Sebastian Blake gripped his knife with white-knuckled force and kept his face impassive. If the beauty in front of him were to be believed, he’d stolen his own bride. He watched as her chin lifted with defiance and her dark eyes met his without fear. She was tall and slender, with blonde curls tumbling down from a once-stylish arrangement.
Her lovely watered-silk dress was torn at the shoulder, revealing a tempting display of creamy breast. A sooty handprint marred her flesh, and unable to help himself, Sebastian reached out and rubbed the offending mark away with gentle strokes of his thumb. She stiffened, and lifted her bound hands to knock his away. He met her gaze and held it.
Tell me your name again, he murmured, his hand tingling just from that simple contact with her satin skin. She licked her bottom lip, and his blood heated further. My name is Olivia Merrick, Countess of Merrick. My husband is Sebastian Blake, Earl of Merrick and future Marquess of Dunsmore. He lifted her hands and stared at her ring finger, noting his crest etched in the simple gold band she wore
His chest expanded on a deep breath. “I remind you that we are in the West Indies, Lady Merrick. It is impossible that you were married only a fortnight ago. Your husband would not be able to await you in England if that were true. She was silent behind him, and finally he turned to face her again. It was a mistake to have done so. Her beauty hit him with the force of a fist in his gut.
Would you care to explain? he prodded, relieved he sounded so unaffected. For the first time, her bravado left her, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. We were married by proxy,” she confessed. “But I assure you, he will pay whatever ransom you desire despite the unusual circumstances of our marriage.” Sebastian moved toward her.
His calloused fingers caressed the elegant curve of her cheekbone and entwined in her hair. Her breath caught, and her lips parted in response to his gentle touch. “I’m certain he would pay a king’s ransom for beauty such as yours.
She’d watched, fascinated, as he’d swept onto her ship and took command of it within moments. Phoenix had executed the attack with brilliant precision—not one man was seriously injured, and no one had been killed. Having spent most of her childhood on her father’s ships, Olivia recognized skill when she saw it.
The way he’d used his sword and barked commands, the way loose tendrils of his hair had blown across his face, the way his breeches had delineated every stretch of his muscular thighs—she’d never experienced anything so thrilling. So exciting. Until he’d touched her
Then she’d discovered what excitement truly was. Now she watched, mouth agape, as his long, elegant fingers went to the open collar of his shirt and plucked at the laces. Phoenix tugged the billowing linen from his breeches and drew it over his head.