The Ugly Duckling Debutante (House of Renwick #1)(11)

Sara looked up to meet his gaze and realized they had been having a somewhat intelligent conversation regarding his decision not to marry before her mind wandered off and ruined the moment.

She started again, “So, you do not want children?”

Something flashed across his face before he looked away and answered, “Every man wants an heir.” He pushed a thick lock of chocolate hair away from his brow and smiled deeply. Sara felt heat burn to her cheeks. His eyes were crystal blue, one could almost see through them, if that were possible. It was a stark contrast to his dark brown, hair making it almost hypnotic to gaze in his direction. How did people do it? How did people act normal around this man? How was she supposed to act normal around someone so purely male? He was to escort her to her first ton event, the only chance she has to win her family’s approval and secure their future, but she couldn’t remember a blessed thing her aunt had taught her. The only thing her brain could focus on was his hair brushing along the crisp white cravat. Surprising how Lord Renwick openly mocked society with his untamable long hair. An unsuspecting jealousy arose, her hands itching to feel the silky chocolate locks between her fingers that blatantly taunted her.

He seemed to notice her break in concentration and came to sit beside her on the couch; she scooted to the side, so their thighs would not touch. “I’ll be with you every step of the way on Friday. It really is painless, I promise you that. They’ll poke at you, prod you, make you turn circles, make you dance with dukes twice your age, and when the night is done, I’ll escort you home and feed you chocolate.”

Laughter bubbled out of her before she had time to stop it. She put two fingers over her lips and sighed, “Wise choice with the chocolate, my lord.”

He swallowed slowly as he leaned forward; she knew that it was wrong, but like a magnet she drew in toward him as well. How brave and improper he was! He reminded her of the dangerous men in the books she read; however, her body was not responding with stirrings of alarm, only cravings.

His warm breath blew across her face paralyzing her where she sat. “Lesson number one; never let a man get this close to you.” Not knowing which direction to look, she cast her eyes downward. The space between them was non-existent, slowly her eyes rose to meet his just in time to see him lick his lips and draw even closer. Shivers ran down her spine as he brushed his hand across her cheek tilting her head to the side as if waiting for her permission. Yes, her body screamed, for what, she didn’t know. All she knew was that with his warm hand cupping her face, all logical thought flew out the window. His smile turned seductive as he grazed her lip with his one finger then chuckled and pulled back.

Words wouldn’t come, so she merely nodded her head and allowed the usual blush to creep up to her cheeks. “I understand.”

“No,” he said drawing back and straightening his cravat. “I don’t believe you do.” The room suddenly turned chilly.

Was he angry? Now he paced in front of her. “Men of the ton do not care what you look like, nor the station of life you come from. They want only one thing when they see a woman walk into the room. Do you understand what I am saying to you?”

She couldn’t even nod her head. What had she done? It was as if he was a different man—cold, unresponsive and angry, but she couldn’t tell if he was angry at her or himself.

His back was facing her, she heard him mumble something resembling a swear word in French. He turned back to face her and approached her yet again on the couch. All his walking made her dizzy. “Sai, you can’t allow a man to get you alone or to get near you at the ball. There will be no going down dark hallways, no looking at the gardens or the stars. None of it. Do you understand?”

Of course she understood. His regret about the previous night—their rendezvous in the hallway—weighed on him. He was just sparing her feelings by not mentioning the specifics. It was his way of saying it was a mistake. She was a mistake. And he didn’t want any of his gentlemen friends to find themselves trapped with someone as hideous as she.

“The last thing you want is to be compromised by someone you do not wish to marry, or worse, someone who does not wish to marry you.”

She licked her lips and forced a smile. “I understand, my lord. Believe me when I say, I have lived with the reality that no man would want me for a wife for a long time. So please know, I also understand no man in his right mind would want to lead me away from a group of people just so he could compromise me. I thank you for forthrightness.”

His face paled as he mumbled yet another word under his breath. “I must admit I’m at a loss, Sai. Who ever told you these things?”

What was he getting at? Did he wish to further humiliate her by bringing to her attention, yet again, how utterly disgusting her face was? Or how men would wish to compromise her only to humiliate her? She bit her lip and looked at his cold blue eyes. “Everyone I’ve ever known.”

His eyes widened as if the information somehow shocked him, but before he could prod further they were interrupted by Aunt Tilda, followed by the tea.

“How are things progressing?” Her aunt clasped her hands and smiled. “I do hope Lord Renwick has taught you some useful information?”

“Indeed,” Sara muttered.

Lord Renwick was still mute, leaving her to believe she had made her point and put him in his place. He deserved to be there. No stranger had the right to tell her what she could and could not do; surely he didn’t think she would take it well that he also thought her plain and ugly. To even joke about a man taking her into a darkened hall was enough to make her want to cry. If only for the reason that she dreamed of such passion since she was a little girl—not that she would do anything to cause her parents embarrassment, but what would it be like to be escorted to the gardens at night, or to be caught in a stolen embrace in a dark hallway?

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