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.“Because of their inherent physical weakness.The Lord, in his wisdom, made females the weaker sex.”Her foil passed around the tip of his.“You have discounted our strengths.”“Women undoubtedly have their own strengths, primarily related to intellect.However, I don’t see their use on the field of battle.”“Oh!” She lost her footing and stumbled, handily proving his point that women had no business fencing.Throwing down his foil, he leaped to catch her before she fell.She felt surprisingly soft and supple as he held her tight against him, momentarily distracted by the feel of her fleshy orbs against his chest.She blinked up at him with luminous, almost innocent eyes before a look of triumph gleamed in them and he felt the blunt tip of her covered foil under his chin.She grinned, slow and feline, prompting the temperature of his blood to soar.“Now do you see, vizconde,” she asked, pressing the tip of her blade a little harder into his vulnerable skin, “how our female strengths assist us in our battles?”With an inward curse, he eyed his foil, which he’d tossed away in an effort to save her.“Not all your opponents will be gentlemen who leap to save you from danger,” he said with grudging admiration.She laughed, the throaty sound reverberating all the way down to his vitals.“But they are still men, patron, and can be trusted to react to certain womanly charms.”With his arm still tight around her waist, he became aware of the sensual feel of her lushness pressed against him.The scent of exertion mingled with notes of cinnamon and jasmine filled his nostrils.What a cunning, lusty piece of baggage.He envied the earl his place in this woman’s bed.Then he thought of Kat and shame flushed through him.He released Elena more abruptly than he intended.She didn’t appear to notice.“Friends?” she asked, drawing the tip of her foil away from his chin.“Of course.”She replaced her foil, seeming unaffected by what had just passed between them.But when she turned around, he glimpsed—through that white shirt of hers—that the tips of her bountiful breasts had hardened.Following his gaze, she looked down and then shrugged.“I am still a woman after all, and you are a most attractive gentleman.”Laurie inhaled sharply and his prick roared to attention.But she just smiled and sauntered out of the room with those hips swinging, once again treating him to a spectacular view of her backside.This time, he did not avert his eyes.…“God in heaven, Kat.” Toby stared at her.“Where is your hair?”Kat fingered the short golden curls framing her face, feeling lighter than she had in years now that Fanny had chopped off the thick mane the others girls in her set had long envied.Which Edward had so admired.Only she thought of him as Rand now.Edward, her Edward, was dead.“I needed a fresh start,” she said, determined to put Rand out of her mind.“What do you think?”Toby’s forehead shifted upward.“Has Sin seen it yet?”“Seen what?” Laurie asked coming around the corner, his eyes widening when he caught sight of Kat.“Oh my.”For the first time, she experienced second thoughts about her impulsive decision to chop off her hair.“Do you like it?”“Of course I do.” Laurie wiped away his expression of surprise.“It’s enchanting.”Relief flowed through her.“I’m relieved you approve.”“I like everything about you, you know that,” he said.Bea, Lexie, and Peter Lawson, who’d walked up behind Laurie, came to an abrupt halt.Bea’s eyes went round.“Your hair!”“I think it is divine.” Laurie brought Kat’s hand to his lips.Warmth filled her at his gallant defense of her.Lexie gave her an assessing look.“Only Kat would be so daring to stay in the first stare of fashion.”“Wait until your mother sees it,” Bea said.Kat tightened her hold on Laurie’s hand.“As long as Lord Sinclair is pleased, that is all that matters.”Toby rolled his eyes.“The two of you are aware that love in marriage is just not done.”Laurie placed Kat’s hand on his arm, keeping his own hand over it.“Then I suppose Kat and I will have to resign ourselves to being unfashionable.Shall we?” They made their way into the parlor for the afternoon tea and games arranged by Aunt Winifred.A cool relentless rain would keep them from outdoor pursuits.“Steel yourself, darling,” Laurie said as a footman drew open the door for them to enter.She did, but against Rand, not against reactions to her new hairstyle.She hadn’t seen him since the debacle in the solarium two nights ago.Not that she’d hidden from him.It was Rand who had not appeared at all yesterday.Despite the misery wracking her body and the heavy headache throbbing at her temples, she was determined to continue with the normal activities.She refused to give Rand the satisfaction of knowing how much damage he’d done.He’d almost destroyed her once, but never again.This time, she wouldn’t allow despair to consume her.Edward and the dream of him were long dead.What she’d witnessed in the solarium proved that beyond any doubt.She’d wasted far too much time pining over Edward Stanhope.Now, she meant to move forward with her life, giving Laurie the full attention he deserved.Few men were as decent as her betrothed.Breaking with him would have been the biggest mistake of her life.Thank goodness she’d learned the truth about Rand before it was too late.Exclamations of surprise met their appearance in the parlor.With her shoulders back and chin up, Kat played her incomparable role to the hilt, easily accepting compliments about her hair, laughing and smiling, flirting and tossing about witticisms with her set.All the while, she pretended not to feel the wrenching ache of loss deep in her belly, or to notice the dark eyes following her.Rand had finally reappeared, standing in a corner against the wall with Elena and Peter Fawson.Peter seemed intent on charming the Spanish woman, who gave the appearance of being amused by his efforts.Nursing a drink, Rand appeared to pay little attention to either of them.Thunder clapped outside, drawing gasps from those closest to the windows.People took turns at the pianoforte, some partnering together, while others in the chamber gathered around to join the singing.Another thunderclap boomed, so loud it seemed to shake the room.Some of the guests murmured a little nervously.Then Kat noticed Toby, standing by the window, looking even whiter than usual.Something about his posture, his complete stillness, alarmed her.She approached him and laid a hand on his arm.“Toby?” He ignored her, standing frozen in place, his eyes unseeing.“Toby?”“I’ll see to him.” Rand’s voice was curt.She looked up into his face, but his gaze remained intent on Toby.“Hobart, it’s Rand.” He placed an arm around Toby and guided him away from the window.She followed.“What is wrong with him?”“For God’s sake,” Rand hissed as they made for the door.“Don’t make a scene [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]