Read My Lord's Lady Online

Authors: Sherrill Bodine

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories, #Single Author, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Single Authors, #Historical Romance, #FICTION/Romance/Regency

My Lord's Lady (6 page)

BOOK: My Lord's Lady
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At last, his mouth met hers in a kiss that held her lips with mesmerizing power. It was the practiced kiss of a passionate man who controlled his emotions with an iron will. The pleasures he was capable of gifting with exquisite perfection were merely hinted at.

When he freed her, she stepped away and opened her eyes. Where was she? Panic unlike anything she had ever experienced cautioned her to go carefully. She dared not move, either toward him or away.

“Well, what did we discover?” His tone was a deliberate insult.

Suddenly she felt on much surer ground. It seemed he was as unnerved as she. “I discovered that you are afraid.” Pointedly she turned away.

Strong hands at her waist stopped her flight and turned her back to face him. Abruptly his fingers caressed the mass of hair at the back of her neck, and forced her to look up into his glowing eyes.

“I fear nothing,” he breathed.

Then he bent forward and captured her mouth in an intimate, open kiss. His lips searched before his tongue daringly stroked her mouth. His fingertips traced down her throat, over her shoulders, to the high curve of her breasts above her gown.

She met his kiss eagerly, and her skin swelled and warmed to his touch as a penetrating throb of pleasure raced through her. With the wall of detachment destroyed forever between them, she glimpsed the deep well of his passionate nature. She trembled, reacting as her own powerful needs were newly reborn.

This answer was so sweetly enticing, it terrified her!

Chapter 6

He feared nothing. Not the incredible sweetness of Georgina’s mouth, nor the passion spiraling through his blood when his hands moved to the slope of her back, pulling her lush softness even closer.

He whispered her name against her mouth, while his fingers stroked her luxuriant hair. He heard a soft gasp come from the back of her throat and exhilaration pounded through him.

Dragging his lips back and forth across hers, he coaxed her mouth open.

Her response as her lips met his eagerly and her small body melded into his much larger one, was the most exquisite gift he’d ever been given.

Stunned disbelief burned away his passion. Brusquely he freed her from the hot clinging kiss. Her sherry eyes were wide with shock above flushed rigid cheekbones. Shaking her head, she stepped back in denial.

So did he.

“Gracious me!” she breathed, her hands fluttering to her throat where a pulse throbbed.

He had the oddest desire to place his mouth on that very spot.

“This … this…” Suddenly she stopped, lifting her chin, and met his gaze with her old boldness. “This
attraction
is not enough to base a relationship upon. Even if we both wished it, which we don’t. You and I view the world in quite different ways, my lord.”

“So it would seem,” he agreed, having learned long ago the most effective way to mask his true feelings.

“Then we shall simply acknowledge this for what it is and go on with our lives.”

Go on! How dare she? She’d been nothing but a sword thrust to his peace of mind from the moment they’d met. How, after what they’d just shared, when long forgotten emotions poured through him with such force, could she casually dismiss him? He drew upon his most powerful defenses but could think of no appropriate answer. The nonesuch reduced to speechlessness by a woman, and a bold and sassy one at that.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to the children.” She spun about, threw the bolt, pushed the door wide, and ascended the stairs, all as if nothing momentous had just occurred.

Bemused, he followed her with his eyes. After a moment’s reflection, he too made for the nursery. With all his well-laid plans in ruin around him, it seemed like the right course of action.

Everyone waited, trying to appear busy. The children had books open in front of them, unfortunately Leticia’s was upside down. Sabrina sorted silks with Amesley’s desultory help. Only Tildie, rocking peacefully and mending, appeared to have any peace of mind. Georgina didn’t even have the chance to prejudice them against him, he arrived directly on her heels.

So he was quite able to see Lawrence leap to his feet and rush to the door. “Are you all right?” he asked anxiously before seeing his father. Then a stuttered, “Oh, beg pardon, sir.”

Leticia, ever the diplomat, threw herself into the breach. “Lady Georgina, your hair is ever so pretty falling down upon your shoulders. Isn’t it pretty, Father?”

His sweet daughter’s attempt to soothe the awkward situation made it all the worse. Georgina suddenly realized how she must look, and guiltily tried to restore her hair to a semblance of order. It was obvious to all, but the children, what had occurred in the library. He could sense their obvious confusion.

