No Choice But Seduction Page 28

“It will be back, I promise you,” he told her with a wide grin.

Later she was going to laugh with him about how little she knew about the male body. But just then, before her eyes, he actually fulfilled his promise.

Chapter Thirty-Six

KATEY LAUGHED as she ran out of the water. She and Boyd had been playing in it like children, though there’d been nothing childlike about the many kisses they’d exchanged with waves lapping over them. But this was her first time in the ocean, or in any big body of water for that matter, aside from last night when Boyd had led her to the island, which she still didn’t remember.

Boyd had been amazed when she’d told him, “It’s a good thing I wasn’t completely awake when I fell off the ship, or I probably would have panicked, since I can’t swim.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I never had occasion to learn, since we lived inland.”

Of course he would find her inability to swim unusual, with his growing up in a harbor town. She’d already known that his family and their shipping company were based in Bridgeport on the coast, but she heard much more about his home port while they had shared that beached fish for lunch.

She even told him, “I almost visited your town one summer with my father. A shipment he had ordered for his store from Bridgeport was late, and he was going there to find out why. He offered to take me along and we were going to leave the next morning, but then in rolled the wagon with his shipment, so we didn’t have to go. I was quite disappointed.”

It was incredible that they’d grown up so close to each other, yet really, worlds apart. Her father had only ever ordered supplies that once from Bridgeport. Danbury, much closer, was where he got most of the stock for his store. But what if they had met much sooner? Would they have become friends? Would they have even noticed each other? Probably not. He was at least ten years older than she was, in his early thirties. While their ages made no difference now, it would have when she was still a child and he was already a man.

But she really did surprise him about not being able to swim and he’d asked her, “You’re not afraid to be in the water?”

They were already standing in it waist high when that subject came up, and she hadn’t even thought about any danger when she’d run in with him, hand in hand. “With you near, of course not. We already know that you swim just fine for both of us.”

She’d been teasing. It simply hadn’t occurred to her to be afraid of the ocean. But he’d glanced toward the shore at the mention of his heroics. That struck her as odd, but only for a second. And then he’d tried to teach her to swim. What a failure that had been! She was too busy having fun to pay attention to a swimming lesson, and he soon gave up the attempt.

She lay down in the sand now to let the sun dry her. He dropped to his knees next to her and shook the water off himself like a dog. She shrieked as the water from his hair rained down on her.

“You did that on purpose!”

“You noticed?” He grinned unrepentantly.

She grinned, too. He was such a different man! Relaxed, playful, teasing, full of smiles, boyish ones, sexy ones. She liked this Boyd. Maybe a little too much.

“Where’s your nightgown?” he asked, looking beyond her to their little camp. “As much as I love the fact that you are unselfconsciously flaunting your beautiful body before me, I don’t want to see you get sunburned.”

She chuckled. “Flaunted? Is that what I’ve done? I didn’t exactly have anything appropriate to wear for that swim, now did I?”

“I know, not even drawers, which was a pleasant surprise, finding you don’t wear any under your nightgown.”

“To sleep? Please,” she said drily. “I’d sleep na**d if I didn’t have a maid who barged in most mornings to wake me.”

“A nice thing about marriage is that maids stop doing that.”

Katey stiffened. He wasn’t going to ruin this idyllic tryst by getting serious on her again, was he?

“Tyrus can legally wed anyone at sea.”

He was. “How nice for him, but unless Grace wants to take her flirtation with our new driver beyond that, which I’m almost certain she doesn’t, Tyrus’s extra services won’t be needed.”

He just stared at her. She squirmed a little. Why couldn’t he just enjoy this time with her and let it go at that?

She tried to tease him back to his previous playfulness. “Oh, you meant me?” She said it lightly, but he wasn’t going to be teased away from this subject.

“Katey—”

“Don’t start. Please. This has been fun. We might even do it again sometime without the dramatics of falling off a ship first. But nothing has changed. I’ve already told you why I’m not ready for marriage yet.”

“You can’t stick to this map you’ve laid out for your life. Not after today, which was a very big detour.”

“It was nothing of the sort. And if you’re talking about my virginity—” She snorted. “Do I really look like a society miss who would swoon over its loss?”

“You look like the most aggravating woman in the world, is what you look like!”

“Why thank you. I do try!”

She shot to her feet and went in search of her robe. Arguing with him when she didn’t have any clothes on just felt wrong. They shouldn’t even be arguing. Why did he have to be so stubborn?

She expected him to follow her to drive his point home. He didn’t, and when she glanced back to see him sitting exactly where she’d left him, she had a feeling she knew why. Even that infuriated her right now, since she suspected it had a lot to do with his persistence.

She was too agitated to fasten any more than half her buttons before she marched back to accuse him, “Hiding the evidence that even when you’re furious with me, you still want me? Ha! You’re worse than a tomcat. Admit it, you’re just perpetually on the prowl!”

He stood up to show her just how accurate her guess was. She blushed to her roots. But that wasn’t the only effect his desire had on her.

“Do you really think this has anything to do with anyone other than you?”

Hearing that just clinched it. She threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck, wrapping her legs around his hips. Her aim was precise and she groaned with pleasure. She was exactly where she wanted to be.

“Now I dare you to argue with me further,” she said before she kissed him.

She merely had to hold on after that. He did all the rest. But she’d never done anything so aggressive in her life. It was his fault, inflaming her like that. Is that what he experienced so often, urges so powerful he could barely control them? He obviously had more strength of will than she did.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

IT WAS LATE AFTERNOON if the position of the sun was any indication. Neither of them felt like arguing anymore. Lovemaking took the bite out of heated emotions, leaving tender languor in its place.

