The Flighty Fiancee(3)

By: Emma Shortt

And yet this was the man she was to marry….

Oh she’d tried of course, God knows she had. Batting her eyes at him, sitting as close as she could, silly excuses to touch him—all for naught. It had gotten to the point where she’d seriously considered doing something outrageous, like kissing him or begging him to do something to make the ache between her legs go away. After all, they were engaged; he was to be her husband. Surely he should want to do those things.

Only he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t want you that way.

And there was the truth. Inescapable and fixed. Bartholomew didn’t want her like she wanted him. Theirs was to be a marriage of convenience. If only she’d have known that from the beginning, before she agreed to his proposal….

“You’re ready at last, my dear.” The words came from her father, Lord Grayson, who waited patiently at the foot of the stairs. “Though I’m not sure why your pretty face is scrunched up like that.”

India tore her gaze from the portrait, pasted on a smile and clutched her reticule a little tighter. Unusual though it might be Lord Grayson accompanied India on most of her jaunts—a habit acquired from dragging her around the world throughout her childhood. He wouldn’t stay long of course, just until he could hand her over to him. “Did I keep you waiting, Papa?”

“Not me,” Lord Grayson replied affably. “But others will be eagerly awaiting your arrival at the ball. We don’t want to keep them waiting, do we?”

He means him. Bartholomew. India shivered; her nipples hardening beneath her bodice. Why Bartholomew should make them do that she didn’t quite know, but every time he entered her thoughts her belly throbbed or her nipples stiffened. How many nights had she imagined him running his fingers along them? Making them stiffen further?

“I can’t think who you’re referring to, sir,” India said, anger with Bartholomew making her sharp with her father.

“Come now, India,” Lord Grayson said, tenderly placing the matching green wrap over India’s bare shoulders. “We must have enough of this. Bartholomew has been most patient. He’s allowed you far freer reign than many in his position would.”

“He has no say in what I do,” India declared. “Not yet at least.”

The look Lord Grayson gave her changed from parental indulgence to something close to parental disapproval, and would have been enough to quell a faint hearted debutante. But India had never been faint-hearted and was hardly a debutante, and so gave back look for look.

“Not legally,” her father agreed with narrowed eyes. “But morally, India, indeed he does. The time is fast approaching for matters to be settled between you, and the sooner you accustom yourself to that fact the better. And the sooner you moderate your behavior the happier I, and Bartholomew, will be.”

“Matters are not settled yet, Papa,” India replied, both fuming and quivering inwardly. “And I do not see any reason for Bartholomew to fault my conduct. You’ve scared away anyone of dubious character who might have propositioned me. What can he possibly have to rally about? I’ve been the very model of virtue.” Despite my best attempts to tempt him otherwise. Despite the constant ache and the never ending throbbing.

“Matters are settled,” Lord Grayson replied, steel obvious in his tone for once. “And it’s hardly my doing.”

“What on earth do you mean?” India asked, ignoring his first words.

“I may still be a force to be reckoned with in academic circles, India, but I doubt I would be enough to stop the most determined of rakes in the ton,” Lord Grayson replied. “No, dearest, the lack of harassment you’ve enjoyed over the last few months is courtesy of Lord Bartholomew.”

India paused at their carriage, shock holding her stock still. Yet underneath that initial shock was a sense of obviousness. Of course, how could she not have seen it? Bartholomew may not want her that way but he was going to marry her, of course he would ensure no one else could compromise her. His innocent, virginal bride….

“So perhaps you’ll consider that when you see him tonight,” Lord Grayson continued, oblivious to her thoughts. “Consider it and be a little more appreciative than you usually are.”

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