Read An Accidental Seduction Online

Authors: Lois Greiman

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General

An Accidental Seduction (4 page)

Power built in the fluid muscles beneath her, and then they were lifting into the air, soaring like unfettered eagles. But just as they were gliding over the top, a hare leapt from hiding and Indigo twisted wildly. Tilted from her foolish perch, Savaana saw the rocky ground hurtling toward her and threw herself free of the lone stirrup. Curling into a sphere, she hit the springy turf and rolled like a dislodged cricket ball out of harm’s way.

As for the gelding, he found his balance with an adroitness born of a hundred years of regal breeding. Landing softly, he gathered his considerable strength, threw up his tail and bolted away.

Savaana watched him, all but breathless with elation.

“What an amazing
,” she breathed.

ean reined the mare to a halt and leapt from the saddle, certain he would find the baroness broken on the far side of the log. But instead she was sitting at a crooked angle and beaming from ear to ear.

He slowed his pace, watching her, sure he was mistaken. But no. Though she had been dumped onto the damp grasses like a peck of moldy grain, she looked elated, which must mean that she’d been knocked senseless. And regardless of his own nefarious reasons for traveling to Knollcrest, his heart thumped with worry. Maybe it didn’t entirely matter that she was the devil’s spawn. She was, after all, an extraordinarily beautiful woman. His brother had been right about that much from the very beginning. Alastar hadn’t said, however, that she was a conniving she-devil. That had been made clear later. But Sean was learning even more now. Such as the fact that she was fearless and strong and had a rare and shining smile that could light up the entirety of the Emerald Isle.

Sitting on the turf like a broken doll amidst a tumble of blue serge, she was grinning like a giddy schoolgirl.

“Holy hell…” she whispered. A few wild strands of glossy hair had blown against the heart-shaped beauty of her face. “He soars like an angel. Like a—” she began, then stopped abruptly and zipped her gaze to his as if suddenly finding her sanity.

He scowled from a few paces away, trying to sort out this odd turn of events. It had almost sounded as if she’d been speaking a different language moments before. But what was it? Surely not Romany, the language he’d heard spoken by the tinkers and entertainers he met during his travels. He wasn’t the only one who made his living by hawking his metal wares, after all. Though he may have been one of only a few who did so while owning a thriving foundry. “Hit your head, did you, me lady?”

She stared at him, silent. Unwanted worry bubbled inside him, and he paced closer.

“Are you hurt? Are you broken?”

Something like annoyance crossed her recently animated features.

“Yes, of course I’m hurt,” she said. “Anyone would be hurt.” Her scowl deepened quizzically. “Wouldn’t they?”

“I daresay.” She seemed rather strange. Disoriented maybe, but she was sitting upright, looking him square in the eye, and though the foolish grin had disappeared, she still seemed all but euphoric. He frowned as he squatted
before her. “I’ll be surprised if a single bone in your body is unbroken. You tumbled like a wagon wheel.”

She said nothing, just watched the gelding gallop into the distance for a moment.

He stared at her. “Where are you hurt exactly?”

“Oh.” She pulled her gaze from the horizon. “It’s my…shoulder,” she said, and suddenly blushed, not as if she was the she-devil ascended from hell itself, but like a debutante, fresh-faced and pretty and somehow embarrassed that she had fallen from that high-headed fool of a horse. “Yes.” She said the word with more conviction now and cradled her left arm with her opposite hand.

“Your shoulder?” He skimmed her body. Even crumpled as she was, it was not a difficult task. Her waist looked as firm and narrow as a well-hammered horseshoe, her bosom high and impressive. “Is that all?”

Her eyes glistened with challenge. “Isn’t that enough?”

Her tone was somewhat aggravated. As if he thought her to blame for not managing to be incapacitated.

“Of course. Aye,” he agreed, and remembered his brogue even as she began to rise. “No, me lady. Stay put,” he said, and reached for her hale arm. “You mustn’t damage yourself further.”

For a moment he thought she would argue, but eventually she settled back down with a moan, belated though it was.

“Is something else amiss?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” she said, then shifted her gaze resolutely from the horizon where the steed had disappeared in a flurry of hooves and a flip of his tail. She seemed to stifle a sigh.

Who was this woman? The haughty baroness in the gold gown he had seen in Tilmont’s cameo, or the wild lass who soared over life-threatening jumps? “Mayhap you struck your head, too, lass. You seem a bit unsettled.”

