The Earl of Kettering leaned against the wall that ran the length of the terrace and watched the girl before him pace. Why in the world had she brought him out into the chill of an early spring night? He had thought she truly might be ill, but now she walked back and forth, peering into the ballroom windows as though looking for someone. Could she be afraid of something?
“I assume you did not bring me out here for a stolen embrace,” he said. He was too old for these games and it was time she knew it.
“What?” asked the girl. She turned to him as if startled to find him capable of speech. “I beg your pardon,” she amended.
She approached him then, still casting glances behind her.
Whatever she was afraid of, Devon decided, she was about to find out that he was far more dangerous.
“Why did you bring me out here?” He made his voice harsh.
“I…I felt faint.” The girl was surprised at his tone. She took a step back. Once again she looked over her shoulder.
“Enough!” Devon grabbed her wrist and jerked her down a short flight of stone steps onto the lawn. He blocked her way back to the lighted walk. Perhaps she would now give him her undivided attention.
“What are you doing!” she demanded.
“Tell me what you are doing,” he demanded.
“I am trying to avoid someone.” She admitted at last. She had the good grace to look ashamed as she spoke the words.
“And that would be?” Devon asked.
“I…I do not think –“ she stopped, started again. “Its none of your business!”
“I think you are going to answer my question,” Devon replied. Having just managed to avenge his father’s murder, and still waiting to take full control of the family estates, he could ill afford a scandal. Most certainly he did not need to be caught up in some fancy with this girl-child.
There was a pause. He saw her gauging her distance from help and their relative sizes.
“Lord Norfolk.” she said at last. Then, as if she thought this might require some explanation, she continued in a lowered voice. “He takes liberties.”
Lord Norfolk? That popinjay teasing her in the ballroom? Black’s blood suddenly ran cold. What a fool he was! She was trying to free herself from an over ardent admirer. She was using him!
“I see,” he said. If she had cast him as her new lover, by God he would play the part. In a motion made swift by years of combat he had her by the shoulder.
“Lord Norfolk takes liberties,” he said as he pulled her with him into the shadows. In a moment he was half seated along the slanted wall that lined the stairs. She was standing between his legs. “Let us see,” he said, “I am sure he does this.”
It was, Corwyn reflected with amazement, everything she had ever imagined a kiss could be. His lips brushed hers, once, twice, then finally lingered. He deepened the kiss, his tongue entering her mouth, exploring her as though he had an eternity to spend.
“And this of course,” he whispered. His free hand found the slope of her breast, caressing it through the thin fabric of her bodice. Startled at the surge of heat that coursed through her, she tried to pull away. He held her still, lowered his eyes to watch as he swept the troublesome cloth aside. One full soft globe appeared in the moonlight and his thumb worried its tip into a peak.
“And this too.” He bent his leonine head to the untried flesh, tasted her, then suckled gently.
Corwyn gasped, her back arched. Her hand came up, tapered fingers finding purchase in the dark mass of his hair. Then he was kissing her again, standing as he ran his hands the length of her body, pressing her against him. Then he shoved her away, eyes hard. “No wonder Lord Norfolk takes liberties. You offer them in abundance.” He watched as she struggled to right her clothes, enjoying her embarrassment.
“You bastard.” Corwyn said the words without thinking.
He cocked his head to one side. “You have no idea what a bastard I can be,” he said. “But you will certainly find out if anything comes of this little farce.” He brushed past her into the moonlit garden.
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