A Rake's Ruin (Devilish Lords #1)(9)

She clasped his lapel and pulled herself up so her eyes were nearly level with his. The act halted his words, which was probably for the best since he had no idea what he was going to apologize for.

For not standing here and meekly accepting her verbal thrashing, perhaps? For any pain that she and her family had suffered?

Either way it didn’t matter. The apology was forgotten in the wake of her hands on him, the weight of her body leaning against his, her lips so close to his he could practically taste the lemonade she’d had to drink before leaving the party.

What would she taste like if he kissed her?

He heard her inhale, felt more than saw her lips parting to speak. He couldn’t resist. Leaning forward, he tasted those lips.

Heaven. They tasted like heaven.

He expected her to pull away in horror, but after a heartbeat, she let out a little whimper and crashed against him. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her tight as he moved his lips over hers, gently so as not to scare her.

God, he could kiss her all night. He could kiss her forever.

Her lips were warm and sweet, clinging to his and tentatively matching his movements until the kiss took on a rhythm and a cadence of its own. His mind had shut down, his thoughts lost in oblivion somewhere as his body eagerly took charge of this scene.

He held her tight, moving one hand up and down her back in a soothing motion as he touched her slightly parted lips with his tongue. When she opened for him, he groaned at the sweet pleasure. Her mouth was hot and inviting, sweet and tart from the lemonade, and so entirely befitting this little enigma.

He stroked her back higher until he was tangling his fingers through the stray locks that had slipped out of their hold. Again, so very fitting. The perfect hairdo unraveling before him.

The perfect debutante come undone in his arms.

The sweet little moan that slipped from her lips made him still. She was pure, delicious temptation. She was open and willing, passionate and heated.

He wanted to take this further, kiss her deeper. His mind threw out images of what they might do and how he could take her. In the carriage, stretched along the seat.

Bloody hell, he ached to have her right here and right now. He could hitch her skirts up to reveal those curved, luscious hips before settling between her thighs and bringing them both to heaven’s gate.

His body hardened and ached at the thought. But that was a dream. An unattainable dream, at that.

Reality set in as he gently but firmly removed her arms from around his neck and set her away from him.

Her absence left behind a frigid chill and his body ached as though he’d just deprived it of water for days on end. It cried out for her body as though it was as essential as air.

This was madness. It wasn’t as though he were some green lad or a celibate monk. He was bloody notorious for his ways with women. And yet here he was, reeling as though he’d just experienced his first kiss.

In every way that mattered, he felt as though he had.

Her head was tilted down as she too seemed to battle for breath. She wasn’t looking at him and fear pierced through him like a dagger. Had he gone too far? Perhaps he’d offended her or had taken advantage of her innocence. Her gaze was fixed on his chest, at the exact point where she’d been jabbing him with her finger just a little while before.

She cleared her throat and finally lifted her gaze to meet his, but her expression was inscrutable. For the first time all evening, he found himself face to face with the Claire Cleveland he’d always known.

Prim, proper, and completely emotionless.

“I think perhaps you’re right,” she said quietly, her hands folding in front of her as though they were discussing the weather at a tea party and not recuperating from the most heated kiss he’d ever known.

“My family will be missing me,” she said. “I should head back to the ball.”

Chapter Three

The more Claire’s head spun, the more she retreated to the comfort and safety found behind those walls she’d learned to erect all those years ago.

As if on instinct, her body fell into the role of dutiful daughter and sister. She allowed him to help her into the carriage and made a production out of arranging her skirts.

It was so much easier to fix her attention on the flow of her fabric rather than the inquisitive gaze coming from the opposite seat.

Inquisitive and heated, she noticed before quickly dropping her eyes to her hands which were clasped in her lap.

But even without seeing his eyes or that handsome face, she could feel his gaze and she shuddered involuntarily.

Or maybe that was a shiver. She was suddenly cold. So very cold. Which was odd since it was a warm spring night and she had been unbearably hot just moments ago.

She’d also been kissing a man just moments ago.

No, she could not think about that now, not while his gaze was upon her. Besides, she had more important things to think about. Like what had Jed been doing back there if not gambling? And did she really trust Galwin’s word on the matter?

She twisted her hands in her lap. “We should not leave him like this.”

Galwin’s brows drew down. “Your brother will be fine—”

“How do you know?” she interrupted. “What is he doing there if not gambling?”

His chest rose and fell with his exasperated sigh. Then he leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees and his gaze was level with hers. “As I have said before, I cannot tell you more. Jed must answer for his own actions.”

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