Loving the Marquess(5)

By: Suzanna Medeiros

“Excuse me?”

“Come here. I need you.”

Worry overcame her unease. He seemed much better than he’d been last night, but he might have injuries that weren’t obvious to the eye. She hadn’t examined him that closely after her brother had removed his coat and left them alone. She rushed to his side and before she realized his intention, he grabbed her hand and tumbled her onto his lap. She froze, stunned, and their eyes locked.

“Why don’t you refresh my memory about last night? I seem to be a little vague on the details.”

As if in slow motion, his head tilted and descended toward her. Surprise kept her still when his mouth touched hers, his lips softly playing over her own. She opened her mouth to protest, but his tongue intruded and all reason fled.

She’d had a suitor before, when her father was still healthy, and they had shared a few kisses, but those kisses were nothing to this one. She should have been shocked at the intimacy of his tongue moving against hers, exploring her mouth. Instead, she found herself sinking against him and reveling in the feel of his strong arms around her. She moved her own tongue along his and his answering groan caused something new to stir within her.

His mouth left hers to travel across her cheek, then down the column of her throat, and waves of sensation roiled through her. The feel of his hand on her breast was a welcome relief, both soothing the aching need within her while stoking the flames higher. She clutched at his shoulders and shifted to give him better access. When his other hand traveled up the length of her leg and reached the bare skin above her stockings, however, she came crashing back to reality. What on earth was she doing? She pushed against his chest and scrambled off the bed when his grip loosened, ashamed of having forgotten herself so easily.

Cheeks flaming, struggling to right her breathing, she braved a glance at the man in her bed. His own breathing was as ragged as hers and he looked even more dangerous than when she’d entered the room.

“Surely you’ll not deny me after last night?” His tone was short, his annoyance clear.

Confused, Louisa could only stare at him. Then understanding dawned.

“You don’t remember what happened last night.”

That was it, of course. His behavior now made sense. Not remembering what had happened, he’d jumped to the only logical conclusion as to why he’d be in a woman’s bed. She, unfortunately, had no such excuse for her own behavior.

Very conscious of her shameful reaction to him, she rushed to explain.

“You came to our house late last night. You were ill, unable to stand, and had a fever. My brother and I thought it best to bring you here where you could rest. I was afraid it might take you some time to recover, but I see now I needn’t have worried.”

She realized she was babbling and stopped talking. His gaze was intent upon her and she had to resist the urge to squirm.

“Yes, well,” he said after several moments, “I’ll thank you now and be on my way.” He swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“No,” Louisa said, rushing forward to lay a restraining hand on his shoulder. His gaze moved from her hand back to her face and one corner of his mouth quirked upward.

Reading his thoughts clearly, she dropped her hand and took a step back. She may have allowed him to kiss her once, but she’d been taken by surprise. There would be no repeat performance, a fact he’d do well to realize.

“You were very ill last night. You need to eat something to rebuild your strength. I’ll bring you a tray.”

He regarded her silently. She tried to imagine what he was thinking, but his expression was shuttered. She was about to leave to fetch his breakfast when he finally spoke.

“It appears I have misread the situation, and for that I apologize.”

He stood and Louisa held her breath, watching for signs of weakness or fatigue. There were none.

“I suspect I was in no condition last night to formally introduce myself. The Marquess of Overlea, at your service,” he said with a brief bow.

She could feel the color drain from her face. She stood very still, trying to calm her heart, which was now racing for a very different reason.

She didn’t bother to return his courtesy when she replied. Instead, she straightened her spine and looked him squarely in the eye.

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