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Authors: Bethany Sefchick

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BOOK: The Earl Who Loved Me
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"I see your point,"
Amelia finally conceded.
 
"But what
am I to do?
 
The house party ends
tomorrow evening and I have no other gowns to wear.
 
I do not think even the great Madame LaVallier can work that sort
of miracle.
 
And I need to speak with
the earl before we retire for the night, on a matter of some urgency.
 
Now, I am not certain that I can, at least
not looking as I do."
 
Then she
sighed and looked over to where David stood leaning against the hearth, engaged
in deep conversation with the Duke of Hathaway.

Diana's gaze followed Amelia's, her
eyes narrowing slightly.
 
"Leave
that to me, my friend.
 
Leave that part
all to me."

 

David paced back and forth in his
library, the clock ticking away the minutes faster than he would have
liked.
 
Where was the blasted
woman?
 
How could he seduce her if she
was back to hiding from him again?
 
He
had thought that issue resolved when he had asked for her help gathering the
women's opinions on the house party.
 
Was he wrong?

He had seen her disappear from the
ballroom with Lady Diana Saintwood moments after he had sent her a note asking
her to meet him in the library once the festivities ended for the evening.
 
He had thought she would use her departure
with Lady Diana to sneak off to the library unseen.
 
Had he been wrong?
 
Had
Diana done something to Amelia to prevent her from meeting him?
 
It would not be the first time he had
underestimated the cleverness of a woman when she desired something,
particularly if that something was him.
 
Though really, he had thought Diana had eyes only for Lord
Hathaway.
 
Had he been wrong about that,
too?

Then the library doors opened with
a soft squeak and David forgot to breathe, the very breath stolen from his
chest.

Amelia was a goddess.
 
She had been lovely before but now?
 
Now she was breathtaking, the most
magnificent creature he had ever laid eyes on.

Her fair skin - and a great deal of
it, much to his delight - was showcased to perfection, the tops of her creamy
breasts nearly spilling out of the exquisitely form fitting gown she wore.
 
It was the color of claret and clung
lovingly to her curves.
 
When she turned
to close the doors behind her, he saw that it dipped nearly as low in the back
with a row of tiny golden buttons the only thing that held it closed.

This was not her gown, for if she
had possessed such a frock, he would have known about it.
 
Though where she had procured it was of
little concern to him.
 
All that
mattered was that she looked as if she was bent on seduction - his seduction if
he had anything to say about it.

"David."
 
Her voice was soft, as it always was, but
this time, there was a note of something coy in it.
 
He should have minded.
 
After all, how many women had attempted to seduce him in this very
manner over the years?
 
Except that this
was Amelia and he knew her better than that.
 
He also knew that he would not mind seduction at her hands.
 
In fact, he would relish it.

"Amelia.
 
You look...exquisite."
 
That was not the right word, for her
appearance nearly brought him to tears, but it was the only one his muddled
mind could come up with on such short notice.

Glancing down, she brushed her
hands over the front of the gown.
 
"Thank you.
 
Some of the
ladies were exchanging fashion tips abovestairs.
 
I know that I do not normally partake in such activities, but
since you had asked me to ascertain how the women viewed this house
party..."
 
She trailed off, well
aware that she was rambling.

She was also a bit
self-conscious.
 
He could see it in the
way she moved.
 
She was unaccustomed to
wearing frocks that displayed her attributes so well, but in his opinion, she
should never return to her dowdy gowns that hid her ample charms ever
again.
 
He had fallen in love with the
mouse, but the lioness now standing before him made his cock harden to the
point of pain.

"It is very kind of you to do
so."
 
He crossed to her in a few
strides and then before he led her deeper into the room, made certain to lock
the doors so they would not be disturbed.
 
"You need not have made the sacrifice on my account."

If she noticed his actions, she did
not comment on them.
 
Instead, she moved
further into the room, which he had made certain was cloaked in shadows well
before she arrived.
 
He had wanted the
room to appear warm and inviting, a fire crackling merrily in the hearth so
that she might feel relaxed in his presence, open to a kiss.
 
Or maybe more if she desired.

The very idea that she might come
here clad for seduction had never entered his mind.
 
He had to remember to thank Lady Diana in the morning, for he was
now certain this was her handiwork.

"It was no hardship,"
Amelia said as her eyes took in the room.
 
It had changed little over the years that she had been visiting
Weatherby Hall.
 
The massive old oak
desk still sat against the bank of windows, which were now covered with heavy
green drapes to keep out the cold.
 
The
walls of the room soared to two stories with ladders placed here and there,
providing access to a small balcony running around the length and breadth of
the room where the second floor would have begun so that one could reach the
books found there.
 
And, to her delight,
David owned a great many books.

A leather chair, one of the few
remaining from David's grandfather's era sat behind the desk while the rest of
the room was dotted with comfortable chairs and couches clad in forest green
damask to match the drapes.
 
A long, low
fainting couch was pushed against one wall and opposite it, currently hiding
behind the window coverings, was a small seat where one could curl up with a
good book on a rainy summer day, something she and David had done often in
their youth.

She felt rather than saw David pour
them each a drink, brandy for her and a scotch for him before coming to stand
beside her, drinks in hand.

"Still, it was more than what
I had asked of you.
 
