start, but when her eyes locked with his, something warm and primitive arced between them. Her gaze then flickered lower, over his mouth, and Max knew for certain that Caro Evers had not forgotten him.
A sharp surge of male satisfaction rippled through him, even though she withdrew her hand coolly.
“Actually, I was on my way to find you,” she said. “Thorne asked me to convey his apologies to you. He was called away on sudden business. He regretted”—she glanced pointedly toward the gathering of ladies Max had just abandoned—“having to leave you to the tender mercies of your gaggle of admirers.”
She rose then. “I hope you won’t mind if I excuse myself, Mr. Leighton. I have had a long journey, and I have another long one ahead of me tomorrow.”
Bending, she kissed Lady Hennessy’s cheek. “Thank you, my lady. Thorne will be grateful that you have released him from his promise.”
The dowager shook her head with mock sternness. “You can’t fool me, my girl. I can see right through him. He wasn’t brave enough to face me, and so he coerced you into pleading his case.”
Caro smiled. “True, but you must admit, you are quite formidable when you get in a high dudgeon.”
She turned to Max, her gaze flickering over him before she nodded toward the cluster of ladies who were still watching him. “Perhaps you should return to your devotees. It is obvious they anxiously await you. Good night, Mr. Leighton.”
Max remained where he stood, staring after her. He had just been dismissed, he realized.
It was a novel experience for him, to be spurned by the only woman he longed to be near. And his dismissal had a decided effect on him—arousing the primitive male urge to chase fleeing prey and stirring even deeper instincts of possessiveness.
He had a claim on Caro Evers, whether she realized it or not.
Watching him, Lady Hennessy let out a deep chuckle. “Perhaps you have already discovered that Caro is not like any other conventional young lady.”
“Indeed,” Max said wryly.
“She despises balls and all the other trappings of society. I doubt she will come down again this evening. Most likely she will hide herself away reading one of those infernal medical tomes.” The lady’s eyes took on a calculating gleam. “But she is staying upstairs in her former rooms. If you wish to speak with her, Mr. Leighton, I suspect you will have to go after her.”
Max curved his mouth in an amused, calculating line of his own. “Thank you, my lady. I have every intention of doing just that.”
It was absurd how flustered Maxwell Leighton made her, Caro thought as she escaped the ballroom. She felt his gaze locked on her back, hot as flame, which only served to further kindle her overheated senses.
When finally she reached her bedchamber, Caro closed the door and leaned against it while she waited for her wits to stop whirling, for her heart to stop pounding. She had hoped he wouldn’t be as devastating as she recollected, but her wish had been futile.
How could he have such an affect on her?
How could he not?
a logical voice responded.
Not only was he the kind of hero maidens dreamed of, he had been her first and only lover. He’d helped her to fully become a woman. To experience passion. Surely it was only reasonable that she would see him in a different light from any other man. That she would remember him more vividly. That a simple glance from his startling blue eyes could set her heart leaping and her stomach fluttering like an army of butterflies had taken residence there.
Had he noticed her reaction? She had tried to feign indifference but wasn’t certain that she’d succeeded. Especially since she couldn’t refrain from sniping about the admiring beauties who were pursuing him, which had made her sound like a jealous witch.
How could she possibly feel jealousy? Caro scolded herself. She had no right. She had no place in Max Leighton’s life. He likely wouldn’t
Shawn Michel de Montaigne
Starla Huchton, S. A. Huchton