As Elliot neared her, Juliana admitted even in her anger that in the foreign clothes Elliot lookedquite delectable. His tanned skin gave him an exotic touch, and the trousers, hugging him to his ankles, outlined every muscle of leg and buttock. The short jacket gaped open over a thin white shirt, which fit snugly to his tanned chest.
Juliana cleared her throat. “Good morning, Elliot.”
Elliot lowered the rifle and stood its butt on the ground. “You’re out early.”
“I was awakened early. By a shot.”
He nodded. “That was me. But the only casualty was a bit o’ twine.”
Juliana closed her eyes, letting out her pent-up breath. “Elliot.”
Elliot touched her cheek, and she opened her eyes to find him gazing down at her, his gray eyes warm. “There was no need to worry, lass. I’m very good at taking care of myself.”
“That might be true, but…”
“I hoped I’d find you in bed.”
Juliana’s heart jumped then settled down to a hurried thrum. She tried to shrug. “Vegetables still grow in this garden. They’ve gone a bit wild, but they’re here. I thought I’d gather some. To help Mahindar cooking for everyone.”
Babbling helped, but she could not stop gazing at his taut thighs and the thick bulge the trousers didn’t bother to hide.
Elliot waited until she’d run down. “Where is Priti?”
“With Mahindar. Helping him with the goat.”
“Make sure she stays with him or his family every moment of the day and night. Is Hamish here?”
“Banging around in the scullery. I don’t think he ever sleeps.”
“He’s a lad.” Elliot rubbed his chin, where golden whiskers had sprouted in abundance. “But I’ll draw my own bath. Never mind.”
Elliot made no move to go inside, however. He remained on the path, his hands on the barrel of his rifle.
“Elliot, you do know there is a dog following you, don’t you?”
The red setter had sat down a few feet behind Elliot. When it saw Juliana looking at it, its tail thumped against the path.
Elliot glanced at it and the tail thumped double time. “She’s one of McPherson’s. She must be after more ham.”
“Ham again? You’re becoming quite obsessed with it.”
“’Twas the same ham. I fed it to McPherson’s dogs.”
“So that’s where you got off to so early? Fetching it?”
“Watching to see who took it. But no one did. I decided the dogs might as well enjoy it.”
“Then you were mistaken about Mr. Stacy,” Juliana said. “He isn’t here.”
Elliot shook his head. “I’m not mistaken. My experiment proved it to me.”
“But if he didn’t come out for the food…”
“If the man lurking in the woods had been a tramp or a Romany, he’d have come for the food. Stacy knows better.”
“Oh.” Juliana’s nerves tightened again. “So by not seeing him, you know he is there.”
Of course. So logical.
Elliot leaned to her, holding the rifle out of the way. His body heat touched her through his clothes, the cloth warmed by him. He kissed her, his unshaved whiskers rough on her lips, his skin smelling of wind, cold, and silk.
“Finish picking your vegetables,” he said. He kissed her forehead, lifted his gun, and strode into the house.
Juliana watched him go, the silk trousers clinging to the finest male backside God had ever created.
Elliot, knees drawn to his chest in the old tin bathtub, scooped water into the brass bowl and poured it over his head. Warm water rained down his neck and back, washing away dirt and suds.
He felt the draft though he hadn’t heard the door opening over the sound of the water. His head was bent over his knees, and he didn’t look up. He scooped up more water, his skin heating as he poured the water down his back.
“Come in, Juliana.”
The door closed, the draft vanishing. “How did you know it was me?”
He’d know her anywhere, anytime. “I recognize your step. I know what everyone’s sounds like.”
“I admit, there’d be no mistaking Hamish.”
No, she certainly wasn’t Hamish. As soon as Elliot had heard her walk into the room, as soon as her sweet scent had come to him on the draft, his erection had climbed high and stayed there.
Damn Stacy. Elliot could have spent the whole night wrapped around Juliana instead of sitting in a tree looking for the man.
Elliot’s eyes were tired from lack of sleep, and his fingers were starting to shrivel from the water, but his c**k was plenty awake.
He lifted his hand from the water, letting a stream of droplets fall on the rugs Mahindar had shoved around the bath. Elliot took Juliana’s hand and placed it on his cheek.
“I’ve shaved,” he said. “Not so much a barbarian anymore.”
Her cheeks went pink. “I like you a barbarian.”
Elliot’s body went tight, and his c**k was in danger of poking its way out of the water.
Juliana traced his cheekbone then moved her finger down to his lips. Elliot opened his mouth and gently bit her fingertip.
Juliana started, but she didn’t pull away. She watched in fascination as Elliot closed his lips around her finger and sucked.
“Please tell me,” she said, her eyes still on his mouth, “what happened to you in India. I want to understand.”