Page 16 of Merry Miss

Was he in love with her?

Jack’s aroused state prevented him from comprehending her words for a few seconds. Indeed, she could not be serious.

And yet, she lay beside him as stiff as a board, eyes pinched closed, fists and thighs clenched.

Was this a joke? No. Even the most talented of actresses couldn’t feign such mortification.

Jack removed his hand from her leg, his cock not appreciating that things weren’t proceeding as promised. But he couldn’t go any further until matters between them were clear.

“Delia.”

She didn’t move.

“Look at me,” he ordered.

Her bottom lip trembled, but he resisted the urge to calm her with a kiss. And when she opened her eyes, his heart stopped. She was pretty, damned pretty. And alluring as hell. But… Had he been wrong about her?

“Tell me.” He exhaled through his nostrils. “What position, what employment is awaiting you here in Old St. Vincentshire?”

“I’m to be an elderly lady’s companion.” She bit her lip. “Why?”

Hellfire and damnation. Pox on a…Nearly indistinguishable curses rolled through his mind.

Jack scrubbed a hand down his face. “I thought you were… I assumed.”Oh, hell. “Forgive me.”

“You thought I was…?”

God, but she was naïve.

Jack rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. “A bird of paradise.”

“A bird of what?” she asked, twitching and fussing at her bodice and skirts like an anxious robin.

“A light skirt, a trollop. Good God woman, I thought you were a prostitute.” Jack closed his eyes, anticipating a sharp slap across his face.

But it never came.

She hadn’t so much as moved, not even to twitch and fuss. He’d apparently stunned her into silence with his admission.

“A prostitute?” Her voice finally emerged, small, defeated. She rolled off the bed with a moan. “That’s why you are sharing your chamber—and the dinner. I’m here under false pretenses.” She’d moved back to one of the chairs and was shoving her feet into a rather sorry-looking half-boot. Even from here, Jack could see that they weren’t even close to dry from her march through the snow earlier that day. “I didn’t know. I would never have. To imagine that I thought—!” She dipped her head to lace up one of the boots. “You idiot, Delia!To imagine a man would fall in—”

Jack sat on the edge of the bed, trying not to stare down the top of her bodice while simultaneously realizing that he’d been a fool to think she’d had any sort of experience at this.

She had asked him if he was falling in love with her! No one in the world could be that unworldly. He shook his head. He’d been the fool, not she.

Even in the borrowed gown, she held her shoulders in a manner consistent with having been raised a lady—a manner that was developed, rather than learned.

She was flitting around the room now, gathering up her coat. When she located the gown she’d worn earlier, washed but damp, she stared at it and then down at the red velvet dress, her expression making her look as though contemplating an impossible mathematical equation.

“I can’t take it. It’s not mine. I should change. If you’d be so kind as to allow me a moment alone, I’ll make haste to absent myself from your chamber… But I cannot wear this.” She plucked her fingers at the velvet skirt.

Her thick lashes blinked furiously, and as she made a valiant attempt to maintain her composure, unfamiliar strings tugged at Jack’s heart.

Were they strings of guilt? They couldn’t possibly be affection.

Pity, they must be pity.

“I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.” Jack ran his fingers through his hair, suddenly weary from the long day of travel.


Tags: Annabelle Anders Historical
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