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WHEN SHE WAS WICKED
by Anne Barton

Genre: Regency Period, England, Historical Romance

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He resisted the urge to lace his fingers through hers and pull her closer. Her interest in his damned waistcoat was purely academic. For all he knew, seamstresses were required to study such things.

“You can see threads? This is alarming,” he said. “Next you’ll tell me you can see through my waistcoat.”

She raised her eyebrows wickedly. “They’re quite powerful.”

He laughed, for the first time in maybe a month. “My turn.” Miss Honeycote’s eyes widened and her hand dropped to her side. “Did you think you were the only one who could play the game?” He cleared his throat. “Your skin is smooth like . . .” Damn it, what was something smooth? “Silk. Yes, silk.” A cliché, but he mentally congratulated himself regardless. “And your hair . . .” In one fluid motion he snatched off her cap and flung it at the shelves behind his desk.

Miss Honeycote gasped and stared at him as though he’d stripped off her corset instead of her bloody cap. But since there was no going back, he forged forward. “Your hair cannot decide whether it wants to be brown or red or gold. It’s fickle, but…lovely.”

He’d lost his senses. If the puzzled expression on Miss Honeycote’s face was any indication, she agreed. But she did smile shyly, making the whole awkward moment worthwhile.

“Thank you. Er, for the spectacles, that is.”

He grunted. She hadn’t even looked at the bloody things yet. Grasping her shoulders, he positioned her in front of the large mirror resting on the mantel. “What do you think? ”

Wrinkling her nose, she said, “They feel more secure than my old ones. Perhaps they won’t slide so much.”

She was missing the point, damn it. “Do you like them?”

“I suppose they’ll take some getting used to. They’re rather odd, aren’t they? ”

Odd? “No.” He moved closer, and his chest bumped against her back. Their gazes met in the mirror. “Look again.”

Miss Honeycote sighed as though completely uninterested in her reflection. How different she was from most females. Original, real …and practical to a fault. Thus, the extortion note.

“Do you want to know what I think? ” he asked.

Her gaze locked with his in the glass before them. “I’m certain you’re determined to tell me.”

“You were hiding behind your old spectacles.”

“Nonsense.” She spun around and tried to walk past him, but before he knew what he was doing, he’d grasped her upper arms.

“What are you doing? ”

 Good question. “This.”

And he kissed her.

His lips, warm and firm against hers, somehow caused a thrumming throughout Anabelle’s body, making her pleasantly light-headed. He speared his fingers through her hair, pressing lightly on her scalp. Some of the tightness of her bun was relieved, and she heard the clink of pins hitting the floor.

She’d forgotten how to breathe, or, if she was breathing, she wasn’t getting enough air. It was all very strange. And wonderful.