She opened the door to the library and peeked outside, Mr. St. Regis hovering above her shoulder so closely, that she could feel his warm breath. The hall was empty, but it wouldn’t be for long. The guests would be departing soon. She closed the door again and turned around.
“Now, where’s your bedroom?”
Jason gave her a smile worthy of the devil himself. “I thought you’d never ask.”
She pursed her lips together. There was a number of guest rooms in the home and she wasn’t about to knock door-to-door looking for an empty one. “Hardly the time Mr. St. Regis, now which bedroom does my mother have you in?”
“On the third floor at the end of the hall.”
She thought for a moment. “On the left?”
“My left or yours?”
She rolled her eyes. “I suppose we’ll find it, let’s just hurry up and get upstairs before we’re seen.”
“I love a woman who gets right to the point.”
“Enough!” Rose hissed, poking a finger into his chest. “If you don’t stop this, I’m going to drop you off in the middle of the drawing room and let you fend for yourself. I promise, in your state, you’ll find yourself betrothed in a matter of minutes.”
It took everything she had not to crack a smile. The truth was, she enjoyed the banter. It was easy to see why he had the reputation he did, words came easily to him. She’d never been much of a flirt, and had never really been the target of such flirtation either. Truth be told, when a gentleman approached, she sought refuge. But there was something about this man that made conversation come easier. Too easy.
Rose led him out the door, and St. Regis followed more closely behind than she deemed necessary. Not that she minded. She peered around the corner, checking for stray girls seeking out their prey, then signaled for him to head upstairs first. Once she saw him round the landing, she bounded up, taking the steps as quickly as possible given the confines of her gown.
She reached the third floor hall right after he did, gasping for air from her quick ascension. She wasn’t much of an athlete, preferring to curl up and read rather than take any sort of brisk walk out of doors. This was the most exercise she’d had in weeks.
“Looks like we’ve made it without incident,” he looked over the bannister.
“So we have.”
He bowed deeply. “Until we meet again,” he said with a flourish of his hand. “I shall count the moments whilst we are apart.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Believe it or not, some women are actually flattered by my attention.”
“I’m sure they are. Some women are also completely gullible and don’t have the good sense God gave a flea.”
“Good night.” And with that, St. Regis started to walk down the hall, stopping suddenly after just a few steps. “Um, Miss Tisdale?”
“Would you mind helping me find my room, I’m afraid I don’t quite remember which door
She frowned. Escorting him upstairs was one thing, escorting him to his room was quite another. She imagined there were still young women wandering the house looking for the poor man, just waiting to be found in some dark, desperate corner. “Follow me, then. It’s most likely the last door on the left. Mother prefers to set up her gentleman guests down there, more masculine décor I suppose.” It had a giant canopied bed and just as many frills and flounces as any of the other rooms, but she’d chosen green as the palette, so she supposed that made it fit for a man in her mother’s mind.
They arrived at the end of the hall, and cautiously opened the door of the room she suspected was his. “Here you are.” She turned, finding herself quite close to his chest, enveloped in his scent, a combination of sandalwood and drink, leather and smoke. It was as if there was a charge in the air surrounding the man. She felt her spine tingle, the sensation surging down the backs of her legs.
She looked up, discovering his carefree grin had transformed into something more sinister. “Do I disappoint you?” he asked huskily.
At that moment, she would have sworn her skirts were on fire. “Not yet,” she said, unaware of just how brazen her words sounded.
He took a step forward, and she retreated, effectively placing them both within the walls of his bedroom.
“I enjoyed talking with you earlier.” He practically purred his words, the smooth tenor
giving her gooseflesh. “I don’t usually talk that much with women.”
She swallowed, her mouth dry, imagining all too vividly what it was he did do in lieu of conversation. “Well, women can be quite interesting.”
He shook his head, his ice blue eyes piercing into her own. “Some more than others.”
Rose looked away, preferring to stare anywhere but in those startling blue eyes of his.
She was so confused, her body one giant contradiction. She was warm, yet chilled, her muscles tight, yet threatening to collapse at any moment. “You should go lie down now. I’m afraid you’re quite drunk,” she whispered, making a conscious effort not to look up.
She wasn’t sure why exactly, but knew nothing good would come out of making eye contact.
“You speak your mind quite readily-”
“From your mouth to my mother’s ears.”
“And you have no difficulty putting me in my place.”
“Someone has to.”
“Marc said you were quiet. I think you might have more to say then you’re letting on.” He reached out, tracing the embroidery at the top of her bodice with his index finger, lightly brushing her skin.
“You barely know me,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady.
“Then we should remedy that, don’t you think?” He picked up her hand and placed a kiss on the top of her glove. “Call me Jason.”
Don’t look up, don’t look up…
“Well, I’m still Miss Tisdale.” She was absolutely powerless to pull her hand away.
“Really, it’s getting dangerously late and I think you should go to bed.”
“I’d love to.” His voice was so low she could barely hear it over the sound of her heart pounding. “But I don’t want to go alone.”
And after such a forward remark, she had no choice but to look up.
Drat! There he was, very close… too close. And then he was cupping her face in his hands, kissing her. She didn’t have time to stop it even if she’d wanted to. Instead, she gave in completely, closing her eyes and moving her hands up his chest, pressing him against the door frame inside the room.
His hands moved away from her face, travelling upward, his fingers burrowing in her hair, pulling her hard against him. The kiss deepened, and she moaned against his mouth, the taste of him permeating her senses. He pulled her head back, tearing his lips away from hers. Their gazes met, filled with something dangerous. Her head was spinning, drunk on seduction, her spine melting. He feathered kisses down the column of her neck, the touch of his mouth searing her flesh. The warmth of his breath, heavy and quick, replacing the touch of his mouth. Suddenly he stopped and leaned back against the wall.
She stared at him, wanting to continue, but frightened as to what would happen if they did. He pulled her to his chest, his arms enveloping her, the tender desperation of his touch silently communicating that he felt the exact same way.
The two remained still for several moments, oblivious to the world around them. Rose kept her eyes shut tightly, as if any movement would thrust her back into reality. But then, something was wrong. Her eyes flew open and she took a step back, out of reach.
He was snoring.
He opened one eye. “Miss Tisdale, did I kiss you?”
Incensed, she grabbed a fistful of his waistcoat and yanked him toward the bed. She turned him around with the ease one would toss around a rag doll and pushed him onto the mattress.
“Miss Tisdale!” he exclaimed, his words slurring as he stared up at her. “I don’t think we
should do this. You’re hardly in any state to make such decisions.”
“Shut up and go to sleep, Mr. St. Regis.” She marched out the room, slamming the door behind her.
Once safely on the other side, she stopped and listened, smiling at the rewarding sound of his snores.