The Flighty Fiancee(4)

By: Emma Shortt

Anger rose in India like the waves of the Red Sea she’d paddled in as a child. Appreciative? All along she’d thought Lord Grayson had been the reason for the lack of admirers, the longing looks that amounted to precisely nothing, the smiles that were never followed up on. Now the truth was out, and she was just as angry with herself as him for not realizing sooner. Damn it. Bad enough that Bartholomew didn’t want to show her any passion, give her any excitement—but to stop it from others! To leave her bored and waiting for the day he would finally seal their stupid marriage of convenience! It was beyond the pale.

“Are you saying, Papa,” India said slowly. “That the reason I’ve lacked in the attentions every other simmering miss has enjoyed is down to him?”

Lord Grayson nodded, seemingly perplexed by India’s words. “Yes, he’s ensured you’re protection while you found your place in the world. Something he insisted on before matters moved apace.”

“How long have you known this?”

He shrugged, confusion writ across his face. “What does it matter? This was all decided on before the season began.”

Long before I realized the truth! India clutched at her skirts, not even noticing as the fabric wrinkled under her fingers.

“Bartholomew is a good man,” her father added. “You have every right to his protection.”

Yes he was a good man. She’d once thought him the best of men and would have done anything for a smile, a touch, a crumb of something. Damn him!

“A sensible man,” Lord Grayson continued. “He’ll make you a good husband. And it is my wish, my strongest wish, that you do as you agreed and marry him, India.”

India clenched her fists her as her father helped her into the carriage, her mind a whirl of frantic thoughts. Had she known the sort of man Bartholomew was she would never have accepted his proposal; that had never been clearer to her than it was now. She’d have smiled, held out her hand and told him that she didn’t think they would suit, all the while cursing the fates for making it so. Because he’d never run his fingers down her belly, kiss her with the sort of passion she’d seen between other couples. And she’s seen plenty. Dragged around the world most of her life India knew what a real marriage should be like. She knew she was unconventional and so a conventional marriage simply would not do. She’d ache forever. Passionless, dreary, dull.

If only he’d told her!

In that moment everything seemed to coalesce. To India all the tension and longing of the last few months threatened to spill out of her, to make her do something truly outrageous, and she knew right then that she could not marry Bartholomew. She simply couldn’t.

What will you do, India? her mind whispered. What will you do? Her papa would never allow her to break the betrothal—despite her pleadings over the last months—in this he was as stern as India had ever seen him. It had to be Bartholomew to cry off, she realized. She had to find a way to make him. She couldn’t be branded a jilt, no man would ever look in her direction ever again, she’d be ruined. And it had to be now, before the end of the season, before her anger and her longing overwhelmed her, before she was trapped forever.

But how to do it? India clenched her fists around her skirts, plots and schemes bouncing around her mind and resolve settling across her. She’d find a way. She’d get him to break the damn betrothal, and if that meant she had to increase her reckless behavior to do so, so be it!

Chapter Two

Lord Bartholomew watched from the foot of the stairs, a position he’d staked out some time ago, as Lady India entered the ballroom. She moved with an innate grace and Bartholomew, as always, felt his throat run dry. Red curls framed her face, arched brows drew attention to her emerald green eyes, and that figure…Bartholomew swallowed. He’d spent many nights imagining her body beneath him, his lips on her nipples, his hands running down those curvy hips, kneading the soft flesh of her thighs....

Trying to ignore the thought of opening those thighs and burying his cock as far as possible—something that he spent far too much of his free time doing—Bartholomew abandoned his spot and moved forwards towards the receiving line, where India was making her introductions to her host and hostess. Bartholomew observed as, with a twirl of her skirts and a smile flashing across her heart shaped face, she charmed the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and anyone else in the vicinity.

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