Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(39) by Lorraine Heath
If not for his uncle, he might have grown into a man who would be worthy of Anne. He’d have been embraced by Society, instead of perceived as a pariah. He might have met her at a ball before she’d come to love her fiancé. He might have been the young lord she’d denied, although for the life of him he couldn’t imagine that he’d not have enticed her into his bed. From the moment he’d spied her, he’d wanted her too desperately.
“Why Crimson Jack?” she asked.
He swallowed hard. He didn’t want to tell her and yet he seemed incapable of holding in the words. “The captain named me Jack. He knew I was running from someone. At first I was angry, wanted to smash something. Got into a fight with one of the mates. Roughed him up good. Captain said I had to apologize. I wouldn’t. They took the lash to me. Still wouldn’t apologize. I was a bloody mess when I finally lost consciousness.”
He heard her tiny cry of dismay, knew if he looked he’d see tears in her eyes. So he didn’t look. It was easier not to feel anything.
“Yeah. After that I was known as Crimson Jack and no one wanted to risk upsetting me.”
She squeezed his hand. “I hate that they hurt you so badly.”
He didn’t want her sympathy. It made him feel weak, not quite the man he knew himself to be.
“It all worked out satisfactorily in the end.” He turned to face her. Her hair was loose, flying in the wind. The moon was full, and her features were limned by its pale glow. Touching her cheek, he felt the dampness of her cooling tears. “But what am I to do about you?”
She smiled sweetly. “Remember me, perhaps.” Her inflection was that of a question, doubt, insecurity.
“That I most certainly will do.”
He captured her mouth, relishing the taste and feel of her. That she scared the bloody hell out of him was something to be dealt with another day, another night. For now, he was greedy for whatever more she would give him. He would leave her in port. He would watch her march away, disappear into the fog-enshrouded shadows—
He would be left behind, but this time it was what he wanted. He wanted to sail the seas. He wanted to command his ship, his men. He wanted only memories of her.
She would waltz in ballrooms, walk through parks, and flirt with gentlemen. She would be sought-after, desired. She would have a husband and children. She would possess everything that he had no aspirations to own.
So it was with a measure of regret for what he could not give her that he swept her into his arms and returned to his bed for what he could bestow on her.
Tristan, Tristan, Tristan.
She murmured his name as she nibbled on his neck and ear while he carried her to his cabin as though she weighed little more than a cloud hovering on the distant horizon. How strange that she had never thought he looked like a Jack to her, had never called to him by what she thought his name was until after they’d made love.
And only then to discover that his true name was Tristan. It suited him. Jack was too common. But Tristan belonged with the dashing sea captain.
He shouldered his way into his quarters and kicked the door closed without releasing his hold on her. He set her on her feet near the bed. She quickly undid the buttons on her gown and let it slide down her body. It was all she’d bothered to put on before seeking him out on deck.
She saw his eyes darken with appreciation just before he dragged his shirt over his head. He unfastened his trousers and dropped them. Would she ever tire of the sight of him straining with desire for her?
When he made a move to come in for another kiss, she stayed him with a hand on his chest. “Not yet.”
She knew once he claimed her mouth again, she would be lost to the sensations and would allow him to steer the pleasure. “I want a moment at the helm.”
He flashed a purely masculine predatory grin. “By all means.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw it dim when she eased behind him.
“Shh, Tristan.” She studied the crisscross of lines marring his back. “How many? How many lashes?”
“The first time or the second?”
His voice held no emotion. He might as well have been asking if she preferred marmalade or jam. “It happened more than once?”
“I had a lot of anger in me.”
She trailed her finger over the longest, thickest welt. Crimson Jack. Covered in blood. “How old were you?”
“Princess, this is hardly conversation that will lead to seduction.”
She felt him tense beneath her touch, heard him swallow.
She slammed her eyes closed. She hoped she’d been wrong. That he’d been a man better able to withstand the pain and humiliation of it. She pressed her lips to the center of his back, for the boy he’d been, the man he was.
“Is he still alive . . . the man who did this to you?”
“Yes. A captain called Marlow. Our paths cross from time to time.”
“I hope you beat him.”
“I never blamed him. He needed order on his ship and I was of a mind to create havoc. The one I blame is the man who wanted me gone. He’s now dead.”
“No more than I.”
He twisted around, cradled her face with his palms, and gathered her tears with his thumbs. Only then did she realize that she was crying. “Don’t weep, sweetheart. As I’ve told you before: it was a long time ago. I never think of it.”
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