With a scowl, a vial, a cloth and a knife, the rogue approached ... and Patience stepped back. “If you think I’ll let a man, who’s been furious since setting eyes on me, gouge me with a knife, you’re daft.”
“Shut up and give me your hand.” He dragged her close to the window and she let out a yelp.
He almost smiled. “I haven’t touched you yet.” He probed the largest sliver and dislodged it, the pain of him ripping it out surprising her.
“Ouch!” Patience reclaimed her hand to soothe the sore spot with her mouth. As she sucked it, he seemed ... startled? Fascinated? Whatever it was, it gave her the fluttering jitters.
“Damn it, Patience,” he all but groaned. “Give me that hand and don’t move again until I tell you.”
“Yes sir, Captain, sir.” She pulled her hand away to salute. “Oh, sorry,” she said, when he snarled and pulled it back.
She was forced to kneel on the bench as he tugged her hand across the wide sill and close to the window. “Some of them are so small, I can hardly see them,” he said absently.
By the time they were in a position he found acceptable, her arm was stretched so far, her fingers touched the window. Her would-be surgeon hunched over her, one of his knees between hers, and she felt the contact to her toes. In his concentration he squinted, sketching deep lines around his ink-blue eyes and furrowing lines above his brows. In demon-like concentration his dark eyes were a perfect match to his bronzed skin and waving ebony hair. “You must be very old,” she said startling him. “Ouch.” She moved but he pinned her in place with his legs.
“Quit squirming. I’m nearly finished.” He concentrated on her hand. “Why do you think I’m old?”
“You have gray in your hair. Aunt Harriette does too and she’s very old.”
He frowned in mock-indignation, and she winked.
He chuckled. “I started turning gray four days ago. I suspect you gave your aunt her gray hair too.”
“So she says.” With a sigh, Patience lay her head on her arm, and he shifted so he was no longer above but beside her, her injured hand protected in his large capable one. With those little lines relaxed now around his eyes, he gazed into hers.
The center-hung lantern creaked softly with the movement of the ship, almost like a hymn. And from nowhere, a sense of elation, or contentment -- or perhaps just relief that he was finished -- filled Patience.
As she had done, the Captain raised her sore hand to his lips and soothed it with his mouth.
Patience’s heart beat a new, rapid rhythm. Prickles raced from her hand, up her arm, and through her body, resting in the most ludicrous places. She conceived an absurd notion to explain to him what was happening to her, then she saw in his midnight eyes that he sensed what was happening and where those feelings centered.
Heat rising in her face, Patience fairly leapt from the bench. “Thank you. I’ll go up, out, and leave you to your work.”
He emitted a strangled sound, like a groan and a growl at once, and if she could breathe, she would laugh. “Wait,” he ordered, in a sudden reversal that forced her to obey.
Trying to scowl, failing, he poured an oil from the vial onto a cloth and soothed the sore spots. Slow, soft ... sensual ... wonderful. And she saw wonder in his eyes too ... until his scowl snuffed their moment of harmony. And he nodded, affirming it, glad of it. “I want you to put a stop to Rose and Shane.”
“What?” Despite her confusion, his anger -- and now hers -- was understandable, comfortable, and easier to deal with.
“They’re spending entirely too much time together,” he said.
“They’re just friends. We’ve only been at sea four days.”
“Precisely. In a few weeks, they’ll be ... even friendlier. You’d damn-well better see to it that doesn’t happen.”