonde ringlets dancing around her blushing face as she giggled. "And I've heard this Black Orchid is a mighty fine specimen."
"Arabella!" her chaperone, a portly middle-aged lady gasped.
"Oh hush, Aunt Gussy, you've heard it too! Lady Howard is betrothed to Mr. Lucas. She travelled on the ship that brought the captive to Jamaica!"
"Is that true?" the Aunt obviously could not help herself asking, turning to Letitia with open fascination on her face.
"It is," Letitia said, desperately wanting an excuse to leave this appallingly uncomfortable line of conversation.
"My maid Mary saw him brought from the Port," Arabella continued. "She said she had never seen such a big strong man, even bound by chains," she giggled. "All muscle and proud broad shoulders, she said. Enough to make you swoon!"
"Oh my!" her Aunt sighed, fanning her heated face.
"To think that right this minute, he is in a cell somewhere below us."
Letitia gritted her teeth as she watched the silly girl blush. She, herself, had thought of nothing else since they had arrived at Fort Charles. The entire sea journey from Barbados to Jamaica all she could think of was Tom, bound and bruised somewhere below deck, and now all she could think of was him in some lonely, filthy cell within the same walls as her but under such different circumstances. Here she stood in her brand new gown sipping tea and holding a china plate laden with cake, listening to girlish gossip, while he languished in God knows what condition somewhere below her, maybe mere feet away, waiting for a noose to be slung around his smooth brown neck. The knowledge was torturing her more than she dare acknowledge.
"Are you alright Lady Howard?" asked the Aunt. "You have gone terribly pale."
Letitia glanced across the room and seeing Henry deep in conversation with the Governor she had a sudden desire to escape this stifling place. Her new corset and gown felt unbearably tight around her chest. The pins in her hair dug into her scalp. She could not breathe.
"I have a headache," she stammered. "I think I need some fresh air," and placing the plate on the table with shaking hands she fled the room.
Outside, the midday sun was high in the sky and the air was still and hot but Letitia felt better already as she walked across the Fort's courtyard, just about stopping herself from breaking into a run. The guards at the gate gave her a curious look but they let her pass without comment and then she was out in the bustling port, surrounded by ordinary folk going about their business.
As she aimlessly wandered through the town with no real idea of where she was going, she remembered the last time she had been in these streets and who she had been with, how his strong hand had held onto her arm and guided her and how she had struggled against him so ineffectually. She remembered the exhilaration of escaping him, of running to the beach with Grace and laughing at their cleverness. How long ago that now seemed, and how strange it was that she missed that wild freedom, considering that at the time she thought she was being held captive. There were different kinds of captivity she now knew, not all of them obvious.
She stopped for a moment and found herself outside a tavern, one with a very familiar doorway, and a sudden memory assailed her, an overpoweringly physical memory of a man's hot body and hands and how they could so easily prompt her to lose control.
Then suddenly she sensed a presence behind her and an arm wrapped around her waist and a hand clamped over her mouth. She tensed as a voice whispered in her ear, "Do not struggle."
Her breath caught in her throat as she froze, but something told her to obey.
"Do not draw attention to yourself," the soft voice said, and the hand was slowly withdrawn.
Letitia turned her head and was not surprised to see a pair of familiar blue eyes inches from hers.
"Hanson," she stated, and he smiled.