The St. Clairs

Devoted 300x450

Jere­my asked, “Might I request a dance with you, Lady Cather­ine?” not­ing her eyes were as deep a blue as the sap­phires she wore.

He took her card before she could offer it to him and bold­ly struck through Morefield’s name. Her lips twitched in amusement.

I’ll claim the sup­per dance since More­field had to leave to attend to busi­ness.” He scrawled his name beside it and added, “I see you have two oth­er slots open, includ­ing the final dance of the evening. Might I be pre­sump­tu­ous and ask for both?”

Her slow smile turned into a radi­ant one. “I’d like that very much, Lord Sather. But please, you may only have one of them. Not both. It’s bad fash­ion, you know, to dance with a part­ner more than twice.”

He returned her card, catch­ing a whiff of vanil­la. “Who makes such sil­ly restrict­ing rules? If I found an inter­est­ing part­ner, I would claim every dance from her,” he teased.

She cocked one eye­brow at him. “You would tempt the gos­sips of the ton?”

I would, my lady. And give them some­thing to gos­sip about,” he added suggestively.

Lady Cather­ine burst out laugh­ing. Her rich laugh­ter was con­ta­gious, caus­ing him to do the same, draw­ing the eyes of those stand­ing near­by. He swal­lowed, try­ing to con­tain his laugh­ter and fail­ing mis­er­ably. Inhal­ing deeply, he calmed him­self, though his spir­its soared.

Tak­ing her gloved hand, he kissed her fin­gers. “Until the sup­per dance.”

With that, Jere­my left, his heart pump­ing wildly.

Midnight 300x450

As far as kiss­ing you goes, I will be hap­py to teach you,” Evan promised.

When? Now?” Rachel asked eagerly.

Kiss­ing is a part of flir­ta­tion,” he said. “You don’t quite appre­ci­ate it as much unless you build up to it. We shall start slowly.”

You dis­ap­point me, Evan. You’re putting me off.”

Am I?” he asked soft­ly and entwined his fin­gers with hers.

Rachel swal­lowed, sud­den­ly feel­ing over­whelmed by mere­ly hold­ing his hand. She licked her lips nervously.

Stop that,” he chided.

Stop what?” she asked, clue­less as to what he need­ed her to quit doing since she wasn’t doing any­thing annoy­ing. “I’m not crack­ing my knuck­les any­more,” she said defensively.

You licked your lips.”

What if I did?” she challenged.

That’s a part of flirt­ing,” he said.

It is?”

Most def­i­nite­ly,” he assured her. “It calls a gentleman’s atten­tion to your mouth.” He stared at hers so intent­ly that but­ter­flies explod­ed in her stom­ach. “And it makes a man want to kiss you.”

It does?” she asked breathlessly.

He nod­ded. “It does. So, that’s your first les­son tonight. If you do feel that spark with a man and want him to kiss you, you may lick your lips.”

Rachel did it again, test­ing him.

Evan laughed. “Stop. We’re going to work up to it.”

How long will this take? The house par­ty is only two weeks long,” she com­plained. “At the rate you’re mov­ing, it will be Christ­mas before you even think to kiss me.”

His fin­gers tight­ened on hers, caus­ing her to stop breath­ing again. Evan lift­ed their joined hands and pressed warm lips to her knuck­les. A good kind of chill rip­pled through her. He released her hand and then his fin­gers light­ly touched her wrist, turn­ing her hand over so it faced palm up. Slow­ly, he moved his head toward it as Rachel watched in fas­ci­na­tion. Just before his lips touched its cen­ter, he gazed up at her.

She swal­lowed. The heat in his eyes stole her breath. He low­ered his gaze and brushed his lips against her palm. She thought they’d be warm but instead, they were scorch­ing hot. Then he pressed a long, lin­ger­ing kiss direct­ly onto her palm. Rachel was glad she wasn’t stand­ing for her knees would’ve have giv­en out and sent her tum­bling to the floor.

Evan lift­ed his lips and stared at her. She couldn’t help but stare help­less­ly back at him.
Then his mouth touched the under­side of her wrist. Rachel froze. He pushed up the sleeve of her dress­ing gown, his lips trail­ing up her arm. Odd sen­sa­tions ran through her. He stopped at the crook of her elbow and pressed a final kiss there before slid­ing the sleeve back down.

That’s your first les­son in kiss­ing,” he said soft­ly. “Kiss­es come in many forms and on many places. Not just your mouth.”

He placed her hand back in her lap as she looked at him wordlessly.

Will you meet me again at mid­night for anoth­er lesson?”

Yes,” she whispered.


Earl 300x450

The kiss now heat­ed up con­sid­er­ably as Luke’s explo­ration con­tin­ued. His tongue swept inside, tick­ling the roof of her mouth and glid­ing along her tongue. Her breasts grew heavy and she felt her nip­ples tight­en­ing. Car­o­line latched onto his waist­coat to anchor her­self as she respond­ed, allow­ing her tongue to mim­ic what he did. Luke emit­ted a low groan and his hands slid from her face and seized her waist, draw­ing her near.

