Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(20) by Lorraine Heath
She turned her attention back to the scenery. She wished they could stay up here forever. What a different world it was, looking down rather than up. She could almost forget her reason for coming to London, the need for retribution that nagged at her. Up here she could imagine that love was attainable.
A pity her heart knew the truth of the matter. In very short order she would sacrifice any chance she might ever have for a happy life.
Eleanor had asked him not to dwell on the past, but for a few hours to simply concentrate on the present. He took her request to heart. He forgot that he was the son of a convicted thief, an orphan raised by a master thief. He forgot that he’d spent his youth arranging swindles designed to line Feagan’s pockets with riches. He forgot that she was his mark, his duty. He thought only about the woman who strolled along beside him, taking such delight in the smallest pleasures offered by the gardens. She was as entertained by the acrobats as she was by the puppets. Her smile seldom abandoned her face and her eyes glittered more brightly than the gaslights that were being lit as darkness blanketed the gardens.
An orchestra played lively music. From time to time, as he and Eleanor strolled along, she would sway slightly as though caught up in the rhythm of sound that floated through the gardens. He considered escorting her to the dance platform, but taking her in his arms and gliding her over the wooden flooring was likely to lead to disaster, because he was having a devil of a time keeping his hands from wandering over her now. The balloon ascent had been pure torture with her nestled against him. He’d felt the small tremors cascading through her. If he’d thought he could have successfully carried her down one of the ropes that kept the balloon tethered, he’d have swung her over his shoulder and delivered her safely to the ground. However, all he’d been able to do was offer distractions. While they worked for her, they failed miserably for him. He’d gazed into her blue eyes and all he wanted was to have a private moment with her. No, not a private moment—but a thousand of them. The two of them alone where intimacy could flourish, where he could truly forget the past and not consider the future. Where the present could tick along, holding all responsibilities at bay.
Eleanor distracted him from his purpose. He’d brought her back to the scene of their first meeting, because he planned to gently lead her into revealing why she’d truly been in the gardens that night. He needed her to trust him enough to confide in him, so he could get to the bottom of this matter. The policeman inside him knew that.
But the man inside him had other ideas. He’d embraced her notion of enjoying the present, and that meant ensuring that she enjoyed it, that there be no subtle interrogation, no prying. A boom sounded as the first burst of fireworks filled the sky. With her arm intertwined with his, she used her free hand to squeeze his arm as she exclaimed, “Oh my word.”
The fireworks could be seen for miles, and many a night while walking through Chelsea he’d spied them, until he became impervious to their magnificence. But watching Eleanor, he remembered the first time he’d seen them scattered across the velvet blackness and how they’d taken his breath away. He’d felt then the way he felt watching her—as though nothing would ever compare.
Her head was tilted back slightly, her eyes wide, her lips parted in wonder. Her hair wasn’t nearly as tidy as it had been when they’d begun their afternoon outing only a few short hours ago. Wisps had worked their way free of the pins and now framed her face. Even as he wanted to touch them, to tuck them into place, he yearned to remove her hat, release all the pins, and watch her hair tumble down her back. He wanted to pull her farther back into the shadows. He wanted to live up to his reputation as a scoundrel. He wanted to seduce her into revealing her secrets, he wanted to seduce her into revealing her body.
The sky was again lit with a flash of white stars that shot in all directions before fading into the night. Eventually she would fade away as well from his life. But at that particular moment she was still in it, vibrant and lovely, a touch of innocence, a touch of daring.
“My God, but they’re so beautiful,” she whispered reverently.
“Not nearly as beautiful as you.”
Her attention turned from the sky to him. He’d promised her they’d not leave until after the fireworks, but he was of a mind to create his own sparks. There were shadows aplenty, and as the next boom sounded, he snaked his arm around her waist and urged her away from the gathered crowd and the gaslights. She offered up only token resistance, no doubt initially forgetting that they weren’t supposed to be influenced by the past this evening. Impatience had him lifting her the last few steps, and then he was ensconced in heaven: her rose scent filling his nostrils, her taste tempting him to seek more as her mouth reshaped itself to fit seamlessly against his. Like some sort of clinging vine her arms wound around his neck, her fingers scraping up his scalp, becoming entangled in his hair. He was taken off guard by how desperately he wanted her.
Nearly a week had passed since he first became aware of her existence, and yet he felt as though he’d known her a lifetime. It was inconceivable that he could harbor such strong feelings for a woman about whom he knew so little.
With a hushed moan, she pressed her body nearer to his, her breasts flattening against his chest. Of their own accord, his hands slid down her sides to her hips, pushing her against his hard, tortuous arousal. He was acutely aware of her slight stiffening, as though taken aback by what he had no ability to hide from her. Of course she’d be disarmed by it. She was a lady in the truest sense of the word.
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