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William's deep voice hypnotized her, almost as if he were luring her into seduction. Laying her head on the back of the sofa and turning slightly, she stared at his profile and absorbed his words. After three more stories, he had complete control over her body and mind whether he wanted it or not.
When the servant announced the children's bedtime, Mercedes jumped to a sitting position and blinked the daze from her eyes. James gave her a kiss on the cheek, then a hug. Lizzy wouldn't kiss her, but she received a small hug from the little girl.
Mercedes' heart tugged from their sweet gestures. Lizzy and James placed a kiss on their father's cheek before leaving the room with Jane. Although Mercedes never conceived with her husband, perhaps someday she'd find a man to have children with who would shower such affection on her.
William closed the book and placed it on the coffee table in front of them. He stretched his arms over his head. It fascinated her the way the fabric of his clothes pulled tight across his muscles. Yes, he was certainly masculine.
Relaxing on the sofa, he laid his arm across the back and turned and looked at her. His hand lay dangerously close to her shoulder and she wanted to cuddle against it.
A smile touched his lips. "Thank you for coming down to be with the children. They really enjoyed your presence this evening."
She returned a smile. "It was my pleasure." She glanced over at the parlor door, then back to him. "But why did they leave before supper?"
"They have already eaten."
"Why can they not share the meal with us?"
He opened his mouth to answer, but hesitated as his brows drew together. "I have never thought ofthat." He shrugged. "I suppose they may join us, if that is what you wish."
"I think it would be wonderful to have them with us at meals."
"Why would you find that wonderful?" He turned his body her way. "In fact, why are you here right now? Why did you even join us tonight?"
She sighed heavily. Oh, not again. "I have not done so lately, and I wished to get to know you and your children better." She paused. "Does that make me a criminal?"
"No, just different from the Kat I know."
She tried to swallow the lump caught in her throat. Dare she encourage him? "Then forget the woman you once knew and look more closely at the Mercedes sitting next to you now. I assure you they are two different people."
His gaze touched every inch of her face before resting on her lips. It warmed her skin. Her tongue slipped out on its own volition and moistened the dryness on her lips.
She froze. Why did she do that? Now he was going to yell at her for purposely trying to tempt him. She waited for him to unleash his anger, but he remained calm and relaxed. Envious of his ability to stay composed, she worried her whole body would come apart at any moment.
"At times you almost have me fooled, Mrs. Braxton. Deep down I want to believe you are different, but I have lived with you long enough to know otherwise." His fingers moved to her cheek and stroked her skin. Tingles danced down her spine.
"Outwardly," he continued, "you are the beautiful woman I thought I had married, but..." His finger trailed down her neck to her chest, hovering over one breast, brushing over the fichu material.
She held her breath. Her body ached for his final touch. Would he be so bold?
"Inside this beautiful woman lurks evil, more dark and sinister than I could have imagined. You have plans swimming around in your lovely head that are meant to hurt and destroy people's lives."
Inwardly, she cringed. What exactly had her sister done to him to make him say such things? To even believe them? She wanted to scream, to confess her true identity simply to hear soft, gentle words leave his mouth. Words not etched in hardened pain. Deep down she sensed he was a kindhearted man.
With her subtle turn, his hand slid over the curve of her breast. She hitched a breath as crashing waves of heat spread to every nerve of her body, but she didn't remove the source of pleasure. His wide eyes darkened. Could he feel the energy between them?
Her heartbeat quickened. Would he detect the fast rhythm beneath his hand? She cleared her throat, but her breathing turned raspy and she wasn't certain if she could speak.
"William," she whispered, her breaths coming in short gasps. "You should not be so unkind. You do not know what happened to me in England."
"Shhh," he instructed in husky tones.
She wanted to tell him more, but his hand lightly squeezed her breast. Holding her breath, she waited for his next move.
"Say no more." He leaned closer as his other arm dropped from the back of the sofa and circled her shoulders, his mouth mere inches above hers. "I do not want to know what happened. But just for tonight, I want to imagine you are somebody else and not the selfish woman I married."
"I am somebody else," she whispered.
He touched his lips to hers. Heated sparks multiplied through her body, and she released a soft moan. His lips pecked at hers and then caressed back and forth, urging her to relax. She mirrored his movements. He pulled her closer and she laid her hand on his chest. Beneath her palm, the wild beat of his heart vibrated. Her heartbeat matched his rhythm perfectly.
He suckled lightly on her lips, first the top then the bottom, and she melted in his arms. Nibbling on her lips, he pulled them open. When his tongue entered, he groaned and crushed his mouth over hers. She'd never felt anything so erotic in her life. Her husband had been too demanding, and she liked the gentleness William displayed much more. Liquid heat danced through parts of her body she'd never experienced before.
His hot, velvet tongue swept through her mouth, hungry and restless. Fingers plucked at the hardened tip forming in her bodice. She moaned in pure pleasure. He pulled her body against his, and she reveled in the hard feel of him against her.
She itched to touch him, to run her fingers through his dark hair just like she'd imagined that first day when she met him. But before she could summon the courage, the dinner bell rang. He jerked away. His widened gray eyes smoldered. His gaze switched between her eyes and his hand, brows drawing together in confusion.
She caught her breath. Did he doubt his actions? She hadn't ... she wanted more.
"William." She reached out to touch him, but he jumped from the sofa as if he'd been burned.
"Mrs. Braxton." His tone was once again cold. "I hope you have a nice meal tonight, because I have suddenly lost my appetite."
He rushed out of the parlor. The slamming of the front door confirmed his departure.