What a Lady Demands

What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn Macnamara Read Free Book Online

Book: What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn Macnamara Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ashlyn Macnamara
pattering out of control.
    “The truth this time.” And how did he manage such an air of command while speaking so quietly? He towered over her, looking down the finely honed knife-edge of his nose. “If your brother wished to commit your upkeep to someone else, he would have seen about marrying you off.”
    She fixed her gaze on the top button of his morning coat, only inches away. Better there than slightly higher, where she might take in the breadth of his shoulders, perfectly highlighted by expert tailoring. A sharp breeze whipped between them, stirring the points of his collar, tossing her hems against his Hessians. “My brother and I had a difference of opinion. It seemed best for me to leave and seek my fortune elsewhere.”
    There, she could tell him that much and not lie. If only that much would satisfy him.
    “I see.” His hand tightened about the reins, the leather of his gloves crackling slightly. “And what was the nature of your disagreement?”
    “As a matter of fact, we disagreed on the manner in which he was raising his daughters.” That was also close enough to the truth that she could voice the words without forcing them to sound overly light.
    “And your response was to run to me? An extreme measure, don’t you think? Especially when your brother has the ultimate authority when it comes to his own offspring.” Only his lips moved with each syllable. His jaw remained tight, as if pure will were all that maintained him in place. “Doubly so in that he’s recently married.”
    “Yes, well, his marriage was another reason I felt it best to leave.”
    “You dislike his wife?”
    On the contrary. She adored Henrietta for her singular ability and willingness to set Alexander down whenever he needed it. Which was often. Cecelia rather suspected Alexander adored Henrietta for similar reasons. “Not at all, but with them being recently married, I reckoned they’d like a bit more privacy.”
    He opened his mouth, no doubt to say more, but his shoulders tensed, and he wavered in place. The chestnut shuffled its feet and let out a snort.
    “Are you all right?” Cecelia asked, grateful for the excuse to divert the subject. Good heavens, the man’s knees wobbled so, they looked likely to give way.
    “Shouldn’t have dismounted.” He forced the words through his teeth. “Damned leg is too weak.”
    He reeled on the spot, like a drunkard at the end of a long evening’s festivities. Nothing for it, if he was about to fall—she didn’t think she possessed the strength to help him up. She ducked beneath his arm and set her shoulder against his chest, lending him her weight, such as it was. He leaned into her, surrounding her with his scent, as crisp as she remembered it. Before she could stop herself, she’d drawn in a deep lungful of his cleanness.
    And then she made a colossal mistake. She looked up to find him staring back, jade eyes wide with shock and something else that darkened them. Awareness. Longing. Want. His lips hovered close, so close. All she had to do was push herself up on her toes, and she could meet that invitation. Her fifteen-year-old self would have ached to do so but not possessed the nerve to try. Her adult self could barely believe he was watching her with such frank hunger. It was nearly enough to lend her the nerve she’d lacked as a girl. Not that she possessed such a desire.
    Oh, no. She was long over that infatuation. She’d known enough other kisses—from gentlemen and scoundrels alike—that she needn’t be curious about Lindenhurst. One man tasted much the same as the next, of salt and too much wine, generally.
    “Do you need me to help you back to the manor?” Drat it all, but her voice sounded oddly husky.
    “Take Judas.” He pressed the reins into her hand. “Lead him back to the stables. I’ll manage on my own.”
    “Jeremy didn’t want me to hold his hand, either.” She probably should have kept that thought to herself, but wasn’t it just like a

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