I know how
uncomfortable you are with Society women."
 
He clinked the cut crystal glass against hers and she watched it
sparkle in the fire's light.
 
"You
deserve high praise for your efforts."

Quickly she took a sip, unused to
his effusive words.
 
"Actually?
 
I enjoyed
myself.
 
I did not think I would."
 
That was the truth.
 
She had enjoyed sitting still under Lady
Diana's ministrations, so much more delicate than her own lady's maid's were,
while she was transformed with surprisingly little effort from a mouse into an
enticing lady.

"I am glad then.
 
I would never do anything to cause you
discomfort, Amelia.
 
Surely you know
that by now."
 
Then he fell silent,
reaching out only to part the drapes a bit so that they might watch the light
snow that had begun to fall at some point earlier in the evening.
 
Now, the ground was dusted in a fine white
power that sparkled like so many diamonds or crystals strewn about.

"You are a good friend,
David," Amelia said finally, the words coming easier now as the brandy
loosed her tongue a bit.
 
"Any man
would be lucky to count himself among yours."

He turned to her, raising an
eyebrow before grinning at her, relishing the idea of teasing her a bit
more.
 
"And women?"

"Women and men are not often
friends."
 
She replied so softly
that he barely heard her.

"But we are."
 
There was a undercurrent to his words, one
she could not decipher.
 
"Or am I
wrong?"

Slowly, she took another sip of
brandy, feeling the slide of the liquid down her throat and the answering slide
of languid heat along her limbs.
 
"You are not.
 
In fact, I
would count you as my closest friend, odd as that sounds."
 
She had no idea why she was admitting
this.
 
Though she was always honest with
David, she did not speak of such things.
 
Ever.
 
It was not ladylike or
proper.
 
So perhaps it was the late hour
or the brandy or the new gown that gave her the confidence, but whatever the
reason, she felt her tongue loosening all the more.

"That is excellent news
then," he said, placing his glass on the desk, the amber liquid glinting
in the firelight.
 
"For I count you
as my closest friend as well."
 
He
turned to her and there was a heat in his eyes that she had not seen there
before.
 
One of passion and desire.
 
Or perhaps she was only imagining it.

Suddenly, the dress felt too
confining.
 
Diana was not as well
endowed as Amelia and the gown had been a tight fit anyway, but now she felt as
if it was not just a bit too small but a great deal too small.
 
Her skin burned where his gaze raked her and
she wanted to flee.
 
Yet a part of her,
the part that over the last few hours had grown remarkably stronger, forced her
to say.
 
She did, however, take one last
sip of her brandy before placing her glass beside his on the desk.
 
Her hand shook slightly as she did so, and
she was surprised when David reached out to steady her hand with his.

Courage, Diana had said.
 
Amelia must show courage if she was to
seduce David.
 
But this game was new to
her and she did not know the rules.
 
Proper ladies did not proposition men, not unless they wanted to be
thought lightskirts or doxies.

"We could be more than
friends, Amelia."
  
David turned to
her and slowly pulled her towards him, his touch on her arm burning her.
 
What would she do if he touched her without
the protection of a glove or two between them?

"I do not take your
meaning."
 
Except that she did and
it terrified her.
 
This was what she
wanted, what she had dreamed of.
 
David
desiring her as she desired him.
 
And it
frightened her out of her very wits.

He moved ever so closer to her
until she was fully tucked within the circle of his arms.
 
"I think you do, Amelia."
 
He stroked a hand down her arm and she
shivered, whether in delight or fear she did not know.
 
"Did you honestly believe that story I
fed you tonight in the conservatory about the enjoyment of the house party
guests?"

"Yes?"
 
But she said it as a question and not a
statement, and he knew that she had seen through his ruse.
 
It had been foolish to think she would be
that stupid.
 
She was very clever, his
Amelia.

"No."
 
Another stroke of his hand, this time his
thumb on the inside of her elbow where there was no glove to protect her
suddenly overheated skin.
 
"Neither
one of us believed it, yet I could think of no other way to prevent you from
scurrying off again and hiding in your room.
 
I do not want you to hide from me, Amelia.
 
From other men perhaps, but not me."

Each touch from him sent flashes of
desire skittering up her spine and again, she was certain that she might faint
if they ever touched skin to skin.
 
"But we are friends and nothing more."
 
This could not be happening.
 
Men like David did not notice women like
Amelia.
 
Then again, she did not look
precisely like herself at the moment either.

"That has not been true since
the night we waltzed at Lord and Lady Ardenton's wedding ball and you well know
it."
 
Another stroke of his thumb,
this time on the soft flesh of the inner part of her upper arm.
 
No one touched her there.
 
No one dared.
 
"You know it as well as I, Amelia.
 
That night, my eyes were opened, though I am uncertain as to how
I could have been so foolish and blind as to have kept them closed for so
long."

Blinking up at him, Amelia felt as
if she was in a daze, her every wish coming true in an instant.
 
This was not real.
 
It could not be.
 
Yet it
was.
 
She could feel the heat of David's
body against hers, especially through the thin silk of the borrowed
ballgown.
 
She could feel the press of
his hand on her skin and see the flare of desire in his eyes.
 
This was real.
 
And more overwhelming than she could have imagined.
 

BOOK: The Earl Who Loved Me
5.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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