Ah, so the woman had a tongue after all. Despite all her bravado, he could tell he scared her all the way down to her white kid slippers. Not particularly interested in giving up his advantage, he lowered his lids to a predatory slant. “Possibly only difficult to people I do not want to see.” He admired her more when she took another step forward, her cloak swinging around her as she placed the branch of candles on the table near him.
“I would not have sought you out in this manner if you had read my letters or permitted me an audience.” Now that she was closer, he could see that her eyes were more blue than green, a subtle battle that changed with her surging emotions.
Rayne considered her for a moment. “Bedegrayne. Miss Devona Bedegrayne.”
Her eyes lit up in delight, as if he were a pupil who had answered his governess’s question correctly. “Yes. Yes, I am—that’s me. I had feared your gargoyle—”
Amused, he interrupted. “Gargoyle?”
“Yes, that rude man who kept slamming the door on my footman.”
“I fear it is not entirely Speck’s fault. You see, I pay him to be rude and to slam the door.” Rayne’s statement hit its mark as he had intended, and to his delight he watched her face suffuse with color.
She glared at him, her gloved hands fisted at her sides. “See here, Lord Tipton. I am not normally so presumptuous. Do you think I do not know my reputation would be in shreds if word got out about this evening? However, you had refused all my appeals for your attention, and since there is so little time left . . .” Her voice faded off, her eyes clouded with the consequences that only she understood. “A gentleman would not make me beg.”
There was that pout again! Rayne sucked in his breath at the impact of his lust for her. He felt helpless against it, and he had yet to get his hands on her, or press his face against her scented skin. She could bisect his emotions for all to see with just a glance. That vulnerability made him attack.
“There lies our problem, Miss Bedegrayne. I am no gentleman. If you know anything about me, you should know that I do not acknowledge the title or the civility.”
He shot to his feet and took the remaining steps that brought her within arm’s length. He reached out, tugging on the strings that held her Spanish cloak of white lace in place. It slipped from her shoulders and fell on the carpet. She was female perfection in his eyes. Her stature was small; the top of her head barely reached his shoulders. The dress she had kept hidden beneath her cloak was meant to heat a man’s blood. It was made of lilac netting, with a white satin slip the only protection from his hungry gaze. The square neck was cut very low, as was the fashion, and framed a generous portion of her breasts, just begging a starving man to feast.
Rayne very much wanted to be that man.
She wore no jewelry except for the gold link bracelets attached to her upper arms, worn just below her short puckered sleeves. The need to touch her made him reach out for an area that would least likely get him slapped for it. His knuckle caressed one of the gold bracelets on her arm. Who did it hurt if he slipped lower and stroked the small area of skin just above her elbow? It was just as he imagined. Her skin was softer than silk. She shuddered, and the temptation to do more than touch made him pull back.
“I know I’m not a gentleman, but what about you, Miss Bedegrayne? Breaking into a man’s town house doesn’t quite make you a lady, does it? Shall we test this speculation?” Rayne leaned toward her lips. Perhaps the pleasure was worth a slap.
“I won’t let you do it.”
He was close enough to feel her breath on his lips. “Do what?” Knowing full well what she meant.
“I will not allow you to insult me.”
She was not pouting anymore. In fact, she looked mad enough to sink her teeth into his lower lip and draw blood. Self-preservation made him straighten to full indignant height. “Kissing me is an insult?”
She waved away the question, ignorant of how enraged he was. “You were not planning to kiss me.”
“Wasn’t I?” he asked, with enough menace to have her stepping back.
“I should have anticipated it sooner. You are a true strategist, my lord.” Anger bringing her courage to the fore, she stepped up and poked him in the chest. “You block all my posts.” Poke. “Ignore society so I cannot seek you out in a more acceptable manner.” Poke. Poke. “You refuse all my calls, and when I finally confront you, you try to intimidate me by treating me like a courtesan!” She blew the errant curl out of her face. “By all rights, I should slap you so hard your teeth rattle and have both my brothers call you out. But you are Le Cadavre Raffiné, and no other man will do!”
Copyright © November 2013. Excerpt from THE NO GOOD IRRESISTIBLE VISCOUNT TIPTON by Alexandra Hawkins. Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks. All rights reserved.
“For a housebreaker, you aren’t a very efficient one,” Rayne said, finally deciding it was time to end the staring contest with his bold intruder. “The last one who tried to make off with the bed linen had cleaned out one of the bedchambers before Speck tackled him in the front hall.”
She was not pouting anymore, a fact for which Rayne silently was grateful. His intruder had lips that were made for kissing. He could almost imagine how the soft resiliency of that bottom lip would feel if he playfully bit it and sucked it into his own mouth. He shifted slightly. Yes, better to have her gape at him like he was addled than to have her offer those sulky lips to him.
“Maybe it is disappointment that keeps you mute. Considering my reputation, I suppose you had expected to be greeted with disemboweling weapons and skeletons strewn about the room.”
The woman blinked at the bitterness he could not keep out of his tone. Her hand came up to her face to brush an errant curl from her cheek. Teasing curls of fire framed her face, while the rest of her tresses, he had observed when she had first entered the room, had been plaited in a coil and secured in the back. A half handkerchief of lilac silk was pinned across the back of her head, with the embroidered ends hanging down past her shoulders. If he were to guess, he would say that his intruder had attended a ball before she had decided to rob him.
“You are an annoyingly difficult man to see.”