Arranging to be seduced, Leonora was perfectly sure, wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. The next day, while sitting in the parlor copying her letter, copy after copy, doggedly working through Cedric’s correspondents, she reevaluated her position and considered all avenues for advance.

The previous afternoon she’d dutifully deflected Trentham’s cousins to the drawing room; he’d joined them fifteen minutes later, clean, spotless, his usual debonair self. Having used her interest in conservatories to explain her visit to the ladies, she’d duly asked him various questions to which he’d denied all knowledge, instead suggesting he have his gardener call on her.

Asking him to conduct her on a tour would have been fruitless; his cousins would have accompanied them.

Regretfully, she’d crossed his conservatory off her mental list of suitable venues for seduction; an appropriate time could be managed, and the window seat provided an excellent location, but their privacy could never be assured.

Trentham had summoned his carriage, helped her into it, and sent her home. Unfulfilled. Even hungrier than when she’d left.

Even more determined.

Still, the excursion had not been without gain; she now had one trump card in hand. She intended to use it wisely. That meant clearing the time, location, and privacy hurdles simultaneously. She had no idea how rakes managed it. Perhaps they simply waited for opportunity to arise, then pounced.

After waiting patiently all these years, and having finally made up her mind, she wasn’t inclined to sit back and wait any longer. The right opportunity was what was required; if necessary, she’d have to create it.

All well and good, but she couldn’t think how.

She racked her brain throughout the day. And the next. She even considered taking up her Aunt Mildred’s permanent offer to take her about within the ton. Despite her disinterest in society’s balls and parties, she was aware such events provided venues in which gentlemen and ladies could meet privately. However, from snippets Trentham’s cousins had let fall, as well as his own caustic comments, she’d gathered he had little enthusiasm for the social round. No point making such an effort herself if he wasn’t likely to be present to be met, privately or otherwise.

When the clock struck four, she tossed down her pen and stretched her arms over her head. She was almost at the end of her letter-writing exercise, but when it came to venues in which to be seduced, her mind remained stubbornly blank.

“There has to be somewhere!” She pushed up from her chair, irritated and impatient. Frustrated. Her gaze went to the window. The day had been fine, but breezy. Now the wind had eased; evening was closing in, benign if cool.

She headed for the front hall, grabbed her cloak, didn’t bother with her bonnet; she wouldn’t be out long. She glanced around, expecting Henrietta, then realized the hound was out for her constitutional in the nearby park, led on a lead by one of the footmen.

“Damn!” She wished she’d been in time to join them.

The gardens, both front and back, were protected; she wanted—needed—to walk in the open air. She needed to breathe, to let the coolness refresh her, to blow away her frustration and reinvigorate her brain.

She hadn’t walked outside alone for weeks, yet the burglar could hardly be watching all the time.

With a swish of her skirts, she turned, opened the front door, and walked outside.

She left the door on the latch and went down the steps, then followed the path to the gate. Reaching it, she peered out. The light was still good; in both directions the street, always a quiet one, lay empty. Safe enough. Pulling open the gate, she walked through, tugged it closed behind her, then set off walking briskly along the pavement.

Passing Number 12, she glanced in, but saw no sign of movement. She’d heard via Toby that Gasthorpe had now hired a full staff, but most were not yet in residence. Biggs, however, returned there every night, and Gasthorpe himself rarely left the house; there had been no further felonious activity there.

Indeed, since she’d last seen the man at the bottom of their garden, and he’d run off, there’d been no further incidents of any kind. The sense of being watched had receded; although occasionally she still felt under observation, the feeling was more distant, less threatening.

She walked on, pondering that, considering what it might mean in terms of Montgomery Mountford and whatever it was he was so intent on removing from her uncle’s house. While arranging to be seduced was certainly a distraction, she hadn’t forgotten Mr. Mountford.

Whoever he was.

The thought evoked others; she recalled Trentham’s recent searches. Direct and to the point, decisive, active, yet try as she might, she couldn’t imagine any other gentleman masquerading as he had done.

He’d appeared very comfortable in his disguise.

He’d looked even more dangerous than he usually did.

The image teased; she remembered hearing of ladies who indulged in passionate affairs with men of distinctly rougher background than their own. Could she—would she later—be susceptible to such longings?

She honestly had no idea, which only confirmed how much she’d yet to learn, not just of passion, but of herself, too.

With every day that passed, she became more aware of that last.

