What was she, exactly? The countess’s ward? House guest? Servant? Her dead husband’s regretful mistake?

“I know exactly who you are, Miss White. Just as I see by the widening of your beautiful brown eyes that you know who and whatIam, as well.”

“Then… Why… ” she managed.

“Why not?” His thumb gave the back of her hand another soft caress. “I’m not offering you marriage. I’m offering you—”

“Friendship?” she blurted.

The corner of his mouth twitched. “We can certainly start with that, and see where it leads. Hopefully somewhere pleasurable for both of us.”

Pleasurable. He was proposing an affaire.

No one was this outrageous without being so on purpose. His flirtation was too bold, too over-the-top, toounlikelyfor Bianca to possibly take him seriously.

And yet, the undisguised interest in his gaze seemed very real. As if he’d felt her presence as viscerally as she’d felt his.

Nor could she help but be charmed by his honesty. He did not hide who he was behind a mask of manners and propriety. He introduced himself as the Huntsman. He was not proposing marriage.

But hewouldoffer her… whatever Bianca was bold enough to take.

“This room is ever so loud,” he said softly. So softly, she should not have been able to hear him. And yet, each syllable skated sensuously across her skin, leaving gooseflesh in its wake. “I hear the adjoining room is a library. There are those who claim nothing could be more innocuous and boring than a room full of books. Shall we go and find out?”

Bianca’s breath caught. She trembled with temptation.

What if this was her one opportunity? Tomorrow and every day hence would be filled with sixteen hours of brooms and dust pans and chamber pots and dirty linen. What if she would never again find herself with her trembling fingers in the warm grip of a devilishly handsome scoundrel, and this was her sole chance to experience where such scandalous talk might lead?

Only a fool would spend the rest of her life in shadow without being brave enough to face the sun.

She breathed in his scent and curled her fingers about his strong arm. “I believe I might have the briefest of moments to spare. Very well, Huntsman. Please lead the way.”


She saidplease.

An icy shiver tickled along the back of Harry’s neck. He swallowed hard. A woman this beautiful did not need to say “please” in order to be flirted with, to be courted, to be wooed.

But that wasn’t what he could give her. The Huntsman was no hero, no savior, no charming prince. Instead of salvation, all Harry could offer was total ruin.

Yet she wrapped her slender fingers around his arm so trustingly. He was the worst sort of scoundrel, because her trust made him feel strong, made him feel like her protector, when in fact he was the beast she most needed protection against.

He could not take his eyes from her. Her huge brown eyes framed by black curling lashes Her smooth, golden-brown skin and mouth-watering décolletage. Her ebony black curls and those plump, blood-red lips.

Even the twisted ringlet of bone-white hair at her temple should have frightened him away, but instead drew him in even closer.

Miss White’s father had been born with the same streak of white. Seeing it on a young woman so gorgeous only made her look all the more elegant and distinguished. She was the daughter of an earl. She didn’t need to be born on the right side of the blanket to carry herself with regal grace, and quicken the heartbeat of every red-blooded male in the room.

Most of which were staring at Harry now. Some covertly, others openly. All wondering when and how he’d made the acquaintance of the beauty in their midst.

They all knew her name. With her coloring and the tell-tale shock of white at her temple, there was no need for a formal announcement to divine her parentage. The nameMiss Bianca Whitehad been known to the ton since before the girl was old enough to say her own name, so proud was her father the earl.

Some thought Lord Quinseley’s jubilance would lessen once his countess began to bear heirs, but that happy day never arrived. The earl was content to center all his attention on his daughter. He took joy in her every gesture and utterance, despite her illegitimacy. According to the earl, no babe was sweeter, no child more clever, no girl prettier, no young woman more accomplished than his darling Miss Bianca.

It had sounded like the exaggerations of a proud Papa. Surely Bianca White was an ordinary chit, whose attributes had been embellished to the point of legend by a good-hearted, if misguided, old man.

But now that she was standing before Harry, with her soft hand on his arm, and her wide eyes blinking up at him, and her kissable lips so poutingly perfect… He wondered if the old man hadn’t given his daughter creditenough. She was prettier than Harry had been prepared for. Kinder, sweeter, more disarmingly charming.

But as for clever… well. She was the fluffy white bunny placing her paw within reach of the wolf.

Tags: Erica Ridley Historical
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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