the awful man in the end. “Now, we have a matter to discuss that has to do with the two month’s rent you owe me.” She knew she had to do something to distract him or he’d be taking the land from her next. She’d already lost so much that she couldn’t lose this too. So without thinking what she was doing, she reached up and threw her arms around his neck. Standing on her tip-toes she pressed her mouth against his in a passionate kiss.
Nicholas was taken by surprise when the girl boldly and foolishly reached up and kissed him. His hands automatically went to her waist, the way they always did when he found himself kissing a beautiful woman. She pulled away slightly, and though he knew he should be angry, instead, he found himself wanting to taste her again. She was petite and thin-boned and had the alabaster smooth skin of a noble. While she had the manners of a peasant and the courage of a knight, with her head thrown back and her eyes closed she looked genteel, passionate, and much like a lady. Her long, golden hair was twisted into a knot and tucked up under a small cap she wore on her head. She had a mantle over her shoulders that didn’t quite reach the ground. And her formerly amber colored dress was now a dingy shade of brown, as he swore it had soaked up half the bilge water in the belly of the ship. “What was that for?” he asked, running his tongue over his lips, savoring the sweet essence of her kiss. Her eyes opened slowly, and her tongue darted out to lick her upper lip, and the action excited him to know she was relishing the taste of him as well. “That was for saving me. From that – that awful man.” Her eyelids fluttered, and he realized she was only using this as a distraction, hoping he’d forget about the debt she owed. Well, if she wanted to play with fire, then he needed to teach her that she could get burned. He pulled her closer, placing his lips against hers again, meaning to teach her not to play games. He figured he’d scare her and she’d pull away, but once again she surprised him by doing the opposite and returning his kiss. This time her tongue shot out and entered his mouth. A moan lodged at the back of his throat and his loins stirred beneath his braies. What started out as a game was now turning into a lesson he didn’t want to stop. She tasted so sweet and fresh, reminding him of a morning meadow sprinkled with dew. He reached up and took her face in his hands, letting his thumbs glide over her cheeks that felt as soft as rose petals. Her gown might smell like the belly of his ship, but there were still parts of her that were very desirable indeed. He pulled back slightly, observing her. Her head was thrown back and her arms were still locked around his neck. Her eyes were closed and she was being so subservient that he was sure he could order her to accompany him back to his quarters and she would do so without fighting him at all. But he couldn’t. He shouldn’t. She was using her body to distract him, and though he usually fell prey to the advances of a willing beautiful woman, he couldn’t let himself be pulled into this whirlwind of passion based on lies and deceit. “Nay! No more,” he said and stepped away. Her eyes sprang open and her eyebrows snapped together. “What’s the matter? Didn’t you like my kiss?” She sounded sorely disappointed. He liked it all right. A little too much. But he had to remind himself that she was only doing it to try to control the situation. She was only a merchant’s daughter. He couldn’t let this continue any further. He could have any servant he wanted to warm his bed, and probably a few ladies who were widows as well. But she was different. She wasn’t of the noble class, nor was she of the peasant class. She was somewhere in between, and he wasn’t sure what to do with this information. “You are trying to distract me from the matter at hand and we both know it.” “What matter?” she asked