The Storm Inside

I had no words for this. I couldn’t truthfully say I hadn’t heard the rumours, too. But why was I suddenly feeling the need to defend de Grave? I knew, in my heart of hearts, that what Lord Windham was saying was true. I had argued as much to my own guardian. Yet, somehow, I felt a strong need to defend de Grave. For Izzie’s sake, I reasoned, as I opened my mouth to issue forth another rejoinder.

The words never left my mouth. Before I knew what was happening, Lord Windham’s mouth was on mine, stifling whatever argument I was about to make.

I had been kissed before. Once, to be precise, by the son of one of Lady Huxtable’s bridge partners. We had been thirteen at the time and at a picnic. That time, the kiss had taken me by surprise, too.

But this time was nothing like the last.

To begin with, this kiss lasted much longer. I lost track of time, space, setting, being. Everything save the kiss. His hands were gently cupping my face, exploring the curve of my jaw, his thumbs rough against my skin.

Another difference? The first time I didn’t kiss back.

Lord Windham was the first to break the spell. He pulled back and wiped his mouth. “I am so sorry. That was unforgivable of me. But you are to blame, Miss Delacourt. No woman has ever had the talent of driving me to distraction quite like you.”

He smiled ruefully into my eyes. As if begging me to forgive him. And to forget.

“Still friends?” he asked, offering a hand. I steeled myself and shook his hand with a steady grip.

“Friends,” I said, unable to unclench my teeth despite my best efforts.

Lord Windham walked me back into the ballroom, my hand back under his arm. I longed to twist it out of his grip, but I knew this would be bad manners and really very petty of me. So I left it where it was and pasted a vapid smile on my face so that nobody would know a storm was currently roiling inside me.

The End

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