Kathryn Smith Quotes
“Grey was here.”
He hadn’t known, that was obvious from the way his eyes widened. “You lie.”
Rose chuckled. “I saw him. I spoke to him. He said he came to see me. And then he ran out of here as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels.”
Archer shook his head, an expression of disbelief on his face. “They tend to do that when Hades freezes over.” Then he offered her a grin. “He braved being seen in public just to come here and see you?”
“He was watching from a balcony. I wouldn’t have known he was here if the fortune teller hadn’t told me.”
His brows shot up. “And there’s a story for another time. Look, Lady Rose, I know he’s frustrating as all get-out, but you cannot expect Grey to change years of behavior in a week. You have to be patient-like waves lapping at a stone.”
That was so very easily said. He wasn’t the one being pressured to find a husband. He wasn’t the one who felt as though everything she wanted was just out of reach. “You know, I suddenly find myself very interested in Lady Monteforte’s literary tastes. Shall I make the introductions?”
“I will hang your puppy if you do not.”
Rose grinned. He truly was the most charming of rascals. “How very fortunate for me then, that I do not own a puppy.”
“For shame. Every young lady should have a puppy.”
Rose made the introductions, and Archer wasted no time in asking Lady Monteforte if she cared to dance. For a moment it seemed the lady might decline, but then Rose offered to stay with Jacqueline and Archer offered the widow his arm. She hesitated before taking it.
Interesting. Rose had never seen a woman react so coolly to Archer’s charm before. The Kane men were obviously losing their touch.”
“A gasp caught her attention, followed by a rush of whispers that filled the sudden silence that fell over the room. People stopped talking to turn and stare. People stopped dancing. Even the orchestra stopped playing.
Curious, Rose turned to see what everyone was staring at with such blatant shock.
Oh, dear God. Her eyes had to be deceiving her! But no, she knew who it was she saw standing just inside the ballroom doors, looking as though he owned the place, meeting every gaze with calm, ducal arrogance.
It was Grey.
And everyone else knew it was him as well, because unlike every other person in that ballroom, the Duke of Ryeton did not wear a mask.”
“Oh, ho!” his brother cried, clasping him close in a fierce embrace. “Did you think you’d escape without saying hello?” Then, for Grey’s ears alone, “I’m so frigging proud of you I could just piss.”
“Please don’t.” Grey gently pushed him away, meeting the other man’s bright gaze with a lump in his throat. “But thank you.”
His mother hugged him as well, so overcome that she began to weep. Grey didn’t know what to do with her, but Archer gave her a handkerchief and Rose discreetly took her aside so she could compose herself.
That left Grey with Bronte, who looked as though she was on the verge of tears as well, her blue eyes watery behind her mask.
“You,” he said firmly. “Let you and I get one thing straight right now. I don’t care if you’ve already asked Archer. I don’t care what your groom’s family wants, or who you think you’re trying to protect. I will give you away, or there will be no wedding. Is that understood?”
The cupid’s bow of his sister’s mouth trembled and for a moment he thought he had been wrong about her and now she hated him, but then she threw herself into his arms, laughing.
“I love you,” she whispered against his ear before kissing his cheek.
She was gone before Grey could even hug her back, which was probably just as well given the burning in his eyes.
“We’ll be all over the scandal rags tomorrow,” Archer crowed with a bit too much enthusiasm.
“No doubt,” Grey agreed. “I’m afraid I have provided enough entertainment for one evening. Dinner tomorrow?”
His family accept the invitation with quiet aplomb and a great deal of unspoken pride, but it was obvious all the same.”
“He told me to stay away from you.”
Strong hands roamed her back in the most comforting fashion. “You should have listened.”
Rose raised her face to look at him. “But then I would not have known what it was to be truly happy.”
Grey’s eyes widened, and for a moment he looked young and vulnerable. “Don’t say that. I’ve made you miserable.”
She smiled sadly. “True, but those nights with you at Saint’s Row? That was happiness for me. The most I’ve ever known.”
