When a swashbuckling pirate meets the headstrong young woman who turned his world upside down, it’s anybody’s guess what kind of sparks—and swords!—will fly. Read on for an excerpt from BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST, the latest installment in Johanna Lindsey’s beloved Malory-Anderson Family series. In this moment, Jack Malory realizes that the man who’s just captured her is someone who she’s met before … BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST comes out today!
She was left alone too long, giving her too much time to think. It was such an elaborate plan, charming her at a ball, the notes, the roses. If he had picked anywhere else in London for this final rendezvous, it would never have occurred to her that it was Bastard pulling these strings. She still found it hard to believe he’d actually been her mystery man, and maybe he wasn’t. He had arranged it, certainly, had even used the disguise tonight until she got close enough for him to spring his trap. But it took finesse to pull off the role of a gentleman, so it was far more likely that he’d hired an actor to charm and intrigue her at the ball. The man had been English. His diction had been cultured. He’d been everything Bastard wasn’t!
Frustrated by their utter failure, still worried about Jeremy’s condition, still lying uncomfortably on her pistol to keep it hidden beneath her, she closed her eyes to wait out this ordeal. Before much longer, she heard the door open and close, then a single set of footsteps moving toward her and stopping near her back.
“Your brother isn’t dead—if you were wondering.”
If? If! Bastard again. Like his handsome face, he had a voice she’d never forget either, deep, husky, sometimes amusing, and so aggravating because she hated him so much.
The bindings on her wrists pulled against her skin as he cut through them. She sat up immediately and tugged the sack off her head. Her coiffure was undone, so half of her hair came tumbling down her back. His back was all she saw of him as he walked away from her toward a desk across the room, his long raven-black hair floating about his wide shoulders.
He sat down behind his desk, giving her the full brunt of that unforgettable face she hated, the alert turquoise eyes, the high cheekbones, the wide jaw, the full lips that smiled a lot and were smiling now. She remembered that, how often he’d smiled for no bloody reason and how much it had infuriated her—at least until her refusal to eat had finally gotten him angry.
And the black stubble on his cheeks and upper lip, she remembered that, too. He didn’t like to shave and definitely didn’t do so daily. But he was dressed like a gentleman, in a finely tailored brown coat that he shrugged out of now, black pants, glossy boots, white shirt replete with cravat that he also got rid of. Dressed to deceive tonight, so she might still believe he was the Mask right down to the last moment.
The nefarious Bastard whom she hadn’t succeeded in capturing as she’d so hoped.
She pulled the gag off her mouth to demand, “Who is that liar you hired to lure me here? I want to know who to gullet— after you.”
He dipped his head and spread his hands a little to indicate something on his desk. She had to stand up to see it, which wasn’t easily done while sitting on a low cot with bound feet. She managed it with a hard push from both hands.
The porcelain mask was lying on his desk. “Nice try, but no bloody way. You at a ball in formal wear? Even if you could steal the togs for a fancy event like that, you don’t know the first thing about being a charming gentleman of refinement. The mask proves nothing. He could have given it back to you.”
“You wound me.”
“I wish I could!”
“You were apparently bored and easily intrigued,” he replied offhandedly, but with that damned smile she hated. “And it worked, didn’t it, to lure you right into my hands again?”
She still refused to believe it, but if she did, she certainly wouldn’t admit it to him. The man who hadn’t just intrigued her but had also excited her couldn’t be the man she hated above all others. But she could end him right then and there because the fool hadn’t been smart enough to search her for other weapons, leaving her with two.
She pulled her pistol out of her pocket and aimed it at him, but he dropped below his desk the second he saw it and stayed hidden behind it. She didn’t dare try to hop over there with her feet still bound. She’d fall on her face and he’d have her pistol in hand in an instant.
Then she heard him say with infuriating calm, “You can’t shoot me, Jack. They’ll kill your brother if you do.”
She blanched. She’d had no one to protect the last time he’d abducted her and had tried to kill him every chance she got. Failing each time. The man was too big, too swift, too calculating, guessing her moves before she made them. Her single shot would be heard and draw his whole crew in here.
Furious, she snarled, “Come over here so I can bash your head in instead!”
He didn’t, but he laughed at the suggestion. “You’re going to slide your weapon across the floor instead.”
“Not bloody likely. Show yourself, coward. They won’t kill James Malory’s son—not if you still want our father as a willing sacrifice.”
“We only need one hostage. I appreciate your giving us three.”
He sounded far too confident, as if he weren’t still cautiously hiding behind that desk. Maybe she could hop his way without falling, at least get to the desk so she could crawl on top of it and . . . He stood up, presenting her with a big target she couldn’t miss. If she were in a rage, she would have thoughtlessly pulled the trigger. But then she’d be without a decent weapon to use in dealing with his crew after she killed him, and they’d all come charging into the room when they heard the shot. The dagger strapped to her thigh wouldn’t be much help against the lot of them. Then again, Bastard could be her weapon and her shield to get herself, Jeremy, and Percy off that ship. His crew would do nothing if they saw she had a pistol pressed to his back.
He must have noticed the calculating look on her face be- cause he said, “You care so little for your brother?”
Having Jeremy here was obviously going to be a distinct disadvantage—for her. Bastard would hold Jeremy’s welfare over her head every time she did something he didn’t like. He wouldn’t need ropes to keep her hands tied. She had to get them off this ship now, while England was still a short swim away.
“On the contrary, I love my brothers, but they’re not here.”