ТОП просматриваемых книг сайта:
The Lost Gentleman. Margaret McPheeЧитать онлайн.
As North’s ship manoeuvred carefully away from Coyote, Kate’s gaze held to Sunny Jim’s, but neither of them dared show one single sign. Behind her she could hear the creaking of the rigging and the crack of unfurling canvas and the movement of men busy at work. And before her, the distance of the ocean expanding between them as North took sail.
She was aware that North and the priest were somewhere behind her, but Kate did not look round. She just stood there and watched while the wind seemed to speed beneath North’s sails to leave Coyote further and further behind.
Until, at last, the dark shadow fell across her and she knew that North had come to stand at the rail by her side.
One second. A deep breath.
Two seconds. She swallowed and hid all that she felt.
And only then did she turn to face the man who was the infamous pirate hunter North.
* * *
Those dark eyes were looking directly into hers with a calm scrutiny that made her nervous.
‘North, Captain Kit North,’ he offered the unnecessary introduction. ‘Under commission from the British Admiralty to bring in the pirate La Voile.’
The hesitation before she spoke was small enough not to be noticed. ‘Mrs Kate Medhurst,’ she said, using her real name because it would mean nothing to him and because successful deception was best attained by sticking close to the truth.
He took her hand and just the feel of his fingers against hers made her shiver.
‘You are cold, Mrs Medhurst, now that our speed increases.’
She hated that he had seen it, that tiny sign of weakness, of fear. ‘A little,’ she agreed by way of excuse.
Before she could stop him he slipped off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders.
She could feel the warmth of him still upon it, smell the scent of him too much in her nose—leather and soap, sunshine and masculinity. It surrounded her. It enveloped her. Bringing him close to her, making it feel like a gesture of intimacy that she did not want to share with any man, least of all him. She itched to tear his coat from her, to dash it at his feet, this hard-eyed handsome Englishman who was her enemy in more ways than he could imagine. But Kate knew she could not afford to yield to such impulses of emotion and controlled herself as carefully as ever she did.
‘Thank you,’ she said, but she did not smile.
‘You are safe with us.’
Safe? The irony of the word would have made her laugh had the situation not been so dire. ‘Even if I am an American? And there is—’ she hesitated in order to choose the word carefully ‘—disharmony between our two countries?’
‘Even if you are an American and there is disharmony between our two countries.’ There was the smallest hint of a smile around that hard mouth. ‘You are welcome aboard Raven, Mrs Kate Medhurst.’
‘Raven,’ she said softly. Of course.
‘The name of the ship.’
The name that, had she seen it, would have made all the difference in the world.
‘They said there was no name upon your ship,’ she said.
‘La Voile was not meant to see it.’
‘It was a trap,’ she said slowly, her blood chilling at the extent of his cold calculation.
North smiled. ‘The name would have tipped him off.’
‘Yes,’ she agreed. ‘I am sure it would have.’ And knew it for the certainty it was. ‘Why take just La Voile and not Coyote and the rest of her crew? Why leave behind the greater part of the prize?’
‘I am not interested in prizes. My commission is for La Voile and only La Voile.’
‘I did not realise he was so important to the British. Surely compared to Jean Lafitte, he is just small fry?’
‘He is a big enough burr and one with the potential of becoming a rallying anti-British figurehead, much more so than Lafitte. Admiralty wish to cut off the head and leave the body in place to tell the tale, leaderless and ineffective. Which suits me. One man is easier dealt with than an entire crew and ship,’ he said.
‘So it seems.’ But things were not always as they seemed.
Her gaze held his for a moment longer, looking danger in the eye and seeing its ruthless, dark, infallible strength. She swallowed.
The tiny moment seemed to stretch.
‘Reverend Dr Gunner will escort you below to a cabin where you may rest. If you will excuse me, for now.’
She shrugged off his coat and gladly returned it.
A bow of his head and he was gone, moving across the deck to speak to his men.
Kate felt the tension that held her body taut relax, letting out the breath she had not known she was holding.
‘Mrs Medhurst...ma’am.’ The priest moved forward to her side.
One last glance of hope and longing out across the ocean to where Coyote and safety had diminished to little more than a toy ship upon the horizon.
The priest saw the direction of her glance and misconstrued it. ‘You really are safe with us.’
‘So Captain North reassures me.’ But if North were to realise the truth of who she was, of what she was... Captain Le Voile, as she always thought of herself. Such a subtle difference from La Voile, but one that was important to her. Le Voile or La Voile, it made no odds when it came to North. Either way she was the pirate captain of Coyote whom he sought.
You really are safe with us.
Kate gave a smile of irony. For what place could be more dangerous than aboard Raven with the deadly British pirate hunter who had been sent to capture her?
It was a sobering thought. She forced it from her mind and, with a nod, followed Reverend Dr Gunner below deck.
‘I put her in my cabin. I’ll sleep on the deck with the men—naturally.’ Within Kit’s day cabin Gunner was lounging in a small wooden chair. The priest pulled a silver hip flask of brandy from his pocket, unstopped it and offered it to Kit as a formality. They both knew that Kit would refuse.
‘There’s a cot in the corner—you are welcome to sleep there.’ Kit was seated in his own chair behind the plain mahogany desk.
‘Are you suggesting I could not manage a hammock?’ Gunner downed a swig of brandy.
‘A man does not forget such things,’ said Kit and thought of the past years and all it had entailed for them both.
‘He certainly does not.’ Gunner grinned. ‘They will bury us in those damned hammocks.’
Kit smiled. ‘No doubt.’ He moved to the large rectangular window, looking out over the sea. ‘How is our guest?’
‘Resting. She has a remarkable resilience. Most women would be suffering the vapours at the mere suggestion of the ordeal she has endured. But maybe the shock of it has not hit home yet. Delayed emotional response following trauma—we have both seen it.’ Gunner came to stand by his side and met his gaze meaningfully. They both remembered the horrors of the year in that Eastern hellhole.
‘Has she any signs of physical hurt?’
‘None that I could see. I did explain I was a physician and enquired whether she had need of any assistance,