Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(8) by Lorraine Heath
And here she was thinking about him again, the blackguard. He’d begun invading her dreams, her waking moments. She still seemed incapable of reading a book and absorbing the story. She would find herself drifting off with thoughts of him. She didn’t think of the old sea captain or the scarred one or the toothless one she’d approach about passage. She didn’t even think of the fair handsome one who had sat with a buxom redhead on his lap during their meeting. He had a boisterous laugh and a ready smile, but it wasn’t him she thought of. It was the captain with icy blue eyes that seemed to melt the longer they spoke. The one who made her wonder what it would feel like to trail her fingers over that unshaven jaw.
Walter had never been in her presence with stubble shadowing his face. All of his buttons were always properly done up. Not a single strand of his wheat-golden hair was ever out of place. The two men were complete opposites. The captain was not the sort to appeal to her in the least, so why did he plague her so?
She had no answer to that question as the carriage drew to a halt outside the manor. Suddenly she was incredibly weary. It seemed she only managed to attain any sort of energy when she was facing an encounter with Crimson Jack.
A footman handed her down from the carriage and she trudged up the stone steps, each one more laborious to reach than the one before. Once inside she felt the oppressive weight of despair. She would talk with her father. She didn’t want to enter the London Season. Not this year. Perhaps next.
“Martha, please give me a half hour or so of solitude and then bring me some warm milk with cocoa,” she ordered.
Grabbing the banister, Anne dragged herself up the stairs. The melancholy could overtake her without warning or invitation. It just seemed to slam into her of its own will. She didn’t like it, she didn’t want it. She needed Walter to conquer it. Her father didn’t understand that. He’d never needed anyone, not even her mother. Theirs had been an arranged marriage. They’d been content, but when her mother had passed away from influenza three years ago, her father had carried on.
Anne wanted to be that strong, but it seemed love made her weak, left her floundering when the one who held her affections departed this world.
She walked down the long hallway toward the corner room that was hers. Lamps were lit, but no sounds greeted her. Not a snore or a bed creaking or whispers. They were out, her brothers. Her father as well, no doubt. Why did men have places to go at night and women didn’t?
Going into her bedchamber, she closed the door behind her. After removing her pelisse and tossing it on a nearby chair, she began tugging off her gloves, refusing to remember how lovely it had felt as the captain had removed one. Fortunately she owned several pairs, but still she didn’t like that she had left one behind. When she was done she tossed them onto her pelisse and strolled to her mahogany wardrobe. The door released a quick snick as she opened it and reached into the back for the brandy she’d pilfered from her father’s collection. She knew ladies didn’t drink spirits, but she’d been so cold after Walter’s death that she’d been desperate for warmth. She’d found it one night in her father’s liquor cabinet.
She set a snifter on her vanity and poured herself a generous portion.
“I’ll join you.”
With a startled gasp she spun around, the decanter slipping from her fingers. It didn’t hit the floor and shatter into a thousand shards because Crimson Jack was close enough to snag it on its journey to extinction. Breathing harshly, she stared at him. “What are you doing here?”
Leaning slightly past her, he set the decanter on the vanity. Then he held up a hand before her face. Over it was draped her glove, the one she’d left at the tavern that awful night, the one he’d removed with such care.
“I came to return your glove.”
“How did you get in here?”
His gaze wandered over her features and she suddenly felt bared to his inspection. She desperately wanted to step back but she didn’t want him to view her as a coward.
“A tree grows outside your window. For a man accustomed to climbing sail rigging during a storm, a few branches offer no challenge.”
“If I were to scream, my father and brothers—”
“Are at their clubs. I doubt they’ll hear you.”
“By the time they arrive, I’ll be gone.”
“Which is exactly what I want. Step back.”
With a slight bow he did as she asked. She could breathe a little easier now that she wasn’t inhaling his fragrance. Strangely his scent was sharp and clean. Tangy. Like an orange.
“You should not be here,” she said, wondering if she should in fact scream, not certain why she hadn’t as of yet.
“I do a good many things that I shouldn’t.”
He held up her glove again and she snatched it from him. “Thank you. You can be on your way now.”
“I thought to discuss your journey to Scutari.”
“As I shan’t be hiring you, I see no need.”
“You won’t find a captain willing to take you.”
She angled her head haughtily. “Not even for five hundred pounds?”
Seeing a momentary flicker of admiration, she knew she’d gained the upper hand. The next captain she approached—
“Not even for five thousand,” he said.
Oh, now would be a very good time to yank out his hair. Instead, she heard herself ask, “Why?”
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