Home > Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(19)

Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(19)
Author: Julia Quinn

―I shouldn‘t have asked you to kiss me," she said.

But he noticed that she did not apologize for it. And he noticed that he was very glad that she did not.

―Surely you understand," she continued quietly, ―that it is much more important that I learn your identity than the other way around."

He looked down at her hands. They weren‘t balled, or fisted, or frozen into claws. Hands always gave people away. They tensed, or they shook, or they clutched at each other as if they might—

through some sort of impossible witchcraft—save themselves from whatever dark fate awaited them.

This girl was holding the fabric of her skirt. Tightly. She was nervous. Still, she was holding herself with remarkable dignity. And Sebastian knew that she spoke the truth. There was nothing she could do that would ruin him, while he, through one loose or false word, could destroy her forever. It was not the first time he‘d been inordinately glad not to have been born female, but it was the first time he‘d been presented with such clear proof that men truly did have it easier.

―My name is Sebastian Grey," he said, dipping his head toward her in a respectful bow. ―I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss—"

But he couldn‘t possibly have gone on, because she gasped, then blanched, then looked positively ill.

―I assure you," he said, not certain whether the sharp note in his voice was amusement or irritation, ―that my reputation is not as black as that."

―I shouldn‘t be here with you," she said frantically.

―That, we already knew."

―Sebastian Grey. Oh dear God, Sebastian Grey ."

He watched with some interest. Some annoyance, too, but that was to be expected. Really, he wasn‘t as bad as all that . ―I assure you," he said, starting to feel a bit put out by the number of times he was needing to begin his sentences in such a fashion, ―I have no intention of allowing your reputation to be destroyed through your association with me."

―No, of course not," she said, then ruined the whole thing with a panicked burst of laughter.

―You wouldn‘t want to do that. Sebastian Grey." She looked up at the sky, and he half expected her to shake her fist at the gods. ―Sebastian Grey," she said. Again .

―Do I take this to mean you‘ve been warned about me?"

―Oh yes," came her too-fast reply. And then she snapped back to attention, looking him directly in the eye. ―I have to go. Now."

―As you might recall I‘ve been telling you," he murmured.

She looked toward the side garden, grimacing at the thought of passing through a lovers‘ lawn.

―Head down," she said to herself. ―Barrel through."

―Some live their entire lives by that motto," he said cheerfully.

She looked at him sharply, clearly wondering if he‘d gone mad in the last two seconds. He shrugged, unwilling to apologize. He was finally beginning to feel like himself again. He had every right to feel cheerful.

―Do you?" she asked.

―Absolutely not. I prefer life to have a bit more style. It‘s all about the subtleties, don‘t you think?"

She stared at him. Blinked a few times. Then said, ―I should go."

And she went. She put her head down and barreled through.

Without telling him her name.

Chapter Six

The following afternoon

You‘re terribly quiet today," Louisa said.

Annabel smiled weakly at her cousin. They were walking Louisa‘s dog in Hyde Park, accompanied—theoretically—by Louisa‘s aunt. But Lady Cosgrove had come across one of her many acquaintances, and while she was still in sight, she was no longer in earshot.

―I‘m only tired," Annabel said. ―I had difficulty sleeping after all the excitement of the party." It wasn‘t the whole truth, but neither was it a lie. She‘d lain awake for hours the night before, making elaborate studies of the insides of her eyelids.

She refused to stare at the ceiling. On principle. She‘d always felt that way. In the quest for sleep, open eyes were a clear admission of defeat.

Still, no matter where she looked, it was impossible to escape the magnitude of what she‘d done.

Sebastian Grey.

Sebastian Grey.

The words rang like a miserable moan in her head. On the list of men she ought not to be kissing, he had to rank at the top, along with the King, Lord Liverpool, and the chimney sweep.

And frankly, she suspected he was higher up the list than the chimney sweep.

She hadn‘t known very much about Mr. Grey before the Trowbridge party, just that he was Lord Newbury‘s heir, and the two men did not tolerate each other‘s company. But once word had got out that Lord Newbury was pursuing her, everyone seemed to have something to tell her about the earl and his nephew.

Oh very well, not everyone, since most of society wasn‘t the least bit interested in her, but everyone she knew had an opinion.

He was handsome. (The nephew, not the earl.)

He was a rogue. (Again, the nephew.)

He was probably penniless and spent a great deal of time with his cousins on the other side of his family. (Definitely the nephew, and in fact, it had better be the nephew, because if Annabel married Lord Newbury and he turned out to be penniless, she was going to be livid .) Annabel had left the ball straightaway after the disastrous interlude on the heath, but apparently Mr. Grey had not. He must have made quite an impression on Louisa, because this morning, good heavens, it was all she could talk about.

Mr. Grey this, and Mr. Grey that, and how was it possible that Annabel hadn‘t seen him at the party? Annabel had shrugged and made some sort of I can‘t imagine type of comment, but it didn‘t matter because Louisa was still nattering on about his smile and his eyes which weregray and oh wasn‘t it just the most marvelous coincidence and oh yes, everyone had noticed that he departed on the arm of a married woman!

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