McAlistair's FortuneBy: Alissa Johnson
What A Man Wants
“You don’t understand men.”
Evie spluttered a bit before responding. “I’ve no trouble at all understanding Whit and Alex.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, a defensive posture that pressed the soft mounds of her breasts up another tantalizing inch. McAlistair dragged his eyes to her face, watched as she caught her plump bottom lip with her small, white teeth. It was too much. The need that had been clawing painfully under his skin like a wild animal, tore free. He took a step toward her and gained a wicked satisfaction at the way her eyes widened and her breath hitched. “They don’t want to kiss you,” he growled.
Her arms fell to her sides. “Well, no, not—”
He took another step and had her retreating. Oh, he liked that. He liked the unfamiliar power in having the upper hand. For once, for once, she could be the one to back away. “They don’t think about it, every bloody second of the day.”
“I…I should hope not.”
He stalked her mercilessly. “They don’t imagine what it would be like to have you alone, like this. Like the night in the woods. At the inn.”
She stopped backing away and swallowed hard. “Why should you only imagine it?” she whispered unsteadily. “You know I want to kiss you.”
He swallowed a groan and reached up slowly to rub the pad of his thumb across her bottom lip. “A man’s imagination extends beyond kissing.”
For Jo, Sondi, and Tracey, because you always stand beside me, even when you’re not quite sure where I am.
Miss Evie Cole had long ago come to the conclusion that, contrary to popular opinion, ignorance was not bliss.
There were, after all, a great many miserable fools in the world.
Furthermore, she was a perfectly happy young woman, and no one who knew her well would ever accuse her of ignorance. She was always in the know.
She made absolutely certain of it.
Just as she was making certain of it now, crouched outside the thick burl wood doors to the Haldon Hall library, her weight shifted to her stronger leg and one dark brown eye peering through the keyhole. Probably she should feel a bit guilty at eavesdropping on a private conversation. But having found herself the subject of that conversation, she experienced not so much guilt as fascination, amusement, and no small amount of annoyance at having stumbled across the scene too late to ascertain all the details.
What she understood well enough, however, was that her aunt, the dowager Lady Thurston, and two family friends, Mr. William Fletcher and Mrs. Mary Summers, were currently sequestered on the other side of those lovely old doors, arguing over how best to go about finding the stubborn Evie Cole a husband.
It was nearly as amusing as it was insulting. Nearly.
Mr. Fletcher, seated on the small settee in the center of the room, leaned forward and spoke with some excitement. “What better way to win a lady’s heart than to rescue her from certain danger? I can have a threatening letter drawn up and sent to Evie from London next week. Have her young man here the following day to protect her. It’s fast, simple, and effective.”
Clearly impressed with neither Mr. Fletcher’s scheme nor his enthusiasm, Lady Thurston added a deliberate dollop of milk to a cup of tea and calmly handed it to Mrs. Summers. “It will never work, William.”
He settled his stout frame back against the cushions. “Have you a better plan?”
“The plan, though I do not approve of it, is not the problem.” She poured her own cup. “The problem is the objective itself—it simply cannot be done.”
“You cannot make someone fall in love,” Mrs. Summers pointed out, straightening her rail-thin shoulders.
“Least of all those two,” Lady Thurston added. “I am not at all certain they’re well suited. What’s more, Evie has categorically refused to marry.”
“I refuse to accept that.” Mr. Fletcher ran a hand through what remained of his hair. “I made a promise to a man on his deathbed.”
Mrs. Summers sent him a pitying glance. “You were tricked into a promise by a man who would—were he still alive—be the first to admonish you for taking this matchmaking business quite so seriously. The late Duke of Rock-eforte was a reasonable sort, despite his penchant for jests. I very much doubt he expected you to succeed in marrying off five children.”