Welcome back for another week of our little tale!
Lydia has stepped out for a breath of fresh air at her last ball in Brighton, and she is hoping that a certain gentleman might appear to escort her to keep her safe. A lady cannot be too careful, for one never knows what sorts of ruffians are lurking about!
How fortunate she is to have a dashing soldier to squire her, I’m sure we’d all agree!
It was the faintest brush of skin against skin, his fingertips brushing softly against her for no more than a moment, but it jolted her blood with the same electricity as a distant storm glimpsed on a moonlit horizon.
“Miss Bennet — Lydia.” Wickham’s voice was lower, a little less charged with that Puckish tone of impending silliness now they found themselves alone beneath the stars. He made her name sound like a symphony, punctuating the words with the softest of kisses to the nape of her neck. “Forgive an impetuous gentleman.”
Her lashes fluttered in delirium—how could they do otherwise?—but she did not turn to face him. Not now! Not yet, when he was tumbling so obligingly into her thrall. “I expected you many moments ago, sir…” her words cut short with a gasp as his teasing lips grazed her throat. A helpless shiver broke her powers of speech for another moment, but no! She was no missish fool, ready to drop into a swoon at a man’s kiss! She would tease, and draw, and tempt, until her prize was fully ensnared.
She braced herself to face him, arching her neck from his impertinent caresses. “Truly, Mr Wickham, had you other curiosities within, which might have held more appeal than playing chaperon to my little moment of solitude? By no means would I suspend your pleasures. Pray, if you merely wished to avoid speculation by not vanishing at the same moment as I, then be so good as to set my mind at ease and assure me that I do not keep you from more tantalising delights.”
He placed one hand on the railing beside her and she was aware only of him. No, not only him, but her power over George Wickham, the man who might command the attention of every eligible lady at the ball. Yet what did he care for those other pretenders to her throne, Lydia wondered, when he had left behind the glittering surroundings of the dance for the solitude of the night and the company of Miss Lydia Bennet?
“Every moment away from you is a moment I would gladly sacrifice,” Wickham told her in that voice that was so effortlessly artful. “Nothing could tantalise me more than you, Miss Bennet.”
Her lips, consciously rougued and plump, curved invitingly. “Am I to be safe with you, sir? I had quite depended upon you to preserve me from rogues and rakes, among whose number I shall not account you, but is a lady’s reputation any safer with one who confesses to honest temptation?
She spoke archly, in a tone not unlike one her older sister might have employed, but the warmth in her eyes belied her teasing words. Oh, she wanted him, and he knew it. A spark of something – desire, or was it mischief? – flared in his dark eyes as his gaze met hers.
“You are as safe as you would ever wish to be, Miss Bennet.” Wickham cast a glance back towards the house, then lifted his hand from the railing to stroke the very tips of his fingers over her arm. “Walk with me? Somewhere away from prying windows.”
The playful light died in her eyes, replaced by a look of undisguised pleasure. She allowed herself to appear to be led, though in truth her heart was in full accord with his. They walked side-by-side, two souls alike in desire. She had no need to wonder where he was leading her, for the privacy of the large sprawling oak tree in the garden called to both of them.
His fingertips rested gently at her waist as he guided her—a gallant gesture, a sweet assurance of his sincerity. Lydia was ever a girl who thrilled in the sensual and in the whirlwind excitement of romance. George was all those things to her, but there was also that aura of steady security about him. What young woman could ever resist one who was so dashing, and yet so faithful?
Yet as they found themselves sheltering beneath the arched boughs of the oak,
Lydia felt the slightest change in her escort as his fingertips shifted and he rested the palm of his hand against her waist instead. It was a subtle suggestion of how their encounter might even now be developing, how the pages of their story were unspooling, bathed by the pale pools of moonlight.
“I have taken a frightful liberty in kissing you, Miss Bennet,” Wickham’s voice was low and urgent. She felt a tension in his arm, just enough to bring her closer. “And I would take it again if you would permit.”
He fell silent and lifted his hand, letting his fingertips caress softly over Lydia’s cheek before he whispered, “You have enchanted me, Lydia.”
She leaned into his hand, her eyes fixed upon his as she recognized a staggering truth. No longer was it she who enticed him, but he who deliberately and expertly enraptured her. He, who could have his choice among all the beautiful girls in the room, was as bewitched by her as she by him.
“It was quite intentional, I assure you, sir,” she breathlessly answered his bold statement. “I am certain that any liberties you might request are no more than I have already wished for.”
He drew in the softest breath, the barest hint of a smile quirking at his lips. The same lips that now brushed her cheek just as his fingertips had, soft as gossamer in a breeze. She felt the slightest rasp of the light stubble that shaded his jaw. It was rough against her skin, as rough as his lips were tender and her head filled with his heady cologne in the moments before his mouth found hers.
…To Be Continued…