was snoring softly next to her, her grubby little doll clutched
in her arms. But Lily could not sleep. She was a little too full
of roast beef, a little too tired of being required to move sedately,
and the silence of the house enclosed her like a great bell jar.
she could light a candle and read?
she really wanted to do was run, expend her bottled energy. She
was unaccustomed to confinement; it chafed at her, banked her restlessness.
She smiled a little, picturing how the servants would react if they
were to discover Miss Lily Masters, Lord Kilmartin's cousin from
Sussex, racing through the hallways in her big dressing gown. Would
an actual emotion register on Mrs. Plunkett's face?
slipped out of bed, wrapped herself in her voluminous night robe,
also on loan from Mrs. Plunkett, and lit a candle. Cupping the flame
with one hand, she turned the chamber doorknob, slipped out and
padded silently and swiftly up the stairs to the library, the marble
sending little rivers of chill up her legs through her bare feet.
peered in; a fire was burning low there, throwing soft light and
odd, uneven shadows about the room. Surely this was wrong; surely
a servant should have doused the fire by now? She hesitated in the
doorway, listening. She heard nothing, so she took a step in.
saw him then. His long body filled a chair, his legs casually spread,
his hands cupping a small red book; he seemed absorbed in it. In
a nod to comfort, his shirt was open a button or two at the neck;
dark hair curled intriguingly up out of it. The firelight burnished
his skin, deepened the hollows of his cheeks, revealed red glints
in his lashes, much like the ones hiding in his hair.
in repose, there was something taut and expectant, perpetually vigilant,
about Gideon Cole. It made Lily want to murmur to him, the way you
might to a restive animal. Awareness washed her senses almost raw.
How could anyone or anything be so beautiful?
then Gideon glanced up and saw her. He went utterly still.
eyes held for an almost absurd length of time, but strangely, it
was not the least bit awkward; his face, in fact, reflected the
same gentle mystification she felt.
then, as if shaking himself from a dream, Gideon abruptly began
to rise to his feet.
please do not stand Mr. Cole," she stammered. "I am sorry
to disturb you. I'll just go back to my-"
Gideon said quickly. "That is to say, don't go, Miss Masters.
That is to say, you needn't go."
paused. If she didn't know better, she would have said that Gideon
Cole was flustered.
sat down again and closed the book he was reading, turning it over
in his lap. "There's very little of any value in this library,
Miss Masters. You might perhaps try my uncle's study. There's some
gold plate lying about, I believe."
the goad seemed half-hearted; she smiled faintly. Perhaps he was
fatigued from his day of tormenting her. "You don't consider
books of value, Mr. Cole?"
of them, yes." He paused, regarding her thoughtfully. "You
enjoy stories very much, don't you, Miss Masters? Reading them,
do you suppose that is?"
very likely because they are amusing, Mr. Cole."
watched her for a silent moment. "Do you know why I
read stories?" His words were slow, ironic. As though her answer
had disappointed him. "I read them to escape the sordid, everyday
difficulties of my life. To make it more
gave a shocked little intake of breath, and her face went swiftly
hot. Was he mocking her?
she spoke again, her voice was cold and formal, signaling her intent
to take command of their conversation. It shook a little, however,
and she cursed herself and him for it. "Mr. Cole, now that
I am here, I would like to speak to you about Alice."
she is. You arranged for her to have a doll."
you jealous, Miss Masters? Would you like one, too?"
amusing, Mr. Cole. I grant that it was kind of you to think of Alice.
But she may become accustomed to such luxuries, and as you know,
her life in St. Giles does not allow for them."
he studied her quietly with those unfathomable eyes; she grew apprehensive.
And his next words, gently delivered, stripped yet another layer
the issue lie, Miss Masters, in the fact that you cannot
give her those things?"
breathing quickened with something akin to panic. He's probably
a bloody good barrister.
were happy, Mr. Cole," she hissed. "Alice and I were doing
quite well before you and your bloody thirty pounds."
yes. Quite well," he repeated ironically. "What
if something befell you in your 'daily rounds,' Miss Masters? What
if I hadn't happened along when I did? What of Alice? Do you care?"
was as though he had landed his fist in her gut. But before she
could give vent to her fury, he surprised her.
apologize, Miss Masters." His voice carried a soft self-rebuke,
and his hand went up to rub his brow absently, as though he wished
he could erase the thoughts that had led to his words. "Truly.
That was unworthy of me. I know how deeply you care for your sister.
