Tom kept thinking about her toes, those pretty little toes with perfect nails. Were they now rotting in a shallow grave? Or lying at the bottom of the sea? Or even worse, were they contorted with pain, or left in a lonely place to starve? He so regretted leaving her that night. If he had carried her off, she would not have suffered at all. Instead, she would have been satisfied, repeatedly and thoroughly. The Black Orchid was not just a legendary fighter.
But he was not to know what was about to befall her. He had innocently thought he was saving her. And saving himself.
Could he return to Barbados and find out what had happened to her? Or was he better off forgetting her and finding their next ship to plunder?
Goddamn it, he would regret this! He ordered Hanson to turn the ship towards Barbados.
"But the navy?" Hanson asked puzzled.
"I'm not afraid of their bloated friggates," growled the Captain.
Hanson knew better than to argue. Tom was the Captain, and a stubborn one at that.
"I have some unfinished business," he said in the way of explanation and stared out into the ocean, his thoughts elsewhere.
Letitia opened her eyes and found a pair of soft blue eyes gazing at her with concern. She struggled to focus and thought she was hallucinating when she saw the blonde ringlets, and diamond choker around an elegant neck and realised this was a woman. A cool hand rested on her forehead and a gentle voice said, "Don't be afraid."
She relaxed back into the velvet sofa she was lying on, her head swimming, her limbs aching. The woman held a crystal glass to her lips and persuaded her to drink. The brandy was sweet and glided down her throat, warming her veins.
Her eyes began to take in more of her surroundings. The room was lushly decorated in shades of magenta. A huge ornate mirror covered one wall. There were others in the room, standing hushed in the shadows. A black man hovered by the woman, his expression anxious.
"Where am I? What happened?" Letitia whispered.
"We found you wandering by the road," the woman said.
Letitia just stared at her, confused.
"How did you get there?" the woman asked.
"I don't know," Letitia said honestly.
"Who are you?" the man asked in a deep and sonorous voice.
"I don't know," she said, her eyes filling with tears.
Bridgetown was not giving up its secrets. Tom sent his men to every tavern, shop and tailors but no one knew what had happened to Lady Howard. Her house stood in the abandoned plantation, a charred wreck. The slaves had all run away and the few field workers still remaining knew nothing except the house had burned down one night and the mistress had disappeared. He found out that some gentleman had been charged to protect her, but no one had seen him since that fateful night either.
Tom spent hours pacing his cabin, battling with his conscience. He should accept that the trail was colder than a pirate's heart and be on their way. The ship's supplies were running low. It was too long since they had refilled the coffers. He had a ship full of men to support and worrying about some woman with fire in her eyes was taking up invaluable time and energy. He had to pull himself together and forget her. It was too long since he had enjoyed release between a woman's thighs, he must be going crazy with frustration.
He wrenched open his cabin door and yelled, "Hanson! We're going to Madam Lafitte's!"