Extras: Redeeming the Rogue Deleted Scene #1

Set-up:  Michael Rafferty has kidnapped Lady Arianne as he knows she’d be the perfect person to teach him what he needs to know to impersonate a diplomat.  He’s locked her into his room on the masted schooner.  While he’s provided clothes for her to wear on the trip, they aren’t as nice as the clothes she’s wearing, so she undresses so as to preserve what she has.  Then she explores the cabin looking for something useful and finds Rafferty’s gun.

While Rafferty feels guilty about what he’s done, this was the only way he could think of to force her to marry him and be his hostess.  Rumor has it she’s been ruined anyway, so she may come to look favorably on his actions…eventually. His friend (and stage magician) Phineas suggests Rafferty try kindness to woo her cooperation.   So he does…

Michael leaned against the wall in the narrow hallway outside his cabin and ran a hand around his freshly shaved chin, wondering if she’d notice.  On Phineas’s council, he’d donned an evening vest and his freshly mended frock coat with the intent of wooing the woman who wanted no part of him.  Not that he could blame her.  She was accustomed to a more lavish life than he could offer.  She’d been tricked to make this journey with him, as he was convinced she wouldn’t have chosen to come with a lowly Irish gent she felt was devoid of money and title.  But she would come around, he told himself.  If they could just have a civil conversation, she’d understand the importance of this mission and her vital role in it.  If she would just…

The door slowly opened.  Her swollen red eyelids made his heart clench.  He hadn’t meant to hurt her, not in that way, not in a way that would draw tears.  But then, who could blame her?  He’d closed off her options leaving only one distasteful alternative – him.  Then his gaze shifted and all thoughts of her vulnerability vanished.  The trembling barrel of his own British Bulldog revolver was pointed directly at his chest.

Blasted bleatin’ bloody hell!

He raised a brow, careful to keep anxiety off his face and out of his voice.  “I see you’ve been busy.”

“Turn the boat around.”

“I can’t do that.”  He kept his voice soft and low.  “The Queen has been threatened by the Fenians.  Lord Wessex has been murdered, most likely by the Fenians.  The leaders are in America.”  He held her gaze so she’d recognize his determination.  “I may be just a stubborn Irishman, but I won’t turn back.”

Rafferty studied her face.  Did she realize that he kept the gun loaded for emergencies?  He never considered the revolver would be used on him.  Her knuckles whitened in their tight grasp of a paisley shawl at her chin.  He cocked his head.  “Why do you want to return?  It seems to me the damage has been done.  Do you think London will overlook this brief venture?  Do you think they’ll forget about Vienna, once gossip reaches London?  And most assuredly it will.  Gossip always does.”

“I’m warning you,” she said, her voice quavered much like the revolver barrel.  “Take me back home.”

He stepped forward, forcing her to either step back or push the gun barrel into his brocade vest.  She chose the former.  “No one knows you in America.”  He backed her into the room.  “If you don’t want to marry, we can still pretend to be man and wife.  No one will suspect otherwise.”

The gun wobbled badly.  “Don’t come any closer.  I’ll shoot.” As if to punctuate her intent, she abandoned the deathgrip on the shawl, thus adding a second hand to keeping the barrel aimed straight at his chest.  His face must have betrayed the spark of interest in the expanse of skin exposed as the shawl separated.  Blessed God in Heaven, was she naked underneath?

She gasped and returned the hand to hold the shawl closed.

He smiled.  If she was more concerned with preserving her dignity than placing a hole through his chest, perhaps her intent was not as serious as appearances indicated.

“Do you think I’d be so foolish as to keep a loaded gun in my cabin for anyone to find?”

Doubt slipped across her face.  He chanced another step forward, as proof of his stated conviction.  As the Bulldog’s barrel extended only a few inches, he was close enough to smell her latest floral concoction, this one reminiscent of damp earth.  He fought the distraction, but took a deep breath anyway, drawing her essence into his lungs.

“Patchouli,” he stated, as if they were sharing dinner conversation.  “It reminds me of Ireland.”

She frowned, confused.  Good.  She was distracted.  He dropped his voice to intimate levels. “Did you find the bullets?  Do you know how to load a pistol?”

She gnawed her luscious lower lip.  He held out his hand and whispered.  “Hand me the gun, Arianne.”

They stood in a stalemate.  He with his hand outstretched, she with the gun.  He had to admire her courage.  Phineas was right, damn his eyes, the woman was not afraid to make her own decisions – even if they were the wrong ones.

