The Viscount's Rose(8)

By: Meara Platt

Daisy gave her a pitying look and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Rose. I can see that you like him.”

“Nonsense, I don’t even know him.” But the sudden heat to her cheeks probably gave her away.

“Ooh, he’s coming our way!” Daisy jumped up and grabbed Laurel’s arm. “Quick, let’s go help Mama. I’m sure she needs us for something important.”

Her sisters giggled and darted away just as Lord Emory reached her side. Could they be more obvious? He took a step back to avoid being run over and then arched his eyebrow and cast her a knowing grin.

She winced. “I apologize for my sisters, Lord Emory. They seem to have developed a shocking lack of manners.”

“I have sisters, too. Two besides Nicola.” He shook his head and laughed, a deep, resonant rumble that felt like a caress against her skin. “As well as two younger brothers who have made it their life’s ambition to irritate me whenever possible.” But he spoke the last with such affection she knew he loved his siblings.

He shifted closer. “How is your ankle?”

“Still swollen and not a pretty sight at the moment, but Uncle George assures me the yellowish-purple bruising is a sign that it is on the mend.”

He nodded. “Well, the rest of you looks passable… more than passable.” He leaned close enough for her to catch the scent of lather and sandalwood along his jaw, a subtle male scent that caused her already pounding heart to beat even faster. “Are those violet flecks in your eyes?”

“What?” Goodness, why was he looking at her eyes? “No, they’re just blue.”

“Violet, too,” he insisted. “Indeed, most unusual. And there… a hint of silver gray, as well.”

“Are you an artist? No one’s ever commented on the color of my eyes before, but you seem to notice everything.”

The corners of his eyes crinkled and in the next moment, he smiled. “Not an artist’s eye, but a soldier’s eye. One is trained to remain alert when surrounded by enemies and cannonballs are flying all around you.”

Rose inhaled lightly. “Forgive me, I get so caught up in my own world of colors and textures that I forget the very real dangers that exist before us. How stupid of me—”

“Not at all,” he said, his smile fading as he leaned toward her, his nearness making her tingle. “Like your father, I do my best to protect my family from the ills of the world. Joy and innocence are what keep us from descending into despair, especially after one sees the senseless destruction that war brings. Never underestimate the importance of goodness or gentleness.”

“Thank you, Lord Emory.” She wanted to reach out and put her arms around him in that moment, but couldn’t in the crowded parlor. Even if no one were around, it wasn’t the sort of thing one did with a stranger. Even if one ached to do so. “And now I shall make it my life’s ambition to be gentle, because I’m not sure I can promise to be good. My sisters and I do try to be on our best behavior, but something unexpected always seems to happen.”

“Like yesterday’s incident?”

She nodded. “I’ve given it considerable thought, and I’m sure I know who’s behind that nasty bit of work.” She curled her hands into fists. “And if that weasel thinks he’ll get away with it or that I’ll back down, he has a surprise coming to him.”

“Rose…er, Miss Farthingale.” Lord Emory shifted uncomfortably as he frowned at her. “You can’t take on a dangerous scoundrel like that all by yourself. Who is this man anyway? I’ll have a talk with him and—”

“You? How is it any of your concern?” Her eyes rounded in surprise when he tossed her a stubborn look similar to the one Laurel had tossed her moments ago. In truth, he had the look of a handsome knight in shining armor and she felt a thousand butterflies fluttering in her belly at the thought that he might throw down his gauntlet to defend her.

“I rescued you. That means I’m now responsible for you.” He shifted even closer as though to emphasize his point.

A young lady with less sense might grow giddy at the notion.

Not her.

No indeed.

However, the parlor suddenly felt too warm. She began to fidget with the delicate silk of her gown, smoothing it and then picking at a nonexistent speck of dust. “Nonsense, I’m the one who’s indebted to you, my lord.”

He gave her a charming smile. “Julian.”

“What?” She placed a hand on her stomach to stem her flutters.

“Call me Julian. And I shall call you Rose.”

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