She reached the end of the street and stopped on the corner. The breeze was stronger there; her cloak billowed. Holding it down, she looked toward the park, but saw no gangling hound returning with footman in tow. She considered waiting, but the breeze was too chilly and strong enough to unravel her hair. Turning, she retraced her steps, feeling considerably restored.

Her gaze on the pavement, she determinedly turned her mind to passion, specifically how to sample it.

The shadows were lengthening; dusk was approaching.

She’d reached the boundary of Number 12 when she heard footsteps striding quickly up behind her.

Panic flared; she whirled, backing against the high stone wall even while her intellect calmly pointed out the unlikelihood of any attack.

One look at the face of the man rushing toward her, and she knew intellect lied.

She opened her mouth and screamed.

Mountford snarled and grabbed her. Hands locking cruelly about both arms, he dragged her to the middle of the wide pavement and shook her.


The shout came from the end of the street; Mountford paused. A heavyset man was running their way.

Mountford swore. His fingers bit viciously into her arms as he swung to look the other way.

He swore again, a vulgar expletive, a hint of fear showing. His lips curled in a snarl.

Leonora looked, and saw Trentham closing fast. Some way behind him came another man, but it was the look on Trentham’s face that shocked her—and momentarily transfixed Mountford.

He shook free of that killing look, glanced at her, then hauled her to him—and flung her forcefully back. Into the wall.

She screamed. The sound cut off when her head hit the stone. She was only vaguely aware of sliding slowly down, crumpling in a mass of skirts on the pavement.

Through a white fog, she saw Mountford racing across the street, avoiding the men running in from either end. Trentham didn’t give chase, but came straight for her.

She heard him swear, distantly noted he was swearing at her, not Mountford, then she was wrapped in his strength and hoisted to her feet. He held her against him, supporting her; she was standing, yet he was taking most of her weight.

She blinked; her vision cleared. Leaving her staring into a face in which some primitive emotion akin to fury warred with concern.

To her relief, concern won.

“Are you all right?”

She nodded, swallowed. “Just a trifle dazed.” She put up a hand to the back of her head, gingerly felt, then smiled, albeit tremulously. “Only a small bump. No serious damage.”

His lips thinned, his eyes narrowed on hers, then he glanced in the direction Mountford had fled.

She frowned and tried to ease from his hold. “You should have followed him.”

He didn’t let her go. “The others are after him.”

Others? Two and two…“Have you had people watching the street?”

He glanced at her briefly. “Of course.”

No wonder she hadn’t felt threatened by the continuing observation. “You might have told me.”

“Why? So you could stage some witless act like this?”

She ignored that and stared across the street. Mountford had raced into the garden of the house opposite; the two other men, both heavier and slower, had followed.

No one reappeared.

Trentham’s lips were a grim line. “Is there an alley behind those houses?”


He bit back a sound; she suspected it was another curse. He looked at her assessingly, then consented to ease the arm he’d locked about her. “I’d credited you with more sense—”

She raised a hand, stopped his words. “I had absolutely no reason to think Mountford would be out here. Come to that, if you had men watching from both ends of the street, why did they let him past them?”

He glanced again in the direction his men had gone. “He must have spotted them. Presumably he reached you in the same way he left, via an alley and someone’s garden.”

His gaze returned to her face, searched it. “How are you feeling?”

“Reasonable.” Better than she’d expected; Mountford’s rough handling had shaken her more than the collision with the wall. She drew breath, let it out. “Just a bit shaky.”

He nodded curtly. “Shock.”

She focused on him. “What are you doing here?”

Accepting that his men weren’t about to return, Mountford between them, Tristan released her and took her arm. “The furniture for the third floor was delivered yesterday. I’d promised Gasthorpe I’d check and approve it. Today is his day off—he’s gone to Surrey to visit his mother and won’t be back until tomorrow. I’d thought to kill two birds by checking the house as well as the furniture.”

He studied her face, still too pale, then turned her along the pavement. Pacing slowly, he led her along the wall of Number 12 toward Number 14 beyond. “I left it later than I’d intended. Biggs should be inside by now, so all will no doubt be well until Gasthorpe returns.”

She nodded, walking by his side, leaning on his arm. They drew level with the gate of Number 12, and she stopped.

