A little background on this: Henry is intent to find Laura a new husband so he can clear Elijah’s name and he’s not stuck with her–though he’s becoming undeniably attracted to her, which isn’t so great since she’s letting him believe she thinks he’s Elijah. A blow to the male ego, to be sure. To find her a new beau, he’s taken her to a local assembly where they’re pretending to be French so that nobody recognizes him. The problem? She doesn’t know French outside of a few sentences which she’s been spouting without knowing what they mean. She might not know, but the men did and when one takes a moment to inform Henry of what his “daughter” is saying, Henry does the only thing he can think to do:
Every drop of blood that had been roaring in Henry’s ears was now in his toes.
Due to the lack of blood flowing to his brain, he took a momentary leave of his senses—something he’d prided himself on never once doing during his nine years as a spy—walked straight over to where Laura was dancing with that cad, wrapped his arm around her and carried her from the floor.
“Put me down!” Laura demanded of the madman who’d inhabited Henry’s body and carried her from the middle of the floor. She let out a slight shriek when he tightened his hold.
He ignored her demands and the curious stares from the onlookers as he carried her straight from the ballroom to a little room off to the side, where he promptly did as she asked and put her down—on the soft surface of a plush settee.
“What was that about?” she asked, crossing her arms. She knew it was foolish to ask. He’d never tell her. While a gentleman could demand a lady’s motives and use physical force, if necessary, to get her to expose them, a woman could make similar demands until her throat was raw and still wouldn’t have an answer.
“Parlez-vous du français?”
She bit her lip. “Oui.”
“Comment faire vous vous sentez de moi”
She swallowed, hard. Then she lifted her chin. “Viens ici que je te saute.”
“Oui,” she said without hesitation.
Henry sneered, “Madam, do you have any idea what you just said to me?”
She pulled her lower lip between her teeth but didn’t say anything.
“I didn’t think so,” he said thickly, sinking to the haunches to close the gap between them. He lifted his hands to cup her face. “Perhaps you’d like for me to show you?”
Laura moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. Was he about to kiss her? The very idea was laughable. He had no genuine interest in her, for if he did, he wouldn’t have kept finding her dance partners.
“I’m not in need of any demonstration,” she said in a broken whisper.
His eyes held a gleam she’d never seen before and she shivered.
As if he didn’t hear her weak protest, he brought his lips to hers.
His lips were surprisingly soft, she noted.
Just as quickly, he jerked away as if he’d been burned and muttered a mild curse. He stood, removed his hat and raked his hand through his hair.
“That’s what I was saying?” she asked, dumbfounded. She mindlessly lifted her fingertips to her lips that were still tingling from the three seconds they’d been pressed against Henry’s. “I was asking for a kiss?”
“No.” His voice was sharp. He cleared his throat. “What you were asking for might involve a kiss, but only as a mere afterthought.”
She furrowed her brow. “I don’t understand.”
“You were suggesting the two of you go away together so you could allow him to sample your wares.”
Her eyes grew wide. “I said all of that?”
He scowled. “No. What you said was far more vulgar—including you asking to sample his wares. I was merely phrasing it nicely.”
“Oh, dear.” She had the strangest urge to laugh. The faces of the twenty or so different dance partners she’d said that to flooded her mind. That’s why they’d been smiling and it had taken a firm reminder that her “father” was waiting for her return. Good grief! A burble of laughter welled up inside of her and she was no longer able to control it.
“You think it’s humorous?” Henry’s face was expressionless, save his clenched jaw.
“Well, yes,” she said with a giggle.
“And what if one of them had tried to fulfill your demand?”
“To come close so you can initiate intimacies with him.”
She laughed even harder, her body convulsing with it. The idea that she’d ever initiate intimacies with anyone was more comical than a man wearing a purple suit of clothes, white cream on his face, and a hat with bells while standing on stilts, juggling and singing about his longing for a wife.
“I don’t know why you find this so funny, madam; but those words whispered to the wrong man could lead you into more trouble than you can imagine.”
“Like you,” she suggested between peals of laughter.