Amesley’s and Sabrina’s stunned looks could be dismissed, but Tildie’s triumphant expression was a facer! He’d been a complete fool! Tildie’s fine hand was evident in all that had happened. He was definitely at point-non-plus.

Lawrence had to tug on his hand to get his attention. When he turned to his son, Lawrence stepped back and squared his shoulders.

“Father, don’t be angry with anyone but me. It was my idea to play hide-and-seek.”

When had he become such an ogre to his own children? Pride in his son’s fine sense of honor and an overwhelming perception of fatherly love caused him to kneel before Lawrence so their faces were on a level.

“I’m not angry with anyone, Lawrence. I’m very pleased that you and your sister are so much better. The doctor will be here in the morning to confirm your recovery. Perhaps it would be wise if you and Leticia rested a bit now.”

The solemn little face cracked in a grin. “All right, Father. But I’m glad you aren’t angry with Lady Sherboume. She’s made having the measles fun.”

His son’s new boldness could no doubt be laid at Georgina’s door. He straightened and met her eyes. It appeared she’d not only disordered his thoughts, but his family’s as well. Now he must decide what to do about it.

“Laurentian, I wish to speak with you in the library.” Tildie’s command broke into his thoughts. He watched her rise from the rocker and flick out the folds of her black skirt, a gesture he remembered seeing many times as a child. He had trusted her implicitly then. But now he was a man and must make his own decisions.

Nevertheless he dutifully followed in her wake, eager to confront his old governess with his newfound knowledge.

The lingering scent of the fragrance Georgina wore, a mixture of wild rose and jasmine, still permeated the library. Or perhaps he was becoming fanciful as well as emotional. He took a deep breath, holding it inside, before releasing it in a soundless sigh.

“So, Laurentian, what do you intend to do about this course of events?” As always Tildie was straightforward, her voice lined with steel.

For the first time he reminded himself that he was not her charge any longer. To prove it, he propped one shoulder lazily against the mantel.

“You mean the events that have been guided by your fine hand.”

She eyed him with deep reproach. “I shall tell you what I told Georgina.
I
am doing nothing. You and Georgina seem capable of handling it all quite well yourselves.”

Conflicting emotions burned in his chest, confusing him. “In this, Your Grace, I must disagree. Georgina and I find ourselves propelled into a situation that is uncomfortable for us and for everyone around us. You would have served us better by not trying to manage our lives.” This, he realized, was as close as he’d ever come to criticizing her.

Nonplussed she stepped closer, and by habit he straightened to rigid attention.

“I suppose I managed to have your children come down with the measles so we were all thrown willy-nilly together! I have never
managed
you, Laurentian. I only presented opportunities for you to experience life more fully. My regret is that I left before you went to Eton. If I had been there, I’m sure things would have been different. I would have spared you whatever torment caused you to turn from the path I’d set you upon to this rigid, unyielding person you’ve become. It isn’t right, Laurentian. You’re missing all the good things life has to offer—and for what? For fear of failure? Criticism?”

Reaching one thin blue-veined hand, his old governess smoothed his hair off his forehead. “Almost I understood your mother’s love of your beautiful ringlets, however inappropriate. I know they must have cost you dear.” Stiffening her back, Tildie dropped her arm and stared at him.

Shrugging, he curled his mouth into a mocking smile. “Don’t pity me, Tildie. I became exactly what I wished to be and have ordered my life the same way. There’s much to be said for detachment and control. Look how far it’s brought me. It serves me well, and I can’t imagine changing now.”

“But you have lost your sense of joy. And without change and growth, life becomes strangely flat.” A gentle note crept into her voice. “That is what draws you to Georgina, you know. Her joyous, bold spirit. The way life just seems to sparkle around her. Yet, she had lost her ability to be in touch with her deeper feelings. And you. You are so in touch with yours, you must throw up barriers lest they break out and consume you! Together I should think you would both be more complete.”

“I did not plan to ever fall in love!” The words spilled out unbidden. He made a prodigious effort to regain his disintegrating composure by lifting his brows in disdain. “Although I honored the children’s mother, our arranged marriage fit into the well-ordered flow of my life. There is nothing well-ordered about the emotions Georgina inspires.”

