Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(24) by Lorraine Heath
Now she and Martha were curled on the bed, taking turns hanging over a bucket, even though neither had anything left to bring up. She tried to console herself that the ship had no doubt been through many storms, that the captain no doubt knew what he was doing. But the fierceness with which the boat lurched was terrifying. Her stomach sank and rose with the swells of the sea. She wanted to die, wished she was dead.
The ship groaned and creaked. How could it withstand the bombardment? What if it didn’t?
She thought she heard a knock. Was it the ship splitting apart? Then it came again and the door opened. The captain stood there with strands of his drenched hair having worked free of his leather thong. He removed his greatcoat and tossed it to the floor where it landed with a wet slap.
“Are we going to sink?” she asked.
“No, we’re through the worst of it.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.” She wanted to tell him that if anything it felt worse, but at that moment her stomach pitched and she grabbed the bucket. Oh, it hurt, it hurt to heave and have nothing come up.
Suddenly he was crouched beside her, rubbing her back. “Easy now,” he cooed, before yelling, “Peterson!”
The large man stepped through the doorway. “Aye, Cap’n?”
“Take the maid to your quarters.”
He leaned over the bed and lifted a feebly protesting Martha as though she were a feather pillow. “Easy, woman. No one’s going to hurt you.”
To Anne’s surprise, Martha sagged against him and began crying.
“I know, I know, girl. It’s frightening, but it’s all over now. You’ll feel right as rain soon enough.”
She was also surprised by the soothing tone of his voice, and she wondered if he’d been watching Martha that afternoon as much as Martha had been watching him. The painful cramps stopped, and she rolled back. “He won’t . . . hurt her, will he?”
“No, but with the bed bolted down and one side up against the wall, it’s too difficult to try to take care of you both here. He’s big, but he’ll be as gentle as a lamb.”
“Gentle has never been my style. I can’t believe you’re still in your blasted corset.”
“I thought we might have to abandon ship.”
“Which is exactly why you should have taken it off.”
“I didn’t want to wash up onshore improperly attired.”
“Sweetheart, we’re so far from any reachable land that you would have been drowned. You wouldn’t have cared.”
She didn’t like his scolding her and was going to explain that Martha had loosened it some, but she was distracted by his fingers rapidly unbuttoning her bodice. She slapped at his hands with what little strength she could muster. “Don’t.”
He’d already completed the task and was working on her corset. She was wearing a chemise beneath it, but still she tried to roll away from him, only he held her in place.
“Don’t be so modest,” he growled. “I’m not looking.”
She relaxed. “Truly?”
“Of course I’m looking. I’m a man, aren’t I?”
She laughed, then groaned as her stomach protested the movement. “You’re so refreshingly honest. I think I may have done some damage here.”
“It’s always harder on your body when your stomach is trying to empty itself and there’s nothing to bring up.”
“Hardly polite conversation.”
“But the truth. You’ll be sore for a couple of days.”
If she survived. At that moment she couldn’t quite believe that was a possibility. Her corset loosened, he removed it with an efficiency that she would have protested if it didn’t feel so lovely not to be confined. He dragged the gown and petticoats down her legs and whipped a blanket over her before she could complain about the precarious immodesty of her position. Through half-lowered lids she watched him making his way around the room, but couldn’t quite find the strength to ask him what he was doing. The ship was still bucking. How did he maintain his balance so easily?
She imagined him moving about a dance floor with the same grace. He would be poetry in motion, and the woman held within his arms would be swept away. How could she not? He returned to the bed, sat on its edge.
“Face the wall,” he ordered.
He held up a brush. “So I can do something with your hair before it becomes a tangled rat’s nest.”
“I can sit up.” She was halfway to her goal when the room swirled around her and her stomach roiled. She fell back and rolled to her side, wishing the world would stop spinning.
“Ah, Princess, I bruised you when you came up on deck.”
She felt his callused fingers skimming over her upper arm so lightly, as though he was afraid of hurting her again.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have treated you so roughly. Forgive me.” He brushed his lips over her discoloring flesh, and in spite of her misery, she felt pleasurable tingles all the way down to her toes.
And disappointment. A kiss. The time of his choosing. She opened her mouth—
“That does not qualify as a kiss,” he said in a low purr.
She released a small laugh. “I could argue that, but I won’t.”
She felt a tug here, a gentle pull there as he began removing the few pins that remained in her hair. It tumbled down and he gathered it up. She thought she heard him mumble, “Glorious.” But how could anyone consider anything about her glorious at that moment? She was a miserable, tired, aching wretch.
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