Devil in Winter Page 60

“A miscue,” Sebastian remarked, deftly catching the cue ball in his hand and repositioning it. “Whenever that happens, reach for more chalk, and apply it to the tip of the cue stick while looking thoughtful. Always imply that your equipment is to blame, rather than your skills.”

Evie felt a smile rising to her lips, and she leaned over the table once more. Perhaps it was wrong, with her father having passed away so recently, but for the first time in a long while, she was having fun.

Sebastian covered her from behind again, sliding his hands over hers. “Let me show you the proper motion of the cue stick—keep it level—like this.” Together they concentrated on the steady, even slide of the cue stick through the little circle Evie had made of her fingers. The sexual entendre of the motion could hardly escape her, and she felt a flush rise up from the neck of her gown. “Shame on you,” she heard him murmur. “No proper young woman would have such thoughts.”

A helpless giggle escaped Evie’s lips, and Sebastian moved to the side, watching her with a lazy smile. “Try again.”

Focusing on the cue ball, Evie drew back and struck it firmly. This time the colored ball sank neatly into the side pocket. “I did it!” she cried.

Sebastian grinned at her triumph and proceeded to set up various shots for her, positioning her body and adjusting her hands, and using every possible excuse to put his arms around her. Enjoying herself immensely, Evie pretended not to notice the audacious caress of his hands. However, when he caused her to miss a bank shot for the fourth time, she turned to him accusingly. “How could anyone make a proper shot when you put your hand there?”

“I was trying to adjust your posture,” he said helpfully. At her mock-accusing glance, he smiled and half sat on the billiards table. “It’s your fault that I’ve been reduced to such behavior,” he continued. “I assure you, I myself find it appalling that the only pleasure I obtain these days is chasing after you like an adolescent lordling with a housemaid.”

“Did you chase after the housemaids when you were a boy?”

“Good God, of course not. How could you ask such a thing?” Sebastian looked indignant. Just as she felt a twinge of guilt and began to apologize, he said smugly, “They chased after me.”

Evie raised a cue stick as if to crown him with it.

He caught her wrist easily in one hand and pried the stick from her fingers. “Easy, firebrand. You’ll knock out the few wits I have left—and then of what use would I be to you?”

“You would be purely ornamental,” Evie replied, giggling.

“Ah, well, I suppose there’s some value in that. God help me if I should ever lose my looks.”

“I wouldn’t mind.”

He gave her a quizzical smile. “What?”

“If…” Evie paused, suddenly embarrassed. “If anything happened to your looks…if you became…less handsome. Your appearance wouldn’t matter to me. I would still…” She paused and finished hesitantly, “…want you as my husband.”

Sebastian’s smile faded slowly. He gave her a long, intent stare, her wrist still clasped in his hand. Something strange crossed his expression…an undefinable emotion wrought of heat and vulnerability. When he answered, his voice was strained from the effort to sound cavalier. “Without a doubt, you’re the first one who’s ever said that to me. I hope you won’t be such a pea goose as to endow me with characteristics that I don’t have.”

“No, you’re endowed enough as it is,” Evie replied, before the double meaning of the statement occurred to her. She burned a brilliant scarlet. “Th-that is…I didn’t mean…”

But Sebastian was laughing quietly, the odd tension passing, and he pulled her against him. As she responded to him eagerly, his amusement dissolved like sugar in hot liquid. He kissed her longer, harder, his breath striking her cheek in rapid drives.

“Evie,” he whispered, “you’re so warm, so lovely…oh, hell. I’ve got two months, thirteen days and six hours before I can take you to my bed. Little she-devil. This is going to be the death of me.”

Feeling rather sorry about the bargain she had made with him, Evie tightened her arms and sought his mouth with hers. He groaned low in his throat and kissed her, and reached out to shut the door of the billiards room. Fumbling with the lock, he turned the key and sank to his knees before her. Her shoulder blades pressed hard against the closed door, and she leaned heavily on the paneling, her mind reeling with confusion and excitement. He hiked up her skirts, his hands searching beneath the layers of fabric, tugging at the tapes of her drawers.

“Sebastian, no,” Evie whispered shakily, mindful that they were in one of the public rooms. “Please, you can’t…”

Sebastian ignored her protests, delving beneath her skirts and pulling her drawers to her knees. “I’ll go mad if I can’t have at least this much of you.”

“No,” she said weakly, but he was beyond hearing.

His hand was on her ankle, and his mouth was at her knee, nibbling and licking through the silk stocking. Evie felt a shocking jolt of desire, her heart drumming violently, her flesh awakening with irresistible hunger. Sebastian pushed the front of her skirts up to her waist and clamped her hands over the mass of fabric. “Hold them,” he muttered.

She shouldn’t have obeyed, but her hands seemed to possess a will of their own, clenching the wads of velvet against her midriff. Her drawers were pushed to her ankles, and his mouth wandered upward, his breath like puffs of steam against the tender skin of her leg. Evie made a low keening sound as he parted the private curls between her thighs. The two fingers he slipped inside her were immediately clasped and caressed, her inner muscles working as if to draw him deeper. Evie’s eyes half closed, and a passion-blush swept over her body in uneven drifts of pink. “Sebastian.”

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