Chapter 3

The room was completely silent, save for the telltale flicker of the fire and, if one listened closely, the raindrops pelting on the nearby window.

After a moment or two of awkwardness, Estelle broke the stillness.

“Forgive me, my Lord.” She said at last, “I was not…not aware that this was your study.”

“No, I did not think you were.”

“I…I am sorry, but I had no reason to even suspect—”

“That a man may enter his own study? Well of course not.”

“There is no need to patronise me, my Lord! My foolishness is quite apparent without mockery.”

The Viscount’s smug leer widened. “Mm, I don’t know about that.”

Estelle felt a familiar ire smouldering under her skin. “Well, if you remember correctly, my Lord, never at any point did you actually tell me how to address you!”

“Are you also aware that you did exactly that, chick?”

“Ugh! You make absolutely no sense! And will you desist in using that awful endearment!”

Vaughn smiled. “What would you have me call you then, sweetheart, since you are so opposed to my charm?”

“Perhaps my name would not go amiss? Although I suppose you do not know it… And your— your charm leaves a lot to be desired, I assure you.”

That seemed to strike a nerve, she noticed, as his smile fell abruptly. “And what do you mean by that?”

“I do not have time to list all its faults, my Lord, as I would surely be talking until dawn if I did so.”

Their gazes locked for a moment, silently challenging, secretly revelling in the contact.

The Viscount’s smile returned.

Etelle almost almost fell over when she realised he had just closed the remaining distance between them. He caught her as she tripped, held her close.

She caught her breath at his shadowed expression.

“I would also wager, that you had no such thoughts when I kissed you.”

The governess swallowed at his close proximity, at his words…at the memories he stirred inside her.

“I-I have no idea what you’re talking about—”

“You’re blushing.” Vaughn whispered, his mouth twitching at one of the corners.

“I am not blushing!” Raising her hands to her cheeks, she attempted to cover the evidence, “It is just…very warm in here.”

“My apologies for your discomfort.”

The Viscount took her hands from her cheeks, putting them to his chest. Estelle was mildly surprised to find that his heartbeat matched the increased pace of her own.

Her eyes hooded when he leaned in closer towards her, their lips almost touching.

“But I believe the reason your blood is heated so,” He breathed, “is more likely because you want me to do this.”

And then—

Something knocked against the outside of the door.

How about this one, Allen? I hear nothing going on inside…

Aside from experiencing a horrible bolt of déjà vu, Estelle felt as if the whole atmosphere had just been doused by a bucket of iced lemonade.

Marielle, my love,

A familiar baritone sounded.

Just open the bloody door before I break it down. Meet me in there after I…

Giggling accompanied a set of footsteps echoing down the hall. Estelle and Vaughn remained motionless; bodies close and hearts still racing, although now for another reason entirely.

“It’s Marielle!”

Estelle whispered hurriedly as the Viscount turned back to her.

“She cannot see me this way! She simply cannot—”

Vaughn let go of her abruptly,

“Hide over there,” gesturing roughly towards the curtains, he walked to the door, “and stay quiet until I leave with her.”

“Leave with her—?”

Go!

Without warning, Marielle Harrington flung the door open, marched through the door—

“Is there something I can help you with, Miss Harrington?” Vaughn asked coolly.

—and almost had a heart attack.

Needless to say, the debutante was speechless.

“I…no my Lord, I was merely…” Marielle stammered, probably for the first time in her life. “I was, uh… I was looking for my chaperone actually… h-have you seen her?”

screenshot-59Behind the curtain, Estelle’s heart was thumping so hard she felt dizzy.

I’m afraid I have not seen Miss Murphy this evening,” Vaughn continued smoothly, “But I am certain she is searching for you as we speak.

“Shall I escort you to the dance hall, Miss Harrington? Perhaps then I could fetch you some lemonade, you look quite flushed.”

He held out his arm, which Marielle stared at as if it were made completely out of diamond. She looked up at him, unable to conceal her eagerness for him to do so.

Why, that would be lovely! But you need not trouble yourself for me, I am quite capable of fetching my own…

Their voices faded down the hall as the door closed. Slowly, Estelle peered around the corner of the curtains.

When the coast was completely clear, she sneaked out into the deserted corridor, hoping to god that nobody had seen—

Well, in all honesty, it was clear that nobody would take any notice, even if they had seen her; nobody ever took any notice.  She doubted even Liddy would bother to ask where she’d been.

Perhaps she should try wearing something more…daring to the next party. Perhaps something that wasn’t so very dark…perhaps something that showed her figure. Maybe then someone might notice her.

But it was at this point, entering the dance hall, that she began to ask herself…

Did she even want anybody to look at her?

…anybody that wasn’t him?

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