The Duke of Daring: The Untouchables #2 by Darcy Burke @TastyBookTours @darcyburke
“Yes, let’s be direct with one another, shall we?”
Lucy blinked at him. “I am always direct.”
“Unless you’re trying to fool people into thinking you’re a man.” His sarcasm was simultaneously annoying and charming.
“Yes, that. A necessary transgression, I’m sure you agree.”
His brow arched. “I hardly think you care whether I agree.”
He had her there. She grinned. “Maybe a little. I mean, I do care. A little.” She’d come to like Dartford during their brief acquaintance, in spite of his moments of arrogance and imperiousness. She looked forward to another adventure or two with him. “You have my word that I won’t venture out without your assistance. Shall we set our next appointment?”
His eyes widened briefly. He seemed a bit surprised at the ease with which she’d agreed. “Excellent. Tell me when, and I’ll meet you as I did tonight.”
“Four nights hence, at half past eleven.”
The hackney drew to a halt on Bolton Street, but not in front of her house. They stepped out of the cab, and Dartford paid the coachman.
With her house in sight, weariness seeped into Lucy’s frame. She longed to pluck all the padding from her body and scrub her face clean after discarding the fake sideburns.
Dartford walked with her toward the house. “What would your grandmother say if she knew you were doing this?”
Lucy suffered a pang of guilt. “She’d be horrified.”
“What does she think you’re going to do once she retires?”
They’d reached her house. Lucy stopped and turned toward him. “She expects me to marry.”
“And is that a possibility?” he asked. Shadows played across his face, but she could see his eyes clearly. They were dark, intelligent, often filled with humor. His cheekbones gave definition, while his chin, square with a slight cleft, provided character. He bore an appealing countenance. No, that wasn’t at all fair. He was exceptionally handsome. And an earl. Precisely the kind of man her grandmother had hoped she would marry but who’d consistently ignored her the past five years. An Untouchable.
She tamped down a scowl, suddenly annoyed anew at her predicament, which was silly since she’d abandoned the idea of marriage. A choice she didn’t regret in the slightest.
She gestured to her costume and the sideburns stuck to her face, currently making her itch. “Would I be doing this if it were?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps it is possible, but you don’t wish to marry, so you choose this instead.”
That actually summed up her current attitude quite accurately. She would choose this over marriage. “As it happens, Idon’t wish to marry.”
“Indeed?” He cocked his head to the side. “How surprising. We are alike, then, because I don’t wish to marry either. Some distant cousin will need to inherit the title.”
She wanted to ask why but didn’t. That would encourage him to ask her the same, and she had no intention of explaining that to him. Besides, it was best if they didn’t become too…close. This was a necessary partnership, but they weren’t going to be lifelong friends.
“Are those comfortable?” He reached out with his fingertips and brushed the sideburn glued along her right jawline.
She ignored the frisson of delight that sparked down her neck. “Not particularly. In fact, I’d like a few days to recover from wearing them.”
“I should like to see you without them.” His dark gaze penetrated through her carefully constructed wall, and his deep voice shot straight into her chest, stirring the inconvenient attraction she felt toward him.
Her breath caught. “I doubt you ever will.”
His mouth ticked up in a half smile. “Don’t tease me. Please. Not when I’ve been so helpful. Think of all you won tonight.”
All she’d won. It wasn’t just the money. Not to her. She’d won respect with her shooting, even if she couldn’t tell them she was a woman.
She took a step back, determined to put space between herself and this suddenly dangerous man. “I appreciate your help, but I won’t share credit for my winnings. They are mine alone.”
He gave a slight bow. “My apologies,” he murmured.
“I’ll see you in a few days.” She turned from him.
“Not if I see you first,” he said.
He led Miss Parnell toward the dance floor. “Why didn’t you want to dance with me?”
“Don’t take it personally. I don’t like to dance with anyone.”
He glanced down at her. “Not a very good dancer?”
She sucked in a breath and then laughed. He liked that sound. Almost as much as he liked watching her animated face. “I’m an excellent dancer.”
He arched a brow at her. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
She rolled her eyes. “I suppose you’re superior on the dance floor. You don’t seem to have any deficiencies.”
He grinned, enormously pleased with her observation. “I’m so glad you noticed.”
The set finished, and the music started for the next dance. A waltz. Andrew couldn’t believe his good luck.
Miss Parnell’s nostrils flared. It was a slight reaction, but Andrew caught it.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I haven’t waltzed very much. I wasn’t paying attention to the sets, otherwise I would’ve told you I couldn’t dance this one.”
He lightly clasped her waist and took her hand. “I thought you said you were an excellent dancer.”
She scowled at him as she curled her fingers around his and placed her hand on his shoulder. “You are most ungracious.”
He laughed again, enjoying her immensely. “Come now, surely if you can shoot a gun with deadly accuracy, you can’t let a waltz defeat you?”
She squared her shoulders, which drew his attention to her chest. Though she wasn’t well-endowed, she was nicely formed for her frame, and the bodice of her raspberry silk ball gown fit her to perfection.
“No, I shan’t. I’m invincible, don’t you know?” She gave him a saucy look, and he was completely enchanted.
They moved with the music, and he was glad he remembered how to waltz. “I have a confession to make. My waltzing experience is rather limited as well.”
He laughed again. “That’s ironic coming from you.”
She lifted a shoulder. “One might say I’m uniquely qualified to recognize deception.”
- Posted in: Historical romance