Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(7) by Lorraine Heath
“Ah, a reformer.”
“You disapprove. Do you not believe in good works, Your Grace?”
“They have their place. But working with orphans seems a waste for a woman as lovely as you.”
At his compliment, she felt the heat rush from the soles of her feet to her cheeks. She’d always considered herself a bit plain, or maybe it was simply that she wanted to be plain. She didn’t wish to garner men’s favor, so she worked very hard not to make herself appealing. Even the dress she wore today for so lovely an occasion as a wedding was designed not to draw a man’s eye, and yet somehow it had managed to draw his. “I’m not certain if I’ve been insulted or complimented.”
“Complimented, I assure you. I fear we got off to a rather unfortunate beginning with our introductions—or lack thereof. I’d retired to this room seeking some solace so that I might determine how best to make amends. I’m not typically so…unfriendly.” He gazed out the window. “The gent you were speaking with earlier, in the brown jacket—who is he?”
She was surprised by the abrupt change in topic and the inquiry. “James Swindler. An inspector with Scotland Yard.”
For the briefest of moments, she could have sworn that his mouth twitched as though he were fighting back a smile.
“I wasn’t inquiring as to his occupation, but rather what he is to you.”
Oh. She found that a rather odd statement. What could he be other than what he was? “A friend. Did you wish an introduction?”
A bit of strangled laughter erupted, before he pressed his mouth into a straight line and shook his head. “No, that’s quite all right. He seemed protective of you.”
“They all are.”
“And Feagan is…”
“The kidsman who took us all in.”
“The one who taught you how to pilfer pockets?”
“Among other things.”
“You were a very deft student, Miss Darling. I didn’t even feel your touch. The problem there is that I would very much like to know your touch.”
Very slowly, his gaze came back to her. It held an invitation, as well as a promise. How was she to respond to that? To admit that she, too, was wondering what his touch might feel like? From the moment she’d lost her innocence, at the age of twelve, she’d had no sexual interest in men. They didn’t frighten her. She’d learned enough from Feagan’s lads to know that not all men were brutes. But still she’d never been attracted to a man, had never wanted to attract one. She’d never felt this strange fluttering in her stomach whenever she looked at a man, had never had her heart pounding so rapidly when he was near, had never found it so difficult to draw in breath when she gazed into his eyes or studied the intriguing shape of his mouth.
“No retort? No denial that you’re not curious about my touch?” he asked.
“I have no skills at these flirtatious games men and women play.” She didn’t know why she’d felt compelled to reveal that little tidbit about herself. She’d always held her own with the boys when it came to stealing or arranging a ruse, taking measures to fleece someone. They often sought out her opinion on their business dealings. But it was all so very distant from what was happening here. She was like a novice explorer, traveling uncharted ground.
“It’s not a game, Miss Darling,” Greystone said in a low voice that reverberated through her and settled somewhere in the vicinity of her heart.
“And by touch, I suppose you mean—”
“Simply a touch.”
She who was always so aware of her surroundings, of the people around her, judging when best to take, when to leave, had somehow missed that he’d leaned nearer to her, his blue eyes smoldering with desire. With the gentlest of touches, he skimmed his fingers along the curve of her face, from her temple, down her cheek, across her chin.
“So soft,” he whispered as his thumb stroked her lower lip, his gaze following his movements as though he’d never seen anything quite so fascinating, as though she were some rare creature. “The gentlemen standing near you in the drawing room…is any of them your lover?”
“No!” She was insulted by the insinuation, would have moved back if the slow stroking of his thumb just below her mouth wasn’t holding her captive as effectively as iron.
“Have you a lover?”
“I’m not certain why it’s any of your concern—”
“Have you?” he repeated with an insistence that indicated he’d not let his inquiry go unanswered.
He never took his eyes from her. They never ceased to smolder. If anything, the fire within them intensified and burned through her. She was beginning to feel as though she might melt. She had a ridiculous need to undo some buttons, to let him blow his cool breath over her skin.
“Why is that good?” she asked, barely recognizing her own voice. It was far too sultry.
“Because I would very much like to kiss you, Miss Darling, and unlike you, I’m not in the habit of taking what rightfully belongs to someone else.”
His fingers were again on her cheek, his palm cupping her chin. He moved slowly toward her as though giving her time to retreat or an opportunity to object. She did neither. Instead she found herself leaning toward him, her eyes drifting closed. Then his mouth was upon hers.
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