Excerpt: My Runaway Heart
Book Two: The Man Of My Dreams
“I fear, sir…” Lindsay swallowed, the intensifying of his gaze upon her the moment she had spoken quite overwhelming. “I fear we haven’t been properly introduced. You know my name, but I—”
“Jared. Jared Giles, the Earl of Dovercourt.”
“Jared,” she said softly, thinking it was the most wonderful of names. “I-I mean Lord Giles. After all, we’ve only met—”
“Ah, but we share a secret, don’t we? I’ve seen few women swoon as expertly and prettily as you. And that secret makes us co-conspirators who should clearly call each other by their given names. Would that suit you, Lindsay?”
He spun her then and she couldn’t answer, his low, intimate rendering of her name making her feel strangely light-headed, the crowded ballroom flying past her as if they danced on air. For she felt as if she were truly dancing on air, her silken slippers barely touching the floor, Jared held her so closely.
Dear heavens, so closely that her breasts brushed his chest, the rough velvet of his black evening coat rubbing as if against her bare flesh and not the delicate satin of her gown. Stunned by such a wanton thought and how decadent they must appear to the assembled guests, she nonetheless did not try to pull away from him; in fact could not, as if captured by some enchanted spell.
A spell she hoped would last and last forever. Lindsay suddenly felt certain deep in her heart that she had found the hero of her dreams. Her imagination as fired as her senses, she believed this man must know everything about London—everything about the world, for that matter. As a spy, no doubt well traveled, how could he not?
“You smile so beguilingly, Lindsay. What are you thinking?”
His teasing half whisper filling her with reckless abandon, she tilted her head and said very softly, “Only that I hope I will see you again.”
Heaven help her, she had said it, truly said it! Lindsay exulted to herself even as nervousness gripped her, Jared’s eyes darkening to an unfathomable blue. Fearing she might have been too bold, too brazen, she made to apologize for her forwardness, but his arm drawing her possessively against him stopped her breath.
“Oh, I fully intend that we’ll be seeing much of each other,” came his low reply, his gaze raking her face and then falling to her breasts. But his eyes didn’t linger there, once more meeting hers. “Tomorrow afternoon, two o’clock. A ride in Hyde Park, with a chaperone, of course—”
“Oh, no, Aunt Winnie would never allow it.” The waltz nearly done, Lindsay rushed on breathlessly, sensing at last a chance for adventure. “I suspect she doesn’t particularly like you. I’m not sure why, but I have another—”
“My notorious reputation?”
Reddening a bit, Lindsay nodded. “But I don’t think you’re at all as she described.”
“And how was that?”
Lindsay sighed, their conversation not progressing at all as she would have liked, and there was so little time. “A blackguard and a rake and—”
“A seducer of innocents.”
“No, no, I was going to say a spy.” Seeing his expression suddenly harden, Lindsay felt an undeniable tension in his embrace. “I’m sorry. I’m sure that’s not something you wish to hear spoken of so freely, but I think it’s wonderful! How noble to serve your country in such heroic fashion—how thrilling it must be for you!”
“If I were a spy, I’m sure it would have its moments,” came the dry response. Lindsay took heart that she actually saw a glimmer of amusement returning to his eyes, although his face remained oddly grim. Hoping she might further cheer him, she kept her voice light and engaging.
“Well, I’d love to hear about your adventures—and I hope you still want to see me again no matter the dreadful things my aunt said about you. But it can’t be during the day; that won’t do at all. Evening would be better—yes, half-past midnight would be perfect. We’re always home by eleven. Aunt Winnie doesn’t like staying out too late, and that would allow plenty of time for everyone to retire. Then I could meet you outside my aunt’s town house at Sixteen Piccadilly.”
“Meet me alone?”
“Of course, it’s the only way. Oh, dear, I know it’s very presumptuous of me to even ask—” It was the most outrageous thing she’d said since she’d been in London, but…
“Half-past midnight will be fine.”
Lindsay met his eyes, exhilaration filling her. “Truly? Tomorrow night?”
His only answer was a brusque nod as the final strains of the waltz surged around them. Lindsay wondered if she might have broached every rule of etiquette, because he stepped so stiffly away from her when the dance was done. But he still held her hand, and her hopes soared that she hadn’t made an utter fool of herself when he lifted her gloved fingers to his lips and gentle kissed them. Yet his gaze was anything but gentle, burning into hers even as Lindsay heard an unmistakable voice cut through the rising din of conversation.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear, whatever am I to tell Olympia if she hears news of this night? She’ll never forgive me, I’m certain of it! Never!”
Lindsay grimaced, imagining the carriage ride home. She turned to flee to her aunt’s side, then glanced back to bid Jared good night. But he had already disappeared into the throng filling the dance floor, nowhere to be seen, leaving Lindsay to wonder if she had only imagined the last incredible moments that had been the most exciting of her life.