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How to Marry a Rake in Ten Days by Samantha Holt
The years had added the slightest touch of grey to his hair at the temples. Though he must have shaved in the morning, stubble was beginning to show on his jaw and upper lip. Something about that roughness made her want to reach out and stroke it. Lines crinkled the corners of his eyes. Not a lot but enough that his intense eyes were softened. And his lashes…dear Lord a man should never have such thick, long lashes. It was thoroughly unfair to the fairer sex.
“I always watched you,” he told her in a low voice, the timbre of it spearing deep inside her and making her feel warm and all twisted up inside.
She knew that. But she wouldn’t admit as much. A lady shouldn’t be aware of these things. However, he likely didn’t realise that she understood the reasons behind his stares. He probably had little clue that she even knew he was responsible for Robert’s change of heart.
“I never noticed.”
The lift of one brow told her he didn’t believe her. “I watched you dance. Watched you flirt. Watched you laugh.”
“A lady does not flirt.”
“Well, I have changed.”
His gaze met hers. “I noticed. A pity.”
Angelina eyed him. A pity? Here was the man who had so thoroughly disapproved of her behaviour that he had warned his all too impressionable friend away from her and now he was claiming that he liked that behaviour.
Though she supposed such behaviour was favourable in a conquest but not in a wife.
There was no chance she would be a conquest. She was here for a marriage.
“I have grown up, Benedict, that is all.”
His lips curved. “You have grown up in many ways.” He glanced over her figure. “The years have done you many favours, Angie. However, I’m not sure you are all that different.”
“I am,” she insisted. “I’m nothing like I was when we knew each other.”
Benedict released the curl and tilted his head to view her. “Well, we have ten days together. I’m certain it will become clear whether you have or not.”
“That sounds almost like a challenge, my lord.” She cursed the words once they were out. Those were the words of impulsive, silly Angie. Even the addition of his title had been used with every intention of being daring instead of polite.
He lifted a shoulder. “Perhaps.” He leaned forward and took her hand in his. She eyed their gloved fingers meeting and tried to force her arm to retreat but she had gone boneless at his touch. He eased his palm into hers and held her hand.
“A challenge would certainly make this rather dry party a little more interesting, do you not think?”
She was too busy gaping at their linked hands to even agree with him.
Or tell him no. She already had one challenge to worry about, she didn’t need another.
“We have ten days together. Let me prove to you that you are not changed. That the Angie I knew still resides behind those stiff manners.”
“Why on earth would I agree to such a thing?”
“To prove me wrong.” He lifted her hand up toward his mouth and brushed it over her knuckles.
“I have no need to prove it.”
“Are you scared?”
She raised her chin. “Never!”
He released a flash of a grin. “Ah, there she is.”
“Damn you, Benedict.”
His grin widened. “And again.”
She puffed out her cheeks, feeling how hot and red they were. This was all going so wrong. How was she meant to act like a lady when he was so infuriating? She should probably start thinking about a new job already. She’d never persuade Oliver they’d do well together if this continued.
Angelina tugged away her hand and shook her head. “You won’t win, Benedict. I can assure you of that. Now it is not appropriate for us to be alone together so I shall bid you good afternoon. Will you tell the marquess that I am suffering with a headache and I shall join them for dinner?”
“Of course, my lady.” He offered a mockingly formal bow and Angelina just knew he had no intention of giving up his idea of scandalising her.
She shook her head again. As if he could scandalise her further.