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to keep his gaze from straying toward the girl reclining on a matt

of leaves to protect her from the sand, her slender body glistening

in the leaping light. “I cannot endure the idea of never tasting

cognac again. In fact, I could use a stiff drink at this moment.”

However much he didn’t want to be acutely aware of the very

lovely Miss Hayward, he found could not help it. Her hair was

long and golden, reflecting the firelight in glinting waves, her body

lax and her eyelids shut as she slept, pillowing her long lashes on

high delicate cheekbones. Reeves was unerringly correct in his

earlier assessment; she was gloriously lovely, and far too much of

her delectable body was visible because of her scanty attire. Her

breasts were full and lush under the lace of a garment not meant to

be worn as exclusive covering. Her hips were shapely and her legs

long and slender. Taking her dress off while they clung to their

lifesaving bit of debris had certainly made her easier to keep afloat,

but now he wondered at the wisdom of it. Three healthy young

men trapped with a gorgeous young woman. That detectible

package lying just feet away had all the makings of trouble.

Especially since he was not the only man there to let his eyes

stray in her enticing direction. In fact, he could confidently place a

wager that both Anthony Reeves and Charles were also all too

aware of their lovely companion. He said coolly, “They will report

us overdue before long. I assume efforts will be made to search for

any survivors.”

“Miss Hayward’s father is powerful and well-respected. He

will send out a fleet, at a guess. She might be our salvation.”

Reeves spoke quietly. “However, that will be weeks from now, and

let us face facts, they will be looking for us far from here,

expecting us to be in entirely a different place when we sank. Also,

even if they looked here, this area is littered with tiny uninhabited

islands. No one will search them all. It isn’t reasonable to expect

it.”

“So we must prepare for living here indefinitely?” Charles

Savage Shores

17

furrowed his brow. “I think we need a shelter then, something at

the least to give Miss Hayward some privacy.”

“Shelter, yes. And we need to be resourceful. Without tools, we

are at a disadvantage. At least we each carry a knife in our boot,”

Jonathan was grateful the weapon had stayed in place during their

time in the water. “A symbol, I suppose of our mistrust of the

general populous but well-served here. I cannot help but think

since the island is not overrun with rodents but they exist here,

there are at least some forms of large predators in the jungle.

Snakes, certainly. What else is a guess. I have been to the corners

of the world and back, and there is always danger when you are in

uncharted territory.”

“So one of us on guard at all times?” Reeves nodded. “I’ll do

first sentry tonight, if you wish.”

“The girl should never be unattended,” Jonathan added. “We

still don’t know if we are alone here, either.”

“I have to say,” Charles said, “she is game, isn’t she? Not one

tear or tantrum, though, I vow most refined young ladies would

swoon upon finding themselves in such a fix.”

“It’s in the blood. Her father is a stalwart man.” Anthony said it

stoutly, his blond hair licked by the light of shadowed leaping

flames. “As brave as she is beautiful.”

“Yes,” Jonathan smiled cynically. “I just wish one of us had

some clothing to donate to our courageous cohort. Not a shirt

survived among us, more is the pity. Speaking for myself, I find

her a bit…distracting. I usually only see female undergarments

when I am removing them for a predictable and immensely

enjoyable activity.”

“It is our duty to protect not only her life, but her virtue, my

lord,” the major said sharply, glancing up in quick challenge. “You

have a wicked reputation for seduction with the noble ladies of

society, but this isn’t about lust, but honor.”

“His lordship has never touched an unwilling woman,” Charles

18

Emma Wildes

said hotly, leaping to his defense with endearing fierceness. “On

the contrary, women fling themselves at him. I have seen it.”

“Thank you, Charles.” Jonathan elevated his brows in open

amusement, reaching over to pick up another branch and toss it on

the fire. Flames hissed upward. “Rest assured, Major, I do not

molest innocent young ladies. If I did so, I undoubtedly would

have been forced to the altar years ago. However, I am pragmatic

enough to realize that Miss Hayward is more tempting than an

average woman, and having her around, day and night, barely

dressed, will probably wear on the
honor
of each one of us. Look

me in the eye and deny you haven’t caught yourself looking at her,

wondering what it would be like to be between those long lovely

legs, taking your pleasure.”

“Sir…” Reeves began to sputter, looking as if he would leap to

his feet, his mouth tight. Then suddenly he settled back into the

sand and sighed wearily. “Christ, I suppose I admit I am flesh and

blood, too. She’s very alluring. I have never seen such a lovely

woman.”

Cocking a brow at his young valet, Jonathan asked with humor,

“How about you, Charles? Any lascivious thoughts?”

At first it looked like the younger man would deny it, but then

he simply grinned and ruefully shook his head. “What man

wouldn’t?”.

What man wouldn’t indeed
? Jonathan’s brooding gaze shifted

to where Jenna Hayward lay in innocent slumber just feet away.

Trouble
.

Savage Shores

19

Chapter 2

Jenna had to admit it. She liked bathing in the waterfall much

more than even a luxurious hot bath in the tub back home.

Jenna stretched her neck, the water cascading over her

shoulders and back, stinging her scalp with the force of the current.

She rinsed her hair, then lay there for a while against the rocks

smoothed by centuries of abrasion, her eyes half closed. The water

slipped in a soothing stream over her flesh, seeping over her bare

breasts in wanton streams. It was cool, a contrast to the inevitably

steamy temperature under the creeping foliage of the jungle, and

when she got out she used her chemise to dry herself before

slipping it over her head and pulling it down over her hips.

