Madam Bella Lafitte had a large house on the edge of town. It looked respectable enough with its painted shutters and lush well tended garden, but behind the polished windows lay untold pleasures for the men who could afford it.
Madam herself opened the door to The Black Orchid and his first mate. She smiled a practiced smile of delight, her pearly white teeth shining like the diamond choker around her neck. "Captain Ashdown and Mr Hanson! Do come in."
There was a squeel of delight from two girls who at that moment were descending the stairs. The ladies all loved Hanson, with his thick blonde hair and generous lips. They would squabble over who would be lucky enough to spend a night enjoying his muscular, agile body. The captain, on the other hand was treated with caution. He was skilled in bed, the few women who had serviced him could vouch for that, but his blue gaze was too intense and too disapproving. He fucked with a frightening desperation and could leave a girl exhausted.
"We missed you when you last came into port, Captain," Bella lied.
"I was busy," he muttered.
Tom sat in the drawing room with his head in his hands. He wasn't going to be able to get it up, he could tell. His damned brain was messing with his body again, and he was damned if anyone was going to find out. The Black Orchid was not going to be a laughing stock, or even worse, an object of pity. But before he could move he heard the door open and someone enter the room.
"I don't need company," he growled, head still in his hands.
Whoever it was moved closer with a rustle of silk skirts. He smelled roses, an oddly familiar scent that went straight to his groin. He looked up and there in front of him stood Lady Letitia Howard. She looked different. She was fully clothed, for a start, and the last time he had seen her, her dark hair had fallen in waves over her shoulders. Now it was pinned up tidily. Where was the fire in her eyes? She looked at him blankly with no recognition at all.
"Don't you recognise me?" he asked her.
"They tell me you are The Black Orchid," she said, examining his face with a wary expression.
Was she acting? If she was, she was very good at it.
"I am," he said, "But we have met before."
She examined his face, "I don't think so. I think I would have remembered you."
Her eyes skimmed over his body in a way that made him harden. They rested on the blood stain on his shirt.
"You are hurt!" she gasped and a warm hand rested on his chest, making him catch his breath.
"It's nothing," he croaked, "Not a fresh wound." It was true. He hadn't even noticed he was bleeding through the dressing. Some reckless fool had thought it was clever to tustle with the Black Orchid, fuelled by too much rum. Tom had taught him a lesson, but unsually come away wounded himself. Lately, he had been losing the upper hand more and more.
"But you are bleeding," she said, sitting beside him and gently unbuttoning his shirt to expose his bandaged chest. His head swam, as she leaned towards him. He inhaled her scent.
She trailed her fingers across the bandage and looking up at him asked, "Are you in pain?"
Yes he was, but not in the way that she thought. He dragged his eyes away from her lips and stood up, adjusting himself slightly.
"What is you name?" he asked.
"They call me Rose."
"What is your real name?" he continued impatiently.
Her brown eyes suddenly filled with tears, "I don't know."
He waited for her to continue, aware that he had to measure every word he said from now on.
"I have lost my memory," she murmured, " I remember nothing before I came here."
The responsibility was unbearable. He was possibly the only person in the world who could tell her who she was. Him and the ship's cook.
Then a truly nefarious thought came into his head. He could tell her she was his mistress. He could take her to his ship and claim her for his own as if she were salvaged treasure. He would think of how to silence the cook later. Could he do something so wicked? Well, he was the Black Orchid after all.
He sat down next to her and holding her face in his strong hands he brushed away her tears with the pad of his thumb and then did what he had wanted to do from the first moment he saw her. He kissed her.