She didn’t like leaving their argument open-ended though, but she wasn’t sure how to make him understand that while she would love to marry him if she was ready to take that step, now wasn’t the time.

They sat side by side on the beach, shoulders touching, just watching the waves roll in. He held her hand in his lap, toying with her fingers, which also satisfied her need to touch him. There was still no ship on the horizon. If they weren’t found before the sun set, was it going to be as chilly on the beach as it had been on the ship in the evenings? They could keep each other warm, but it was going to be uncomfortable without some sort of shelter.

“Do you think we’ll get lucky with another beached fish for dinner?”

“I think we’ll be rescued before then, or are you getting hungry again? You have been quite—active today.”

She grinned at the delicate way he described her passion. “I was just thinking of what-ifs. Like we should spend some time making some sort of windbreak for shelter, before it gets dark. And maybe look for some fruit, in case the tide leaves only water behind tonight. Surely there must be some, with all this vegetation.”

“You aren’t showing much faith in Tyrus.”

“You thought he’d find us by noon, but it’s long past that now.”

He licked a finger and held it up to judge the direction of the wind, not that they had more than a gentle breeze at the moment. “The wind might be running against him,” he admitted. “He may have had to take a roundabout course in order to swing back this way. I’ll have to build a bigger fire if we’re still here by dark.”

“And a shelter?”

He rolled his eyes. “All right, let’s gather some palm fronds, but only near the shore. We need to stay on the beach to be seen by any ships that pass by.”

He helped her to her feet, but instead of letting go so they could start their chore, he gave her a gentle hug. “You might be the most aggravating, stubborn woman of my acquaintance, but you’re still the only one I want to spend the rest of my life with, and that’s all I have to say about that.”

He walked away, leaving her standing there with her mouth hanging open as she stared after him. The man was getting under her skin in a permanent way, and she didn’t doubt that was his plan.

She headed down the beach in the opposite direction. The sand was a little too warm under her bare feet after being heated all day by a steady sun, but the palm trees were up in the grassy area, which she moved toward quickly. Boyd’s shout turned her back in his direction. He was waving at her to join him, so she marched that way instead.

“We’ll get this done faster if we split up,” she said as she reached him.

“Then we won’t get it done faster. I’d rather have your company.”

That was hard to argue with in her mellow mood. “All right, but I get all the easy-to-reach fronds.”

“I think we’ll find all we need on the ground.”

Ten minutes later, with their arms nearly full, they headed back to the campfire, which was down to mere embers after being neglected. He immediately set about feeding it again. She sat down to watch him.

“I would like to ask you one question without getting knee-deep in argument again,” she said carefully. “Would you be willing to wait for me?”

She thought she’d have to explain, but his mind apparently hadn’t drifted too far from the same thoughts. “That implies you want to marry me—eventually,” he replied just as carefully.

“I never said I wouldn’t want to.”

“I know, just not now. But you won’t look at the broader picture. Marriage doesn’t have to bring your trip to a halt, it will instead give you someone to share it with, at least in my case. Did you really think I’d ask you to end this goal of yours? I own a ship, Katey. I’ll take you anywhere you want to go in it.”

He was making all the concessions. It nearly brought tears to her eyes, she was suddenly so filled with emotion. But he was overlooking one hindrance that couldn’t be ignored.

“Marriage means children, and children need stability. They don’t need to be dragged around the world on a ship. And I am not ready to give up my travels when I’ve barely begun them, to start a family sooner than I’d planned to.”

“My sister-in-law Amy manages to raise her family just fine on board my brother’s ship. They sail with the children’s nurse and their tutor.”

“That’s wonderful for her, that she doesn’t mind, but I’m only traveling by ship because it’s necessary to do so to get where I want to go. I certainly don’t like the sea well enough to make it my way of life as you have. Too much wind, the air is too salty, and there have been a number of times when I thought I was going to be seasick like my driver, Mr. Tobby, has been, though at least that passed quickly.”

He had an immediate answer for that, too. “I’ll be ready to give up the sea when you are. In fact, I’d just about made the decision to settle in England myself this year, at least that was my thought before you entered my life. And you have family there, too.”

“No, I don’t.”

“But I thought—”

“So did I. But they want nothing to do with me, and just as they disowned my mother, I’ve now disowned them.”

“I’m sorry.”

She shrugged. “I’m over it.”

She wasn’t, but she didn’t want to talk about that, any more than she wanted to talk about marriage. And yet they were discussing it again. And she was losing the battle. He was making her rethink her goals, and that frightened her. But while he had some nice answers for the future—she wouldn’t half mind settling in England someday—he had no answer for right now. Because there wasn’t one. If they married now, she would get with child—if she wasn’t already. How could she not, as lusty as Boyd was? And that would end her trip. Permanently.

But, oh, God, to marry him, to know his touch every day instead of giving it up after today, which she’d have to do? She had allowed herself this one day of bliss, but she didn’t dare let it happen again. Unless she was willing to marry him now.

Give up the world for him? When he didn’t even love her? Yet her emotions were screaming at her to do just that, which was a good indication that she was having his problem. She simply couldn’t think straight with him so near.

She was about to tell him she’d give it more thought when she saw the ship on the horizon….

Chapter Thirty-Eight

GET OFF THE BEACH, Katey, quickly. Don’t argue, just do it!”

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