The Flighty Fiancee(10)By: Emma Shortt
In public she buried the childish urges and pangs of what she’d thought were first love under a layer of brittle sophistication. She vowed to do exactly as she pleased. No longer would she try and mold herself into the perfect wife. Bartholomew could go to the devil for all she cared. She would find a man who wanted her for herself, not for her meager inheritance or because it was convenient. The thought of marrying him now created an odd panicky ache in her belly. Part longing, part hate. I have to find a way to break this.
“You’re looking quite flustered, my dear,” Lord Rockwell said, pulling her thoughts back to the ball. “Quite flustered indeed.”
“Oh, it’s the heat no doubt,” India replied. There must be a way.
“I should imagine such temperatures would be nothing to an intrepid explorer such as yourself,” Rockwell teased.
India smiled slightly. “It is a different type of heat to be found in a ballroom, my Lord.”
“Perhaps some fresh air might revive you?”
India tilted her achy head, something in Lord Rockwell’s tone alerting her to an undercurrent she’d missed.
“There is not much fresh air to be had in here, my Lord.”
“We could take a moment on the terrace, my dear. I believe our hosts have arranged seating and lighting out there for us. It should be most…convivial.”
Lord Rockwell was a rake; India had known this since her first week in the capital. His name whispered throughout the drawing rooms of London, his scandals relished by ladies of a certain age. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have dared ask her to dance, why he hadn’t this eve India didn’t know, perhaps because Bartholomew was ignoring them?
India cast a quick glance around the ballroom. Bartholomew was nowhere in sight, probably busy cosying up to the blonde haired debutante. India’s anger rose and she felt her impulsive nature coming to the fore. This could be your chance.
She glanced up at her partner. Rockwell was not the sort of man even India would usually tangle with. He’d take far more than a simple flirtation if permitted. Ladies were ruined by him, sent off to the country until the scandals died down.
The country…Bartholomew would never take me as wife if Rockwell ruined me…
Could she do it? Allow him to take her on the terrace and then take liberties with her? Would it be enough to put Bartholomew off once and for all? Panicky anticipation filled her, and India wasn’t sure if it was due to the thought of allowing Rockwell’s advances, or what Bartholomew would say...and do.
What choice do I have? Bartholomew doesn’t want my kisses, my affection.
India smiled from under her lashes. Knowing full well the effect that smile had. “Certainly, Lord Rockwell, I’d love to stroll on the terrace with you.”
And in one impulsive decision, India placed her entire future on the line.
“Look, old chap, I don’t want to cause any trouble but it’s high time you took that flighty fiancée of yours in hand.”
Bartholomew frowned at his long time friend. Not many men could get away with disparaging India in front of him, but he’d known Lord Peterson since they were children, and so let it pass. “It’ll be done by the end of the week. I’ve informed Lady India that we’ll be married by then.” He clapped his friend on the shoulder. “I hope you’ll stand up for me?”
Peterson fidgeted, clearly uncomfortable. “Of course, but well…if you’re expecting a virginal bride I’d suggest you head out to the terrace immediately.”
“What do you mean?” Bartholomew asked, his voice deadly.
Peterson ran a hand through his wheat colored locks and cast Bartholomew a sympathetic glance. “She went off with Rockwell—”
Bartholomew heard nothing more, already pushing his way through the chattering crowd. Damn that woman. How much further is she going to push me?
He’d allowed her to dance with Rockwell out of anger. Let her see how she fares without my constant protection. But he’d never though she’d have the nerve to let him lure her onto the terrace. He’d thought her more sensible than that.
And why did you think that exactly? he asked himself as he pushed aside Lord Richards. Because she is so well behaved? Because she does as you wish? He growled, the image of her bent over his knee finding prominence in his mind. If anyone had ever needed a spanking it was her, his flighty fiancée.