Don't Tempt Me:Georgian 04(9)By: Sylvia Day
Dazed, she glanced up and saw Philippe enter the room in a rush. He still wore hat and gloves, and the air around him was redolent of horses and tobacco.
“What transpired?” he asked, sinking to his haunches before her.
Her gaze drifted over his shoulder to the window and she saw how the shadows cast by the sun had moved across the floor.
Time had lapsed and she’d been unaware, lost as she was in her confusion and disquiet.
“Marguerite? Why was de Grenier here? What did he say to you?”
She looked at her lover, the fingers of her right hand releasing their hold on her glass so that she could touch his cheek. He nuzzled into the contact, his blue eyes darkened by concern.
“He says Desjardins is determined to separate us,” she related grimly, “and that I am not safe from harm. He did not say whether it was physical harm or emotional, and I did not think to ask until a moment ago.”
Philippe’s jaw tautened. “This is madness.”
“What?” Marguerite reached around him and set her glass on the gilded side table. “What is happening? He intimated that you were hiding something from me. If you are, I want you to tell me what it is.”
“I do not know.” Growling, he stood and began tearing off his outer garments. Hat, gloves, coat. All tossed on to the settee with obvious frustration. “I cannot make sense of it. You have nothing to do with anything.”
She knew it was foolish to be hurt by the careless statement, but for the first time since she met him, she felt as if she were unimportant. A diversion. A peccadillo.
“Of course not,” she whispered, rising to her feet. Her cream-colored skirts with their bloodred flowers hung heavily around her shaky legs. Her toes tingled with the rush of returning blood.
How long had she been sitting there, picturing life without Philippe in it? For the last year, she had lived under the illusion that they would always be together. This afternoon was the first time she had ever contemplated otherwise.
“You misunderstand,” he murmured, catching her close. “You are everything to me, but nothing to them. There is no cause for them to focus on you. That would suggest there is something else they want. Something they believe you have.”
Philippe shook his head. “I offered myself to Desjardins. Told him I would go wherever he required for up to three months at a time, just as I did before, although in truth I do not know how I would survive even three days without you when three hours’ length is torture.”
He pressed his cheek to her temple, the roughness of his afternoon stubble a familiar, welcome sensation. “My only request was that you be kept safe and comfortable here. But he refused. He claims my attention is diminished and he prefers me unencumbered.”
“I do not understand why he cannot replace you,” she complained, searching his face for clues to his thoughts. “Despite how accomplished you are, surely there are other men who can perform the services you provide.”
Lips whitening from the force with which he pursed them, Philippe took a moment to reply. “Would you believe de Grenier over me?”
“I am to choose between his words and your silence?”
For a moment, she was angered by his arrogance, then she laughed softly. “How do you do it?” she asked, shaking her head.
He caught a swaying powdered curl between thumb and forefinger, and rubbed it tenderly. His voice, when it came, was low and intimate. “Do what?”
“Make yourself indispensable. All afternoon I chastised myself for placing myself in this precarious position. I have nothing in this world but your favor and no certainty that I can hold on to that. Now others are exerting their weighty influence to part us and there is nothing I can do to prevent or deter them.” She set her hands on his chest, her fingertips touching the edges of his skewed jabot. He was dashing clothed, semiclothed, unclothed. “Yet here you stand, mulishly determined to hoard your secrets and I want you regardless.”
“I have no secrets. I tell you everything.” Philippe caught her hand and linked their fingers. He turned toward the door and pulled her along after him.