"What are you doing?" Elizabeth asked, her breath hitching.

"What does it feel like, love?" he asked, as he leaned forward and caressed the outside of her thigh over the cotton of her breeches.

"Stop," she said, wishing her voice sounded more certain.

He grasped her hip, easing her down into his lap. The muscles in her thighs and calves tightened, ready to flee.

"Why?" he asked, his voice stirring something in her belly.

"I'm married." She was proud of herself for conjuring that up, as her thoughts were failing her at the moment.

"Wouldn't have a husband if not for me." He raised her wrist to his lips, pressing a kiss to her racing pulse. "Left you trapped like a bird in a cage. Downright grim. So, you ask me what I'm doing?" he mused, kissing up her arm. "I'm investigating me wants, Lizzie."

Elizabeth swallowed thickly. "You knew where to find me."

"I stayed away, since you seemed to want to play house."

He reached the inside of her elbow and his warm kisses in that sensitive spot caused her to suck in her breath.

"Somethings are sacred."

She should tug free her arm, but she had known he would assail her in this manner. She had tried to tell herself that he would not, but known better.

"This isn't the life you planned, and retreat keeps pirates alive. Besides, death do us part. You don't owe him anything."

"I owe him my faithfulness."

"Turner comes back in four years…"

"Five." Counting days was like an opium habit: unhealthy but impossible to set aside.

"Five years," he said, more softly, "and you get your second day with him. Then ten more years." He stroked her hair, "How old will you be then, Lizzie? With an immortal, unchanging husband to greet you on the shore? Time and tide, darlin'…you're bound to change. For the better, as far as I can tell, thus far," he added, leering. "Don't look such a boy in those breeches anymore."

His unabashed assessment caused a pulse in her that was hard not to acknowledge.

"You won't find my aging mortal shell unsettling?" she managed to ask, leveling him with a look.

"Aging mortal shell? That how the whelp sweet talks you?" he frowned.

"You won't always prefer younger specimens?"

"Are you choosin' betwixt us, Lizzie?" he purred.

He slipped his hand up her neck and into her hair, pulling her forehead against his. She pressed her hands flat against his chest. Stiff armed, she gained the guarantee of a safe distance—if his lap could ever be safe.

"You're arrogant."


"I didn't come here to choose."

He ran his thumb along her jaw line. "What did you come for then, love?"

"A friend," she murmured, her lips inches from his.

"I got meself enough friends."

"For acts of piracy."

"We're in port, enjoying the local hospitality," he explained. "Won't be takin' anything that doesn't belong to me without proper invitation, savvy?"

"You're suggesting I throw away everything for a roll in the sheets," she demanded.

"I'm suggesting you give up on the notion that you could be content to spend the rest of your life waiting for a day every ten years." He sounded angry: angry with her or angry with William for expecting it of her.

"There are vows and bonds of affection between Will and me and none between us."

His lips brushed hers, ghosting so lightly that she felt his mustache as much as his lips.

"Plenty of affection, my alluring murderess, but you're married, Lizbeth. I can't be exchangin' vows with you."

Elizabeth choked—a sound something between a laugh and a sob. He frowned when she hiccuped instead of beginning to cry, as he had half expected. He eyed her glazed expression and flushed cheeks. Reaching around her, he grabbed her dark red rum bottle and gave it a shake—empty.

"You're drunk," he said, setting the bottle back down.

"Maybe," she said with a sniff.

"Off to bed." He stood up, setting her on her feet. "All by yer onesies," he amended. He twitched his nose, wishing the wench had left half the bottle undrained. He would not have her blaming the drink. "Off to bed with ye, my liege," he crowed, swatting her on the bottom.

"Go to hell, Jack," she said, tossing her hair as she maneuvered past him.

It was good luck she had not seen fit to connect her palm with his face and that the slammed door alone suffered her stinging wrath.