Her lovely face flushed at his disparagement. "I have given you no reason to be cruel."
"Perhaps I am always cruel," he jeered, his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her upper arms. "You know nothing of the man I am."
Her chin lifted, her eyes sparked with anger. "Unhand me, Phoenix. Now."
He pulled her closer. "What would you know of rebellion?" he growled. "You, the dutiful daughter, marrying a man sight unseen to please your father. I'd wager you've never rebelled in your life!"
"I have!" she yelled, shaking with fury. Her lips, red and moist, parted with her rapid breathing.
He arched a disbelieving brow, his entire body hard with anger and fierce desire. "When?"
"Right now." And then she yanked his head down and mashed her lips to his.
He wasn't kissing her back.
Olivia noted that fact immediately, but her stubbornness would not allow her to desist, even though her pride begged her to cease her foolishness.
"Kiss me, damn you!"
He'd caused this fever in her blood with his half-dressed state and fierce eyes. Phoenix was driving her mad, drawing her to him while pushing her away.
"Don't swear!" he muttered.
And then his arms came around her, and his mouth moved hungrily over her own. His tongue swept across her lips, teasing, urging. He tasted like brandy and wicked things, and her core throbbed in response. Her lips parted in a breathless gasp, and he took the invitation to slip inside. His tongue sought out hers, brushed across it and under it, finding sensitive nerve endings and stroking them with velvety licks.
Oh. Dear. Heaven. The man knew how to kiss. Her toes were curling in her slippers.
Angry and possessive, hungry and bold, Phoenix took over her senses with blatant skill. Unable to resist, she surged into him, wanting more. More of him.
"Steady," he murmured, securing her body against his strength, his large hand moving to her neck and tucking her head into the crook of his shoulder, keeping her still for the ravishment of his mouth.
Olivia moaned when his other hand slipped beneath his shirt and found the curve of her breast, wrapping around the underside, testing its weight. His thumb caressed in gentle strokes, teasing her. Over and over Phoenix circled the straining peak, causing sparks of pleasure to radiate outward and down to the place between her legs.
Oh, why wouldn't he touch her where she ached?
"Touch me." She grabbed his wrist and thrust her hardened nipple into his palm. "Here." She moaned as her body melted. "Oh, God, . . . touch me everywhere."
"Olivia." His kiss lost its faint trace of gentleness. He devoured her, his tongue thrusting rhythmically into her mouth, his fingers plucking and twisting, pulling on her nipple, until she wept from her core. Olivia ached all over. Her skin was too tight, too hot. She wanted to rip her clothes from her body and press her nakedness to his. Instead she caressed his skin, squeezing the bone and sinew beneath, relishing the way his body shuddered against hers.
Lord, he smelled heavenly, like the wind and the sea, passion and pure male. When the knock came at the door, she didn't even register it until Phoenix pulled away.
"What is it?" he called hoarsely, one hand still working at her breast while the other pressed her heated face into his throat.
"Captain, we're 'aving problems wiv the other crew," Will bellowed through the closed portal.
Phoenix growled his frustration. "I'll be on deck in a moment."
Heavy footsteps moved away from the door.
"No . . ." she protested, lost in the scent of his skin, the warmth of his touch, the taste of his mouth. She would give anything for a respite from the madness that claimed her and knew instinctively that he was the cure.
He pressed a quick, hard kiss to her lips. "I must go, sweeting, while I'm still able."
"No." She tugged his neck toward her open mouth, and at first he resisted, then he crushed her against him, tight enough to feel the heat and hardness of his desire through her skirts. Olivia kissed him desperately, wantonly, hoping to make him as mindless with need as she was.
Phoenix thrust her away with a curse. "You're flirting with the devil," he bit out. "Cease, before you get burned."
She winced as the door slammed shut behind him.
Olivia wasn't certain how much time had passed, but the sun had moved steadily across the sky and she knew the day was close to ending. The wind had picked up, pushing a welcome breeze into the cabin, cooling the air and her blood. Mortified by remembrances of her earlier behavior, her face heated and she squirmed in her seat.
