Irritated, Sylvan snapped, “Your eyes still work, then.”
“It makes me wonder why I notice. What good does it do a crippled man”—his fingers worked their way up her thigh—“to like the look of a woman?”
She slapped his wrist.
He rubbed her through her skirt. “And what good does it do a woman to kiss a man?”
“Kiss?” He wanted to kiss her?
In Brussels, he had attracted her. In spite of her good sense, her caution, she’d wanted him for his strength, the way he moved, the way he looked. It had been a merely physical attraction. Hadn’t it?
“Especially one as harmless as I am,” he added.
“Harmless?” He was as harmless as a sleek and hungry tiger.
“Come close,” he whispered.
And she was stupid enough to want to pet the tiger and feel it purr.
“Consider it one of your nursing duties.” The tiger’s paw prowled up her leg, touching so lightly she scarcely believed it moved. “Like taking the sliver out of my hand. It keeps me awake nights, wondering if I’m still a man.”
Living with her father had bred cynicism into her bones, and her own sense of self-preservation returned a measure of good sense. “You’ve probably kissed every maidservant working at Clairmont Court to find out if you’re still a man.”
“Have I?” He watched his hand as it slipped up to the bow on her bodice and untied it. “Then perhaps you should kiss me for another reason.”
She looked into his eyes. “What is that?”
“You’re wondering if you’re still a woman.”
He must be right, damn him, Sylvan thought, because she allowed him to slide his hands around her waist. He pulled her toward him, and she let him, holding herself carefully so her body didn’t quite touch his body. He acknowledged her caution with amusement, and kissed her.
One closemouthed, off-center kiss, with her gaze fixed on the stubble of his cheek.
Deep in his chest, he growled. “Let’s try again.”
Manhandling her—tiger-handling her—he settled her across his chest and tucked her head into the crook of his arm.
And she let him do it.
With two fingers he closed her eyes and brushed her hair off her forehead, then leaned over her and kissed her. Little tiny bites on her lips, really, and when she opened them, soothing little touches with his tongue. He’d been drinking brandy, she discovered, and he liked the texture of her inside lower lip, for his tongue kept sliding across it in repeated expeditions.
For such an obnoxious man, he had a delicate touch.
When he took her lip between his teeth, she almost stopped breathing. He didn’t hurt her, but the threatwas there. Instead, he sucked at her lip as if it were an expensive sweetmeat that melted in his mouth.
She melted in his arms, and waited, breathless, for his next move.
His hand cupped her breast, weighed it, and he muttered, “Perfect,” against her lips. His thumb brushed her nipple, back and forth, rubbing the texture of lace across her skin, and she shuddered with pleasure.
Carefully, he parted her lips and touched his tongue to her teeth. She jumped and tensed, wondering at his boldness, wondering if she liked it. He paused as if surprised, then cuddled her closer and did it again. He seemed to be searching with his tongue, looking for something, although she didn’t know what. She only knew this was intimate and intrusive, and it made her feel closer to him than she’d ever felt to any other person.
She didn’t know him that well. She didn’t even like him that well. But this was the thing she’d sensed when they danced in Brussels.
They would be good together.
“Making me do all the work, eh?” His day-old whiskers scratched her when he spoke. “I never would have suspected.”
Her eyes flew open and he winked. Her mouth dropped open and he kissed. Really kissed. The taste, the texture, the insistence made this nothing like his previous tentative forays. This was open mouths, straining toward a