Say You Love Me Page 7

“our Lord Derek is kindhearted, he is. I remember once-“

A knock at the door interrupted her reminiscing. A young maid opened it and poked her head in to say, "The carriage has arrived and His Lordship's awaiting." "Goodness, this early?" Mrs. Hershal said as she waved a hand to dismiss the maid, then with a glance to Kelsey, "Well, then, no time to press this, is there? But I think I've worked out enough of the wrinkles for it to do, and I'll leave you to ready yourself. No time for breakfast either, so I'll have Cook do you up a basket to take with you." "That isn't necessa-" Kelsey quickly began, but the woman was already out the door.

Kelsey sighed, hoping the whopping lie she'd just told wouldn't go. any further. Not that it mattered, since she wasn't staying there.

But this lying business didn't sit well with her. And she certainly wasn't very good at it, never having had the practice. She and Jean had both been raised to be scrupulously honest, and neither of them had ever had cause to deviate from that-at least Kelsey hadn't-until now.

The tea wasn't quite hot any longer, but she gulped down a quick cup as she hurriedly washed and dressed. She thought about leaving that red dress behind, she really did, but she recalled some of the advice that May had imparted to her at Lonny's about always looking her best and enticing for her lover, and she had nothing else that fell into the category of enticing. She might think the dress was in appalling bad taste, but apparently men didn't, or the bidding would never have gone quite so high.

But if she ever did wear it again, it would only be late of an evening, and only behind closed doors. For now, she dressed in the gown Mrs. Hershal had brought out, the winter-thick woolen beige that matched her spencer jacket. And goodness, it felt good to dress decently again, even if "decent" wasn't going to be part of her future.

When she went downstairs, she found Lord Derek waiting in the foyer, rather than Jeremy, and he was slapping a pair of gloves against his thighs in an impatient manner. He looked different in the lighter colors of day wear, though no less handsome.

Actually, the strong light in the foyer pointed out just how handsome he was in every way, from his tall, lean physique to his finely chiseled face and ... his eyes really were hazel. It must have been a trick of the light last night that had made them appear green.

And they were certainly going over her in a critical manner this morning, giving her the impression that he didn't care for her demure dress. Which was quite likely. After all, now she looked like a lady, and he wouldn't have expected that. But he wasn't the one she needed to impress or entice, so she wasn't going to worry about it.

She had assumed "His Lordship's awaiting" had meant that Jeremy had come to fetch her, but the younger lord was nowhere about. Of course, he could be waiting in the carriage. "You slept well, I trust?" Derek asked her when she reached him, his tone somewhat challenging, as if he didn't think that was possible. "Yes, very- if She was amazed that that was true, but now she thought of it, she must have fallen asleep the moment her head touched the pillow. But, then, the fear and anxiety she had undergone the day before had seriously worn her out . "This is for you, I believe."

She hadn't noticed the basket he'd been holding partially behind him. She nodded, hoping Mrs. Hershal hadn't handed it over herself, or if she had, that she'd done so without comment. But no such luck ... ,,So I'm credited with doing a good deed I don't quite remember doing?"

Kelsey blushed furiously to have been caught in the lie. -1’m sorry, but your housekeeper was badgering me with questions this morning, and I didn't think you'd want the truth known to her."

“Quite right, and none of her business in any case. You really slept well?"

She was surprised that he'd ask that again, and again in a tone that implied he found it impossible to believe that she could have. "Yes. I was apparently exhausted. It was a ... trying day." "Was it?" More doubt that was impossible to mistake, but then he smiled. "Well, hopefully today will be better. Shall we?" He indicated the door.

She sighed and nodded. The man was behaving exceedingly strangely, but it was nothing to her. Perhaps it wasn't strange at all and he was naturally skeptical about every little thing. Not that it mattered, when she doubted she'd be seeing him again after today.

He assisted her into the waiting carriage, and the moment his hand touched hers, she felt one of those disturbing reactions again. But that wasn't why she frowned as he settled into the seat across from her. It was because the carriage was empty.

