Read Undone Online

Authors: Lila Dipasqua

Tags: #General Fiction

Undone (5 page)

BOOK: Undone
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Her blood froze.
No…
She couldn’t have heard correctly. He hadn’t said… “
France?
” The word tumbled from her lips, barely a whisper.

“Yes. You were injured, and I brought you here onboard one of my ships. I had a physician summoned for you. I’m told he even speaks some Italian,” he said.

Motionless, she simply stared at him in horrified astonishment. Then she looked around the chamber, reeling under the enormity of the situation.

Dear God… This can’t be real.
For the first time in ten years, she was no longer within the sanctuary of the convent. Or within the safe borders of the Republic of Genoa. She was back in France. The very place her nightmares had begun. She was at risk. In danger. Vulnerable.

Judging from the clothes he wore and the lavish surroundings, this man was no doubt a French noble. For that reason alone he couldn’t be trusted. Did Madre Paola have something to do with this? Could she have learned her identity?
No. That’s impossible!

And why on earth had he brought Gabriella here too?

“I was in a
convent
. How did you do this?” she demanded a little too fiercely. The pain made her flinch.

“I was on my way to my ship when we
met
outside the convent,” he said, still with a smile on his handsome face. “You make quite a first impression.”

He
was the man outside? Heat rushed to her cheeks as the memory of her body on top of his flooded her distressed mind. “You followed me into the convent? Why?”

At that, he gave a soft chuckle and shook his head. “If truth be told, I’m not at all certain. It isn’t every day a man is knocked off his feet by a woman. Literally,” he gently teased. “After our rather unorthodox meeting, you had me most intrigued. I wanted to speak to you. Perhaps it was fate that I was at the right place at the right time to be of service to you,” he stated, looking rather pleased with himself.

Service?
If by “service” he meant bringing her to France, then his “service” had placed her in great peril. “How dare you!”

His smile died. “
Pardon?

“You had no right to take me from the convent… I demand you return my friend and me at once!”

He looked completely stunned.

“Signorina,” he said, crossing his arms, “you were knocked unconscious, sustained welts to your head and a rather large bruise to your cheek, and
you wish to return
?”

She touched her aching cheek. She knew he was wondering if her injury was affecting her mind, but she didn’t care what he thought. She had to leave France. Immediately. Think. Think.
Think!

He seemed genuine in his belief that he’d somehow aided her. She was fairly certain he was in no way tied to the man in her past. Yet she wasn’t about to trust him. Or anyone. Somehow, she had to convince him to return her to the convent. Without explanation.
Now.

“You don’t understand… What you have done is…very wrong. We must return straightaway.” Before
he
found out she was in France.

She scanned the room for her missing headdress and shoes, but the quick movements of her head only made her feel worse, forcing her to stop and rest her forehead in her palm.

By the time she finally looked up again, she found him sitting patiently in the chair Marta had occupied, quietly studying her. Although the pose was casual, his scrutiny was not. She felt as though he could read her every thought—know her every secret. Adding to her distress was his closeness. She could detect the appealing scent of his soap, making her feel further flustered.

“What is your full name, Angelica?” Hearing her name from his lips sent an odd tingle down her spine.

She could lie. She could select any name to tell him. She could barely focus with this horrible throbbing in her head, much less invent any believable stories for this tall, dark stranger.

“Angelica?” Leaning forward, he slipped his fingers beneath her chin. She froze. His unexpected touch was gentle and warm as he held her face and her complete attention. “It is just your name,” he said, clearly reading her reluctance. “Surely, you can share it.”

No, she couldn’t. Nor was she about to.

*****

Simon gazed at his moonlight angel.
Jésus-Christ
, she had the sweetest face and the most beautiful moss-green eyes he’d ever seen. In fact, from the moment they’d first touched upon him at the doorway, he felt it down to his groin. Just like last eve, his unruly cock was fully alert to her presence. And eager to please.

He couldn’t believe how powerfully attracted he was to this woman.

She remained silent, much to his regret, intent on remaining a mystery.

