Read Undone Online

Authors: Lila Dipasqua

Tags: #General Fiction

Undone (7 page)

BOOK: Undone
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“She has already eaten. We are the last to dine this evening.” Amusement flickered in his eyes. “Are you nervous to be alone with me, Angelica?”

“No.” Her smile remained frozen on her face. “Of course not.” He didn’t frighten her. Though her reactions to his physical appeal were another matter altogether.

“Do you find my company unpleasant? Would you rather dine alone?”

“Unpleasant? No, absolutely not,” she quickly assured, wishing at the moment he were old, potbellied, and missing some teeth. “I would be pleased to dine with you, if you consider this suitable attire.” She touched her garb.

A slow, gorgeous, knee-weakening smile formed on his appealing face. He leaned in, and in her ear softly he said, “You are beautiful just as you are.”

His unexpected words astounded her. As did the look in his eyes when he pulled back. He actually looked…sincere. No one had offered her a compliment, not for a very long time. And certainly not about how she looked. She touched her plain garment once more, so different from his costly attire. He was being far too kind.

He placed her hand in the crook of his arm. “Let us proceed. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about each other.”

Oh God…

*****

Simon downed some of the burgundy in his goblet as he marveled at Angelica’s elegant profile, her lovely face illuminated by an orange hue from the candlelight. She was seated immediately to his left in the dining hall. He was permitted but a glimpse of her pretty eyes before she forced her gaze down, her posture as stiff as the long wooden table before him.

She was driving him to distraction. He was so hard, he was practically ready to crawl out of his skin. She had the most incredible effect on his libido. He still couldn’t believe she’d managed to erode his good reasoning and had provoked him into a rare moment of recklessness.

And he was never reckless. Not ever.

Being alone in her company was like playing with fire. But he couldn’t draw away. Not yet. Not until he demystified this mystifying woman.

One thing he was certain of was that she was a little fraud. He’d noted her body’s response to his touch in the library. He knew she felt the mutual carnal heat between them. There might be a compelling reason this sweet enchantress wanted to return to the convent, but neither a religious calling nor a deep devotion to a cloistered existence were it.

However, that didn’t negate that she was still a virgin. And he wasn’t about to let himself forget it—no matter how good his every rakish instinct told him it would be between them. He wanted to believe that years of carnage and chasing ambitious dreams hadn’t stripped away all decency in him. Whatever it took, he’d resist. He didn’t claim maidenheads. And he wasn’t about to start with hers.

The women he bedded were experienced in the carnal arts. Enjoyed sex that was recreational. Raw lust with no emotional involvement was his preference.

He was going to draw out her secrets, shatter her mystique, and break this peculiar libidinous hold she had on him once and for all. All it would require was a bit of patience and finesse.

How difficult could it be?

Shifting in his chair, trying to ease the discomfort of his arousal, Simon picked up his spoon. Neither of them had touched the poached-egg soup before them.

“Does the soup not appeal to you, Angelica?”

“Yes… It smells delicious.” Her manner was pleasant, despite her obvious unease. She was clearly unaccustomed to being alone with a man. He admired her bravado, fully appreciating how unsettling this entire experience was for her.

He covered her hand with his. She started at the touch. “Easy.” He was pleased she didn’t pull away from him, more than he’d ever admit, and gave her hand a gentle squeeze to reassure her. “It is but a meal. Try to relax. Pretend we are old friends.” He smiled. “I would be very pleased if you would call me Simon.”

She took a deep breath and let it out. “Very well…
Simon
.”

Reluctantly, he removed his hand. The urge to trail his palm inside her sleeve and lightly up her arm was far too strong. “Let us eat.” He tasted his soup, encouraging her to do the same.

She tried the broth. “Your home is lovely,” she said, initiating some polite conversation, her alluring mouth capturing his attention.

He was starved for a taste of that mouth. “This is not my home. It belongs to a friend of mine.”

“Oh? Where is your home?”

“The sea, mostly.” His answer was purposely vague.

“No wife, then? Or children?” she inquired before returning her attention to her soup.