She sobered instantly, their eyes locking. His were still dark and intense. She swallowed her unease. She’d been uncomfortable in his presence before, but never like she was now. “I hope you know when I said that, that I wasn’t issuing an invitation. I was just…”
She nodded. That was exactly what she was doing. Robbie had said those words to her, or other ladies within her earshot, on more than one occasion, but she never knew what it meant.
“I know you did not know what you were saying. But still, you’d better be careful who you say that to; and if you ever say it in my presence again, you’d best be ready to fulfill that promise.”
A shiver skated down her spine at the roughness in his voice. Would he try to kiss her again? Did she want him to?
“I do believe it’s time for us to take our leave from here.”
“And where shall we go?” She hadn’t meant to ask it, but now that she had…
Home. What a foreign word. “I presume you mean your home,” she murmured, standing.
He lowered his lashes as if he didn’t know how to respond, not that she’d expected him to. It was the truth. Where they’d been staying was his home, not hers. She hadn’t had a home in many years, only places of residence.
Laura walked over to the door and waited for Henry to join her. Something was odd about him. He was unusually quiet and stiff, yes stiff. His movements weren’t as graceful as they usually were, and he appeared a bit…distracted.
“Would you like to wait here while I have the carriage sent?”
“No. I’ll go with you.”
“Very well.” He opened the door for her and then escorted her down the hall.
“Is something amiss?” she asked when she could no longer stand the silence between them.
She frowned. “I hope you don’t intend to blame me for giving away your identity because of my blatant lack of knowing French.”
He flashed a half smile at her and with a thick French accent said, “I wasn’t aware my identity was revealed, madame.”
“Then why are you upset? What have I done?”
He froze, his eyes searching hers. “Nothing.”
“It’s not nothing. What has made you turn so cold? One minute, your lips are on mine, and the next, you’ve become a monosyllabic statue.”
“I wasn’t aware statues could talk, in one syllable or five.”
“They can’t,” she burst out. “You know exactly what I mean. You—you—” She closed her mouth with a snap. He knew what she meant; he was being obtuse on purpose.
“What do you want from me, Laura?” He peeled off his mustache and leaned in closer. “Do you want me to kiss you again?”
Heat flooded her, but she couldn’t deny it. Kissing him was different than anything she’d ever known; not that she could tell him that. His male pride would soar and he’d never see any reason to be kind to her again.
“Hmm?” he asked, closing the space between them.
She could practically feel his lips against hers, though they were still a hair’s breadth away.
Then, they were on hers again, sending the same delicious sensations through her body. Soft and gentle, his lips moved over hers. Henry’s hands came up to cup her face, holding her to him. She didn’t mind and wanted desperately to wrap her arms around his neck to keep him there, but fear held her back.
He parted his lips and drew her bottom lip in between his and gently raked his teeth over it. She gasped. He repeated the gesture, this time running his tongue over her lip just afterwards. “Henry,” she said on a sigh.
He pulled back from her, his eyes still dark with desire but also narrowed on her. In them, she saw the question his lips had yet to speak.
A chill ran over her. What would he say when he learned that she’d known all along?
She squeezed the fan in her hand; both of his hands still holding her face. “Yes?”
“What did you just say?”
Were she a sarcastic sort, she’d have repeated the word yes; but she knew what he’d meant, and she also knew it would not be in her best interest to trifle with him. “I said, Henry. Your name. If you’d rather I didn’t, I could call you Mr. Ban—”
The rest of her sentence was cut off when his lips took hers again. This time, his kiss was different, more passionate. He parted his lips against hers and ran the tip of his tongue along the seam of her lips. She gasped his name, and devilish man that he was, he took advantage of her surprise to push his tongue into her mouth.
A small measure of panic built in her chest, momentarily dampening her enjoyment of his kiss. Would he gag her or slobber on her?
Her thought was banished in an instant as Henry slowly brushed the inside of her left cheek, then her right, taking time to taste her. She instinctively moved closer to him. His kiss was so different than any she’d ever experienced before, and for as wanton and unladylike as it was, she craved more and wasn’t ready for him to stop.
But he did.
Panting, he pulled back. “Let’s go.”
“Go? Go where?” she asked, blinking in confusion.
He showed no sign of being annoyed or irritated with her inane question; instead, he reached for her hand, laced their fingers together, opened the front door and said, “To Scotland.”