Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(7) by Lorraine Heath
He fought not to show surprise that she’d managed to uncover that little fact.
She took a step nearer, gripped the back of the chair in her gloved hands, and leaned forward, confusion marring her brow. “Why? Why would you seek to undermine my efforts? Why would you care?”
“Because I want you on my ship.” Damnation. He’d meant to toy with her a bit longer, like reeling in a fish. His bitter confession was prompted by her eyes. The sorrow there that he didn’t understand, the pain that he wanted to ease.
“But you won’t take my money.”
“You want me to give you something else.”
“I know exactly what you want and you shall never have it.”
He tilted his head slightly. “Careful, Princess. That sounded like a challenge. And I’ve never walked away from a challenge . . . or lost one.”
“Rot in hell.”
She spun on her heel and stormed from the tavern with the magnificence of the fiercest tempest he’d ever encountered. Dear God, he should accept her offer, take her money, anything to have her on his ship. Once on the sea, she couldn’t walk away.
Once on the sea, he would have her.
Anne was furious, so furious that she could pull out her hair. No, no, that would not do at all. It was ridiculous to cause harm to herself. She was angry enough to yank out his hair. That’s what she should have done: simply reached across the table and jerked out a clump of those long ebony strands. That would show him that she was not a lady to be trifled with.
“I don’t understand,” Martha murmured meekly as though she feared Anne would turn her fury on her. “My brother speaks so highly of the captain—”
“Yes, well, how he treats his men is quite obviously very different from the manner in which he treats ladies.” But why? To ensure captains wouldn’t accept her offer, why would he pay double what she would pay them? He could have any woman he wanted, of that she was certain. Why her? Why did he want her on his ship? So he could lift her skirts? He’d damned well discover that where she was concerned, they’d be made of lead. “Tell your brother to find me one more captain. I shall offer to pay him five hundred pounds.”
“My lady,” Martha gasped. “This goes too far.”
Anne didn’t bother to inform Martha that she’d overstepped her bounds. They’d been together too long for her to chastise the maid, especially when she knew she was right. “We’ll see how Captain Crimson Jack likes paying a thousand.”
Martha reached across and took her hand. “Talk to your father again, explain why you need to make this journey. Surely he’ll arrange it.”
“It will take longer to journey on someone else’s schedule.”
“Not that much longer.”
She released a defeated sigh. “No, not that much longer. I’m being stubborn, I know.” But this captain had made her angry, and to go by other means now would make her feel as though he’d somehow won.
“It would be safer,” Martha added.
Would it? A woman traveling alone with only her maid? She might run across someone she knew and tongues might wag. She didn’t want anyone to know. That was the thing of it. It was her business and hers alone. “I just want to make this sojourn in my own way.”
“Lord Walter won’t care.”
With the tears stinging her eyes, she said quietly more to the night than to her maid, “No, he won’t.”
Her fury dissipated into sadness. They spoke no more as their carriage journeyed through the fog-shrouded London streets. Dear Walter. She longed to see him once more, to hear his laugh, to have him tease her, to have him hold her in his arms as he swept her over a ballroom floor in time to the music. Ever since he left, she’d avoided the balls, soirees, dinners. She’d devoted her time, along with Florence Nightingale’s sister, to gathering the much-needed supplies for the hospitals in the Crimea. She’d visited the returning soldiers in hospital, bringing them what comfort she could. And then she’d gone into mourning when she received word that Walter had died. Any chance for forgiveness had died with him.
Two years. Two years of being dead as well. Of feeling nothing. Of walking around like a silent wraith. She lost weight. She took joy in so little. Even her favorite pastime of reading brought no pleasure. She would reach the end of the book with no memory of any of the words, of the tale. Yet she had dutifully turned pages, thought she had been concentrating on the task. She forgot things so easily.
Then a month ago her father had barked that she needed to snap out of this melancholy mood, as though she was a pea that could be snapped in half and the shell of her life discarded, while the soul remained. He wanted her to return to Society, to find another husband before she grew much older. She was all of three and twenty. So difficult to look back and realize how very young she’d been when Walter left.
Now she felt so remarkably old.
She knew her father was right. She needed to get on with her life. She knew Walter was not returning home to her, but she wanted the opportunity to say good-bye to him on her schedule, in her way.
Dear Lord, but she missed him. So much. Even after all this time.
She didn’t want to admit that the fury tonight felt good. So good. It had been so long since she’d felt anything other than grief. Well, except for the night when she’d met Crimson Jack and felt a slight stirring of—dare she admit it?—desire. When he removed her glove, when he touched her. Afterward she’d been glad that he declined her offer. She couldn’t imagine being enclosed on a tiny ship with him. Martha would be with her, of course. Perhaps even a second maid. The sensuality that oozed off the man would require an entire army of maids to protect her.
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