Velvet Embrace
assault of her defenses.
    Brie tried to avoid Dominic after that, but she found it impossible. In the first place, he wasn't the kind of man one could ignore. In the second, they were forced by necessity to spend several hours a day together.
    Little of it was leisure time. Had they been guests at a houseparty , they would have occupied themselves with cards, chess, or billiards, or perhaps read poetry aloud, or entertained anyone who would listen to their musical talents. But there were no such activities. The only time Brie had a moment to rest was in the evening, after Mattie and Homer had gone to sleep.
    Even then, she couldn't really relax. For when she retired to her room at the end of the day, Stanton followed her, just as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to drink his after-dinner brandy in a lady's bedroom. But then it probably was natural for him, Brie decided. More than likely he had spent a great deal of time in ladies' bedrooms. And she could hardly object to his presence without sounding oddly prudish. She couldn't be comfortable around him, though.
    For one thing, he wouldn't give up his interest in her availability. Brie found her fabrication about having a protector becoming more and more complicated. During their first idle evening together when Dominic had probed her for information, she had felt a need to substantiate her story and had ended up describing an elderly gentleman who was very much like her head trainer, John Simms. John would have been horrified to learn he had been cast in such a role, but she had to tell Stanton something. As it was, Dominic looked at her with a mocking gleam in his eye and remarked that the man sounded old enough to be her father. The implication was, of course, that she would be better off with someone younger, more able to fill her nights with passion.
    She did learn a bit more about him during those evening conversations, however, even though he was almost as reticent about his past as she was about her own. He had inherited his title from his maternal grandfather, she discovered, for his father had been French, his mother English. Her question about his parents obviously touched a sensitive nerve, though. Stanton's face darkened when he told her his father had been killed during the Revolution, and his lip curled in a sneer when he said his mother had remarried and was living in Hampshire.
    Discomfited by the sudden charge of tension in the air, Brie had thought it best to change the subject. But Dominic's response, when she admitted that she was part French herself, disturbed her even more. His eyes swept leisurely down her body, and he asked, "Which part?" in a half-mocking, half- teasing tone of voice that made her well aware he was still interested in having her become his mistress .
    He much preferred brandy over port, Brie discovered when he related a humorous tale about some smugglers of his acquaintance. She also learned that he had been involved in the war for several years, although in what capacity, she could only guess. She thought he might have been some kind of diplomat, since he mentioned the Foreign Office once, and also that he had met Julian in Vienna at the Congress.
    That was really the extent of her discoveries about Dominic Serrault , Lord Stanton. Everything else was merely observation.
    He had two very distinct kinds of smiles, she quickly realized. One was mocking and cynical, the other so sweetly devastating that it made her heart melt . In addition to his hard mouth, his mobile black brows were mainly responsible for giving his expression a sardonic cast. The left one had a habit of lifting nearly an inch higher than the right.
    As for his character, he was arrogant and insufferable much of the time, but he could be delightfully, devilishly charming when he wanted to be. Occasionally he even showed traces of real warmth. Sarcasm had absolutely no effect on him, probably because he was such an expert at it himself. He tended

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