Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(9) by Lorraine Heath
“I told you. I want you on my ship.”
“Yes, and in your bed, I’m bloody well sure. Well it won’t happen. Ever. You disgust me with your suggestion that I barter away to you the one thing I hold dear.”
“Your fiancé doesn’t hold that place?”
The crack of her palm hitting his cheek echoed around them. He hadn’t tried to stop her, although after seeing the speed with which he’d caught the brandy, she was fairly certain he could have. His reflexes were sharp and quick. So why did he just stand there and take it? Why didn’t he step away or grab her wrist or shove her aside?
She stumbled back until she hit the wardrobe. “Please go.”
She hated the pleading rasp of her voice. But he was right. Walter should have been more dear than her virginity. He’d wanted it, the night before he left, and she’d been too damned proper to give it to him. Now she would never know his touch—and worse, he died never knowing hers.
The captain just stood there, studying her as though he could decipher every thought that rampaged through her mind. She hated him at that moment, hated him desperately.
She straightened her shoulders. “I’m calling the servants now.”
Tossing the glove onto the vanity, spinning on her heel, she headed for the door.
She spun back around to face him. “Pardon?”
“A kiss. That’s what I want you to barter for passage on my ship.”
“A kiss? That’s all? A kiss?” Surely she’d misunderstood.
Slowly he prowled over the thick carpet, silent as a wraith, until he was standing before her, his gaze smoldering as it dipped to her lips briefly. Then he was looking into her eyes, holding her captive as easily as if he’d bounded her with silk.
“A long, slow, leisurely kiss,” he whispered in a velvety smooth voice that sent a shiver of something that resembled pleasure scurrying along her spine. She suddenly felt so remarkably alive, so engaged. “On my ship, the moment of my choosing. If you draw back, then I get another until I am the one who ends it.”
“A . . . kiss,” she repeated. “That can’t be all you want.”
“No, it’s not all I want, but it’s what I’ll be content to take. Anything more, you must be willing to give.”
She shook her head. “You speak flattering words, designed to lure me, but I know you expect me in your bed.”
He touched his finger to her lips. “No. I expect nothing more than a kiss.”
“So why not take it now? Be done with the bargain?”
“Because I want to torment you as you do me.”
She couldn’t miss the hint of glee that jumped through her at his admission. “I torment you?”
“From the moment you walked through the door of the tavern on that stormy night. I don’t know why. I only know that you do.”
“Because you can’t have me.”
She shook her head. “How do I know that once aboard your ship, you won’t force me?”
“Bring your lady’s maid, bring a dozen. In spite of my behavior, I assure you that when it comes to the ladies, I’m a man of honor. I could have stopped you from slapping me. I didn’t, because I deserved it. The words were uncalled for.” He shifted and suddenly a shining dagger was in her field of vision. “Carry this with you. If you decide it should be plunged into my heart, I won’t stop you.”
“That’s easy enough for you to say now.”
“A kiss, Princess, that’s all I require to take you to your fiancé in Scutari.”
She was probably a fool to trust him, and yet—
“When would we leave?” she asked.
“When would you like to?”
“It shall be done.”
If he’d given her a cocky smile, a triumphant sneer, she would have left him waiting on the docks. Instead he merely extended a slip of paper toward her. “Instructions for locating my ship at the wharves.”
“You were rather confident that I would accept your terms.”
“Not at all, but I believe in being prepared.” He turned and in long strides headed for the window.
He stopped and glanced back over his shoulder at her.
“You could use the front door,” she told him.
He grinned, a devastatingly sensual grin that brought out the glimmer in his eyes. “Where’s the challenge in that?”
Then he was out the window.
She scurried over to it, leaned out, and watched as he scampered down the towering oak like a monkey she’d observed at the zoological gardens.
She heard a knock on her door and glanced over her shoulder to see Martha bringing in her warm cocoa.
“Is everything all right, my lady?” the maid asked, and Anne wondered what her face must show.
Perhaps a hint of excitement, of anticipation.
“Begin packing our things, Martha. We’re going to Scutari.”
The following evening Tristan stood outside Easton House, his older brother’s residence. He didn’t have time for such nonsense. He had a ship to ready. But after visiting with Anne the night before, he’d gone to the docks to alert his men they’d be setting sail at midnight tonight. Upon arriving at his ship he’d found a note from Sebastian, inviting—a polite word for commanding—Tristan to join his family for dinner. Obviously going to see Rafe had been a mistake. His younger brother had no doubt alerted the older of Tristan’s presence in London.
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