“I’ll change out here. You go behind the partition.”
“I won’t look. I promise.” The fact that she would make such an attempt to reassure him of privacy had Jack shaking his head.
Rothchild, whom Jack had given the holidays off to visit his aging parents, had warned him that a time would come that he’d regret making a habit of sleeping in the nude. His valet had pointed out more than once that, in the event of a fire, a person might not have time to don a dressing gown.
Jack scratched the side of his face as he stared into his trunk. On this particular occasion, anyway, he wouldn’t have minded having a nightshirt of some sort.
Only after rummaging through the contents did he decide that an old pair of breeches was going to have to do. They might feel confining, but as he would be sharing the bed with Delia, that might not be a bad thing.
He tossed his waistcoat aside, then his shirt. But when he went to grab a chair so he could begin the struggle with his Hessians, he paused.
His demure little miss had not, in fact, kept her promise.
Instead she was staring at his chest and arms looking like a person lost in the desert would a tall glass of water.
“Thank you.” She tugged at the hem of his shirt, which ended just above her knees. The glimpse of her creamy thighs reminded him how silky they’d felt beneath his fingers. “I thought you might need help with your boots.” She pointed. “My father and brother are constantly cursing them.”
Jack cocked a brow. She was clutching the tall bedpost, leaning against it with one leg bent in what he imagined was her attempt at modesty but having the opposite effect. She’d weaved her hair into a loose braid, and it draped over the tender swell of her breast.
Flickering light from the hearth cast her in mysterious shadows.
What was she doing? If they hadn’t just finished discussing that she very much was not a prostitute, he’d reconsider that he’d been mistaken.
Definitely too naïve for her own good.
It wasn’t as though she had a proper dressing gown. What did he expect her to do? Wrap herself from head to toe in the counterpane?
“These blasted things are the only reason I miss having my valet.” Jack dropped his foot back onto the floor and reclined on the chair. “Pardon my language.”
But he was more than a little mesmerized as he watched her pad across the room and then crouch down in front of him.
“Was your valet traveling behind you? Do you think he’s caught in the storm?” She was kneeling and then sitting on her feet as she took hold of his heel and began tugging.
Jack blinked. His shirt was too large for her—so much so that it left a large gap down her front where he had a perfect view of—
The boot she’d been working on broke loose and Jack chuckled at the pure satisfaction on her face. “You’ve done this before.”
“My father hasn’t kept a valet since the first time Bartholomew got himself into trouble.” She broke off, frowning. “When my mother isn’t available, I help him.”
Jack had never known anyone quite like her. “My valet is with his family for the holidays; they like to pack themselves together in a ridiculously tiny cottage once a year.”
“That sounds lovely.” She successfully removed his other boot, but rather than rise and tuck herself safely beneath the quilt on the bed, she remained sitting on her heels, staring up at him. “You gave him time off for the holidays—for Christmas.”
“Don’t read anything into that. When he’s happy. I’m happy.”
Jack found it difficult to contemplate his valet’s circumstances with her staring up at him from the floor that way. Her gaze meandered across his shoulders to his chest and then down to where a smattering of black hairs disappeared into his partially unfastened breeches.
She’d told him she had never been kissed before and doubted she would ever be kissed again. Which meant no one had ever made love to her and, in her mind, never would.
Which was a damn shame. What had she said?
It was a rather wonderful kiss.
He studied his stockinged toes. “Thank you.” He barely recognized the gravelly tone of his voice. “He deserves a few days off,” Jack insisted. “It’s nothing.”