Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(18) by Lorraine Heath
The word came out like the crack of a whip.
“My fiancé. It’s the reason he arranged for his earnings to be sent to me. His brother is a marquess, and Walter feared the money would go into the family coffers. He was going to use it as our nest egg.”
“Is that what you were using to finance this voyage?” His voice was a bit more relaxed, but flat, the way the sea looked in the distance, as though nothing at all disturbed for good or ill.
“Yes.” She dared to look back at him. “Why did you agree to take me on the journey for something as paltry as a kiss? I’m sure you’re no stranger to kisses.”
“Kisses and I are well acquainted, and so I know their value. Every woman’s kiss is different. Some lips are chapped, others I could swear had been woven together from threads of silk. Some mouths are dry, others wet. Some women taste of garlic and some”—he touched his fingers to his lips, made a smacking sound before unfurling them like a flower—“are as rich as fine vintage wine. Some women make not a sound as they kiss. Others sigh a sweet melody that teases the ear and remains vibrant in memory long after she is no longer there. A kiss can be all things. It can be profound.” He shrugged. “Or it can be forgettable.”
She couldn’t imagine that a kiss bestowed by him could ever be forgettable. Would he forget hers?
“And if you discover that my kiss isn’t worth the trouble of the voyage?”
“I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of that happening.” With a wide grin he got to his feet, towering over her, and set what remained of the orange on her plate. “I have to check my charts, see to my duties. It’s my hope that you’ll dine with me this evening in my cabin.” He tilted his head slightly. “Your cabin.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Until later then.” He gave a brusque nod and strode away.
She rose and walked to the railing where nothing blocked the breeze from cooling her skin. Walter had kissed her, but she could not remember the flavor or the texture or the warmth of it. One more thing to add to her guilt: she’d not savored every kiss as though it might be their last.
At the bottom of the steps, Tristan nearly ran into her maid. She was carrying a parasol, and a quick glance told him that it was finely made. For her lady, then.
For the first time, he gave the maid a closer inspection. She wasn’t a beauty, not like her mistress, but she possessed a prettiness that he suspected drew attention. And something else about her niggled at his mind. “Have we met before?”
“My brother, John Harper, served under you. He recommended your ship for the journey.”
“And me along with it, I suppose.”
Her blush enhanced the sparkle in her eyes. “He vowed you would not take advantage of my lady.”
“His vow is not mine to keep.”
“But you won’t take advantage, will you?” she asked with a stubborn set to her lips.
“You’re both safe from unwanted advances while aboard my ship.”
She smiled, and he realized she was prettier than he initially thought.
“John’s married now,” she informed him, as though of a sudden they were friends.
“Yes, so he mentioned when he informed me that he would no longer be serving me. Seems his wife wanted to chain him to port.”
“They wanted to be together. I don’t think that’s so awful. He’s happy.”
As well as a marvelous teller of tales with a tendency toward exaggeration. Tristan now had an idea of who might have told Anne that he was a hero. John didn’t believe in allowing facts to ruin a good story.
“He’s employed by a merchant now, has a respectable income, and is quite settled,” Martha continued on.
Tristan fought not to shudder. He hired only unmarried men—not hard to find on the docks. During a storm, he didn’t want a man worrying that he might be leaving behind a widow. Women didn’t understand wanderlust. In his experience, marriage and a life at sea were a volatile combination, leaving everyone unhappy. He certainly intended to never take a wife.
His uncle had forced him to run. No one was ever going to force him into anything again.
When he reached his cabin, the first thing he noticed was that it already smelled of her, of Anne. Lavender and citrus mingling about. Everything was tidy, her trunk closed. He was tempted to riffle through it, see what he could discover about her. It seemed only fair.
Everything about him was visible to her. The books he enjoyed. The sturdy furniture he preferred. The liquor he favored. The wooden chest set he’d carved with his own hands. Even the globe for Rafe that he’d made during his last voyage—a gift he hadn’t yet given to his brother because he wasn’t certain how it would be received. Besides it wasn’t exactly perfectly round. Rather it was a lopsided view of the world that tended to roll until the north and south poles were east and west poles. He needed to make a proper stand for it. He would address that during his next voyage.
He spent an hour attempting to study his charts before returning topside. He wanted to see her again, but according to Jenkins, the breeze proved too much for her parasol. She and her maid had retreated below deck, to the cabin he’d had prepared for the servant. He was disappointed. He should have ensured that she understood she was always welcome in his cabin, even when he was there. He imagined what it would be like to look up from his desk and see her sitting in a chair near one of the windows. Domestic. He shook off the thought. There was no room for domesticity aboard a ship.
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