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Authors: Johanna Lindsey

Tags: #Historical, #Erotica, #Fiction, #Romance

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BOOK: Gentle Rogue
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“Mac!” She actually blushed, even though with five brothers who sometimes forgot she was around, she’d heard and seen just about everything a girl shouldn’t. “I didn’t say there wouldn’t be
some
difficulties, but I’m resourceful enough to overcome them, whatever they are. Unlike most girls, I know a ship inside out, including the area sailors tend to avoid. I’ll manage, even if I have to make use of a rat-infested hold. And besides, if I am found out,
what’s the worst that can happen? Do you honestly think they’ll kick me off the ship in the middle of the ocean? Of course they won’t. I’ll likely just get locked away somewhere until she docks, and
then
given the boot. And that would be no more than I deserve if I’m careless enough to give myself away.”

It took a bit more arguing back and forth before Mac finally sighed. “All right, but I’ll be trying first tae get ye on wi’out yer having tae work. They might be agreeable tae that if I decline any pay, and they think ye’re my brother who mun come wi’ me.”

One velvet brow arched, while laughter lit her eyes. “Your brother? Without a Scottish burr?”

“Stepbrother then,” he allowed. “Raised separate, which willna be questioned considering the age difference.”

“But I thought they
need
a cabin boy? They’re more likely to insist if that’s the case. I know my brothers wouldn’t sail without one.”

“I said I’d
try
. They’ve still the rest of the day tae find another lad fer the job.”

“Well, I hope they don’t,” Georgina replied and meant it. “I’d much rather be working on the crossing than doing nothing, especially since I’ll have to be in disguise anyway. And don’t think to say I’m your sister instead, because if they won’t take me on to have you for bo’s’n, then we’ve lost the opportunity altogether. So let’s get going before the job
is
taken.”

“Ye’ll be needing clothes fit fer a lad.”

“We can buy some on the way.”

“Ye’ve yer things tae dispose of.”

“The landlord can have them.”

“What about yer hair?”

“I’ll cut it.”

“Ye willna! Yer brothers would kill me, if they dinna anyway!”

She dug the woolen cap she’d used before out of her trunk and waved it under his nose. “There! Now will you quit nitpicking and start moving? Let’s go.”

“I thought ye were going tae stop practicing impatience,” he grumbled.

She laughed as she pushed him out the door. “We haven’t sailed yet, Mac. I’ll stop tomorrow. I promise.”

Chapter Eight

S
ir Anthony Malory signaled to the waiter for another bottle of port before he leaned back in his chair to stare at his older brother. “D’you know, James, I think I’m actually going to miss you, damn me if I won’t. You should have settled your affairs in the Caribbean before you came home, then you wouldn’t have to return there now, just when I’ve gotten used to having you around again.”

“And how was I to know the infamous Hawke’s demise could be arranged so easily, so that I could remain here?” James replied. “You forget, the only reason I came home a’tall was to settle the score with Eden. I had no idea that he was about to marry into the family at the time, or that the family would decide to reinstate me now that my pirating days are behind me.”

“Presenting the elders with a new nephew in Jeremy helped the matter along, I’d say. They’re so bloody sentimental when it comes to family.”

“And you’re not?”

Anthony chuckled. “So I am. But you will hurry back, won’t you? It’s been like old times, having you around again.”

“We did have some good times in those wild years, didn’t we?”

“Chasing the same women.” Anthony grinned.

“Getting the same lectures from the elders.”

“Our brothers mean well. Jason and Eddie boy just took to this responsibility thing too young, is all. They never had a chance to kick up their own heels, too busy keeping the rest of us in line.”

“You don’t have to defend them to me, lad,” James replied. “You don’t think I hold a grudge, d’you? Truth to tell, I’d have disowned me just as swiftly as you three did.”

“I never disowned you,” Anthony protested.

“Drink up, dear boy,” James replied dryly. “It might help to jog your memory.”

“My memory is in perfect working order, I tell you. I might have been furious with you for absconding with Reggie that summer eight years ago—three months on a bloody pirate ship, and the dear girl only twelve years old at the time! But I worked that out of my system back then, giving you the thrashing you so richly deserved when you brought her back. And you took that thrashing. I never understood why. Care to tell me now?”

