Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(19) by Lorraine Heath
He made his way to the quarterdeck. Mouse had cleared away all evidence that she’d been with him for breakfast. The lad was good at keeping things neat and tidy. Tristan wondered if she’d finished eating the orange. He thought he might never taste another without recalling the joy of her laughter as the juice burst forth, surprising her with its abundance.
He leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms over his chest. They had a strong wind filling the sails. They were making good time. England was no longer visible. They would reach the Mediterranean within a few days. He was tempted to cause some damage to the ship that would require they head to the nearest port for repairs. He wanted to walk through foreign cities with her, through crowded streets.
He wanted to wipe away whatever it was that was causing the sadness reflected in her eyes.
She’s missing her fiancé, you dolt.
Not that much if she agreed to give me a kiss.
So much that she was willing to kiss you in order to get to him.
If he were an honorable man, he would take her there without claiming the kiss—all in the name of true love. Mary would expect it of him. Which was the reason he hadn’t told her more about his journey. She wouldn’t approve. Not that he cared for her approval.
He suspected he might be a very different man if he’d not been forced to leave his home, to leave Pembrook . . . to leave England. He grew to manhood very quickly.
He’d tried to return to what had been—to being a lord, to living within Society, among peers. But he didn’t belong there, any more than Rafe did. Sebastian had no choice. He held the title, but Tristan was free to return to the life he loved, to the sea. And he did love it. The smell of the briny water, the rocking of the ship, the tickling of the wind. He enjoyed the camaraderie among his men. He would die for them and yet something was still missing.
He shifted his gaze over to Peterson as he came to stand beside him.
“You’re going to a lot of trouble to get beneath a woman’s skirts,” Peterson said.
“I’m paying you well enough not to complain about it.”
“She’s different. You could hurt her.”
“I’m not going to hurt her.”
“Not intentionally maybe, but it can still happen.”
“When did you become a bloody philosopher?”
“Your mistake in teaching me to read.”
Tristan grinned. He taught any man who wanted to learn. Mouse was his latest pupil, making great progress.
“You know the maid is Johnny’s sister,” Peterson murmured.
“So I discovered this morning.”
“He sent them to you knowing you would protect them.”
“Jack, she’s nobility.”
So was he, but his men didn’t know it. When Sebastian had caught the offered pouch, the clinking of the coins inside had signaled the severing of Tristan’s bloodlines. None of his men knew the truth of his origins. Even when he returned to England and helped establish his older brother’s place in Society, Tristan had kept his two distinct lives separate. With a foot in both worlds, he wondered if he might be in danger of losing his balance.
“Relax, Peterson. I’ve never yet incurred a woman’s wrath.”
“There’s always a first time, Captain.”
She didn’t know why she was nervous. It was after all only dinner. Before she’d gone into mourning, she’d had dinner with all sorts. Royalty even. She’d thought little of it. She could carry her portion of a conversation. She knew how to present herself well.
Dining with a sea captain should be nothing at all. Yet when she was in his company, she couldn’t help but wonder when he would demand payment. She did wish he would do it soon. She didn’t much like debt hanging over her head.
“Did you wish to change your attire?” Martha asked.
Anne glanced over at the open trunk. She’d brought a gown for dining. She wasn’t certain what had prompted her to do so. She’d also packed a lilac gown that had been Walter’s favorite, but she wouldn’t wear it until she was ready to disembark the ship in Scutari.
She shook her head. “No need for anything formal. I’m sure his invitation was a result of politeness.”
“I’ve not noticed him being particularly polite.”
She grinned. “I’m not certain how you can say that when he had one of his men prepare something to settle your stomach.”
“I don’t like the way he looks at you.”
“And how would that be?”
“As though he’s contemplating devouring you.”
“It’s just his way to constantly appear intimidating so he doesn’t have a mutiny on his hands.”
“Know him that well do you?”
Anne placed her hands on her hips. “Your brother recommended him.”
“Yes, and I’m thinking perhaps he’s lost his mind.”
“Don’t be silly. Everyone is polite. No one has done anything untoward.”
A quiet knock on the door ended their conversation. Was it time already? Anne’s heart fairly jumped into her throat.
But when Martha opened the door, it was to find the lad—Mouse—standing there holding a pail.
“Cap’n was thinkin’ ye might want some warm water.”
“Yes, thank you.” Martha reached for it.
He stepped back. “I kin carry it in.”
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