Read With This Kiss: Part Two Online

Authors: Eloisa James

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical

With This Kiss: Part Two

BOOK: With This Kiss: Part Two
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



With This Kiss: Part Two


Author’s Note

e sure to read Part One first! You need to know the story of how Grace fell in love with Colin…



race told herself frequently how happy she was to be engaged to Lord McIngle—John, as he insisted she call him. He was a good man, with a lovely voice and brown eyes. She liked his dignity, she liked his kindness, and she thought they would be very happy together. She especially liked the fact that he had an estate in Scotland.

Scotland was a long way from London. Far enough that a woman could nurse a broken heart until she forgot all about it, until the laughter of children and the kisses of a loving husband wiped away the stupid infatuations of her youth.

John often arranged small treats for Grace, things that he knew she would enjoy. Most importantly, he didn’t pretend that painting was only a lady’s pursuit, as watercolors were for most young ladies. One day he gave her a miniature of Sir Walter Raleigh, a delicate painting of the slender, lovelorn aristocrat.

“He understands you,” her mother said, deep approval in her voice. “This is a precious antique, Grace. He truly loves you.”

“I know he does,” Grace replied, keeping her voice light and happy.

“He’s a good choice,” her father told her. “A good man.”

Both her parents had a little knot in their brows every time they looked at her, but by the time a month had passed, Lord McIngle—John—had become a welcome addition to their family.

Lily teased him mercilessly, calling him Old Sobersides. She was the only one who argued with Grace. “He’s not a good choice for you,” she insisted. “He respects you too much.”

“Respect is good,” Grace said, thinking of how Colin slighted her letters. “I want respect.”

“It’s not enough.”

“He loves me!”

“Not the right way.”

Finally Grace turned on her sister in a rage. “Don’t you see, Lily? Must you make me say this aloud? No one will ever love me in the
, not in that feverish way that men fall in love with you. I’m not that sort of woman!”

Lily cried, and Grace ended up crying, too.

Sobersided John thought she was pretty. He kissed her frequently (if respectfully), and she enjoyed it. He gave her a new set of paints. The morning after that gift, she handed Colin’s paints to her siblings, and used John’s instead.

Later that night she stole back the most beautiful blue, the lapis lazuli. She put it in a drawer with her lingerie and pretended it wasn’t there.

The day John gave her a sable paintbrush, she told her parents that they should set the wedding date.



nly a few days out of Casablanca, a storm blew them off course. Colin lay in the dark, counting the days as they passed. He was out of the navy, honorably discharged. He should be glad about that.

He was safe, if not entirely sound. He should be glad about that too.

He was going home, to England, to Grace.

And that’s where any happiness died. By now Grace might have married McIngle.

He had had a plan to steal her away from McIngle before he was injured.

But now…

He was a selfish ass, but he wasn’t a complete bastard. He couldn’t steal her from her fiancé when he wasn’t a whole man.

The thought made his headache worsen. The doctor had instructed the mate to give him a dose of laudanum every morning and night to control the headaches and (he suspected) to keep him tamely in bed. He didn’t care. His idiot batman, Ackerley, periodically appeared by his bed and told him to open his mouth, and he did.

But there was an unexpected side effect to laudanum. As he slipped in and out of sleep, he discovered that he was able to relive Grace’s letters as if he were part of the events she had described in them. They were so vivid that he found himself in the drawing room, standing beside the duke and laughing when they realized that young Brandon had turned every one of His Grace’s neck cloths to sails for his toy boats.

He sat by Grace’s side as she painted naughty chickens, and watched with her as Lily flew about the ballroom, laughing her gilt laughter, the laughter of a woman who has never known pain or fear.

Grace knew both pain and fear. She knew them because of him. In his dream, he danced with her, holding her tenderly and dancing slowly. Not like the whirling waltz he shared with Lily, but a waltz in which every touch fired his blood. Because it was a dream, a laudanum dream, suddenly they were at Almack’s surrounded by pretty ladies. Yet all the women faded into a kind of blurred prettiness, because the only woman in the room who mattered was Grace.

Her hair was wound high on her head with ringlets falling down her back. Her gray eyes smiled at him with a look that said she found him as delicious as he found her. They turned in the dance again, slowly, and his thigh brushed her slender leg, sending a flare of pure erotic heat up his groin.

He bent his head and brushed her lips with his. They were soft, rosy pink, and she was blushing because he was creating a scandal by kissing her in public. But he didn’t care about society. The only person he cared about was in his arms, and he found himself tilting her head, hungry for her, near to growling…

The ballroom disappeared and they were on the lawn before the lake, under the spreading willow tree where he had watched her paint. But this time, rather than hugging him, she was lying on her back, laughing up at him. He had thrown all her hairpins into the lake, and bright strands of her hair were wound in his fingers.

He felt mad, crazed with passion and love and hunger. Grace looked into his eyes, and she saw the raw feeling that he couldn’t control. She did something with the bodice of her dress and suddenly the whole garment disappeared.

