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Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.
Henry Fielding from Love in Several Masques IV.xi
Collette Jardiniere, swaying from side to side with the rhythm of the train, pushed up her wire-framed spectacles, struck a match and tried to touch it to the wick of her candle. Professor Stiltson's invention, a candle holder with a spring-loaded clip, should have made it easy, but to clip it to the arm of the train seat would put it too low to read her book by, and so she was holding the awkward little metal holder and trying again to strike a match. Infernal inventions, both of them! To be successful seemed to require the many arms of Kali, a Hindu goddess she had read of in a fascinating book on the Indian colonies. Kali embodied destruction and rebirth, and thus the power of the feminine capacity for giving life. Collette contrarily felt the urge for destruction in that moment as she struggled with the idiotic candle.
"May I be of assistance?"
The deep voice at her elbow startled her and her match went out. "Oh, carruthers and botheration!" she cried, nursing the burnt tip of her finger.
"I beg your pardon, miss?"
Collette lit another match and glanced up, intending to send the impertinent fellow on his way and then make another attempt to light the wick. But her gaze caught and held. She found she could not look away. At her shoulder stood a gentleman of impeccable dress and dashing looks. In her mind she was scribbling madly
He had the powerful good looks of any man about town, but there was something more elemental in the deep charcoal gray of his eyes and the intensity of his gaze. He was a man one could not overlook, a man of such masculine vigor and subtle
She snapped back to attention as the match burned down and touched her fingers with blistering heat yet again. "Carruthers and botheration!" she exclaimed, tossing the match down hastily and touching her burnt finger to her tongue to soothe it.
The handsome stranger reached for her other hand and Collette experienced a tingle of anticipation as he touched her. She went perfectly still in the dim light. Well, how fascinating! It was true after all, what all the other women writers wrote! There were some men who exuded a powerful aura of magnetism, and this was one of them. He took the candle from her, lit a match and touched it to the wick. Light flared between them. He extinguished the match. Every movement was elegant and controlled, exquisitely composed, perfectly planned.
As she gazed at him in the flickering candlelight, Collette could see she had not been mistaken. Not only was he good-looking, there was something in the set of his broad shoulders and incredible eyes that made a woman want to reach out and touch his face, caress his hand, perhaps even Yes, well, some things were better left unthought. Her heart thumped an erratic beat. What an opportunity! Never had she been this close to a man of such charisma and commanding force. She had only ever imagined him and she was beginning to feel that the creation of her imagination might be just a pallid shadow of the real thing.