Scandal in Spring Page 53

Every time she thought Matthew would end the kiss he searched her more deeply. She responded feverishly, her knees weakening until she feared she might collapse to the ground like a rag doll.

Breaking the contact between their lips, she managed an anguished whisper. “Matthew…take me somewhere.”

“No.”

“Yes. I need…I need to be alone with you.”

Panting raggedly, Matthew folded his arms around her, bringing her against his hard chest. She felt the desperate crush of his lips against her scalp.

“I can’t trust myself that far,” he finally said.

“Just to talk. Please. We can’t stay out in the open like this. And if you leave me now I’ll die.”

Even aroused and in turmoil, Matthew couldn’t prevent a smothered laugh at the dramatic statement. “You won’t die.”

“Just to talk,” Daisy repeated, clinging to him. “I won’t…I won’t tempt you.”

“Sweetheart.” He let out a serrated breath. “You tempt me just by being in the same room with me.”

Her throat turned hot, as if she had just swallowed sunlight. Sensing that any more coaxing would push him in the opposite direction, Daisy stayed silent. She pressed against him, letting the silent communication of their bodies melt his resolve.

With a quiet groan, Matthew took her hand and tugged her toward the bachelor’s house. “God help us both if anyone sees.”

Daisy was tempted to quip that in that case he would be forced to marry her, but she held her tongue and hurried up the steps with him.

CHAPTER 11

It was dark and cool inside the house, which was paneled in gleaming rosewood and filled with heavy furniture. The windows were shrouded in jewel-colored velvets with silk fringe trim. Retaining Daisy’s hand in his, Matthew led her through the house to a room in the back.

As Daisy stepped across the threshold, she realized it was his bedroom. Her skin prickled with excitement beneath the binding of her corset. The room was tidy, smelling of beeswax and wood polish, the window covered with cream-colored lace that let in the daylight.

A few articles were neatly arranged on the dresser; a comb, a toothbrush, tins of toothpowder and soap, and on the washstand, a razor and strop. No pomades, waxes, colognes or creams, no cravat pins or rings. One could hardly call him a dandy.

Matthew closed the door and turned toward her. He seemed very large in the small room, his broad frame dwarfing their civilized surroundings. Daisy’s mouth went dry as she stared at him. She wanted to be close to him…she wanted to feel all his skin against hers.

“What is there between you and Llandrindon?” he demanded.

“Nothing. Only friendship. On my side, that is.”

“And on his side?”

“I suspect—well, he seemed to indicate that he would not be averse to—you know.”

“Yes, I know,” he said thickly. “And even though I can’t stand the bastard, I also can’t blame him for wanting you. Not after the way you’ve teased and tempted him all week.”

“If you’re trying to imply that I’ve been acting like some femme fatale—”

“Don’t try to deny it. I saw the way you flirted with him. The way you leaned close when you talked…the smiles, the provocative dresses…”

“Provocative dresses?” Daisy asked in bemusement.

“Like that one.”

Daisy looked down at her demure white gown, which covered her entire chest and most of her arms. A nun couldn’t have found fault with it. She glanced at him sardonically. “I’ve been trying for days to make you jealous. You would have saved me a lot of effort if you’d just admitted it straight off.”

“You were deliberately trying to make me jealous?” he exploded. “What in God’s name did you think that would accomplish? Or is turning me inside out your latest idea of an entertaining hobby?”

A sudden blush covered her face. “I thought you might feel something for me…and I hoped to make you admit it.”

Matthew’s mouth opened and closed, but he couldn’t seem to speak. Daisy wondered uneasily what emotion was working on him. After a few moments he shook his head and leaned against the dresser as if he needed physical support.

“Are you angry?” she asked apprehensively.

His voice sounded odd and ragged. “Ten percent of me is angry.”

“What about the other ninety percent?”

“That part is just a hairsbreadth away from throwing you on that bed and—” Matthew broke off and swallowed hard. “Daisy, you’re too damned innocent to understand the danger you’re in. It’s taking all the self-control I’ve got to keep my hands off you. Don’t play games with me, sweetheart. It’s too easy for you to torture me, and I’m at my limit. To put to rest any doubts you might have…I’m jealous of every man who comes within ten feet of you. I’m jealous of the clothes on your skin and the air you breathe. I’m jealous of every moment you spend out of my sight.”

Stunned, Daisy whispered, “You…you certainly haven’t shown any sign of it.”

“Over the years I’ve collected a thousand memories of you, every glimpse, every word you’ve ever said to me. All those visits to your family’s home, those dinners and holidays—I could hardly wait to walk through the front door and see you.” The corners of his mouth quirked with reminiscent amusement. “You, in the middle of that brash, bull-headed lot…I love watching you deal with your family. You’ve always been everything I thought a woman should be. And I have wanted you every second of my life since we first met.”

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