Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(38) by Lorraine Heath
She twisted around, clutching the sheet with one hand to her breast, doing an incredibly lousy job of covering herself because one nipple was playing peek-a-boo and distracting him.
“A proper lady says no,” she continued. “I wanted this”—she jerked her hand back and forth between him and her—“to mean nothing. But it’s so intimate, so personal. I wanted proof that what I had denied him was of no consequence. But it wasn’t. It’s important. It’s larger, more than I expected it to be. He must have died hating me for denying him this.”
“No.” He cradled her cheek, urged her down until her head was nestled in the nook of his shoulder. “I can assure you that he did not hate you.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because you are the sort of woman a man could never hate.”
He had expected her to be stiff in his arms, but as always she melted into him. He wasn’t accustomed to talking afterward. Generally he would simply go to sleep, but something was to be said for lying here in the lethargy of lovemaking—even if the conversation revolved around another man, one he was coming to loathe.
“You should know, Anne, that a man will always strive to get a woman into his bed. It’s our nature. Even when he expects the lady to say no, he will still try to convince her otherwise. He may be disappointed if the lady turns him down, his pride may sting, but he won’t hate her. If anything, it was his pride talking that night. Not his heart.”
She tightened her arms around him, and he felt warm tears trickle onto his chest. “Yet, here I am with you, someone I don’t love. Being intimate.”
“It’s easier if you don’t love the person. If you make a mess of it you can just walk away. Besides, we’re not in Society. Out here there are few rules. Who is to care what we do?”
“And you’re safe, I suppose,” she said quietly. “I’ll never see you again. I can pretend this didn’t happen.”
Could she? Could he mean so little to her? And why did he care if he meant nothing at all to her? What did it matter if he was simply an itch that she had a need to scratch? How many women had he left in ports throughout the world and never given another thought to them?
Why was he certain that he would not so easily forget her? The one woman he should forget.
He became aware of her soft, even breathing. Gently he slid out from beneath her and covered her with the blankets. He’d never had a woman sprawled in the bed on his ship. Now he would always see her there.
After drawing on his trousers and a shirt, he slipped silently out of his quarters. The ship creaked and rocked, and he found comfort in the familiar sounds as he made his way to the quarterdeck. Gripping the railing, he stared out at the vast expanse of black sea and star-blanketed sky. He remembered the first time he’d done so. How small and insignificant it had made him feel. How frightened. He hadn’t known then what awaited him. He’d never felt so alone or betrayed. All he’d thought about was making his uncle pay for sending him into hell.
In time he’d conquered his terror, mastered the hell to such an extent that he couldn’t envision leaving it. He was a ship’s captain. Traveling the world was what he knew. In spite of what he and his brothers had accomplished two years ago, he couldn’t imagine giving up his roving life, his ship, his unencumbered existence.
He didn’t know why his thoughts were trudging along this path.
Perhaps because she had not wanted him per se; she had simply wanted the sensations. He thought of all the women he’d taken to his bed over the years—for pleasure’s sake. Had they left his bed feeling as . . . used, as dissatisfied? Were they as he was now: wanting more?
Why? Why did what he shared with Anne suddenly seem as though it wasn’t enough?
“Tristan,” he said quietly, so quietly he wasn’t certain she heard. She stepped nearer until he could feel the warmth emanating from her body, could smell the lavender and citrus scent that was such a part of her, but layered now within it was the fragrance of their lovemaking.
“Pardon?” she asked softly.
“My name is Tristan. Jack is simply . . . a name I use on the sea.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her wrap her hands around the railing. After all they’d shared, he should place his arm around her, but that somehow seemed far too intimate, more so than what had transpired in his cabin. He was floundering here, like a fish tossed onto the sandy shore. He didn’t like it, wasn’t certain how to regain his footing, because everything seemed to be shifting beneath him.
“Why? Why do you use a different name?”
“I lied,” he forced out, repeating the simple words that she’d used earlier, “when I said I went to sea for adventure. I went to sea because someone was desperate to kill me.”
“Dear God, why?”
“It doesn’t matter. That part of my life—” He tightened his own hold on the railing. How could it not matter when it had shaped him into the man he was? He didn’t want it to matter; he didn’t want to consider that in some perverted way his uncle had won. “—is unimportant.”
Her delicate hand crept slowly across until it was resting on his. He wanted to fling it away. He didn’t want comfort. He hadn’t had comfort in years, fourteen to be exact. Half his life he’d lived without tenderness or care. It unmanned him. His eyes burned. Damned salty air. Or maybe it was the breeze causing his eyes to water. But it wasn’t her. He wouldn’t allow it to be her.
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