She was as perplexing as she was bedazzling. Even with the bruise on her cheek, dressed in that unflattering gray garb, she was dangerously alluring, possessing the kind of beauty that could bring a man to his knees. It didn’t help that her adorably curly chestnut-colored hair, was sensuously tousled, as if she’d spent some time at carnal play.

If he’d been intrigued by her before, he was doubly so now. He wanted to know everything. He supposed he could ask her friend, but he wanted to learn the information from Angelica directly.

In truth, he wanted more than just information about her.

He wanted to know the taste of her lips, her skin. Her speaking voice was so silky smooth and just as entrancing as her singing had been. He wanted to know the sultry sounds she’d make in the throes of passion.
Dieu
. He wanted to fuck her so badly—a woman whom he considered untouchable.

Reluctantly, he drew his hand away, keeping his expression mild, giving no indication of the havoc she was wreaking on his libido. She’d been through an ordeal and was understandably disquieted. Confident that in due time he’d gain the answers to the questions he had about her, he didn’t see any reason to press her now.

“Why have you brought my friend here?” she asked, breaking her silence.

He sat back before he spoke, needing some space between him and his moonlight temptress. “Gabriella assisted me when you were injured and insisted I bring her with me also. She is well and safe. You are safe here too. I know this is overwhelming, waking up in a strange place, but I am not your adversary. Let us be friends. I gave Gabriella my word that I would assist you both in whatever capacity you need.”

She looked down at her hands. He took the opportunity to admire her profile. She had the softest skin. He itched to touch her once more.

“I know you don’t understand, but we must return to the convent,” she said. “Transportation there is the only assistance we require.”

Back to
that
. “You are correct. I don’t understand.”

“It is our home.”

Did she know how beguiling her eyes were? “Then it’s a miserable one.”

“It’s been my home for ten years.”

Mentally, he groaned. Hidden in a convent for that much of her life made her more innocent than he could comfortably accept. Though his eager cock didn’t take exception to the news, his conscience was another matter. He still had a few scraps of honor left. No matter how desirable she was, he was not going to prey on her virtue.

“Why have you been there so long?”

He watched her give careful consideration to whether or not she should answer him.

“My parents are dead,” she said at last. “I’ve been part of the orphanage in the convent ever since.”

“Orphanage? An orphanage is for children. You are not a child.” His eyes dipped briefly to her breasts, the curves of which were visible despite her attempts to hide them with the bed linen and that drab garment she wore.

“I help the Sisters with the children there.”

“I see,” he said, feeling frustrated by the situation he’d created for himself. “I’d be pleased to return you and Gabriella to any family member or friend you wish. However, I won’t return you to your convent and put you at risk for more abuse.” The thought was abhorrent to him. And the last thing he wanted was to be a party to more suffering.

She opened her mouth, ready to object. A knock at the door stopped her.

“Enter,” he ordered.

Henri stepped in. “Captain, the physician is here. Shall I send him up?”

“Yes, and bring something for the mademoiselle to eat.”

The servant gave a curt bow and left. Simon moved toward the door.

“Wait!” she called out.

He stopped and turned toward her.

“You have no right to decide where I or Gabriella should live. If you are willing to deliver us anywhere, then the convent is no more of an inconvenience to you.”

He could make no sense of it. She appeared to be an intelligent woman. Why wasn’t she elated to be out of that deplorable convent? Why the hell would she wish to return to a place that would subject her to such ill treatment?

The light rap at the door drew his attention. Simon opened it and allowed the physician in. Although smaller in stature, he was of a similar age and coloring to Simon. They exchanged polite greetings.


Mademoiselle.
” The physician smiled at his comely patient and moved toward Angelica before Simon could make introductions. “
You’re awake. Excellent. I am Bernard Toussaint, a physician.
” The French words tumbled from his mouth.

Her eyes darted from Toussaint to Simon.

Simon instantly read the uncertainty in her eyes as ignorance of the language. “
Sir, the young lady doesn’t speak French. In Italian, please,
” he told the physician in his native tongue.

