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â€œLost again, my little lamb?â€ came Mr. Lioncroft’s low, droll voice.
Evangeline shivered. From somewhere in the black, a chair scraped across the floor, followed by slow, relentless footfalls. Evangeline edged backward into the relative comfort of the vacant hallway.
He caught her before she had a chance to run.
Once again, she was up against a wall, her spine to the wainscoting. This time, however, she was not pinned by the wrists but rather by the heat in his gaze. Glowing and darkening with each flicker of candlelight, his eyes focused on hers, without moving, without blinking.
By the time Evangeline realized Mr. Lioncroft was very, very angry, it was too late. His palms were flattened to the wall above each of her shoulders, his feet planted on either side of hers, trapping her in place.
â€œI didnâ€™t mean to startle you,â€ she stammered, helplessly staring back at him as she gulped for scraps of air.
He smiled. Darkly. Wolfishly. Alarmingly. But he said nothing.
â€œIâ€”Iâ€™ll just head back to my chambers now, then.â€ She meant the words to be decisive and firm, but they sounded fearful and tentative even to her own ears.
â€œWill you?â€ he asked, his face dipping closer to hers, his intent clear. â€œWhen the night is just getting interesting?â€
Evangeline pressed her lips together and the back of her head against the unyielding wall.
â€œDonâ€™t kiss me in anger,â€ she whispered.
â€œIn anger?â€ Mr. Lioncroft repeated softly, lowering his head until his breath coasted across her cheek. Her nerves prickled, as if she could feel that moist heat tickling against every inch of her flesh. He smiled again. â€œBut Iâ€™m quite pleased by your presence. Iâ€™m hoping your kisses will make me forget my anger.â€
Evangelineâ€™s mouth gaped. She clapped her jaw closed before he had a chance to sweep his tongue inside her mouth. His smile widened, as if heâ€™d correctly interpreted her action and found it amusing. . . but not the least bit daunting.
Even worse, a restless, burning ache spreading from her belly to her heated limbs made a small part of her wish he would quit teasing and start kissing.
As if reading her mind, he leaned even closer, until his hips tilted at hers and the tips of her breasts rubbed against the bleached linen of his shirt. The borrowed book fell from her fingers to the floor. If Mr. Lioncroft noticed, he gave no sign.
Instead, he coasted his open mouth just above her flushed cheek, his breath steaming against the curve of her cheekbone, the dip below her earlobe, the length of her exposed neck.
Her traitorous body writhed between the hard wall and the even harder man before her. A sudden urge to force his lips upon her thrummed in her veins, but her dimming sense of self-preservation cautioned her to flee while she was still able.
As the warm air from his lips traced the same heated path across the other side of her upturned face, she let out a slow, shuddering breath. She would not flee. She could not. She wanted his skin touching hers perhaps even more than he did.
Finally, his mouth returned to its original position, a mere fingerâ€™s breadth from hers.
Evangelineâ€™s lips parted involuntarily, but she kept them parted on purpose.
Victory flashed in his eyes. A rakish grin transformed him from darkly mysterious recluse to triumphant seducer. She blushed at the sudden, frustrated moan she hadnâ€™t meant to make. He had won. He knew he had won. But still he didnâ€™t kiss her.
Her pulse pounded in her ears. â€œPlease.â€
â€œPlease what?â€ he asked, his breath spiced with wicked promise. â€œPlease go away?â€
â€œPlease kiss me,â€ she whispered, hating herself for pleading. But he made no further comment.
He lowered his head until his lips grazed across her skin, slowly, teasingly, devastatingly, from the hollow beneath her ear along the line of her jaw until he reached the trembling pulse on the other side.
She wiggled against him until his hips swung forward to trap her more firmly against his frame. Her aching, swelling breasts flattened against his chest. She gasped to realize she could feel the pounding of his heart, leaping and skittering with the same fevered excitement as hers.
His lips brushed across hers, once, twice, thrice. He was toying with her. Tempting her. Teasing her with desire for his withheld kisses until she could stand it no more. The next time he slid his open mouth over hers, she allowed her tongue to edge just far enough between her parted lips to taste him.
With a growl, his mouth was upon hers. Hot. Wet. Insistent. His fingers still splayed against the wall on either side of her head, but the muscles of his shoulders trembled as though it required all his willpower to keep his hands on the walls and off her body.
His mouth moved against hers, recklessly, desperately. He devoured her in hungry kisses, suckling her tongue, her lower lip, seizing her every breath and replacing it with his.
She found his sides with her fingers, intending to thrust him from her trembling body, but instead found herself gripping his hips to pull him even closer.
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