He deep­ened the kiss, delv­ing more into her, caus­ing her heart to beat errat­i­cal­ly and her bones to melt. If he hadn’t held onto her, Car­o­line feared she would have pud­dled at his feet. His intox­i­cat­ing cologne filled her sens­es. From her scalp to her toes, a tin­gling sen­sa­tion erupt­ed. The place between her legs tight­ened and began to pulsate.

What was hap­pen­ing to her?

She couldn’t fall for him and be the woman she want­ed to be. She wasn’t a typ­i­cal woman of the ton. Her expe­ri­ences in Amer­i­ca had changed her in ways too numer­ous to name. Her father los­ing all of his mon­ey and vir­tu­al­ly turn­ing his back on his fam­i­ly had also shaped her out­look. She didn’t know if she could trust a man. Any man. Even one who held her so lovingly.
Car­o­line released her hold on Luke and nudged him away. Reluc­tant­ly, he broke the kiss and stared deep into her eyes. She saw raw need burn­ing in them.

This can’t hap­pen again,” she said, her breath­ing rapid and shallow.


I must focus on open­ing Evie’s. It will be my liveli­hood. I can’t throw away the oppor­tu­ni­ty I’ve been giv­en to use Aunt Evie’s inher­i­tance. I don’t want to dis­ap­point my investors. I need to do this for myself.”

He gave her a crooked smile, steal­ing her breath—and a bit of her heart.

Don’t you want more than a busi­ness, Caroline?”

Move­ment caught Anthony’s eye and he groaned inward­ly. It was prob­a­bly some cou­ple, think­ing they were mad­ly in love, sneak­ing out­side for a few stolen kiss­es while the rest of Everton’s guests ate and drank their fill. The door closed and a lone fig­ure began walk­ing toward him.

Antho­ny slunk deep­er into the shad­ows, press­ing his back against the wall of the struc­ture, not wish­ing to be seen and hav­ing to speak to anyone.

It was a woman. A tall one. As she drew near, moon­light fell across her face and he rec­og­nized Lau­rel St. Clair. Usu­al­ly, she stood with per­fect pos­ture. Now, though, her shoul­ders slumped as she moved to the edge and braced her­self against it. She was only mere feet away from him and he held his breath, will­ing her to go away and leave him in peace.

Then he watched as her shoul­ders shook and a sob broke from her.

What did the chit have to cry about? It was her come-out ball. All of London’s ton had turned out for this night. She was like a fairy tale brought to life, ele­vat­ed from the dregs of Lon­don soci­ety to the house­hold of a wealthy and pow­er­ful duke. True, the cir­cum­stances of her birth were a strike against her in some people’s eyes but Antho­ny knew the entire St. Clair fam­i­ly had tak­en her in whole­heart­ed­ly. Like­ly, Ever­ton had set aside a huge dowry. Some­one would wed the girl, if not for the mon­ey then for the social con­nec­tion to a duke.

She cried, though, as if her heart were rent in two. Had some oth­er wicked gos­sips con­front­ed her? He remem­bered the pair from last night and how they sought to slan­der her.

And how Lady Lau­rel had brave­ly con­front­ed them.

Sud­den­ly, a fierce urge to pro­tect her—comfort her—filled him. His feet moved with­out thought and he came to stand next to her.

What ails you, my lady?” he asked softly.

He seemed as star­tled as she was by her actions. She dis­cov­ered his lips were firm and warm. She could smell his san­dal­wood soap and the cold of win­ter still cling­ing to him. She start­ed to pull away but his hands went to her waist and held her in place. She already was pressed against him, her breasts touch­ing the mus­cled wall of his chest. A tin­gle rip­pled through her, an aware­ness of him as a man. Of her as a woman. She stiffened.

Then his lips brushed against hers. They had soft­ened. The tin­gles con­tin­ued. Her breasts seemed to swell against him. One hand slid to the small of her back, anchor­ing him against her. The kiss con­tin­ued. Mia knew she shouldn’t be engag­ing in it for a dozen rea­sons but didn’t want to stop. All rea­son fled. What she knew was his body, warm against hers. His mouth on hers. His scent fill­ing her nos­trils. Her arms tight­ened about his neck. She had to get clos­er. Some­thing urged her to do so.

He lift­ed his mouth from hers for a moment and then the tip of his tongue touched her bot­tom lip, shock­ing her. It ran lazi­ly along it, back and forth, steal­ing her breath and caus­ing her heart to pound fierce­ly against her ribs. Then he out­lined her entire mouth with it, caus­ing a shiv­er to move down her spine. A very good shiv­er. Not one of being cold. One that spoke of a fire being lit with­in her.

He kissed her again and she strug­gled to under­stand why Aunt Fan­ny would have told her kiss­ing was for­bid­den. Then his tongue ran along the seam of her mouth, caus­ing her to gasp. As she opened to him, his tongue swept inside her mouth, caus­ing more of those deli­cious shiv­ers to run through her. His hand remained at the small of her back but his oth­er left her waist and moved to cra­dle her cheek. Mia felt cher­ished. Adored. And hot. Very, very hot. As if she stood fac­ing an enor­mous fire that wished to con­sume her.

Sud­den­ly, she under­stood exact­ly what Aunt Fan­ny was talk­ing about. How dan­ger­ous kiss­ing could be.