Her response was adorably artless. He waited until finally her gaze was drawn back to him.

“No wife and no children.” There it was. A flicker in those eyes indicated that his answer pleased her. She was treading on dangerous territory. He wanted nothing more than to charm his way under her skirts and into her drawers.
Beautiful green-eyed angel, don’t play a game you can’t afford to lose, for I would surely claim more than a kiss from a curious virgin as my prize.

“Have you always loved the sea?”

He drank some burgundy and shrugged. “It is where my responsibilities lie.” Tamping down the rancor that subject stirred, he turned matters on her just as the roasted duck was brought in. “I notice you did not don the gown provided for you. Was it not your size?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t try it on.”

He leaned in and poured some burgundy into her goblet. “Any particular reason for that?”

“I didn’t believe it was suitable attire for me.”

“Really?” Unable to stop himself, his eyes drifted quickly over her form, trying to imagine her in finery. “I think the attire would suit you beautifully.”

He saw her visibly stiffen. He noted she didn’t take compliments as other women did. Could she truly not know how lovely she was? Even dressed like
that
.

“Gabriella was quite pleased with her dress,” he added.

“She was?”

“Indeed. In fact, she seems content to be out of the convent.”

She shook her head; the candlelight played on her silky locks. “The convent is our home. We’ve been there since we were young girls. We’ve no family, no friends outside of it. We must return.”

“Surely there’s someone…”

“No one,” she stated firmly. “You must take us back.”

“How can you honestly believe that you belong in that mausoleum?”

She frowned. “It is not a mausoleum. A mausoleum is a tomb that houses the dead.”

“Exactly. It is as warm and inviting as a tomb. How alive can you feel living there? Do you not want more out of your life than to spend it cloistered?”

Angelica felt his words strike their intended mark. It stirred her ire. This man was a perfect stranger. He knew nothing of her or her predicament. Who was he to make such comments? “Believe it or not, we serve a purpose there. There are the children that I teach…”

“There are children you can teach outside of the convent.”

“Yes, but they are not as needy. I am
not
interested in tutoring anyone from the upper class.” To her horror, the disdain in her voice rang clear, even to her own ears.

His chuckle made her flinch. “You’ve had unpleasant experiences with the upper class?” He was smiling, but her face burned, embarrassed and appalled by her own ungracious utterance.

“Forgive me, I meant no insult. It is just…rather…I apologize.”
Perfect, Angelica. He’s a noble. And you’ve just insulted his class—a man whose aid you are trying to secure.
Over the years, she’d become a master at controlling her words and masking her emotions. Once again she blamed her headache for her blunder and unprecedented poor manners.

He chuckled again. “There is no need for embarrassment. There are very few saints among nobles.”

Relieved he was not insulted, she relaxed a little, until she saw him reach out. He slipped his fingers under her chin. Sensations spiked from his touch. And quivered over every nerve ending in her body.

She went stock-still, caught in those blue eyes.

“Angelica, I can make no sense of it. I fear I can’t fathom how it’s right to hide a perfect flower in a place where the sun never shines and no one may gaze upon it to admire its beauty—left to simply wither away. There is far more you’re not telling me than just your name.”

She pulled away from him, breaking contact, and tried to ignore the tantalizing tingles that remained in the wake of his touch. “Please, do not mock me.” She wasn’t a “perfect flower.” In fact, she was far from perfect. He had no idea the extent.

His brows shot up. “Mock you? I am not mocking you. You don’t belong locked away in that place. Why are you hiding in that convent? What are you afraid of?”

She flinched. “I am not hiding, and I am not afraid. The convent is where I should be. Though I thank you for your concern, I don’t believe I need to justify my choices in life to you or anyone else. Sir, I don’t ask
you
why you choose to spend your days amidst battle and bloodshed.”

She struck a nerve. She saw it for the barest instant flash in his eyes.

“Some choices, once made, demands commitment,” he responded tightly. “Would your choice in life be one that would have pleased your parents?”

