Upon a Midnight Dream (London Fairy Tales #1)(4)

Rosalind snorted and turned her brilliant green eyes onto him. “Surely you don’t think it was your presence that caused my swooning? I was merely hot.” She fanned her face with her hand as if needing to show him how sweltering it had been.

“Right,” he said smugly. “And that explains how your body went completely rigid when you fell?” Did she think him an idiot?

Turning away she shrugged. “Are we going to discuss my swooning all night, or did you have other business with me?”

“Business?” He laughed. “I was in the middle of releasing you from the betrothal contract. So, yes. Let us call it business.”

“And I believe I said, ‘As you wish’.”

“No, actually you said, ‘As you wi—' and then promptly fell, quite wantonly into my arms. Since I am a gentleman, I’ve decided not to hold it against you.”

Rosalind scooted away. “Are we finished here?”

Trying to mask the concern he felt, he replied, “Only if you assure me that you are in perfect health.”

“Of course. I can’t say I’ve ever swooned before. But I assure you I’m in perfect health! Good night, my lord.” With a huff she pushed from the sofa, took two steps and began to fall once more.

Stefan cursed and caught her just before she hit the floor. “You do realize this is twice in one night. If I were one for happy endings, I’d say you just marked me as your long lost prince.”

Rosalind glared, but was still somewhat paralyzed. She wished, in vain, that she could somehow communicate the scolding thoughts she was entertaining in that moment as she turned her glower onto his handsome face. And, saints alive, he was handsome! Truly, it was unfair to have only been betrothed to him for a measly few hours.

Was it so terrible to hope for a kiss from a man such as this? At least once before she died from this dreadful disease?

“Rosalind?” He brought his monstrous hand to her cheek, “I shall send for your carriage, you need to be put to bed.”

“Yes, more sleep, why hadn’t I thought of that?” she retorted, her voice thick with sarcasm. Her blasted legs were still unable to move, for they too had fallen asleep.

“Shall I carry you again?”

Why did she have to have so much pride? Begging her legs to work, she waited before finally responding with, “If you would be so kind.”

His carrying her seemed effortless. And it was quite nice being in his arms, if only for just a few steps. At this angle, she could appreciate his strong jaw line, that of a Nordic god or a Roman gladiator. He seemed fit to kill first and ask questions later.

Unable to hold up her head any longer, she gave in to the temptation to lay it against his broad shoulder. He smelled of warm cinnamon spice and soap. Rosalind closed her eyes and took her fill of his smell, for it was unlike anything she had ever experienced.

It was then she noticed he had stopped walking.

“Why have we stopped?”

Chuckling, he looked down at her. “I wanted to give you a chance to take your fill before we went out into the night. There’s no telling how much the putrid night air could take away my scent, you know.”

Feeling the blood pound into her face, Rosalind hid deeper in the crook of his shoulder. “I was doing nothing of the sort.”

He laughed. “So you say, Rose, so you say.”

Snapping her attention in his direction, she controlled the urge to comment on his use of her nickname, one that only family used. The nerve.

The heaviness in her limbs began to lessen as he led her out the servants’ entrance into the cool night air. Never had a spell come upon her so suddenly, and in the middle of a ball nonetheless!

At least she could be thankful that people were focused on Lord and Lady Rawlings as much as they were her—well, that and the sudden resurrection of the true Marquess of Whitmore. Curse him! Did that mean she had to call him that loathsome name? It left a terrible taste in her mouth, the thought of calling him Whitmore, as if he was even close to being as slimy as his younger brother.

Her fingers and toes tingled, the sensation gradually spreading to her arms and legs. Good. This was good. She could walk and wouldn’t have to continue to be carried by the Nordic god who found nothing wrong with carrying her and touching her in the manner he was.

Goodness. She could feel…him.

They stopped. And how she hated to admit that the thought of getting into her carriage without the warmth of his body next to her made her a trifle sad and irritated that within their short knowledge of one another, he could make her feel such ridiculous emotions.

Well, he had released her from the contract, and now she was free to go to her estate in Sussex to suffer the fall and winter months without the city air threatening to burn her lungs.

“Rose?” He put her gently onto her feet, and only then did she notice that her skirts were billowed and wrinkled, giving him quite a scandalous view of her ankles.

Curse her body for experiencing a small thrill when his eyes lingered longer than was appropriate. Take your fill—for this is the last you will see.

“And here, I bid you goodnight.” He steadied her on her feet, then bowed gallantly in front of her before turning on his heel and leaving.

“Good night,” Rosalind clenched her teeth as her eyes followed his disappearing form. The man was going back to the ball? Surely, he wanted to see to her safety? And make sure she made it home?

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