No Choice But Seduction Page 2

Boyd started to follow her, but decided against it. She might think he was being too forward. She’d seemed startled when he’d expressed his pleasure at sailing with her. Had he been too direct, perhaps even improper? Well, he wasn’t exactly used to the ways of courting. But he was sure he could be as charming as his brother Drew if he put his mind to it.

After taking a thorough ribbing from Philips about his having to waste his doctoring skills on a tasty snack, Boyd returned to the deck. The gangplank hadn’t been lifted yet; the last few supplies were still being loaded. And Katey Tyler was on board.

His eyes, then his feet, went right to her. She was standing at the rail near the plank, gazing at the town as he had earlier done. He stopped right behind her.

“We meet again.”

He’d startled her, possibly with the husky tone of his voice. She turned around so swiftly, she brushed against him. No, he’d been standing too close, smelling the lilac scent of her hair, so she couldn’t have avoided the collision. But she was blushing now as she tried to move away and couldn’t with the rail behind her. Loath to lose the contact, Boyd was a bit slow in stepping back to give her room.

“You don’t hail from Bridgeport, do you?” he said.

“How did you know?”

“Because I’m from Bridgeport. Believe me, if you had lived here, I would have been coming home much more often.”

His words and his smile might have been a bit too bold because she was obviously flustered. She glanced down, then started to turn back toward the dock, but something else caught her attention.

“Who would have thought they’d be so troublesome,” a carrot-haired young woman said as she came up to them, holding a toddler in each hand. “We’re going to have to hover over them if we bring them up to the deck again.”

Katey bent down and picked up one of the children and set it on her hip, ruffling its hair. Boyd couldn’t tell if the tot was a boy or a girl.

“That’s not a bad idea, Grace. They are a bit too inquisitive at this age,” Katey said.

“Well, here, give her back. I’ll get them settled belowdecks before we sail.”

“Yours?” Boyd asked as soon as the other woman walked off with the two children.

He was joking, but Katey glanced at him with a frown on her pretty face. Then her eyes widened and she said, “Yes! Actually, I didn’t think to mention it, but I’m married and on my way to join my husband in England. I should go and help my maid. Those two darlings can be a handful.”

She rushed off. Boyd was left standing there poleaxed, no doubt about it.

Tyrus came up to him, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Ain’t that always the way? The good ones are already taken.”

Boyd shook his head and groaned. It was going to be a long voyage.

Chapter One

London, England, 1826

THE NOTE WAS DELIVERED by a scruffy child who didn’t know he had the wrong house. The mistake wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t been told there were many different Malory houses in London. He’d come to the first one he’d been directed to, pleased that it hadn’t taken long to earn the few coppers in his pocket. And just as he’d been told to do, he’d run off before Henry could question him.

Henry and Artie, two crusty old sea dogs, had shared the job of butler at James Malory’s house ever since James had retired from his life at sea and they’d both retired with him. But recently James had gone back to sea, briefly, to rescue his brother-in-law Drew Anderson, who’d got himself into a coil when according to one of his crewmen who’d managed to escape, pirates had stolen his ship right out of London harbor! With him on it! Henry and Artie had tossed a coin to see who would sail with James for the rescue. Henry had lost.

Henry tossed the note without reading it onto the mountainous pile of calling cards and invitations that had come in from people who didn’t know the Malorys of this particular household weren’t in residence. A normal butler would never have let the tray on the hall table overflow with invitations and letters. But in the eight years since Henry and Artie had begun sharing the job, neither of them had learned how to be a proper butler.

That afternoon when Boyd Anderson returned to the Malory house in Berkeley Square, he found the note on his tray, along with a few other cards that had slid off the larger pile next to it. He didn’t usually have a tray of his own in his sister Georgina’s house, but then he usually only visited for a week or two, never as long as several months as this visit had turned out to be. Nor was it the first time Georgina’s mail had got mixed up with his.

