She turned to face him, and there was such passion in her eyes that for a moment Trevelyan was startled. Her eyes were the eyes of one who believed in something. It had been so long since he had believed in anything that at first he didn’t recognize the emotion on her pretty face. He looked at the way her eyes lit, at the way anger made her lips fuller. How had he not seen that she was a beauty? How had he not seen the passion just under the surface of her? He took a quarter of a step closer to her.
“What is wonderful about his books are the parts about people,” Claire said vehemently. “He was a magnificent observer of people. Most explorers’ books make for such dull reading. They write of distances, and when they come to something interesting, they write, ‘Saw a very unusual tribe today. Believe they eat ants to stay alive.’ That kind of thing can drive a reader crazy. You immediately want to know whether they bake or fry the ants, and do they cultivate them. There are just lots of questions that spring to one’s mind. But Captain Baker would never leave the reader unsatisfied. He tells the reader everything.”
“Including the dimensions of the wheels of the wagons,” Trevelyan said automatically, but he was looking at her more than hearing her.
She shook her head in exasperation, then turned back to the case of books. “I don’t think you’re capable of understanding.”
“But Captain Baker no doubt would understand, and of course young Harry would.” Trevelyan shocked himself when he heard what sounded like jealousy in his own voice. He was glad the little American hadn’t seemed to hear him.
She bent to look at the titles of the books on the bottom shelf as Trevelyan’s eyes ran over her body. He so much wanted to put his hands on her waist that his fingers itched.
“Is it your own advanced age that makes you constantly point out Harry’s youth? My father does that with younger men. I believe it makes him feel superior.”
She straightened and nearly hit Trevelyan’s face with her head. “All of these books were written by Captain Baker.” She turned to face him, bending backward a bit to look up at his face, as he was standing very close to her. Claire looked up at him and for a moment she stopped breathing. No man had ever looked at her as Trevelyan was now. In fact, she wondered if any man had ever looked at any woman as he was looking at her. His eyes, usually full of mocking laughter, were now full of…She wasn’t sure what was in his eyes, but it wasn’t laughter.
She stepped away from him. “I believe you’re fascinated with the man, too, aren’t you?” she said hastily. “That’s why you take such offense when you think I’m criticizing him.”
“What’s that thing on the back of your skirt?” he asked, his voice low.
Claire gave a nervous little laugh. “It’s a bustle. Where have you been that you don’t know what a bustle is?”
“I’ve been out of the country for years.”
“You must have been.” She turned back to the shelves, took a few deep breaths and calmed her heart. “Here, I’ll take this one. I’ve read it at least ten times.”
He took the book from her and read the title, The Search for Pesha, then replaced it on the shelf. “If you’ve read it ten times then you must be bored with it.”
“I’m not bored with it, I—”
He put his hand over hers and stopped her from taking the book down again. “I have something of his that you haven’t read.”
Claire snatched her hand away. “But there’s nothing of his that I haven’t—”
“It’s a manuscript of his. Never been published.”
Claire drew in her breath at that, then turned and smiled up at him. “Show me, please.”
She has the most readable face in the world, Trevelyan thought. Everything she thought or felt showed on her face. And now her eagerness, her desire to know was infectious. He would like to teach her more than she could learn from books. Reluctantly, he moved away from her, went to a small chest against the wall, withdrew a handwritten manuscript, and handed it to her.
“The Scented Garden,” Claire read. “Translated by Captain Frank Baker.” She looked up at him and smiled her thanks as she held the thin manuscript to her bosom as though it were a precious and revered object.
Trevelyan frowned. She smiled at him in delight, as a child might smile at its father, and he fought to control himself. This young woman was his brother’s. This was no woman of easy virtue who could be his for an afternoon. If he touched her there would be endless complications and repercussions. “Go sit over there and be quiet,” he said sharply. “I have my own work to do.”
She didn’t say another word as she made her way to the window seat and climbed onto it. It took her a few minutes to figure out how to decipher Captain Baker’s small, spiky handwriting, but it didn’t take her ten minutes to realize what kind of book Trevelyan had given her. It was a translation of a treatise on lovemaking.
There was a chapter on the beauty of women and it included descriptions of all parts of a woman. The next chapter described men. There were chapters describing positions one took in lovemaking, and following were funny little stories about adultery and various other forms of promiscuity.
Claire read without so much as blinking. Somewhere around five, the tall dark man in white handed her a tray of fruit and some kind of bread and something in a tall metal goblet. She took the food, murmured, “Thanks,” and didn’t so much as look up from her reading.
At one point she laughed out loud.
Trevelyan startled her by asking what had made her laugh.
“Here,” she said. “This sentence. It says that under all circumstances small women like…” She looked up at him. “You know, better than large women. It says small women are better at…it, you know, making love, than large women.”
He looked at her five-foot-tall frame, her knees up, the manuscript balanced on them, her nose close to the pages, and smiled at her in an inviting way.
Claire locked eyes with him for a moment. There were many images running through her head of couples locked in embrace. She shook her head as though to clear it, then started reading again. She read several stories that told of the treachery of women. Those stories made her frown. She looked through the rest of the small book but could find no corresponding chapters on the treachery of men.