“I want her bloody misery too,” he shouted. “I want all of the bitch. She—” He calmed.
“She takes away the loneliness. When I’m with her I’m not lonely.” He stared at Nyssa awhile, then gave a half-hearted smile. “There are other women. There are women who don’t believe that being a duchess is everything in life.”
Nyssa snorted. “You give up easily. She is not married to this man Harry yet, but you act as though she is. You wait until she comes to you. I have never seen you like this. I have never seen you as the pursued one. You have always been the pursuer. Remember that pretty little woman in that village on the way back from Pesha? You wanted her and you went after her. Why is this one so different?”
“It is enough that this one is different.”
“How is she different?”
Nyssa stood still and waited for him to answer. She had spent a great deal of time with this man and she knew him quite well, but the Captain Baker she knew and the man she had seen since he had come for her in Powell’s house were not the same man. The Captain Baker she knew was an observer, a man who did not get involved, who allowed no one and nothing to affect him. But this American woman affected him. She affected him very much. He couldn’t take his eyes from her. In the carriage, no matter what Nyssa had done to distract him, Frank’s attention had always been on Claire—as hers was on him.
“You love her,” Nyssa whispered, and there was wonder in her voice. She had tried to make Captain Baker love her but she’d had no success. “You are in love with her.”
“Yes” was all that Trevelyan could say. “Yes, I love her. I love her mind, her body. I love her sense of humor. I love her thoughts. I love the way she thinks and what she says.” He gave a sound that was a cross between hopelessness and despair. “I love her to the smell of her breath.” He turned to Nyssa and for the first time she saw what few people had: she saw that little boy who used to climb into bed with Leatrice and cry. “I love her as I’ve never loved anyone or anything. Were she to love me in return, I’d give her whatever she wanted.”
Nyssa had to sit down, and she looked away from Trevelyan’s eyes. She didn’t think she was supposed to see what he had just shown her. “You would tell her that you are Harry’s older brother?”
“Yes,” he said simply, then looked back at her. His guarded expression was back. He gave Nyssa a smile—a smile that she’d seen a thousand times, a smile that said he cared about no one and that he was an entity unto himself, that he needed no one. “Ah, well, such is life. No one can win every time. Would you like to play cards or would you like to go to bed with me?”
Nyssa didn’t smile. “You should go to her,” she said softly. “You should show her that you love her.” Nyssa gave him a smile of great radiance. “You should make her miserable. Make her have to decide between you and this brother of yours.”
Trevelyan started to protest that, but then he set his whisky glass down. “Yes,” he said softly. “I will make her choose.”
Nyssa said something else, but Trevelyan didn’t hear her. He was already on his way out the door, on his way to Claire.
As soon as Brat had gone into the tunnels, Claire angrily began to pull the pins from her hair, allowing it to hang down her back. She began to brush her hair as though her hair were her enemy; she attacked it.
It wasn’t any of her business, of course. It wasn’t any of her concern that Trevelyan was going to spend the night with another woman. It didn’t matter to her. Trevelyan was Captain Baker, and Captain Baker was a renowned rake. A man known the world over for his exploits with women.
She tugged at the fastenings of her dress, unhooked her bustle frame, then untied her petticoats. Standing in her corset and underwear, she looked at herself in the mirror. She turned and pivoted for a moment, then put her hands over her face. It didn’t matter, she told herself. It didn’t matter what a man like Captain Baker did. It wasn’t any of her concern.
She pulled off her underwear with what was almost violence, let the soft cotton garments fall to the floor, then slipped a pristine white cotton nightgown over her head. She went to bed, turned out the lamp, and closed her eyes.
She was afraid she might start crying but instead the moment she closed her eyes she was asleep. She was asleep and she was dreaming. She seemed to be in a hot country, a place of green plants and wildly colored birds. There was danger there and she was afraid. She stopped when she heard something moving in the jungle. She knew she should run but she couldn’t. She stood where she was and stared in horrified fascination at the movement of the plants. The movement came closer and when she thought she might scream, the plants parted and there was Trevelyan. In the dream, Claire didn’t know whether to be relieved or even more terrified.
Claire opened her eyes with a start. Standing over her, holding a candle, was Trevelyan. His eyes were alight with life and fire, and he was staring at her as though asking her a question.
Claire didn’t so much as hesitate. It was as though he were a continuation of her dream. She put up her arms to him.
Trevelyan set the candle aside and went into her arms with all the ferocity of a beast from the jungle. He smothered her face with kisses, ran his hands down her arms, then lifted them above her head to hold them there.
Claire was still half asleep, and this man’s touching of her was of another world.
“I want to see you,” he said, and the way he said it made chills on her body. With practiced ease, he removed her nightgown, slipping it over her head.
When she was nude, Trevelyan leaned back from her. He picked up the candle and held it aloft so that he could see her, see the way her breasts rose and fell with her deep, quick breaths. He looked at her waist, tiny from years of being confined in a corset. He ran his hand along her hip, down her thigh.
He looked back up at her face.
Claire’s breath was coming in short gasps and she felt hot. Trevelyan kissed her. She closed her eyes and let the sensation flow through her body. She could feel his kiss all the way to her toes.
When he drew back, she opened her eyes and looked at him. He was smiling at her. It was a smile she’d not seen before. It was a smile sweet and soft, and it made him look like a boy. There was none of the cynicism that she usually saw, none of the hardness that was usually about him. His eyes were gentle and kind. If she hadn’t known him better, she’d have thought his eyes were full of love.