Faux honeymoon. That was the phrase scurrying around her mind; this time together, sailing, locked in his quarters, lying flesh to flesh in his bunk. Curse him, smirking whenever she called a wall a “wall” not bulkhead, the window “window” not port, and his comfy bunk a “bed.”
“Are you listening? Aidan?” He stretched his big body and quirked one drowsy eye open.
“I’m happy and contented, woman, can yah not leave it at that?”
“But I-I know so little about your world, and it is quite a different world, fascinating, all open air and freedom. Granted, I’ve not been … ‘topside,’ is it? But…. Oh! What do your men know? Not that I care, as they’re not gentlemen, and really, aren’t sailors a kind of servant, except those the crown holds in service as virtual slaves, but they’d…. What? Why do you stare at me so?”
“You’re quite energetic after bed-ridin’, aren’t yah?” She shrugged.
“Well, saucy sir, it HAS been a while, since….” Her incredible face saddened, and a part of him was jealous of her hidden, longing memories of another man.
“You never took a lover, after you were widowed?” She frowned, plainly he’d hit a sore point.
“No. Not ‘after’ or ‘before’ nor during. My love, when given, is quite chaste. Surely you understand. I saw the relief on your face when I returned your silver cup.”
She saw him wince, then she glanced at it now, it sat across the room in the place of secure honor, where he must plainly be able to see it directly before him whenever he sat to work. Was there another term for a sailor’s desk, she’d have to ask, but later, as the cup practically sang in the light that reflected brightly off it like a fierce angel’s halo.
Aidan often glanced at it, as if it gave him comfort. He’d done so several times, while he’d washed her hair, and more during dinner, until their gazes had fixed in desire’s determination, but still, even now, he nearly turned his head again, but seemed almost fearful to the point of superstition to do so.
“You never encouraged HIM?” And it was evident that the “him” in question was the earl.
“Attentions of such a man are usually encouraged.”
“Not by me.” His gaze fixed on the stationary wood swirl above them and not on hers. “What have you heard of me, sir?”
“Conflicting things from your parents’ groom and more conflicting intelligence gathered in the days and nights when you were … off to your wedding.” His tone was bitter.
“I’ve already explained. Off to my blackmailed imprisonment, sir.” He stepped out of bed, away from her.
“You’re spoiled, Becca, to people bending to your looks and wit, which even kings notice. I need no man to tell me that.” So, that was it.
“And you, sir, need not tell me, for I’ve seen it with your men how they and the boy differ to YOUR wits, and you know fair well women differ to YOUR looks. Or do you think me a fool in such reasonings, sir?”
“S-Stop calling me ‘sir,’ in that fashion, or are yah angry with me, madam?”
“I was about to ask the same thing.” There was a long pause between them. “Stop pushing me. Stop…. I’m not angry, Aidan, but a woman’s reputation is always the banter of fools of both sexes, and I will not have you think ill or incorrectly of me. It is important what you think of me, what you….”
She would say “feel for me” but could not, and yet he heard it.
“Oh, Aidan. Never be jealous of HIM, of the earl, for he means nothing to me, nor be green of heart for my late husband, for he is gone. And I … I shall endeavor to not be so of HER.” Her glance fell upon the engraved silver cup. “Although it is all too easy, isn’t it, to fear sainted ghosts past?”
“Ah, girline,” he sighed and came back to her and stroked his large hand down her wonderful backside, which he cupped, in justified familiarity. “I’m selfish for I’ve compromised you, Becca. In allowing this reckless regard yah have for me; to wander to sea, pursued in exile’s loneliness, when yah should be safe from danger in a stately country home, within quick ride of your precious court, which feels so little for my race and creed.”
He watched her give his concerns full thought, which seemed to culminate in her stroking her hand in such a delightful and possessive manner down his bare, unguarded torso, and farther below.
“It’s not MY court, nor does your race and creed offend me, nor does your profession attract me. Nor am I a heartless woman, who’s merely in search of distraction, in order to make a title run harder to chase her. You’ve not done one thing to me that I have not wanted done. If I am compromised, I compromise myself, and do so willingly, oh, so willingly, if it means I can be with you, with my renegade Irishman, on this my hon‑.”
She halted and hid her passionate, vulnerable words by kissing him with great heat and passion, which he returned in like kind, as she hoped he’d not noticed that she’d almost said “honeymoon.” But, of course, he had.