Seduced by His Touch(3)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

As the vows proceeded, Jack couldn’t help but think of the note his fingers had brushed against, the paper suddenly burning a hole in his breast pocket.

If you want to see Grace, go to Hatchard’s this afternoon at four. She’ll be the tall one with red hair. Knowing my girl, she’ll most likely have on her spectacles. Don’t be late.


E. G. Danvers

A tall redhead with spectacles, Jack groaned in his head. At least it ought to make her easy to spot! Please God, he prayed, as he watched his brother join his life with his new bride’s, just don’t let her be a gorgon.

The sense of being watched prickled over Grace Lilah Danvers’s nerve endings as she stood in the stacks at Hatchard’s Bookshop. She swung her head around sharply but found no one there.

I am being silly, she admonished herself, looking away. After all, who could possibly be watching me?

Long ago, she’d resigned herself to the knowledge that she was not the sort of woman who received looks—at least not of the admiring variety. Although she had often been told that she had a pleasant—some might even say pretty—countenance, with lovely translucent skin and straight, white teeth, she was what the vernacular of the day called “a long Meg.”

Standing five feet ten inches tall in her stockings, she supposed they had good reason for applying the term. She towered over all the women of her acquaintance, and a great many of the men as well. To make matters worse, she wasn’t the delicate, ethereal sort with slight bones and a wispy shape. Instead she was what her father liked to call “sensibly built,” neither fat nor thin but “as robust and seaworthy as one of his fleet of shipping vessels.” Not that she was without her share of feminine curves, but thanks to the current fashion for empire-waisted gowns, that fact wasn’t always so easy to discern. Then, too, there was her need for reading spectacles, unfortunate but unavoidable.

Glancing around once more, she shook her head and resumed her inspection of the book in her hands. She turned a page and skimmed a passage or two, then carefully placed the volume back onto the shelf before selecting another.

As she did, she caught sight of a pair of shoes just visible in the aisle beyond. Men’s shoes. Startled despite her best intentions, she spun the opposite way and, in doing so, lost hold of her book. The leather-bound tome hit the waxed wooden floor with a resounding thud and skidded several feet distant.

At that same moment, another gentleman appeared around the corner, the book coming to a halt beside the toe of his neatly polished Hessians. Stopping, he bent to retrieve the wayward volume. He straightened, then strolled toward her.

“Yours, I presume?” he said in a deep, richly modulated voice that put her in mind of hot buttered rum on a cold winter day and the sensual luxury of lying amid warm silken sheets. Inwardly, she quivered. Her reply, whatever it might be, stuck like a stone in her throat; the incapacity only worsened when she lifted her gaze to his.

Bold and intelligent, his eyes shone like a set of imperial jewels, their shade an improbably pure blue that lay somewhere between sapphire and lapis lazuli. He was sinfully handsome, with a refined jaw, a long, straight nose and a mouth that seemed the very embodiment of temptation. His mahogany-dark hair was cut short, the severe style unable to tame a rebellious wave that lent the ends just the faintest hint of curl.

But most enticing of all was his height—his large, muscular, impressive height. She guessed he must be six feet three or four at least, his build broad and powerful enough to make even her feel small.

Drawing a shivery breath, she dropped her gaze to the floor. What am I doing? she chided herself. Acting like some giddy schoolgirl, that’s what. Men like him are out of my reach. As distant to me as the stars. Men like him are also dangerous, and I would do well never to forget that fact.

“Dr. Johnson, hmm?” he mused aloud, inspecting the title. “Personally, I prefer someone with a really cutting tongue. Swift, for instance.”

She waited until she could trust herself to speak with calm self-possession. “Both are fine authors in their own way, each with his faults and merits, to be sure. I thank you, sir, for retrieving the volume for me.”

There, she thought, that should be the end of that. He would hand her the book, offer some polite comment, and be on his way again.

Instead he made her a bow. A very elegant, very urbane bow that, she imagined, charmed ladies wherever he went. In fact, his every word and movement bespoke the fact that he was a gentleman, an aristocrat. Further reason why their encounter should have a quick resolution.