As soon as the crowd had dispersed, Amelia rushed into the grand manse under pretense of needing a moment of privacy to compose herself.
As soon as she closed the door in the lady’s retiring room—thankfully alone--burst into a fit of giggles. Oh, her performance had been one of a kind! She should have taken up stage acting at some point.
From behind her a slow clapping sounded, surprising her.
“A right good performance you gave there, Miss Slockholme. I must admit I did not see that coming at all.”
Amelia turned slowly at the sound of Lord Ambry’s voice.
She pursed her lips and lifted her chin. “It was no performance. Your hands were all over me! And you were dragging me about the ice like a caveman would a woman he’s about to ravish.”
Lord Ambry’s head fell back and he laughed so loud it echoed from the pretty papered walls. “Oh, Miss Slockholme, you may have trapped me, but I win in the end.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her brows. The man was positively mad. “How do you figure, my lord?”
A lazy smile curled his lips, shocking Amelia’s unshockable senses. The man was toying with her. And she liked it. She sucked in a breath, trying to hide her reaction at having met a man who she would enjoy sparring with.
Ninny! Do not let yourself become attracted to this man! Despite her inner berating, her heartbeat sped up, and her skin tingled as she awaited his answer.
“I suppose, I ought to thank you.” He stepped closer, reached out and brushed a finger over her cheek.
Instinctively she leaned into his touch, only to be completely disgusted with herself. She tried to jerk away but he stepped even closer, snaked an arm around her waist and hauled her against his lean, muscled form. The sent of his shaving soap wafted over her, making her want to close her eyes and just breathe it in.
“The Duchess and nearly every other person in attendance is demanding we wed.”
Triumph! She had him! Her plan was going to work. Soon she’d be living the life of a true aristocrat. Money at her disposal, a title. Thomas would be so proud of her. And it didn’t hurt that she was actually looking forward to the bedding of her soon-to-be new husband.
She leaned into him, pressing her breasts against the hard expanse of his chest. She tilted her chin up, licked her lips. “And why should I thank you?” she murmured.
Lord Ambry leaned down and brushed his lips against hers, sending a shockwave through her limbs. Her breath caught, and she sighed against his lips as he kissed her. His lips roved over hers, his tongue teasing the corners of her mouth. She tilted her head to the side, deepening the kiss and cirlced her arms around his neck.
Lord Ambry shifted his lips from hers just enough to say, “Oh, my dear. You see, I am flat broke, and now you have given me an out for my debts. I will get the special license first thing in the morning.”
His words startled her from the maddening desire that had taken hold of her. She shoved against him, anger spiraling through her. “What?”
He held his grip on her elbows, keeping her pressed close. His nose touched hers, and he bent to kiss her again, catching her lip between his teeth before pulling away. “Thought you’d land yourself a title and wealthy husband? You shall be punished for sullying my reputation.”
This time when she tugged away, he let her go. His dark eyes smoldered sending opposing hot chills up her spine. How could she have let this happen? Lord Ambrey wore the best of fabrics, had the most stately carriage. How was it possible he was up to his eyeballs in debt?
Bloody jackanapes! He’d beat her at her own game. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. Of all the beef-witted, beetle-headed luck! She was not going to let him get the best of her.
She charged toward him and poked her finger into his chest. “You tricked me! How dare you! I will deck the halls with you,” she said menacingly.
Lord Ambrey only laughed more. “I tricked you? I do believe you have partaken of a bit too much of Duchess Claverham’s punch. I will see you in the morning. Wear your best gown.”
Amelia could do nothing but seethe as he walked out of the retiring room. She wanted to stomp her feet, rip the paintings from the walls, and shred the upholstery. But she couldn’t do that. She had to find Thomas. She had to tell him they’d picked the wrong mark.
Richard sauntered from the retiring room and brushed off his shoulders, feeling very proud of himself. Lying to the little minx had not been hard at all. What had disturbed him however was how much he’d enjoyed kissing her—and how good at kissing she was. No virgin kissed like that. And her scent… orange flowers and vanilla. It intoxicated him.
But he couldn’t be thinking like that. Now, he just had to wait. She was obviously angry that he didn’t have any money. Not that she needed his money, but she probably didn’t want to part with her own. Rumor was Miss Slockholme was filthy rich. He pursed his lip as he entered the gentleman’s card room. Why did she need to trick him into marrying?
He walked to the sideboard and poured himself a healthy glass of brandy, pretending to watch some of the gentleman at cards—and ignoring the disapproving looks they were flinging at him. He drained the glass, and sucked air in through his teeth. Something wasn’t quite right. Miss Slockholme was obviously not the woman she portrayed herself to be. And who the hell was the Comte de Villiers? The man hadn’t been around earlier in the day. He seemed to arrive just when needed to accuse him of abusing the little minx.
He narrowed his eyes at the wood paneled walls. Why had she locked that door?
“What were you thinking, Ambry?”
Richard shook from his thoughts to see that his good friend Lord Dernflook stood beside him refilling his glass of brandy.
Richard shook his head and took a sip. “She lied.”
Dernflook raised his brows. “About what part?”
“All of it!” Richard scoffed. “Come now, Dernflook, you’ve known me since I was in leading strings, when have I ever taken a woman who wasn’t going to make my earth quake? And really, on the ice? I was freezing my ballocks off out there!”
Dernflook chuckled and took a swig of his own glass. “I did wonder about that. Thought maybe you were just overcome with lust.”
Richard frowned. “She’s pretty. She’s got a lovely, curvy—“ He cut himself short, what the hell was he thinking? “She’s a conniving little witch is what she is, and I’m going to find out what she’s up to.”
“I imagine she’s after you for marriage.”
“Yes, but why me?”
The talented Alice will be picking up the story on the 16th, so be sure to stop by to see where our story goes from here!
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