Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(30) by Lorraine Heath
“Oh, my God. I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t reveal that to garner sympathy. Rather I wanted you to know I understand the price your fiancé was willing to pay. I’m certain he would have much preferred staying with you than coming here.”
He could have stayed with her, but he had chosen the army because he was weary of living in his brother’s shadow.
“He was the second son of a nobleman,” she said, shielding her eyes from the sun. “He wanted to make his own way in the world.”
“Which makes him even more worthy of you.”
She couldn’t quite stop the soft smile. Flattering women was simply a natural part of the captain’s charms. She suspected most of the time he probably gave no thought to the compliments he tossed out. She turned and glanced back toward the consecrated ground. “It’s peaceful here, isn’t it?”
“Quite. And he’s with his brothers in arms.”
Yes, he was. Having come here, having seen where he was laid to rest, she thought she might be able to move forward at last.
As soon as they returned to the ship, she indicated that she was ready to leave the harbor. Tristan had not expected the short stay, the hasty departure, but he set his men to the task.
In the days that followed it was like having a wraith floating about the ship. She seldom spoke, never smiled, didn’t laugh. She dined alone. Spent far too much time in her cabin. When she did finally appear on deck, her eyes had a faraway look to them, her mouth downturned. She spoke in a monosyllabic tone that was as flat as the horizon in the distance. Where was a good storm when he needed one, anything to shake her out of her melancholy?
He wanted to give her a kiss that would melt her bones, sear her flesh. She wasn’t betrothed. She wouldn’t suffer guilt or betray anyone. She could enjoy the kiss as much as he intended to, but not when she was engaged in this blasted moping about.
Leaning back against the railing he crossed his arms over his chest and contemplated the full moon. The winds were in their favor. They had no cargo weighing them down. They’d passed through the choppy Strait of Gibraltar. His ship was slicing through the water with ease. His time was running out.
“That look never bodes well.”
Tristan grinned at Peterson as he came to stand beside him.
“What are you scheming now?” his first mate asked.
He studied what he could see of the masts against the star-filled sky. “Considering our passenger.”
“We have two.”
“Yes, but I’m only interested in the one. You’re interested in the other.”
Peterson didn’t bother to argue. He simply grumbled, “She’s a fine lass, but not too keen on a man who’s married to the sea.”
“It’s a rare woman who is.”
“Do you ever think of giving up this life?”
Tristan heard a whale lowing somewhere off in the distance. “When we were in England two years ago, I constantly felt as though I would crawl out of my skin. I’ve been too long on the water, Peterson, to be content on the land.”
He had his swine of an uncle to thank for that. If he hadn’t had to run, he’d be a very different man. He would be a man who visited Rafe’s gaming establishment and enjoyed the vices he could experience there. He would be welcomed at balls. Mothers would want their daughters to catch his fancy rather than shielding them from his sight. He would be proper. He would be tamed.
Having known nothing different, would he be content? The answer mattered little. He was what he was, set in his ways, too old to change. He would never settle into marriage. He would never be embraced by Society.
Once they returned to England, he would never again see Anne.
But they’d struck a bargain. It was past time he collected payment—whether she was ready to give it or not.
Lying in the bed, Anne watched as sunlight filtered in through the mullioned windows. She was sad, remarkably sad. She’d known she’d weep at the cemetery. Had known grief would overcome her, but she’d expected to cry and finally be done with it.
Instead she continued to think about the last time she saw Walter and how awful it had been. The argument, the unkind words, the tempers flaring. Oh, if she could only have that night over—
But she couldn’t. And that’s what hurt the most. She’d made a dreadful mistake and she had no way to right it.
At Martha’s insistence, she finally dragged herself from the bed. Raising her arms, she stretched from one side to the other. “I must have finally become accustomed to being on a ship. I feel as though we’re doing little more than bobbing.”
“We are only bobbing,” Martha said. “When I went to the deck earlier for some fresh air, the sails were down.”
Anne lowered her arms. “Why?”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to take it up with the captain.”
“Is there another storm brewing?”
“Not that I saw.”
Why was he delaying their return to England? She hired him to make a short trip of it. She didn’t want her family worrying about her any longer than necessary.
“Quickly. Help me to dress.”
She had just finished buttoning the final button at her throat, when a knock sounded. She and Martha exchanged quick glances before her maid hastened to the door and opened it.
“May I come in?” the captain asked, and yet the authority in his voice indicated it wasn’t truly a request.
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