Beyond Scandal and Desire(6)

By: Lorraine Heath


Aslyn fought to hide her shock that Kip would know of this man, this creature of the night, this commoner. Even more stunned that he appeared to be encouraging a discourse with someone beneath him. Kip, like most in the aristocracy, tended to lord his position over those who weren’t quite up to snuff.

The gentleman, in a grand gesture, swept his hat from his head. “I am indeed. Pleased to make your acquaintance, my lord, my lady.”

“I’ve heard of you, Mr. Trewlove.”

Aslyn wondered how he knew of the gentleman, what things Mick Trewlove might have done that had brought him to Kip’s attention. Nothing good, she suspected.

“Nothing good, I suspect.”

She nearly gasped as he gave voice to her exact thoughts. She did hope they weren’t reflected in her face, that the man wasn’t aware that while he had piqued her curiosity, she didn’t quite trust him. Or perhaps it was that she didn’t trust herself, because if she were honest he intrigued every inch of her being. She’d never before met anyone with such majestic bearing as though he ruled over everything upon which he gazed. He had a commanding presence that was both unsettling and thrilling.

“On the contrary. I hear you have a nose for helping men make fortunes.”

He lifted a shoulder, ducked his head in a way that would appear humble in most men, but she sensed he didn’t have a modest bone in that marvelously tall, broad-shouldered body of his. There was an uncivilized aspect to him that had her most feminine parts quivering—shamefully. She’d never had such a blatant physical reaction to a man. She wanted to run her fingers over his beard to see if it felt as soft and luxurious as it looked, even as she had a strong urge to dash off and protect herself as the duchess had warned her far too many times was the appropriate response when confronted by a dangerous man. Instinctually, she knew he was dangerous, very dangerous indeed, in ways she’d never even considered a man might be perilous.

“Sometimes our endeavors meet with financial success,” he said. “Few men boast about the times when they don’t.”

“Please, let’s not get into business,” Miss Trewlove lamented. “The fireworks will be filling the sky soon. I’ve heard they’re marvelous, and this will be my first time to see them. I don’t want to miss out on a single burst. My lord, you wouldn’t happen to know the best place for viewing them, would you?”

“Indeed, I would.”

With gloved hands clasped before her, Miss Trewlove hopped up to him as though she were a rambunctious puppy who had just divined who held a treat. “Would you be so kind as to show me?”

“I’d be delighted to have that honor. If you’ve never seen them before, you must view them from the best advantage.”

And he would go with them, this man who merely watched, watched her as though striving to uncover every facet of her. She wasn’t quite certain she wanted him near. Something told her that she would be safer if he remained behind. She didn’t fear that he would strike her or harm her in any way. Yet she couldn’t quite shake off the sense that this man was laying claim to her. It was a ridiculous notion. She didn’t know him. He was a commoner. After tonight, they would never again cross paths, and all her curiosity about him would fade away.

“Aslyn?”

Jerking her head to the side, breaking free of whatever spell Mick Trewlove had cast over her, she looked at Kip, surprised to see his hand extended toward her.

“Shall we?” he asked.

“Yes, of course.” She forced herself to move up and place her hand on his arm when she would have preferred to stand there like a silly goose and study Mick Trewlove. She’d never known a man who gave away none of his thoughts or emotions. He didn’t seem bothered by his sister’s forwardness, but then it wasn’t like a paramour dallying with another man. Although most certainly the girl had been flirting, no doubt testing the waters in order to determine if Kip might turn out to be the fancy man her mother wanted for her. But he was spoken for. Not formally announced, yet all of London—all of Great Britain for that matter—knew to whom he belonged, whom he would eventually marry, who would become his countess.