My hopes that the splash of Captain Jansen’s bath water had drowned out the sound of my stifled sneeze sank as I heard his movements still.
It was too quiet; nothing but the rock and creak of the ship could be heard. I didn’t dare breathe nor move, yet my heart thundered so loudly that I knew it had to be echoing off the cabin walls.
I was a fool. I should have crawled back into my brother-in-law’s sea chest the moment I’d attended to my needs. Then I, Gemini Andrews, wouldn’t have been day-dreaming about the maddening Captain Deverell Jansen, the kiss he’d given me three months ago, and what further pleasures would be mine were he to find me in his bunk.
I wouldn’t have been sitting on his bed, pilfering tidbits of his sandalwood and spice scent from his pillow. And I wouldn’t have had to dive for cover when the deckhands had barged into his cabin with bath water. And I now wouldn’t be stuck under his bunk listening to him splash out of the tub while dust bunnies danced over my head.
“What in the bloody hell?” he roared.
I must have shut my eyes in dread, because I popped them open when his hot, wet hand clamped around my arm and he dragged me from under his bunk.
He was naked. I couldn’t seem to think about anything else, but that. Forget that my plan to reach Northrope before revealing my stowaway status had just gone up in smoke, threatening everything I knew I had to do.
The only thing that mattered was that he was naked and I was flat on my back staring at him, at everything about him. Any sense of modesty escaped me. I was much too interested in seeing up close what I had spent a year imagining.
I didn’t even spare a glance at the amused ghosts hovering over his shoulders. I’d seen their crusty, sea salt faces on several occasions and had managed to ignore them. But I’d never seen the captain quite like this before, and couldn’t have shut my eyes if my life had depended on it.
He knelt before me, tanned skin, solid muscle, and dark curly hair sluiced with water. Droplets fell from the hard edge of his shadowed jaw, splashed upon my neck, and rolled between my breasts, making me lick my lips in thirst. I hadn’t eaten since last night just before I left Killdaren’s Castle.
His blue gaze, flashing with anger and something intriguingly darker, felt like a brand upon my lips. The tension filling the air between us sparked almost as much heat inside me as his unrestrained kiss had last Christmas Eve. My lips parted, remembering the gentle coax of his mouth against mine. I’d had several celebratory glasses of the Killdaren’s famous spiced wine, he’d had more, and that gentle-at-first kiss had become a hard demand that had awakened a deep hunger.
I sucked in air and his gaze shifted to the rise of my breasts and stayed there. Because of the tight confines of the trunk I’d hid in, I’d worn a loose gown for comfort. Being dragged from beneath the bed had displaced the bodice to the point that my gossamer chemise was the only thing keeping me somewhat decent.
The flare of heat in his sea-blue eyes, left me no doubt that he was remembering our kiss, remembering how he’d cupped my breasts and brushed his thumbs over their aching crests until I’d shuddered with need. I was still quivering with need.
Instead of covering myself, I dropped my gaze to absorb his broad chest, tapered waist, strong legs, and…jutting male anatomy that suddenly grew… large.
“Good heavens, that’s...amazing.” I blinked several times to assure I was seeing correctly.
Releasing my wrist, he stood. “No Miss Andrews. What is amazing is that I’ve refrained from throttling you within an inch of your life. Why in the bloody hell are you on my ship, in my cabin, under my bed!”
The ghosts laughed until they were rolling around in the air, making so much noise my ears hurt. I sent them an admonishing glare and tugged my bodice up.
The captain hadn’t waited for an answer. He’d turned away from me, strode to the tub and wrapped a towel about his waist before facing me with a glower. “Bloody Hell. What possessed you to pull such a childish prank? There’s a storm chasing us and we’ll now have to head into the thick of it to get you back. Hopefully, we’ll reach Dartmoor’s End before people learn of this idiocy and you’re reputation will remain intact.”
Though I wanted to gasp with outrage that he’d label my mission of duty as a childish prank, I forced myself to calmly rise from the floor and dust off my skirts, inciting another sneeze. His opinion of my venture stung my mind back in order. Naked or not the captain was proving himself to be as insufferable and stifling as the sea chest.
“I’m not returning to Dartmoor’s End, Captain Jansen. Not until I help Mr. Adams,” I said firmly.
He laughed, harshly incredulous. “Miss Andrews, you’re barely from the schoolroom and have thankfully had few dealings with the realities of murder. There is nothing that you can do to help Mr. Adams that the authorities aren’t already doing and what Sean Killdaren will do once he secures his family and can travel north.”
Whether it was his disregard of my abilities or if I’d spent too many years of my life suppressing everything about me that didn’t fit into the frivolous facade I’d been forced to keep up, but something inside me snapped.
I wanted to shake Captain Jansen off his high mast. I wanted to break free and grab life with my own hands instead of watching others live…and love.
“Schoolroom?” He made nineteen sound as if it was a step past wearing nappers, a convenient lie to avoid having to face his feelings—both Cassie and Andrie agreed. And both had said it was up to me to show him the error of his thinking. My sisters had had a great deal of experience with the erroneous thought patterns of men lately. “I sauntered to Captain Jansen, my left brow arched with doubt. I didn’t stop until my breasts pressed firmly against his damp chest. Then I moved closer until the feel of his arousal pushed enticingly against me. “At least part of you can admit the truth.”