The subject of her parents hit close to the heart. Mortified, she felt tears well in her eyes and blinked them back. Tears were a pitiful waste of time. She didn’t cry. Hadn’t cried in years.

Collecting herself quickly, she countered, “I pray they would understand that I have done my best under the circumstances.” She rose. “I request that you kindly see to our return to the convent tomorrow. Now if you will please excuse me, I would like to lie down.” Without waiting for a response, she turned to leave.

He was on his feet in an instant. “Angelica…wait.” He caught her arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Are you in some sort of trouble? Perhaps I can help.” Stepping close, he cupped her face in his strong hands, his action taking her by surprise. “Why don’t you tell me who you are.”

His sensuous blue eyes gazed back at her, unwavering. There was what appeared to be sincerity in his expression and words.

“Go on, Angelica,” he softly urged. “Tell me the secrets you guard.” His thumb lightly caressed her uninjured cheek. No one had ever touched her the way he did.

The temptation to confess the whole of her situation surged inside her. She swallowed down the words.

“I can’t…” she forced out.

She couldn’t trust a complete stranger, despite the longing he inspired.

He leaned in. “Yes, you can,” he whispered near her ear. “Trust me…” He slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her against his muscled form. A warmth instantly infused her body, his masculine strength so decadent and delicious. For the first time ever, she felt…feminine. For the first time in years she was leaning on someone, when she hadn’t allowed herself to show any weakness or vulnerability before.

She should have been shocked and pushed away, but instead she moved her hands to his waist, laid her cheek against his shoulder. Surrendering herself to his embrace—not realizing until this very moment how much she’d craved this type of contact.

“Tell me your secrets,” he said. “Having to carry them is a terrible burden, to be sure.”

More than she’d ever admit. But she kept her silence, basking in the quiet, soul-quenching moment.

“Tell me… Allow me to chase away your woes. You need only to reveal them to me.”

Oh, if only he could.
He almost made her believe that the impossible was possible. Almost.

In the circle of his arms, little by little she became sensitive to the feel of her breasts pressed against his solid chest. To the escalating heat coiling through her system. And mounting by the moment. She felt his heart’s rhythm increase, accelerating her own.


Angelica…

She looked up into his eyes. Something in the way he gazed at her made her insides flutter. His perfect mouth was only inches away. He lowered his head. She held her breath in anticipation, expectant.

He stopped short.

Looking away, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he grasped her wrists, pulled her hands off his waist, and eased her arms down to her sides.

He stepped back, breaking the tantalizing contact, and bellowed for Henri. The boom of his voice made her jump.

She placed her hand over her racing heart. The heat still coursing through her hadn’t dissipated in the least once he’d stepped away.

His body rigid, he issued a curt order to Henri to escort her back to her chamber, then murmured good night to her, and strode out of the dining hall.

*****

When Simon entered the library, he went straight to the brandy, poured himself a goblet, and downed the amber liquid. His body was tense. Aroused. Agitated in the extreme. What the hell was he doing? His thoughts should be on Thomas. His men. Not on this woman. He was becoming drawn into her game of mystery. And he couldn’t allow it.

The evening had been a fiasco. He’d learned nothing. It only made matters worse that she’d pressed herself against him with the most perfect pressure over the engorged head of his cock and stared up at him with open curiosity.

Jésus-Christ
. The urge to seduce her into indulging in the stunning desire that burned between them was so powerful, he’d all but run from the room.

And he’d never run from anyone.

He couldn’t even trust himself to kiss those lush lips just once without surely deflowering her. What the fuck was the matter with him? What about her virginal ways could have possibly ignited his desire to this extent?

She was a problem he needed to rectify. He couldn’t allow her to wield such power over him. He had enough people exerting their power to his detriment. Whatever game she was playing, he couldn’t permit himself to be drawn into it. He’d no idea what to make of her secrets. Of her. And he shouldn’t care to involve himself when his life was already far too involved.

He raked a hand through his hair, then slammed the goblet down on the wooden desk with a resounding clunk.

BOOK: Undone
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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