Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(16) by Lorraine Heath
Captain Crimson Jack was simply very skilled at setting a woman’s blood to simmering.
After nudging Martha awake, she dressed in the same clothes she’d worn the night before. She’d brought a special dress for her visit to Scutari, and a couple of other dresses to see her through the journey there and back. But she hadn’t set her cap on the captain so it mattered little if he saw her in the same clothes. In fact, it was probably better that she not go to much trouble in preparing for the day. She had no wish for him to think she had the slightest bit of interest in him. The ballrooms of London had no place for men of his roughened ilk.
When Anne was ready, she allowed Martha to return to bed while she ventured out. When she reached the main deck, she squinted at the bright sunlight. She couldn’t recall it ever being so harsh in London. The men were about, all seemingly busy, but they each took a moment to doff their caps if they were wearing one or to touch two fingers to their brows if they weren’t. No one leered, no one made her feel as the captain did—as though he knew exactly what she looked like beneath her skirts.
“Ye’ll find the cap’n up top,” a man said, and she remembered him from last night.
“Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.”
Quietly, she made her way up the stairs. If he was busy, she didn’t wish to disturb him. Nor did she want to startle him, although he didn’t seem a man prone to being caught unaware.
She halted at the top of steps. Leaning back in a chair, with one booted foot propped on the railing, he was meticulously whittling on a small piece of wood. A lad, whom she judged to be around five and ten or so in years, sat cross-legged on the floor, hunched over a book, reading aloud. He stuttered out the more difficult words and when it was clear that he could go no further, the captain provided the answer. She wondered if he’d memorized the story that she soon recognized: A Christmas Carol.
She didn’t realize she made a sound, but the captain looked back over his shoulder before leisurely straightening and coming to his feet. The boy ceased his reading.
“Lady Anne, I trust you slept well,” the captain said.
“You have a most comfortable bed.” She wished she hadn’t mentioned that particular bit of furniture when he gave her a once-over as though he could clearly imagine her tangled in those sheets. “I fear, however, that my maid is feeling a bit queasy this morning.”
“Hopefully it’ll pass once she gets her sea legs beneath her. Are you hungry?”
He grinned. “The sea air can do that. Mouse, fetch her breakfast.”
“Aye aye, Cap’n.” The lad carefully set the book on a small table as though it were the greatest of treasures before scampering with a noticeable limp past her.
She eased nearer to the towering man with the powerful shoulders. “He’s a cripple.”
“Hardly,” he bit out sharply. “His leg’s merely bent, but I suspect he can climb rigging faster than you.”
“Yes, of course. I meant no insult.”
He indicated a chair on the opposite side of the table from his.
“In a moment,” she said before walking to the railing, turning, and leaning against it. Her breath caught at the white cliffs in the distance. “What a magnificent sight. I thought we’d be beyond view of it by now.”
“The fog required slower travel.”
The breeze was again toying with his shirt and the same three buttons were undone. She didn’t know whether to button them so he’d looked more proper or loosen the ones that were fastened so he’d appear less proper. Why did she care at all about the state of his buttons?
To hide the weakness that had suddenly settled in her legs, she took the chair he offered earlier. Her knees became jelly because she was on the water, not because of him. Like Martha, she’d yet to gain her sea legs.
“Why Mouse?” she asked. “The lad. Why did his parents name him Mouse? Have you any idea?”
“I’ve no idea what they named him. But we found him hiding in the hold, quiet as a mouse. The name stuck.”
“He’s a stowaway then?”
“In a manner of speaking. Now he’s part of my crew.”
“His job is to read to you?”
He grinned. “Among other things.”
The boy returned with a tray that was far more appetizing than she’d expected. Eggs, ham, bread, oranges, and a lovely pot of tea. Once he set the tray before her, he disappeared without the captain giving any orders, and she suspected the captain had already discussed the matter of privacy with Mouse before she ever woke up.
“Will you be sharing the meal with me?” she asked, because she couldn’t possibly eat the entire abundance of offerings.
“I’ve already eaten.”
She settled the napkin on her lap. She couldn’t deny that something was very appealing about sitting out here enjoying her breakfast. “Must you watch? Your intense perusal threatens to upset my digestion.”
“It’s difficult to look away from something so lovely.”
“False flattery, Captain, will get you nowhere.”
“I have no need to use false words.” Still, he did return to his whittling while she slathered butter on her bread.
“You’d not struck me as a man who would apply knife to wood,” she said.
“As I mentioned last night, boredom can easily overtake one on a ship. We have days, weeks, months of nothing punctuated, with a few seconds of excitement now and then. Idle hands and all that. Although I can think of more pleasurable ways to use my hands.”
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