She drew in a deep breath, then met his eyes. “If you don’t mind, perhaps I could come in and help you check the furniture.” She smiled, definitely tremulously, then looked away. Somewhat breathlessly added, “I’d prefer to stay with you for a little while longer, to catch my breath before going in to face the household.”

She ran her uncle’s household; there’d no doubt be people waiting to speak to her as soon as she went in.

He hesitated, but Gasthorpe wasn’t around to disapprove. And on the list of activities likely to lift a woman’s spirits, viewing new furniture probably ranked high. “If you wish.” He steered her through the gate and up the path to the door. While she was viewing, he’d use the time to think of how better to protect her. He couldn’t, unfortunately, expect her to remain a prisoner within doors.

Taking the key from his pocket, he unlocked the front door. Frowned as he handed her over the threshold. “Where’s your hound?”

“She’s being taken for a walk in the park.” She glanced back at him as he closed the door. “The footmen take her—she’s too strong for me.”

He nodded, noting that once again she’d followed his thought—that if she walked at all, then she should walk with Henrietta. But if the dog was too strong, then beyond the garden that wasn’t a viable option.

She led the way to the stairs; he followed. They’d reached the first steps when a cough drew their attention to the door to the kitchens.

Biggs stood in the opening. He saluted. “On watch here, m’lud.”

Tristan smiled his charming smile. “Thank you, Biggs. Miss Carling and I are just taking stock of the new furniture. We’ll let ourselves out later. Carry on.”

Biggs bobbed to Leonora, snapped off another salute, then turned and descended into the kitchens. The faint aroma of a pie drifted to their nostrils.

Leonora met his gaze, a smile in her eyes, then she turned, grasped the banister, and went on.

He watched, but she didn’t falter. However, when they reached the second-floor landing, she glanced at him and drew in a tight breath.

Frowning anew, he took her arm. “Here.” He urged her into the largest bedroom, the one over the library. “Sit down.” A large armchair sat angled to the window; he led her to it.

She subsided into the chair with a little sigh. Smiled weakly up at him. “I don’t faint.”

He narrowed his eyes at her; she was no longer pale, but there was an odd tenseness about her. “Just sit there and study the furniture you can see. I’ll check the other rooms, then you can give me your verdict.”

Leonora nodded, closed her eyes, and let her head rest against the chair’s back. “I’ll wait here.”

He hesitated, looking down at her, then he turned and left her.

When he was gone, she opened her eyes and studied the room. The large bow window looked over the back garden; during the day it would let in ample light, but now, with night encroaching, the room was gathering shadows. A fireplace stood in the center of the wall opposite her chair; a fire was set but not lit.

A chaise was positioned at an angle to the fireplace; beyond it, in the far corner of the room, stood a massive armoire in dark polished wood.

The same polished wood adorned the even more massive four-poster bed. Staring at the expanse of ruby silk coverlet, she thought of Trentham; presumably his friends were similarly large. Dark red brocade curtains were looped back about the carved posts at the head of the bed. The last light lingered on the curves and twists in the ornately carved headboard, repeated on the turned posts at the bed’s foot. With its thick mattress, the bed was a substantial piece, solid, stable.

The central feature of the room; the focus of her senses.

It was, she decided, the perfect venue for her seduction.

Far better than his conservatory.

And there was no one to interrupt, to interfere. Gasthorpe was in Surrey and Biggs in the kitchens, too far away to hear anything—provided they closed the door.

She turned to look at the solid oak door.

The encounter with Mountford had only deepened her determination to press ahead. She wasn’t so much shaky as tense; she needed to feel Trentham’s arms around her to convince herself she was safe.

She wanted to be in his arms, wanted to be close to him. Wanted the physical contact, the shared sensual pleasure. Needed the experience, now more than ever.

Two minutes later, Trentham strolled back in.

She waved to the door. “Close that so I can see the tallboy.”

He turned and did as she asked.

She dutifully studied the tall chest of drawers thus revealed.

“So”—ambling up, he halted beside the chair and looked down at her—“do the amenities meet with your approval?”

She looked up at him, slowly smiled. “Indeed, they appear quite perfect.”

Rakes undoubtedly had it right; when opportunity presented, one had to pounce.

She held up her hand.

Tristan grasped it and smoothly drew her to her feet. He’d expected her to step away; instead, she’d shifted her feet—she straightened directly in front of him, so close her breasts brushed his coat.

