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"Oh, you are an infamous creature to bait me so!"
Manners in mind, Luke got up when Miss Dane did, and stooped when she didand hit her head with his. A spike of pain sent him bouncing back to land on his heels, swearing. He heard Miss Dane cry out. Still swearing, Luke grabbed her as she lost her balance. She fell into his arms and curled into a ball. Luke shut his eyes. Little gasps came drifting up to him, and as his own pain became an ache, he looked down to find Miss Dane clutching her head.
"Let me see." He turned her in his lap and pried her hands from her head.
"II shall be fine."
Luke ignored her, touched her chin with his fingers, and tilted her head. He touched her hair at the spot she'd been protecting, and Miss Dane cried out.
"Quit your blithering and let me look at your head."
"I'm quite well, sir. Please allow me to rise."
Luke dropped his arms and let her slip to the floor. Giving him a scowl for such indecorous treatment, Miss Dane battled with her skirts, then tried to stand. Luke was ready when she wavered and caught her before she fell again.
"Daft little blighter." He gathered her in his arms and lifted her to the couch. "You got a right good size knot on your head. Loosen your hair."
"I shan't do that," Miss Dane replied as she lay back on the couch. "It's improper."
Luke knew better than to argue with Miss Dane about propriety. He knelt beside her and began pulling pins from her hair.
"What are you doing?"
"Relieving the pressure on your poor head, daft creature."
She grabbed his wrists and glared at him. "Stop!"
They had touched each other before, but Luke couldn't remember Miss Dane ever voluntarily placing her bare flesh against his. Now her fingers pressed against his wrists and the cuffs of his shirt. Her skin warmed his. He could feel his pulse throbbing against the pressure of her hands. And the sunlight turned her cascading hair to divine fire.
"Divine fire," he whispered to himself.
"What?" she asked, meeting his gaze with confusion.
He was distracted by hues of bottle green, teal, and gray, and without thinking, drew closer to her. It seemed the most natural action, kissing her. And it was like drinking enchantment. His body warmed as though the fire of her hair wrapped itself around him.
Even as he tasted her, learned her mouth, and taught her how to learn his, he was astonished. Luke had kissed countless women, and he had, without thinking about it, expected Miss Dane to be like the rest. What foolery. She had never been like the rest. When he kissed her, he felt the effect of an entire bottle of cognac.
He could feel her heart against his chest. No, that thumping wasn't her heart. Luke surfaced from his private world of the flesh to find Miss Dane's small fist pounding at him. He pulled back from her, but she kept hitting him. He captured her hands.
"Stop it," he snapped.
She went still and gaped at him, her eyes wide and her hair in a tangle around her face. Kneeling before her with his eyes closed, Luke came back to himself slowly. He controlled his breathing and willed his body into a more respectable state. And when he opened his eyes this time, he looked at Primrose Dane with transformed vision. How had she remained a spinster, a girl who could kiss like that? Of course, quite likely no one had ever bothered to kiss her before.