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Monday Puzzler > July 28 Puzzler part 1

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message 1: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2080 comments Mod
I'm posting a little early on behalf of June, who wasn't sure she could get it posted on Monday.
“Lord Hero!” Her heart sped up, and she smiled, realizing a moment too late that her smile had probably been too bright. What if he assumed she thought he was courting her, which was, of course, absurd? She could hardly explain that she was not interested in seeing him, which would not only be rude but would doubtless make him think exactly the opposite.
“Good day, Miss Heroine.” He paused, then added teasingly, “Have I displeased you already?”
“What? No. Why do you say that?”
“You smiled when you answered the door, and now you are frowning. Nor have you invited me in. Were you expecting someone else, perhaps?”
“Oh. No. My mind was elsewhere. Please come in.” Flustered, heroine stepped aside, gesturing for him to enter.
He glanced down at the mistletoe ball in her hand and back up at her face, his eyes beginning to twinkle. “Why, Miss Heroine, do you usually greet your visitors this way come Christmastime? I scarce know whether you offer an invitation or a dare.”
He was only teasing, Heroine knew, yet she felt herself begin to blush. It was completely infuriating. What if the blush made him think she was wanting to kiss him? It only made it even more appalling to realize that she would not at all mind a repetition of the kiss he had given her last night.
“Don’t be nonsensical.” Heroine closed the door a bit more forcefully than was necessary. “I was simply about to hang it.”
He glanced at the ceiling, then back at her. “By yourself?”
“I was going to stand upon the bench.”
“Please. Allow me.” Plucking the decoration from her hand, he lithely stepped onto the bench and tied the mistletoe to the large nail.
“Thank you. You are most kind.” Heroine strove for the proper formality of tone. It would be extremely embarrassing if he realized that her lips kept wanting to smile.
“So prim and proper, Miss Heroine.” He reached out a forefinger and touched one of the soft curls at her temple. “I like the way you did your hair.”
Heroine’s stomach fluttered, and she looked away quickly. She was filled with such a tumbling rush of unusual feelings—an undeniable pleasure that he liked her hairstyle combined with the horrifying prospect that he might think she had arranged it that way in an attempt to please him, and sprinkled over it all a sizzling physical response to his touch—that she could not seem to find her mental footing. “I am sure you are an expert on such matters,” she replied tartly, then was washed with embarrassment that she had responded with such a lack of social grace.
He chuckled. “Whether I am an expert is questionable, but I am definitely an interested observer.”
She could not hold back a little smile at his words, though, again, she had no idea how to respond.
Hero leaned down toward her. “It seems foolish not to take advantage of the fruits of our labors.”
He glanced up significantly, and Heroine followed his gaze to the ball of mistletoe above them. Before she could move or speak, he kissed her. She threw her hands up against his chest as if to ward him off, but her arms had no strength to push him away. She felt limp and wobbly all over, her head light, as if she had been spinning, and Heroine found herself curling her fingers into Hero’s jacket and holding on to steady herself.
She had told herself that their kiss last night had not been as pleasurable, as shattering, as she remembered. Clearly, however, she had been lying to herself. His mouth was delicious, intoxicating. She was avidly alive to every sensation. Even the air against her cheek or the scent of the evergreen garlands or the sounds of pots rattling in the kitchen was suddenly sharper and clearer. Heroine knew she was trembling a little, and it embarrassed her that he must feel it, but she could not seem to control her own body. She wanted to drink Hero in, to wrap her arms around him and press her body into his. Her body thrummed, something hot and dark and liquid growing deep within her.
The strange sensations shook her, and when Hero raised his head and looked down at her, she could not move, could only gaze back at him in stunned pleasure. His lips were dark and full, his eyes black under the shadow of his thick lashes. Heroine wanted to touch him, to trace the lines of his face with her fingertips, feeling the warmth and texture of his skin, the hard lines of the bony outcroppings of cheeks and jaw and brow. The very forwardness of her longings shocked her.
Hero smiled a little, but his expression carried no hint of mockery or teasing, only a faint, almost sweet, hint of surprise. “Miss Heroine,” he whispered. “You have a way of leaving me all a-sea.” He brushed his lips against her mouth, soft and brief as the touch of a butterfly’s wings. “I think I know you, and then I find …” He kissed her on the lips again, punctuating his words, the kiss growing in heat and length with every repetition. “You’re … never … what … I expect.” His mouth settled on hers with a hungry finality, and he kissed her as deeply as he had the night before.
Of their own volition, Heroine’s arms twined around his neck, and she moved onto her toes, pressing her lips into his. He let out a low groan deep in his throat, and his hands slid down her sides, his palms brushing the soft edges of her breasts before traveling farther down and around to curve over her hips. He dug his fingertips into the soft, rounded flesh, squeezing and pushing her into him.
