Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(25) by Lorraine Heath
Then the brush was gliding through her hair and nothing had ever felt so marvelous.
“You’ve done this before,” she murmured.
“Never, actually.” He slid a hand between her head and the pillow, carefully lifted, dragging the brush through the strands, pulling them taut, before lowering her.
“You’re very good.”
“I’m a quick study.”
She was being lured into sensations she wasn’t quite comfortable feeling. They seemed naughty. She should send him away now. Instead, she didn’t want him to ever stop his tender ministrations. She had never expected such care from him. She thought he would be like a tempest: powerful, uncontrollable.
Nothing about this man ever seemed to be as she anticipated.
“Peterson said you were going to go around the storm,” she chided, not quite pleased with herself for making the words seem accusatory.
“We didn’t have enough room to maneuver. We could have possibly outsailed it but I thought it better to continue forward, skirt it as much as possible. It didn’t look too threatening.”
“But it was.”
She glanced back. “You’ve been in worse?”
He grinned. “Much worse. Cape Horn is notoriously treacherous. At least in these waters, we don’t have to deal with icebergs.”
“Does nothing frighten you?”
He grew somber, his gaze gliding over her before he began once again to concentrate on her hair. Knowing that he wasn’t going to give her an answer, she turned her attention back to the wall, studying the knotholes in the wood, relishing the feel of his hands gathering up the silken strands, taming them with the brush. She supposed she should be scandalized to be wearing the barest of undergarments beneath the blanket while a man sat on the bed stroking her hair. If she didn’t feel so awful she would demand he leave. But she did feel awful, except for where he touched her. Why should she not take comfort in that?
He parted her hair and began to plait it.
“You’re really quite nice, aren’t you?” she asked of the wall.
“Because I won’t take advantage of a woman who might heave her stomach contents over me? You don’t have very high standards, Princess.”
Oh, dear God, but she wanted to laugh hard, but she knew her sides and belly would protest, so she settled for a wide smile that he probably couldn’t see. When he was finished with his task, he draped her braid over her shoulder and she fingered the strip of leather that had been holding his hair in place.
With his large warm hand, he began stroking her back.
“I’m feeling somewhat better,” she said. “You don’t have to stay.”
“I’ll stay until you drift off.”
It felt so lovely. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had given her so much attention. That it was him could not have surprised her more. He was a man of varying facets, complex and interesting.
Her eyes grew heavy. She didn’t want to go to sleep, didn’t want to give up the press of his fingers along her spine, the circling of his palm over her shoulders. But the lethargy weighted her down and drew her into oblivion.
“Does nothing frighten you?” she’d asked.
She frightened him, terrified him in fact. When he’d seen her first come to the deck during the storm, terror had ripped through him. She could have tumbled, been hit by a broken mast, washed overboard. Anything could have happened and it had rocked him to his core to consider her gone . . .
Before he acquired his payment. That was what was so troubling about the whole blasted situation. The woman seemed to have no care regarding debts owed. He’d follow her into hell to claim what was due him.
Unfortunately, he suspected she was headed for heaven, which was barred to him.
Rubbing her neck, Tristan listened to her soft breathing. Her arm was bared, and his gut again clenched at the sight of the mottled flesh where he’d grabbed her. She’d have a nasty bruise by tomorrow. If he could only touch it and draw it upon himself, he’d gladly do so. He doubted she’d ever been so brutally handled.
He was truly the barbarian that the Londoners considered him.
He was also—in spite of wearing a coat out into the storm—damp and chilled. If she’d not been drowning in her own misery she might have noticed and insisted he change into dry clothes. Not that he would have with her awake. But with her asleep . . .
He eased his hands away from her. She didn’t stir. As gingerly as possible he rose from the bed and crept to a chair where he removed his boots. Then he grabbed a linen towel and rubbed it briskly over his wet hair, before finger combing the strands back. He was exhausted. Every muscle ached from fighting the storm.
What he truly wanted was to lie in his own bed, curl his arm around her, and sleep the sleep of the dead. But he supposed for tonight it was either the floor here or a hammock in the area where his men slept.
Wearily, he forced himself to his feet and wandered over to the chest where he kept his extra clothes. He dragged his shirt over his head and tossed it aside, before lifting the heavy lid.
“Oh, dear God, whatever did they do to your back?”
He froze, fighting against the need to hide the unsightly latticework of scars that marred his back. He forced a casualness into his voice that he was far from feeling as he grabbed a shirt. “I thought you were asleep.”
“No, only drifting about. Those are lash marks, aren’t they?”
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