Beyond Scandal and Desire(11)

By: Lorraine Heath

Suddenly she became aware of people around her cheering, clapping, wandering off, and she realized the fireworks had come to an end. There was an odd fragrance of smoke and something more drifting on the air. Whatever powered the explosions, she supposed. She inhaled deeply, wondering if exploding passion possessed a unique scent.

“Well, we’d best be off,” Kip said. “I promised Mother to have you home before ten.”

“Surely not all the entertainments are drawing to a close now.”

“The ones you’re allowed to enjoy are.”

She might have argued if the Trewloves weren’t still standing nearby, but a proper lady did not create a scene in public. Besides, remaining in Mick Trewlove’s company was causing riots within her imagination and body. She was likely to embarrass herself if she weren’t careful. “It was lovely to meet you, Miss Trewlove.”

The girl smiled. “It was an honor to share the fireworks with you.” She bowed her head slightly, gave a quick curtsy. “My lord.”

“Miss Trewlove.”

Aslyn turned to Miss Trewlove’s brother and fought not to imagine all the various explosions, from small to large, that he might create within a woman. “Mr. Trewlove.”

Taking her hand, he brought it to his lips, his eyes never leaving hers. Through her glove, she could feel the warmth and strength of his fingers, the heat of his mouth seeping through the kidskin. “Lady Aslyn, thank you for your kindness to my sister.”

She could do little more than nod and withdraw her hand. Whatever was wrong with her? During her Seasons, numerous men had taken her gloved hand, even kissed it, but none had caused her throat to knot up. She was vaguely aware of Kip taking her arm and leading her away.

Not looking back over her shoulder for one final glance at Mick Trewlove was a challenge. She didn’t know why the knowledge she would never again see him left her with a sense of loss.

As his carriage rattled through the street, Mick stared out the window and tried to concentrate on his encounter with Kipwick and how best to take advantage of their upcoming meeting, but his mind kept drifting to Lady Aslyn—and his plans for her. They required a bit more finesse. She wasn’t likely to arrange a rendezvous with a scoundrel. Ensuring their paths crossed so he could lure her into his arms was going to be a bit tricky. The affairs she attended were not ones to which he was invited. At least not presently, but in the near future—

“I suspect you don’t want Mum to know about your true purpose in escorting me to the gardens tonight,” Fancy said, and the tone in her voice alerted him that he was going to pay dearly for her silence. He might view her as an innocent child, but she’d always been too cunning by half. When he’d come home, battered and bruised, it might have been his sister Gillie who patched him up, but it had been Fancy who’d squatted on her haunches before him and watched with keen interest, declaring when all was said and done that she was in need of sweets to keep her mouth busy so it didn’t tell their mum what she’d seen.

She was most fortunate that he loved her as much as he did. “What’s the price?” he grumbled. Most men took a step back when he used that tone. She merely smiled.

“A bookshop.”

He furrowed his brow. “You want to go shopping for a book?”

“No. I want to own a bookshop.”

His laughter echoed through the conveyance. “Don’t be daft. You’ll be married within the year.”

“Earlier you claimed I’d never marry.”

“Yes, well, I misspoke. The truth is, Fancy, that seeing you well married is my goal—everyone’s goal, to be honest.”

“Tonight’s efforts were a part of that goal?”

Crucial to it. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

“Until my marriage comes to pass, I could have a shop.”


“You’re putting up all those buildings. Why not give me a shop? You helped Gillie acquire her tavern.”

“It’s different with Gillie.”

“Why? Because you don’t think any man will have her?”

“Because I don’t think she’d have any man. She’s too independent by half, always has been.”