The Duke and I by Heather Boyd
“Forgive me for not being here when you arrived, Mrs. Thorpe,” Stapleton began as he strode into the room. “Guests chatter incessantly. Please sit.”
Gillian sank into a chair opposite his desk, expecting, hoping, he’d sit in his usual place behind it so she could calm her racing heart.
He chose the other chair, the one at her side before the desk, but clenched his hands together between his spread knees. His face was so serious that she felt weak with dread. “I wonder if I owe you an apology,” he whispered.
She swallowed. “For what?”
“I don’t ordinarily respond to dares, but for my behavior, I can offer no other explanation or excuse. It is embarrassing to me now that you might have felt pressured to let me have my way.”
His apology pained her because it was so unnecessary. “I could easily have stopped you.”
He stared, and then a corner of his lips lifted in a slow smile. “And you did quite the opposite.”
Gillian frowned, turning away from him a little. “What does that say about me?”
“What does that say about us both? We were two people kissing.”
“And quite well, too, I must say.” He laughed softly, and the familiar sound put her at ease. “So well it seemed to me we had kissed each other before.”
Was he attempting to tease her? She stared at him, at his hesitant smile. “But we most certainly have never done so, or thought about it.”
“Until now.” His eyes glowed with a new warmth when he looked at her. “Perhaps it felt so easy since we have been acquainted for so long.”
“A mere nine months since we first met at your daughter Fanny’s house, and since my employment here began, most of those days and weeks were spent with your daughter between us,” she whispered, feeling as hot and bothered as when his lips had been pressed to hers.
He pursed his lips, and then grinned. “Jessica has made an excellent chaperone up until now, wouldn’t you say?”
“Usually, yes.” Gillian glanced at him, wondering what he thought of her. “You owe me no apology, your grace,” she assured him. “I am not offended, if you were not by my forwardness in allowing it.”
“I thought your kiss sweet. Very exciting. I have not been able to stop thinking of you in my arms, and I do apologize if that admission makes you uncomfortable.”
She met his gaze and saw the uncertainty she felt in his eyes, too. “I’ve not been able to stop thinking about you, either.”
He grinned. “What shall we do about it?”