No Choice But Seduction Page 18

“Then what do I have that—?”

“Nothing!” she snapped, flustered at the turn their conversation had taken. “I lost my train of thought. I can’t recall what I was going to say. So don’t mention it again.”

His sigh was heartfelt. She felt it, right to her toes. And the heat was still in his dark eyes….

He leapt across the space between them and drew her hard against him. His kiss was as hot as his expression had been, just as she’d guessed it would be. And she didn’t push him away from her. Oh, no, she wrapped her arms around him. Those feelings of excitement and desire that she’d had in that room in Northampton when he’d touched her were back again, churning her insides, making her…

“You’re not very good at lying,” Boyd observed.

She blinked the brief fantasy away, and blushing for even having those thoughts intrude now, with him standing right there before her, she started to ramble. “Actually, I’m wonderfully good at it. I excel at it. You would be quite surprised, not that it matters in the least. And I’ve given you much more time than you deserve. I have to rise early in the morning to finish my business here, so I’m going off to bed. Please extend my good-nights to the Malorys, if you will.”

“Katey—”

She squealed as he reached for her, because that kiss she had just imagined was still too fresh in her mind. She bolted out into the hall and straight up the stairs. He probably hadn’t been about to put his hands on her to try to stop her, but she’d let him get to her, frazzling her senses more than she could withstand in one evening. Good grief, she’d been babbling like a loon!

It was that look of his there at the end, when she knew exactly what he was thinking…and wanting to do to her. And in her mind she’d let him! And how the devil was she going to sleep now, when she had already imagined how that meeting could have turned out, if that man did deserve to be forgiven?

Chapter Twenty-Two

WHILE THE PEOPLE in Gardener hadn’t socialized much other than on Sundays and holidays, Katey’s mother had still taught her the finer points of proper etiquette as they had been taught to her years ago, and visiting people in the rain was on the “must never do” list. Dripping rainwater in people’s foyers and tracking wet, muddy footprints across fine carpeting was a sure way never to get invited again. Not that the homes in Gardener had had any fine carpets, but Adeline had made her point.

When Katey looked out her window the next morning, she didn’t see a drizzle, she saw a steady downpour. The rain that had blown in yesterday continued and showed no signs of letting up. She waited an hour, then extended that to two, but finally she put off the visit to the Millards’ for another day. As long as she and Grace were back in London by tomorrow night to sail the following day, they could afford to spend another day at Haverston, and it was still in the back of Katey’s mind that she might cancel her departure from England if all went as she hoped with the Millards.

When she’d arrived at Haverston yesterday, she’d been awed and amazed. Sir Anthony’s house had been sparkling elegance, but the marquis’s country estate was a mansion! It literally extended over acres of land and was too big to sparkle: light got lost in such huge rooms. But the marquis’s residence had warmth—sofas so richly upholstered Katey was afraid to sit on them, fireplaces twice their normal size, paintings hanging from the wallpapered walls that were bigger than she was! Judith had given her a brief tour that lasted an hour and didn’t even cover half the mansion.

She hadn’t been to the greenhouses yet, though, to see the coach that had been turned into a garden ornament. Judith had been saving that tour for after dinner last night, when the lamps would be lit to give it a special prominence, but Katey had defected to her room after dinner because of Boyd.

She decided to see it now before breakfast. She wasn’t going to wait for the rain to stop first since it didn’t look as if it was going to. A lot of greenhouses were out back. Judith hadn’t exaggerated about Jason Malory’s love of growing things. They were all big and mostly made of glass, and Katey only had to mention “the coach” for a servant to point her to the right one.

He offered to fetch her an umbrella. She didn’t want to wait and so declined, since the run wasn’t that far from the house. But before she reached the entrance of the greenhouse she was laughing at how quickly she’d been drenched. She wasn’t cold, though. Inside, the greenhouse was warm and humid. A pathway led through the rich foliage, some plants potted, some on trellises, some even hanging from the ceiling beams, but many were just planted in the rich soil underfoot.

She slowed her step when she saw the coach up ahead and was wide-eyed and feeling amazed once again. Jason had even hung two chandeliers above it, in a greenhouse! She arrived to find one of the workers lighting them.

Now that was extravagance and she said to the man, “In the daytime?”

The old fellow chuckled at her. “Only on dark days like this, miss.”

Katey sat down on one of the benches that had been set near the coach. The servant soon finished his task and left her alone there. The coach was an amazing sight. The wheels had been removed, making it seem as if it were planted in the ground! Flowers and vines surrounded it. But it certainly didn’t need any extra light. Entirely white and gold, it was probably blinding when sun came through the windows. But the chandeliers did give it a unique glow, making it look almost ethereal, and bringing fairy tales to mind.

She felt her nervous stomach settling down. Even her agitation from last night went away. The setting was so peaceful, and she felt some of that peace flowing through her.

She didn’t even stiffen or jump up to leave when Boyd appeared and sat down next to her. Their talk last night had aroused some powerful emotions in her, but she wasn’t the least bit aggravated by his presence now. As she looked at him, she thought, why did he have to be so handsome? He was dressed as he’d usually been on his ship in an open-collared shirt and an unbuttoned jacket. He wasn’t fashionably attired with a cravat, yet his clothes fit him splendidly, too splendidly, hugging his lean, muscular body.

“So you don’t really mind the rain after all?” he asked.

She’d wiped her face off on her long sleeves, but beads of water still clung to her braid, and wet patches dotted her lime green dress everywhere. She saw that he was just as wet as she was, and he hadn’t wiped his face yet. She had an urge to remove the raindrops from his cheeks with her…tongue…

She blushed immediately at the direction her thoughts had taken, but he probably assumed it was because of his question. She tried hard to keep her tone conversational, just as his had been. “Not when it’s my choice to go out in it,” she answered.

