Seduced by His Touch(5)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

With most women he would use flattery and flirtation, appealing to both their vanity and their pleasure. But Grace was no ordinary woman. With her, he knew he would have to take a more subtle approach. Less than half a minute into their acquaintance, he’d sensed her reserve, as well as her insecurity. He surmised she wasn’t used to being boldly pursued by men, so any sudden, overt interest on his part would only provoke her suspicions and put her on the alert.

Instead, his approach would require a deft touch and gentle, patient persuasion. A shy doe required proper coaxing, after all. The key was to figure out what kind of inducement she liked best and be there to offer it.

He watched as she raised her teacup to her lips—unaware of his observation this time. He realized now that he’d been careless before, that despite his efforts at stealth, she had sensed his presence as she wandered among the books. If not for that other man, she would likely have fled from him. Instead, the stranger had inadvertently sent her in his direction, casting him in the guise of savior. Really, he owed the fellow his thanks. Otherwise, securing an introduction would have required a great deal more effort on his part, particularly since he and Miss Danvers didn’t ordinarily run in the same social circles. But she knew him now, and very soon she would come to know him a great deal better.

He was about to depart, when he saw a man approach Grace. It was obvious from her reaction that she knew him, a friendly smile curving her mouth as she stood to greet the newcomer.

Nearly a match for Grace in height, the man topped her by no more than an inch. His hair was sandy blond, his build rangy and loose-limbed, with features designed to neither excite admiration nor draw disdain. Judging by his attire, he was likely in trade of some sort. Or possibly in one of the professions. A solicitor, maybe, or a physician?

Who is he? Jack wondered. More importantly, who is he to Grace? Danvers hadn’t mentioned any beaux. Of course the fellow could be a relative of some variety, but he didn’t think so. No, the other man had designs on her. What kind, however, remained to be seen.

Well, no matter, Jack told himself. His sandy-haired rival wouldn’t be competition for long. And once he was eliminated from the field, Miss Grace Danvers would be free and ready to step straight into Jack’s waiting arms.

Chapter 2

“My thanks for seeing me home,” Grace told Terrence Cooke a half hour later as she walked through the front door of her father’s house in St. Martin’s Lane.

A frequent visitor to the residence, Terrence strolled inside with her. After exchanging familiar greetings with the housekeeper, who took his hat to set on the hall credenza, he and Grace went into the parlor.

“Will you stay for tea?” she asked, laying her brown-paper-wrapped parcel of books on the sofa before taking a seat beside it. “You know Martha will be here, as soon as the kettle can be set to boil. She’ll bring a tray of sandwiches and sweets, then make you up a big plate, all the while fussing about how thin you are, and why don’t you eat better at home.”

“She forgets sometimes that I have a mother of my own.”

“Who lives by the seashore in Lyme. An excuse such as that will never do, not in Martha’s estimation at least.”

He smiled and took a chair opposite. “I’ll stay long enough to appease her, but then I ought to be going.”

Grace paused, well aware of his preference for not tarrying. “Papa won’t be home until after seven. You know he meets with his investors every Thursday night.”

“True. Still, it’s easier not to chance an unexpected encounter. I’m not high on your father’s list of favorites, you know.”

Sadly, on that point, Terrence was correct. For reasons Grace had never understood, her father did not approve of her friendship with Cooke and barely tolerated her continued association with him. She assumed his dislike stemmed from the fact that Terrence was the publisher of a small press—successful in his way, but nothing to compare with the immense achievements and ambition of her father.

She should surround herself with a better class of people, Papa liked to complain. Do everything in her power to move up in the world by marrying a man of wealth and rank, instead of dabbling in the silly, nonsensical pursuits in which she insisted upon squandering her time. “I didn’t send you to that fancy ladies’ academy so you could rub shoulders with the likes of paper-inkers and wood-cutters!” he would rail every so often after one of Terrence’s visits. If he could have bullied Grace into severing the connection, she was sure he would have banned Terrence from the house long ago.