She turned toward him. “Are you saying I’m addled?” she asked, and something about the irritation in her tone made him want to laugh.

“I wouldn’t think of it, me lady. Here, let me see to your comfort,” he said, and grasping her right arm, gently eased her back against the log.

She winced.

“Me apologies. I thought it was the other shoulder,” he said, and suddenly she looked increasingly peeved, eyeing him suspiciously as she settled back against the moldering bark of the fallen elm.

“Perhaps you could cease clucking around me like a worried hen and catch up the gelding before he finds himself trouble,” she said.

“I don’t think that will be the case,” he argued. “And me task was to care for you, not some crazed beast what’s a’feared of wild hares.”

“He’s not—” she began, then scowled and nodded. “Foolish animal,” she agreed, but she was mooning after the black again, as if wishing she were still aboard.

Stranger and stranger. “Which shoulder was it?” he asked.


“Shoulder. Which one?” he asked, and cradling her right arm near the elbow, set his other hand near her neck and rotated gently. The skin there was as smooth and soft as a kitten’s underbelly.

He was no physician by any stretch, but he did have a younger brother, one who had sustained multiple injuries. Some of them relatively severe. All of them foolish.

“Does that hurt?” he asked.

She was staring at him. “No.” Her tone was dreamy and mildly surprised. “It feels rather—” She stopped herself abruptly, and though he knew better, he couldn’t quite help grinning a little.

It was then that she seemed to come to herself. “It’s the other arm,” she snapped.

“Oh, aye, of course. Me apologies,” he said, and setting her right hand carefully in her bunched lap, he reached for the other, slowly now, as if she were a frightened gosling. “Shall we remove that glove?”

She was scowling a little, but distractedly, as if displeased by some internal debate. “My hand is fine.”

“Let’s just have a look at your wee fingers,” he said, and gently stroked her wrist. It was narrow and oddly appealing, though he had no particular affinity for women’s wrists. He was an ankle man himself. But just now he had
other things on his mind. Other reasons for coming here, and they had nothing to do with either wrists
ankles. “Lady Tilmont,” he mused. “The title does not seem to suit you exactly. What be your given name?”

“My given name is none of your affair,” she said. “And my fingers are entirely uninjured.”

“But perhaps you cannot tell,” he argued, and gently began tugging the soft leather from her hand. “Once upon a day me brother fell from the roof of the henhouse. When he limped into the kitchen we thought sure he had broke his leg, but ’twas not the case a’tall.” She had very pretty hands, pale and long fingered. The little shells of her nails were cropped short, and as he stroked her knuckles, she curled her digits inward like a purring kitten. But she pulled her gaze from his ministrations and pinned her attention on his face.

“Why was he there?”

He glanced up. Good God, she had eyes like a siren. As blue as the sea on a cloudless morning. As wide as forever and strangely innocent. And suddenly he couldn’t remember what they had been talking about.

“Your pardon?” he said.

“Your brother.” A scowl marred her perfect features, and though it was often there, it somehow seemed out of place on her guileless features just now. “Why was he atop the henhouse?” she asked.

He shook his head and eased his fingers over her
pinky, remembering his goal. “’Twas where the squirrel went. Or so he said.”

She nodded as if she understood such logic, which was ridiculous, of course. She was nothing but a spoiled, grasping harridan. Out to get whatever she could. On the other hand, she had just launched eighty stones of heaving horseflesh over a stationary object as if she’d sprouted wings. For a spoiled, grasping harridan, she had a good deal of nerve. And ridiculously soft skin. Except for the row of calluses that crested the underside of her hand. Odd, that, he thought. Slipping his fingers beneath her wrist, he tried to ignore the feelings that shivered through his abdomen and lower.

“And what was truly wrong with him?” she asked.

“What’s that?” He lifted his gaze to hers, reminding himself she was no one to be trifled with. Then again, wasn’t that why he had come here? To trifle?

“You thought his leg was broken…” she prompted.

“Ahh, yes,” he said, and gently massaged her index finger. The skin looked unbroken and hale. Hell, the skin looked gorgeous. “In truth, it was his thumb that had been damaged,” he said, and trailing his fingers over the little hillocks of her knuckles, drew her hand up to his lips and kissed her digits.

She sucked air though her teeth and tried to jerk away, but he held on gently.

Perhaps he was moving too quickly, but he’d come
here with a mission in mind, and had no intention of staying longer than necessary. ’Twas revenge that kept him here and nothing else. “Did that hurt, me lady?”

