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Nick Caulfield, the Earl of Devonshire, found the power to breathe, either in or out, quite beyond his capability. The scalding tea he’d hardly dared to sip had gushed into his mouth like boiling lava. He swallowed the whole of it unnoticed.
He sat in the Redford’s second-floor sitting room. The sounds of the city beyond the large front windows were hushed by distance, thick brick walls and heavy drapery. All he heard, over her echoing and totally outrageous proposition, was the blood pounding in his head and the soft constant tick of a grandfather clock in the room’s far corner.
Lady Emily Redford sat facing him. Her slightly embarrassed flush proved nothing compared to the growing colour in the man sitting opposite her. Her eyes grew huge as she watched his lightly tanned skin deepen to fire red. “Are you all right? You said the tea was too hot. Why did you drink it like that?”
“What tea?” he almost bellowed as he finally regained the ability to breathe. And slamming the delicate china cup and saucer on the Chippendale table that separated them, he furthered the bellow with, “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Stop shouting!” she returned none too softly herself then glanced around the room as if expecting another to suddenly materialise, even knowing they were quite alone. “The servants will...”
His voice grew low, almost sinister as he mimicked, “Oh, the servants. We wouldn’t want them shocked to hear of the lady’s plans, now would we? Jesus, if you aren’t the most ridiculous, outrageous woman, I’d like to know who the bloody hell is.”
Emmy took a deep breath. All she’d wanted was a piece of advice, an idea or suggestion, pertaining to the art of lovemaking. And who better to ask? Granted, she had imagined he might know some surprise at her proposition, but she never would have thought he’d grow this upset. “There’s no need for you to use that language, Nicky. A simple no would surely have sufficed.”
She should have known better than to ask. Her plan was indeed outrageous by most standards, she supposed, but Nick didn’t know, couldn’t ever know the loneliness, the need, the hunger that filled her world. Yes, she had friends, but friends weren’t enough when faced with endless nights alone. She wanted, she needed more. Only she couldn’t exactly name her yearning. All she knew for sure was she didn’t want to marry. No, she’d already suffered through that delightful state and thought she could manage quite nicely without repeating it. “You said I could tell you anything.”
“If I remember correctly it wasn’t something you told me, but something you asked of me.”
“Nicky, calm down and think. Who could do a better job of it? There’s hardly a woman in all of London who cannot boast of knowing your expertise in bed. Is it too much to ask that you give your best friend a few pointers?”
He came suddenly to his feet. “I’m leaving. Let me know if or when you come to your senses.”
Now that her plan had been disclosed, Emmy hurriedly rethought her proposal and back-tracked. It wouldn’t do at all should Nicky contact her brother. Granted, she was an independent woman of more than a little means, and Johnny couldn’t stop her once she’d made up her mind. Still an irate brother was bound to cause her a problem or two. “Wait! Don’t go off in a huff,” she said then hurriedly added a weak, “I was only teasing.”
He looked at her for a long moment, studying her poised, delicate and ever so lady-like manner, her wide-eyed, oh-so-obvious innocence and wondered if he hadn’t somehow misunderstood. “Were you?”