He grinned. “I get the point.”

“Not so dumb after all?” She grinned back at him.

Good grief, was she teasing him? Well, it certainly felt better than yelling at him, but where had her anger gone? She hadn’t forgiven him, not even a little. Maybe it was the setting? It was making her feel as if she were in a fairy tale…or one of her fantasies…where Boyd Anderson often appeared.

“I thought you were visiting your relatives this morning. I didn’t expect to find you still here.”

“How did you know I was visiting relatives?”

“I asked Roslynn. I’d rather not leave things to chance where you’re concerned.”

She blushed again, and her whole body suddenly felt warm. She was reminded why she’d told him she was married to begin with. He disturbed her on a level she just wasn’t familiar with. He had revealed his feelings, or rather, desires, when he’d thought she was a criminal. And he wasn’t hiding them now when he knew better, because he also knew she wasn’t really married. Could she withstand his flirtations this time? Or was she still too attracted to him to enjoy just a little romance and then move on?

“Cat got your tongue, Katey?”

She blinked away her thoughts. “I’m not going visiting in the rain. It can wait until tomorrow.”

He grinned and reminded her, “You just admitted you don’t mind rain. Dare I hope you were reluctant to leave Haverston without seeing me again?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Not a chance. I’ve just never met my mother’s family, so I want this first meeting to be perfect.”

“Ah, understood. Did you let them know you’d be delayed?”

“They don’t even know I’m in England.”

He raised a brow. “You’re not going to let them know you’re in the area before you appear at their door?”

“So they can pack up and leave?”

It was obvious she wasn’t joking now, which made Boyd frown. “Why would you say that?”

She’d never mentioned the Millards to him. They certainly hadn’t come up in any of their conversations aboard his ship.

She didn’t want to explain the situation now, either, so she said, “They’re my mother’s family, but they disowned her when she married my father and moved to America. They may not want to meet me. In fact, I almost didn’t come here.”

He started to reach for her hand. It would have been a natural thing for him to do—if they’d been friends and didn’t have his blunder standing between them. He put his hand back on his knee, but she knew what he’d almost done, and those warm, sparkly sensations were filling her again…. What the devil?

“Did you consider they might not even be in residence now?” he inquired.

“We stopped in Havers Town on the way here and made inquiries at several shops. The Millards are here.”

“Would you like an escort? I would be very pleased to accompany you. Moral support if you need it.”

Was he just trying to make amends, or did he really want to offer his support? It was hard to tell what was on his mind—other than lust, which was easy to recognize with him. But his eyes weren’t filled with it just now, and he was being cordial and—nice.

Katey groaned to herself. What was she thinking? It didn’t matter how he was behaving now, she’d seen him at his worst—arrogant, stubborn, deaf to reason, and she’d had to suffer all that plus a lot more that she did blame him for. He might not have put her in jail, but she wouldn’t have ended up there if he hadn’t forcibly removed her from Northampton that day.

She stood up abruptly. “Thank you, but this is something I have to do alone. And I believe I’m ready for breakfast now.”

He called her name, but she hurried off without stopping. And she wouldn’t have stopped at the breakfast room either if it had been empty, because she heard Boyd right behind her. But it wasn’t empty.

The smaller, more casual room for eating had a wall of windows that caught the morning sun when it wasn’t overcast or raining like today. It was set up for a buffet today. Judith and her mother were already seated at the table, and Katey took a seat between them. That kept her from having any more private words with Boyd for the moment, and she was determined to try to keep it that way for the remainder of her visit.

Chapter Twenty-Three

KATEY SKIPPED LUNCHEON, but realized how silly she was being trying to avoid Boyd. He was stalking her, anyway, at least that’s how it seemed when she couldn’t turn around without finding him nearby. Somehow he got her to agree to a game of chess. Did Boyd bring out a competitive streak in her? She’d been unable to lay him low with words so she was going to demolish him with a board game?

It turned out to be an enjoyable experience that lasted most of the afternoon. Judith stood by her side and whispered moves she could make. Boyd accused Katey of cheating because of it! “Who’s playing against me?” he asked at one point. “You or Judy?”

“Getting nervous?” Katey smirked as she captured his second knight, leaving him with no move for retaliation unless he wanted to lose his queen, too. “Judith’s just confirming for me that my strategy is working. She and I seem to think alike.”

Glancing from Katey to Judith, he exclaimed, “My God, you two even smirk alike. How about helping me instead, Judy? I’m the one who’s losing here.”

The child giggled, but stayed right where she was. And Boyd proved he wasn’t losing at all when he captured Katey’s queen four moves later. And that about ended that round. When the queen goes, all hope goes with her.

Boyd played so aggressively! Katey wasn’t used to that. All of her prior games of chess had been with her mother, and played leisurely as an enjoyable means of passing the time. But she shouldn’t have been surprised by Boyd’s style of play.

She’d sensed his aggressive nature the first day she’d met him when it had been so obvious that he was going to pursue her. The man had overwhelmed her then, so much so that she’d had to put a stop to it by inventing a husband. She had thought she’d be better able to handle flirtations of that sort with time, but apparently not, at least not with Boyd.

But for the moment his aggression was centered on a game, and Katey was enjoying herself too much to end it. He won that first game and they immediately started another. And he continued to go out of his way to distract her and keep her from concentrating, all deliberately. There was a lot of laughter, and she realized later that there shouldn’t have been. Chess was a serious game, but he’d turned it into more fun than Katey had ever had playing it.

She didn’t exactly demolish him at only one win out of three, but his victories had been difficult, so the games had been close enough to suit her.

“Who taught you to play?” he finally asked her when they put the chess pieces away.

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