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So, do tell. Who is this woman who’ s stolen your heart?"
Damien turned to look at Celia, panic racing through his veins. How had she found out? Had he been that obvious? He’ d never confessed his secret to anyone. Certainly not to her.
Offering a polite smile, he cocked his head to the side, his brows drawn together in feigned ignorance. "Whatever do you mean?"
She smiled, her golden-green eyes dancing merrily, every bit the saucy minx he knew her to be, for she’ d been a friend for years. As of late he’ d yearned for so much more with her. She was the only woman who ever mattered in his life. "Come now, Damien. You’ ve been in a dreadful mood since you arrived. Perhaps you’ re missing a special lady?"
He frowned. She couldn’ t be further from the truth. Indeed, the special lady she spoke of existed.
But he was looking right at her, though she hadn’ t a clue.
And she never would.
"I apologize for my somber mood." He nodded, enchanted with the mischievous smile curling her lush lips. Her mouth was made for sin. He’ d imagined more than once her doing all sorts of things to his body with that mouth. Decadent, wicked things no man suggested to a lady of her station.
And he was so far beneath her station he had no right to even think of such wicked acts.
"Oh, do stop acting the proper gentleman. It’ s just me." Celia shook her head, wayward tendrils of dark brown hair brushing against her flushed cheeks. Pretty rounded cheeks he longed to kiss. Caress with his fingers. Whisper sweet words against...
"Indeed. So I shall treat you like the pesky little sister and tell you to shove off." She laughed at his grouchy statement, the sweet sound causing longing to rise within him. A longing he’ d be able to stave off for all these torturous years.
But he couldn’ t endure it any longer. Every time he was near Celia, the urge to tell her how he felt was too strong. He’ d almost slipped numerous times since arriving two nights ago, clamping his lips shut before the words tumbled out.
To slip would be disastrous. An act he might never recover from. For surely she would refuseor even worse, laugh. Call him silly, slap him on the arm like she usually did and tell him to stop fooling.
He wasn’ t fooling. He was madly in love with her.
"You’ d never behave in such a manner. You’ ve always been so kind to me." She curled her arm through his and squeezed, leaning her head against his shoulder. His eyes closed at the quick contact, and he savored the sensation of her touching him and the scent of her hair. She acted as if she cared.
His eyes flew open. Blast. He knew she cared. She just didn’ t care for him in the manner he wanted her to.
His agonizing predicament was further exacerbated by his leaving. He’ d expressed to the Earl of Urswick well over a year ago his interest in finding another position, preferably abroad. Within the last month, Urswick had made his wish come true. Damien was leaving England to work for a marquis with a rather grand estate in the French countryside.
"You were my best friend’ s wife." His mouth dried at his reference to Lawrence. "Of course I’ m kind to you. I promised him I would look after you." While the man had lain dying on a makeshift cot in a tattered, dirty tent in the middle of a bloody battle, Lawrence had begged him to take care of his wife. And now not only did he lust for the woman, but he was leaving. Breaking his promise.
He was the most despicable of men.
She watched him with big, liquid eyes. The adoring glow in her gaze threw him. "That was so long ago. He wouldn’ t hold you to your word forever.