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A RAKE'S MIDNIGHT KISS
by Anna Campbell

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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Once he’d poured the champagne, Mr. Evans reclined against the punt’s stern. “Your health, Miss Barrett.”

“And yours, Mr. Evans.” Genevieve wrinkled her nose as bubbles burst against her palate. “Oh!”

He smiled. “A day of new experiences.”

She glowered. “I’ve had wine before.”

“Not champagne.” He tilted her glass. “You’ll like it once you get used to it.”

Her stomach lurched on a shocked thrill. He wasn’t only talking about champagne.

He sat back, one hand cradling his glass in his lap. In his shirt sleeves and with his hair ruffled by activity, he looked delightfully disheveled. “You aren’t shocked.”

Oh, heavens. She couldn’t pretend to misunderstand. Well, she could, but it would make her seem nauseatingly coy. “That you harbored wicked plans? No.”

His lips twitched and familiar desire tugged at her belly. She should be careful with the champagne. It had a deleterious effect on willpower.

Of course it was only the champagne.

She scowled into her glass, unaccountably half full. Surely she needed more alcohol than that to feel quite so…heated. She raised her eyes, feeling more daring than ever before in her quiet life. “I liked kissing you.”

While his expression remained grave, amusement lurked in his blue eyes. “I liked kissing you.”

“This seemed like a…safe place to do it again.” She paused. “If you want to.” She put down the champagne and smoothed her skirts with an uncertain gesture. “Don’t misunderstand. I want you to kiss me. I don’t want you to—”

One eyebrow arched. “Ruin you?”

Her cheeks were on fire. “I’m not in the habit of negotiating—”

“Pleasure?”

“I can finish my sentences, thank you,” she snapped. “Over our acquaintance, I’ve come to realize that I’ve missed…experiences. Experiences you’re uniquely placed to provide.”

This time she couldn’t mistake the unholy laughter in his eyes. “I feel like I’m applying for employment. Should I supply references?”

She didn’t smile. “I’ll never marry so no husband will begrudge me a few kisses from a handsome scoundrel. And I trust your discretion.”

For one aching moment, she wished she could trust more than his ability to keep his mouth shut. He kept his mouth shut now, just when she wanted the devil to speak. She’d blithely imagined she’d agree to kiss him and he’d leap like a frog to a mayfly.

“Mr. Evans, this is how a conversation works. I speak and you respond,” she said crossly.

That disconcertingly perceptive gaze focused on her. “I’m thinking.”

He refilled both glasses and started on his meal. Genevieve drank a little more champagne, hoping it might stop her stomach twisting into knots. It didn’t.

Eventually the suspense became unbearable. “God forbid I force you into anything distasteful,” she sniped.

He smiled faintly. “I can’t enter into a carnal arrangement with a woman who calls me Mr. Evans.”

“It’s not a carnal arrangement. It’s a few kisses.”

The smile intensified several degrees, as if he contemplated deeds beyond an innocent’s imagining. “Kisses can be carnal.”