Miss Elizabeth Caulfield was an heiress. She was quite possibly the richest woman in the United States of America. Schooled in England, she had been away from Baltimore, Maryland for fourteen years. She had gone away at the age of twelve and had finished her education at the age of eighteen. But she had remained on in England, living in a variety of locations, including London, Bath, Brighton, and at numerous country estates.
She walked along the dock and whirled about when someone placed a hand on her shoulder. Perturbed at the man's impudence, she stepped back away from him and sniffed disdainfully at the air.
The man was tall, impossibly so. She perused him with unabashed interest. He seemed familiar to her, and yet she could not quite place him. His hair was kissed by the sun and wildly untamed. It was far too long for her sensible tastes, and she almost wished that he would scoot along to the barber.
"Do I know you, sir?" she asked. Her female companion lingered not two feet away from her. For the first time since she had set sail from Portsmouth, she actually felt glad to have Sarah Browning with her.
His black trousers clung to his long legs, and his loose white shirt revealed just the barest glimmer of his blond chest hair. His hand touched her shoulder and rested there. He stared at her with an intense gaze that made her skin tingle. The way he looked at her she felt alone with him even when she was surrounded by the activity of the docks. His hand had slipped down her arm as she had turned around and now rested ever so lightly on the back of her left hand.
Refusing to give him the satisfaction of staring down at her where his hand lay, she fixed her eyes on his azure blue ones. They were most disturbing and sent a thrill up and down her spine. She did know him.
"Are you one of my father's men?" she asked. Her mind continued to race. She needed to place him and quickly. He had a most disturbing effect on her, one that she didn't like in the slightest. Her heart skipped in her chest, and her palms grew sweaty beneath her gloves.
"I was one of your father's men." He answered curtly. At the mention of her father's name, his warm blue eyes had flickered with Arctic cold.
Oh, this was bloody brilliant. Here stood another man that the great Geoffrey Caulfield had angered.
"Ah, well, I'm sorry for that. Truly," she murmured, dropping her voice to a low contralto. "Since we've exchanged our niceties, I'll just be taking my leave." Shrugging his hand off her shoulder, she started to walk away from him when he grabbed her hand, pulling her back.
"I think not!" he murmured huskily, his eyes glittering with mirth. His full mouth slanted into a smile that made her stomach plunge.
Was he actually contradicting her? No one ever went against her wishes. It just was not done!
"Perhaps, sir, you did not hear me the first time."
"There has never been anything wrong with my hearing. My hearing is as keen as a lad in grammar school."
"Then maybe you're just a daft man." Her snappy retort made his eyes flicker with something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Her suggestion seemed to annoy him for a muscle had begun to twitch in his clean-shaven cheek. He pursed his lips in a distasteful line. Delighting in her clever barb, she once again tried to wrench her wrist free from his ironclad grasp. But it was to no avail. He was stronger than any man she had ever commanded.
She clutched her reticule in her right hand, which blessed be was still free. An uneasy feeling began to grow in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly, everything and everyone around them had become eerily still. Biting her lip in frustration, she winced when she tasted blood. This man unnerved her to her very core. Exhaustion pulled at her, making her irritable, not to mention cranky. All that she wanted was to return to her mansion on the outskirts of Baltimore.
"You, Miss Caulfield, are accompanying me." He gave her a wicked grin, flashing his perfectly straight white teeth at her. She was at a loss for words for exactly two seconds.
"To hell, I am! Straightening to her regal height of 5'4 inches, she watched as that damnable muscle twitched in his cheek again. Narrowing her eyes, she resisted the uncommon urge to laugh in his face.
"You, miss, are not making this easy for me."
"You have me at a loss, sir. What am I not making easy for you?"
"Kidnapping you." His words threw her for a loop, and she snorted indelicately. She could hear her headmistress's voice resonating in her head again.
'Someday, Miss Caulfield, you will learn that you can not always have everything your way.'
Well, Miss Grady's words were certainly ringing true now. This man standing in front of her would not be easy to outwit. Why did her father have to anger such an astute and daring man? Couldn't he have bothered to madden a dolt that didn't know his arse from a hole in the ground?
She sighed heavily and coyly batted her eyelashes at him. "If you let me go, I shall pay you my weight in gold." Her eyes rested on Sarah. Her companion was making a discreet getaway. Thank heavens. She knew that Sarah would come through for her by going to fetch help.
