Seduced by His Touch(10)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

She nodded. “As do the majority of my sex. Although technical lectures like this one don’t generally hold much appeal for the average female.” She settled her small notebook more comfortably on her lap, the pencil on top. “Actually, I’m a bit surprised to find a man like you here either.”

He arched an imperious brow. “‘A man like me’? Now, what is that supposed to mean?”

A slight flush rose in her cheeks as she realized she’d let her tongue run wild again. “Pray take no offense. It is only that most people, even those who like plants, have scant patience for the study of botany and horticulture.”

Shifting in his chair, he bent nearer. “You think me a brainless fribble then, do you?”

“Not at all. I…” Her words drifted away as she caught the shrewd gleam dancing in his eyes.

“Yes, you were saying?” he drawled.

“I just would not have expected you to be at an event of such an academic nature…”

His lips twitched, but he refrained from further comment.

Inwardly she cringed, knowing she was digging herself deeper yet somehow unable to stop. “I mean that robust men such as yourself usually prefer other, more physical pursuits.”

The color of his irises intensified. “Physical, hmm? And just what sort of ‘physical pursuits’ did you have in mind?”

Her cheeks grew warm, subtly aware that she had stumbled into dangerous territory. For some unfathomable reason, images of secluded, romantic rendezvouses and stolen kisses leapt into her head—subjects about which she was sure Jack Byron was an expert.

“Hunting and angling and riding, for instance,” she said in a hushed tumble of words.

“Well, I must admit I enjoy a round of hunting and angling every now and again. As for riding…” His gaze lowered to her lips. “I’m always up for a good ride.”

Her throat became too tight to swallow. Why, she wondered, do I have the impression that he isn’t talking about horses?

Flustered, Grace lowered her gaze. Only then did she realize that the speaker had finished his lecture and was busy answering a last few questions from the audience.

“As for your assertion that a man such as myself cannot take an interest in serious academic subjects like botany, I must protest,” Lord Jack continued. “Floriculture may not be my main area of interest, nevertheless it’s worth an odd hour here and there. I had hoped our lecturer might have something new to offer on the use of hybrid cultivars and the grafting potential for Rosa centifolia and other highly fragrant varietals. Unfortunately, he seems only moderately well-versed on the topic, though I would never wish to cast aspersions.”

Grace stared. “Y-your pardon, my lord. I stand corrected.”

His mouth curved in a devastating smile, white teeth flashing. “That’s quite all right. It is usually easier to see what lies on the surface of a person rather than taking the time and attention to delve deeper.”

“Yes, exactly so,” she whispered, her lips parting in surprise at his candor and perception.

How many times had she thought that very thing herself? Wishing that people were capable of looking past the surface to discover a person’s true worth. Shame rolled through her, that she, of all people, would so shallowly underestimate him. She would be careful not to do so again—assuming they had occasion to meet in the future.

Only then did she become aware that the other attendees were beginning to make their way out of the room.

“It would appear the presentation has concluded,” he observed. “I scarcely noticed, given our conversation. Did you say your aunt is arriving to accompany you home?”

“She should be here quite soon.”

He stood and offered a hand to assist her to her feet. Accepting, she couldn’t help but be aware of the way his large gloved palm fit so firmly around her own. Flutters danced like tiny wings in her stomach.

“Allow me to thank you for a pleasant diversion, Miss Danvers. I sincerely enjoyed our talk. Ordinarily I would remain, but the hour grows more advanced than I anticipated and I find I must take my leave. Shall we locate your maidservant?”

Grace shook off her sense of disappointment, wondering suddenly if he had only been amusing himself and now wished to be quit of her as soon as he could.

“There is no need,” she told him, her tone cooler. “She is only in the adjoining room.”

“Even so, I insist.”

Having no alternative, she walked from the room at his side. Far too soon, her maid was found.

As they strolled back into the main corridor, he turned and made her an agile, elegant bow. “I shall not say good-bye but rather au revoir.”