The St. Clairs Trilogy

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.

Good.”

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.

Why?”

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.