Beautiful Tempest Page 39

Jackie got one of the little towels from the washstand and dipped it into the hot water, wrung it out, and wrapped it around the lower half of Damon’s face, then started to whip up a lather in the cup. He’d apparently done this before, yet the lad looked so nervous Jacqueline ached for him.

She watched them while she finished her breakfast. When she was done, she pointed out, “Jack is frightened to death that he’ll nick you.”

“How else is the boy to learn without practice?”

“I can do that. I do know how.”

“Come here.”

She snorted. “Don’t pretend you’re agreeing to let me wield that razor.”

“Indeed not, I have another task in mind for you. But you can give the boy pointers. A little teaching wouldn’t be amiss.” Damon wiped beads of blood from the nick Jackie just gave him.

She didn’t leave her chair, merely told the boy, “Just keep the strokes steady. Any pauses have a chance to cut instead of scrape.”

When Jackie was almost finished with the shaving, Damon asked her, “How do you, or more to the point, why would you know how to shave a man?”

“My brother taught me. He teased that I might want to shave a husband someday. I was young enough to be curious about the process.”

“Your brother with a look-alike aboard?”

“Yes, Jeremy. My twin brothers aren’t old enough to shave yet.”

“You have twins in your family?”

“Gilbert and Adam, four years younger than I.”

“Any other siblings?”

“Not that we’re aware of.”

He burst out laughing, then winced when he got nicked again for it. She was already scowling at him. “It’s not funny. My uncle Tony had a daughter he didn’t know about until she was already full grown. She’s well entrenched in the family now, as well as any other bastards that we are aware of. We take care of our own.”

“Commendable. Most families don’t—at least don’t take care of members of the illegitimate sort.”

“Yes, swept under the carpet, so to speak. But we’re not most families, Bastard.”

“Apparently not. And you can use my name, now that you know it.”

“I’m still debating whether to or not. The name Bastard suits you so well.”

“Not really. My parents were married when I was born.”

“To each other?”

That was a bit harsh and even earned her one of his rare frowns. She reminded herself to sheathe her claws. That she was usually painfully blunt wasn’t going to help with her be-nice plan.

So she offered nonchalantly, “You know the name bastard has more’n one meaning.”

“Yes, something foul you’d wipe off your boots,” he replied curtly.

“Well, I wouldn’t say—”

“Are you apologizing?” He raised a black brow while he waited for her answer. She hated conceding, even with friends, let alone with him! However, she could wave half of a white flag, even if it did cause a slight blush. “I’m dropping the subject, Damon.”

He nodded graciously—at least one of them could be!—and stood up and wiped his face. Jackie put everything in the wide bowl and left.

“What was the task you mentioned?”

“At your suggestion, I asked my cook about a cream for my sunburn. You were right, it does hurt a lot more today.” He tapped the small jar on his desk before he removed his shirt. “And since it was your idea, I didn’t think you’d mind applying it.”

She winced at how red he was in the bright light of day. But touch him? The thought flipped her insides a little. It was her idea. And it did fit in line with her be-nice-to-him plan. But it might also work with the seduction idea she was still toying with. . . .

She stood up and came around to the back of his chair, deliberately brushing against him as she leaned forward to pick up the jar. She had to clamp her mouth shut on her own gasp when her breast pressed against his shoulder. Maybe skip the seduction part! She hadn’t thought that through yet, and it was a double-edged sword if she ended up being the one seduced!

She started to apply the cream to his shoulders, asking softly, “Are you sure you trust me to do this?”

“Mort’s hands would do more damage than good. You’ve got soft hands, Jack.”

He trusted her. He had to know with a burn under her fingers, she could make this painful. She didn’t. She carefully spread the cream over his back and upper arms, aware that her breathing was getting erratic. She wasn’t going to be able to finish, not when this was caressing of the most tender sort and having more effect on her than him! But she was wrong. His head leaned back, rested between her breasts. She could see that his eyes were closed, hear that his breathing was deeper. She was mesmerized for a moment; her hands stilled.

“Don’t stop.”

She stuck her fingers in the jar again and concentrated on something else. With him so relaxed, this was the perfect opportunity for her to get some answers.

“You’ve been treating me differently this time. Why?”

He stood up to put both of her creamy hands on his upper chest and held them there, his hands on the back of hers to guide them slowly across his skin. She was staring transfixed at what he was doing, so she didn’t see his expression when he said, “Isn’t it obvious? I’m attracted to you.”

Nonplussed, she yanked her hands back. “You expect me to believe that when you’ve abducted me twice so you can lure my father to his death—where I’ll no doubt die, too? And my poor mother—”

“Now you’re jumping to conclusions and thinking the worst of me.”

“Why shouldn’t I?!”

He started to answer, then closed his mouth, put his shirt back on, and went to the door, telling the guard, “Bring it in.”

A sailor carried in a wooden tub. It was barely bigger than the bottom half of a barrel, which it might have been, but it was still a tub.

“You think a bath will calm me down?” she fumed.

“It might if you let me bathe you.”

She fried him with her eyes.

He sighed, feigned no doubt, before remarking, “I confess, this is one thing I didn’t think ahead on, so no fancy tub for you. But this one will do, yes?”

“I think we had this discussion last night,” she retorted.

Prev Next