His Perfect Bride(9)

By: Jenn Langston

Her pale skin was a dramatic contrast to her solid black hair, which framed her exquisite face, drawing every man to her. Being trapped into marriage was a miserable fate, but he imagined it would be more pleasant shackled to an attractive wife. Then it occurred to him that there were no witnesses or demanding father. She also didn’t have the satisfied look of a woman whose plan had been successful.

“What was that about?” he asked, honestly puzzled by her.

“I’m not quite sure.” Her voice was breathless. “I have never done that before.”

Richard was not sure if she referred to the kiss or whatever caused her to pull him from the terrace, but it didn’t matter. He had half a mind to leave and act as though this had not happened, but he found himself reluctant to go.

“I’m Richard, by the way. May I ask for your name?”

“Yes, I’m Lady Brianna Denton. I do apologize—”

“Brianna,” the same female voice called again. “I know I saw you come out here. Oh, where is that girl?”

Richard noted how her mouth dropped open as her eyes widened, and he relaxed, confident this was no marriage trap. More than willing to help her a second time, he pressed himself back against her and once again claimed her mouth.

This time she was prepared and met his kiss eagerly. Gently coaxing, he gave her a moment to accustom herself to him. Unfortunately, the raw lust he felt didn’t subside. If anything, his hunger increased. Knowing he could not continue this much longer, he reluctantly eased back from her. Looking down at her angelic face, her half smile nearly caused him to lose his grip on himself.

“Would you care for a stroll through the garden? Perhaps it will cause your pursuer to give up her search.”

Richard knew this lady would only be trouble, but he could not let her get away without receiving an explanation for her actions. He hoped logical reasoning would discourage him from becoming more fascinated with her.

“I don’t believe she will be deterred, but a stroll sounds lovely, my lord.”

“Richard, if you please. I’m simply Richard,” he said, not wanting her to know how close she came to trapping a marquis. If a lady willingly put herself in the arms of an unknown man to further her goal, there was nothing she would not do to obtain his money and title. Knowing this woman before him remained far from his idea of a perfect bride, he decided it would be better to avoid her after tonight.

“Then I’m simply Brianna,” she replied with a brilliant smile.

They walked in silence while Richard decided how to handle this unpredictable lady. The night was perfect, with a gentle breeze allowing the flowers’ aroma to permeate the air. As he walked along, he took note of several niches that were ideal for a private moment, but his better judgment urged him to keep walking.

Leading her to a well-lit area, he hoped it would be enough to keep up propriety. When he turned to face her, his breath caught in his throat. The moonlight glittered across her skin, giving off the illusion that she was ethereal. Richard had never seen anyone so glorious, and he could no longer remember why she was not suitable for him.

“I suppose you are wondering exactly what happened on the terrace,” she said, a becoming shade of pink tinting her cheeks.

“The question had crossed my mind. I assume you intended to avoid the lady who called your name. The real question is, why?”

“It’s silly actually,” she replied, no longer keeping eye contact with him. “I never should have included you, and I do apologize. I was simply desperate at that moment.”

“Well, since you did involve me, I would like to hear your reason, regardless of how silly it may be.” Richard would have laughed at her embarrassment had her blush not been so charming. She bit her lower lip in reluctance, so he inclined his head, waiting.

“The lady was my mother, and I was avoiding her because . . .” She paused.

“Yes? Please continue,” Richard encouraged, unable to contain his curiosity.

“My mother plans to introduce me to a gentleman with whom I have no intention of becoming acquainted.”

“Why?” Richard asked, without thinking. This was not the answer he expected, and he didn’t understand why she would go through so much trouble for something so simple. “Has the gentleman in question made inappropriate advances toward you?”

“Certainly not. I have never met him, and I intend to keep it that way. He is searching for a bride, and I have no wish to become one of his candidates.”

“I see.” Richard was amused. “May I ask who this completely unsuitable gentleman is?”

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