Jane shook her head. Of course he wasn’t aware—he was enjoying his newly wedded bliss with Phoebe, as he should. Jane would not trouble him, or Phoebe, with this. Not for now, anyway.
Finished with his face, Jane looked at the bruising on his chest. Had it spread just since he’d first removed his shirt?
She swallowed as she covered her fingers with more salve and contemplated the inappropriateness of massaging a man’s naked chest. A man who wasn’t her husband and who was residing in her home. A home in which she lived by herself in flagrant disregard of Society’s rules. Oh dear, was she now, somehow, a female version of Ripley?
The thought brought a smile to her lips. Since Phoebe had done this before Jane, perhaps it was that Phoebe was the female version of Ripley and that was how they’d come to find each other.
But no, Phoebe hadn’t been rakish at all. On the contrary, she’d wanted nothing to do with men for reasons that were entirely understandable and unassailable.
Jane, however, was not the same as Phoebe. She was rather…interested in men. In fact, she’d never been more aware of that until this moment as her fingertips caressed the hard, muscular plane of Lord Colton’s rather estimable chest.
Moving quickly, her cheeks flaming, she finished her task. What on earth was she doing? She’d left her parents and declared her spinsterhood, moving here just to avoid a marriage they were pushing her into.
Not wanting Mr. Brinkley doesn’t mean you don’t want any man.
Jane exhaled. That was true. Indeed, since her friend Arabella and then Phoebe had both recently wed—and quite happily—Jane was feeling…unsettled. Not because she desperately wanted a husband. No, she wanted what a husband could give her—that secret smile of satisfaction that both her friends now wore when they spoke of their husbands or looked in their direction. The way their eyes lit with heat and…desire. Jane wanted that.
How ironic since she’d now put herself in a position so as to make that happening even less likely than it was before. Ironic and frustrating.
Frowning, she put the top back on the salve. Her gaze traveled down Lord Colton’s body until she saw his stockings. Those should probably come off too.
She set the salve on the edge of the bed and then moved down to tug the stockings from his feet. As she exposed his calves and the dark hair covering them, her belly fluttered. Inappropriate didn’t begin to cover this situation.
Now that his feet were bare, she wondered if the rest of him should be too. Surely he’d be more comfortable. And shouldn’t she check for further injuries?
No. She’d let the discreet physician—assuming they could find one—take care of that.
Scoffing, she stepped away from the bed. She had no business taking any pleasure from caring for Lord Colton. Especially when he’d hit her footman and flirted with her maid.
Meg returned just then with the water. She glanced around, clearly to see where to place it.
“Here, let me.” Jane rushed to right the table and positioned it next to the bed so Meg could place the ewer on it. Then Meg fetched the basin and the towels, which she set beside the ewer.
Jane turned to her. “Did Lord Colton hurt you in any way?”
“No, miss. I don’t think he even realized who I was. He asked me to dance, then suggested we could find a dark corner in the garden afterward.” She laughed. “I think he thought I was a lady.”
Jane shook her head. “I’m relieved to hear it was nothing more than that. Thank you for your help. Will you see if Culpepper is free?”
“I am here, miss,” the butler said, stepping into the room, his gaze falling on the broken pottery. “Meg, will you tidy this up, please?”
“Right away.” Meg took herself off, probably to fetch a broom.
Culpepper approached the bed with a frown. “I see he’s fallen back asleep.”
“Yes, after stripping off his clothing,” Jane said. “He said his ribs may be broken. And his face is bleeding again.” She frowned. “We may not know of a discreet physician, but we need to find one.” She looked at Culpepper, and he met her gaze. “Can you do that?”
The butler gave her a single nod. “I will.”
Jane’s lips curled into an appreciative smile. “How lovely. Thank you, Culpepper.”
“Will there be anything else, miss?”
She’d been about to say no, but then realized there was something else. “Yes, in fact there is. I need a kitten.”
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