Despite having given it a lot more thought, Boyd still hadn’t made up his mind yet about settling in England. But that wasn’t why he was still here. He hadn’t returned to sea yet because he was doing his sister a favor. Although Georgina had married into the large Malory family and any one of her numerous in-laws would have been delighted to take care of her children while she was gone, Georgina’s seven-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, balked at joining her young twin siblings at the country home of their cousin Lady Regina Eden, because she didn’t want to be that far away from her best friend and cousin, Judith. Other Malorys in London could have taken her, but since Boyd was staying at her London house, Georgina had asked him to keep an eye on Jacqueline until he sailed again.

He would have preferred to go along for the rescue. That would have been a fine bit of work to tease his brother Drew about. But he had, in fact, done Georgina another good turn by not insisting on going, since her husband didn’t get along well with any of her brothers, himself included. The man didn’t even get along with his own brothers. And there was no way he and James Malory wouldn’t come to blows if they ended up on a ship together. Besides, the look on James’s face when Boyd had suggested accompanying him, well, it had made Boyd glad he had an excuse to stay behind after all.

“We all know where she’d rather stay,” Georgina had remarked. “But Roslynn mentioned in passing that she might be enceinte again, so she needs peace and quiet in her household just now, which won’t be the case with Judy and Jack in residence. When you’re ready to sail will be soon enough to deposit her there.”

Roslynn Malory turned out not to be pregnant. Boyd ended up not sailing as expected. And Jack, as her father had named her at birth, was happy enough where she was, since she still got to visit with her cousin Judith as often as she liked.

Boyd wasn’t exactly worried about Drew, anyway. Georgina did enough worrying for all of them. But Boyd knew his brother well and had no doubt that he’d extricate himself from whatever trouble he’d gotten into long before Georgina and her husband arrived to help. Hell, considering how long they’d been gone, he was beginning to suspect they hadn’t even caught up to Drew’s ship yet!

Georgina hadn’t expected Boyd to stay in London this long. No one had, himself included. But when his ship, The Oceanus, returned from the short run he’d sent her on, instead of leaving with her, he sent her off again. And gave more thought to giving up the sea for good.

The Andersons’ family business, Skylark Shipping, also had an office in London now. While the family had avoided England for many years due to the old war and the hard feelings that had ensued from that, they were once again firmly entrenched in trading with the English. In fact, now that England was central to all of their newly acquired routes, the London office had grown considerably in the last eight years. Boyd wouldn’t half mind taking over the running of it.

Become landlocked? God, why didn’t he just do it already? Because oddly enough, he loved the sea. He just hated what it did to him.

Georgina had introduced him to London society more than once on his visits here. He even kept a wardrobe at her house specifically for his London stays that was more appropriate for a gentleman, since the English dressed quite a bit more fancily than sailors did! He didn’t go excessive in frilly cravats or lacy cuffs as some of them did. In fact, he took a cue from his brother-in-law, James—well-tailored, but subdued and even open-collared. And he had a few velvet jackets that spruced him up for evening social events.

On this extended visit he’d been receiving invitations to balls and soirées from Georgina’s acquaintances that knew he was still in town, and he’d occasionally accepted. He wasn’t actively looking for a wife, but if the right woman showed up, that would be incentive to settle down. He’d thought he’d found her. Katey Tyler would have been the perfect woman for him—if she wasn’t already taken!

God, how did he let her sneak into his mind again? Once she did, it took days and a good bout of drinking to get her out again. But only briefly. She was somewhere in his thoughts more often than not. It seemed that knowing he couldn’t have her because she already had a husband made him want her even more! He’d never been able to figure out what exactly it was about Katey Tyler that had twisted him inside out on that voyage. She wasn’t even the kind of woman that usually caught his eye.

She was too tall for one thing, only a few inches shorter than he was. He preferred to feel tall where his women were concerned, and Mrs. Tyler didn’t give him that feeling when she stood eye to eye with him. But it didn’t matter. One look at her lushly abundant curves and nothing else mattered.

