Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love(8)

By: Christi Caldwell

His grin widened, displaying two slightly crooked rows of teeth. “I intend to. Just as I intend to make you mine.”

Make you mine. He spoke like an old, conquering lord from days past, and suddenly she felt like a bloodthirsty woman from long ago, for she ached for that broadsword in her hands.

It seemed she needed to be a good deal clearer for the baron. “Lord Williams, I would not wed you for anything in the world.” There. Unoriginal, but she gathered quite clear in terms of her feelings.

At the darkening glint in his blue-black eyes, Juliet took several steps backward, and placed the small upholstered chair between her and the baron, a rather flimsy barrier, but nonetheless a barrier.

“I did not say anything of wedding you,” he said at long last on an ice-cold whisper.

Oh. He hadn’t? She wrinkled her brow. She’d thought he said—

“I’d make you my mistress.”

Juliet laughed. She laughed until her shoulders shook with the force of her mirth, and tears streamed down her cheeks. Oh, goodness, it really wasn’t terribly funny. Just the opposite. But he seemed so very certain, and it was all so ludicrous she couldn’t keep the laughter from tumbling from her mouth. When she at last managed to rein in her laughter, she dashed her hands over her face and brushed back her tears. “No, my lord. You’ll do no such thing.”

His face contorted with barely suppressed rage, and he took another step toward her. “Your brother has made it clear, I’ll meet with little resistance.”

That gave her pause. She’d always taken her brother for a sniveling coward, but he still valued the pretense he maintained as dandified fop. It wouldn’t do to have a sister who was mistress to Lord Williams, or any gentleman for that matter.

She shook her head, and felt compelled to say once more, “I’ll not become your mistress.” She didn’t have any grand hopes for a love match, but neither did she have so low expectations as to embrace the life of a whore for the foul letch.

Lord Williams tugged at his lapels, and peered down his crooked nose at her. She’d venture it had broken once or twice before, and knowing him as she did, could well-understand how such an injury had come to be. Twice. “I am doing you a great honor in making you my mistress. Surely you know with your leg no decent gentleman will have you.”

His words rolled over her like nothing more than a drop of rain she brushed from her skin. If he mattered, if he were someone more than this cruel, wastrel bastard then his words may have hurt more. Never from this man.

She inclined her head and adopted a somber tone. “Why, thank you for the honorable offer. I am quite flattered, but must politely decline.”

He lunged across the floor and she gasped. Her slightly slower leg knocked into the small rose-inlaid table beside her and slowed her retreat. The crystal candelabra wobbled upon the surface but righted itself. Lord Williams took advantage of her ungainly attempt to be free of him. He reached out and clasped her wrist in his, then yanked her toward him.

Juliet tugged her hands back, but the baron held firm. “My lord,” she bit out. “Remember yourself.”

He lowered his head, and she silently cursed at the overwhelming scent of brandy that wafted over her face. He was clearly cup-shot. “But I do remember myself, Juliet. I remember how very much I’d like to make you mine, and how much you’d like me to make you yours.”

She shook her head emphatically. “No. I. Do. Not.” With her deliberate utterance, she could not paint a clearer picture for the gentleman than if she were to use the charcoals and pages of her sketchpad.

He pressed his mouth to hers, and she gasped. The baron used her shock to his advantage. He slipped his tongue inside her mouth, hard, punishing, demanding. She bit down on the tip of his tongue, but a rumble built in his chest and filled her mouth as she realized he seemed to delight in her struggles. Lord Williams released her hands and wrapped his arms about her. She wrestled against him, but he only tightened his hold against her ineffectual efforts to be free of him. His harsh breathing filled her ears, and filled her with a growing sense of desperation. She shoved at him, but he persisted. The baron brought his hand up between them and found her breast.