Lord of Temptation(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 2)(59) by Lorraine Heath
“That I allow you to win? Play with only half my pieces?”
“I have enough confidence in my skill not to require that of you, but I thought it might prove interesting if when we capture a piece we are granted the privilege of asking something of the other, and then the other would be obliged to comply with the request.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Such as?”
“Well, I might ask you to describe your favorite island.”
“Seems innocent enough.”
“Yes, quite, it will be. It’ll provide an opportunity for us to get to know each other better.”
His gaze leisurely traveled the length of her. “I know you quite well, Princess.”
“My favorite color? My dearest friend?”
“Lilac. Lady Fayrehaven.”
She stared at him open-mouthed. “How—”
“I’m quite observant.”
She desperately wanted to be able to ask questions of him, which meant she needed to entice him into wanting to play by her rules. “Who gave me my first kiss?”
He grinned. “I accept your rule, but I’ll add one of my own—whoever wins may demand a boon of the other.”
The wicked glint in his eyes might have given her pause if she had ever lost to her brothers. She suspected he was going to be quite surprised to discover that she knew her way very well around a chessboard.
“I accept your rule. Wait here. I shall fetch my father’s board and pieces.” She hurried to the door, stopped, and looked back over her shoulder. “I’m so very glad you’re staying.”
“We’ll see if you feel the same once I’ve beaten you”—his gaze slid to her bed—“and claimed my boon, with or without your father down the hall.”
After two seconds of misgivings, she almost tossed a taunt back at him, but decided it would be much more fun to have him learn the hard way that beating her would not come easy, if it came at all.
She set up the chessboard on the carpet in front of the fireplace. While she’d been gone, Tristan had started a small fire to create a cozier atmosphere. Now the flames danced and crackled. She’d doused all the lamps. He suspected their game of chess might turn into a game of seduction, especially if he had his way. He thought she knew him, but if she did she’d have not asked him to stay. He wanted her again; he intended to have her before dawn.
They were three moves in before she took his pawn and rolled it saucily between her fingers. “How did you acquire your ship?”
Not at all what he was expecting. It was a fairly innocent question, and yet he hesitated. He never spoke of his life on the sea, had already revealed far more of it to her than he ever had to anyone else. He studied her for a moment before answering, “I stole it from pirates.”
“Truly?” Her eyes were wide, and for a moment innocent. He wished he’d known her before her life had been touched by sadness. He wished he could play with the earnestness that she desired, but he had little patience for it—perhaps because much of his life had been simply a game. Hide where no one can find you. Be someone that no one will recognize. Bury everything deep, reveal nothing. Be as a phantom.
Through the years, he had created tales about himself. Not that he ever spread them, but he thought if anyone should ever ask . . . and here she was asking. But he couldn’t give her the fictional world of Captain Crimson Jack. So he told her the truth.
“No. I won it playing cards.”
“A man would actually bet his ship on the chance of a random draw being in his favor?”
He shrugged. “He wanted the money that was sitting in the center of the table.”
“Did you cheat?”
“You’ll have to take another piece before I’ll answer that.” He watched the way she scrutinized him, saw the disappointment flicker in her eyes, and knew it had nothing to do with his not answering, but with her accurately deducing the truth. He had cheated, dammit. But then so had the men with whom he’d been playing. The encounter hadn’t been so much about the cards but about how well a man could manipulate them without being caught. As with all things, he was very skilled with manipulation. Hadn’t he gotten her aboard his ship when she had decided she didn’t want to be there?
“You renamed it Revenge.”
She hadn’t asked it as a question, and he was feeling magnanimous so he replied, “Yes.”
Two moves later he captured one of her pawns. “Remove your bodice.”
She narrowed those lovely eyes, pursed those succulent lips that he was aching to kiss. “The rules are that you ask a question—”
“Those are not the terms you laid out. You said I could ask of you what I would and you would comply.”
She scoffed. “Yes, but—” Then huffed. “Anyone of any intelligence would know what I meant.”
“I have no interest in playing a game of questions.”
“Have you no interest in me beyond my body?”
He merely arched a brow and quirked up a corner of his mouth in answer.
“I know. You’re a man. Of course, you’re interested in only my body.”
She was upset with him, but she held up to her end of the bargain, even if she nearly ripped off a button doing it. He did want to know the particulars about her but that was so dangerous, more dangerous than having her in his bed. It would create a bond, a deeper intimacy—
Who in the bloody hell did he think he was fooling? The intimacy had been forged in tears when he’d knelt beside her at the British cemetery, and what remained of his heart had nearly shattered alongside hers.
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