Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(32) by Lorraine Heath
“This is only to stop you if you fall,” he said. “They won’t be pulling you up. You’ll be doing that on your own.” He explained the climbing process, showing her notches and handholds.
She did wish that she hadn’t been so prim and proper growing up, that she’d followed after her brothers, racing barefoot across fields and climbing trees. But then, if she hadn’t been so prim and proper, she probably wouldn’t be weighted down with regrets and so she wouldn’t be here now. She would have said yes to Walter when he asked of her what he did. She would have scoffed at Society’s rules as he’d wanted to. Instead, she’d remained steadfast in her determination to hold to the higher ground.
Yet here she was wearing clothing that outlined her form to such a degree that she might as well not be wearing anything at all. Nothing prim or proper in that.
But then who was to see except for the four males in view of her now, Martha, and the occasional porpoise that leapt out of the sea?
At the captain’s urging she pressed against the mast and used his wrists as her handholds. She didn’t know how this would work at all if he wasn’t so much taller than she. He wedged his right foot into a notch, then instructed her to place her foot on his. She did—
The top of his bare foot was warm and soft beneath her sole. It shot sensations through her. Naughty, wicked sensations. She’d never touched a man so intimately. It was unsettling, yet reassuring at the same time. It was marvelous. It was—
“The other.” His silky voice danced around her ear.
“Place your other foot on mine. I’m hanging here, Princess. Can’t hang forever, you know.”
Why not? Why couldn’t she stay here where his nearness distracted her from her misgivings?
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry.” She rose up, placed her foot on his.
“There we go,” he murmured. “Now, just relax and climb with me.”
Relax? With him cocooned around her, with her clinging to him as much as she was to this cylinder of wood?
“If you’re afraid of heights, I’d advise you not to look down,” he added.
She didn’t think she was afraid of heights, but then she’d always looked out through a window. This, she realized as they slowly made their way upward, was a very different kettle of fish.
His foot slipped, she screeched. He snaked an arm around her waist, held her tightly against him, as his other arm wrapped around the mast. She was breathing heavily while he seemed not to be breathing at all.
“I won’t let you fall,” he said quietly.
She nodded jerkily. “Yes, all right.”
“Calm your breathing.”
“How can you not be rattled?”
“Because I’ve done this a thousand times.”
“Taken a woman up to the crow’s nest?”
He had the audacity to laugh. “No, you’re the first. But I’ve climbed often enough that I’m intimate with every knothole. I know the rough grain, where to place my hands and feet for the best purchase. I’ve never fallen, Princess. I’m not about to today. Besides we’re almost there.”
She glanced up at the basket high above her. “I’m not certain you have a clear understanding of the term ‘almost.’ ”
He chuckled low. “Come on, up we go.”
He guided her with gentle murmured words, his hands, and his feet. Before long, she was scrambling over the side of the basket and into the crow’s nest. What surprised her was how small it was, how inconsequential it seemed. Especially when he joined her. She thought that she should have felt as though he were crowding her. Instead, she found that she simply wanted to lean into him.
She also discovered that she wasn’t terribly afraid of heights, especially when such an incredible vista swept out before her. The deep blue water melting into the light blue, billowy white cloud-filled sky.
“Oh,” she said as her breath escaped. “It’s stunning. What is that shadow over there in the distance?”
Her stomach nearly dropped to the deck. “We’re almost home.”
“Tomorrow evening, most like.”
“Tomorrow.” Holed up in her cabin, mourning, filled with sadness, battling regrets, she’d lost track of the time. One day had rolled into the next and she’d not been counting. The purpose of this journey was to prepare her for reentering Society. She would be expected to attend balls, to embrace gentlemen’s advances, to encourage their interest in her. To engage in flirtatious banter. To place herself back on the marriage block. “I don’t know if I’m quite ready.”
“Say the word, Princess, and we’ll sail right on by.”
She tilted back her head to study him. It was a lovely thought, but she couldn’t do that to her family. Become a vagabond, a gypsy. To turn her back on what was good and proper. Regretfully, she shook her head. “No, that would accomplish little except to confirm that I’m a coward.”
“A coward would not have hired me to take her to a place with a past tainted by horror in order that she might say good-bye to someone she cared for.”
“Someone I loved,” she felt a need to point out. But not enough. If she’d loved him enough, she would not now have so many regrets. “I thought it would heal this terrible hole in my heart, and yet at times I still feel as though I’m drowning in the sorrow.” Tears stung her eyes. “I wish I could have brought him home. I hate that he’s there.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online