A Match Made in Mistletoe(6)By: Anna Campbell
“Paul wants to talk to you.” Giles paused beside the pew and regarded her like some curious scientific specimen.
“Oh,” she said glumly, but when Giles’s eyebrows rose, she straightened and injected false enthusiasm into her manner. “I wonder what he wants.”
She knew. He wanted her staring up at him with starry-eyed adoration as he outlined the future that she’d planned all her life. “He didn’t say?”
“I didn’t ask. Last I saw, he was checking the stables. They were your regular haunt before you became the Belle of Torver.”
“The Belle of…” A blush rose. Which was ridiculous. Giles’s tone was taunting rather than admiring. “I should go and find him.”
But she didn’t shift.
Giles did. To her dismay, closer rather than away.
Her heart somersaulted in a most disconcerting manner. Curling her fingers into her dark green merino skirts, she told herself to settle down. She didn’t like this odd, prickly awareness of her brother’s friend, but she couldn’t control it. She wasn’t lurking in the church only to escape Paul. These days, Giles Farraday was just as troublesome.
More, curse him.
“Oh, for God’s sake, make him put in some work to catch you. He’ll savor his victory all the more if he has to make an effort to win it.”
Appalled, Serena stared at him, while another blush stung her cheeks. “What did you say?”
“Would you rather play coy?” He opened the gate to the pew and stepped into the small box to sit beside her. Immediately the echoing space of the parish church shrank to suffocating narrowness. Her nincompoop heart performed a drunken jig in her chest.
She scooped in a shallow breath, sharp with frankincense and old, damp stone and made herself speak. “Why on earth does everyone think I’ve set my cap at Paul Garside?”
With a mocking smile, Giles set his hat on the seat beside him. “Dear me, I have no idea.”
His sarcasm made her wince. “Hmm.”
Blindly she stared toward the altar, decorated for Advent with an embroidered violet cloth and holly wreaths. After a long time—or what felt like a long time—Giles murmured, “There’s no need to be reticent. He’s well and truly reconciled to being caught.”
She wanted to tell this overweening lout to mind his own business, but to her surprise she responded honestly. “That’s easy for you to say.”
Giles’s expression was unreadable. She should be used to that by now. “Trust me.”
Serena told herself not to respond. She’d said enough. More than enough. Giles and she had never been confidantes. In fact, however constant a presence he’d been in her life, they’d never progressed much beyond wary acquaintances.
But some imp inside her remained determined to pursue this mortifying conversation. “I’d…I’d like to think he might do at least some of the chasing.”
“Just as a matter of pride.”
Characteristic irony twisted his lips. “I’m sure a clever girl like you can snare a fellow who’s already set on having you.”
Self-derision edged her laugh. “Then you have more faith in me than I have. When it comes to feminine wiles, I’m a complete novice. Whereas you two have spent the last few years playing the rake in London.”
Amusement lit Giles’s dark eyes. “I take umbrage at that.”
“I can’t see why. It’s true.”
“And how the devil do you know that?”
“Frederick is indiscreet in his cups.”
His laugh brushed across her skin like velvet and made every fine hair stand up. “Damn.”
“Paul is used to sophisticated women.” As her blush heated to fire, she squared her shoulders. She may as well finish this awful discussion. Retreat no longer seemed like an option. “I’ve never even kissed a man.”
Giles appeared almost as shocked at her confession as she was that she’d made it. Fleetingly he stopped looking like Lucifer sulking in the underworld, and instead became the boy who was a mere five years older than she was. “Serena…”
“There. Now you know the dreadful truth.”