What in God's name was the matter with her? She'd never in her life kissed a man, let alone touched him or begged him to touch her. And Captain Phoenix of all people! A man reputed to be as dangerous and deadly as a viper. Why didn't she fear him? Why did she wish to bare herself to his gaze and open her body to whatever he desired?
A knock sounded, and she moved quickly to the desk, collecting the pistol. "Yes?" she shouted, her heart racing. Had Phoenix returned?
The door opened. "'Tis Maggie, milady," her abigail called.
Olivia released a sigh of mixed relief and disappointment. The young servant entered, followed by three sailors. Two of the men hefted yokes with steaming buckets, and the third held her small hip bath. They poured the hot water and then brought in her trunks. Shooting wary glances at the pistol, the pirates departed the room with haste, and Maggie shut the door behind them.
"Are you well?" Olivia asked with concern, wondering how the young girl had fared in the company of Phoenix's men.
"Um?" Maggie hummed distractedly as she stepped over to Olivia's trunks and began to sort through her clothing. "Oh, yes. Quite well. His lordship made certain of it."
The abigail came to her and easily tugged the huge shirt over her head. When the sleeve caught on the gun, Olivia set the weapon on a trunk and laid the shirt next to it. She missed the garment immediately, infused as it was with the scent of Phoenix's skin.
Maggie began to loosen the fastenings to her gown. Looking over her shoulder, Olivia asked, "What if he should return?"
The maid chuckled. "Little chance of that happening. He's fixing the main mast."
"What?" Olivia shot a worried glance out the window. The wind continued to pick up speed. "Why didn't he delegate the task?"
"He said it was too dangerous with the wind blowing like it is."
"Good God!" Olivia headed toward the door. He could be killed. And for some odd reason, she couldn't bear to think of it.
"Milady! You cannot go out there now. Your gown . . ."
Olivia clutched her bodice and ran from the room. When she gained the deck, she looked up at the sky in horror. Still bare-chested, Phoenix clung to the mast, his powerful muscles bunched with exertion, his silky hair blown loose from its queue and whipping around his face. From her vantage, his large form seemed tiny, and yet he appeared at home in the turbulence. His movements were sure and efficient as he struggled against the gales, no fear evident in the expertise of his actions. In fact, no one around her seemed even remotely fearful. Her heart, however, beat a panicked rhythm, ready to burst from her chest.
She sensed the large presence that moved up to her side, and turned to look at the red-haired man she'd nearly shot earlier.
"Ye shouldn't be up 'ere on the deck," he grumbled. "The men can't 'elp but ogle ye, and the captain won't be liking that at all."
"I tried to tell her," Maggie muttered as she came up behind them.
"What the devil is he doing?" Olivia cried, loose hair from her plait blowing around her face until she could barely see. "Can't the repair wait until the wind dies down?"
Red shrugged. "Surely. But 'e was already up there, so 'e might as well finish."
As the wind whipped by again, she returned her gaze to Phoenix. She screamed as he lost his grip and was blown free, his body dangling precariously by the rigging. He was suspended there as the wind flew by, and then his hold began to slip. Unable to watch, Olivia turned to Red and buried her face in his chest, her fists clutching handfuls of his filthy shirt. No one could long survive being battered against the mast like a flag.
"Damned stupid fool!" she cried into the pirate's chest as the men on deck scrambled into action.
It was unreasonable, this horrid fear that clawed at her vitals and tortured her mind. Phoenix was a stranger of only hours' acquaintance. But they'd been intimate. He'd touched her in ways she'd never touched herself. He'd made her feel reckless and wild. She'd felt alive-
Warm hands gripped her shoulders and turned her, pressing her face into salt-flavored bare skin. "Hush, love," Phoenix's deep voice purred in her ear, his warm breath fanning across her neck, his hair blowing around them.
Olivia sank into him with relief. Her fingers clawed at his back, pulling him closer. "You bloody idiot!" she scolded.
He chuckled. "Don't swear, sweetheart. I'm fine."
She pulled back and slapped his chest with a smack that tingled her palm. "You won't be when I've finished with you! Are you daft? What were you doing up there in weather such as this?"
