How to Capture a Duke(11)

By: Bianca Blythe


Percival swallowed hard. For a moment he’d forgotten that using force to battle anyone was something that belonged in the past. The cold air blew against his face. He shifted his knees. The position was uncomfortable, but he had no desire to exit the coach.

The woman pressed her lips together and then glanced at Graeme. “I need an audience with your charge alone.”

Blast. She knew who he was after all.

It was perhaps impossible to hide his position. Fame was inevitable when one possessed classical good looks, vast wealth, an elevated position, and a roguish reputation.

The latter had already changed.

Something flickered over Graeme’s face. “Tell you what. I’ll let the highwaywoman discuss her exact requests to you in the coach. More private that way.”

The Scarlet Demon hesitated. “I would prefer a meeting outside.”

Graeme snorted. “Worried about preserving your reputation, darling? I’m sure your crew can rescue you. And believe me, you won’t be needing rescuing.”

Percival tightened his fists and fought the urge to scowl.

Graeme turned to Percival. “Unless you’re concerned?”

Percival exhaled sharply. “I am quite capable of being alone with this woman.”

Graeme shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Percival hadn’t fought Napoleon to be treated like some damsel. He unlocked the carriage door and pulled the blanket over him. He inhaled and waited for her footsteps.

After a few agonizing moments the carriage door swung open. The scent of vanilla, warm and soothing in a way that a highwaywoman should not be, wafted over him. She fixed her dark green eyes on him, narrowing them before he could contemplate the gold rings that sparkled against the emerald shards. He blinked.

He didn’t need to look her over again, but he found himself doing so all the same. That hair. Red and flowing and unlike all the structured, conservative hairstyles that donned the chits at balls. Her dirty cloak and dress were nothing like the fur-lined coats and glossy gowns he was accustomed to seeing ladies parade around in. The woman wasn’t even wearing a hat. Nothing tasteful about her at all.

Which maybe was why she’d gotten herself into this mess.

She raised her chin. “A gentleman always keeps a door open for a lady.”

“You were never a lady,” he replied.

Her cheeks flushed, and she stomped by him, her skirts brushing against him in a manner that wasn’t, he was sure, strictly necessary in the nearly vacant carriage. She strode to the seat opposite him, weapon in hand. Her boots clinked against the floor, and if someone had told him he was hearing the sound of his heart, he wouldn’t have doubted it.



***



Fiona didn’t need to ponder whether her behavior verged on the inappropriate. It was obvious she’d abandoned all propriety.

And the man, this strange gentleman, a man more handsome and dashing than even the most well-loved hero from Loretta Van Lochen’s romances, sat in this enclosed space with her.

“Welcome, highwaywoman. Or do you prefer to be called Scarlet Demon?” The man yawned and stretched his arms. The action caused the material of his clothes to tighten, revealing a firm, broad chest. “I must say, I rather like the idea of meeting in the coach. Too many robberies lack organizational prowess.”

A plaid blanket draped over the man’s legs in perhaps an attempt to appear casual, but his furrowed brow and tight lips denoted a less than lackadaisical sentiment.

What she was doing was wrong, but it would all be over in a few hours. She sucked in a breath of air. “You’re not really in a rush.”

His eyebrows lifted. “I think I can judge that.”

“There’s no dying parent you’re hastening to see. No wife in labor.”

“Would you call off your ruffians if I had one?”

Fiona folded her fingers on her lap. She’d never been in a space this small, this confined with any man, much less a specimen of masculinity, the very sort her art instructors would laud. Fiona’s breath quickened, and suddenly she had absolutely no problem with the cold winter air. She forced her gaze from the satisfactory width of the man’s chest and lifted her nostrils. “Is that—brandy?”

Her voice shook. It wouldn’t do for the man to realize just how much his presence affected her.

“Indeed. Should I compliment you on your sniffing abilities?” Sarcasm riddled through his velvet voice.

“I—” Fiona’s mouth dried. She lifted her gaze toward him, meeting his blue eyes. They had a knowing look to them as if accustomed to seeing women’s eyes melt. She dropped her eyes to her lap, focusing on her thick cape. The worn fabric was convenient for outdoor pursuits, but the plain material differed from the luxurious appearance that the man opposite, only slightly rumpled from his journey, managed to convey.

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