“No. It felt—” she began, then raised her peaked chin, pursed her luscious lips, and tugged her hand firmly from his grip. “As I said at the outset, ’twas my shoulder. Not my hand.”

“Ahh…” He grinned a little. His mother had been known to say he had a smile like a sainted bandit. Other women had found less innocuous comparisons. Most suggested he could not be completely trusted. And he supposed that was true. It had been Alastar who was the soft touch. His brother who had been naive and loving and kind. Helper of men, or so his unusual name implied. And it had suited him. It seemed the perfect name for a wise barrister in training. But no more. “Right you are, lassie. ’Twas your shoulder,” he said, and gently eased his way up her elbow, flexing it lightly. “Does that hurt?”


He slipped his hand toward her upper arm. “That?”


He skimmed his fingers to her upper joint. Her lips had parted slightly. They were as pink as the inside of a conch. Soft, shiny, and pearlescent. “That?”

“N—” she began, then jerked her arm away. “Ouch.”

He raised his brows at her sudden reaction. “That hurt?”

She was scowling at him. “I said ouch, did I not?”

“So ye did,” he agreed, and almost laughed, because she looked far more peeved than pained. “It’s your shoulder, then.”

“That’s what I said at the outset. Now, if you’ll catch my mount, we can be on our way,” she groused, and shifted as if to rise.

But he caught her hand. “Sure, you cannot mean to ride that wild beastie again.”

“Of course—” she began, then touched her shoulder as if just remembering the pain there. “—not,” she finished, and turning her gaze to the cock-hipped chestnut, seemed to stifle a shudder. “But even if I do mount that
, you’ll still have to fetch the gelding.”

He glanced into the distance. Her hand felt warm in his. “The blighter looks to be long gone.”

“He soars like a wild hart.”

There was an odd look in her eye again. The kind he couldn’t quite decipher. Surely it couldn’t be admiration. The damned horse could have killed her.

“Like Pegasus,” she whispered.

He frowned at her. “What’s that?”

“When he—” she began, then stopped abruptly and raised her brows in imperial dislike. “You should have warned me of his propensity toward flightiness.”

For a moment he almost argued, but she was not the only actor on this stage. “You are right, of course, me
lady. I should indeed have been more cautious. One cannot be too careful with a beauty such as yours,” he said, and raising her hand slowly to his lips, kissed the little dip in the center of her palm. “But I did not realize you were such a brave little soldier.”

His ploy worked like magic, for he could sense her softening. Could feel her weakening. The problem was, his own loins were beginning to stir. But that was foolish. He was hardly some raw lad enthralled by every pair of pouty lips.

“And because of me shortcomings, I feel the need to set things right.”

Her teeth shone between her plump, berry-bright lips, her eyes looked as soft as moonlight. “They feel pretty right,” she murmured, and he almost laughed out loud.

How the mighty had already fallen. He smiled, giving her a little of that sainted bandit. “I feel it me duty to check your shoulder, me brave little Amazon.”

“My shoulder?”

“The injured one,” he said, and leaned forward, ready to kiss the skin just above her severe neckline, but in that moment she launched from her position on the ground and sent him sprawling like a spanked bairn.

“Fetch the gelding,” she ordered. Her tone was rock solid, the softening maid long gone as she glared down at him. “And quit your foolery.”

With the setting sun sinking red in the gentian sky
behind her, she looked as perfect as an Irish rose, as formidable as a Scottish thistle. And for a moment he almost forgot all. His brother’s slide into dissipation. His father’s death, his own vow to set things right. But he brought himself firmly back to reality. Back to anger. Back to revenge.

“I suppose worry over an injury seems foolish indeed to a warrior woman such as yourself,” he said.

“I am
a warrior.”

“Ahh, but they’re you’re wrong, lass. A brave little Amazonian is what you are.”

Anger flashed in her eyes. “I am no such—”

“Indeed, I believe I’ll call you Lady A.”

“You’ll call me Lady Tilmont. Or Clarette, if stringing two words together is too difficult for one of your limited resources,” she insisted, and he almost laughed as he won another round.

“As you wish then, Clarette,” he said, but as he rose, he stumbled on a tussock behind him and almost fell.

And in that moment she reached for him, hands strong and steady against his arm. “Are you well?”

“’Tis naught to worry upon,” he said, and grinned a little at this odd turn of events. Had she softened so much already that she actually cared? He barely dared to hope. “I but landed wrong when you rose so abruptly.”

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