James lifted a tawny brow. “D’you think I could have prevented it, three against one, as it were? You give me more credit than I’m due, dear boy.”

“Come off it, brother. You didn’t fight back that day. You didn’t even try. Jason and Edward might not have noticed, but I’d gone too many rounds with you in the ring not to.”

James shrugged. “So I felt I deserved it. I’d thought it a lark at the time, to take her right out from under big brother’s nose. I was, shall we say, annoyed enough with Jason to do it, since he’d refused to let me even see Regan after I—”

“Reggie,” Anthony corrected automatically.


Regan
,” James repeated with more force, beginning the old argument he’d had with each of his brothers over what nickname to call their niece, Regina—an argument that stemmed from a longtime insistence on James’s part to be different, go his own way, and follow his own rules. But they both realized at the same moment what they were doing and grinned.

But Anthony went a bit further. He conceded, “All right, Regan for tonight.”

James hit one ear with the palm of his hand. “I think there must be something wrong with my hearing.”

“Bloody hell,” Anthony said with a half growl, half chuckle. “Just get on with your story before I fall asleep. Ah, wait, here’s our second bottle.”

“You’re not thinking of getting me foxed
again
, are you?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Anthony said as he filled both their glasses to the brim.

“I believe that’s what you said the last time we were here at White’s, but as I recall, your friend Amherst had to carry us both home…in the middle of the afternoon. You never did tell what the little wife had to say about that.”

“Quite a bit, thank you, none of it worth repeating,” Anthony replied sourly.

James’s hearty laugh brought a number of stares to their table. “I honestly don’t know what’s happened to your finesse, dear boy. You’ve been in the lady’s bad graces ever since the second day of your marriage, simply because you couldn’t convince her that that little barmaid who’d squirmed all over your lap
for those few minutes wasn’t yours for the evening. It was devilish bad luck that the wench left some yellow hair on your lapel for the wife to find, but didn’t you tell Roslynn you were only in that tavern on her behalf, searching for her Cameron cousin?”

“Certainly.”

“Then you still haven’t told her the wench was mine, not yours?”

Anthony shook his head stubbornly. “And I’m not going to, either. It should have been enough that I’d told her nothing happened, that the offer was made and I’d refused it. It’s still a matter of trust…but I believe we’ve had this conversation before, and right here, at that. Quit worrying about my love life, brother. My little Scottish bride will come around. I’m working on it in my own way. So let’s get back to your grand confession, shall we?”

James reached for his glass first, keeping pace with Anthony. “As I’d said, I was annoyed with Jason for refusing to let me even see Regan.”

“Was he supposed to have allowed it? You’d already been pirating for two years.”

“I may have been raising hell on the high seas, Tony, but I hadn’t changed personally. He knew bloody well I would have left behind anything to do with the Hawke had he allowed me to see her. But he’d disowned me for taking to the seas and disgracing the family as it were, though no one inside England or out knew Captain Hawke and James Malory, viscount of Ryding, were one and the same. Jason had made his stand and wouldn’t back down, so what was I to do? Never see her again? Regan’s like a daughter to me. We all raised her.”

“You
could
have given up pirating,” Anthony pointed out reasonably.

James grinned slowly. “Follow Jason’s dictates? When did I ever? Besides, I was having a devilish good time playing the pirate. There was the challenge, the danger, but more, I brought discipline back into my life, and for that matter, possibly saved my health. I’d been getting quite dissipated and jaded before I quit London. We’d had our fun, aye, but there was no challenge left save getting in some lady’s skirts, and even that no longer mattered when it came right down to it. Hell and fire, no one would even call me out anymore to alleviate the monotony, I’d gotten such a deadly reputation.”

Anthony burst out laughing. “You’re making my heart bleed, old man.”

James tipped the bottle this time. “Drink up, you ass. You’ve more sympathy when you’re drunk.”

“I don’t get drunk. Tried to tell the wife that, but she wouldn’t believe me. So you went to sea and lived the clean, healthy life of a pirate.”

“Gentleman pirate,” James corrected.

Anthony nodded. “Quite right. Shouldn’t miss the distinction. What is the distinction, by the way?”

