Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(14) by Lorraine Heath
“Yet you didn’t try to convince me to hold off for a better time. Why ever not?”
“Because, Princess, I’m not certain you’ve been quite honest with me, and you required a midnight departure for a reason.”
He was studying her with such concentration that she was surprised her heart still managed to beat. “I’ve never lied to you.”
“That doesn’t mean you’ve been completely honest.”
She could say the same about him. She’d nearly spun on her heel and headed in the other direction when she’d watched him swagger down the gangway. His face no longer sported a shadow of stubble. She’d thought him handsome before, but cleanly shaven he was devastating. His hair was pulled back, tied in place with leather, and she dearly wanted to set it free. The light breeze billowed his loose white shirt, somehow making him appear more masculine.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d looked at the male form and appreciated it. Not since Walter had left. To gaze upon any man with even a hint of lust would have been betrayal to her betrothed. She couldn’t claim what she felt now was lust, but it was definitely awareness. Acute awareness that was unsettling in its intensity. Her stomach quivered, and she had a strong urge to sit. Instead, she stood her ground. “As you so succinctly said, I don’t know you well enough to tell you everything. But I swear to you that there is no danger.”
“Pity. I thrive on danger.”
“Yes, I quite imagine you do.”
They were moving farther from the docks. More shadows were weaving among them and fog swirled about, challenging the ship’s lanterns to hold it at bay. Water slapped against the hull. A peacefulness claimed the night. She wasn’t certain how much he contributed to her serenity. Somehow she knew he had the strength and skills to protect her from any peril that might come their way.
She heard flapping and glanced back to see a sail unfurl. Soon the ship was gliding faster. Closing her eyes, she leaned into the wind.
“I’m all right, Martha.”
“Do you swim?” he asked.
“No, but I suspect you do. And you’d jump in to save me, wouldn’t you?”
“If the price was right.”
Opening her eyes, she looked over at him. He was smiling at her as though he enjoyed the movement of the ship as much as she did. “I don’t think you’re quite the mercenary you claim to be.”
“I never do anything without payment.”
“But if I drown, you won’t get that kiss, will you?”
“Perhaps I should go ahead and take it.”
Her mouth went dry. She’d known he’d want it of course, that he would exact payment from her. She simply hadn’t expected it to be so soon. “I’d like to see my cabin now.”
“As you wish.”
Once again he offered her his arm, and while she wanted to ignore it, she wasn’t quite certain she could move about the rocking ship without tumbling. Just as before, she acknowledged the strength in his arm, the sturdiness of his movements. He had no trouble at all making his way about the ship.
She tried to think of something to say, something to ease the tension that was suddenly mounting. She knew where he was taking her and she didn’t want to think about it. He wouldn’t be sleeping there, but he once had. She would lie in the bed where he had lain.
But her mind would bring forth nothing inconsequential to utter as the enormity of this undertaking was settling around her. Her father would have her head if he knew what she was about. Fortunately, the coach driver and the footman had sworn not to reveal the name of the ship she’d boarded. Not that she thought her father could catch up with them.
They took the stairs down a level from the main deck. The captain opened a door. She took a deep breath to still her thundering heart as she stepped through into the small quarters. Two pieces of furniture dominated the space. His bed. She wasn’t surprised it was large. A man of his height and breadth would require a generous area in which to move about as he slept.
The other massive piece was a desk. Behind it were shelves. Books were lined perfectly along them. Dickens. Cooper. Shelley.
Martha joined her, and only then did he step inside. The room seemed to shrink with his presence.
“You read,” she said inanely.
“Boredom can easily find a home on a ship.”
“Yes, I can imagine.” Only she couldn’t. She’d thought he’d have little time for her, that he’d be steering the vessel, but obviously he had others to handle such matters.
“The room next to this one is where my first mate sleeps. It’s available to your maid.”
Anne spun around to face him. “There was no need to go to such bother. I’d planned on her staying with me.”
His eyes glittered. “If you wish.”
He gave a curt nod. “Is there anything else you need before I leave you to your dreams?”
She nodded, swallowed hard. “Martha, leave us for a moment.”
Martha opened her mouth, and Anne gave her a pointed glare. She’d tolerate no mutiny. Martha snapped her mouth closed and walked toward the hallway.
“Shut the door after you.”
She slammed it.
“She doesn’t approve of this journey,” he said.
“She’s just protective.” Removing her pelisse, she set it carefully over the desk. She met and held his gaze. “I thought you might like your payment before we’re too far out to sea.”
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