She Tempts the Duke(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 1)(61) by Lorraine Heath
His arm was dead. Yet he would not move because to do so would be to awaken her.
She was in a precarious position much worse than a kiss in a garden. She was in his bed, her head nestled on his shoulder, and although he couldn’t quite feel it, he knew his arm held her near. It didn’t matter that she was fully clothed.
She was in his bed.
How long had she been here? How long had the fever raged? His side ached, was tender. He remembered fleeting images: the physician, Tristan. Rafe. Briefly. Once. Don’t you dare leave me again. Or was that a dream? Mary. Cool water trickling down his throat. Cool cloth on his brow. Gentle reassurances, soft voice. Mary’s voice. Always Mary. Tender touches. Mary. Encouragement. Mary. Awful-tasting broth. Mary. The fading scent of orchids. Mary.
Her hair had escaped the ribbon she’d been using to hold it back while she nursed him. So thick. So curly. However did she manage to pile it all on her head as she did? With the arm that still had feeling, he sifted his fingers through the strands that appeared to be coarse but felt like silk. Just like that night when he’d thrust his hand into her hair, thrust his tongue into her mouth. Barbarian. For a few moments, lost in her, he’d been able to leave behind the decisions that haunted him, the scars that marred—
With a jerk, he touched his face. Dammit! Where was the patch?
He twisted. On the far table. He couldn’t reach it, pinned beneath her weight as he was.
She moaned, sighed, and he realized that his movements had disturbed her. Thank God, she was nestled on his good side. He could save her the grotesqueness. Although it was a bit late to spare her completely.
She lifted her head, squinted. “Relax. That side is in shadow.”
Her voice was that of a woman roused from slumber, and something in his belly tightened as he imagined her rousing from slumber after a night of passionate lovemaking.
A night with Fitzwilliam.
If her reputation weren’t completely tarnished. Again, he had to wonder how long she’d been here.
She stretched, a slow, sinuous movement that thrust out her breasts and challenged the buttons of her bodice to remain secured. Unfortunately they met the challenge splendidly.
Where had that thought come from? This was Mary. Friend, advisor, nurse. Woman. It was the last that unsettled him. Every time he saw her, he was reminded that she’d grown up, but here in his bedchamber he was well aware that they’d both grown up. The games they could play now were not innocent, would not result in giggles and laughter. Rather they would include long moans and deep groans—
The blood rushing into his arm caused painful pinpricks that brought his thoughts round to where they should have remained. “Your hair is a mess.”
She laughed lightly, clearly not offended by his critical assessment. “I got caught in the rain coming here. I did little more than dry it which means it had its way. It takes much work to keep it tamed.”
“I like it wild.”
She stilled, her breathing shallow, her gaze on his as though he’d given her an uncommon compliment. She slid off the bed, and he could see her more clearly now. She wore a ghastly black dress that made her look like a crow.
“Anticipating going into mourning over my death?” he asked lightly.
She smiled again, although not as brightly. “I knew you wouldn’t die. I wouldn’t let you.”
Just as she’d refused to stand by while his uncle plotted his death.
“You’re feeling better. I was so relieved when your fever broke last night,” she said.
“You’ve been here the entire time?”
She nodded. “Father knows I’m here. He’s not happy about it.”
“I would think not.”
She gave him a scowl. “But he’ll do what he can to keep my whereabouts a secret. Tristan threatened the servants with dismissal if one of them spoke of anything that transpired within the residence. He can be quite intimidating.”
“He should have intimidated you into leaving.”
She grinned. “He tried.” Her smile diminished. “I couldn’t bear not being here while you suffered. I wish I’d been there for all your suffering.”
She blinked rapidly, and he knew she was on the verge of weeping, bravely fighting it off because she knew he abhorred tears. He wanted to tell her that he was glad she hadn’t been there. It would have only made things worse because he would have worried about her. Just as he worried now. Three nights. Her reputation would no doubt be in shreds.
“How will your father explain your absence?” What was wrong with his voice? Why did it sound accusing?
“Not to worry, Keswick. I’m not your responsibility. I shall send in your valet to tidy you up and have your cook send up a tray. Rest and regain your strength. I fear your uncle is not done with you yet.”
She turned to leave.
He pushed himself up, swung his legs off the bed, and realized he wasn’t dressed for company. He wasn’t dressed at all. He clutched a sheet to his waist. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
She looked back at him as though he’d said the silliest thing she’d ever heard. “Remain my friend.”
Did she think there was any way in hell that he wouldn’t? That he couldn’t? Besides his brothers, there was no one he cared for more. But even as he thought it, he realized that his feelings for her now were not what they’d once been. He wasn’t quite sure what they were. He’d gone swimming with her as a child and not given much thought to her undergarments clinging to her body. Now he would give it a great deal of thought. Would notice the shadows that tempted a man, that tempted him.
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