He tilted his head to one side and raked her with his searing gaze. "I wouldn't think that to be too much gold." His quip stung and fury began to boil through her. She searched for Sarah but could not find her anywhere. What was taking her so long to summon help?
"If you are seeking the lovely Miss Browning, you will not find her. I'd warrant that she's with my first mate, Ethan. They are no doubt having a lovely time trying to break the bed in the Rembrandt Inn."
She sent him a bewildered look. His throaty chuckle that followed her dumbfounded expression only served to rile her further.
"Did you not know Miss High and Mighty?" Shaking her head she wished desperately that he would explain his little game to her.
"Tell me what you are hedging around."
"I miss do not hedge." His gaze dropped to her heaving chest and then flickered back toward her stern gaze. "Your precious Sarah does not belong to you. Actually she belongs to my first mate. If you missed his name the first time I'll repeat it. It's Ethan." He drawled his first mate's name out as if he thought that she were too dim-witted to understand what he was talking about.
She bristled with indignation at his rude insinuation. "You should tread lightly sir! You have not the right to throw careless insults in my face!"
"That my fair lady was not a careless insult." He grinned cheekily again and watched her face avidly as if he waited for her to entertain him with a right and proper tantrum.
"Sarah is my faithful and dutiful companion." Her voice deadened with hardened cold and her rioting emotions were about to get the better of her.
"Oh she hasn't been your faithful companion for quite some time now."
She didn't like the tone of his voice or the vile suggestion he'd made.
"You sir are a blackguard of the worst sort."
Buoyed by the adrenaline that coursed through her she smiled sweetly tightening her grip on her reticule.
"And you are a total and complete pratt!" She smiled and licked her dry lips.
He belied his true emotions by tightening his fingers ever so slightly around her wrist even though he kept smiling like a besotted fool.
"Watch your barbed tongue Miss Caulfield. You do not sound like the proper young lady that you have been raised to become. Why what would your dear headmistress think?"
"My delicate manners must be discarded since I am talking to an ignorant ruffian."
"At this rate Elizabeth," he said boldly using her first name. "You shall run clear out of insults before dusk."
"I detest having to reiterate what I have previously said. But I will since you seemed too slow to catch on the first time around. Release me!" she shouted this time and made him wince beneath the shattering blow her trained voice dealt. Almost simultaneously she lifted her right arm and whacked him forcefully with her reticule which was heavy with coins.
His jaw snapped back and his grip slipped for the briefest of moments. But it was all of the time she required. Wriggling free of his slackened fingers she smiled when she heard him curse a blue streak.
She began running away from him even though she had no true idea of where she was going. She'd always been bad with directions and since she hadn't planted a foot on American soil in six years she was a little uncertain of the route back to her mansion. But she knew one thing with the utmost confidence. She would have plenty of money to hire a coach to take her back to Silverleigh where she'd be safe. Her father probably missed her by now. Probably being the optimal word. Her dear papa was no doubt rutting with one of his whores right at the moment. He wouldn't remember that she was even due in port until some unfortunate soul reminded him. Then he would go into one of his famous tirades and dismiss whoever had reminded him. But on the other hand if that person had failed to do so he would be enraged as well. So essentially her father's employees were damned if they did and damned if they didn't.
Then there were his slaves to consider. They usually lived in misery most of the time but if her father was in one of his black moods their misery was increased tenfold. Elizabeth knew that she was a great many things but she did not believe in slavery. It was something that her father and she constantly argued over and one of the reasons why she had been so happy to be sent away to England for her education.
Her mother had been dead since she was ten. She clung desperately to the memory of her mother for Susan Caulfield was the only decent and loving relative she had ever had. Her mother had been the daughter of an English viscount though she had never met her mother's side of the family she'd heard some heart-racing tales about the illustrious St. Martins. As he quickly shortened the distance between them her thoughts abandoned her. She was overtaken by him sooner than she had expected. She grunted when he pulled her around. She slammed against his rock solid chest. Suddenly she was more than aware of the sensations that rolled between them. The friction of their two fabrics rubbing together made her mind reel. She needed to know who this man was. Why did he arouse such delicious feelings inside of her and why did she know the look in his blue eyes? She knew she knew him ... but from where? The question that had been nagging her for quite some time now finally spilled out of her mouth.
"Who are you?"
"I Miss Caulfield am your worst nightmare."