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This Rebel Heart


  The door swung open. She spun around in surprise and started to topple forward from weakness. Derek Arnhardt stepped up quickly to grab her elbows and steady her. He smiled, his eyes mirroring concern. "So you're awake at last. Here, let me help you back to bed. You're still weak, as you've probably discovered by now, and you've got no business being up and about." She did not protest, but once he had tucked her snugly back into bed, she erupted with questions. "Where am I? This isn't my cabin. How long have I been asleep?" He chuckled softly. "You've been more than asleep. You've had the fever, and quite a case, I'm afraid. You gave us all a fright. The good doctor Jenkins cared for you, along with your mother. Then the two of them were stricken. I decided it best to quarantine that deck, and since there was no one else I could risk having exposed in order to look after you, I had you brought here. This is my cabin." He went on to quickly assure her that her mother had not been quite so sick and didn't need constant care. "When I tell her you're awake and the fever's finally broken, she'll be in to visit. "We were worried for awhile there you might not make it." He winked. "What a pity 'twould have been to dump you overboard to feed the fishes, though I would've envied them such a delectable morsel." It was all coming back to her—that night on deck when Shad Harky attacked her, the scene with Captain Arnhardt when he kissed her. She felt her face flaming with the memory of her aroused passion. But strangely, she felt no animosity toward him now. After all, she supposed he had saved her life. "How long before we get to Bermuda?" she asked, reaching up self-consciously to push at her mussed hair. "I've caused so much trouble on your ship, I suppose you'll be glad to be rid of me." "A few days yet. And yes, it will be a relief to have you and your mother delivered to your destination. By the way, that old colored woman you brought on board with you was taken ill too. I hear she's slowly recovering." Julie nodded. "Thank you for all your help... and concern." "Under different circumstances, I'd be charmed by your company, but you've been a big responsibility. Now then, suppose I have the cook bring in some food. You're probably starving. I wasn't able to get much broth into you." Julie murmured that she would like something to eat, and then she looked at him, really looked at him, and realized he was bare-chested. Never had she seen a man who exuded such strength. Despite her weakness, she had to restrain her desire to reach out and touch that massive, handsome chest. A wave of guilt moved over her as she realized there was a warm tingling in her loins at his nearness. He leaned over her, and for a moment she tensed, sure that he was about to kiss her again. Instead he touched his lips briefly to her forehead, then straightened and said, "Yes, I believe the fever is gone. That's the way my mother always checked to see if I had a fever when I was a child." He smiled slightly. "Your mother..." Julie blurted out. "I've had such a vision of you, Captain, that I never pictured you as a child with a mother, only as a cruel, domineering man filled with bitterness and hate." "Oh, I had a mother, Julie." He raised an eyebrow. "I hope you don't mind the familiarity of me calling you by your first name. After all, while you were delirious, we talked a lot, and whether you know it or not, we've become quite close."  

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