I Kissed an Earl(6)

By: Julie Anne Long

“Which one?” he said sharply.

“The brunette—the one in blue.”

Flint found the brunette in question easily. She was part of that group but seemed separate somehow, limned in stillness. Her hair was dressed intricately up; a pair of calculated ringlets dangled to her chin; her features were fine apart from a decidedly lush mouth; her dress a singular shade of blue, cut low enough to reveal the tops of a more than acceptable bosom above which dangled a single bright jewel of some kind, strung on a chain. Her throat was long. Her fan flapped below her chin as disinterestedly as if the hand holding it belonged to someone else altogether.

But her eyes were brilliantly alive, and the corner of that lush mouth was dented with wry contempt.

For herself? For her companions? For everyone in the room?

Funny, but Flint was distantly reminded of himself.

“That one is bored, Lavay. And I’m willing to wager there’s nothing more dangerous to a man’s health than a bored, spoiled, wealthy young Englishwoman.”

“I won’t take that wager, Flint. I’d like to see the morrow.”

The woman in question and the pretty be-plumed blonde detached themselves from the group and began to move rather purposefully in their direction, joined by another English gentleman en route.

“Well, bloody hell.” Lavay was amused. “Try to look civil, for a change, you scoundrel, because I feel we’re about to be compelled to dance with Englishwomen after all.”

“My apologies, Lavay,” Flint murmured. “I’m sure it has everything to do with my majestic thighs.”

Chapter 2

L ady Peregrine, as promised, had contrived an introduction to Lord Lavay and Lord Flint through a cousin of her husband who had been introduced to the pair earlier, and who abandoned them rapidly once it was clear that the earl and Lord Lavay now felt obliged to ask the ladies to dance.

A waltz began, lilting and insistent, and all around them men and women swirled off in pairs. Lord Lavay dutifully bowed in the direction of Violet and Lady Peregrine. “I would be so pleased if you would do me the honor of dancing with—”

“It would be my pleasure, Lord Lavay,” Lady Peregrine said smoothly, and up went her hand to intercept his.

That hand hovered in midair, chandelier light winking on the blue stones in her bracelet. They all stared at it for a surprised—and in Violet’s case, resentful—moment. Lady Peregrine’s eyebrow gave a smug, infinitesimal twitch.

Then Lavay, like the gentleman he was cursed to be, gracefully took it and led her away. Violet watched, quietly seething.

“Miss Redmond?”

“Lavay” is what that Gypsy girl had shouted to her. And surely it was significant that someone named Lavay should appear in a ballroom just as she was about to expire from boredom?

“Miss Redmond?” came the voice again.

She whirled, almost startled.

The large earl bowed dutifully to her, and when he was upright again, outstretched a hand, and raised his eyebrows expectantly.

She took swift note of him and immediately again thought of jewels. His face was faceted, too: high-planed cheeks, jaw hard and clean-edged as a diamond. Chin stubborn, brow high and broad, nose bold. A good mouth, drawn with elegant precision. An Indian, certainly. She could imagine Indian in his bloodline. His complexion was what marked him as decidedly un-English and as a man with no particular pedigree: more golden than fair and likely to darken and darken rather than burn in the sun.

But he knew how to waltz.

When he expertly, gently took her hand in his and placed his other hand against her waist, she knew a moment of peculiar breathlessness, as though she were being pulled inexorably into an orbit. His intangible power was such that she was tempted both to resist it and surrender to it, and being Violet, she preferred the former to the latter, and promptly set about doing it. Dash it. It was Lavay she needed to see.

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