The Devil and the Deep - By Amy Andrews
Lady Mary Bingham had never seen such a fine specimen of manhood in all her twenty years as she held out her hand to her unlikely saviour so he could aid her aboard. Pirate or not, Vasco Ramirez’s potent masculinity tingled through every cell of her body. And even had it not, his piercing blue eyes, the exact colour of warm, tropical waters that fringed the reefs he was rumoured to know like the back of his hand, touched a place inside her that she’d never known existed.
A place she could never now deny.
She supposed, if she were given to swooning, this would be as good a time as any. But she wasn’t. In fact she’d always found the practice rather tiresome and refused to even allow her knees the slightest tremble. Women who had fits of the vapours and cried for their smelling salts every two seconds—like her aunt—were not the kind of women she admired.
Her breath hitched as sable lashes framing those incredible eyes swept downwards in a frank inspection of every inch of her body. When his gaze returned to her face she was left in no doubt that he’d liked what he’d seen. His thumb lightly stroked the skin of her forearm and she felt the caress deep inside that newly awakened place.
Looking at the bronzed angles of his exotic face, she knew she should be afraid for had she not just gone from the frying pan straight into the fire?
Yet strangely she wasn’t.
Not even when his gaze dropped to the pulse beating rapidly against the milky white skin of her neck. Or lower to where her breasts strained against the constrictive fabric of her bodice. His lazy inspection of the agitated rise of her bosom did not elicit fear even when what it did elicit was reason for fear itself.
Her uncle, the bishop, would have declared him an instrument of the devil. A man willing to lead unsuspecting ladies to the edge of sin but strangely she’d never felt so compelled to transgress. The thought was titillating and she sucked in a breath, annoyed that this buccaneer had caused such consternation after such short acquaintance.
After all, was not one pirate just like the next?
Mary looked down at the insolent drift of his thumb. ‘You will unhand me immediately,’ she intoned in a voice that brooked no argument.
Ramirez’s smile was nine parts charm one part insolence as he slowly—very slowly—ceased the involuntary caress.
‘As you wish,’ he murmured, bowing slightly over her hand, his fingers tracing down the delicate blue veins of her forearm, whispering over the fragile bones of her wrist and the flat of her palm as he released her.
Lady Mary swallowed as the accented English slid velvet gloves over already sensitised skin. ‘I insist that you return me to my uncle forthwith.’
Vasco admired her pluck. The girl, who he knew to be barely out of her teens, may well be staring him straight in the eye but he could smell her fear as only a veteran of a hundred raids on the high seas could.
Lord alone knew what had happened to her in the two days she’d been at the mercy of Juan Del Toro and his ruffians. But something told him this pampered English miss could certainly hold her own.
And virgins fetched a much higher price at the slave markets.
‘As you wish,’ he murmured again.
Mary narrowed her eyes, suspicious of his easy capitulation. ‘You know my uncle? You know who I am?’
He smiled at her. ‘You are Lady Mary Bingham. The bishop commissioned me to...retrieve you.’
For the first time in two days Mary could see an end to the nightmare that had begun with her abduction down by the wharfs a mere forty-eight hours before and she almost sagged to the damp floorboards at his feet. She’d heard her former captives talking about slave markets and had been scared witless.
Alas, falling at the feet of a pirate, whether sanctioned by her uncle or not, wasn’t something a young woman of good breeding did. ‘Thank you,’ she said politely. ‘I am most grateful for your speedy response. Juan Del Toro’s men do not know how to treat a lady.’
‘Do not thank me yet, Lady Bingham.’ He smiled with steel in his lips. ‘There are a lot of miles between here and Plymouth and by the end of it my men may well care less about you being a lady and more about you being a woman.’
Mary raised a haughty eyebrow, hoping it disguised the sudden