Home > The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1)(6)

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1)(6)
Author: Tessa Dare

“Well?” he prompted. “I’m waiting.”

Emma retrieved her measuring tape. She’d begun this little farce, and she couldn’t back down from it.

“How did you know where to find this shop?” she asked, suspicious. “Did you follow me?”

“I am a duke. Of course I didn’t follow you. I had you followed. It’s an entirely different thing.”

She shook her head, unfurling the measuring tape. “And yet no less disturbing.”

“Disturbing? Yesterday you turned down a lifetime of wealth in favor of two pounds, three shillings in ready coin, and then fled from my house as though it were afire. Has it not occurred to you that I might have pursued you out of some genuine concern for your well-being?”

She gave him a doubtful look.

“I’m not saying I did. Only that it should have occurred to you.”

Emma moved behind him and stretched her measuring tape from his left shoulder to his wrist, ostensibly taking the length of his sleeve. In actuality, most of her concentration was consumed with ignoring his closeness. Only a single layer of fine, crisp linen separated her touch from his body, and she had no desire to relive that buzzing shock of connection they’d shared in his library.

You can’t leave now. We’re just starting to have fun.

She took the measurement from one shoulder to the other. When she inhaled, she drew in the masculine scents of shaving soap and rich cologne.

None of this was helping with her focus problem.

“You’re not writing these measurements down,” he said.

“I don’t need to. I’ll remember.”

Unfortunately. Whether she wished it or not, Emma knew this encounter would be burned into her memory forever. Or if not forever, at least until she was sufficiently old and feebleminded to hold conversations with a squash.

She turned the tape vertically and put one end to the nape of his neck. A mistake. Now, atop all these unwanted memories, she’d added the feel of his shorn hair. It had the texture of expensive velvet, with a dense, luxurious pile.

Velvet, Emma? Really?

“Almost finished. I’ll just measure your chest now.” She held the end of the tape on one side of his rib cage, and then turned to circle him in the opposite direction, drawing the tape across the satin backing of his waistcoat and all the way around, meeting both ends at his breastbone.

She cinched the tape. He winced.

Good.

There, now. She had the beast on a leash.

So why did she feel like his captive?

It wasn’t his scars that intimidated her. Quite the reverse. When she stood this close, her gaze couldn’t take in both halves of him at the same time. She had to choose a side.

Emma knew with a sinking heart which one would capture her. There were two approaches to successful dressmaking—to find flaws and conceal them, or to bring out the hidden beauty. She’d always believed in the latter method, and oh, it came back to bite her today.

Don’t do it, Emma. Don’t give your foolish heart an inch of rope, or it will have you tied in knots.

But it was too late. Now, as she looked up at him, all she could see was a man. One with searching blue eyes and a hidden heart beating in a strong, defiant rhythm.

A man with wants, needs. Desires.

A man who’d reached out for her yesterday, and now . . .

And now gave every indication of leaning in for a kiss.

 

 

Chapter Three

 


Ash had never wanted to kiss a woman more.

He wanted to kiss her so badly, he could taste it. He’d devour the pink sweetness in those lips, stroke all the tart words from the tip of her tongue. Teach her a lesson or two. Leave her breathless. Rattle her to her bones.

He wanted to do far more than kiss her, of course. As he leaned forward, he could peer through the gap of her fichu and catch a glimpse of the valley between her breasts—that dark, fragrant rift that held so many promises of pleasure.

By Venus’s hand.

A few years ago, he would have kissed her, and more. He would have seduced her with a campaign of little trinkets and witty teasing. She would have come willingly, even eagerly, to his bed, where they would have enjoyed one another. Thoroughly.

But that was in the past. His once-charming wit had been replaced by smoldering anger, and his once-attractive face had been rearranged. No woman would be wooed by the kisses of a bitter, disfigured wretch.

It didn’t matter. He didn’t need to woo a lover. He needed to secure a wife. Wed her, bed her, and, once she was swelling with his heir, tuck her away in the country. The end.

He straightened, arching a sardonic eyebrow. A fortunate thing, that he still had one eyebrow intact. What was being a duke, if not arching a sardonic eyebrow?

She released the tape. “Choose your fabric at the draper’s and have five yards sent over. With your coloring, I suggest a pink brocade.”

His tilted his head. “Really? I was thinking of peach.”

She gathered his hat, cloak, gloves, and walking stick and pushed them into his arms. “And now I must ask you to leave. I need to be getting home.”

“We can accomplish both those things at once. I’ll take you home. My carriage is just outside.”

“Thank you, I prefer to walk.”

“More convenient still. My feet are even closer than the carriage.”

She headed for the rear exit of the shop. Ash replaced his topcoat, cloak, gloves, and hat, then followed her out into a dank, reeking alleyway. With his long strides to her short ones, he quickly made up the ground.

Her shoes tapped over the cobblestones at an irritated clip. “I will not be your mistress. My body is not for let.”

“That can’t be entirely true. You’re a seamstress, aren’t you? Your fingers are for let.”

“If you don’t know the difference between a woman’s fingers and her womb, I would definitely not share a bed with you.”

After a moment’s stunned pause, he laughed. It was a rusty, unappealing sound. He supposed he was out of practice.

“I do know the difference.” He reached for her ungloved hand and brushed his thumb over each of her fingertips. “You can trust I won’t confuse the two.”

He stroked a callus on the tip of her second finger. It made him angry. A gentleman’s daughter should have soft hands, but life had hardened her in these small ways. He had disturbing fancies of lifting her hand to his lips and kissing all that hurt away.

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