She could talk a lot—about nothing. That was a remarkable feat. Even more remarkable, he’d never found that annoying! Her dimples often made her seem like she was smiling when she wasn’t. And she contradicted herself a lot, which could be quite confusing, but he actually found that endearing. It made her seem charmingly absentminded. Her nose was slim, almost patrician, her brows rather thin, her mouth—he could never think about her mouth without becoming aroused.

No woman had ever affected him like that before, or stayed in his thoughts this long.

Gabrielle Brooks had caught his interest though. What a relief that had been, assuring him that he wasn’t a lost cause! She could have banished Katey from his mind—well, that had been his original hope. Gabby had arrived in London at about the same time he did and had become Georgina and James’s houseguest because her father, an old friend of James’s, had asked James to sponsor her for the Season.

A pretty thing, Gabby could have turned his thoughts toward marriage if Drew hadn’t been taken with her, too. Not that his carefree brother ever intended to get leg-shackled, as the English put it. But Gabby seemed to be fascinated with Drew, too, so Boyd had stopped thinking about her as a possible wife. Besides, she was the daughter of a pirate, as it turned out, and Boyd would have had a hard time getting past that simple fact. Pirates were the nemesis of honest sailors.

He glanced at the two invitations on his tray that were actually for him and carefully put back the four that were addressed to his sister. He opened the folded note since he couldn’t tell whom that was for. He had to read it twice before the meaning sank in. And then he was bolting up the stairs shouting his niece’s name.

When he found Jacqueline in her room, the color returned to his cheeks and his heart slowly returned to its normal beat. He read the note once more.

I have your daughter. Start gathering a fortune if you want her back. You’ll be told where to bring it.

Boyd shoved the note in his pocket, deciding it had obviously been delivered to the wrong house. He wondered if any of Georgina’s neighbors had daughters. He didn’t know, but he’d have to take that note to the authorities.

“What’s wrong, Uncle?”

Glancing at Jack’s woebegone expression, Boyd replied, “I could ask you the same thing.”

She started to shrug, but then she sighed and said, “Judy’s riding her first horse today in Hyde Park. Not a pony, a real horse Uncle Tony bought her.”

“And you weren’t invited to watch?” he guessed.

“I was, but—I think only Uncle Tony should share that with her. He’s so been looking forward to it.”

Boyd managed to stifle a grin. His niece was only seven years old, but sometimes she amazed him with her insight and consideration for others. She obviously wanted to be in the park watching her best friend ride her first real horse, but she’d taken the girl’s father’s feelings into account instead.

Boyd had known about the outing and had been afraid that Jack would feel left out. He’d actually considered buying her a horse as well, but then he realized his sister might have a fit if he did. Actually, it was James’s likely reaction that had decided him against it. If Sir Anthony had been looking forward to seeing his daughter’s excitement upon riding her first real horse, James was probably looking forward to the same.

“Besides,” Jacqueline added. “Judy’s coming over tonight to spend the weekend, so I’ll be hearing—”

She didn’t finish because Henry burst in completely out of breath, as if he’d run up the stairs just as Boyd had done. Without saying what had brought him upstairs in such a hurry, he glanced at the daughter of the house then motioned for Boyd to come out into the corridor. Henry knew that small children had big ears, and this was one thing he was going to make absolutely sure Jack didn’t overhear.

“A messenger just came from Sir Anthony,” Henry whispered urgently in Boyd’s ear. “’E’s asked for every man in the ’ouse to come and ’elp ’im search for ’is daughter. She’s gone missing in the park.”

“Damn,” Boyd said, and pulled Henry downstairs with him before he showed the old salt the note.

It made sense now. The note hadn’t been delivered to the wrong house on the street, just the wrong Malory house, which mistake happened frequently with eight separate Malory households in the city.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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