Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(21) by Lorraine Heath
“You told me that you found him in the hold. I assumed he was a stowaway. You must have known what I thought.”
He shrugged. “We did find him in the hold, on numerous occasions. He was afraid, so he’d hide down there.”
“He also told me that you blew up the boat that he’d been on. Have you killed many men?”
“None that didn’t deserve it.”
“You lead a rather brutal life.”
“It’s not as brutal as it once was.”
She released a scoff that might have been a laugh. “The first night I met you I thought you were a blackguard. Now I’m not so sure.”
The tempo of the knitting needles was increasing in rhythm. Her maid was obviously not at all pleased with that revelation. Maybe he should see if Peterson or Jenkins had an interest in the woman. It would be nice not to have her constantly hovering. “I explained in the beginning, Princess, that I would never be what you expected.”
She set aside her cutlery. “Why do you call me that?”
“Because when you first walked into that smoke-filled haze of a tavern, I thought you looked like a princess from a fairy tale.”
This time there was no mistaking her laughter or amusement. “Not difficult to accomplish considering the clientele.”
Her cheeks flushed, and he wondered if she might be embarrassed that she was enjoying his company. They spoke of books. She preferred those with a romantic bent to them. When he sneered at the very idea, she challenged him to give Jane Austen a try and had her maid fetch Pride and Prejudice from the trunk.
She told him of growing up with four brothers, of being spoiled, of being thought to be the very princess that he mocked her as being. Sheltered, protected.
“Perhaps that’s the reason that I was so determined to make this journey on my terms—to simply prove that I could do it.”
“I don’t imagine they were too pleased with your plans,” he said.
“Oh, they know nothing about them. I left my father a brief note with no details, so yes, I suspect they are quite beside themselves at this point. I’m on the cusp of three and twenty. I felt the need to be rebellious. A woman should have a moment in her life when she’s rebellious, don’t you think?”
“When it places her on my ship? Absolutely.”
She laughed then, the unselfconscious tinkling that reminded him of the clinking of fine crystal. He couldn’t imagine her ever being boisterous or loud or crude. She was a lady down to her core and this gent to whom she was betrothed was the younger brother of a lord. A man who didn’t shy away from acknowledging his place in Society. Tristan didn’t want to think about the lucky bastard who would have her in his bed, while all Tristan would have of her was a kiss.
He finished off his wine. “Take a walk with me about the deck.”
“Do you ever ask?”
“I suppose I’m accustomed to giving orders. While it might not have sounded like it, it was an invitation. You can refuse.”
“I could use some fresh air.”
The clicking of knitting needles came to a stop as Tristan rose. He pulled out Anne’s chair and whispered near her ear, “I don’t think you really need the chaperone, do you?”
He was aware of a stuttering in her breathing before she said, “Martha, see to tidying up the cabin so that we might retire when I return.”
His heart nearly slammed into his ribs with the vision of him and Anne retiring—
Then fantasy collapsed and reality crashed in as he realized she was speaking about her blasted maid retiring with her. He was a fool. From her, he would only ever get the promised kiss. He was an idiot to consider that she might gift him with anything else.
It was cool on deck, with the wind whipping around them. She hadn’t considered that, hadn’t thought to grab her pelisse before they left the cabin. She was considering returning for it, when he shrugged out of his jacket and placed it on her shoulders. The warmth from his body was lovely as it enveloped her. She drew the jacket closed as they stared out at the inky blackness of the sea.
He stood near enough to provide a partial buffer from the breeze. She would only have to move a hairsbreadth to be nestled up against him. Perhaps she’d had too much wine, because she felt slightly off-balance and was half tempted to lean into him, to let him hold her up.
Instead she gazed up at the twinkling velvety sky. A star arced across it, quickly followed by another. She released a small laugh. “I’m not certain I’ve ever seen stars so clearly before.”
“Because there’s nothing between us and them. No dirty air, no gaslights, no fog.”
“Do you think it fell into the ocean?”
“I’m certain of it. That’s where starfish come from, you know.”
She peered over at him. “That’s a fanciful thought. You don’t strike me as a man who would have them.”
His white smile flashed. “I’ve seen mermaids.”
He tilted his head slightly. “They looked like mermaids. But when they came out of the water they did have two legs instead of a tail.”
“I can’t imagine all the things you’ve seen.”
“None compare to you.”
She laughed. “You are impossible with your flirtation.”
“Why do you not believe me?”
The seriousness of his tone informed her that he was baffled by her reaction, was truly curious regarding her reasoning. “I own a mirror, Captain. Several in fact. My features are not particularly appealing.”
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