A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious(8)

By: Mary Wine


“Because you are clearly no gentleman, as your behavior proves.” Her father would have approved of her words, but part of her cringed. She was acting the prude when her thoughts were anything but proper. “Why are you being so presumptuous? You judge me, sir, far more than I am guilty of having preconceived notions about your character.”

Darius came around the desk, his large body capturing her attention. An insane rush of heat washed down her body as he came closer. She became more conscious of the lack of skirt hiding her legs. He was the first man to see so much of her form, and she felt her cheeks burning as he loomed over her. The man never averted his eyes, like a gentleman would have, but surveyed her from head to toe without hesitation.

Did he like what he saw?

“Miss Aston, I am responsible for security here, and I don’t have time to teach curious girls lessons their nursemaids should have.”

He wasn’t attracted to her one bit, which made her a fool. “You are free with your judgments sir.”

“Perhaps, but I assure you I am very skilled at keeping this Solitary Chamber secure.”

Now he was formal, and she believed him. Duty was something he held very dear; she could see the devotion in his eyes. He reached up and tapped the device covering his ear. She witnessed it glow. Only in a tiny portion, but the light was unmistakable. The door opened with a soft sound behind her.

“I will return once I’ve questioned the doorman,” he said. “By all means, continue to think of me as no gentleman. I find the blush on your cheeks…charming.”

Outrage banished the shame flooding her. “Why, you…rogue.”

The door closed behind Darius, but not before she witnessed the satisfied smirk on his lips.

Ill-mannered, gutter hound!

Insufferable man. She wasn’t going to waste her time on thinking about what he thought of her.

But you’re still disappointed he is quite out of reach.

Oh stop already.

She couldn’t possibly be interested in seeing him again. No. She would deny such feelings, because otherwise she would be doomed to weeping in her bed.

Illuminists and ladies did not mix. Ever.

***

“You seem to be failing to impress our guest, Darius.”

Darius made it to the observation room adjacent to his office to discover Lykos Claxton watching Janette.

“She lacks a sense of self-preservation. I was attempting to motivate her to stay at her friend’s tea table. I’m sure her father would want it that way.” He wished he agreed more with his better judgment, but his tone betrayed just how little passion he had for doing the correct thing when it came to Janette Aston. She tempted him, and that was dangerous ground.

Lykos peered at Janette through the wall screen. “You managed to bring a blush to her cheeks and spirit to her voice. No simpering at all. Interesting.”

Darius didn’t care for the tone of his comment. His comrade was an outstanding guardian, but his second love in life was the art of seduction—a skill he had polished to a high shine with the help of his handsome face. Fair hair and blue eyes added to his appeal with the gentle sex.

“Why are you here, anyway? I can handle a single trespasser by myself. If you don’t have enough to keep you busy at your posting, I’m sure the council would be happy to assign you someplace that can keep you from wandering away from your post looking for afternoon diversion.”

“For a look at a Pure Spirit, I’d sit through tea at Buckingham Palace, boring conversation and all. But that little bit of womanhood isn’t hard on the eyes, even if blondes aren’t my favorite.”

Darius frowned, recognizing the tone of his friend’s voice. Lykos knew how to seduce women far too well. “She’s a Pure Spirit, for all the good it will do us. Her family is upper-crust, not an Illuminist-accepting bone in their bodies.”

“Why so skeptical? Those cycling pantaloons give me hope.” Lykos nodded. “She won’t be so hard to entice into the order. If she found the courage to step out in those, she’s not the model lady her family wishes.” He flashed a grin at Darius. “Maybe I’m being too rash about those golden locks.”

“What’s this?” Professor Yulric came around the corner, his thoughts spilling from his lips in the same moment his mind formed them. “Have you convinced the girl to train for the exam already? Excellent.” He beamed at them, rubbing his hands together excitedly.