His mouth opened and she pressed her fingers again his lips to close them. “You don’t have to say anything. I already know it’s not what I want to hear.”
Grey frowned, and reached up to move her hand from his face. He held her fingers within his. He gave off more heat than the fire she’d fried herself in front of earlier. Heat that went straight to her bones, right to the very center of her being, radiating out into her limbs. There was nothing seductive about their embrace and yet she ached inside, that wet and willing part of herself desperate to take him inside once more. She wanted to claim him, mark him.
Ruin him for anyone else.
“I was happy too,” he said softly. So softly she wouldn’t have known it was him who spoke were she not watching his beautiful lips as they formed the words. “God help me, you make me forget every vow and promise I’ve ever made.”
Heart pounding, Rose didn’t resist as he dropped her hand to thread his fingers in her hair, pressing against her scalp. “You make me feel like someone else,” he told her gruffly. “A good man. A worthy man, and not a selfish bastard too corrupted to ever be loved.”
Her eyes burned, but Rose managed to hold the tears at bay. She bit her lip, staring at him, she knew, with her heart in her eyes. She didn’t care. “You are a good man,” she whispered. “The best I know.” Who else would cut himself off from almost all contact with people simply to keep himself from returning to a way of life he wanted to leave behind?
“You shouldn’t say things like that.”
“Why not? I believe them.”
“Because when you say them, I want to believe them.” And then he lowered his head and captured her mouth with his own.”
“There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” she remarked, setting the periodical aside for a moment.
“And that is?”
She tucked her skirts around her legs, denying him further glimpses of her ankles. “Would you by chance know what gamahuching is?”
Grey would have thought himself far beyond the age of blushing, but the heat in his cheeks was unmistakable. “Good lord, Rose.” His voice was little more than a rasp. “That is hardly something a young woman brings up in casual conversation.”
Oh, but he could show her what gamahuching was. He’d be all too happy to crawl between those trim ankles and climb upward until he found the slit in her drawers…
Rose shrugged. “I suppose it might be offensive to someone of your age, but women aren’t as sheltered as they once were, Grey. If you won’t provide a definition, I’m sure Mr. Maxwell will when I see him tonight.” And with that threat tossed out between them, the little baggage returned her attention to her naughty reading.
His age? What did she think he was, an ancient? Or was she merely trying to bait him? Tease him? Well, two could play at that game.
And he refused to think of Kellan Maxwell, the bastard, educating her on such matters.
“I believe you’ve mistaken me if you think I find gamahuching offensive,” he replied smoothly, easing himself down onto the blanket beside her. “I have quite the opposite view.”
Beneath the high collar of her day gown, Rose’s throat worked as she swallowed. “Oh?”
“Yes.” He braced one hand flat against the blanket near her hip, leaning closer as though they were co-conspirators. “But I’m afraid the notion might seem distasteful to a lady of your inexperience and sheltered upbringing.”
Doe eyes narrowed. “If I am not appalled by the practice of frigging, why would anything else done between two adults in the course of making love offend me?”
Christ, she had the sexual vocabulary of a whore and the naivete of a virgin. There were so many things that people could do to each other that very well could offend her-hell, some even offended him. As for frigging, that just made him think of his fingers deep inside her wet heat, her own delicate hand around his cock, which of course was rearing its head like an attention-seeking puppy.
He forced a casual shrug. Let her think he wasn’t the least bit affected by the conversation. Hopefully she wouldn’t look at his crotch. “Gamahuching is the act of giving pleasure to a woman with one’s mouth and tongue.”
Finally his beautiful innocent seductress blushed. She glanced down at the magazine in her hands, obviously reimagining some of what she had read. “Oh.” Then, her gaze came back to his. “Thank you.”
Thank God she hadn’t asked if it was pleasurable because Grey wasn’t sure his control could have withstood that. Still, glutton for punishment that he was, he held her gaze. “Anything else you would like to ask me?”
Rose shifted on the blanket. Embarrassed or aroused? “No, I think that’s all I wanted to know.”
