He smiled, and it was quite a magnificent sight. His teeth were straight and his breath was infused with his favorite brandy. “Aye. The manner in which you burst through the doorway, I was certain your skirts were ablaze,” he said, his gaze lingering on her face. “Have you hurt yourself, darling?”
“No.” She frowned, belatedly realizing their reclining position on the sofa. She tried to move and found herself anchored to his muscled chest. His arms were still around her waist and one of his hands was indecently low enough to touch her backside. “I—we . . . you should let me go.”
“I disagree. I am rather comfortable having you draped over my body.”
“Well, I am not,” she said primly, flattening her palms against his chest in an attempt to push away from him. Or at least she tried to free herself. The wicked man seemed determined to hold her captive. “It is indecent, and you are no gentleman if you persist in delaying my departure.”
Although she would never admit it to anyone, she could have rested her chin against her crossed arms and stared at him for hours. He was truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, the arrogant man was aware that his looks were a cut above those of most gentlemen, and the effect he had on women.
“Do you not get bored with following the rules?”
Of course she did, but she would bite holes in her tongue before she made such a confession. Especially to him. “No. Rules are put in place to protect us and ensure order in the world.”
“It must have been your governess that filled your head with that nonsense,” he said dismissively. His hands tightened on her waist when she struggled to slip from his hold. “Life is wonderfully messy, and no amount of structure changes that fact. So what have I done to deserve you, my lady?”
“Nothing.” The roguish gleam in his eyes was a little unsettling. He was staring at her as if she was a gift and he was deciding how to unwrap her. “An accident that I have already apologized for—”
“Actually, you haven’t.”
“I—” She inhaled and silently went over their conversation. It grated that he was right, but she refused to admit that she had been dazzled by his handsome face. “You are correct, good sir. Forgive my oversight. If I may, I would like to offer you an apology. I sincerely regret meeting you.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, darling, now you are simply being cruel—and you are a liar.”
She stirred in his arms as her temper flared. “How dare you!”
“It pains me to insult a beautiful lady, but I think if we are to continue our friendship, we should be honest.”
Her gaze narrowed. “Are you drunk, or is this some sort of prank you play on unsuspecting ladies?”
His laughter was just as appealing as the rest of him. Rich with genuine humor, it warmed her even as her stomach fluttered.
“If true, that was quite a feat on my part. Lest you forget, you were the one who tackled me?”
Imogene blushed at the reminder of her carelessness. “Ooh, it is unkind of you to remind me. Let me up at once, or I shall—”
“Is this our first fight?” he inquired, his expression easing into indulgence. “And here I have yet to have a taste of you.”
“A taste?” she said blankly, before the healthy pink in her cheeks deepened into a scarlet hue. “I forbid you to kiss me!”
The charming rogue chuckled. “How can I resist such a dare?”
She felt his fingers curl around her neck. No man had ever been so bold as to touch her in this manner. Her skin tingled at his caress. He nudged her face closer to his.
Good grief, the man intended to kiss her!
“Imogene Constance —,” her mother said in icy, clipped tones. “What are you doing with that gentleman? Climb off him at once.”
Her fingers curled into impotent fists. “See what you have done. That woman is my mother,” she furiously whispered into the man’s face. “Release me or we will both pay dearly for your mischief.”
Copyright © June 2015. Excerpt from A DUKE BUT NO GENTLEMAN by Alexandra Hawkins. Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher or Author.
Was it a right or left turn? Without slowing her stride, she glanced over her shoulder at the door on the opposite side of the front hall and collided into an unexpected obstacle. The gentleman grunted, his arms instinctively wrapping around her waist as her momentum knocked both of them backward.
Whether it was providence or the man’s quick reflexes, they landed on the firm cushions of a sofa instead of the marble floor. A faint breathy squeak escaped Imogene’s lips on impact. Her chin bounced against his solid chest while the underside of his jaw struck the top of her head.
“Merde,” her disgruntled companion murmured under his breath. “Are you injured? On fire?”
It was such an odd question that she lifted her head to get a closer look at the man who had saved her from a nasty fall. Any coherent response faded from her mind as she stared into the most beautiful eyes ever bestowed on a male. Long dark lashes framed blue-gray eyes that reflected curiosity and amusement. Imogene’s gaze dropped down to his mouth as the corners curled upward into a smug grin, as if her reaction to his masculine beauty was not unusual.
The handsome stranger was patiently awaiting her reply to his question, and here she was gaping at him as if she had never encountered a man. “Did you ask me about a fire?” she asked, her tongue feeling thick and awkward in her mouth.
* * *