She didn't put off asking. "Will we be picking up your friend Jeremy?" "Jeremy?”

His momentary confusion annoyed her, coming on top of her own confusion, but she repeated calmly, "Yes, Jeremy. Will we be picking him up this morning?"

"Whatever for?" he countered. "We hardly need his conlpany on the way to Bridgewater." And then he smiled, and she could have sworn his eyes were green again. "Besides, this is a perfect opportunity for us to become better acquainted, and I find I can't resist another moment finding out what you taste like."

Before she realized what he was going to do, he was pulling her onto his lap. But she wasn't the least bit slow in reacting. Before he'd barely got his lips close to hers, she slapped him. He looked at her then as if she had gone crazy. She looked at him in a like manner.

And then he was dumping her back on the seat across from him and saying, albeit quite stiffly, "I don't know if I'll be begging your pardon or not, Miss Langton. Considering the hole you put in my pocket yesterday for the exclusive use of your sweet self, I believe an explanation is in order. Or are you under the mistaken impression that I'm like those select few who frequent Lonny's place because they like their sex a little rough? I can assure you that isn't the case."

Her mouth had dropped open at the same time her cheeks had flamed with color. He had bought her. Not Jeremy. And she'd just begun their relationship by slapping him. "I-I can explain," she said, feeling a bit sick to her stomach. "I do hope so, m'dear, because at the moment I'm about to demand my money back."

KELSEY WAS FEELING RATHER SICK. SHE DIDN'T KNOW how to explain what she'd just done. And she didn't know how to explain it because she couldn't think clearly with Derek scowling at her. The only thing that was clear in her mind just then was that he'd bought her. Him. The one who disturbed her. The one out of the three she had hoped wouldn't be the one.

And goodness, now she knew why she had hoped it wouldn't be him. He flustered her so much, she couldn't think. "I'm waiting, Miss Langton."

For what? For what? Oh, yes, for why she'd slapped him. Think, you ninny! "You startled me," she said. "Startled?" "Yes, startled. I wasn't expecting you to attack me like that." "Attack you?"

She cringed at the volume he was fast reaching. She was ,iaking a muck of explaining. How to make him understand without admitting what an idiot she was. Why hadn't she asked immediately which one of them had bought her? She should have asked. Actually, she should have been told. But she never should have assumed. "A bad choice of words," she allowed. "But I'm not used to being yanked onto men's laps and-well, as I said, it startled me and-and I reacted before I thought. . . "

She didn't finish. He was still scowling, and she'd run out of excuses. There was nothing for it but to own up to the truth of the matter. "Very well, if you must know, I didn't see which of you had bid on me. I only heard Lord Malory mentioned, and when Jeremy was called Lord Malory-" "Good God!" he exclaimed. "You thought my cousin Jeremy bought you?"

His amazement showed. She was blushing as she nodded. "Even after you were brought to my home?" he wanted clarified.

She nodded again, but added, "You said that was only temporary. I guessed that as young as Jeremy is, he might still be living with his parents, and so he must have asked you to see me settled for the night. Why else do you think I asked if we would be picking him up this morning?"

At that point he confounded her by smiling. "Actually, dear girl, I was worried that you might have become smitten with the scamp. It wouldn't be the first time. He has that effect on the fairer sex despite his tender years." "Yes, he is unusually handsome," she agreed, then wished she hadn't commented at all. He stopped smiling. "I suppose you are disappointed now, to be stuck with me instead?"

It was really unfortunate that he asked that question. The truth was written on her face before she took the lie in hand to try to assure him. "No, of course not."

It was immediately apparent by his skeptical expression that he didn't believe her, but she wasn't going to make matters worse by trying to explain. Jeremy had simply boggled her with his good looks, but this Malory stirred things up in her that she didn't understand. With Jeremy, she had suspected things would be quite simple. With this man, she didn't think anything would be simple. So certainly she would have prefered Jeremy, for the relationship she entered with him wouldn't have been all that complicated.

