All of his attention was once again absorbed by Juliet Templeton.
The sketch she’d done of him… he wanted to see it.
No. It was more than that, worse than that.
He needed to see it.
Burned to see it.
Yet what good would come of it? He’d see her sketch, and then what? She’d demand to see his sketch of her, and it would only delay the inevitable end of this strange attraction between them. With every word they exchanged, every furtive glance between them, he slipped a little further under the surface.
Soon enough, he’d be drowning in her again.
But even as these dark thoughts wound through his head, he was winding his way across the drawing room, bypassing his other guests with hardly a glance, his gaze full of her.
“Miss Templeton. May I have a word?”
She gave him such a wary look he caught her wrist—again, because he couldn’t seem to stop touching her—to forestall a refusal, but before she could say a word, Lady Fosberry gave Juliet a tranquil smile and a little pat on the shoulder. “Go on, dearest. I fancy a rest before it’s time to dress for supper.”
Juliet shook her head. “Oh, but I don’t think—”
“Nonsense, child. Lord Cross is our host, you know, and I’m certain he only wishes to thank you for suggesting such a clever game to entertain his guests this afternoon. Isn’t that right, Lord Cross?” Lady Fosberry raised an eyebrow at him.
“Yes, of course, my lady.”
“He can thank me right—”
Miles whisked her away before she could protest further, hurrying her from the drawing room and down the adjacent hallway toward his study.
“For pity’s sake, Lord Cross, there’s no need to drag me!”
He released her, but he closed the study door behind them, and leaned his back against it.
“If you’ve quite finished manhandling me, Lord Cross, then—”
“Show me your sketch.”
“What? I certainly will not!”
“Oh, but you will, Juliet.” He gathered a lock of her hair in his hand, stifling a groan at the dark, silky drag of it, as if he’d caught a ribbon of midnight on his fingertips. “I’m afraid I must insist.”
“You’re mad.” Her eyes widened as he wrapped the lock of her hair around his fingers and gently drew her closer, then closer still. Her gaze darted toward the door behind him, but unless she wanted to climb him like a tree, there was no escape that way.
He released his hold on her hair when she began to back away, but he followed her, and soon enough she came up against the long length of his desk behind her. “Lord Cross—”
“Show me your sketch.” He advanced on her slowly, his footsteps thudding in time with his thundering heartbeat. God, he’d gone mad, prowling after her like this. But he kept going, his gaze trapped by the frantic fluttering of her pulse in the pale hollow of her throat. “Show me your sketch, Juliet.”
“No! How dare you? I don’t have to show you anything.”
He was upon her now, close enough he drew her scent inside himself with every breath, a trace of vanilla warmed by her skin. “Shall I show you mine, then?” He reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled the folded paper out. “Do you want to know what I see when I look at you, Juliet?”
“No, I…” She pressed her hand over her throat. “No.”
“Liar.” She did want to see it, was leaning closer to him even now, perhaps without realizing it, her throat working, her eyes as blue as the last moments of twilight, just before the sun sinks below the horizon, and the sky turns its darkest, deepest shade before it fades to black.
Except they weren’t just blue, were they? They were flecked with gold, like tiny stars scattered in a midnight sky, so tiny one wouldn’t notice them unless they were as close to her as he was now.
Had he ever been this close to her? So unbearably, intoxicatingly close…
“Such blue, blue eyes.” He touched her chin, raising her face to his. “A lady has no business having eyes as blue as yours.”
“Well, you needn’t sound so put out about it.”
“But I am put out, Juliet.” He couldn’t stop staring at her mouth. He reached out to trace his thumb over her pouting lower lip, and every part of his body went tight, every inch of him clenched and aching from the glide of the red, petal-soft flesh under his fingertip.
“Are you… going to k-kiss me, Lord Cross?”
Was he? Surely, it was madness for him to kiss a lady who addressed him so formally, as if they’d never sat beside each other in a carriage, their thighs pressed together, or walked down a narrow pathway in a lush rose garden, side by side, the backs of her gloved fingers brushing his.
Had he really believed he could forget her? Every touch, every word, every smile they’d shared, he remembered it all, and he was selfish—so selfish, because he wanted her, even knowing he didn’t deserve her.
But he no longer cared, because she was gazing up at him with those sleepy, dark blue eyes, and he was sliding his fingers under her chin, her skin softer than a whisper, and raising her face to his so he could take her mouth.
Deeply. Wet. The way he’d wanted to since he’d first heard that sultry voice, the edge of impudence that made him want to nip at her, taste the pertness of her tongue.
She didn’t pull away, but urged him closer. “If you do intend to kiss me, Lord Cross, then I suggest you get on with it.”
Excerpted with permission from Oliver-Herber Books, Odd Earl Out by Anna Bradley. © 2022.
His reluctant belle…
Juliet Templeton didn’t embark on a risky London season in search of a fairy-tale. Fluttering hearts, yearning glances and stolen kisses are for starry-eyed debutantes, not disgraced, penniless females approaching spinsterhood. But when her quest to find a dull, respectable husband leads her to grumpy, maddening, brilliant Lord Cross, her foolish heart overrules her head, and insists on beating for him alone.
Her irascible earl…
Flirtatious, witty Juliet Templeton is the last lady Miles Winthrop should have trusted with his heart, and the only lady he ever has. He leaves for the country to escape her tempting lips and teasing eyes, vowing to forget her. But when Juliet turns up at his house party in the wake of a disastrous ton scandal, he discovers he’s still a captive to his deep desire for the bold, audacious beauty.
A battle of wits, and wills…
The passion that began in London soon flares to life again, sparking a battle of wits and wills that has them balanced on the brink of heartbreak, or happily-ever-after. Will their dangerous game of seduction end in ruin, or will two people who were never meant to be together, find they can’t bear to be apart?
Romance Historical [Oliver-Heber Books, On Sale: May 31, 2022, e-Book, / ]
Anna Bradley has been an avid reader, writer and book fondler since childhood, when she pilfered her first romance novel and stole away to her bedroom to devour it. This insatiable love of the written word persisted throughout her childhood in Maine, where it led to a master's degree in English Literature. Before she became a writer, Anna worked with a rare books library featuring works by British women writers from the 1600s through the Regency period. Here she indulged in her love of stories, fondled smooth, leather-bound volumes to her heart's content and dreamed of becoming a writer. Anna writes steamy historical romance (think garters, fops and riding crops) and squeezes in a career as a writing and literature professor on the side. She lives with her husband and two children in Portland, OR, where people are delightfully weird and love to read.
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