Rhys, clever, methodical man that he is, has laid a series of
careful traps for Sabrina Fairleigh for days. At last he's lured
the practical (or so she thinks) vicar's daugther to his statue
gallery using a legend as bait: the statue of Persephone allegedly
comes to life when the midnight light of a full moon touches her.
But both Rhys and Sabrina are in for a major surprise, and it
may or may not actually involve a statue. Read on... (or
Ink to read the scene that precedes this one!)
The wind had ceased for the moment to heap more snow up against
the house, and the quiet was so sudden and thorough it very nearly
had a texture. Moonlight poured in through the soaring arched
windows and washed over the rows of statues in the gallery.
Sabrina hesitated on the threshold of the room, and this hesitation,
as well as the sharp little curl of anticipation in the pit of
her stomach, amused her. She approached the statues almost stealthily,
until she was a mere few feet away from Persephone.
But it was another few seconds before she mustered the nerve
to lift her candle high enough to illuminate Persephone's face.
Persephone's smooth marble eyes gazed back at her.
For seconds of silence Sabrina watched the statue. Seconds ticked
into a minute, then two minutes.
How long minutes are when you're waiting, Sabrina thought
Finally, she grew a bit bored and whimsically decided to rest
her candle in Perseus's outstretched hand. She stepped back toward
the wall to admire it. It looked as though he was bearing a torch.
"For a moment I thought you were Persephone come to life,
Sabrina's heart didn't precisely stop, though it most definitely
did stutter. And when it leaped forward again it was much more
swiftly than before.
Perhaps she hadn't jumped out of her skin because she'd almost
Still, she didn't dare turn around.
"Forgive me for dashing your hopes." She was proud
of her voice, even, cool as marble. The voice a statue would have
used, she liked to think. Though her heart was now beating so
rapidly she wondered it didn't echo in the gallery.
"Given that I came here hoping to be surprised, and perhaps
I cannot in all honesty say my hopes have
been dashed." Drawled irony in his soft, soft voice.
It washed over her the way the moonlight did. It changed the
very room. And her mind knew he was an expert at choosing clever
words and imbuing them with innuendo, at all the little things
added up to seduction. In this, he'd proven himself an artist,
in the way Mr. Brand was an artist, or the way Sophia Licari was
Oh, yes, her mind knew it. Still, it was not her mind that surged
in response to his voice, or set the hair on the back of her neck
And in that moment, she didn't dare speak.
She remained quiet; and now she began to feel the warmth of
him behind her, as surely as though he were a fire burning low;
she wondered, absurdly, if he was clothed for day or night. Perhaps
he wore a dressing gown and a cap, had come creeping down from
his chambers dressed for sleep. It would certainly de-fang him,
somewhat. She'd seen her father, Vicar Fairleigh, in his dressing
gown and cap. She had difficulty imagining that any man so dressed
would pose any sort of sensual danger.
And then it occurred to her to wonder what the wan moonlight
was doing to her dressing gown, and heat rushed into her cheeks.
She fought a maidenly impulse to pull the shawl more tightly
around her shoulders, as she sensed the gesture would amuse him
and confirm for him everything he believed about her. For some
reason, at the moment, the thought of this was intolerable.
what would you have done if you'd seen her?"
She found herself asking instead. She was genuinely curious. "Persephone?"
"Take her to Hades with me at once, of course." He
sounded surprised that she needed to ask.
This startled a short laugh from her. "Or to London, at
the very least."
"Is there a difference?" He made it sound like a serious
"I wouldn't know. Is the entrance to London guarded by
a dog with two heads?"
She thought he might laugh.
Instead, it was quiet again. The candle flame snapped upward,
tugged by a draft.
"You've never been to London?" He said it softly,
but he sounded so thoroughly, genuinely astonishedas if
she'd admitted she'd never learned to read, or to eat with a fork,
something just that fundamentalthat she couldn't
And she finally turned, slowly, to face him.
Which of course required looking up a significant distance.
No dressing gown and whimsical cap. White shirt, open at the
throatit took a moment to get beyond those few open buttonsand
those blue eyes fixed upon her.
His expression disconcerted her. He didn't seem inclined to
blink, for one thing; his gaze on her face was nearly as steady
as the statue's
if considerably more warm. The warmth she
could see even by the combined light of moon and candle. But she
would also have called it
bemused. It was as if two very
different notions were warring inside him, and he was puzzled
by at least one of them.
"I've never longed to see London." She heard the prim
note in her own voice. Perhaps it was for the best.
He simply continued gazing. She refused to be the first to look
away, and so an absurd moment passed during which they merely
When he spoke, she almost started.
"Miss Fairleigh, do you have a mirror in your chambers?"
"A mirror?" She was puzzled.
He didn't clarify the question for her; he smiled faintly as
if at some private joke, and gave his head a slow shake, to and
fro. And then absently, almost affectionately, he reached out
and gently tugged the ends of her shawl more snugly around her.
As though tucking a child into bed.
Just as her own hand had gone up to do the same.
A shock: the backs of his fingers touching hers. His skin against
her skin. He was startlingly warm, flame-warm. And this simple
touch sent a buzz through her blood and flashed like lightning
in her mind, obliterating thought. She went motionless, astonished,
and looked up at him, absorbing the sensation. A tide of heat
rose toward the surface of her skin.
Rhys knew an opportunity when he saw one, and he'd brilliantly
orchestrated this one. Those lovely full lips were parted just
a little; her muslin wrapper fell softly over the slim lines of
her body, hinting at lithe bareness beneath. Her dark hair should
have been twined in a missish braid to keep it from tangling as
she slept, and instead it spilled in dark silken handfuls over
her shoulders. Her eyes were wide and soft, stunned at the contact
of his hand, lulled by the moonlight.
He'd kissed myriad other women for much less provocation.
And so he swiftly calculated his angle of approach, and did
He'd meant it be a swift touch of the lips, just enough to scandalize
her and to satisfy his own half-whimsical impulse, to prove to
himself that he had won: he had lured her here, and his reward
was to be a kiss.
But when his lips met hers, something went terribly wrong.
Or perhaps it was just that something went too terribly right.
oh, God. Her mouth was a dream beneath his. So
softly, surprisingly welcoming it was as though she'd been anticipating
this kiss her entire life.
Pragmatically, he thought it more likely it was because she
hadn't expected to be kissed, and therefore hadn't had
time to do the sensible thing
which would be to stiffen and
slap him in indignation. He knew he had an instant's worth of
advantage, and regardless of whether it was sensible, he wasn't
about to relinquish it. His arms went around her loosely but decisively
and he pulled her into his chest before she could do something
silly, like stop him.
Her forearms arms folded up, her hands bunched softly near his
collarbone, her head tipped back. And now that he she was gently
trapped, he lowered his head. And he kissed her, not as though
she was a virgin, or the vicar's daughter, or the almost-fiancée
of his resentful cousin. He kissed her the way a woman ought to
be kissed: With absolutely no quarter.