She looked into his face, then moved closer still. Reached up and drew his head down to hers. Pressed her lips to his in a blatant, openmouthed kiss, one he only just stopped himself from falling headfirst into.

His control uncharacteristically quaked. He gripped her waist—hard—to stop himself from devouring her.

She ended the caress and drew back, but only a fraction; she lifted her lids and met his gaze. Her eyes glinted vibrantly blue beneath her lashes. Holding his gaze, she reached for the ties of her cloak, tugged, then let the garment fall to the floor. “I wanted to thank you.”

Her voice was husky, low; its timbre slid through him. His body clenched, recognizing her meaning; he was pulling her closer, tight, body to body, lowering his head, before the echo had died.

She stopped him with one finger, sliding the tip across his lower lip. Her gaze followed the motion; instead of moving away, she moved closer yet—let herself sink against him. “You were there when I needed you.”

Unthinking, he gathered her to him; her lids lifted, and she met his eyes. Slid her hand up to his nape again. Her lids drifted down, and she stretched upward against him. “Thank you.”

He took her mouth as she offered it. Sank deep and drank, felt not just pleasure but reassurance slide through his veins. It seemed only right that she thanked him like this; he saw no reason to refuse the moment, to do anything other than sate his senses with the tribute she surrendered.

Her arms slid up, twined about his neck; she pressed close, her body a promise of bliss.

Between them, the embers they’d left smoldering flared, then flames leapt beneath their skins. He felt the fire ignite; confident he had her measure, he let it burn.

Let his fingers find their way to her breasts; when the sweet mounds were tight and straining, he reached for her laces. Dealt with them and the ribbons of her chemise with practiced ease.

Her breasts spilled into his hands; she gasped through the kiss. Possessively kneading, he held her, drew her on, urged the flames higher.

He broke from the kiss, nudged her head up, set his lips to the taut tendon in her throat. Traced it down to where her pulse beat frantically, then licked, laved. Sucked.

She gasped; the sound echoed in the silence, drove him on. Steering her around, he sank onto the chair’s arm, drawing her with him, pressing her gown and chemise to her waist.

So he could feast.

She’d offered her bounty; he accepted. With lips and tongue, took and claimed. Traced the full curves. Pressed hot kisses to the tightly ruched peaks. Listened to her fractured breathing. Felt her fingers tightening on his skull as he teased.

Then he took one pebbled nipple into his mouth, rasped it lightly, and she tensed. He sucked gently, then soothed the taut nubbin with his tongue. Waited until she’d relaxed before drawing it deep and suckling.

She cried out, her body bowing in his arms.

He showed no mercy, suckling voraciously first at one breast, then the other.

Her fingers spasmed, holding him to her. He slid his hands down from her waist, back and over her hips, and captured her bottom; spreading his thighs, he drew her hips to him. Wedged her close so her stomach rode against him, both easing and teasing the fiery ache.

Closing his hands, he kneaded, and felt more than heard her gasp. He didn’t stop but explored more intimately, holding her at his mercy, his lips taunting and teasing her swollen breasts while he evocatively shifted her lower body, molding hips, stomach, and thighs to him as he wished.

Then she dragged in a breath and bent her head. He released her breasts, looked up, and she captured his mouth. Slid in, caressed and heated him, stole his breath, gave it back.

He felt her fingers at his throat, then she flicked his cravat loose. Their mouths melded; they took and gave while her fingers slid down his chest.

Opening his shirt.

Tugging it free of his waistband. Trailing her fingertips over his chest, taunting, feather-light. Maddening.

“Take off your coat.”

The words whispered through his brain. His skin was burning; it seemed a good idea.

He released her for a second, stood, shrugged.

Cravat, coat, and shirt fell back across the chair.

Bad move.

The instant her naked breasts touched his bare chest, he knew that was so.

Didn’t care.

The sensation was so erotic, so blissfully attuned to some deeper need that he shrugged aside the warning as easily as he had the shirt. He gathered her to him, sank into her welcoming mouth, aware to his bones of the light touch of her hands on his skin, innocent, tentatively exploring.

Aware of the rush of pleasure her touch evoked, of the answering heat flaring within her.

He didn’t press but let her feel and learn as she wished, his ego pleased beyond belief by her eager desire. He held her close; hands splayed over her naked back, he traced the fine muscles bracketing her spine.

Delicate, supple yet with their own feminine strength, an echo of all she was.

