Seduced by His Touch(9)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

He smiled and slid his arms around her small, willowy body. As he did, a memory of rich, red hair—Grace’s hair—flashed in his mind for reasons he couldn’t even begin to fathom.

Banishing the thought, he arched Philipa closer and took her up on her very generous offer.

Chapter 3

A little over a week later, Grace made her way into a small assembly room not far from Bath’s Sydney Gardens, where an afternoon lecture on perennial floriculture was scheduled to take place.

So as not to let either her height or that of her bonnet brim impede anyone’s view, she took a seat in the last row of chairs set up for the event. Withdrawing a small notebook and pencil from her reticule, she prepared to wait.

She’d arrived in the company of her maid, who was currently taking her ease with a group of other servants in an anteroom beyond. Grace had invited Aunt Jane to join her, but the older woman declined. Her aunt might love the fragrance and beauty of fresh flowers, but she had no patience for learning about their cultivation.

“That’s what I keep Perkins for,” Aunt Jane had told her this morning over tea, toast, and sausages. “I let him grub around in the garden dirt and tend the plants so I don’t have to.”

Given that Grace was no longer in her first flush of youth, her aunt had deemed it acceptable for her to attend the lecture with only a servant accompanying her. Aunt Jane had promised, however, to come by with the carriage at the end of the lecture so they could drive home together.

She checked the delicate gold and pearl watch pinned to her bodice and saw that another ten minutes remained before the talk was scheduled to begin. Glancing around, she studied the small, but growing, crowd, which was made up of mostly older, academically minded men and a trio of middle-aged bluestocking females.

Gazing idly along the length of her own row of chairs, she noticed a man seated at the far end. Dark-haired and attractive, he put her in mind of a panther who’d mistakenly wandered into a room full of ordinary grey cats. A curious little tingle sizzled along her spine as she stared, her pulse giving a rabbity hop.

Surely it can’t be, she thought, but he reminded her of the man she’d met that day at Hatchard’s. The gorgeous, sophisticated, dangerously appealing Lord Jack Byron!

After all, what would a man of Byron’s obviously cosmopolitan tastes be doing in Bath? More particularly, why would he be attending a lecture about flowers?

Aristocrats went to their country estates this time of year to shoot grouse and visit with their lofty friends. They didn’t come to the ancient, barely fashionable environs of Bath—not unless they were ill and in need of taking the waters. And no one looking at this man would ever believe him in anything but robust good health.

But it isn’t him and I’m only misremembering, she told herself as she studied the dynamic angles of his profile, completely unable to look away.

Suddenly she had to know, aching for him to turn his head and let her see his entire face. One fleeting glance—just a glimpse of his eyes—and she would have her answer. After all, how many nights had it been now that she had dreamt of him, conjuring up images of the man and his unforgettable eyes?

Only every one since that first brief encounter.

How many moments had she spent woolgathering about him during the day?

Enough that I feel like a simpleton for being so weak and foolish.

She was scolding herself for acting the pea goose again when he turned his head and gazed straight at her. Her heart jumped; his eyes were even more sensuous and vividly blue than she recalled, his face more strikingly handsome than the warmest of her recollections. Air wheezed from her chest, the impact hitting her with the force of a quick, one-two punch. Glancing downward, she stared blindly at her shoes.

Stars above, it is Jack Byron!

Desperately she struggled to compose herself, forcing her heartbeat to slow and her breath to come at less erratic intervals.

Did he see me? Recognize me? Do I want him to?

Slowly, after a long, long minute, she glanced up and over, peering out from beneath her lashes.

Disappointment crashed through her. Not only was he not looking at her but he wasn’t even in his chair anymore! In fact, it seemed he’d left the room.

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