“Ah, Laurentian, I can tell you from experience one never plans to fall in love. The process is not well-ordered, but it is joyous beyond your wildest expectations. Would that both you and Georgina experience it!”

The children had settled down for a nap. Georgina had straightened the nursery while avoiding, as best she could, Sabrina’s thinly disguised questions about what had happened in the library earlier. Amesley was either too well-bred, or he was trying to melt into the woodwork so she would so far forget herself as to let something slip. The longer Tildie and Forry’s conference went on, the more nervous she became. She decided to take all the books off the nursery shelves, dust and alphabetize them. Anything to keep her mind off what was transpiring in the room below.

She was momentarily diverted as she watched her shy daughter blossoming under Amesley’s kindness. They had settled, finally, on a hand of whist and were amicably battling over Amesley’s new and unorthodox rules. Tildie had been right to suggest they acquaint Sabrina with some town bronze before her come out next spring. But was Tildie right about other things?

Common sense finally prevailed. She was not seventeen again, waiting for her father and Lord Sherbourne to decide her fate! It wasn’t up to Tildie, or Forry, for that matter. She marched downstairs to the door where she took a deep breath before pushing it open.

“Would that both you and Georgina experience it,” Tildie was saying, as she gazed solemnly into his face.

Georgina was momentarily stunned. “Experience … what?” she asked in a bright little voice that reflected nothing of the tumult taking place within her.

It seemed as if she had interrupted at a bad moment. Tildie appeared somewhat disconcerted, while Forry had his walls firmly back in place. Could this cool, apparently heartless, man be the one who had kissed her with such fire that she had been shaken to her very roots?

Stung by his reversal, her burning emotions twisted into one enormous mass of anger.

“I am a woman, of five and thirty, although I confess I haven’t been conducting myself as such. However, I have come to my senses, at last. I feel I should be the one discussing this situation.”

“Say no more!” Tildie smiled, gliding over to gently pinch Georgina’s chin. “Wise child, remember it is never too late to embrace your feelings.”

Again, they were alone in the library. The very walls seemed to shout at her, reminding her of their last encounter. And
he
was no help! His relaxed stance and air of quiet confidence disturbed her even more, for
her
body was betraying her by trembling with the remembered emotions he had ignited in this very room not an hour before.

“Georgina, I hold myself responsible for everything that has occurred between us. Although it is obvious I desire you, I bow to your wise observation that we are ill matched.”

His voice was gentle, but there was a curious trace of sadness. A woman’s instinct reassured her that his stronger emotions were being held firmly in check. Drat the man!

Her pulse suddenly pounded through her veins, one beat hot, the next cold, until it was difficult to order her breathing. Salty tears stung the back of her eyes. Blinking rapidly, she faced him squarely, giving no quarter and asking none.

“I fear, my lord, I am more curious than you to explore where these emotions could lead us.” Half mocking, she laughed at herself. “I am not brave enough to hear what you find lacking in me, but I must tell you that were it not for the fact you live your life without a sense of joy…” She fought for words. “If you ever smiled, my lord, I might be so bold as to entice you to reconsider. So it is fortuitous that the doctor arrives tomorrow. He will no doubt release us. Then we shall bid one another farewell.”

It seemed a great waste to leave him with so much unexplored between them, but she feared it would be tragic for them both if she did not. Common sense and newly awakened desire danced a strange waltz in Georgina’s mind. Common sense won out, as it always had.

She quietly let herself out of the room. It was of course the wisest, most prudent course of action, she told herself as she trailed slowly up the stairs to her room.

Vane watched her walk away. With each step she took, her shoulders bent a little. By the time she reached the landing, all the joy seemed to have disappeared from around her. He allowed her to go, although the words to stop her nearly burst from him. But he held them in; that was his way.

Across the room was a small mirror where once a day so long ago his father had stood him. Examine your life he’d said. Are you learning all you can? He sought it out now.

Are you learning all you can? What did he really know of life. It seemed for thirty-five years he’d just been going through the motions. In the dim light his reflection hadn’t changed much. But suddenly he knew, he had. It was time to let go of all that had happened in the past. It was time to forge a new beginning for himself. Did he have the courage to do it?

And more importantly, could he ever convince Georgina to be a part of it?

BOOK: My Lord's Lady
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