In fact, you should be congratulated on how well she has turned
out. I just
I just want you to see that you should give some
thought to your future. Not everyone who catches you will pay thirty
pounds to free you."
was not condescension, precisely, but Lily found it infuriating
future, Mr. Cole? You can plan all you like, but no one can
truly prepare for the future. Not even you. Despite your desperate
measures and your Master Plan and your bloody thirty pounds."
expression changed then, his features tightened; her words had struck
home. His lovely long fingers restlessly plucked at the arm of the
why," she added, near tears, which infuriated her further,
"do you care?"
log, nearly devoured by flame, tipped into the lowering fire. Lily's
bare feet once again felt the chill of the floor; she absently chafed
one against the other.
the silence stretched.
shifted restless in his chair, took in a deep steadying breath,
released it. "I'm not sure why I care, Miss Masters,"
he admitted softly. He sounded genuinely puzzled. Almost irritated
with himself. "But
then he smiled. And it really wasn't much more than a slow, rueful
lift of the corner of his mouth, but there was a vulnerability to
it, and a hint of defiance, as though the confession had been made
reluctantly but he'd had no choice about it, really.
God help her, that smile spiraled right around Lily's heart and
tugged it nearly clean out of her chest.
anger evaporated. Lily studied him, and he met her gaze evenly;
her heart tripped oddly. Something was taking shape between them;
it was like standing at the entrance of a dark room, she thought,
in the moment before your eyes adjust and the outlines of things
become clear. She was afraid to step any farther into that room,
for fear of crashing clumsily into something.
could walk into his eyes, Lily thought. Happily disappear
right into them.
cleared his throat, as though he wanted to speak before she could
say anything. "What sort of book were you after, Miss Masters?
Perhaps I can direct you to it." His tone was gentle; a truce
had been called, and something else acknowledged.
His solicitousness on the heels of her thoughts made her blush.
"Would that be
would that be all right?"
'Tis a library, after all." He sounded faintly amused. "Are
you fond of novels? Or perhaps of
" He faltered almost
It was as though he feared he was making some sort of prurient suggestion.
don't know much of poetry. Though I've a book of Shakespeare's works."
smiled faintly, and then he tilted his head back, his eyes on the
shadowy ceiling; the firelight gilding this throat. " 'The
sun's a thief, and with his great attraction, robs the vast sea
" he murmured.
heart gave an astonished kick. Hearing those familiar words in this
place, in his voice
She waited. But he didn't seem inclined
The moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches
from the sun
' " she encouraged softly. She could
have recited the rest to him, but she wanted to hear it in his voice.
Gideon slowly lowered his head and regarded her wonderingly. "You
beautiful," Gideon admitted, after a brief silence. He sounded
hated to ruin the moment for him, but she couldn't resist an opportunity
to make a point. "And it's all about how everything is a thief."
laughed a surprised laugh, and she laughed, too, because she couldn't
help it: he had a wonderful laugh. It was full of the boy he must
have been, and she wished he didn't ration it the way he seemed
to. Their eyes met again, lingered; faint smiles curved both of
their mouths, and Lily could think of nothing to say.
then, as if freed by the laughter and darkness and firelight, Gideon's
gaze began, gradually, to lower. It followed the length of Lily's
bare throat, went to the loosed hair spilling over her chest, dropped
to her waist, where a cord wrapped twice around her closed her robe.
Slowly, slowly, his eyes traveled the curve of her hips, down her
thighs, down her calves, to where her bare feet touched the floor.
A most deliberate and thorough and unsubtle perusal.
as surely as if his open hand were skimming over her bare skin,
gooseflesh rose beneath Lily's robe; her skin felt stung with heat,
her breath came short. Again, that sense of lamplight blooming below
her belly, spilling into her veins.
he was only looking at her.
out of my depth with this man.
pulled at her like a swift current from the moment he'd locked his
hand around her wrist on Bond Street. And Gideon Cole was not a
Nick, who could be kissed out of curiosity and pushed away and forgotten.
If Gideon Cole were to deign to reach for her now, she knew there
would be no knees or elbows. She would come to him. And promptly
be swept under. It was terrifying, really, how quickly pride and
reason had deferred to the urges of her body in the presence of
returned his eyes to her face, his expression again decidedly unreadable.
And now Lily understood: Gideon's Cole's thoughts were most active
when his expression was least readable.
was reminded of a story in her French book: a man and a woman made
love as they watched one another in a mirror, mindless with, pleasure.
And Lily thought
I would love to see Gideon's Cole's face
when he makes love
to be the person who makes his eyes change
makes him lose himself in pleasure...
drew in a long breath, as though steadying himself. "Miss Masters.
I think you should return to your chambers now."
tone acknowledged a danger to them both.
wordlessly, in silent agreement, Lily spun about and padded quickly
out of the library.
to read more? Click here to
order your copy!