Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(33) by Lorraine Heath
Gently, he touched her cheek. “What do you see when you look out?”
“So much water.”
“All the way to the horizon and beyond. When a man dies on a ship, he’s given to the sea. Over the years, Anne, I’ve learned that it matters not where a man is buried. It matters only where he is remembered.”
She thought she’d cried her fill in Scutari, but it seemed she had more tears to spill. They rolled over onto her cheeks and he gathered them with his thumbs.
“I would take your pain if I could,” he said in a low rough voice.
When she thought her heart could ache no more, he bent his head and tenderly brushed his lips over hers, before gathering her into his arms and holding her near.
Nothing he might have said or done could have devastated her more. He understood loss, he understood pain, he understood walking away when one dearly wanted to stay.
For the first time in so long, the fractured remnants of her heart felt as though they might finally heal.
Damnation! Through the long nights and days since he met her, when he envisioned claiming his kiss, he certainly had never envisioned it being so uneventful. It was never supposed to offer comfort; it was never supposed to be little more than a brief touch, a quick taste.
Blast it all! It was supposed to be designed to have her gasping and clinging to him. It was supposed to have her begging him to take it further. It was supposed to end with a tumble on his bed.
As he jerked free his unruly cravat to once more begin to properly tie it, he wasn’t certain he’d ever been more disgusted with himself. He couldn’t very well deliver the sort of kiss he’d dreamed of when she was moping about. Hence the journey to the crow’s nest.
But she’d seemed so vulnerable, the pain still in her eyes. Whatever had possessed him to utter such poetic nonsense about where people were buried? If that was not embarrassing enough, he’d dipped his head and grazed his lips over hers as though his body were not in a constant hardened state by the mere thought of her.
Now they were going to have dinner together—their last dinner together—after which he would not be at liberty to claim her mouth as though he owned it, because—dammit all—he’d already claimed the promised kiss!
Not only that. He hadn’t bothered to give her a kiss that any woman in her right mind would want to experience again. There had been no heat, no passion, no swirling of tongues.
Good God, it might as well have not happened.
But it had happened, and she would hold him to it. Debt paid and all that rubbish.
If he wanted another kiss, then he was going to have to well and truly seduce her. Tonight. Because the sails had captured the wind and they were nearer to England’s coast.
Whatever had he been thinking this afternoon? He hadn’t been thinking at all. The woman had the ability to send his thoughts scattering. It was unsettling, this strange influence that she had over him.
His cravat finally to his liking, he grabbed his jacket and slipped it on. He’d bathed and shaved. He hadn’t bothered to cut his hair because he didn’t want to appear totally civilized. He didn’t want her thinking of him as anything other than the sea captain that he was.
He wondered if he sailed by England without delivering her to its shores, if he would rot in hell. Having spent a considerable number of years in that horrendous pit, he supposed he shouldn’t be giving it any thought, and yet he couldn’t quite quell the niggling temptation to keep her with him for a time at least, until he grew tired of her. He always grew tired of women. Never had there been one that he wanted to keep for any length of time. He just hadn’t had his fill of her yet.
Hadn’t even had a proper kiss.
He cursed himself once more, then headed out of Peterson’s cabin and into his own.
If Anne’s experience with Walter had taught her anything at all it was that she was far more likely to regret things she hadn’t done than those she had.
So as she sat there dining on exquisite fare and drinking fine wine, both of which rivaled anything served at her father’s table, she contemplated the regrets that might haunt her where Captain Crimson Jack was concerned. When they arrived at the docks on the morrow, she would disembark from his ship and never see him again—except in her dreams. She was fairly certain he would frequent her there. Much to her chagrin.
She’d not expected to like him, to be drawn to him, to be fascinated by him. She’d not expected to be able to peer beneath his rough exterior and discover a kernel of goodness within him that rivaled that of the most generous lords she’d ever known.
“Where will you go?” she asked. “When next you leave England?”
His plate now empty, he leaned back and swirled the wine in his glass, but his gaze was riveted on her. She was no longer uncomfortable by the intensity of it. Rather she found it oddly soothing, indeed flattering, that he would give so much attention to her as though she were all that mattered in his world. “The Far East most likely. Would you care to come with me?”
Her heart stammered at the improper suggestion, even as a small corner of her mind considered it. What would it be like to be free of all societal constraints? She suspected in time that she’d miss them terribly. It was what she knew, what she understood. “I wasn’t made for this vagabond of a life you lead. Does it not become mundane, traveling about, with no permanence in your life?”
“I have permanence, Princess. The men who serve with me, the sea always around me, and the knowledge that I’ll discover something new on every journey.”
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