The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance
destiny threw at her.
    It was one of the things he loved about her.
    He quashed the unwelcome insight. “There’s an inn a few miles ahead. I’ll get them to send someone for any baggage.”
    He clicked his tongue to the horse and cantered in the opposite direction to the one Harold had taken. Which was lucky for the weasel. If Kinvarra caught up with Harold now, he’d be inclined to drag out his horsewhip. What right had he to interfere with other men’s wives then scuttle away to leave them stranded?
    Alicia settled herself more comfortably, pressing her lovely, lush body into his back. She hadn’t been as close to him in years. He was scoundrel enough to enjoy the contact, however reluctantly she granted it.
    Maybe after all, he should be grateful to old Harold. He might even send the bastard a case of port and a thank you note.
    Well, that might be going too far.
    “Is that where we’re going?” She tightened her arms. He wished it was because she wanted to touch him and not just because she sought a firmer seat. He also wished that when she said “we”, his belly didn’t cramp with longing for the word to be true.
    Damn Alicia. She’d always held magic for him and she always would. Ten long years without her had taught him that grim lesson.
    The reminder of the dance she’d led him made him respond in a clipped tone. “No, we’re headed for Heseltine Hall near Whitby.”
    “But you can leave me at the inn, can’t you?”
    “It’s a poor place. I couldn’t abandon a woman there without protection.” He tried, he really did, to keep the satisfaction from his voice, but he must have failed. He felt her tense against his back, although she couldn’t pull too far away without risking a fall.
    “But who’s going to protect me from you?” she muttered, almost as if to herself.
    “I mean you no harm.” In all their difficult interactions, he’d never wished her anything but well. “You didn’t come all the way from London in that spindly carriage, did you?”
    “It’s inappropriate to discuss the details of my arrangement with Lord Harold,” she said coldly.
    He laughed again. “Humour me.”
    She sighed. “We travelled up separately to York.” Her voice softened into sincerity and he tried not to respond to the husky sweetness. “I truly didn’t set out to cause a scandal. You and I parted in rancour, but I have no wish to do you or your pride damage.”
    “Whatever your discretion, you still meant to give yourself to that puppy,” Kinvarra said, all amusement suddenly fled.
    Alicia didn’t answer.
    The weather had worsened by the time they reached the inn. Alicia realized as they came up to the building that it was indeed the rough place Kinvarra had described. But just the promise of shelter and a chance to rest her tired, sore body was welcome. Surely Kinvarra couldn’t intend to ride on to his mysterious manor tonight when snow fell thicker with every minute and their horse was blowing with exhaustion.
    The earl dismounted and lifted her from the saddle. The flickering torches that lit the inn yard revealed that he looked tired and strangely, for a man who always seemed so indomitable, unhappy.
    As he set her upon the ground, his hands didn’t linger at her waist. She tried not to note that she’d touched Kinvarra more in the last few hours than she had in the entire preceding ten years.
    “Let’s get you into the warmth.” He gestured for her to precede him inside as a groom rushed to take their horse.
    Alicia had expected him to spend the journey haranguing her on her wantonness — or at the very least her stupidity for setting out for the wilds of Yorkshire so ill prepared for disaster. But he’d remained quiet.
    How she wished he had berated her. She’d spent ten years convinced she’d been right to leave him. A moment’s kindness shouldn’t change that.
    But when his back offered her a warm anchor and his adept hands unerringly guided their horse to safety, her

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