The Duke I'm Going to Marry(8)

By: Meara Platt



She sat on the piano bench, took a deep breath, and struck the first chord of a concerto she particularly liked. Her fingers flew over the ivory keys, for she knew the piece by heart and didn’t need to concentrate to play it perfectly. In any event, how could she concentrate with Ian upstairs? In her bed. Still naked.

She finished the concerto and began to play one of her favorite madrigals, singing along as she played the sweetly melodic, but wistful, tune about a young woman’s true love lost at war. Then she played another, and in this one the fair maiden died in her lover’s arms.

“Do you know any songs that don’t involve death?” Ian asked, limping into the music room and surprising her while she searched through her folios for some merrier tunes.

She turned to face him, relieved to see that he was clean shaven and properly dressed. Fully clothed. Incredibly handsome. He had on a white lawn shirt and dark gray breeches molded to his long, muscled legs, and he wore knee-length polished black boots. His cravat was a deep green silk that matched the forest-mist color of his eyes, and his gray silk vest brought out the silvery glint in them. No jacket, though she wasn’t surprised, for the worst of his wounds, the one at his waist, had not yet healed and the weight of the jacket would only be an irritant.

He looked almost as good as he had yesterday while naked and rising from her bed, his broad shoulders and muscled arms flexing as he strained to stand.

Stop thinking of him naked.

Of course, she couldn’t. The mere thought of Ian without a stitch of clothing turned her legs to pudding and left her heart pounding so hard its rampant beat could be heard across London. No doubt Ian heard its rapid thump, thump, thump.

She let out a light laugh, feeling a little shabby, for she had on a simple day gown of dark blue wool, albeit a fine merino wool, and her hair was simply drawn back in a dark blue velvet ribbon. “I never realized quite how morbid some of these songs are.”

“Will you play another for me? A merrier one this time.” He surprised her by sinking onto the piano bench beside her, his broad shoulders grazing her slight shoulders as he settled awkwardly, obviously feeling pain with his every movement. He made no attempt to draw away. Did he realize that their bodies were still touching?

Dillie felt a rush of heat to her cheeks, not to mention her heart was still thumping so violently it threatened to explode. “Of course. I’ll look through these.”

He leaned closer to peruse the folios propped on the piano’s music stand. She caught the scent of lather on his now beardless jaw, and the subtle scent of sandalwood soap along his throat. She ached to tilt her head and nuzzle his throat, shamelessly inhale great gulps of Ian air.

The folios fell from her hands and clattered to the floor. The smaller, unbound music sheets simply wafted across the room. “I’ll get them!” Her twin often eeped when she felt uncomfortable. No one had ever made Dillie feel uncomfortable until now. Her cheeks were on fire as she jumped to her feet and began to gather the scattered papers.

She sensed Ian’s amused gaze on her as she bent and twisted her body under various pieces of furniture to gather every last one of them. Her face was flushed, something she could blame on her exertion and not on her heated response to Ian’s stare.

He grinned at her when she sank onto the piano bench, folios in hand, and attempted to prop them against the music stand. “Here, let me help you,” Ian said, no doubt taking pity when she failed miserably to right them. He reached out to catch a few of the music sheets that were once again slipping away, and accidentally caught her hands, which were all over those folios.

“Eep.”

His big, warm hands remained on hers.

“Eep. Eep.”

He grinned, that sensual Ian grin all mothers warned their daughters about.

“Ian, I can’t play while you’re holding my hands. Eep. Eep.”

He appeared reluctant to release them, but it couldn’t be so. “What’s wrong with you? Do you have the hiccups?”

She nodded. “I often get them when I play the piano. Eep.” She turned away and rolled her eyes. He wasn’t the idiot. She was. She shot off the bench and rang for Pruitt, ordering tea and lemon cake for Ian and herself. To keep herself busy until the tea arrived, she made a show of clearing her throat, as though attempting to rid herself of the hiccups she never had. Satisfied with her turn at theatrics, she returned to her seat at the piano, careful not to touch any part of Ian’s big body. Even the slightest contact would cause her heart to burst.

She imagined what the gossip rags would report. Remains of one Daffodil Farthingale were found exploded all over well-used piano in the family’s music room. Notorious rakehell Duke of Edgeware last to see her alive. Cause of death was determined to be excessive rapture. “You’ll be more comfortable over there,” she said, pointing to a pair of cushioned chairs by the hearth.

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