Hanson confronted his Captain across the scarred mahogany desk, littered with papers and maps and a barely touched breakfast. The Black Orchid glared back at him, his fingers angrily caressing a quadrant, his blue eyes stormy.
"I need to tell the crew about her." Hanson said. "We can't keep her locked up forever. They're bound to notice eventually. The cabin boy's already twigged. I had to threaten him with a flogging to keep him silent."
Tom threw the quadrant down angrily and pushing his chair backwards, stood up and paced the room. "And have them all after her like animals in heat? Not likely."
"Tell them she's yours then," Hanson said in his usual measured tones.
Tom's blue eyes fixed him with a sudden hope and then clouded over. "No! That wouldn't do, my reputation would be in pieces. I'm not having them think I've gone soft for some woman."
Hanson barely managed to suppress a snort of laughter but seeing his Captain's furious glare, he said instead, "Right then, we'll carry out our original plan of telling them she's a hostage, but you'll have to be prepared to keep them all away from her. They're a horny bunch and she's a pretty piece."
He backed off quickly as Tom launched himself towards him. "You'd better keep your hands off her yourself," he growled, inches away from his face. "If you lay a single finger on her, I shan't be responsible for my actions."
"I have no intention of laying anything on her!" Hanson protested, his hands held in the air. "I'm hardly starved of female attention, unlike some of the buggers round here. A couple of Madam Lafitte's accommodating employees saw to that quite nicely last night, thank you very much."
Tom slumped back down in his chair and sulkily stared at a map in front of him. Hanson knew his Captain well enough to not expect an apology. "Are you going to tell me who she is?"
Hanson crossed his arms and stood, waiting patiently. Tom took a deep breath. "She's the widow of an old acquaintance of mine. We went to school together and when he came to the Caribbean I leant him some money, but he went and died before he paid me back."
"And you're wanting some recompense?"
"Maybe. He was mixed up in something and I want to find out what it was."
"Ah," Hanson said, "The plot thickens. I must say it's a relief that you haven't just completely lost your head over some doxy."
Tom scowled at Hanson's retreating back and wished he could fool himself so easily.
Letitia sat on the narrow bunk and stared at her hands. They were small and delicate, with beautifully shaped nails and the tender pale skin of someone who had led a pampered life. When she closed her eyes, she could picture a well-appointed house with big high ceilinged rooms, tastefully furnished and tended by efficient whispering servants. It was somewhere cold and peaceful and far away from this overbearing humid climate. How on earth had she found herself in this strange place? And how on earth had she become engaged to a pirate captain? It seemed inconceivable.
She pressed her fingers to her pounding temples desperately trying to remember anything more substantial than these far away memories. Then suddenly there was the rattling of a key in the lock and the door of the cabin swing open.
"Marie," the man said in his deep voice as he entered the room, dominating the tiny space, making goose bumps rise on her clammy flesh. "Did you sleep well?"
She looked up at him, looming above her, his long legs clad in clinging britches, his white shirt billowing around his broad torso, and her whole body responded again to what an imposing man he was.
"Yes," she stammered in a small voice. "But why are you keeping me under lock and key if I am your fiancée?"
He ran his palm over his shaved head for a moment and then sat down beside her, his warm body radiating heat. He took hold of her hand. Her tiny hand looked impossibly small and white in his big brown fist. His thumb pressed against her palm and she shivered.
"It's for your own safety," he said in a low voice that wrapped around her. "Sailors are not known for their gentlemanly behaviour towards women, my love."
"But ... I am so alone...and there is nothing to do."
He gently lifted her hair away from her neck and his breath blew hot on her nape. "I would keep you in my quarters but we are not married yet and it would not be wise." His hand brushed against her breast, as his lips touched her bare skin. "I cannot trust myself around you, my sweet."
Letitia heard a moan escape her lips as his hot mouth moved over the heated skin of her neck, and his hand moved to gently cup the aching swell of her breast. A frightening pressure was beginning to build in the very centre of her that had her pushing against his hand and grasping a handful of his shirt. His thumb found the tight bud of her nipple as his lips closed over hers and possessed her mouth in a hungry kiss that had her twisting and writhing in his arms, but as soon as the kiss had begun he ended it, abruptly pulling away from her and standing up.
"No, my love. You will not tempt me so!" he said firmly. "I have a ship to command. I will send the cabin boy along with some reading matter, you will have to be satisfied with that." And with a slam of the door and a rattle of the key, he was gone.
Tom smiled to himself as he strode up to the decks. He had the Lady Letitia exactly where he wanted her, his crew was none the wiser, and they were on their way to Pearl Island where some questions might be answered. For once, things were going his way.