Two weeks. It had been over fourteen days since they had all

washed onto the deserted shore. Or it might even be longer. She

tried to make a mark on a tree trunk every day, borrowing a knife

from one of her companions, who all seemed indulgently amused

at her need to keep track of the time. Once or twice already she

wondered if she had forgotten to make the little mark.

And as time passed on, she worried she might lose interest in

doing it at all. Her existence had shifted in a short time to nothing

but eating, sleeping, and bathing in the ocean or the coolness of the

waterfall. The days were sunny, the nights filled with stars, and she

was suddenly simply a creature like any other animal, one that

lived and existed but disdained higher purpose.

“How was your bath?” The cool voice made her look up as she

picked her way across the path that had been hacked out of the

dense vegetation. Jonathan Richmond stood there suddenly, tall

20

Emma Wildes

and bare-chested in the gloom of the tropical forest, his body

powerful and well-defined, his eyes like the sea green depths of the

lagoon. “I distinctly recall asking you to not go off alone, yet

somehow you must have forgotten. Miss Hayward, please realize

we are doing our best to make sure you are safe. Making it more

difficult is not a show of gratitude. I was supposed to come with

you.”

Stung by his chiding tone, she took in a breath and stared up at

him. “Did you watch me just now?” she asked sharply, already

knowing the answer.

“There are leopards,” he said in indirect confirmation, looking

completely unrepentant. “We have seen two in our time here. And

let’s not forget the snakes, some as big around as my arm. By the

gods, do you want to fall victim to an attack?”

From you or the creatures lurking in the branches of the

jungle?
she wanted to demand. It was true. Her three male

companions had been perfect gentlemen, building her a hut-like

shelter out of tree limbs and the planks from the wreckage that had

rescued them, so that she could sleep safely. They all did

everything, including gathering and fixing the food they all ate,

buildings fires every night to attract any rescue effort and

discourage roaming animals…but they also all
watched
her.

With civilized discretion, each one tried to hide it, but she

could feel their unrelenting regard at every moment. And while

part of it might be protective, part of it was something else.
Lust
.

She might have been raised in a genteel home, her family’s

wealth giving her a sheltered existence of private schools and

efficient servants, but this was a whole new world and she had to

face the fact that all three of them wanted her physically. At

nineteen, she was already aware that her beauty affected men in a

predictable way. However, dancing at a party and having a young

man gaze at her with open admiration was one thing. Her current

situation was something else entirely.

Savage Shores

21

Her voice sharp, she said, “I need privacy.”

The earl answered smoothly, “You have the hut. We all sleep

on the beach, without shelter.”

“Bathing is something one should do unobserved.”

“In our normal ordered world, yes. But we aren’t in that world

any longer, are we? Bathing at home does not involve risking one’s

life.” Again came that dry tone that made her want to kick him. It

infuriated her when he lifted his brow in that arrogant manner, his

handsome face an amused mask. Standing there, her head thrown

back and her waist length hair streaming water, she snapped out, “I

have no desire to have every one of you see me naked when I am

practically that way all day in front of you anyway. Please, have a

care for my modesty or what is left of it. I do not complain,

because none of this is the fault of any one of you, but…” Her

voice caught unexpectedly and she felt her eyes suddenly swim

with tears. “I cannot stand the way you all stare at me. I am also

growing to hate those awful yellow fruit things we eat, and the

howling sounds that come from the jungle keep me awake…my

poor father, he thinks I am dead…”

To her mortification, for the first time, she broke down,

weeping uncontrollably, the whole thing taking her by surprise.

The horror of the shipwreck seemed to consume her suddenly,

racking her body with tremors. Seconds later she felt herself lifted

in his arms. A gentle hand threaded into her tangled wet tresses

and a warm mouth whispered in her ear. “Cry, go ahead. I’d say it

is a long time coming, my lady. You have been yanked wholesale

from your pampered, secure existence, and you are human.

Anthony, Charles, and myself have discussed how brave we think

you are, but don’t make yourself ill over trying to impress us.”

He was strong, his bare flesh warm and comforting. Winding

her arms around his neck and settling against the hard ridges of

muscle, she sobbed in surrender. Clinging to his chest as he stood

there in the gloom of the vegetation, she felt safe and secure in his

22

Emma Wildes

capable arms. Anthony Reeves was a natural born officer, decisive

and efficient, and Charles Blake was also intelligent and just as

capable despite his inferior social standing, but it had been Lord

Charbeau who had taken command of their little band, not doing so

by forceful action, but by his confidence and ingenuity.

“I am sorry,” she hiccupped eventually, pressing her face into

his damp neck. “I usually don’t cry.”

“On the contrary, you cry most beautifully,” he said with

tender amusement. In the shadowed light, he looked dangerously

attractive and she found herself staring at his well-shaped mouth,

so close to hers. Suddenly she felt quite breathless, realizing that

her very lightly clad body was pressed against him and that his

gaze was intent and riveting. He was large, powerful, and very

male.

“I…”

“You…what?” he asked. He delayed her answer, dipping his

head, his mouth brushing hers seductively. One arm was under her

knees and the other under her shoulders, and he held her

effortlessly.

“I feel…odd.” Breathless at that caress, she could feel the

strength in his arms as they held her.

“You feel wonderful,” he whispered against her lips, kissing

her lightly.

“We shouldn’t do this,” she murmured just before his mouth

claimed hers again, this time more forcefully, his tongue pushing

against the closed line of her lips and slipping inside. To her shock

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