Ilsa took a deep breath and held out her hand. “If you’ll give me that, I had better get back.”
A corner of his mouth lifted in half-smile as he tucked the necklace into a pocket of his wet breeches. “Since you don’t do well at following orders, Mademoiselle, I shall keep it until we’re safely back on my ship.”
She tried not to dwell on how those wet pants clung to him and outlined his muscular thighs. The very few men—boys really—that her overly-protective father had allowed to court her hadn’t looked like this. She had the strangest urge to want to feel the muscles of his broad chest and shoulders. The priest would surely have her doing penance if he knew! She swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. “Once you’re on board and I’m on shore, how will you return it?”
“Because,” he said as the quirk became a full-fledged grin, “you’re coming with us.”
“I most certainly am not! I may have lost my parents. I’m not about to lose my virtue too.” Her mother—equally protective—had been quite firm that a girl should be a virgin when she married.
He raised a dark eyebrow. “I’ll take care of your virtue.”
She felt her cheeks warm. “I’m sure you will.” She was two-and-twenty years old; she’d heard stories of what pirates did to women. One of her mother’s fears, once they’d reached the warm Caribbean waters, was being boarded by pirates.
“Women are bad luck on board,” Louis interrupted. “Let her go.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” he answered. “That Indian thinks she is a devil-spirit because of her picture. He’ll be back with others of his tribe to kill her. The monks wouldn’t stand a chance in defense.” He turned to her. “You wouldn’t want to be responsible for a massacre, would you, Mademoiselle?”
With a sinking feeling, she knew he was right. The missionaries had only begun to gain the trust of the Carancahua. She straightened her shoulders and looked into his eyes. “My name is Ilsa Drescher. If I am to be your…guest…I will be protected?”