Upon a Midnight Dream (London Fairy Tales #1)(3)

Time passed so slowly when there was nothing to do but wait. Looking away from her peaceful face, he did the only thing he could think of doing.

First he hummed.

Then he tired of his own voice, so he began counting.

But he was never one for mathematics.

So he braved another glance at the beauty before him.

And cursed.

How was it possible that he was betrothed? And to such a woman as this? Rosalind Hartwell! Was his father daft?

Stefan was unable to comprehend the turn of events since his so-called death. It pained him to think that his family hadn’t even tried to search for him! They simply took a sailor’s word for it that the ship their son was on had wrecked, taking the cargo and all its passengers save one measly sailor and himself to the bottom of the cold blue sea.

And to return months later only to see that his brother had gone quite mad, and his father had lost complete control of the family. The only semblance of control it seemed he had was to pawn off the marquess to the Hartwell family in hopes of an alliance.

The Hartwells and Hudsons went back over a hundred years. It was said that an heir must always marry into the Hartwell family, or some dreadful sort of curse would befall them.

Stefan hadn’t been a good listener when his father spouted off about the odd family traditions.

After all, he had been too busy falling in love with his brother’s wife.

He cursed again and shook his head. Maybe he should have stayed on the little island he shipwrecked on. Surely that would have been a more welcome environment. He had food, if one could call fish every day food. He had clothing, at least a ripped shirt and useless cravat. Oh, and he had companionship—that of a tiny squirrel who often fought with him over nuts and wild berries.

Woodland creatures. Yes, that’s what he had when he was shipwrecked. Could it be that he was actually jealous of the woodland creatures and their easy life now that he was stuck in that blasted room with Rosalind Hartwell?

And why in the blazes did he continue to use her full name in his mind?

“Rosalind Hartwell,” he tried it on his lips. Well dash it if it didn’t feel good. But of course it would.

One more tiny glance, his brain told him. After all, for some cursed reason, she was still sleeping.

He obliged himself.

Soft red hair crowned her head. Pale milky skin and a body that would make Isis green with envy. One thing was for certain, Rosalind Hartwell was a sight. And as much as it irked him, even when she snored, her lips looked beautiful, untouched, and begging to be bitten.


Perhaps he had malaria. Yes, that was it. He was ill. This was why he was thinking about biting, nay, attacking a sleeping woman.

Or maybe it was just because he hadn’t been with a woman in…

Well, as previously noted, mathematics were not his strong suit.

“Mmmmm.” The beauty stirred. As did his blood.

Exactly what he needed at that point. Another reason to follow his more primal instincts.

“Mmmm,” she moaned again, but her eyes were still closed, though now he noted that they seemed to move back and forth rapidly as if she was trying to blink, but her eye lids were too heavy to put forth the effort.

“Mmmmm!” Louder this time.

Clenching his teeth, he managed not to choke, or swear, or think too many ungodly thoughts when the wench stretched her arms high above her head and yawned. Beautiful curves strained against the confines of her dress until the devil in him hoped they would pour over the dress, giving him adequate reason to be lusting after her as much as he already was.

“Where…” her deep voice spoke, eyes still closed.

He waited.

“Where am I?” She blinked several times, then looked directly at him and let out a scream so blood-curdling loud that he was sure his ears were bleeding with agony.

“Shhhh!” he put his hand over her mouth, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best of ideas considering she had just met him.

But her fear moved her. With a deft motion the chit sunk her teeth into his vulnerable hand. When he drew back in alarm, she elbowed him in the ribs and made an effort to elude him. He caught her around the waist and heaved her back into his lap in one smooth motion, holding her tight until she finally stopped struggling against him.

“Hello,” he said, knowing it was the worst possible way to wake a well-bred lady—stare at her while she slept, scare her senseless, haul her into his lap, and offer an awkward greeting.

Savages, shipwrecks, and squirrels were looking better by the minute.

“Release me, you beast!”

“Promise not to bite, elbow, or scream? I’m not sure my ears can take another one of your screams. Perhaps we can come up with some sort of signal next time you feel the need to open your mouth?”

She began to squirm anew, making things all the more difficult for him, given his current state of…fascination with her body.

“My lady, cease your movements before I give you a true reason to scream.” Stefan tightened his grip on her waist and slowly, effortlessly, bestowed a kiss on the exposed side of her neck. He told himself it was to scare her, and it was. Sort of.

The instant his lips touched her neck, she froze. He relinquished his hold and ever so deliberately planted her next to him on the sofa.

“I must say,” Stefan adjusted his cravat. “That was a first for me. I imagine it isn’t common for a woman to swoon into your arms so willingly.”

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