Essex Coast, England
1 Week Until Christmas
Colt never noticed his mother slip away with the smile on her face. He never looked away from Rorie, she was stunning. With her standing right in front of him and her jasmine perfume surrounding them, it was all he could do not to reach down and press his lips to the pulse beating wildly at her throat and use his hands to explore the curves of her body.
His icy blue eyes met her sapphire ones and held her gaze for a moment. "You are breathtaking, Rorie." His voice was intense with wanting. Knowing he couldn't have her made it that much harder and made him want her that much more. Any moment the neighbors would be arriving with a variety of young suitors living within miles of Kingston's gates. The charming men, years younger than he, that had never seen war would cozy up to her and, doubtless, try to win her hand, as a country lass that has breeding and beauty was hard to come by, indeed, and one as lively and sweet as Rorie would bring the men in bounds. He wanted nothing more than to stake his claim on her by placing his hand at her waist and her hand on his sleeve. That alone would keep them all at bay as they would not dare cross the Duke of Kingston.
What was almost worse, was that all of these dashing young men would bring their sisters in a desperate attempt to hang him with the marriage noose. He had avoided the public since his return as the Duke for this very reason. Making it clear he had no desire for a wife, did not seem to deter them from trying to force him into marriage. No thank you. He would not be had. If only he could marry Rorie now...she would be safe from the wolves and he would be safe from the many harlots masquerading as ladies in his mother's house. Why none of them could understand that when he married a woman, it would be one that he never had to worry would try to pass off another man's child as his. Shuddering at the thought, Colt pushed the thoughts from his mind.
Noticing that Rorie had also not looked away from him, Colt could not stop himself from reaching a hand to brush a tendril of hair from her ear. As he did so and ran the tip of his finger around the delicate shell of her ear and down her neck, turning his hand to brush the backs of his fingers down her throat and over her bare shoulder, he noticed she drew a deep breath as he ran the back of his fingers down her neck and she closed her eyes and nestled her cheek against his wrist as he touched her silken skin, releasing the breath she had drawn. Colt briefly closed his eyes and willed himself into submission. It was all he could do not to pull her against his chest. Tipping his head back, Colt opened his eyes to...mistletoe hanging above his head.
Hearing Rorie's tinkling, musical laugh, he snapped his head upright. Rorie had also caught sight of the mistletoe and her eyes sparkled with mirth as her shoulders moved with her laughter. Colt's tension broke and he smiled back at her. I swear, Colt thought to himself, a man cannot catch a break in this house. Chuckling to himself, he leaned down and Rorie stretched upwards and their lips met in a sweet but short kiss as Weston entered the room and cleared his throat, announcing the arrival of the first few guests.
After straightening and preparing to meet his guests, Colt quickly reached up and ripped the mistletoe from where it was hung and stuffed it into his pocket. There was no way he was going to risk some other man finding Rorie under the mistletoe. Forget that...
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