“Be careful, Rose,” he advised as he slowly rose to his feet once more. He had to keep his hands in front of him to disguise the hardness in his trousers. Damn thing didn’t show any sign of standing down either. “Such reading may lead to further curiosity, which can lead to rash behavior. I would hate to see you compromise yourself, or give your affection to the wrong man.”
She met his gaze evenly, with a strange light in her eyes that unsettled him. “Have you stopped to consider Grey, that I may have done that already?”
And since that remark rendered him so completely speechless, he turned on his heel and walked away.”
“Why did you come here tonight?” she asked. “Other than the fact that you’ve finally come to your senses and realize you love me.”
Chuckling, Grey reached up and untied the ribbons that held her mask. The pretty silk fell away to reveal the beautiful face beneath. “I missed you,” he replied honestly. “And you were right-about everything. I’m tired of drifting through life. I want to live again-with you.”
A lone tear trickled down her cheek. “I think that might be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.”
He grinned. “I have more.”
She pressed her fingers to his lips. “I’m tired of talking.” She kissed him, teasing his lips with the ripe curves of hers, sliding her tongue inside to rub against his in a sensual rhythm that had him fisting his hands in her skirts.
By the time they reached Mayfair, Grey’s hair was mussed, Rose’s skirts crushed, and he was harder than an oratory competition for mutes.
“I can’t believe you came,” she told him as the entered the house, arms wrapped around each other. “I’m so proud of you.”
“I wouldn’t have done it without you.”
She shook her head. “You did it for yourself not for me.”
Perhaps that was true, and perhaps it wasn’t. He had no interest in discussing it tonight. “It’s just the beginning,” he promised. “I’m going to go wherever you want to go from now on. Within reason.”
She laughed. “Of course. We can’t have you attending a musicale just to please me, can we?” She gazed up at him. “You know, I think I’m going to want to spend plenty of evenings at home as well. That time I spent out of society had some very soothing moments.”
“Of course,” he agreed, thinking about all the things they could do to one another at home. Alone. “There has to be moderation.”
Upstairs in their bedroom, he undressed her, unbuttoning each tiny button one by one until she sighed in exasperation. “In a hurry?” he teased.
His wife got her revenge, when clad only in her chemise and stockings, she turned those nimble fingers of hers to his cravat, working the knot so slowly he thought he might go mad. She worsened the torment by slowly rubbing her hips against his thigh. His cock was so rigid he could hang clothes on it, and the need to bury himself inside her consumed him.
Still, a skilled lover knows when to have patience-and a man in love knows that his woman’s pleasure comes far, far before his own. So, as ready as he was, Grey was in no hurry to let this night end, not when it might prove to be the best of his new-found life.
Wearing only his trousers, he took Rose’s hand and led her to their bed. He climbed onto the mattress and pulled her down beside him, lying so that they were face-to-face.
Warm fingers came up to gently touch the scar that ran down his face. Odd, but he hadn’t thought of it at all that evening. In fact, he’d almost forgot about it.
“I heard you that night,” he admitted. “When you told me you loved me.”
Her head tilted. “I thought you were asleep.”
“No.” He held her gaze as he raised his own hand to brush the softness of her cheek. “I should have said it then, but I love you too, Rose. So much.”
Her smile was smug. “I know.” She kissed him again. “Make love to me.”
His entire body pulsed. “I intend to, but there’s one thing I have to do first.”
Rose frowned. “What’s that?”
Grey pulled the brand-new copy of Voluptuous from beneath the pillow where he’d hidden it before going to the ball. “There’s a story in here that I want to read to you.”
“Before his death your father begged a promise from me. He made me swear that I would look after you and your mother.”
“And you have,” she insisted.
He held up his hand to prevent her from saying more. “And made me give my word that I would never touch you in any manner other than brotherly.” Another rueful smile. “So you see, I preferred being able to pretend that I had kept my promise rather than face the truth of breaking my word.”
He broke her heart, damn him. “He made me promise not to become attached to you,” she confided, continuing with the evening’s truthful trend. “It seems Papa saw something that neither one of us did.”