“I’ve never sunk a ship, nor taken one without giving her a sporting chance. I’ve lost a lot of fat prizes that way, letting them elude me, but I never claimed to be a successful pirate, just a persistent one.”

“Confound you, James, it was only a game to you, wasn’t it? And you deliberately let Jason think you were out there raping and pillaging and feeding men to the sharks!”

“Well, why not? He’s not altogether happy unless
he’s got one of us to condemn. And better me than you, since I don’t give a bloody damn, while you, on the other hand, do.”

“Now that’s a fine attitude to take,” Anthony said sarcastically.

“D’you think so?” James smiled and downed his drink. Anthony was quick to refill it. “But then it’s the same one I’ve always had.”

“I suppose,” Anthony conceded reluctantly. “You were defying and deliberately provoking Jason for as long as I can remember.”

James shrugged. “So what is life without its little stimulations, dear boy?”

“I think you just enjoy seeing Jason fly through the roof. Admit it.”

“Well, he does it so well, don’t you think?”

Anthony grinned and then chuckled. “All right, so the whys and wherefores no longer matter. You’ve been accepted back into the fold, forgiven all, as it were. But you still haven’t answered my question about the thrashing you took.”

That golden brow arched again. “Haven’t I? Must be because I keep getting interrupted.”

“So I’ll shut my trap.”

“An impossibility.”

“James…”

“Come now, Tony, just put yourself in my place and you’ll have your answer. It’s not so very complicated, after all. I wanted my equal time with our darling niece, Regan. I thought she’d enjoy seeing a bit of the world, which she did, by the way. But much as I loved having her with me, I realized the folly of what I’d done before I brought her back. Not that I
was an active pirate while I had her. But the sea offers no guarantees. Storms, other pirates, enemies I’ve made, anything is possible. The risk to her was minimal, but it was still there. And had anything happened to Regan…”

“Good God, the unconscionable James Malory plagued by guilt? No wonder I could never figure it out.”

“I do have my moments, it would seem,” James said dryly, giving Anthony a disgusted look for sitting there laughing.

“What did I say?” Anthony asked innocently. “Never mind. Here, have another drink.” And the bottle was tipped again. “You know,” he added thoughtfully with a grin. “Between me exposing the dear girl to my jaded friends when I had her to myself each year—all on their best behavior, mind you—and you exposing her to a crew of cutthroats—”

“Who all adored her and were very polite cutthroats while she was on board.”

“Yes, well, she certainly had a well-rounded education with our help.”

“Hadn’t she though? So how is it she ended up married to a bounder like Eden?”

“The puss loves him, more’s the pity.”

“I figured
that
much out for myself.”

“Come now, James, you just don’t like him because he’s too much like us, and anyone like us isn’t good enough for our Reggie.”

“Beg to differ, dear boy, but that’s why
you
don’t like him.
I
took exception to the bloody insults he threw in my face as he sailed away from the encounter
I had with him all those years ago at sea, insults that came
after
he’d already disabled my ship.”

“But you attacked him,” Anthony pointed out, having heard most of the details of that sea battle already, including the fact that James’s son was injured in it, which was why James had given up pirating altogether.

“Beside the point,” James insisted. “And anyhow, he added insult to injury when he landed me in gaol last year.”


After
you’d thrashed the daylights out of him. And didn’t you say Nicholas had also put up the blunt for your escape before he took off for the West Indies? Because of a guilty conscience, wasn’t it?”

“To hear him tell it, it was because he would have missed the hanging.”

Anthony hooted. “That sounds like him, the arrogant puppy. But give credit where it’s due, brother. If you hadn’t been arrested, courtesy of our nephew-by-marriage, you wouldn’t have been able to arrange Hawke’s supposed demise so neatly, thereby getting the price off your head and burning your bridges behind you. You can now walk the streets of London again without looking over your shoulder.”

That deserved the draining of another glassful. “When did you start defending that young cockerel?”

“Good God, is that what I was doing?” Anthony looked utterly horrified. “Beg your pardon, old boy. It won’t happen again, you may depend upon it. He’s a blighter through and through.”

BOOK: Gentle Rogue
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