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.“Are you suggesting women love villains?”“Well, we do find them terribly appealing.We keep thinking we can save them.It’s no wonder women flock around you.It can’t be for your charm of manner.” She batted her eyes at him.His sharp bark of laughter surprised her.“I hope you aren’t equally enamored of villains, Lady Miranda.”“Why? You’re clearly a villain.Don’t you want me to be madly in love with you?”He considered it for a moment.“I’ll let you know,” he said finally.“Lovely,” she said, rising.“I’m going to go discover my new wardrobe—what a delightful thing for you to do, darling.You know how women love new clothes.I glanced at them last night and I swear I’m going to have a hard time deciding what to wear.”“Just as long as you wear nothing tonight when I come to you.”She paused by the door, a slightly worried expression on her face.“Well, I’ll have to wear something.My monthly courses just began, and it’s awfully messy if I don’t…darling, are you ill?” She was all solicitude.“Hardly,” he said amiably.“And how long do your monthly courses last?”“Oh, a week or ten days,” she said airily.“And I’m afraid I’m blessed with a very heavy flow, but I assume you don’t mind.You’re such a man of the world you’ve doubtless dealt with this sort of thing before.”She was gambling on his squeamishness, and she was more than willing to go into greater detail about her imaginary menses, but he simply nodded, not looking the slightest bit bothered.“I don’t have any particular problem with it, but I expect you’ll be happier if we wait.”Ew, she thought.But then, everything about the entire process of mating seemed rather vile.“As you wish, my darling.”“Stop calling me that,” he snapped, finally nettled.“‘Darling’? Then what would you like me to call you?”“Lucien will do.”Lucien was the name she used when she trusted him.Lucien was the way she still thought of him, unfortunately.“I was planning on being formal and calling you husband, or Rochdale in public, but then, if we don’t marry that won’t do.Endearments are so charming.If you call someone darling long enough you’ll start to believe it.And wouldn’t you just love to have me adore you?”He raised an eyebrow.“I was under the impression that you already did.”One to him, she thought, keeping her smile firmly fixed on her face.“Of course I do.Will I see you at luncheon?”He surveyed her for a long, contemplative moment.“I think I might find I have other things to do.I expect being around you and unable to touch you will be very difficult for me, and I might get snappish.I would hate to wound my sweet girl.”Miranda almost gagged on the endearment.Oh, he was good at this.She simpered.“Nature has a way of being so inconvenient,” she said soulfully.“Then again… there’s always your mouth.”Rat scum bastard, she thought with a loving smile, trying to ignore the color that rose to her cheeks.She knew exactly what he was talking about—Christopher had tried to get her to do that on the second night.It was a revolting thought, and Lucien knew it.“I worship and adore you, dearest, but if you think you’re doing that to me you’re sadly mistaken.” She accompanied her statement with an affectionate beam.“No, love.You’ll be doing that to me, and I quite expect you’ll want to.Would you care to wager?”Son of a bitch, she thought.“I think it’s probably not a good idea to wager with my…what are you? My clandestine lover?”He shrugged.“I haven’t decided.It might be marriage after all.I simply have to figure out which you’d prefer.”“And then do the opposite.”“Exactly.”She looked at him, determined not to call him by name.“Dearest,” she began, “you really have the most mischievous nature.I’ll do my best to keep you guessing.”He rose then, coming to the door, and she wished she’d gotten the hell out of there a little faster.She’d been a fool to sit and banter with him.He was limping more than he had, and he was using his cane.That didn’t prevent him from putting his hand on her arm and turning her around to face him.She didn’t resist.She wasn’t going to resist anything; she was going to smile and laugh and refuse to let him make her miserable.He released her arm and slid his hand up her throat, to cup her chin, and she was suddenly terrified that he might kiss her.His kisses were dangerous, intoxicating, and she hadn’t quite discovered how to inure herself to them.“My love,” he murmured, “I have the dreadful feeling that I probably never will tire of you.We may as well be married.”She held very still.“A charming proposal.”“And do you accept?”“Do I have a choice, my darling?” she said through slightly clenched teeth.“Not at all.” And he covered her mouth with his.It was a light kiss, playful, his tongue running along the tight seam of her mouth, his long fingers stroking her throat.She wanted to open her mouth for him, but she kept her jaw clamped shut.Later, when she came up with a plan, she’d let him kiss her.She’d come up with something ridiculous to think about when he touched her, so she wouldn’t start to tremble and melt as she was right now, and she was parting her lips, ready for more, when he pulled away.There was a strange look in his eyes.“A week to ten days, you say?”“I’m afraid so.”“Then clearly I’ll have to find something else to do.”Miss Jane Pagett smelled like violets, Jacob thought miserably.If there was one fragrance that brought him to his knees, it was violets.It all went back to a sunny afternoon in Jamaica, with those wildflowers all around, crushed beneath their bodies as they made love.And now he couldn’t even remember the girl.All he could remember was the sense of peace, of rightness on that cloudless afternoon.He was already having a hard enough time with Miss Jane Pagett.Every time they stopped to rest the horses and she walked by him he caught the scent, and it made him crazy.He’d already promised they weren’t driving through the night, or he would have damned well paid for the change of horses himself in order to get temptation away from him.At least she was safely ensconced in a bedroom upstairs, neat and clean in her little bed.Scorpion had arranged for fresh clothes for his bride’s friend, and he’d brought them with him when he’d taken the coachman’s place.They didn’t fit half badly, though he’d estimated she’d had a bit more in the rump and less in chest.Either way, she was too damned tempting for his peace of mind, he thought, sitting in the almost deserted taproom, listening to her move around overhead.He’d taken a very circuitous route—he didn’t want to risk running smack into an army of rescuers—and the inn was almost deserted.Long Molly still managed to find a likely prospect and was at that moment with her toes to Jesus, having a wonderful time.And it wasn’t as if there weren’t prospects for him, as well.The barmaid was a buxom blonde, with a pretty face and a saucy smile, and he knew he could have her without trying.She’d be enough to take his mind off Miss Jane Pagett.Maybe he could see if she could sneak into Miss Jane’s room and steal her violet perfume.But the fact of the matter was, he didn’t want Nancy, or Betty, or whatever her name was.He wanted Jane.He wanted to see if that kiss was anywhere near what he remembered.He sat for a long time, nursing his beer.It wouldn’t do to get too drunk the first night out—he’d have a hell of a headache the next day.Though maybe that would help take his mind off his passenger [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]