“Oh, I saw it. I’ve seen it since you were eighteen years old and we danced together at some insipid ball. I don’t remember where it was, or the day of the week, but I remember that you wore a pale tea-colored gown with Belgian lace, and that you had pearls in your hair.”
She couldn’t breathe. The tilt of his lips, the bleakness of his gaze, it was all too horrible. “And you wore a red cravat,” she whispered. “I thought you looked so rakish in it.”
“I was rakish,” he admitted. “Your father knew that.”
“Lady Rose, you grow lovelier every time I see you.”
Had it been a stranger who spoke she might have been flustered, but since it was Archer, Grey’s younger brother, she merely grinned in response and offered her hand. “And your eyesight grows poorer every time you see me, sir.”
He bowed over her fingers. “If I am blind it is only by your beauty.”
She laughed at that, enjoying the good-natured sparkle in his bright blue eyes. He was so much more easy-natured than Grey, so much more full of life and flirtation. And yet, the family resemblance could not be denied even if Archer’s features were a little thinner, a little sharper.
How would Grey feel if she found a replacement for him in his own brother? It was too low, even in jest.
“Careful with your flattery, sir,” she warned teasingly. “I am trolling for a husband you know.”
Archer’s dark brows shot up in mock horror. “Never say!” Then he leaned closer to whisper. “Is my brother actually fool enough to let you get away?”
Rose’s heart lurched at the note of seriousness in his voice. When she raised her gaze to his she saw only concern and genuine affection there. “He’s packing my bags as we speak.”
He laughed then, a deep, rich sound that drew the attention of everyone on the terrace, including his older brother.
“Will you by chance be at the Devane musicale next week, Lord Archer?”
“I will,” he remarked, suddenly sober. “As much as it pains me to enter that viper’s pit. I’m accompanying Mama and Bronte. Since there’s never been any proof of what she did to Grey, Mama refuses to cut the woman. She’s better than that.”
Archer’s use of the word “cut” might have been ironic, but what a relief knowing he would be there. “Would you care to accompany Mama and myself as well?”
He regarded her with a sly smile. “My dear, Lady Rose. Do you plan to use me to make my brother jealous?”
“Of course not!” And she was honest to a point. “I wish to use your knowledge of eligible beaux and have you buoy my spirits. If that happens to annoy your brother, then so much the better.”
He laughed again. This time Grey scowled at the pair of them. Rose smiled and waved.
Archer tucked her hand around his arm and guided her toward the chairs where the others sat enjoying the day, the table before them laden with sandwiches, cakes, scones, and all kinds of preserves, cream, and biscuits. A large pot of tea sat in the center.
“What are you grinning at?” Grey demanded as they approached.
Archer gave his brother an easy smile, not the least bit intimidated. “Lady Rose has just accepted my invitation for both she and her dear mama to accompany us to the Devane musicale next week.”
Grey stiffened. It was the slightest movement, like a blade of grass fighting the breeze, but Rose noticed. She’d wager Archer did too.
“How nice,” he replied civilly, but Rose mentally winced at the coolness of his tone. He turned to his mother. “I’m parched. Mama, will you pour?”
And he didn’t look at her again.”
“You’ve always been so agreeable,” he remarked with something of a rueful tone. “I don’t understand why you haven’t told me to sod off.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Other than the simple fact that I would never say those words to anyone?”
He glanced at her, eyes sparkling. “Even so. I am humbled by your easy acceptance of me. I behaved abominably toward you years ago and yet you act as though nothing ever happened.”
Rose twirled the handle of her parasol. “We cannot change the past, Mr. Maxwell. I reckon I would be a much happier woman if I could. No, all we can do is go forward.”
His brow furrowed. “Does that mean you forgive me?”
She laughed again. “Yes, it does. I understand why you had to abandon your courtship after my father’s misfortune and I do not blame you for it.”
Kellan shook his head. “You are too good.”
“No,” she insisted with a sharp shake of her head. “I am not.” Lord, if he but knew just how not good she could be! Of course, if they were married he’d realize that on their wedding night, wouldn’t he? Or could she deceive him and make him believe she was a virgin? It wouldn’t be right, but she would do it to spare his feelings, and keep her secrets. “But, I can be practical when the situation calls for it.”
