Roane reappeared thirty minutes later, strolling across the darkening clearing toward Helen, the two bedrolls tucked under his arm. He had shaved, and the bones of his face were cast in sharp angles by the firelight. He looked…different. Intent, like he had something on his mind.
Frankly, he looked dangerous.
Helen watched his approach, her heartbeat thick and fast. She should look away, she really should, but found she could not. At some point, perhaps while he’d been shaving, Roane had unbuttoned his shirt. The white fabric gaped open, revealing the banded, rough-hewn muscles of his chest. Powerful. Raw. Golden.
The man was magnificent.
And not good for her at all.
Best she turn away, yes, give him her back so she wouldn’t be tempted to look again.
“Where would you like to sleep tonight, buttercup?” He stopped behind her and leaned close enough the heat of his skin shivered up her spine. “Will you sneak into my blankets again?”
She jerked her chin to the side. “Certainly not.” Her voice lacked conviction. She lacked conviction. The truth was, she hadn’t minded sleeping beside him last night. His hot, firm body pressed against the length of her. His arm resting just below her breasts—
Goodness, these thoughts were not helping.
“Don’t be absurd,” she said harder this time, speaking both to herself and to him.
“Are you certain?” She could hear the smile in his voice, could imagine the sparkle in his amber eyes. “I could put our blankets together and address that ill temper of yours.”
Helen did not trust herself to answer. She held the knotted string up to the light of the fire. She was making a muddle of the task, trying to open the food bag Mittens had played with. Her palms were damp and her mouth parched, as if her body could no longer balance such a simple thing. Moisture. Dryness. Attraction. Reason. Teasing. Truth.
“You didn’t seem to mind sharing my warmth last night.” He stroked his fingers down her long braid and she closed her eyes.
At once, she was exhausted. Worn out and sore from the long ride that day. Fatigued from deflecting Roane’s teasing and flirtations.
Helen dragged her eyelids open, pulled her braid from Roane’s fingers and turned to face him. Well, face his chest, anyway, and the deep V of tanned skin exposed by his open shirt. She tilted her head back and looked up over the strong column of his throat, over his sharp jaw and smiling mouth to his watching eyes.
She took a small step back. “Last night was an exceptional evening. We were in a cave, if you recall.” A dark, dank, creepy, crawly cave. “And we had only one blanket.”
Roane tossed the two bedrolls onto the flat rock beside them. “I should have claimed they hadn’t any blankets for sale in Bakewell this afternoon.”
“An English village out of wool?”
“Anything to keep you close, buttercup.” He winked.
The man was incorrigible. Helen looked away and once again struggled to unknot the strings of the food bag. “Why do you call me buttercup?”
“Because you are so sweet.”
“I am not that sweet,” she muttered. “Damn these tangles. I can’t get them—”
He slipped the burlap sac from her fingers and examined the knotted strings. Calloused, patient fingers coaxed the tangles loose. She did not glance up when he placed the food bag on the rock.
“Yes, you are sweet.” He hooked his finger under her chin and nudged her head up. Their eyes met, then he dropped his gaze down to her lips. “Sweet and spicy and tempting as sin.”
It was a simple glance, but it left her hot.
Hot and achy and full of want.
This was ridiculous. She was ridiculous. She arched away from his touch. “Tempting as sin? Really? How original.”
His lips tilted up. “I’ve wanted to kiss you all day.”
“And why would I let you kiss me?”
“Because I could make you feel wonderful. Exceptionally wonderful. ”
Her face flushed at his silly words. She would put an end to this immediately. The last thing she needed was another rogue in her life.
One kiss and she would be free from her attraction. Free from him. Surely their embrace would be bumbling and awkward and full of lies.
She took a deep breath and looked up. “Very well, Roane, you’ve convinced me.” She waved her hand toward her lips. “Kiss me.”
“What?” He jerked his chin up. His amber eyes were hot on her.
“I said you’ve convinced me. Let us get on with it.”
“What?” he said again.
“I’m raising the white flag of defeat. I’m charmed by your roguish ways. I’m awash with desire. Your flirting and pretty words have hit their mark. Kiss me.”
He ran his hand through his hair, leaving the blond curls on end. “What game is this, Helen?”
“What makes you think it is a game?”
His brows lowered over his eyes. “You don’t appear like a woman who needs to be kissed.”
She drew back, stung by his remark.
“Your lips are smashed together,” he continued. “And your shoulders are tense.”
So they were. She allowed herself to relax, softened her neck and shoulders. Then she took a deep breath and unlaced her desire. Let her wanting show on her face, just this one time. Later, she would tuck it away where it belonged, hidden in the darkness of her dreams.
Her lips parted.
“Much better,” he rumbled.
His hand landed on her arm. Warm fingers wrapped around her wrist and tugged until she stumbled forward. Too far gone for rhythm, her heartbeat crashed against her ribs.
What had she done?
Roane slid his hand up her arm to the back of her neck. “I am not a nice man, Helen. I kiss sweet girls who should know better than to taunt me.”
“I am not a girl, Roane. I know what I want.”
“Good, because I know what I want as well.”
He bent down and a lock of hair slid over his forehead, but he stopped when his mouth was just inches from hers. She couldn’t wait anymore and he knew it. He’d cast his web and she was caught.
In the end, it was she who pressed her lips to his. His mouth was softer than she had expected. His lips full and warm.
He slipped his hands around her waist and drew her toward him. Pulled her against the hard wall of his body.
She was set aflame.
And she was proven wrong. Entirely wrong. Blissfully wrong.
He could kiss like an angel. Like a devil.
And there would be no putting away this wanting now.