Belle of the Ball:Desperate and Daring 02(10)

By: Ella J. Quince

She nearly jumped as the bane of her existence stepped out.

“Are you following me?” she said with panic. Not that she feared him, but rather she feared the emotions he provoked in her.

“It just so happens I was in the stable before you four arrived. But I feel we must address the obvious tension between us.”

Anabelle agreed. She could imagine the things Lucy, Hazel, and Thea were thinking after he obviously followed her out.

“It was very apparent to me, at least that after yesterday, we should not have any association with each other.”

“And I would agree with you, but that will be difficult considering we are part of the same circles.”

“That doesn’t give you leave to put your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

He had the audacity to look aghast. “When have I ever done such?”

“This very afternoon, earlier with Lord and Lady Scorn, and again just now.”

“I did you a favor.” He folded his arms over his chest.

“I didn’t ask you for any favors and I’d prefer you leave me the hell alone.”

Now he looked angry. “Stridently avoiding each other in public is far more suspicious than learning to rub along.”

“Be that as it may, I’m far safer avoiding you than doing any rubbing.” Her cheeks colored. She couldn’t believe she’d just said that.

She saw his lips twitch, but he took pity on her.

“I realize that our mistake yesterday makes things difficult between us, but for better or for worse, we will see each other at almost every major social function. I will do my best to not impede your husbandly goals if you will stop running away at the mere sight of me. I wish you no ill will, Lady Anabelle.”

She was taken off guard by his sincerity. She didn’t know what to say so she just nodded.

“Good. We have established a truce then. I will take my leave of you now.”

He slowly moved away in the direction of the fete and Anabelle stayed where she was. She wasn’t alone long before Hazel, Lucy, and Thea joined her.

“Do you want to tell us what that was all about?” Hazel queried.

Anabelle shrugged. “We’ve come to a truce regarding our mutual dislike. That is all.”

Lucy raised a skeptical brow.

“You don’t believe me?”

“We would have listened at the door, but Thea wouldn’t let us.” Lucy confessed.

Anabelle was so very grateful for that. “Well, you will just have to take my word for it.”

They looked unconvinced, but thankfully, Hazel came to her aide.

“We should return. Mother will be wondering what is taking so long.”

They began to stroll back towards the party. Hazel pulled her to a stop as Lucy and Thea chattered on ahead.

“What is it?” Anabelle groaned.

“Is this business with Draven about that rumor he tried to put about?”

Anabelle sighed. She had never kept anything from her sister before now, but she was not about to reveal yesterday’s kiss. “Yes and no. It’s in the past now. I just want to move forward. I am determined to find a husband this season and I don’t want a tension between him and me to cause difficulties. He understands that, thankfully. Given his friendship with Lord Rigsby and ours with Lucy, I won’t be able to avoid him. Tis better to simply accept his presence and move on.”

Hazel nodded. “All right then. That is all we will speak of it. I promise.”

Anabelle sighed with relief. “Thank you.”

Chapter 4

Draven didn’t leave the garden fete. His mother was enjoying herself and it was rare she ever felt well enough to leave the house. He sipped a glass of lemonade from under the shade of a tree not feeling particularly social. Not that he was ever particularly social, but he had even less patience for banal conversation. He watched the guests around him with a critical eye, noting the return of Lady Anabelle and her friends. It was impossible to ignore her now, impossible to deny the awareness his body had of her despite every rational urging to stay far away from her.

He was angry with himself and certainly in no mood to play nice. If someone approached him, he might even bite. He used the shadows of the tree to hide, observing the party with a callous eye. He needed the services of a talented whore, but even the thought was unappetizing. How was he to get that kiss out of his head? He would have to see her frequently now that the season was in full swing. But, how was he to behave normally if all he could think of doing was pulling her close and kissing her senseless. She was a damn virgin, for Christ’s sake, a woman to be courted and wooed into matrimony. Those were exactly the things Draven wanted to avoid.