“Is that why you’re here with me now?” he asked with amusement. “Practicality?”
Rose’s smile was coy in reply. “Perhaps. Or perhaps I like giving the gossips something to natter about.”
Kellan laughed aloud. “I’ve missed your wit, Rose. You always knew how to make me laugh.”
“Yes.” She twirled her parasol again. “You as well. I’m glad that we are friends again.”
“Friends,” he repeated. “Is that what we are?”
It had been a while since she’d flirted with a man without the benefit of a mask, but she thought she remembered how to do it. “For now.”
They were smiling at each other as they passed beneath the thick shade of trees that lined the track, and Rose felt a stirring of hope in her breast. Her heart wasn’t totally under Grey’s control, and for that she was extraordinarily happy.”
“So you were bored and decided to come looking for me?”
He trailed a finger over the exposed part of her upper chest. “Something like that.”
Blushing prettily, she brushed his hand away, but not before giving his fingers a squeeze. “Well, I’m busy, so unless you want to help Heather and me in our endeavors, you will have to find some way to amuse yourself.”
Grey sighed. “All right, I’ll go, but only because I’m likely to ruin whatever beautification potions you two lovely witches are brewing.”
Behind Rose, the maid Heather giggled. Grey grinned at Rose’s wide-eyed disbelief as she looked at first her maid and then him. “Have you always charmed women so easily?”
Grey’s humor faded. “I’m afraid so.” And then softly, “It if offends you…”
She shoved her palm into his shoulder. “Don’t be an idiot. Flirt with my maid all you want. But I don’t want to hear anything from you when I smile at the footmen.”
God she was amazing. He slipped his arms around her, no caring that the maid could see, even though she made a great pretense of not looking. “Are you going out tonight?”
Rose pushed against his chest. “Grey, I’m all sweat and grime.”
“I don’t care. Answer me, are you going out?”
She arched a brow. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“No.” He held her gaze as he lowered his head, but he didn’t kiss her. He simply let the words drift across her sweet lips. “I’d keep you here every night if I could.”
She shivered delicately. Christ, he could kiss her. He could make love to her right there. “All you have to do is ask.”
“I won’t have you give up your society for me.”
Something flickered in her dark eyes. “It wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice.”
Because of the gossip? How long before she began to resent him for it? He could just push her away and be done with it-tell her to go out and find herself a lover, but he would rather carve up the rest of his face than do that.
Instead, he took the coward’s route. He didn’t ask for an explanation. He didn’t want to know what she’d heart about him or what they’d said about her. He simply smiled and decided to take advantage of what time he had left. Because he loved having her with him, and spending what had always been lonely hours in company better than any he might have deserved or ever wished for.
“You are sweaty and grimy,” he murmured in his most seductive tones. “And now I find I am as well. Shall we meet in the bath in, say, twenty minutes? I’ll scrub your back if you’ll scrub mine.”
Of course, when she joined him later, and their naked bodies came together in the hot, soapy water, all thoughts of scrubbing disappeared. And so did-for a brief while-all of Grey’s misgivings.
But he knew they’d be back.”
“For a second he thought she might chuckle, and honest to God he didn't know what he would do if she did. "Grey, society didn't give you that scar. A woman you treated with no more regard than your dirty stockings gave you that scar. You cannot blame the actions of one on so many."
HIs fingers tightened into fists at his side. "I do not blame all of society for her actions, of course not."
"How could you? You don't even know who it was, do you?"
"No." But he had suspicions. He was almost completely certain it had been Maggie-Lady Devane. He'd broken her heart the worst of them all.
"Of course you don't." Suddenly her eyes were very dark and hard. "I suspect it could be one of a large list of names, all women who you toyed with and cast aside."
A heavy chill settled over Grey's chest at the note of censure, and disapproval in her tone. He had known this day would come, when she would see him for what he truly was. He just hadn't expected it quite so soon.
