The man arose from the pool stark naked and dripping wet, like a god newly formed. Jeannie took another half step backward and blinked, not entirely believing the sight that met her eyes: some six foot of male, all rippling muscles, scars, and tattoos, with a curtain of sopping red-brown hair that slapped his shoulder blades, and a handsome, dangerous face. His eyes were tawny brown, almost the same color as his hair, and spiked by wet, black lashes. But after one glance, Jeannie could not make herself look there.
Instead her gaze dropped—and dropped. Sweet, merciful heaven! Was that how men came equipped? She might be a widow in name, but she had never seen her husband, Geordie, naked. Theirs had not been that kind of relationship, or that kind of marriage.
But she had an eyeful now, right enough, and for the life of her could not keep from staring. What a ridiculous, daunting, and marvelous appendage! How did men ever manage to walk around like that?
But this man did not attempt to walk. He merely stood in the shallow pool with the water lapping around his…Jeannie’s strained mind supplied the word “weapon”…and gazed at her as if he found her as hard to fathom as she found him.
Ah, and she never should have walked so far down the glen. But dearly as she loved Aggie, Jeannie sometimes needed to escape her chatter, and the beautiful day had lured her on.
Into danger, clearly. Who was he? Obviously someone of ill repute, a traveler, a dangerous outlaw, a madman. What if he decided to use that terrible weapon on her, and she on her own?
Instead he spoke the way a man might to a frightened horse. “There, now, no need to be afraid. I’ll not harm you.”
Jeannie took another judicious step backward. If she ran, would he be able to catch her? No doubt, given those long, muscular legs.
She shook her head, and her hair tumbled about her shoulders. Never well-disciplined, the yellow curls invariably escaped their pins, and she’d lost most of those on her walk down the glen.
He spoke again, in a voice smooth as warmed honey, lilting, and very Highland. “Where are you from, lass? You’ll be a maid at Avrie House, no doubt.” Deliberately he snagged his plaid, which lay on the bank, and wrapped it around his waist.
“Why were you lying in the water?” Jeannie forced her voice past suddenly stiff lips. “I thought you dead, drowned.”
“Did you, now?”
Jeannie curled her lip. “Well, I do not usually go peering at naked men.”
He smiled, to devastating effect. Mischief lit his face and brightened the oddly colored eyes. “So I would imagine. What is your name?”
“Neither do I go about giving my name to strangers.”
“Wise lass.” He stepped from the pool onto the bank, every muscle rippling once again. By heaven, he made a splendid sight, with that mane of hair flowing over his back, broad shoulders complete with several scars, and a supple chest decorated with tattoos and a line of brown hair that led straight downward like a roadway to temptation.