Heroine knew it was mad to be doing what they were. They were in the middle of the house in the middle of the day. She should pull away; she should be indignant, insulted. She should probably slap his impertinent face. But she could not bring herself to do what she should. She wanted only to taste more, feel more. She relished the surge of heat within her, the unaccustomed throbbing that started between her legs, the tightening of her nipples into small, hard points. Last night, when he’d kissed her, she had thought the feelings that had blossomed inside her must be the peak of desire, the height of sensation. But now, with every movement of his hands, each deepening of his kiss, the pleasure grew, her own hunger pulling her in further so that she wanted even more. Heroine sensed that there must be still more awaiting her along this path. Hero, she was suddenly sure, could lead her beyond anything she had ever known, and she wanted, with a deep, physical ache, to let him take her there.
At that moment, the baby’s wail arose from the sitting room.
With a gasp, Heroine broke away from Hero. She stared at him, the full realization of what had just happened dawning in her eyes. Her fingertips came up to press against her full, damp lips, her eyes huge above her hand. He gazed back at her without a word, his chest rising and falling in quick pants. Hero took a step forward, one hand going out to her, and Heroine whirled and ran for the sitting room.
She closed the door behind her and leaned back against it, trying to regain her senses as well as her breath. What had she done? What had she been thinking? Her face flooded with color as she recalled how wantonly she had responded to him—not just now but last night as well. He would be justified in believing her a hussy. Heroine had never considered that she might have such loose, immoral behavior in her. She had never been silly over men or indulged in daydreaming about courtship and marriage. She had always considered herself practical and unromantic, the last sort of woman to feel the pull of desire.
But she could scarcely deny that her blood was running like a fever in her right now. Nor could she ignore the hot, empty ache deep within her that made her squeeze her legs together tightly in the vain hope that it would disappear. Clearly she was just as vulnerable to temptation as anyone else. And just as clearly, she would have to guard against it. Just as she would have to guard herself against Hero
Matthew’s cries had not ended, and Heroine pushed away from the door and went to pick him up. She held him to her, murmuring softly and patting him on the back, and his squalls diminished, then, after a final little hiccuping sob, stopped altogether. She looked down into his face and smiled. His wet lashes were stuck together into points like stars around his bright blue eyes. How, she wondered, could he look so utterly beautiful after crying like that?
She leaned her head against his, forehead to forehead, and he giggled, which meant that she had to do it several more times, and with each repetition, his giggles erupted into greater and greater laughter. If only she could stay in here playing with Matthew, she thought, and never have to go out to face Lord Hero. But obviously that would be impossible. She wasn’t sure how she could face the man after the way she had just acted. Of course, last night she had felt the same way—was it always going to be this way around Hero?—but eventually she had recovered enough to act normally. The happy thought occurred to her that he might just leave if she stayed in here long enough, but right after that the door opened and Hero stepped into the room.
“Do you always just walk into closed rooms wherever you find yourself?” she asked him crossly, grateful at least that her annoyance overcame her embarrassment.
“Only if I wish to see what’s behind them,” he answered imperturbably. His eyes went to the baby in her arms, and he smiled. “Well, Master Matthew, you seem to have changed your tune.”
Matthew began to thrash his arms and gurgle in the way that meant he was happy, and he held out his hands to Hero in clear invitation.
“Traitor,” Heroine breathed, and walked over to hand him to Hero. She had no desire to meet Hero’s eyes, but she made herself do it. She refused to be a coward.
“I don’t pretend to know why you have decided to—to act in this way.”
“In what way?” He looked puzzled.
She shot him a quelling look. “Please, my lord, I think we both know what occurred in the entry. There is no need to spell it out.”
“Ah. What happened in the entry. I see. You want an explanation?”
“No! There is no need for that. But I must point out that you seem to have acquired a very incorrect notion about me and my … my standards of conduct.”
The baby was squirming in his arms, and Hero lowered him to the floor, then turned back to Heroine. “Indeed, Miss Heroine? And what notion is that?”
She glared at him. “That I would be open to—to your advances.”
Again that engaging little smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I believe you were open to my advances … at least a bit.”
“My lord, I am not a woman of easy virtue. Doubtless you are so accustomed to being with such women that you do not realize the difference.”
“I never thought you a woman of easy virtue. Indeed, I suspect that your virtue is as hard as Cotswold stone. That does not mean I can’t choose to chip away at it.”
“This is not a laughing matter!” Heroine’s temper flared. “My reputation may mean nothing to you, but it is very important to me.”
“Your reputation means a great deal to me, I assure you. I would never try to damage it, my dear—may I call you Heroine? Miss Heroine seems a bit formal for two who have shared as much as we.”
“No. You may not.”
“You see? Hard as stone.”
“While you may not try to damage my reputation, you certainly have no care for it. A true gentleman would not go about stealing kisses.”
“Stealing? Seems fair payment for hanging the ornament, wouldn’t you say?”
“One does not pay for a favor. That is not the issue, anyway.”
“What is the issue? I thought we were talking about kisses.”
“We are! Or rather, we are talking about the fact that you acted in a way that was not only improper but quite reckless. It is the middle of the day, and we were standing in our entry!”