He’d never been with a woman he wanted more, one who promised so completely to sate him. Not just sexually, but at some deeper level, one he didn’t, in his present state, recognize or understand. Whatever it was, the compulsive need she evoked was strong.

Stronger than any lust, any mere desire.

His control had never had to cope with such a feeling.

It cracked, shattered, and he didn’t even know.

Didn’t even have the sense to pull back when her questing fingers wandered lower. When she traced, tantalizingly, in open wonderment, he only groaned.

Startled, she drew her hand away; he grabbed it. His hand locked around hers he guided it back, urged her to learn him as he intended to learn her. Drew back from the kiss and watched her face as she did.

Gloried in her innocence, and even more in her awakening.

His lungs constricted until he was giddy. He continued to watch her, kept his senses focused on her, away from the conflagration she was causing, from the urgent need pulsing through him.

Only when she glanced up beneath her lashes, lips parted, rosy from his kisses, did he move to draw her to him again, to again take her mouth and sweep her deeper into the magic.

Deeper under his spell.

When he finally released her lips, Leonora could barely think. Her skin was on fire; so was his. Everywhere they touched, flames leapt, singed. Her breasts ached, brushed to excruciating sensitivity by the coarse dark hair across his chest.

That chest was a sculpted wonder of hard muscle over heavy bone. Her spread fingers found scars, nicks here and there; the light tan of his face and neck extended over his chest, as if he occasionally worked outside without a shirt. Inside without a shirt he was a wonder, appearing to her senses like a god come to life. She’d only seen male bodies like his in books of ancient sculptures, yet his was alive, real, utterly male. The feel of his skin, the resilience of his muscles, the sheer strength he possessed overwhelmed her.

His lips, his tongue, teased hers, then he lifted his head and brushed a kiss to her temple.

Whispered in the heated dark, “I want to see you. Touch you.”

He drew back just enough to catch her eyes. His were dark pools, compellingly intent.

His strength surrounded her, caged her; his hands stroked her bare skin. She felt them slide to her sides, then tense to press her gown and chemise lower.

“Let me.”

Command and question both. She breathed slowly out, infinitesimally nodded.

He pushed her gown down. Once past the swell of her hips, both gown and chemise fell of their own accord.

The soft silken swoosh was audible in the room.

Darkness had closed in, yet enough light still lingered. Enough for her to study his face as he looked down, as, still holding her within the circle of one arm, with his other hand he traced from her breast to her waist, to her hip, flaring outward, then inward across her upper thigh.

“You are so beautiful.”

The words fell from his lips; he didn’t even seem to notice, as if he hadn’t consciously said them. His features were set, the harsh planes austere, his lips a hard line. There was no softness in his face, no hint of his charm.

All lingering reservations of the rightness of her actions were cindered in that moment. Turned to ashes by the stark emotion in his face.

She didn’t know enough to name it, but whatever that emotion was it was what she wanted, what she needed. She’d lived her life longing to be looked at by a man in just such a way, as if she were more precious, more desirable than his soul.

As if he’d willingly trade his soul for what she knew would happen next.

She reached for him as he reached for her.

Their lips met, and the flames roared.

She would have been frightened if he hadn’t been there, solid and real for her to hold on to, her anchor in the maelstrom that swirled through them, around them.

His hands slid down and around, closed over her bare bottom; he kneaded, and heat raced across her skin. Fever followed, a hot urgent ache that swelled and grew as he evocatively plundered her mouth, as he held her close, lifted her hips against him, and suggestively molded her softness to the rigid line of his erection.

She moaned, hot, hungry and wanting.

Wanton. Eager. Determined.

He hoisted her higher; instinctively she wrapped her arms about his shoulders, her long legs about his hips.

Their kiss turned incendiary.

He broke from it only to demand, “Come. Lie with me.”

She answered with a scorching kiss.

Tristan carried her to the side of the bed, and tumbled them both onto it. They bounced, and he angled over her, pressing her down, wedging one leg between hers.

Their lips locked, melded. He sank into the kiss, letting his wandering senses luxuriate in the heavenly delight of having her under him, naked and wanting. Some primitive, wholly male part of his soul rejoiced.

Wanted more.

He let his hands roam, shaping her breasts, then sliding lower, caressing her hips, then pressing beneath to cup her bottom and squeeze. He nudged her thighs wider, freed one hand, and placed it on her stomach.

Felt the feminine muscles beneath his palm jump, contract.

