Amelia shook her head, unable to speak as he took her shoulders, fitting her against himself with extreme care. Her pulse ran riot. She shouldn't allow him to hold her. Someone might see, even secreted in the shadows as they were. But as her muscles drew in the warm pressure of his body, the pleasure of it made her dizzy, and she stopped caring about anyone or anything outside his arms.
Rohan's fingertips drifted with stunning delicacy over her throat, behind her ear, pushing into the satiny warmth of her hair. "You are an interesting woman, Amelia."
Gooseflesh rose wherever his breath touched. "I can't f-fathom why you would think so."
His playful mouth traced the wing of her brow. "I find you thoroughly, deeply interesting. I want to open you like a book and read every page." A smile curled the corners of his lips as he added huskily, "Footnotes included." Feeling the stiffness of her neck muscles, he coaxed the tension out of them, kneading lightly. "I want you. I want to lie with you beneath constellations and clouds and shade trees."
Before she could answer, he covered her mouth with his. She felt a jolt of heat, her blood igniting, and she could no more withhold her response than stop her own heart from beating. She reached up to his hair, the beautiful ebony locks curling slightly over her fingers. Touching his ear, she found the faceted diamond stud in the lobe. She fingered it gently, then followed the taut satin skin down to the edge of his collar. His breath roughened as he deepened the kiss, his tongue penetrating in silken demand.
The white moon sent shards of light through the beech boughs, outlining the silhouette of Rohan's head, touching her own skin with an unearthly glow. Supporting her with one hand, he cradled her face with the other, his breath hot and scented with sweet wine as it fell against her mouth.
A curt voice shot through the humid darkness. "Amelia."
It was Christopher Frost, standing a few yards away, his posture rigid and combative. He gave Cam Rohan a long, hard stare. "Don't make a spectacle of her. She's a lady, and deserves to be treated as such."
Amelia felt the immediate tension in Rohan's body. "I don't need advice from you on how to treat her," he said softly.
"You know what it will do to her reputation if she is seen with you."
It had immediately become apparent that the confrontation would turn ugly if Amelia didn't do something about it. She pulled away from Rohan. "This isn't seemly," she said. "1 must go back to my family."
"I'll escort you," Frost said at once.
Rohan's eyes flashed dangerously. "Like hell you will."
"Please." Amelia reached up to touch her cool fingers to Rohan's parted lips. "I think... it's better that we part here. I want to go with him. There are things that must be said between us. And you? She managed to smile at him. "You have many roads to travel." Clumsily she bent and retrieved the magic lantern at her feet. "Goodbye, Mr. Rohan. I hope you find everything you're looking for. I hope? She broke off with a crooked smile, and felt a peculiar stinging pain in her throat and swallowed the bittersweet taste of longing. "Goodbye, Cam," she whispered.
He didn't move or speak. She felt him watching her as she went to Christopher Frost?she felt his gaze penetrating her clothes, lingering against her skin. And as she walked away, a sense of loss rushed through her.
They wandered slowly, she and Christopher, falling into a familiar harmony. They had walked often during their courtship, or gone on discreetly chaperoned drives. It had been a proper courtship, with earnest conversations and tenderly composed letters, and sweet stolen kisses. It had seemed magical, unbelievable, that someone so handsome and perfect would want her. In fact, Amelia had put him off at the beginning for that very reason, telling him with a laugh that she was sure he meant to trifle with her. But Christopher had countered by saying he was hardly going to trifle with his best friend's sister, and he was certainly not some London rake who would play her false.
"For one thing, I don't dress nearly well enough to be a rake," Christopher had pointed out with a grin, indicating his well-tailored but sober attire.
"You're right," Amelia had agreed, looking him over with mock solemnity. "In fact, you don't dress well enough to be an architect, either."
"And," he had continued, "I have an exceedingly respectable history with women. Hearts and reputations all left intact. No rake would make such a claim."
"You're very convincing," Amelia had observed, a bit breathless as he had moved closer.
"Miss Hathaway," Christopher had whispered, engulfing her cool hand with both of his warm ones, "take pity. At least let me write to you. Promise you'll read my letter. And if you still don't want me after that, I'll never bother you again."
Intrigued, Amelia had consented. And what a letter it had been?charming and eloquent and fairly blistering in parts. They had begun a correspondence, and Christopher had visited Primrose Place whenever he could.
Amelia had never enjoyed any man's company so much. They shared similar opinions on a variety of issues, which was pleasant. But when they disagreed, it was even more enjoyable. Christopher seldom became heated on a subject—his approach was analytical, scholarly, rather like her father. And if Amelia became annoyed with him, he laughed and kissed her until she forgot what had started the argument.
Christopher had never tried to seduce Amelia—he respected her too much for that. Even at the times when she had felt so stirred that she had encouraged him to go beyond mere kisses, he had refused. "I want you, little love," he had whispered, his breath unsteady, his eyes bright with passion. "But not until it's right. Not until you're my wife."