It wasn’t the best plan. First because that wasn’t the actual reason he’d wanted them to attend, and second they’d had some change of plans and failed to arrive. Which was why he’d come to collect them. “Not this sort.”
“Is it a hunting party?” she asked, once again moving closer. He caught her scent, lilac and sage. Without meaning to, he drew in a deep breath.
“No,” he answered. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should find the master of the house and request an audience.”
She shook her head. “In a moment.”
Raithe looked up at the ceiling. So used to getting her way. “Lady Charlotte,” he started, leaning closer, his voice dropping low. “It’s the sort of party where men do things they don’t want respectable ladies to see. Which is why you are most definitely not invited.”
One of her brows rose. “You don’t like respectable ladies?”
“Not particularly,” he answered. Which was partially the truth. He had once been married, after all, so he’d liked at least one respectable woman, loved her in fact. But that was a situation he hoped never to find himself in again.
Her lips parted as she assessed him, and his breeches tightened. Did she realize what sort of invitation that was? She likely did. Charlie was a practiced flirt. That much had been clear from their one dance together. He’d watched her on several other occasions, which had only confirmed his suspicions.
What had been surprising was how much he longed to let her practice the art on him.
“Is that why you never asked me to dance again?” She shifted closer, the warmth of her body radiating through his jacket.
“Precisely,” he answered, resisting the urge to step away. Fighting an even stronger urge to pull her against his body.
She lifted her hand, the one not holding champagne, and brushed it along the lapel of his jacket. A light touch that danced over his skin, making his skin tighten. “But I’m really quite lovely. Everyone thinks so.”
“I am not everyone,” he pushed out through gritted teeth. The truth was, he was everyone. At least in this regard. He’d fallen instantly under her spell.
She gave him a knowing smile. “No, you’re not. I’ve heard it said that girls like me should stay far away from men like you.”
He gave his head a small shake as he reached for her hand resting on the lapel of his coat and carefully removed it.
The problem was that her hand was now in his and he could see how much smaller her gloved hand was compared with his. He found himself holding onto the fingers. “They’re right.”
“What makes you bad?” she asked, her voice dropping to a tempting whisper. As though they were lovers sharing a secret.
He needed to end this, and he needed to do so quickly. Charlie felt too nice this close, hand in his, and she’d haunt his dreams for certain tonight. And likely tomorrow too. The day after and the day after that. “Well, for starters…” He dropped his head low, just inches from hers. He could see the specks of green in her hazel eyes, smell the champagne on her breath. “I pay lots of women to share my bed.”
He knew it was the exact sort of thing that would scandalize her, and his words hit their mark. She gasped in a breath as she took a step back and then another, one hand covering her mouth. Her fingers dropped a fraction of an inch. “Beast,” she accused, her eyes crinkling in hurt or accusation. He couldn’t be certain.
“My parties aren’t for you. I am not for you,” he said, crossing his arms again. “Stay away from me, Lady Charlotte.”