Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(34) by Lorraine Heath
“Even this one?”
His eyes never leaving her, he took a slow sip of wine before saying, “Especially this one.”
She was incredibly tempted to ask him exactly what he’d discovered. But that was only her vanity nudging her. They’d formed an odd bond of intimacy that she couldn’t deny. It was something else that she’d not expected to happen.
“A bit scandalous not to have your maid in here watching over you, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Her clacking needles were about to get on my last nerve,” she said. A partial truth. Dare she voice the real reason she was alone with him?
He chuckled low. “Especially when they speed up in disapproval.”
“Yes.” She felt the heat suffuse her face. Martha would most certainly disapprove of the journey her thoughts were now taking because they led to the captain not leaving these quarters until the sun rose. “I’ve—” She cleared her throat. “I’ve instructed her to stay in your first mate’s empty cabin for the night.”
“Have you now?”
She nodded, her throat threatening to knot up. “I think she rather likes him. Your first mate. Mr. Peterson.”
“He’s quite smitten with her.”
“Is he?” She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. “How lovely for her. I suppose. It would be a rather lonely life, though, wouldn’t it? With him at sea?”
Before he could answer, a knock at the door had her nearly leaping out of her skin. She didn’t know why she was so skittish. Perhaps because her not having Martha in attendance had little to do with her irritating knitting needles and more to do with the fact that she was seriously contemplating giving him far more than a kiss.
She wanted to announce that she trusted him, but all she trusted him to do was misbehave. She was counting on it, in fact. It was as though she had changed on this journey, had become as liberated as his ship. It had the power to carry them anywhere, to reveal sights never before seen. It tempted her—he tempted her—to do her own exploring. What would she discover of him . . . and herself? Did she want to know? Or did she wish to remain forever naive?
They said that ignorance was bliss, but she was learning that it was little more than irritating. Better to know than to forever wonder.
With the lithe movements to which she’d grown accustomed, he got up from the table and opened the door. Mouse and Jenkins skittered in and cleared away the dishes. When the door closed on their retreating forms, she found herself standing, not certain what she should do next.
He was leaning against the wall, studying her, his arms crossed over his chest. Had she really considered that he could pass for a gentleman? His attire was well tailored, fit him to perfection. She suspected he’d paid a pretty penny for it. But still, beneath it hovered an untamed element, like the tempest that rose up unexpectedly. His life was coarse and harsh, had shaped him into the fascinating creature that he was. But just as his ship didn’t stay at port long, she suspected he wasn’t one to stay in her life for more than a short period.
They would never have more than this time together. And it was quickly drawing to a close.
“Can I interest you in a bit of after-dinner brandy?” he asked.
She nodded, grateful for something to do with her hands as the silly things wanted to reach out and touch him, skim over his chest, his shoulders, his back. “Yes, please, thank you.”
He prowled to the corner cabinet where he kept his spirits. She watched as he poured liberal amounts of brandy into two snifters before bringing them over to where she stood like a blasted mast. Whatever was wrong with her?
She took the glass he offered and he clinked his against hers. “To the end of a successful voyage.”
“Is it something to celebrate?”
“Was there any chance we wouldn’t?”
“There’s always a chance, Princess. We can’t control the seas.”
Or our own destinies, for that matter, it seems.
She took a healthy sip, savoring the flavor, felt the familiar burn as the liquid went down but the vapors wafted through her nostrils, stinging. She smiled.
“What’s so amusing?” he asked.
“I was recalling the first time I sipped brandy, after pilfering it from my father’s cabinet. I went into a wretched coughing fit. My worst fear was that he would hear me, come to investigate, and discover what I was about.” Not daring to look at him, she tapped her finger against the glass. “I always strive to be so damned proper.”
“You say that as though you’re not quite pleased with that aspect of your character.”
She lifted her gaze to his. Why was it that he seemed to know her so well? She swallowed hard. “I believe there are times when one shouldn’t be quite so proper.”
“Like when climbing a mast for example?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
“I was quite daring, wasn’t I? And the reward—the view from atop the ship—was so very worth it.” She took a deep breath. “You claimed your kiss there.”
He released a long suffering sigh. “Yes, I did, didn’t I?” He then proceeded to finish off his brandy.
She followed suit, and this time, it felt as though the vapors invaded her brain. She felt lightheaded and bold. “It wasn’t as you promised.”
He arched a brow. “Oh?”
“You said it would be slow, leisurely, and long. It was none of those things. Quite honestly, Captain, I’m not certain you’ve been fully paid for your troubles.”
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