"Yes," he whispered. "A long list indeed."
"So it's no wonder you would rather avoid society. I would too if I had no idea who my enemies were. It's certainly preferable to apologizing to every conquest and hope that you got the right one." She didn't say it meanly, or even mockingly, but there was definitely an edge to her husky voice.
"Is this what we've come to, Rose?" he demanded. "You've added your name to the list of the women I've wronged?"
She laughed then, knocking him even more off guard. "Of course not. I knew what I was getting myself into when I hatched such a foolhardy plan. No, your conscience need not bear the weight of me, grey." When she moved to stand directly before him, just inches away, it was all he could do to stand his ground and not prove himself a coward.
Her hand touched his face, the slick satin of her gloves soft against his cheek. "I wish you would stop living under all this regret and rejoin the world," she told him in a tone laden with sorrow. "You have so much to offer it. I'm sure society would agree with me if you took the chance."
Before he could engineer a reply, there was another knock at the door. Rose dropped her hand just as her mother stuck her head into the room.
"Ah, there you are. Good evening, Grey. Rose, Lord Archer is here."
Rose smiled. "I'll be right there, Mama." When the door closed once more, she turned to Grey. "Let us put an end to this disagreeable conversation and put it in the past where it belongs. Friends?"
Grey looked down at her hand, extended like a man's. He didn't want to take it. In fact, he wanted to tell her what she could do with her offer of friendship and barely veiled insults. He wanted to crush her against his chest and kiss her until her knees buckled and her superior attitude melted away to pleas of passion. That was what he wanted.”
“You are very quiet,” Archer remarked as they walked together to the refreshment table. They’d just finished a game of whist and when Rose begged off from a second round, Grey’s brother did the same.
“My apologies,” she replied. “I do not mean to be rude.”
“My brother doesn’t deserve to take up so much room in that lovely head of yours.”
She might have been insulted by his disparaging Grey, or his familiarity with her, had she not been so surprised by the remark itself.
“You are impertinent, sir.”
He grinned-a grin so much more roguish than Grey’s. “One of my more charming traits. I did not mean offense, dear lady. Only that thinking about him will do you no good. The man is bent on punishing himself for the rest of his life.”
Rose accepted the plate he offered her. “Thank you. Why would he wish to punish himself?”
“Because he’s an ar…idiot. Sandwich?” He held up a cucumber sandwich caught in silver tongs.
“Please. I’m not certain I wish to discuss your brother with you, Lord Archer.”
“Not even if I can help you win him?”
Rose’s heart froze-no, it simply stopped. Her entire body went numb. She would have dropped her plate had Archer not swept it from her hand into his own.
“What makes you think I wish to win him?”
He flashed her a coy glance. “Please, lady Rose. I’ve not made a career out of studying your sex to fall for your false innocence now.”
Oh dear God. Had Grey told him?
“I’ve seen the way you look at him, and I’ve had to put with hearing about you for the last four years-no offense.”
Rose arched a brow as he piled food upon her plate. “None taken. I wasn’t aware that I looked at your brother in a manner different from how I might look upon anyone else.”
“Mm.” He popped a small cake into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “That’s just it. You try too hard to treat him like everyone else. It’s obvious you care for him, and not just as the man who saved your life.”
“Saved my life? How very dramatic.”
He gave her a very serious look as he handed her the laden plate. “Where do you suppose you’d be right now if Grey hadn’t taken you in? Certainly not here, with such good food and charming company.”
Point taken. And now she felt simply awful for the way she had spoken to Grey earlier. She was such a cow.
“You shame me, sir.” And worse, he’d made tears come to her eyes. Staring at her food-such a wonderful array he’d picked for her-she blinked them away.
He steered her toward a window seat where they sat in plain view of the room, but at least with a modicum of privacy. “My apologies, my lady. I did not mean to offend you with my plain and thoughtless words.”
“Plain, perhaps. Thoughtless, I highly doubt it.” She managed a small smile. “I don’t think you do anything without thinking first.”
Archer laughed, looking so much like Grey it hurt to look at him. “Were that but true.”