So immersed in the story, Honoria startled at a masculine snort of laughter, alerting her she was no longer alone. Her heart raced at the sight of Drake’s broad back, one hand on his hip as he faced one of the shelves of books.

 Unbidden, a tiny gasp escaped.

He turned, his eyes widening when his gaze locked with hers. “Honoria.”

The sweet sound of her name on his lips froze her in place.

Awkward moments stretched between them as they stared at each other for what seemed an eternity.

In unison, they shattered the silence.

“I didn’t hear anyone come in.”

“I didn’t know anyone was in here.”

Before the urge to disappear into the supple leather of the chair overcame her, Drake laughed, and the tightness in her chest eased.

He took one step closer. “Why aren’t you in the drawing room with the other ladies?”

A smile tugged at her lips. “I could ask you a similar question. But I know the answer.” As he should with her. The thought that he had to ask was somehow bittersweet. “This library is too glorious to sit empty. I thought I would keep it company. As did you.” She nodded to the book he held. “What did you choose?”

He stared down at the book, frowning as if it had appeared in his hands magically. “I . . . I don’t think I chose this. My hand was on it when I heard you. I must have pulled it loose.” He jerked his chin toward her. “You?”

“Well, unlike you, I deliberately chose mine. But I asked you first.”

His lopsided grin plucked at her heart, flooding memories into her mind. “Going to play that game, are you?”

“But of course. If I remember anything about you, it’s that you’re a gentleman.” Truth be told, she remembered so much more.

Color flushed his sun-bronzed skin, and she reminded herself to ask him about India.

“Do I have to tell you the title? It’s . . . embarrassing.”

Oh? Perhaps old Burwood had a section for erotic literature. Her own cheeks heated.

Drake chuckled softly. “Not that kind of embarrassing. I don’t think there’s anything like that here. Although I haven’t searched the top shelves yet.” He gazed down at his feet, looking very much like the boy who fell into the river. “It’s Romeo and Juliet.”

Oooh. Oh!

His gaze darted back to hers. “I was looking for a tragedy.”

“Well, it is that.”

He laughed again, his gaze darting away. “True enough.” He pointed to the doors. “I should leave. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

She didn’t want him to leave. “You have more right to be here than I.”

His gaze snapped to hers, his brows bunching and eyes narrowing.

“As Burwood’s man of business, that is. He told me you would be living here as well.”

He visibly relaxed. Strange. What had she said that made him wary?

“I’m a guest. I should be the one to leave.” She started to rise.


Drake couldn’t let her leave. If only for a few moments, he wanted her to himself. To remember how things had been. Before everything went horribly wrong. “It’s a big room. The door is cracked for propriety. May I join you?” He pointed to the wingback opposite her.

The smile reflected in her eyes battered his heart, and she nodded.

He settled in the chair. If nothing else, he wanted to gaze upon her away from prying eyes. To feast upon her beauty—which reminded him. “You didn’t eat much at supper. Was it not to your liking?”

She tilted her head, drawing his attention to her long, slender neck, and especially the spot at the juncture with her shoulder he knew to be sensitive to touch.

“Burwood asked the same thing. I assured him no selection could have been more pleasing. I simply had little appetite.”

Remembering the marzipan in his pocket, he removed it and set it on the circular table between them. “Perhaps this will tempt you. If memory serves, it’s one of your favorites.” He carefully unwrapped it from his handkerchief, relieved it had not melted entirely.

“Oh. I couldn’t.” She stared at the sugary treat. The tip of her tongue peeked out, subtly licking her bottom lip and contradicting her words.

His mind took an inappropriate detour, and he shifted in his chair.

She continued to eye the confection. “Didn’t you save that for yourself?”

“I’m happy to share. I can always ask the cook to prepare more.”

Her lips quirked in a smile. “So Burwood permits you to submit requests to the cook?”

“He prefers it, actually.” He inclined his head toward the temptation. “One for you and one for me.”

Her dainty hand reached forward, and he admired her long, graceful fingers as she plucked a piece from his handkerchief.

He popped the remaining square into his mouth. Sweet, but not as sweet as her kiss.

Mid-chew, he stopped to stare at her.

Eyes closed, she sighed. A smile ghosted her lips as sheer rapture painted her face. Then, after glancing down at her chocolate-coated fingers, she licked them, one-by-one.

He choked on the half-chewed candy. Good Lord.

She bolted from her seat and rushed forward. Grabbing his coat sleeve, she pulled him away from the back of the chair and pounded his back.

Between a residual cough and laughter, he twisted enough to grasp her arm. “Stop. Stop. I’m fine. No need to beat me to death.”

Pink like the first blush of sunrise bloomed on her cheeks as she backed away and retook her seat. “Forgive me. I would hate to witness your demise by a piece of marzipan.”

He peered at the book which had slipped into the crevice of the chair. “Perhaps if the good friar had provided Juliet with chocolate-covered marzipan rather than a draught of sleeping death, Romeo would have seen through the ruse from the chocolate coating her lips, changing it from a tragedy to a comedy.”

“And it would have been much more enticing to kiss off than poison.”

“True enough.” Oh, how he’d missed those moments with her as they shared alternate endings and twists to the books they had read. His heart soared in her presence.

A new silence rose between them, not as uncomfortable as the first. Perhaps she also was reminiscing. As if to confirm his suspicion, she sighed, the sound wistful.

Words came from his mouth, unbidden, as if they grew tired of waiting and refused to be contained any longer. “You look beautiful, Honoria. The same—but different. I’ve been trying all day to figure out why.”

She jerked her gaze away. “It’s been eight years, Drake. I’m not that girl any longer.”

“No,” he agreed. Sadness hovered around her, giving her a tragic air. He glanced again at the book in the crevice. Like Juliet, had Honoria drugged herself with a sleeping draught, waiting for love to return and revive her, only to wake and find her love dead beside her? He almost laughed at the accuracy of the analogy. “I’m not the same naïve boy, either.”

“There is a hard edge to you, Drake.”

“Battle does that to a man.” It was an easy enough answer and, although true, wasn’t the primary reason for his alteration.

A shadow of discomfort flitted across her face. “Is that how you met Burwood? In the military?”

He nodded. “He saved my life.” Drake kept the particulars to himself. “I owe him a great debt.”

“How heroic. If the ladies present learn of it, he shall be even more popular.”

Drake barked a laugh. How could she still turn his sour mood around? “Is that even possible? Don’t all you aristocratic women yearn to marry a duke? Heroic or not?”

Her gaze shifted to her lap. “Not all.”