It was then that she saw his arm, bleeding and chafed raw from the coarse rope that had saved his life. "Oh . . . look at your arm." Her hands went to the injury, and her eyes flew up to his.
"It's nothing," he said dismissively, absently rubbing the spot where she'd hit him.
Maggie leaned over. "I can make my grandmother's healing tea. It'll take a bit to cook up, but it works miracles."
"Yes, do that." Olivia returned her gaze to Phoenix as the abigail moved away. "I have some salve to put on this. Return to the cabin and allow me to tend it."
The blue of his eyes darkened. "I suppose you'll insist, and threaten me with some weapon or another."
"If I have to."
He offered a mocking half-bow. "After you."
Clutching her bodice, Olivia hurried down to the cabin, willing her heartbeat to slow. Her entire face was marked with his scent. Salty and spicy, it was a richly masculine smell of hardworking male and pure Phoenix. Every breath she took was redolent of the faint traces of his cologne and his unique fragrance.
She threw open the door and rushed to the smallest of her trunks, all the while agonizingly aware of his presence behind her. Delving around, Olivia found the small jar of medicinal salve and straightened, turning to face her pirate captor. He stood just inside the closed doorway, watching her intently, his hands fisted at his sides. The room drew in, shrinking, until there was nothing but Phoenix and her and the powerful attraction between them.
"Come closer," she urged.
His brows drew together as his gaze dropped. Olivia followed it, catching sight of her gaping bodice offering him an unhindered view of her breasts. She hastily covered herself, embarrassment heating her cheeks. His face was hard, his body as still as stone, a statue of a god rendered in flesh and bone.
Turning her back to him, she set the salve jar atop her trunk and retrieved the shirt he had given her earlier. "If you rub that into your-"
She stumbled into silence when he appeared at her side.
How a man as large as Phoenix could move with such stealth she couldn't fathom. He stood behind her, so close she could feel the heat of his skin and the warmth of his breath as it gusted across her shoulder in unsteady measure. He tugged the shirt from her hands and tossed it away. Wordlessly, he reached for the jar and opened it, scooping up a small amount of the salve. Olivia watched unmoving, arrested by his proximity, as he set the jar aside and picked up her hands. He began to rub the salve into her chafed wrists, his touch strong yet gentle and soothing. The moan that rose in her throat escaped without thought.
"You like my touch," he whispered hoarsely, "don't you?"
Helplessly, she lifted her face and stared into his eyes. She swallowed hard. "It burns."
Phoenix nodded, his gaze knowing. "Offer me your mouth." Although his voice was soft, there was no mistaking the command.
Caught in his spell, Olivia's lips parted as his head dropped to hers. At the first contact, her knees went weak. She would have fallen if he hadn't drawn her close. Her senses flooded with his taste, her body softening instinctively for his. His head slanted, finding the perfect fit, and his tortured groan made her dizzy.
Arms around her waist, Phoenix lifted her feet from the floor and carried her to the small corner table. He kicked the chair aside and laid her on the polished surface. Following her down, his mouth never left hers, his tongue sweeping inside with caressing licks.
He gripped the torn edges of her gown, and with a harsh, impatient tug, he ripped the garment and the chemise below it to the waist. His hands went immediately to her aching breasts, plucking the tips, twisting them, the way he must have sensed she desired. Her sex flooded with moisture. He was ravishing her, pillaging and plundering, and it was just what she wanted him to do, what she'd wanted him to do since he'd first come onto her ship.
Olivia moaned into his mouth. "What are you doing to me?"
"What are you doing to me?" he retorted harshly. "Only hours I've known you, and already you drive me to madness." He nuzzled her throat, then blazed a burning trail of open mouthed kisses to her breasts. "I want to devour you, fill you with my cock, ruin you."
"Phoenix . . . " She shied away from the tumultuous sensations that were entirely new to her, but she could not escape him. The pirate held her pinned, his hard body pressed between her spread legs. He sucked a straining nipple into his hungry mouth, the combined effect of his tongue strokes and the rhythmic pulling causing her to grip his hair convulsively. Unable to help herself, Olivia arched upward and rubbed herself against the straining length of his erection. Pleasure speared through her, hot and searing. Stunned, she sank back onto the table.