The Captain's Courtesan
"Babies are not made that way!
Don't tell me I must subject myself to--"
Daphne Havisham shuddered from the tip of her upswept ebony hair to the hem
of her voluminous blue gown. "Mama, this is wrong! Don't make me go to
America to become some man's. . .oh, I'm going to be ill!"
From across the
sumptuous bedroom, Sofia Martine bit back a snicker. She'd been packing the
girls' trousseaux--Daphne and Beatrix were taking an enormous number
of trunks--while Lady Constance educated her two oldest daughters in the ways of
men and women.
indelicate sound of vomiting came from the corner, Beatrix eyed her mother
with a raised brow. "So you're saying that you've allowed Papa to do this to
you. . .well, if there are four of us girls, at least four times he's dipped
his stick into your--"
enough of your impertinence!" Constance Havisham's tight-lipped pucker
became the martyred expression she assumed at the first sign of
unpleasantness. "A woman must endure inelegance--must rise above her own
discomfort--to bring children into this world. It's our mission. It's why we
going!" Daphne declared. "I cannot fathom opening my legs to allow--to be violated by--"
As the spoiled
brunette gagged over the chamber pot again, Sofia turned her head to keep
from joining her--and to roll her eyes. It was no secret among the household
staff that Lady Havisham did not open her legs anymore, and that her
husband found his pleasure elsewhere these days. . .belowstairs, when it was
inconvenient to visit his mistress across town.
here for now, milady," Sofia rasped. "If you'll excuse me, I'll pack my own
trunk. The girls will need me to dress them very early in the
Lady Constance covered her nose and
mouth, nodding weakly.
open the window and then placed the rose-patterned wash bowl beneath Lady
Constance's pale, pinched face. "There, there," she crooned, "you've done
your motherly best. It's up to the girls and their husbands to put it all
together, just as you did when you were a bride."
the bedroom then, aware of a rising hysteria in that room--and the fox-like
smile on Trixie's face. At fourteen, Miss Beatrix was wiser in the ways of
the world than her older sister. . .contemplating a voyage away from her
mother's watchful eye, aboard a ship where brawny sailors might teach her
what Daphne didn't want to know.
sake, there could be no babies--no spreading of virginal legs--before Sofia
delivered the sisters to their prospective bridegrooms! Which would be
worse? Nursing Daphne, who would puke and pout during the entire voyage? Or
keeping track of the devious Miss Trix? As she hurried down the back stairs,
Sofia wanted much more than fresh air: she wanted out. Even in their
finer moments, the Havisham sisters tried her patience enough to dampen her
excitement over this trip to America. . .this daring adventure!
would appreciate a woman who could match them in for out, soft for hard. A
willing woman like herself! Except she'd be playing nanny and nursemaid the
whole time, unless--
At the sound of
male voices, Sofia paused before passing the study doorway. Lord Havisham
and the captain he'd hired spoke in low undertones, making the final
arrangements before tomorrow's departure.
understand, Captain Delacroix, that while the safe delivery of my daughters
is my highest priority," the nobleman insisted, "I have loaded the Lady Constance with jewels, fine textiles, spices--not to mention the
double dowries promised to my associates in New York, who are betrothed to
Daphne and Beatrix."
"And I thank
you for equipping my two ships so generously, sir," came the suave
reply. "You've entrusted me not only with your precious daughters, but with
a great deal of wealth, as well. I assure you my partner and I are committed
to a safe and timely delivery."
There was a
pause. A clinking of snifters.
"I see this
voyage as. . .an investment in America, and in my shipping interests there."
Lord Havisham's voice and sense of importance were riding a wave of happy
intoxication, yet he splashed more brandy into their glasses. "I trust you
will take every opportunity to make this a lucrative venture. . .for
both of us. Pirates notwithstanding."
Sofia's eyes widened and she shifted slightly. . .caught the men's
reflection in the gilt-framed mirror beside the fireplace. Zachary Havisham,
even in his high, white wig, came only to the shoulder of his companion, the
captain. And what a fine, square shoulder it was, too.
she murmured, tasting his name, just as he was savoring the costly brandy
her employer had poured. Saints above, he was a sight! All dark, masculine
curls and a cleft chin and blue, blue eyes.
He caught sight
of her in the mirror with those stunning eyes, and held her gaze as he
replied to Lord Havisham!
"Yes, sir, of
late the entire coastline of America has become Blackbeard's playground," he
said calmly. "But my partner, Morgan O'Roark, and I are experienced in the
ways of such brigands, and we know alternate routes to elude them. Should we
encounter pirates, my lord, I guarantee you we shall have our way with
Hear, hear!" Havisham crowed, and then he clinked his snifter to Delacroix's
again. "By Jove, were I a younger man, I'd be sailing with you! Nothing
quite like the salt air--"
"The freedom of
rolling of the waves--"
of one's. . .manhood," the captain crooned. And damned if he didn't wink at
"--to set the
blood a-boil," her employer expounded. With a single gulp he emptied his
snifter, and then flung it against the hearth. "Here's to you, Damon
Delacroix! And to your successes in America! Long may you sail!"
raised his brandy in silent salute to the mirror--to her!--and then
he, too, drained his snifter and shattered it against the bricks. "Here's to
your daughters--to their fine breeding and the continuing of your
Oh, but he was
asking for it, wasn't he? Smiling coyly, Sofia ducked down the hall before
she did something foolish to call attention to herself. Lord, but she was
quivering and flighty and. . .wet. She could show Daphne and Beatrix a thing
or two about how things really happened, when a man and a woman felt
the heat rising between them!
But it was time
to help her mother dish up dinner in the kitchen. Sofia dearly wanted to
dish up something hotter and spicier after the meal, too, before the dashing
Captain Delacroix left the estate tonight. She'd be shirking her duties
indeed, if she let this fine man go away hungry!