He slid his fingers lower, tangling in the dark curls at the apex of her thighs. Reaching through them, he stroked the soft, sweet flesh they concealed. Felt her shudder.

Easing her thighs wider he cupped her. Sensed the quick intake of her breath. He opened her mouth and kissed her more deeply, then eased back from the kiss, leaving their lips brushing, touching, letting her senses surface sufficiently for her to know and feel.

Their breaths mingled, heated and urgent; from beneath heavy lids, their eyes met, held.

Locked as he shifted his hand and touched her. Stroked, caressed, intimately traced. Her breasts rose and fell; her teeth closed on her lower lip as he opened her. As he teased, glorying in the slick heat of her body, then slowly, deliberately, slid one long finger into her.

Her breathing fractured; her eyes closed. Her body rose beneath his.

“Stay with me.” He stroked slowly, in, out, letting her grow accustomed to his touch, to the sensation.

Her breathing ragged, she forced open her eyes; gradually, her body unclenched.

Slowly, gradually, flowered for him.

He watched it happen, watched the sensual delight rise and sweep her away, watched her eyes darken, felt her fingers tense, nails sinking into his muscles.

Then her breathing broke. Spine bowing, head pressing back, she closed her eyes. “Kiss me.” A desperate plea. “Please—kiss me.” Her voice broke on a gasp as sensation built, coiled, tightened.

“No.” Eyes locked on her face, he pushed her on. “I want to watch you.”

She was fighting for breath, clinging to sanity.

“Lie back and let it happen. Let go.”

He caught a glimpse of brilliant blue from beneath her lashes. He slipped another finger in with the first, thrust deeper, faster.

And she fractured.

He watched her climax take her, listened to the soft cry that fell from her swollen lips, felt her sheath contract, powerful and tight, then relax, aftershocks rippling through the velvet heat.

His fingers still inside her, he leaned down, and kissed her.

Long, deep, giving her all he could, letting her taste his desire, see his wanting, then, step by step, drawing back.

When he withdrew his fingers, stroked them through her wet curls, then lifted his head, her fingers, tangled in the hair at his nape, closed, clutched. She opened her eyes, studied his, his face, read his decision.

He tried to ease back, to let her breathe; to his surprise, she tightened her grip, held him to her.

Held his gaze, then licked her lips. “You owe me a favor.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper; it strengthened with her next words. “Anything, you said. So promise you won’t stop.”

He blinked. “Leonora—”

“No. I want you with me. Don’t stop. Don’t pull away.”

He gritted his teeth. She’d blindsided him. Naked, spread beneath him, her body pliant in aftermath…and she was begging him to take her. “It’s not that I don’t want you—”

She shifted one sleek thigh.

He sucked in a breath.

Groaned. Shut his eyes. Couldn’t shut off his senses. Grimly resolved, he placed his palms on the bed and pushed up, away from her heat.

Opened his eyes.

And stopped.

Hers were swimming.


She blinked hard, but didn’t shift her gaze from his. “Please. Don’t leave me.”

Her voice broke on the words.

Something inside him did, too.

His resolve, his certainty, shattered.

He wanted her so much he could barely think, yet the last thing he should do was sink into her soft heat, take her, claim her, like this, now. But he wasn’t proof against the need in her eyes, a need he couldn’t place, but knew he had to fill.

About them, the house was silent, still. Outside the window, night had fallen. They were alone, draped in shadows, naked on a wide bed.

And she wanted him inside her.

He drew a deep breath, bowed his head, then abruptly pulled back and sat up.

“All right.”

One part of his mind was bellowing: “Don’t do it!” The thunder in his blood, and even more a wave of emotional conviction drowned it out.

He unfastened his trousers, then stood to strip them off. Glanced back at her as he straightened, met her eyes. “Just remember this was your idea.”

She smiled a soft madonna’s smile, but her eyes remained wide, watchful. Waiting.

He looked at her, then looked around, stalked to where her clothes had fallen and swiped up her gown. Shaking it out, turning the skirts inside out, he returned to the bed. Dropping beside her, he scooped her hips up in one arm and spread the skirts beneath her.

Glanced at her face in time to see one delicate brow arch upward, but she made no comment, simply settled back again.

Met his eyes. Still waiting.

Read his thoughts as she often did. “I’m not going to change my mind.”

He felt his face harden. Felt desire rip through him. “So be it.”


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