Cheryl Holt

Cheryl Holt by Deeper than Desire Read Free Book Online

Book: Cheryl Holt by Deeper than Desire Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deeper than Desire
but for the life of me, I can’t remember your name.”
    “Winifred Stewart,” she said. “My friends call me Winnie.”
    “Winnie . . .” He rolled the word on his tongue. “How unusual. It suits you.”
    The compliment gave her the courage to meet his gaze, but she hadn’t been prepared for how dazzling he would be up close.
    He was smiling at her, his brown eyes sparkling with masculine curiosity.
    Her heart literally skipped a beat.
    “I would be honored if you would call me Winnie.”
    “If
you
will call me Edward.”
    “I will.”
    He hadn’t released her hand, and like a pair of enamored half-wits, they gawked. She felt a powerful connection to him, their bodies seeming to tilt toward one another, and Winnie sustained an insane impulse to lean into him, to snuggle herself against his chest, comprehending that she would fit perfectly.
    He felt their potent link, and he scowled, trying to deduce the reason. Stepping away, he freed her hand, severing their attachment as though she’d suddenly gotten too hot to handle.
    At a loss, he grappled to reassert the smooth, urbane façade that had temporarily vanished. He cleared his throat and straightened his cravat, so disconcerted that she would have been sorry for him had she not been appalled and frightened by her own reaction.
    “Would you care to join me at the table?” he asked, nimbly covering over the awkwardness.
    She couldn’t think of anything more dangerous, or more enticing, than to sit down and converse with him through a leisurely meal. She endeavored to find an excuse so that she might cordially refuse, when Olivia emerged through the French doors.
    Attired in a stylish blue daydress that accented her winsome features, she was pretty and fresh, graphically and painfully reminding Winnie of the divisions between them, of the fact that Edward wanted to wed a sweet, innocent, biddable girl. A nobleman’s daughter. All that Winnie was not and never would be.
    What was she doing, loitering where anyone could see, and mooning over him like an infatuated ninny? Chagrined, she pulled herself together, masking further response, a knack she’d acquired through years of practice.
    “I really can’t, Lord Salisbury.” Rudely, she used his title, and he frowned that she’d so quickly decided
not
to refer to him as Edward. “But thank you for the invitation.”
    Before he could reply, she stumbled over to Olivia, made a few inane, prattling comments—that she later wouldn’t be able to recall—then she rushed into the manor, running till she located an empty salon.
    In abject misery, she balanced herself against the wall, needing the support to stay upright.
    She was sexually attracted to Lord Salisbury! Olivia’s potential husband!
    When she’d been dawdling on the verandah, she’d been scared to classify what she’d felt.
    But it was blatant, heady sexual desire. She was no simpering miss, no naïve child, so she was well aware of what had sizzled between them. Disgustingly, she’d enjoyed every second of the encounter, and if they’d had the privacy and the time, she’d have gaily acceded in pushing the rendezvous to another level.
    Women such as herself had names, and she knew them all: hussy, slattern, trollop. She’d assumed that she’d ventured beyond this stage, that her degraded constitution was an aberration, a delirium of youth and immaturity, but apparently not.
    Better than anyone, she understood how easy, how perilous, it was to succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. The results could be deadly. For years, she’d labored to restrain her base nature, fighting the insistent urges, and living so soberly and so sedately that she might as well have taken vows and become a nun.
    Yet Edward Paxton had but smiled at her, and she was ready to fling her principles and virtue to the four winds. She felt as if the lid had been torn off a Pandora’s box where she’d hidden her sordid traits, and she was terrified that she’d never be

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