He noted the moment her attention shifted.  Within seconds he took advantage of the opportunity and grabbed the weapon from her hand.  Only then did he glance toward the floor to see what claimed her notice.  A fat mound of white fur quietly hopped into the cabin.

“It’s a rabbit,” she said, awe in her voice.  “Why is a rabbit hopping about a boat in the middle of the ocean?”

He didn’t bother to correct her.  They had a long trip before them to reach the middle of anything.  “I suspect that’s Phineas’s doing.”  Michael broke the revolver apart, barrel down, to remove five bullets from the cylinder, then placed them in his pocket.  “He likes to practice his magic before the props become Sunday supper.”

Arianne’s eyes widened then narrowed in accusation.  “You lied to me.  That gun was loaded all this time.”

Michael snapped the piece together then slipped it safely his pocket.  He raised his brow.  “And now it’s not.”

Standing so close to her, glancing down at her rising fury, he imagined he could easily taste her lips in a thrice.  ‘Tis a fine line between anger and passion in some women. What about this one? What about the woman they called Cupid’s Mistress?  She hadn’t moved.  Was she wanting more, then?

If she gave some indication that affection would be welcome, he would meet her desire within seconds.  Need burned through him just as a bullet hole surely would have.  He found himself offering silent prayers to Saint Brigid for a sign.  If she touched that sharp little tongue to the corner of her lip as she was want to do, that would be the sign to scoop her into his arms to take to his bed just beyond.  One touch and he would show her a small bit of heaven.  One touch…

He stood so close, locking her in his gaze beneath lowered lids.  His scent surrounded her, mixing with the weak patchouli fragrance of her shawl.  She could feel the heat of him, the power of him, and she felt rather foolish for imagining she could force this man to do anything.  She should step away but she couldn’t will her legs to move.  The prolonged silence made her nervous.  Moisture fled her lips.  Her tongue moved to moisten them when he spoke.

“Are you as hungry as I, my lady?”

There was something in the way he said the word hunger that made her question his meaning.  His gaze roamed over her face, then down to the hand that clasped the shawl.  He was testing her, testing her resolve.  Words bubbled out of her throat, she wasn’t sure how, but even she could hear the tremble in them.

“You ask me to supper after I held a pistol to your chest?”  She clasped the shawl beneath her chin and gazed up at him with uncertainty.

“You didn’t shoot me.”  His brow rose.  “I believe that shows progress.”

Relief pulled tension from her shoulders.  Her eyes closed.  She’d escaped any kind of dire repercussion.  Her lips began to lift in a smile.

“Unless you prefer I take you over my knee and thump that well-rounded derriere for threatening my life with my own gun?”

What!  Her eyes flew open.  He started to unbutton his jacket.

“I hadn’t taken you for one of those women who provoke a man just to feel a firm hand warm their backside.”  He began to pull his jacket off his shoulders.  “But if that’s what you need — ”

She put her hand to his chest, stopping him from disrobing further.  “I..I’m not one of those women.”  She stepped back a few steps.  “I’m genuinely hungry but I fear I’m not appropriately dressed.”

“Are you bare under that shawl, Arianne?”  His gaze raised to the plum bundle on the end of the bed.  “I assure you it will be a private meal.  No one but me in attendance.”

She held his gaze in spite of the heat spreading across her cheeks.  “I still need to change.”

“Perhaps you need my assistance?”  His eyes crinkled.  “I admit I’ve had more experience with the loosening of ties, but if I can be of service –”

“I can manage.” He was teasing her.  She could see it now.  How could she have been such a fool to believe the Irish rogue was serious?  Gratitude that his words about punishment were in jest allowed her to smile.  “But would you allow me a moment of privacy?”

“Yes…of course,” he said, though he didn’t move.  He spotted the white cottontail milling about her legs.  “Do you want to keep the rabbit or should I…”

“The rabbit will be welcome.”  She placed a hand on the brocade of his vest and lightly pressed, suggesting he depart.

He covered her hand with that of his work-hardened own, then gently pressed it tight against his chest.  The movement of her arm increased the gap between the edges of the shawl.  He glanced down toward her chest.  His voice snagged. “I’ll wait.”

She pressed his chest a little harder, hoping he’d understand that she wanted him to leave the room so she could change.  Now that he’d brought up the subject of food, she realized how hungry she was.  He slowly raised his gaze from where it singed the small bit of corset lace visible beneath the shawl, then bent to whisper in her ear, “or did you think I’d allow you to lock the door on me once more?”