“Ah, yes. Of course. Signorina, I can speak Italian. How are you feeling?”

She turned those expressive eyes to Simon once more as he watched her bite her bottom lip, looking unsure and completely engaging. Oh, how he wanted to do the very same thing to that pretty bottom lip. She was driving him mad with the simplest, most innocent act. And he was beginning to resent this untamable effect she had on him.

“I have a horrible headache,” she replied.

“That is understandable.” The physician was grinning at her like a besotted fool. “I’ve been told you have a rather nasty bump on your head. If I may, I’d like to look at it.”

Simon knew he should leave, but his boots were fixed to the floor, and he hadn’t the ability to move them.

She lowered her head to allow Toussaint to examine her.

The physician carefully began to move her hair, touching her head gently with his fingertips. Simon placed his hands on his hips and looked away, trying not to think about how silky her gorgeous tresses had felt between his fingers. Or how much he wanted to dive his hands into those soft, loose curls, tilt her head back with a sensual tug, and feast on that perfect mouth of hers.

“Well, it would appear that you are a fortunate woman,” Toussaint said. “I don’t believe your injuries are serious.” The physician eased her down onto her back. She lay stiffly, watching Toussaint warily. Her hands still clutched the bed linens to her chest.

From Simon’s vantage point, he could easily appreciate her form with the discerning eye of a libertine. Against his will, his mind flitted through the various ways in which he could coax the stiffness from her body. The various ways to make her warm and yielding—just for him.

“I would advise you to stay abed a few days. I shall leave you some headache powders to help with your pain.” Toussaint’s gaze lingered on Angelica’s face, more of a perusal of her fine features than an assessment of injury.

Simon strode over to the door and snatched it open. “Thank you.” He didn’t miss Toussaint’s look of surprise at the abrupt dismissal.

“Yes…well, you’re quite welcome.” Turning to Angelica, the physician picked up her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckle. “It was my pleasure.”

*****

Alone at last in her chamber, Angelica took in a fortifying breath. She was going to have to flee from France. Having escaped these borders before, she knew she could do it again. She was accustomed to overcoming challenges. She hadn’t survived this long without that skill. Securing Simon de Villette’s help would make things easier. However, with or without the stranger’s assistance, she would gather Gabriella and leave the realm for good. She could not—would not—remain here.

It was far too dangerous.

Men like Nicolas Fouquet didn’t change, no matter how many years passed.

Nicolas Fouquet did not forgive.

Or forget.

 

Chapter Four

 

Domenico Dragani leaned over toward his friend Armand Rancourt seated comfortably in the velvet chair next to him in the library of Château Arles.

“Armand?”

“Yes?”

“Did he”—Domenico indicated Simon with a motion of his chin —“just say
convent
?
Two
women?”

Seated behind the large ebony desk, Simon tightened his jaw. “Yes, that is exactly what I said. Convent. Two women.”
Merde
. He felt like a complete imbecile telling two of his top commanders and closest friends about the guests he’d brought with him from the Republic of Genoa. But he could hardly hide the women indefinitely.

 Domenico sat back. His lips twitched, his sorry attempt to hold in his mirth. “Ah…Simon? Have you run out of women that you now pluck them out of
convents
?”

“I think we’ll move on to more pressing topics.” Simon took a drink from his goblet of brandy and set it down on the desk.

Domenico leaned toward him. “Do they have warts and whiskers?” He grinned.

Simon frowned.

“What possible difference could any of this make?” Armand questioned their Italian friend, Armand’s blond hair and light eyes a sharp contrast to Domenico’s darker coloring. “Just as Simon mentioned—we have more important things to concern ourselves with. Fouquet. Thomas’s death. The fate of Gilbert and Daniel. And the imminent arrival of our ships. Or have you forgotten about those, Domenico?”

“Of course not. But, Armand—a
convent
. Women with warts and whiskers.” Domenico shuddered in mock horror.

BOOK: Undone
3.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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