Excerpt: Kissed at Twilight
Book Four: The Man Of My Dreams
“A brandy, Dr. Whitaker?” Donovan asked, his tone lighter, too, as he moved to the table where a full decanter sat surrounded by crystal glasses.
“Thank you, sir, I will,” he answered, though Linette realized the doctor wasn’t watching Donovan pour him a glass. Instead, he stood as if transfixed, staring at her and the smile upon her face.
Her breath caught, and she sobered at once, noticing for the first time that his eyes were a hazel more green than brown and filled with a warm admiration that made her cheeks flush with heat. Thankfully, Donovan interrupted the unsettling moment when he handed Dr. Whitaker a filled glass, the two men partaking in a draft of brandy while Linette began to move somewhat self-consciously toward the door.
Yet her curiosity got the better of her when Donovan began to engage him in conversation about his impressions thus far of Cornwall, which made her stop where she stood.
Curiosity not so much about what Dr. Adam Whitaker might have to say, but that their exchange gave her a chance to study him in a manner much like he’d done to her only moments before.
She had already deemed him handsome, but he stood so confidently in Donovan’s presence as if he often conversed with the nobility…although his conservative and somewhat worn attire bespoke a man who had perhaps risen from poor circumstances to his higher calling. A brown overcoat over a lighter brown waistcoat, tan trousers, and deep brown Hessian boots that she saw now were flecked with mud, yet everything seemed to fit his tall, lean form as if tailored for him.
Now that she stood so close to him, although he’d scarcely glanced in her direction since Donovan had engaged him, she saw his wavy brown hair had auburn highlights much like her own from the afternoon sunlight spilling through the tall windows. His face was clean shaven with closely cropped sideburns, his jawline strong and angular and his profile so very arresting—
“Linette, did you hear me?”
She gaped at Donovan, startled and deeply embarrassed not to have realized that he’d spoken to her while she was but staring so openly at Dr. Whitaker…oh, Lord.
“I-I’m sorry, Donovan,” she began, but if he’d noticed her discomfort he gave no sign of it as he strode past her to the doorway.
“The carriage I sent for your father has arrived,” he said over his shoulder. “He knows only that Estelle was hurt, and nothing of our recent good report. I want to allay his fears at once. Attend to our guest for a few moments, will you?”
Donovan was gone from the room before Linette could answer, although a footman appeared right outside the door as if Donovan had indicated for him to stand there. So Linette wasn’t truly alone. She glanced from the doorway to Dr. Whitaker as he set his half-empty glass upon the table and gave her a gallant bow.
“We haven’t really been introduced,” he began, coming closer although Linette found herself rooted to the floor. “You and I, anyway. I mean, we were upstairs together in your sister’s room for a time and you led me down here to the library, though with hardly a word—”
“I understand what you mean, sir,” she murmured, flushing and yet doing her best to maintain her composure as he drew closer still. “Miss Linette Easton.”
“French names, then, all of you? Your sisters, I mean.”
“Yes, our mother was French…Adele. My eldest sister, Corisande, and then there’s Marguerite, a duchess as well…and Estelle of course, the youngest…and me.”
“And you,” he said after her, his voice holding a huskiness now that Linette found incredibly disconcerting. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Easton. Dr. Adam Whitaker—”
“Yes, of London, I believe you said,” Linette interrupted him as she glanced toward the door, wondering if she, too, should go to meet her father. Yet Donovan had said for her to attend to their guest… “Is that your home, Dr. Whitaker?”
“During my formal medical training, it was, but now my home is here.”
He stared at her again, not in any way that she would find inappropriate, but almost as if he studied the lines of her face as a sculptor might his model…with evident appreciation.
“Y-yes, of course, but I meant where you’re from, your parents—”
“No parents. I’m an orphan.”
“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry,” she began, noting his expression had hardened as if she’d touched upon a subject he didn’t wish to discuss.
“No need to be sorry, Miss Easton. It’s life, is all. Harsh for some and kinder to others.”
For a moment she didn’t know what to say, until at last she blurted, “You’ll find the people friendly here, Dr. Whitaker, although it may take them a while to grow accustomed to you. We’ve known only Dr. Philcup for years. Yet they’ll come around, I’m sure. You’re our physician now, after all.”
“So I am, and gratefully so, especially now,” he said simply, staring at her again as she found herself doing the same to him.
For a moment a great stillness enveloped them as if the rest of the world had inexplicably fallen away. Then in the next instant, she blinked, and he cleared his throat, which left her wondering what she might ask of him next.