“I don’t care, she can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” Duncan said. “You house every other low-life Pirate that washes into my harbor.”
Lightening flashed then a crack of thunder rattled the hinges.
“She smells like dead rats, there’s mud on me floors, and she’s filling me girls’ heads with notions of gold for nare a day’s work.” The large Madam cocked an eyebrow.
“Not my problem.”
He glanced at the infamous Lady Isle Stanton; left arm in a sling, a blood-and-muck-crusted bandage on her neck, with a rag wrapped around her other hand. But she stood proud. Too proud. In a man’s tunic and breeches! Didn’t even have the decency to remove the Captain’s hat.
Although she seemed oddly familiar.
“She ain’t got one coin in her purse.”
“Then she leaves.”
Lady Stanton stepped forward, hiding a limp. “I won’t be going anywhere. By your own decree Duncan, anyone sailing under the black flag may take refuge from hurricanes in Bayport Harbor.”
“You forget, Pirates must pay the charge.” He shrugged. “If you can’t pay, you can’t stay.”
“Be still my beating heart,” she said deadpan. “Duncan Brooks now knows poetry I. May. Swoon.”
“You’ll address me as Governor—”
“I’ll do no such thing.”
His fists clenched at his sides. “Show some respect Pirate or you’ll be weathering the storm in that broken canoe of yours.”
She smiled, flashing beautiful teeth. “What would your loyal subjects think of a Gov’na who tossed out his desperate, wayward wife in the middle of a hurricane?”
The tavern went silent as the grave.
Nonsense. His wife was safe and sound in Spain.
“Right in front of you.” She ripped off her hat. Dark locks drifted around her shoulders, softening her features. “Not in the ground, as you would have everyone believe.”
“No! She’s lying.” His feet shifted back, his eyes flicking around the crowded tavern. “Every word out of Pirates’ mouth are all lies.”
“Then you won’t mind if I tell everyone how I taught you to read the documents that were meant for Governor eyes only?”
Wind and rain raged against the harbor outside.
He snatched her uninjured arm, yanked her into the nearest room, ordered its occupant out, then slammed the door behind the terrified naked woman.
“Who told you that, who do you work for?!”
Chuckling, Isle wrenched from his grasp. “Still afraid of what society thinks of you. Good.” She kicked off her boots then gingerly removed the sling from her neck. “Once the storm passes, my ship will be repaired and resupplied—at no charge.” Wincing, she unwrapped her hand.
“You can’t blow in my harbor and make demands. I won’t have it! I may be bound to give you sanctuary through a storm but the hell if I’m giving you supplies too.”
“Hmm, what would the Crown think if they found out you were secretly married to a Pirate all along? We are in a washroom… in a brothel…”
He paced back and forth.
She was manipulating him, it’s what Pirates did. She wasn’t his estranged wife. Impossible. Elizabeth killed herself a decade ago. He watched her jump out their bedroom window. Isle had to be a spy, that was the logical—
Her moan of sheer pleasure tugged at the bottom of his stomach, snapping him from his thoughts. Sudsy water hid her body from her nipples down while steam rose from her exposed shoulders. She rested her head against the tub ledge completely at peace. This woman had no shame whatsoever, that wasn’t her bath! Must be nice to be guilt free like that.
“I guess it’s still acceptable to strip naked for a man who’s not your husband. Typical.”
Keeping her eyes closed, she massaged the bandage on her neck. “Maybe if my husband cared more about satisfying his wife than what people may think if they found out, then you would’ve seen me naked more often.”
Waves crashed against the shore. Thunder shook the rafters. How did she remain so calm?
He grit his teeth. “D-did you have no pride? You were a Governess for God’s sake and you let every filthy, barbaric Pirate that came to port use you like a common whore. In my house!”
She launched from the tub sloshing water everywhere. “You’re goddamned right I did! You’re so prim and proper I couldn’t tell whether you were asleep on top of me or not. You’re nothing but a scared little boy. Always afraid. Afraid people might think ill of you. Afraid to break rules. Afraid to think for yourself… afraid to fuck your own wife.”
“I’m not afraid of anything woman. I run this island like a clock, I decide who stays, who goes. I’m in charge. I don’t need to break rules because I make them.” His pulse became a war drum in his ears.
“No you don’t.” Her finger jabbed into his chest. “You follow every protocol that’s ever been set before you. You wouldn’t know an original desire if it stood naked in front of you.”
His nostrils flared. “Pirate filth!”
“Spineless aristocrat.” Her eyes sparkled.
“You’d hand over your balls to have me as your whore.”
He didn’t want her to be right but she was. He shouldn’t want to brutally take her on the nearest flat surface; she was a worthless Pirate. But he did. She awoke something primal in him. Always had, but this time he didn’t fight it.
“And you’d hand over your ship to have me as your Pirate.” He grabbed her chin and kissed the hell out of her. Tasted the sea in her mouth, breathed in the roses and salt on her skin. Pulled her closer, kissed her deeper.
“By the Flag yes,” she murmured between desperate kisses. “Don’t ever stop.”
He couldn’t think with her, didn’t want to. Raw animal instinct directed him. All that mattered was making this incredible woman—this Pirate—forget every other lover.
Just as she had done for him.