The Duke I'm Going to Marry(10)

By: Meara Platt

“And each first meeting was on Chipping Way.” Ian now turned to study her. “So that’s how you concluded that we’re not destined for each other. Because you and I have known each other for about two years now, so our encounter of a few days ago couldn’t possibly be a love-at-first-sight sort of thing. But what of our first encounter? Two years ago.”

She tipped her head, confused. “It was an unusual first meeting, I will admit.” They hadn’t been properly introduced. In truth, they’d never met before. He’d swept her into his arms that night in her neighbor’s garden, wrapped his strong arms about her waist and drawn her so close their bodies had melted into one. She remembered it as though it had happened only yesterday. The memory of his hard, sinewy body in direct contact with her softer curves was still vivid.

Her body warmed each time she thought of it, but not because Ian had been holding her. Or kissing her. Holy crumpets! What a kiss!

No, it was simply because she had been so surprised.

Yet, she would never forget the way he’d lowered his head and... oh, the feel of his firm, possessive mouth on hers. Exquisite. Nor could she forget that all his heat and passion were meant for another. He’d simply come upon the wrong girl. “We both know I wasn’t the lady you expected to find.”

“But we did first meet on Chipping Way. Right next door in Lady Dayne’s moonlit garden, to be precise. You were hiding behind the lilac trees, spying on her guests.”

She set down the slice of lemon cake she was about to pop into her mouth, and felt the warmth of a blush begin to spread across her cheeks. Even the tips of her ears were hot. So was her neck. “But I was in her garden. Not on the street.” Though Rose and Julian hadn’t met on the street either. Their first meeting was right here, in the garden attached to the Farthingale townhouse. “And I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Well, not very wrong. I was merely curious about the party. You make it sound as though I were up to no good.”

“You were lurking in the shadows.”

She added two lumps of sugar to her tea, and then took a long sip in order to temper her hot retort. He was goading her again. But why? She was trying to put him at ease, assure him that there could never be anything more than friendship between the two of them. “I was innocently peering, not lurking. Since when is curiosity a crime? And speaking of innocent, your kiss was anything but that.”

He frowned lightly. “Don’t remind me. It isn’t my practice to frighten genteel young ladies.”

“We’ve gotten off the point.” She took another sip of her tea. “All I wished to say is that you’re not destined to be my husband. So we can both breathe a sigh of relief. I won’t be burdened with a husband who doesn’t love me, and you won’t be burdened with a wife you don’t want.”

He didn’t appear convinced. “If anything, you seem to have proved quite the opposite point. If there is such a thing as the Chipping Way curse, then you and I are doomed to wed.”

She shot out of her chair, her hands curled into fists at her side. “Are you purposely trying to distress me?”

He calmly set his cup down on the tray and rose to his impressive full height. “It’s you who has distressed me, Daffy.”

Ugh! He was riled. She hated when he called her Daffy.

“I hadn’t thought of our first meeting,” he continued, “until you made a point of raising it just now. As for sparks flying and love at first sight... well, it might not have been love, but that first kiss between us was anything but tame. Don’t even think to deny it.”

About to protest, she clamped her mouth shut instead.

He was still staring at her as he spoke. More like glowering at her. “I kissed. You responded. Ardently.”

She glanced toward the door to make certain no one was nearby. “How dare you!” she whispered harshly and came around the small table to stand directly in front of him. “I wasn’t ardent. I was struggling for breath. You had your tongue stuck halfway down my throat. And if you call me Daffy again, I’ll pour hot tea over your swelled head!”

“Are you seriously going to deny enjoying our first kiss?”

“Our only kiss. I hated it.”

There was a dangerous gleam in his eyes. Perhaps hate was too strong a word.

“You melted at my touch. Must I prove it to you again?”

“Go ahead. I dare you.” She tipped her chin upward in indignation. A bad move, because his arms clamped about her waist and the next thing she knew, she was up against him. Oh, he felt so good! Say no! Tell him to stop.

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