Home > Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(12)

Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(12)
Author: Julia Quinn

He didn‘t often enjoy solitude. In fact, he almost never did. But there was something charming about being out on the heath, out in the open. It reminded him of the war, of all those nights with nothing over his head save for the canopy of a tree.

He‘d hated those nights.

It didn‘t make much sense that something that brought back memories of war would give him such contentment right now, but not much that went through his head made sense. There didn‘t seem to be much point in questioning it.

He closed his eyes. The insides of his eyelids were a brownish black, not at all the same as the thick purple of the night. Darkness had so many colors. It was strange, that, and perhaps a little disquieting. But—


A foot slammed into his left calf, and he opened his eyes just in time to see a woman tumbling backward.

Right onto his blanket.

He smiled. The gods still loved him.

―Good evening," he said, scooching himself up onto his elbows. The woman didn‘t reply—no surprise there, as she was still busy trying to figure out how she‘d ended up on her arse. He watched as she attempted to maneuver herself back onto her feet. She wasn‘t having an easy time of it. The ground was uneven under the blanket, and she had certainly been set off her equilibrium, if her rapid breathing was any indication.

He wondered if she, too, had an assignation. Perhaps there was another gentleman out here on the darkened heath, lurking in the background, waiting to pounce.

Sebastian tilted his head to the side, regarding the lady as she brushed off her dress, and then decided—probably not. She didn‘t have that furtive look about her. Plus, she was wearing white, or light pink, or some other virginal hue. Debutantes could be seduced—not that Sebastian had ever done so; he did subscribe to a certain moral code, not that anyone ever gave him credit for it. But from what he‘d observed, virgins needed wooingin situ . You certainly weren‘t going to get one to walk herself across a lawn and into the heath for her own ruination. Even the stupidest of girls would come to her senses before she reached her destination.


Now this could be interesting. Maybe his clumsy lady had already been deflowered. Maybe she was on her way to meet her lover. The enterprising gentleman would have had to have done avery good job of it the first time if he was getting a repeat engagement. Sebastian had it on the best authority that it was a rare girl who enjoyed her first time.

Then again, his scientific sample might be skewed. All of the women he‘d slept with recently had had their first times with their husbands. Who were, almost by definition, bad in bed.

Otherwise, why would their wives have sought out Sebastian‘s attentions?

At any rate, as delicious as his ponderings might be, it was extremely unlikely that this young lady was on her way to meet a lover. Virginity was just about the only commodity allowed to the young and unmarried of the female persuasion, and they generally did not squander it.

So what was she doing out here? All by herself? He smiled. He loved a good mystery. Almost as much as a good melodrama.

―May I be of assistance?" he asked, since she hadn‘t responded to his earlier greeting.

―No," she said, giving her head a quick shake. ―I‘m sorry. I‘ll be on my way. I really can‘t—"

She looked over at him then, and swallowed.

Did she know him? She certainly looked as if she recognized him. Or maybe she just saw him for what he was, something of a libertine, no one with whom she ought to find herself alone.

He could not fault her for that reaction.

He did not know her , of that he was sure. He rarely forgot a face, and he certainly would not have forgot hers. She was lovely in a wild sort of way, almost as if she belonged out here on the heath. Her hair was dark and probably quite curly; the few tendrils that had escaped her coiffure formed loose coils that brushed against her neck. She looked as if she were easy to laugh, with an impish mouth—even now, when she was clearly flustered and embarrassed.

Most of all, she looked…warm.

He found himself curious at this choice of adjectives. He couldn‘t recall using it before, not about a complete stranger. But she looked warm, as if her personality was warm, and laugh would be warm, and her friendship, too.

And in bed…she‘d be warm there, as well.

Not that he was considering it. For all her heat, she radiated virginity.

Which meant that she was very much off-limits.

Someone in whom he had no interest. None. He couldn‘t even be friends with the virgins, because someone would undoubtedly misunderstand or misconstrue, and then there would be recriminations or worse, expectations, and then he‘d find himself off at some hunting lodge in Scotland, just to get away from it all.

Sebastian knew what he ought to do. He always knew what he ought to do. The difficulty—his difficulty, at least—was in the doing it.

He could rise to his feet like the gentleman he was, point her in the direction of the house, and send her on her way.

He could, but what would be the fun in that?

Chapter Four

When the dead body said, ―Good evening," Annabel had to face the grim conclusion that it wasn‘t nearly as dead as she‘d hoped.

She was happy for him , of course, not being dead and all that, but as for herself, well, his undeadedness was spectacularly inconvenient.

Dear Lord, she wanted to moan, the night only needed this .

She declined his offer of assistance, politely though it was made, and somehow managed to stagger to her feet without embarrassing herself any further.

―What brings you out on the heath?" the not-dead fellow asked conversationally, as if they were instead chatting in a churchyard, surrounded by all that was prim and proper.

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