his teeth and retrieved her hand. "I came down here with a far more mundane goal, Miss
"What would that be, sir?"
"I am here to ask your father for your hand in marriage."
The reaction was not at all what he had expected from a spinster with a clouded past who should have
been thrilled to hear an earl was going to speak to her father on the subject of marriage.
"Bloody hell," Emily squeaked.
Simon lost his patience with the strange female sitting beside him. "That tears it," he announced. "I think
what is needed here, Miss Faringdon, is a means of cutting through all that romantical claptrap about love
on a higher plane that you have been feeding yourself all these months."
"My lord, what are you talking about?"
"Why, the darker passions, of course, Miss Faringdon." He reached out and jerked her into his arms. "I
am suddenly consumed with curiosity to see if you really do enjoy hem."
Emily was stunned to find herself locked in an unbreakable embrace. It had been five years since a man
had held her in this intimate fashion. And that it should be Simon, of all people, who was holding her this
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way now was almost beyond comprehension. Simon was her companion of the metaphysical realm, her
noble, high-minded, sensitive friend, her intellectual soul mate.
Only in the darkest hours of the night and in her most secret dreams had she allowed herself to fantasize
about him as a flesh and blood lover.
"Oh, Simon," she breathed, gazing up at him with a sense of wonder and longing that was so fierce it
made her tremble in his arms.
He did not answer. His golden eyes were glittering with an intensity that in any other man would have
been alarming. There seemed to be more annoyed impatience than sweet affection in his gaze, however.
But perhaps that was just her imagination.
Without a word he removed her spectacles and bonnet and set them on the rock beside his hat. Then his
mouth came slowly and deliberately down on hers and Emily forgot everything else except the hard,
commanding heat of his kiss.
It was all she had ever dreamed his kiss would be during those still, dark hours in the middle of the night
when she had allowed herself to dream hopeless dreams.
In truth, it was more than she had dreamed. She could never have fully imagined the feel of his mouth on
hers because she had never experienced anything quite like it. This was nothing like those kisses she had
received five years ago. The sensation of Simon's arms around her and the overwhelming intimacy of his
mouth effectively shattered the fragile romantic illusions of a lifetime and taught her the true meaning of
passion in one searing moment.
Simon's hand, which had been curved around her waist, began to slide up along her side toward her
breast. Emily sensed dimly that she should call a halt at once but it seemed beyond her power to do so.
This was S. A. Traherne, the man she had put on a pedestal, the man she had loved from afar with a pure
and noble passion… the man of her dreams.
Now, in a blinding moment of sensual clarity, Emily realized that Simon reciprocated her love. The
wonder of it was overpowering.
Simon's fingers continued upward over the bodice of the riding habit until the small, soft weight of Emily's
breast was resting on the edge of his hand. Emily heard him groan as his thumb gently traced the outline
of one soft curve. Her nipple was suddenly, achingly, taut under the heavy wool. Emily shivered and
Simon's palm closed possessively over her breast.
"Come here, elf," Simon murmured in a rough, husky voice as he eased her across his thighs. He trapped
her close to his chest with one bent knee and two iron-hard arms. The strength in him should have
frightened Emily, but it did not. This was her dragon and she knew he would keep her safe.
Her fingers splayed across his chest, her nails digging urgently into the
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