Beyond Scandal and Desire(7)

By: Lorraine Heath


She was aware of Miss Trewlove and her brother following behind them. Once again, she had the strange sensation of being watched. She wanted to look back, to see if his eyes were upon her. Instead she marched forward, wondering what she might have done if he had offered her his arm before Kip had. She rather feared she might have taken it. Something about him called to her, drew her in. She didn’t understand this attraction, wasn’t certain she wanted to.





Chapter 2




Mick was torn between being furious with Fancy for taking matters into her own hands and applauding her ingenuity. For gaining him the introduction he’d desired, she’d be insufferable for at least a sennight. But as he followed the couple leading the way toward the fireworks, he couldn’t seem to hold on to his irritation with his sister nor take his gaze away from the woman. She wasn’t exactly what he’d been expecting. Ladies of the nobility tended to be haughty, unapproachable. They looked at him as though he were muck to be scraped off the bottom of their shoe.

But Lady Aslyn didn’t seem to fit so easily into that mold. Her eyes, the blue of a summer sky, had reflected curiosity, perhaps something even more provocative: temptation. He intrigued her. From the moment she’d become aware of his existence, she’d not taken her gaze from him, but had studied him with her fine brow delicately furrowed as though he were a puzzle to be sorted out. He’d wager half his fortune she’d been striving to place him, to wonder from whence she knew him. She was unlikely to make the connection—not until his plans were completed. Then she would know the truth of him, the truth of those she considered family, those whom she loved. Both truths were likely to bring her to tears, fill her with shame and mortification. And certainly kill any desire for him that might have been sparked within her breast.

If he were any other man, he might experience a measure of remorse, but he’d learned early on there was no capital found in regrets.

“I’ve never spoken to nobility before,” Fancy said quietly. “They seem rather pleasant.”

“Stay away from them after tonight.” He’d been reckless to bring her, to let her get even a glimpse of his quarry.

“Why?”

“Because he has designs on you.” That, too, had been obvious from the start. There had been greed, desire, lust in the earl’s eyes, and it had taken every bit of control he possessed not to introduce his fist to that little dent in his lordship’s chin.

“You implied he was interested in the lady.”

“She is the sort he marries. You are the sort he beds.”

Her eyes widened, her cheeks reddened. “And the lady on his arm? Is she the sort you wed?”

“Never in a million years.”

She stopped walking, causing him to do the same. “Yet you’re going to strive to take her away from him. What has he done to earn your wrath?”

He’d been born, protected, loved. Although in truth, he wasn’t the one with whom Mick found fault, but he was the means to achieving satisfaction. Not that he was willing to explain any of his reasons to his sister. She’d find fault with him. Generally he didn’t care what people thought about him, but from the moment she was born, she’d been the only pure thing to ever love him. He’d do whatever necessary to ensure nothing ever tainted that purity. “For tonight, simply enjoy the fireworks.”

“But I’m part of your scheme now.”

“Not after tonight.”

“I gained you an introduction. I can do more—”

“You were correct earlier, Fancy. You were merely to serve as part of my disguise. What is going to transpire beyond tonight is not for a lady of your sensibilities.” Not for anyone with a shred of kindness or civility, but his education in the streets had ensured he grew up to possess neither of those irritating and limiting qualities. If they lingered about at all, he was unable to locate even a remnant of their existence within his character, his soul, his heart.

“I despise the way you discount me so easily with so little care.”

“I’m not discounting you, I’m protecting you.”

She opened her mouth, no doubt to protest more, reminding him of a dog he’d once owned that never released his hold on a bone once he had it clamped between his jaws. “We can leave now if you prefer,” he said curtly before she could give voice to more objections.