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Aha. She was nervous, then? Or expectant?
Whatever she was, she was not indifferent to him. He’d read the language of desire often enough to interpret it now: the breath that came quick and shallow, the flush on her cheek that not even firelight could disguise.
“I hardly know,” he said. “I suppose the best gifts are those we don’t know we need.”
“Like brutal honesty?” She smiled, a sweet sliver of mirth.
“Yes. Like that. I’ll get around to being grateful to you eventually.”
At this, she laughed, her hands fluttering up to her breasts.
He could let it pass over them, this light moment. They could bid each other happy Christmas and go their separate ways again, moving on as friends.
Or he could do it differently this time.
His eyes traced the movement of her hands, long fingered and slim. An artist’s hands, or a musician’s—only her art was observation, and the song she played was the clear chime of truth.
Her hands stilled, laced together. They lowered to her waist, smoothed the warm sheen of her silk skirts, then rose up and folded beneath her chin.
No. She was not indifferent.
“What do you want for Christmas?” he asked. “Ought I to guess? Surely there must be something I could do for you.”
Her eyes met his. Her hands pressed tightly against one another, as if they could protect her throat, her heart.
He lifted his brows. “You are admirably concise. You neglected only to mention that I am not permitted to compliment your appearance, either. Unless you’ve changed your mind about that?”
She shook her head. “No, please. No. I don’t want anything false from you.”
Her hands dropped to her sides. “Please,” she said, so quietly it was not much more than a breath. “Please, nothing false.”
In the firelight, her eyes were shadows, her mouth all mobile softness.
“Just because it’s a compliment,” Xavier said, “doesn’t mean it’s false.”
But it was Alex who moved forward, slowly and cautiously. Alex closed the distance between them and reached for her hands, hardly daring to breathe as he laced his fingers with hers and pulled their bodies close.
Her shadowed eyes looked deep into him. “Then what will you give me?”
“Whatever I may.” Only a breath apart now, their bodies so close to touching that he could feel the slight heat of her on his front, the fire on his back. He wrapped her closer, drawing her slim form against his. Ah. She was all curves against his angles, yet a perfect fit.
He slid his hands up her arms, the skin smooth over long, fine bones. “Whatever you’ll permit.”
Please, permit it. She’d seen deeper into him than anyone ever had. She was the only one who had thought to look. And so—she couldn’t dismiss him now, or he’d be gone again, and there would be nothing left but his bright, empty shell.
His fingertip drew over the cap of her sleeve, down the curve of her dress’s bodice. Not touching her breasts; nothing so intimate. Only the very edge of the fabric.
She permitted it.
His hand trailed down the curve of her neck, the swell of her chest, dipping under the cloth of her bodice. So much cloth in the way of her skin. He slid his fingers deeper, under the hemmed edge of corset and shift, and she drew in a swift breath.
But she permitted that, too.
“In a novel”—he echoed her earlier words— “someone would indeed interrupt us. A gift to us both, so we need not place a limit on our own control.”
Her mouth twitched. She held herself still, as though his hands might spook.
His eyes closed, he bent his head, breathed in the lily scent of her hair. “Because we are afraid we won’t stop once we start, and we don’t know if we want to stop.”
Excerpt from Season For Surrender ©2012 by Theresa Romain. All rights reserved.
Read the last part of the excerpt on tour tomorrow, 9/28, at the Book Whore Blog.
SEASON FOR SURRENDER:
Genre: HistoricalPre-Order A Copy: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Nook | Book Depository | Book-A-Million
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Kensington/Zebra (October 2, 2012)
HONOR AMONG ROGUES
Alexander Edgware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector…
MISCHIEF AMONG MISSES
Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier’s invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring…
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