Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(27) by Lorraine Heath
Leaning forward, he brushed back some wayward strands that he’d failed to secure in the braid. “You should sleep now, Princess.”
“So should you.” She furrowed her brow. “Where do you sleep . . . since I have your room?”
“In the room next door or in a hammock on the berth deck.” He cradled her chin, his thumb stroking her cheek.
“Doesn’t sound comfortable.”
“You should have taken my two hundred pounds to make it worth your while.”
“It’s worth my while.”
He sounded as though he meant the words. How could a kiss make up for all the discomforts he endured?
“Are you going to kiss me now?”
“Not when you’re too weak to return the kiss with enthusiasm.”
“You seem to have a rather high opinion of your kissing talents. I might not have any enthusiasm for it at all.”
Such an arrogant cad, she thought dreamily as she fought to keep her eyes open. “I thought we were going to die tonight,” she whispered.
“I would never have allowed that to happen.”
He said it with such confidence, as though he commanded the sea. She trusted him, believed in his skills, and had to reluctantly admit that she even liked him. “You had a rough night of it, didn’t you?”
“You must be exhausted.”
He shouldn’t have a hammock tonight. He should have his bed. Only she was in it. She certainly didn’t want a hammock. “You could sleep here . . . on top of the covers,” she hastily added.
His response was a tender smile that caused her heart to flip. She didn’t remember moving, but between one blink and the next, the cabin was in darkness, she was on her side, and he was spooned around her. In the vaguest corners of her mind, she thought she should stiffen, elbow him in the ribs, or shove him away with a reprimand of, “Not so close.”
Instead, she snuggled more securely against him, his soft moan wafting around her as she sank into the land of dreams.
With her body pressed against his, she felt better than he’d anticipated. Even with clothing and blankets separating them, he couldn’t recall ever being quite so aroused with so little effort. Especially as his body felt as though it had been transformed into an anchor and was dragging him down.
He’d spoken true. He was exhausted. Beyond measure. He wasn’t certain that he could have made his way out of his quarters to a hammock below. In all likelihood, he’d have been able to do little more than slide out of the chair and land in an unconscious heap on the floor.
The weariness had slammed into him the moment he’d finished braiding her hair, the moment he’d realized that her bout of sickness had passed. The moment he’d acknowledged to himself that she would survive, that she would recover. Until then, he’d been so focused on seeing to her needs that he’d had no time to consider his own.
He’d never been selfish when it came to women. He’d always put their pleasures first, but he’d never been quite so consumed with a female to the degree that he was when he was around her. Pain, aches, weariness ceased to exist for him until she was clearly out of harm’s way.
It was a strange . . . thing. He didn’t quite understand it.
But he did understand that being this near to her was dangerous. Very, very dangerous.
From the moment he’d seen her, he’d wanted her beneath him, his body pounding into hers with a fierceness that would cause the ship to rock on still waters. But with her in his arms now, he feared he’d not be content with having her only once. He would want her again. When they returned to England.
He wished he could work up the energy to skim his fingers along her cheek, down her neck, across her shoulders. When he woke up with her, he might very well be unable to resist the lure of a kiss—but he would have to remain strong, stronger than he’d ever been.
Because he just realized with startling clarity that he couldn’t kiss her before they arrived at Scutari. No, he would have to wait until afterward, until they were nearer to England.
Her fiancé would no doubt kiss her when he saw her, kiss her when he said good-bye, and his mouth on hers would wash away anything that remained of the kiss she would share with Tristan. Therefore, it stood to reason that he would have to remain in purgatory a bit longer.
Because when they arrived at England’s shores and she walked away from him, he wanted his kiss to be the last upon her lips.
It was a bittersweet awakening for Anne. The captain was gone, so she was spared the uncomfortable awareness of being in his arms. She ignored the disappointment that struck her because he had taken his leave so quietly, so unobtrusively.
Which left her to deal with the guilt and the immense longing to have such a memory of being held through the night with Walter. He’d wanted it, had asked for it, and she’d denied him. Of course, what he wanted involved more than simply holding her. But she now had an inkling of how lovely it might have been. It was no longer just a wispy imagining. She knew the feel of a man’s body pressed against her, the warmth, the scent. She knew the sound of his breathing luring her as though it were a lullaby.
She was beginning to regret that she’d decided to take this sojourn, but it was far too late to turn back.
Stepping onto the deck, a much recovered Martha at her side, Anne shielded her gaze from the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the blue water. After what they endured several hours before, she expected to encounter some remnants of a storm, but instead all appeared as though it had never been. Men were working. The breeze toyed playfully with the sails.
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