The Black Orchid opened his eyes to one more day of captivity and the first thing he saw was a large grey rat regarding him with cold beady eyes as it chewed on the remnants of the dry bread that had been pushed through the hole in the door. He stretched his stiff muscles and the rat did not even flinch. It just continued to impassively chew as he tentatively pulled himself up from the cold floor.
He had dreamt of innocent times when he had been young and free and more importantly had no knowledge of women and the kind of trouble that always followed them. In his dream he was lying in a field of wild flowers with the kind English sun shining on his freckled upturned face. But that peaceful dream had soon transformed into something more feverish as he felt again the sensations of being buried deep inside Lady Letitia Howard as her soft hands dug into his taught biceps and her dark eyes burned with untamed arousal. His cock pulsed hard in his filthy breeches and he closed his eyes tight, willing away the too painfully vivid memory that the dream had aroused. He cursed the day he had fallen captive to that woman's eyes. She had brought him nothing but misery.
Then suddenly there was a rattling of keys in the heavy wooden door and he tensed, stealing himself for another beating. Or maybe this was the moment he would be dragged from this prison into the morning sun of the courtyard to have a noose slung round his neck? He almost welcomed it. It would at least be a release from the torturous thoughts that plagued him.
He squinted in the light that came from the corridor, his eyes focusing on a pale blue silk dress, and upwards to a smooth white neck, carefully arranged curls and a pair of intense dark eyes.
"Tom," she gasped as he continued to stare at her, countless emotions flooding his exhausted and confused brain. "Oh Tom," she said as she stepped into his cell and fell onto her knees in the filthy straw.
He remained motionless, his whole body tense and wary, his jaw rigid with shock.
Her small hand reached out and tenderly stroked his cheek, his skin burning under her soft touch. "What have they done to you?" she whispered.
He could not find his voice. His throat was too dry, his thoughts too fractured. He just stared at her face as her eyes filled with tears.
"What ...what are you doing here?" he eventually managed to say, his voice coming out in a low croak.
Letitia could not tear her eyes away from her previously proud pirate's battered face. There was an angry swelling round one of his eyes and his cheeks were pale and hollow. Her heart clenched at the cold and guarded look in his blue eyes.
"I am so sorry," she said. "I am so sorry for what I did. It is inexcusable."
"Why?" he croaked, his body becoming even more rigid as she leaned towards him.
"Henry Lucas lied to me and I believed him. I am so sorry."
She reached out and touched his cheek again and this time he turned his head so his lips brushed against her palm. The contact seemed to break something inside him and he suddenly reached out and pulled her to him, upsetting her balance and making her fall against him, her body slamming against his as he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck, his lips grazing her ear as she felt him sigh against her, a great shuddering sigh that swept through his whole body.
"Letitia," he groaned into her ear. "You are killing me."
"Oh Tom!" she cried as she clung to him. "It broke my heart when I thought you had lied to me. I gave myself to you entirely and then to be told it was you who had attacked me and almost destroyed my home. I couldn't bear it!"
"I want to kill that bastard," he said. "I want to tear him apart with my bare hands."
"I should never have been so quick to believe him. Will you ever forgive me?"
He drew away from her and held her face in his hands, tracing her lips with his calloused fingers, his eyes raking over her face as if to memorise it.
"It would be foolish for a condemned man not to forgive, Letitia," he said and he pressed his mouth hard over hers, his tongue possessing her mouth, pouring all his longing into her until she was writhing in his arms and moaning, desperate to be joined with him once again, to feel the hard planes of his strong body as he took her.
With a loud groan he pulled his mouth away from hers and rasped, "are you still with him?"
"Yes, but only for as long as it takes to get you out of here."