message 2: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2080 comments Mod
Part 2:

“Ah, I see. You prefer your kisses at night and in some more secret place.” He smiled, his eyes lighting. “Believe me, I shall be happy to oblige.”
“No!” The scraps of composure Heroine had pulled together were rapidly slipping away. The merry gleam in his eyes, the tempting curve of his mouth, the sheer enjoyment that stamped his face, all beckoned her. She was aware of a rather frightening impulse to forget her upbringing and throw herself back into his arms. But that would be sheer madness. “I am not saying you should kiss me at some other time and place. I am saying you should not kiss me at all!”
“I don’t see why I would agree to do that. I quite enjoyed kissing you.”
“Anyone could have walked in on us at any moment! My brother. Mrs. Brewster. Sally.”
“I passed your brother on the street as I came over, so I knew he was not here. I could hear Mrs. Brewster in the kitchen. And I haven’t the slightest idea who Sally is or why I should worry about her.”
“She is the girl who comes in to help Mrs. Brewster, and she could have walked in on us.”
“But she did not.”
“That isn’t the point!” She looked down and found that the baby had managed to roll and squirm his way over to the footstool. “How in the world did you get over there? No, dear, don’t chew on the fringe.” Heroine swooped down and picked Matthew up, relocating him on the rug a few feet away. Turning back to face Hero, she straightened her shoulders. Putting some distance between them helped, she found. “Never mind. I can see that it is useless to try to reason with you.”
“No doubt.”
Heroine clasped her hands together and adopted a polite expression. “Now. What brings you here today? I presume you had some reason for calling.”
“Other than kissing you?”
“Lord Hero!” She gritted her teeth. The man was impossible. And it was difficult not to laugh.
“I apologize. I could not resist; I enjoy the sparkle in your eyes when you get in a temper.”
Heroine crossed her arms and waited, her expression grimly patient.
“Very well. I came to ask for your help.”


message 3: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2080 comments Mod
I will add that I have no idea what it is...

message 4: by Charlene (new)

Charlene (charlenethestickler) | 320 comments The mistletoe and kissing scene looks familiar but I cannot tie it too the baby in the other room....

message 5: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1895 comments Mod
No idea.

message 6: by Marita (new)

Marita (bluestockingandproud) | 43 comments Absolutely no clue, but that was ridiculously entertaining as well as very intriguing so it's definitely going in my TBR pile.

message 7: by Kritika (new)

Kritika | 40 comments Same here.. no clue.. but will add it into my tbr..

message 8: by Amber (new)

Amber | 161 comments I've read this one and really enjoyed it! Good choice!

message 9: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
I'm clueless as well.

Aly is so frigging bored | 857 comments Mod
Oh, oh! I know this one!

message 11: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 1002 comments He deserves to be refused her help after that exchange!

message 12: by Phoenix77 (new)

Phoenix77 | 346 comments I liked this book but I wasn't as taken with the rest of the series. Good choice June.

message 13: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hill | 487 comments Hmmmmm, it sounds familiar but have no clue what it is!

message 14: by June (new)

June (ladyjune) | 146 comments Thanks for posted it up for me Deb.
The scene was from Candace Camp's A Winter Scandal. It was cute Christmas story. I love the banter between Hero and Heroine, and baby Matthew made it all the more adorable :)

message 15: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2080 comments Mod
I have enjoyed other books by her. Guess I will have to try this!

message 16: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1895 comments Mod
You know, in all my years of reading Regency I've never tried CC. Guess I need to add her to the list.

message 17: by Marita (new)

Marita (bluestockingandproud) | 43 comments Funny thing, I actually found this book (and series and CC's entire backlist) already in my library-I just haven't read them. Well, at least I know what I'm reading next!

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