Meralee Carter. Lucien was considering her. Coming to understand her.
“What are you thinking?” He walked next to her. Keeping a careful eye on her now that he knew how she approached deception to escape the other knights.
“It’s strange I’d end up here.”
“How so?” He linked his hands behind his back and gave her a thoughtful glance.
“I’ve enjoyed forfeiting all standards set by the Grier socialites.”
“Well, traversing wild woods and escaping a hoard of ambitious suitors certainly defies all expectations of ladylike conduct.”
“That it does.” She tilted her head in acknowledgement.
“So since you’ve so savored destroying anyone’s good opinion of you, how has your reputation as a Grier Lady managed to stay in-tact.”
She sighed as she stepped. “All the work of my friends, I fear.”
“Widow Valentine and Lady Nora Bishop?”
“Tell me of Worthington.” He paused. “Why’d he try to run you down that night?”
When he tried to have his horses and carriage stomp her to the ground.
“That was you?” She gave him a fast look. Realizing the truth of it instantly.
I kept the hood down and the coat tight, it’s no wonder she didn’t’ recognize me.
“I’d wondered who the constable was that saved me.”
“Not really a constable.” He admitted. “I…Borrowed the overcoat.”
She snorted. “Sure you did.”
“Worthington.” He redirected.
“He wants Nora Bishop but I keep interfering so he’s been increasingly aggressive toward both she and I. Both socially and physically. He put his hands on her once.”
I know. I was there.
“Oh?” He lifted a brown brow. “How’d she stop him?”
“She didn’t. She said a man-” She gave him a quick perceptive look. “Was that you as well?”
He lowered his head in ascent.
“My, my. Aren’t we busy?” She gave him an impressed look.
“Why does Worthington want her?”
“He doesn’t. I think he wants to destroy her…And possibly me.”
Accurate. We’ll see how smart she really is.
“Hmm.” He grunted. “Good thing you’re out here then, yes?”
She gave him a thoughtful study. “Are you saying you brought me here to escape him?”
Very smart. Don’t underestimate her. He reminded himself. Remembering all the ways she’d outmaneuvered his brethren.
“I’m saying perhaps that was part of the reason.”
“I haven’t heard from her since I’ve been on The Ezra and out here. I’d like to know if she’s well. And to let them know not to worry for me.”
You should be worried for you. We’re all closing in.
It’s not much further to the Lion’s Head.
“I’ll send word.”
She shivered and rounded to face him.
He turned in step with her to meet her. “Yes?”
“Why are you suddenly being so kind?” Her eyes fell and she shivered against a sudden chill.
It’s not suddenly. You’ve just been too defensive to allow it. He lowered his head to nearly place his forehead to hers. Lifting a hand to rest against her cheek. His warm breath fanning her face intimately. He felt his brown eyes warming to amber as his desire increased at her nearness.
He reached for her cold arms and slid heated palms along her tender skin to warm her.
She gasped at the sudden flare of heat.
His sudden gentleness cracked her careful composure. He scooped her elbows and caressed up her forearms until able to collect her small hands. Turning he switched them over to pull her along behind him. We need to get you somewhere warm.
She reflexively followed him. Steps dulled by exhaustion and cold.
Oddly compliant. Too compliant…
“Are you tired of running?” He queried.
“I want to go home.”
“Because you miss your friends?”
“And the horses in the Carter stables.” She added morosely.
“And your freedom, no doubt.”
As they entered the denser trees, they passed Bast kneeling with a green dragon perched fondly in his lap. He lovingly caressed its scales.
Damn him. You’re still here? It unsettled Lucien that now having seen the beauty of the woman, Bast might decide to compete. He’d be fierce competition.
No, Brother. Bast whispered in his mind. Peering a blue-green eye over his shoulder at Lucien as they walked by. She’s yours. I’m in a great hurry to get home to mine if you’ve no need of me.
Go. Lucien said back. Giving him a half-smile under hooded lids. And stop interfering in my attempts to woo her.
Woo or seduce? Bast questioned telepathically.
Bast chuckled under his breath and gave the dragon his full attention again.
Meralee stared mesmerized by sunlight toying with the shades of gold sparkling like precious coin in the stranger’s hair.
He reached up to pull that hair back and cinch it expertly with a tether. Making the muscled in his shoulders and back ripple as he moved. The black markings were now gone but swollen red sores marked his skin. Loose tendrils of hair escaped the tether to frame his face. Sunlight on those fine tresses was too tempting not to touch.