Home > Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(11)

Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(11)
Author: Julia Quinn

Annabel did not want to be the one to ruin things for them.

She jumped to her feet, intending to find an alternate route back into the house, but the couple was advancing quickly, and there was no way she could go anywhere but deeper into the shadows if she wished to avoid them. She moved swiftly, not quite running but definitely doing something that was more than a walk, until she was at the hedge that clearly marked the edge of the property. She didn‘t particularly relish the thought of pressing herself into the bramble, so she scooted off to her left, where she could see an opening in the hedge, presumably leading out to the heath.

The heath. The huge, wonderful, glorious space that was everything that London was not.

This was definitely not where she was supposed to be. Definitely, definitely not. Louisa would be aghast. Her grandfather would be furious. And her grandmother…

Well, her grandmother would probably laugh, but Annabel had long since realized she ought not base any of her moral judgments on her grandmother‘s behavior.

She wondered if she might be able to find another way back from the heath onto the Trowbridge lawn. It was a huge property; surely there were multiple openings in the hedge. But in the meantime…

She looked out over the open expanse. How amazing to find such wilderness so close to town. It was fierce and dark, and the air held a crisp clarity she hadn‘t even realized she‘d missed. It wasn‘t just that it was clean and fresh—that she‘d known she‘d missed, from the very first day she‘d breathed in the slightly opaque gas that masqueraded as air in London. There was a bite to the air here, something cold, something tangy. Every breath made her lungs tingle.

It was heaven.

She looked up, wondering if the stars would be any more visible out here. They weren‘t, not much anyway, but she kept her face to the sky nonetheless, walking slowly backward as she gazed up at the thin sliver of moon hanging drunkenly above the treetops.

It was the sort of night that ought to be magical. And it would have been, if she hadn‘t been pawed at by a man old enough to be her grandfather. It would have been if she‘d been allowed to wear red, which favored her complexion so much more than this pale peony of a pink.

It would have been magical if the wind blew in time to a waltz. If the rustle of the leaves were Spanish castanets, and there were a handsome prince waiting in the mist.

Of course there was no mist, but then again, there was no prince, either. Just a horrible old man who wanted to do horrible things to her. And eventually, she was going to have to let him.

Three times in her life she‘d been kissed. The first was Johnny Metham, who now insisted upon being called John, but he‘d been but eight when he‘d smacked his lips on hers—definitely a Johnny.

The second had been Lawrence Fenstone, who had stolen a kiss on May Day, three years earlier.

It had been dark, and someone had put rum in both bowls of punch, and the entire village had lost its sense. Annabel had been surprised, but not angry, and in fact when he‘d tried to put his tongue in her mouth she‘d laughed.

It had seemed just the most ridiculous thing.

Lawrence had not been amused, and he‘d stalked off, his manly pride apparently too pricked to continue. He didn‘t speak to her again for an entire year, not until he‘d come back from Bristol with a blushing bride—blond, petite, and brainless. Everything Annabel wasn‘t, and, she was relieved to note, quite a lot that she didn‘t care to be.

The third kiss had been tonight, when Lord Newbury had ground his body against hers, and then done the same with his mouth.

Suddenly that whole episode with Lawrence Fenstone‘s tongue no longer seemed so amusing.

Lord Newbury had done the same thing, trying to jab his tongue between her lips, but she had clenched her teeth together so hard she‘d thought her jaw might break. And then she had run.

She‘d always equated running with cowardice, but now, after having taken flight herself, she realized that sometimes it was the only prudent action, even if it meant that she now found herself alone on a heath, with an amorous couple blocking her way back to the ballroom. It was almost comical.


She let her cheeks inflate with air, then blew it out, still walking slowly backward. What a night this had been. It wasn‘t magical at all. It wasn‘t—


Her heel connected with something—dear God, was it a leg?—and she tumbled back. And all she could think—as macabre as her outlook had become—was that she‘d tripped over a dead body.

Or at least she hoped it was dead. A dead body would certainly do less damage to her reputation than a live one.

Sebastian was a patient man, and he didn‘t mind waiting twenty minutes so that he and Elizabeth could make respectably separate reentrances to the ballroom. The lovely Lady Cellars had a reputation to uphold, even if he did not. Not that their liaison was anything approaching a secret. Elizabeth was young and beautiful, she‘d already supplied her husband with two sons, and if Sebastian had it correctly, Lord Cellars was far more interested in his male secretary than he was in his wife.

No one expected Lady Cellars to remain faithful. No one.

But appearances had to be upheld, and so Sebastian happily remained on the blanket (smuggled in by an enterprising footman) and pondered the night sky.

It was uncommonly peaceful out here on the heath, even if he could hear the sounds of the party humming in on the wind. He‘d not ventured too far past the border of the Trowbridge property; Elizabeth was not so adventurous as that. Still, he felt remarkably alone.

The strangest thing was, he liked it.

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