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MORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR: The Earl of Trelaine rescues a down-on-his-luck young lad. Against his ...
MORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR: The Earl of Trelaine rescues a down-on-his-luck young lad. Against his better judgment, he takes Danny on as his page as he journeys to Bath. But this boy harbors a shocking secret. What's the earl going to do when he discovers his latest act of kindness might hurl him into the parson's mousetrap?
She had a wonderful view of his broad shoulders and his dark hair as he rested his head against the rim back of the hip bath. For a moment she watched him soap up a sponge and lather his muscular arms. The masculine scent of bay rum filled the air.
"Tell me about yourself, Danny. Beside doing odd jobs for the local gentry, what else do you do?"
She wanted to keep her gaze averted, yet, since she was behind him, he'd never know if she did peek.
The plip-plop sound of water dripping back into the tub as he glided the sponge over his skin teased her against all distraction. She bit her lip. Why did her nerves seem to be stretched to the limit?
"Um, some days I pass the time riding, my lord. I, um, fish, as well." Without her father's knowledge, of course. Fine ladies did not indulge in fishing.
"I see." The Earl held up the sponge. "You may wash my back now."
Gracious, if her teeth didn't start to chatter! Still behind him, she took the sponge and he leaned forward so she could have better access.
As she lathered his back with fragrant soap, she admired the powerful contour of muscles. She would've stopped at his upper back, but he insisted she reach further down.
She gulped back her unease. She was in heaven and hell at the same time.
Then she noticed a jagged spot of mottled skin, just under the left shoulder blade. She gently ran her fingertips over its ribbed surface.
"My lord, what is this?" As soon as she spoke, she flushed. She had no right to ask a personal question.
Her impertinence didn't seem to bother him. "Shrapnel," was his immediate reply. "Sea battle back in March, near the island of Lissa."
"Where is Lissa?"Geography had never been her strong point.
He tilted his head back to laugh, a rich, baritone sound. "Ironic, is it not? My page has no idea just where in the world it was that I almost lost my life"
"Oh, I am so sorry! I did not--"
He raised his hand, splashing her with warm water. "No matter, halfling. I survived, as you can see. The island of Lissa is in the Adriatic Sea, an inconsequential pawn in our war against the French."
Shrugging his shoulders, he leaned his head forward. "Time to wash my hair. Pour the water."
Danielle struggled with the heavy bucket, and as she poured, he ran the bar of soap over his hair. A sudsy white froth mixed in with the black and grey. Wisps of steam rose up from the hip bath, enveloping them both.
"Use the pitcher now to rinse," he ordered.
The brass pitcher was easier to pour, and soon his hair was clean.
Without warning, he stood, dripping water back into the bath. Then he stepped out. She blindly rushed for a thick Turkish towel and for his dressing gown. Hurrying back to him, all the while averting her gaze, she helped him into the robe.
As he tied the belt, he exclaimed, "Begad! Every blasted bone in my body feels as if I served time on an infamous torture rack. I shall sleep well tonight."
Danielle kept quiet. She'd managed to accomplish her tasks without violating Lord Tremaine's privacy. She congratulated herself.
He rubbed the towel over his head. When his hair was sufficiently dried, he threw the towel on the floor. Then he strode to the bed. "I shall retire now, Danny, even though the hour is still early. No doubt Raleigh plans to carouse until dawn. It is the curse of the young to be so foolish."
She rushed over and pulled back the bed sheets.
"Be a good lad and dispose of the hip bath. The remaining bucket of water is for you to wash off your travel dirt. Or use the hip bath, if you prefer."
Danielle eyed the water bucket, then the Earl. She desperately needed a wash, but however could she manage it?
Before she could blink, he slipped under the covers without the benefit of his dressing gown. Nor a nightshirt. He rested matter-of-factly, on the mattress, in only the clothes God had given him.
Goodness! She couldn't help a fierce flush from burning her face. In all her twenty years on earth, she never had such an excessively bizarre day as she had today.
Then again, she'd never been dressed as a boy before.
Posted April 17, 2011
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Posted October 8, 2010
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