Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(23) by Lorraine Heath
Why was he allowing his thoughts to travel down such wicked paths that resulted in little more than pure torture? He couldn’t remember the last time he had a woman. He’d quickly grown bored with the ones in London two years ago. During his travels since, none had managed to entice him. He would think he’d become a eunuch if he didn’t react so strongly to Anne’s presence. What was it about her that called to him?
After the brief flirting on the deck, he’d been content to simply hold her in his arms. He wondered if she was aware of the sigh she’d released as she nestled against him. If she hadn’t been wearing a gown with so many layers of skirts and petticoats she’d have realized how very difficult it had been for him not to kiss her then. She’d have been aware of his immense desire.
He wouldn’t be sleeping tonight. Not unless he took a quick dive into the waters to cool his ardor. Not a wise move at night, but then he was beginning to doubt that he was as smart as he’d always thought he was.
When it came to Lady Anne Hayworth, it seemed he had no sense whatsoever.
He ignored her. A new strategy, Anne was fairly certain, he’d adopted, designed to torment and lure at the same time. He would discover she was made of sterner stuff. He had, however, gone to the trouble of having some sort of sheeting suspended so a portion of the quarterdeck was in shade. She and Martha could sit there without having to worry about winds whipping away her parasol. In addition, Martha discovered two wide-brimmed gentlemen’s hats tied to the outside knob on their door that morning. Squinting against the sunlight reflecting off the water, they wore them now as additional protection against the harsher elements. In the distance she could see dolphins frolicking. She found herself wishing she could be so carefree.
She also felt a tad guilty that she was doing little more than enjoying the day while around her the men worked. Some scrubbed the decks, others wove rope, a few scampered up the sail rigging. She suspected if she and Martha weren’t out on the deck that a good many of them would be running about without shirts. As it was a good many buttons were left undone. From what she could see of their skin, the men were dark from the sun beating down on them. Leathery, tough skinned. But not the captain. His flesh was more bronzed than anything. Perfectly shaded.
“How old do you suppose he is?” she asked.
Martha startled and Anne realized she’d been absorbed in watching Mr. Peterson going about his labors. “Who?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Late thirties, early forties, I suppose.”
“So old? No, I think he’s much younger.”
“He has his own ship.”
“Still, I can’t quite picture him not being captain of a ship. I think he would pull at the traces if someone else were holding the reins. I think gaining his own ship would have been a priority for him when he was very young.”
“You seem quite infatuated with him.”
“You must admit he’s a fascinating specimen. He’s nothing at all like the gentlemen I’ve met in ballrooms.” Nothing like Walter, or his brother. Or her brothers for that matter.
“He could bring you a great deal trouble, m’lady.”
Oh, she didn’t half know that. But only if I let him. “Please give me some credit, Martha. I’m not completely without experience when it comes to gentlemen.”
“But they were gentlemen. He’s more scoundrel.”
He was temptation. Anne couldn’t help but think that if the devil wanted to lure women into sacrificing their souls for pleasure, he’d have used the captain as his lure.
“The lords will be glad to have you back in Society,” Martha said.
“Oh, yes, I suppose.” She came with a nice dowry, something the captain certainly didn’t need. “I don’t think ladies should come with a dowry,” she mused. “Makes it difficult to know if the gentleman is choosing the lady or security.”
“Any gentleman would choose you.”
She smiled at her maid’s devotion. “Perhaps.” She pointed toward the horizon. “What do you suppose is going on out there?”
Martha glanced toward the black clouds that seemed to be touching the water. “Oh, I don’t like the look of that.”
“Mr. Peterson!” Anne called. When he glanced over, she said, “What do you make of that darkness in the distance?”
“Storm coming in.”
“Don’t you think someone should make the captain aware of it?”
“He’s aware, m’lady. He’s busy now trying to determine how best to avoid it.”
“Ah, well, then,” she said half to herself, half to Martha, “we’ve nothing to worry about.”
A couple of hours after sunset, the storm caught up with them—or they caught up with it. Anne wasn’t quite certain of the particulars except for the fact that she was exceedingly disappointed in the captain’s navigating skills. When the ship had begun tossing her and Martha about the cabin as though they were ragdolls, they both ran up to the deck and watched in horror as water lashed over the sides.
The captain grabbed her arm in a bruising hold and jerked her about. The fury reflected in his eyes rivaled the storm’s. “Get below and stay there!”
“What about you?”
And he shoved her. Shoved her! Then the bulk that was Peterson was doing the same with Martha and blocking the doorway. “Into your cabin immediately!”
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