Imprudence Page 42

Rue nodded. Thrilled a little by both his statement and his proximity. That meant she would get to keep him for herself, while it lasted.

He continued, still un-Quesnel-like in his seriousness. “But you are.”

“I’m what?” Rue was suddenly interested in crumbling her toast.

“Innocent. You’re bold and brash and very attractive, so I sometimes forget how innocent you are. I do not want to hurt you, chérie.”

This was getting too earnest for Rue. “No danger there. I assure you, my heart is not available.”

Was that disappointment she saw flicker in his eyes? If so, it quickly changed to avarice.

“But the rest of you is?”

Rue grinned. “Most assuredly. I believe I was promised French lessons. You accepted the position and I should like to learn the details and activities, not to mention vocabulary.”

“Shall we start with some terms, then?”

Rue nearly choked in surprise. “Now? Over breakfast? Isn’t that rather daring?”

“First lesson, chérie – nothing mixes better than food and French.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Oh, yes.” He stood, trailing two fingers along her wrist, no doubt feeling exactly how her pulse fluttered.

Rue reminded herself not to be scared of Quesnel’s lessons. Rather like breakfast, most of the population engaged in such things. Rue had confronted unknown beasts in Indian jungles and escaped airship battles. She wasn’t scared of a little French!

He returned to his chair. “We should, perhaps, institute some rules of engagement?”

Rue considered. “Flirting is established. I should like to continue kissing as well.”

“And we already know that language lessons are involved.”

Rue thought that had been euphemistic. Now she realised there might be proper terms for actions and even anatomy. “I’m afraid that’s part of the difficulty. I don’t know how to establish rules because I don’t know what to request. I won’t know until you tell me.” Rue took a big breath. “I think it likely that children would be an embarrassment for me and an inconvenience for you. We’d have to marry, you know, and I don’t believe either of us wishes that outcome.”

If Quesnel was surprised by her directness, he didn’t show it. Although he did look… what? Wistful?

“No, of course not. So I am safe in the assumption that you would like to experiment with the kinds of things that might cause children?”

Rue considered his kisses and his gentle hands. “Yes, I would.” Her face felt hot.

“Capital. Now, I’m capable of protecting you up to a point. Once we reach that point, I will explain the risks. But there are many things that can be done that are of no danger whatsoever. And great fun, I might add.” He finished his breakfast and pushed away the plate.

“I thought there might be, or people wouldn’t make such a fuss over it.” Rue refilled his tea. “All those Roman poets.” Rue’s hand wasn’t entirely steady but she managed to pour in a manner that Primrose would deem acceptable.

Quesnel took his cup with a chuckle. “Have you been reading Catullus?”

“A little. Kissing is awfully nice. Although we ought to stop doing it in public, especially with my mother around. And I don’t want to corrupt decklings.”

“If we allow ourselves regular kissing in private, we should be better able to resist traumatising the masses.” His tone said he was humouring her.

“Is that so? You see, I’m learning already.”

“Shall we try it and see?”

Quesnel set down his teacup, stood, and rounded the table towards her.

Rue pushed back her chair; luckily it didn’t tip in her eagerness. He gave her a hand up, pulling her smoothly into his arms.

“Now, let us see. If I put my hands there, you could put yours there.” He grabbed her shoulders, sliding one hand to her upper back while placing her fingers at his waist.

Rue was never daunted for long. She slid them immediately to the tight stretch of trousers over his posterior. “Not here?”

“That works, too.”

She tried a squeeze.

He yipped.

Interesting reaction.

“Are you trying to skip ahead, Miss Prudence?”

Rue stopped squeezing and widened her eyes, attempting one of Prim’s innocent expressions.

“How did I not know you would be trouble?” Quesnel asked, but did not let her answer, leaning in to press his mouth to hers.

He tasted of tea, which was no bad thing. Rue adored tea. His lips were warm and gentle at first. It was nice, but nothing new. They had done this before.

He drew back. “So, kissing.”

Rue nodded. “I feel as if I have got the way of that particular lesson.”

“Oh, do you?”

Rue went up on her toes and kissed him. She imitated his actions, nibbled a little, delighted by the way his breathing changed slightly.


He nodded, looking like a professor assessing exams. “Very good. But there is more than one kind of kissing.”

“Show me,” Rue commanded.

“This is the French variation.”

It started the same but then there was a flick of tongue against the seam of her mouth. Rue found this, frankly, unseemly. How am I expected to react? His thumb came up to lightly press her chin down. Her mouth opened. His tongue took instant advantage, tasting her with a slow exploration.

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