Seduced by His Touch(13)

By: Tracy Anne Warren

“Nothing. I don’t wear perfume, at least not often.”

He inched nearer still, his voice lowering to a murmur. “You’re just naturally sweet then, are you? Exactly as I suspected.”

Her legs turned weak. Surreptitiously, she gripped the wooden counter in front of her, glad of its support. She was relieved as well that she didn’t send any bottles toppling over to crash in a noisy splash of scent on the floor.

“She…um…she might like jasmine or hyacinth.” Grace broke eye contact, striving to collect herself. “Is she older or younger than yourself?”

“Younger. She’s nineteen.”

“Something more youthful, then. Orange blossom water. It’s light and frivolous, like a warm spring day.”

He placed a hand on the counter next to hers, so close that their gloved fingers were all but touching. Although her hands were appropriately proportioned for her height, she’d always considered them far too large, even ungainly. But his hands dwarfed hers, big and wide and so clearly strong beneath the dark fabric covering them. She stared, noting their differences, wishing suddenly that he would lift his hand to cover her own.

Her pulse sped faster. What am I doing? Thinking? More to the point, what is he thinking? Very likely nothing, she decided. He probably wasn’t even aware of her response, and if he were, he’d be appalled. Or, worse, amused.

Abruptly she drew away. Taking a step back, she straightened her shoulders and deliberately, almost defiantly, stood at her full height. “Your sister might also enjoy lilacs. Always a delightful scent.”

He lowered his hand to his side. “I’m sure it is, but the orange blossom water sounds just the thing.”

Signaling a clerk, he placed his order, then waited while the man moved away to box and wrap the purchase.

“I am in your debt,” he said. “My thanks for your aid. Perhaps you might suggest something for my other sister as well.”

Grace swallowed, deliberately meeting his gaze as she forced aside any lingering awareness of him. “How old is she?”

“Ten. And she likes to draw. Art is quite her favorite pastime.”

At the mention of something so completely familiar, Grace relaxed. “There is a fine store only a block distant on Bond Street. Ask for George and he’ll find you anything you need. A paper block never goes amiss with an artist. Nor paints or crayons.”

“George, hmm? You must be a frequent visitor to know the clerks by name. I assume you paint?”

“I watercolor a bit.”

“Ah,” he said, though without the usual note of male condescension.

A brief silence fell between them. He was just opening his mouth to say something further when her aunt appeared suddenly at her side.

“My new fragrance is created!” Aunt Jane announced. “Carnation with a delicate hint of lime. Delicious.” She paused, her keen gaze fixing on Lord Jack. “But pardon me for so rudely interrupting. Perhaps you might make the introductions, Grace, since it is obvious from the way you two have been conversing that you are acquainted with this gentleman.”

Grace traded a brief glance with Lord Jack before turning to her aunt. “Yes, his lordship and I met a few days ago at the botanical lecture near Sydney Gardens.”

“Did you now?” Aunt Jane’s grey-haired head bobbed with interest.

“And briefly in London before that,” Lord Jack offered in a smooth aside. “Miss Danvers and I frequent the same bookseller, you see.”

Grace shot him a look for divulging such unnecessary information, then hurried on before anything further could be added. “My lord, pray allow me to make you known to my aunt, Mrs. Jane Grant. Aunt Jane, Lord John Byron.

Her aunt’s eyes grew round. “Byron? No relation to the poet, I suppose?”

“No, ma’am. That particular gentleman and I share no familial ties, nor do I claim to have so much as an inkling of talent in the art of penning sonnets and odes. Let me say, however, that it is a distinct pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He bowed with a practiced flair that made her aunt’s cheeks pink like a schoolgirl’s despite her nearly sixty years.

Apparently age was no barrier to succumbing to Lord Jack’s undeniable charm. Grace was sure women routinely fell at his feet, especially since he was obviously one of those men who simply liked women—no matter their age, looks, size, or marital status. He could, she suspected, have his pick of any woman in the world.

So why is he troubling with me? Then again, he really wasn’t, since their encounters were no more than mere happenstance and coincidence.

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