When he said nothing, just continued to look doubtful, despite knowing she shouldn't, she got defensive and said stiffly, "I can assure you, Lord Malory, that I find you infinitely preferable to those other two gentlemen you outbid. However, I didn't realize that my preferences mattered in the least in your transaction. I wasn't asked if you will do. That option wasn't included in the bargain I made. Or did you want it to be?"

Turning the tables on him made him smile, though the expression didn't quite reach his eyes. And his tone was on the dry side as he said, "Excellent point, m'dear. Perhaps we should start again. Come here, and I will endeavor to make you forget it isn't Jeremy sitting here. And you can endeavor to make me believe that you have forgotten."

She stared at the hand he held out to her. She couldn't very well refuse it. But already her belly was starting to churn with those strange feelings, and when she actually put her hand in his, she almost gasped, the feeling leapt with such strong currents. "Much better," Derek said as he settled her back on his lap.

Kelsey was positive her cheeks were burning in expectation of his kiss. But he didn't kiss her. He moved her a tad this way, and a little that way, then his arms settled around her and she heard him sigh.

"You can relax, mdear," he told her in a somewhat amused tone. "Rest your head wherever you like. I believe I'm just going to get used to holding you for a while."

She hadn't expected that, but some of the stiffness went out of her upon hearing it. "I'm not too heavy?"

He chuckled. "'Not a'tall." The carriage continued to rattle along the city streets, which were heavily congested at that time of the morning with delivery carts and wagons and so many people on their way to work. By the time they reached the outskirts of the city, Kelsey was feeling relaxed enough to finally rest her head against his chest. One of his hands came up to her head when she did, a thumb smoothing against her cheek, which she didn't mind in the least. The scent of him was so pleasant, clean and spicy, and she liked that too. 'How far is it to Bridgewater?" she thought to ask after a while. "Since we will be stopping for lunch along the way, most likely it will take all day." 'And what's in Bridgewater?" "I have a house in the country near there. Was due for a visit anyway, and there is a cottage nearby that I believe is empty, which you should be quite comfortable in for a week or two, until I can make arrangements for something for you in London." "I'm sure it will do nicely."

They fell silent for the next hour. Kelsey was warm, and comfortable, and nearly falling asleep when she heard ... "Kelsey?" "Hmmm?" "Why did you put yourself up for sale like that?" "It was the only-"' she started, but stopped abruptly, realizing that she'd been so relaxed and off guard that she'd nearly blurted out the truth. She quickly corrected that

" That is to say, I'd rather not talk about it, if it's the same to you." He tilted her chin up until her eyes met his looking down. They were most definitely green, and curious, and something else was there that she couldn't define. “I’ll accept that answer for now, love, but I can't say that I will next time I ask," he said gently.

And then his head bent, and she felt the soft caress of his lips on hers, nothing threatening, nothing alarming, just the barest touch. She sighed in relief. This wasn't so bad, was certainly nothing to be frightened of.

She'd had several young men courting her in Kettering, but none had ever dared to kiss her. Her mother's eagle eye was always upon them, as was proper. And for a first kiss, this was very nice indeed. She certainly couldn't see the harm in it, or why parents frowned on their daughters' participating in such sport.

His thumb was still rubbing soothingly against her cheek. After a while, though, it moved to the corner of her mouth and tugged very slightly until her lips parted. Then she felt his tongue tracing a path over her lips first, widening them still more, then over her teeth, then beyond.

This wasn't the least bit relaxing. In fact, her insides were suddenly rioting with sensations, but as it continued, she realized that they weren't unpleasant sensations, far from it, just like nothing she'd ever experienced before.

She tried frantically to recall some of May's advice. Never lay there like a wet blanket, Caress him at every opportunity when you are alone, Make him think you want him constantly, whether You do or don't.

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