And her modesty.
All of New York might think her a married woman, but she was still very much an innocent, even if one kiss from Captain Edward Rokesby had left her breathless.
It really ought to be illegal for a man to have eyes that color. Somewhere between aquamarine and sapphire, they could mesmerize a girl with a glance. And yes, her eyes had been closed when he was kissing her, but that mattered little when all she could picture was that last moment before his lips touched hers, when she’d thought she might drown in the deep blue of his gaze.
Cecilia had always liked her own eyes, taking pride in the pale green color that set her apart from the crowd. But Edward . . .
He was a beautiful man, there was no getting around that.
But he also might be freezing to death, she thought. Or rather, freezing until he was chilled, and heaven knew that could kill him.
She headed up the stairs.
“Edward?” she called out, knocking softly on the door. Then she thought—why was she being quiet?
She knocked harder. “Edward?”
A little frisson of apprehension skidded up her arm, and she grabbed the door handle and turned.
She said his name again as the door swung open, and she stepped in, eyes averted. When he did not reply to that, she finally turned toward the tub.
“You did fall asleep!” The words popped right out of her mouth before it could occur to her that she might not wish to wake him up in such a vigorous manner.
“Gah!” Edward came awake with a yelp and a splash, water flying through the air as Cecilia dashed across the room for no reason she could figure.
But she couldn’t just stand there in front of him. He was naked.
“You said you wouldn’t fall asleep,” she accused, her back firmly to the bathtub.
“No, you said I wouldn’t fall asleep,” he countered.
He was right, drat it all.
“Well,” she said, in that tone that clearly said she hadn’t a clue how to conduct herself. “I expect your water has gone cold.”
There was a beat of silence, followed by “It’s tolerable.”
She shifted her weight from foot to foot, then gave up and crossed her arms tightly over her chest. She wasn’t angry; rather, she didn’t seem to know what to do with her body. “I shouldn’t want you to catch a chill,” she said to her feet.
No? That was all he was going to say? No?
She made a little sound of acknowledgment.
“Do you think you might close the door?”
“OhmygoodnessI’msorry.” She ran back across the room—which was not a terribly graceful endeavor given the close confines—and slammed the door shut with considerably more effort than was warranted.
“Are you still here?” Edward asked. Cecilia belatedly realized that he could not see her. His back was mostly to the door, and the tub was far too small for him to comfortably twist around.
“Er, yes?” It came out like a question. She had no idea why.
There was a short pause, during which he was probably pondering how to best reply to such a ridiculous response. In the end, however, he just asked, “Do you think you might hand me the towel?”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” Fastidiously keeping her back to the tub, she edged over to the bed and grabbed the towel. From there she only had to reach her arm back to hand it to him.
He took it, then said, “I do not say this to embarrass you—”
Which meant she was going to be mortified.
“—and I do appreciate your efforts to preserve my modesty, but did you not see, ah, me when you were caring for me earlier this week?”
“Not like this,” she mumbled.
Again, a little pause, and this time she could picture his brow coming together in a furrow as he considered her answer.
“I kept you covered with the sheet,” she finally said.
“At all times?”
“I was highly motivated.”
He let out a chuckle at that.
“I think I’ll go back downstairs,” she said, edging her way back to the door. “I had only wanted to make sure you weren’t catching a chill.”
“You’ve been ill,” she said primly.
He sighed. “I still am.”
Cecilia pressed her lips together, summoning her courage. He was right, and his health was more important than her tender sensibilities. She took a breath. “Do you need assistance getting out of the tub?”
“No,” he said quietly. “At least I hope not.”
“Perhaps I should stay.” She moved a little closer to the door. “Just while you get out. In case you need me.”
She hoped he didn’t. It was not a large towel.
A moment later she heard a heave of exertion, followed by the sound of water sloshing against the side of the tub.
“I’m fine,” he bit off.
“I’m sorry.” She shouldn’t have asked. He was proud. But she had been nursing him for days; it was difficult to stop, even if she was desperately trying to keep her eyes to herself.
“It’s not your fault.”
She nodded, even though she had no idea if he was looking at her.
“You can turn around now.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m covered,” he said, sounding perhaps just a bit fed up with her prudishness.
“Thank you.” She turned around. Slowly, though. She wasn’t sure how he defined covered.
He was on the bed, propped up against the pillows with the blankets pulled over his lap. His chest was bare. It was no more than she’d seen when she’d sponged down his fever in hospital, but it seemed very different when his eyes were open and alert.
“You look better,” she said. It was true. He’d washed his hair, and his skin had a healthier glow.
He gave a tired smile, and touched his beard. “I did not shave.”
“That’s all right,” she assured him. “There is no rush.”
“I don’t think I’ll feel properly clean until I do.”
“Oh. Well . . .” Cecilia knew she should offer to shave him. It was clearly the one task she could perform for him that would make the greatest difference to his comfort, but it was such an intimate gesture. The only man she had ever shaved was her father. He’d not had a valet, and when his hands had grown arthritic she had taken over the task.
“You don’t have to,” Edward said.
“No, no, I can do it.” She was being silly and missish. She’d crossed the Atlantic Ocean by herself. She’d stood toe-to-toe with Colonel Zachary Stubbs of His Majesty’s Army and lied to his face in order to save a man’s life. Surely she could shave that man’s beard.
“I should probably inquire if you have ever shaved a man before,” Edward murmured.
She stifled a smile as she glanced around the room for the razor and brush. “It does seem like a prudent question before allowing me to take a knife to your throat.”
He chuckled. “There is a small leather box in my trunk. You will find what you need there.”
Right. His trunk. Edward’s belongings had been kept safe for him while he was missing; Colonel Stubbs had arranged to have them sent over to the Devil’s Head earlier that day.
Cecilia peered into the trunk, at the neatly folded clothing, the books, the papers. It seemed terribly intimate to be going through his belongings. What did a man bring with him to a strange land? She supposed it should not seem such an odd question to her. After all, she had also packed for a voyage across the ocean. But unlike Edward, she had never intended to stay long. She had brought only the barest of essentials; memories of home had not been a priority. In fact, the sole memento she had packed was a miniature of her brother, and that was only because she thought it might help to locate him once she reached North America.
She huffed to herself. She had thought she might need help finding Thomas within a hospital. Little did she know she’d be searching an entire colony.
“Do you see it?” Edward asked.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com