She could only deliver her heart to a man like that.
Even if Tristan wasnât facing the gallows, he wasnât the one she needed. His skin was warm against hers but what of it. He was handsome as the devil, yet there was the rub, because he was also brutal, violent, taking what he wanted. His mouth on hers was something she refused to consider, though she could hardly forget how heâd spoken calmly when sheâd railed. She insulted and he smiled. He claimed she wanted the same as him. Diana did not. She wanted to be home. She needed to be free.
Her eyes flew open. A sound or voice had awakened her. Reclined on her side, she faced away from the door. An oil lamp had gone out, telling her sheâd slept far too long, recklessly too.
Oh my God. Peter.
Diana rolled onto her back but didnât check his mattress, knowing he wasnât there or in the cabin.
Tristan was. His long legs, muscular calves, and thighs blocked her view of the door. Heâd placed his precious book on the table. The volume was safe. She was not.
Before she could push to a sitting position or think to fight, he straddled her, his hands circling her wrists, holding her arms to each side. His touch didnât harm, at least not yet.
Her heart pounded.
He offered a smile.
How dare he be so smug. âRelease me at once.â
He tightened his grip slightly and studied her mouth, then her eyes. âViolet.â Awe flooded his face. âI wondered about your eye color but never expected this.â
She pushed and writhed but did no good against his strength. Breathless, she stopped. âWhat have you done with Peter?â
Tristan stared at her eyes. âAmazing color, quite beautiful. Fits your dark hair and pale skin perfectly.â
She rammed her thighs into him.
He held her more firmly. âStop that.â
âNot until you tell me what youâve done with my brother.â She slammed into him.
He scooted down and trapped her legs. âPeterâs on the main deck with the other men.â
âHeâs a child and proved it by helping you escape.â
âThis wasnât his doing, and youâve no reason to fear for his safety. I have James, my quartermaster, looking after him.â
âA bloody pirate, you mean. The same as you. Perhaps even worse than you.â
âNo. James is a good man.â A haunted look touched Tristanâs features before he shook off whatever had troubled him and became casual. âHe saved my life. Heâll take great care to watch your brother.â
She wanted to retort but couldnât reconcile her indignation with Tristanâs previous anguish and the mean scratches sheâd left on his cheek. Dried blood had gone black, the surrounding skin swollen and red. âWhat do you mean he saved your life?â
âJust that, ask no more for Iâll give you no other answer.â
âThe only thing I want from you is my freedom.â
He stroked her wrists. âYou want the same as me.â
She pushed against him, straining with the effort.
He tightened his grip, proving she wasnât a match for his strength. If he chose to take her now, sheâd have no choice except to allow him what he willed.
She didnât beg. Wouldnât. Not to him or any man, including Bishop. They could conquer her body but not her spirit, never her heart. Reconciled to her fate, she grew limp as she could, pulse racing. âTake what youâve come for and be quick about it.â
âI shanât be quick, Diana. With you, Iâll never be quick.â
Heat stung her face and throat. âYou wonât be the last, either.â
His gray eyes darkened as storm clouds do, danger building in them. âWhat do you mean?â
âWhen youâre finished with me, I go to the man to whom I truly belong. Nothing will change that no matter how long you intend to take raping me.â
Despite her harsh words, he didnât flinch or frown.
âWho is this man with whom youâd willingly lie?â
âWillingly?â She laughed. âYou believe Iâve chosen him any more than Iâve chosen you? The fact is youâve driven me to him.â
âWhat do you mean? Who is he? Tell me.â
She turned her face away.
Tristan brushed his lips over her cheek and buried his face in her hair.
Her scalp tingled. She could scarcely draw enough air to speak. âI said, be quick about it.â
He took his time, his lips soft and warm against her temple and ear, breath heated and sweet.
She tensed even more, determined to resist.
âWhy do you fight me when you want this as much as I do?â He kissed her jaw.
Pleasure rushed through her, delight making her come alive as she never had, the feelings new, troubling, far too exciting. Her lids slid down.
âTell me who the man is.â
Tristanâs scent surrounded her, surprisingly clean, tinged with musk.
âTell me, Diana.â
He suckled her neck.
She trembled, an unfamiliar ache building between her legs, tension mounting within her. Flustered, she fought his hold and failed, growing weak from his imposing size. However, she refused to surrender, wanting him to know what heâd done to her. âHeâs a wealthy merchant who agreed to help me find Peter if I promised to become his mistress, which I shall.â
âNever.â His breath skipped over her skin. âNo one will have you but me.â
She fumed, her previous weakness gone. âYouâll take me. Youâll never have me.â
âNor will the wealthy merchant. He owns this ship? Is his name Benedict Bishop?â
Tristan kept surprising her, giving her no defense. She pushed against him.
He eased back. âIs that the merchantâs name?â
âYes. Heâs the man to whom I belong.â
âNot any longer.â