Kitty’s blood hammered through her veins. Garrick, in this very private, very enclosed, very remote space—blocking the only exit.
Don’t panic. She gripped the edge of the bench and forced her gaze to meet his. “Garrick, I’m surprised to see you here. I thought you’d gone into the village.”
He gave her a canny smile and sauntered toward her. “Change of plans.” He lifted one booted foot to set it on the bench entirely too close to her hip, and hinged forward. “I thought I’d surprise you on your walk. Surprise.”
A chill went down her spine. He’d been following her, and she hadn’t a clue.
“Kitty, you must know by now if I want something, I’m bound to get it.” Garrick’s eyes gleamed with a sort of mania or madness. It frightened her more than the loathing she’d come to expect.
“What is it you’re after, Garrick?” She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to disguise the tiny tremors coursing through her.
“What do I want,” he said, as if savoring the words. “A private word. It’s been so long since we’ve had a moment alone.”
She slid to one side of the bench. “Why don’t you sit down. It will make it so much easier for us to converse.” And for me to run for the exit.
He lifted his brows. Glanced deliberately over his shoulder. With a sardonic smile, he lowered himself to sit beside her, much too close for comfort. His thigh pressed into hers.
Kitty kept her expression carefully blank. “What did you wish to discuss?”
Garrick stared at her, his dark eyes like vacuous pits against his too pale complexion. “I saw you the other night, you know.”
“When you were whoring with Thurgood.”
A hot flush burned her cheeks. That anyone should see her in such an intimate circumstance, much less Garrick, mortified her beyond words.
“Nice effect with the missish blush.” He crooked a finger under his chin, and fixed her with speculative eyes. “Seeing the two of you did make me reconsider Claybourne’s claim you’d been compromised. Not that it changes things.” He paused a beat. “He’ll never marry you, you know. Not after you’ve let him sample your wares.”
“I’ve heard quite enough,” she said, vibrating with welcome, righteous anger.
She half-rose, but Garrick grasped her forearm, his fingers like steel. “We’re not finished here,” he said through gritted teeth.”
Kitty didn’t know why she ran. Yet here she was, pacing her sitting room like a caged animal. Again.
It was all Zeke’s fault. Zeke and his pesky habit of sneaking up on her.
She could still see him, forcing his way into their game, looking so bloody sure of himself as he claimed her kiss like it was his right to do so.
Like she could imagine him doing. She closed her eyes, and touched her fingers to her lips, silently admitting the truth.
She’d run from herself. From the unrelenting ache within her for more of Zeke’s sweet, addicting kisses.
Dropping her hand to her side, Kitty wandered to the window and looked out on the wet earth, feeling both dismal and yet strangely alive. She’d never experienced anything like it. In the beginning, she hungered for just one kiss from him. But one kiss only made her crave more.
More kisses, more touching, more…she didn’t even know, only “that whatever it was, she wanted it from Zeke in spades.
Why did it hurt and feel so good at the same time? It made no sense. She wished she could seek advice, but, as always, she had no one to ask.
She’d simply have to rely on common sense, and hope she got it right.
So what was the sensible thing to do here? She might want Zeke to kiss her, and hold her, and make her feel things she’d never felt. But what good could come of giving in to such desires? A sinking surety filled her.
She must remember five months from now he’d be leaving England. She couldn’t let him take her heart with him.
Time to employ your long absent willpower, Christine Hastings, she commanded herself silently.
She could withstand both Zeke’s seductive charm, and her own weakness for the man, by God, and she’d start now, this instant, by not hiding in her room.”
She marched to the door, yanked it open, and found herself face to face with Zeke, fist poised, ready to knock.
She stared up at him. He grinned boyishly, looking almost, almost, unsure of himself.
Her insides melted, and her breath caught in her throat. She was off to a banging start.
“May I come in?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but pushed past Kitty into the antechamber of her suite.
She spun around, prepared to blast him for his audacity. Instead, the sight of his large, masculine frame in her terribly feminine chamber, with its delicate silver damask armchair and matching settee, its rosewood escritoire and hand painted, flower-papered walls, struck her as nothing short of hilarious. She brought her fingers to her quivering lips to cover her amusement.
Zeke’s boyish grin was still in place. “I brought you this.” He held the missing atlas toward her.
She blinked, fought the wave of tenderness his thoughtful act elicited.”
“Now you say, thank you, Zeke.”
His mocking tone broke her momentary trance. Twisting around, she craned her neck past the doorjamb to glance up and down the corridor. Lucky for both of them, no one was about. Straightening, she turned back to Zeke. “Thank you for bringing it. Now you’ve delivered it, you may leave.”
Zeke’s brows furrowed slightly. He tossed the leather bound book onto her settee. “Why?”
“You know very well you can’t be in here,” she hissed.
He gave himself a once-over, then spread his arms wide. “I can’t?”
“You know what I mean. You shouldn’t be here. Someone might see you.”
Zeke reached over her head, leaned forward, closed the door, then flattened his palm against the frame, in one fluid move. Mere inches separated them. Heat emanated from his body, transmitting itself to hers like an intimate caress. His eyes, the color of blue smoke, locked with hers. “Is that better?”
“You deliberately miss the point,” she said, but without much heat.
His unblinking gaze dropped to her mouth. He licked his lips, parted them slightly.
Kitty went hot all over and her knees threatened to buckle. He was too close. His[…]”
He swiveled to face her, and leaned negligently on the door, his arms crossed over his chest.
She’d had to call on all her reserves to keep from wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging to him like a vine, and he had the nerve to stand there looking cool as a cucumber. How very irritating. She grasped her ire to her chest like a shield. “Why are you here?” she asked. “Really.”
“I thought you’d appreciate having the atlas you risked life and limb for last night. And…I wanted to talk to you. I would’ve preferred a more appropriate venue, but you’ve given me little choice, since you keep sequestering yourself in your cave—and don’t bother denying it.”
So he noticed her absence. Ruthlessly, she quashed the little thrill shooting through her at the revelation.
Excerpt From: Kimberly Keyes. “The Trouble with Tigers.” Apple Books.