And there she was. Pink and sensual and loving, pulling him down to her. He didn’t have clothes, either, and their bodies met with lovers’ joy, with a delirious pleasure. He couldn’t pause to enjoy it, not with this pounding, driving
to be inside her, to own her, to know that she was his, rather than McIngle’s.

He reared over her, savage and fierce, knowing his eyes were blazing down at her. All he wanted in life was to possess the woman who lay beneath him, who held his heart and soul in her hands. Her legs fell open, welcoming him. She was wet and sweet, and at his touch she arched her neck, a broken cry coming from her lips.

She understood, she loved him anyway…

Just like that, the moment slipped away and he was back in Almack’s, standing against the wall.

Grace was dancing a slow waltz, but it was with McIngle. She was smiling at the Scotsman, and there was all the warmth and love in her eyes that Colin had always assumed was his. Assumed like a fool, because he didn’t understand what he had, and what he wanted.

He should have crawled to her feet every time he returned to England. He should have written back to every one of her letters, three or four pages to each of hers.

He should…

The laudanum dream was fading, and he grasped at it, trying to keep the bright image from evaporating, because even though Grace was dancing with McIngle, he could still see her, watch her smile, that quiet smile…

She was gone.

He woke, feeling the pitching motion of the ship taking him back to England. In his dream, he had been whole and untouched.

Now he was back to himself.

He could never go to sea again. Over the years he had won three purses while in the Royal Navy. He was far wealthier than he had ever imagined. Still, he couldn’t take Grace from McIngle. When she saw him like this, she would leave McIngle, if they weren’t already married, and come to him out of pity.

He would rather die.

He got out of bed, tripped on something, and fell to the floor. It knocked the wind out of him; when he recovered enough to push himself up to a sitting position, he discovered that he’d knocked over his chamber pot, and that he was wet.

He was… what he was.

It was over. He had pissed away the best thing that had ever happened to him—the love of an intelligent, funny, and utterly sweet woman—because he couldn’t see outside his own stupid head.

It took painful, slow thinking, but he came to some conclusions.

One was that he couldn’t take laudanum, not unless he wanted to dream about making love to Grace, only to wake with tears on his cheeks. A second was that he would rather die than have Grace come to him out of pity. He had to rebuff her, for her own good. Even if he spent his life knowing what an ass he’d been, mourning her, it was better than tying her to a husk of a man.

He discovered that making his way to the floor and pushing himself straight-armed up from the floor, over and over and over, allowed him to doze.

He pushed up a hundred times. A fortnight later, two hundred times.

He could nap, but he couldn’t sleep through the night. Finally, when he hadn’t slept for two nights, he took laudanum in desperation. And again, he found himself in the ballroom.

This time, Grace was sitting at the side of the room. She was the most beautiful woman there, her skin like sweet cream, her hair glowing like banked coals. And none of the fools around her saw it.

He did. Their host introduced them, and then he finally touched her hand. She looked up at him with surprised innocence, and he realized that in
dream, she didn’t know him at all.

He could woo her the way a normal man would woo a woman he desired. A profound joy filled him, and he smiled at her… the dream progressed through balls and a musicale and a ride in Hyde Park. All the way through, he watched her with a kind of mad hunger, nourishing the little flame of her feelings toward him.

Time was different in the dream… after weeks, or perhaps months, passed, he knew that she was just as desirous as he was. She kissed him with an erotic longing that matched his own.

The kiss started to fade, and he realized, while still in the dream, that it was the laudanum, and not Grace.

Still, he held on to the moment with all his will. He didn’t want to go back to the darkness, to the cabin that always smelled of piss, to the bed where he lay not so patiently, waiting for the English coast.

In the last moments of the dream, she gave him a private smile, a little wicked and a little tender, and whispered, “Come to me tonight, Colin. I miss you. I miss you so much. I love you…”

And he woke. Or rather, he thought he woke, but in reality he was just caught up in a different dream. He opened his eyes to find himself on board ship. There was a crack, like lightning, and the mast was falling into the ocean. All around him were screams. He looked down and saw with horror that there was a river of blood running over his boots.

After that, he threw the laudanum out the porthole.

By the time the ship finally reached Portsmouth, he had come to a decision: Grace was not for him. He would go to the Ryburns’ townhouse the first night, simply because his parents didn’t maintain a house in town, and the duke and duchess would be mortally offended if he stayed in a hotel.

But the following morning he would leave for Arbor House. In time, he would buy an estate with his prize money, somewhere far from Grace. Though, of course, she might be living in Scotland with McIngle.


It would be dangerous to be near her. He was her childhood love, and now he knew he loved her too. All he had to do was revert to the sort of cold bastard who wouldn’t answer the letters written by a twelve-year-old girl.

He could do that.

The miracle was that he had a heart that could break, considering what a cold bastard he was.

BOOK: With This Kiss: Part Two
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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