Louisa dashed down the corridor, the merry music from the ballroom hurting her head. Confusion swamped her, as well as a healthy dose of irritation. She didn’t know who to trust, who to believe.
Could it be true? Could Ambry really enjoy dallying with—
“Oh!” A hard, warm body collided with hers and she would’ve fallen to the ground if not for the strong, firm hands that gripped her about her upper arms. She lifted her gaze, her lips parting to offer her gratitude when she froze.
Lord Dernflook studied her, his warm brown gaze full of concern and something else. Something she’d never seen before. Warmth suffused her and she parted her lips but no sound came out.
“Why in such a hurry, my lady?”
“I—I’ve just received the most distressing news,” she blurted, then clamped her hand over her mouth. Oh, dear. Not that she could ever confess what that dreadful Comte told her.
Would Dernflook even believe her? He was good friends with Ambry. They’d been close for years, since they were children. If anyone knew what sort of man Ambry was about, it would be Dernflook.
“There, there.” He released his hold on her and turned so that he stood by her side, offering his arm. “Perhaps you’d like to inform me of this most distressing news while we find some refreshment?”
She contemplated him. He was a determined man, she knew this. With a calculating, intelligent mind and a sharp eye, he was admired by his peers and even the occasional lady though he rarely showed interest in any of them. Considering he was a bachelor of prime age with decent wealth and a title, she found that odd.
A new thought formed. He couldn’t…no, really. Could he? Was he the sort to dally with other men? Did he have some sort of relationship with Ambry?
No. It couldn’t be true.
“It’s silly,” she finally said with a beguiling smile, hoping she could steer him in another direction. If she were to mention any sort of ill rumor about Ambry, he would run and tell his friend in an instant. “Gossip and speculation, nothing more.”
“I adore gossip and speculation.” His velvety deep voice was sincere, as was the glint in his eyes and she stared at him a bit too long.
Hmm. She recognized that look in his gaze now. Was that—desire? And when did Dernflook become so dashed handsome?
Shaking herself from her thoughts, she smiled and waved a hand toward the open double doors that led to the ballroom. A lively waltz played and she could see the many happy dancers, the ladies’ colorful gowns twirling as their gentlemen partners led them around the floor.
She suddenly wanted to be one of those ladies out on the dance floor, in the arms of a man who looked at her as if he might find her attractive. “Dance with me, Dernflook,” she suddenly demanded.
His brows rose. “Really, my lady? You want to dance with me?”
She met his gaze, saw the mixture of shock and pleasure swirling there. Smiling, she nodded and gave his arm a squeeze. He was rather muscular, no padding at all beneath the fine cut of his jacket and she wondered why she never noticed before.
Noticed just how handsome Lord Dernflook was. God rest ye merry gentlemen, indeed…
“Yes, really, my lord.” She paused and smiled in invitation. “Well, Are you going to leave me standing here? Or shall we dance?”
He smiled, bright enough to light the entire ballroom. “I would be delighted to dance with you. Louisa.”
A tremor moved through her at the delicious way he said her name, at the rather commanding way he led her onto the dance floor.
And when he took her into his arms and held her scandalously close, all thoughts of Ambry and his dastardly betrayal earlier this evening left her completely.
Amelia wanted to stomp her foot in frustration. Where was that rat Thomas? She had the distinct feeling she was playing a part in too many plots—and she was the one in the role of the fool. Thomas, the poor Lady Smallwood, all of their intricate plans were muddling her brain and leaving her in a heaping mass of confusion.
And after sampling Lord Ambry’s kiss, well. She couldn’t stop thinking of it—of him. His soft lips, how he held her. The look of shock on his face when he realized he’d been well and truly caught.
Despite his recent distressing news of being a pauper, she found that she might not care about wealth any longer, or trying to destroy him completely to please the poor vengeful Lady Smallwood.
Not when she could have a man—a husband who looks at her with such desire in his gaze night after night.
“Would you care for some plum pudding?”
She turned on a gasp and found the very man haunting her thoughts standing in the shadows. He emerged from the darkness much like the devil himself, a smile curling his lips, a plate of—yes indeed, plum pudding gripped in his hands.
“No, thank you.” She tipped her chin up, nose in the air, desperate for a dignified air. She couldn’t be tempted by a sweet treat. She wasn’t that weak.
“Oh, come now, Amelia. There’s no need for the façade any longer.” His voice was pitched low, dark and foreboding and a shiver stole over her. Was he finally on to her ruse?
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you speak of.” She turned her back on him, heard him settle the china plate on a nearby table with a soft clank. His heavy footsteps as he drew closer before he settled warm, firm hands upon her shoulders.
“You know exactly what I speak of, Amelia,” he murmured close to her ear, his warm breath tickling her skin. “Your trickery is most distressing.”
She held her breath, waiting for him to say something else but he remained silent. “I didn’t mean to trick you,” she finally whispered. “I had no choice.”
He squeezed her shoulders and she felt his touch to the very depth of her soul. “I don’t believe you.”
“Why would I lie to you now, my lord? I have nothing to gain by it. Not any longer.”
“Of course, you don’t. I’m good and well trapped, aren’t I? He whirled her around so that she faced him. Saw all the dark rage reflected in his gaze, on his face. Fear filled her and she struggled within his grip but he wouldn’t be deterred.
“Let me go,” she demanded but he laughed, the insufferable rogue.
“Not a chance, my lovely Amelia. I believe I’m going to take advantage of my husbandly rights.”
“Wha—” she started to shriek but he cut her off.
With a firm press of his sensuous mouth.
The lovely Susan Edwards will wrap up the story on December 20th so be sure to return to find out what happens!
And don't forget: Each post will contain the name of a Christmas carol. As readers, you're asked to follow the blog and then post a comment on each entry naming that carol. The person with the most correct answers will win a bundle of SEVEN fabulous Carina historical novels to keep them entertained over the festive period, and beyond.