Chapter Five

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Chapter Five

James did not readily find Phoebe once he left the dining hall. He glanced through the open doors into several empty rooms and checked the three other rooms that were closed as well. Only one door was locked. He looked down the hall and continued forward. Perhaps she’d gone outside. The night was chill, but if she’d hoped to glean a moment of privacy the setting would be perfect.

He briskly exited the house through a backdoor at the end of the hall and entered the garden area. Bushes budded in the soft green hues of spring, providing a lush haven. He found Phoebe almost instantly, hands rested on the top of an ancient stone wall, gazing out into the night. Poised in the moonlight she once again resembled a mythical diety. Her hair glowed silver and the pale silk sliding sensually over her lithe figure shimmered beneath the stars. Aphrodite could not create a more enticing lure for unsuspecting mortals.

Desire pulsed through James. Heady desire. Desire that left him reeling beneath her beauty and eclipsed all sensible thought. He flexed his left hand, quenching the hungry need to caress the single silken curl gliding down her back, but in the end he couldn’t resist. Soundlessly he approached Phoebe, stopping just behind her—far closer than he ought. Sweet perfume wafted up from her intricate coiffure, teasing his senses. James lifted a curl from her back, looping the spiral around his finger.

Phoebe gasped, spinning to face him.

James did not release the long strands of buttery smooth hair, but lifted the tress between them and continued to caress it. “Your hair is even more silken than I imagined.” He stood but a few inches from her and the wall pressed against her backside, preventing her from eluding him though James had no inkling that she wanted to leave his presence. “Perhaps more so than your lips.” Her delectable mouth parted in surprise, but again she made no move to indicate she wished to end the interlude. “And what of your skin?” he dropped his tone, no stranger to the seduction of women, and slid his thumb across her ivory cheek. He suppressed a groan. The woman’s entire essence exuded satin.

“Do you mean to flatter me, Colonel?” Breathlessness touched her words, but she firmly held his gaze.

James played with fire and he knew it, but… bathed in those stormy eyes he didn’t particularly care. Her eyes were like the ocean before a storm, utterly beautiful and filled with dangers for the unsuspecting soul. “I mean to warn you,” he said a bit more seriously. He slid a finger along the delicate angle of her jaw, tipping her chin slightly. “A woman like you should stay clear of men of my ilk.”

A sly grin slid over her lips. “A reprehensible man would hardly see fit to warn me. I suspect you are a better man than you give yourself credit for.”

He smirked. “Don’t be fooled by my pretty uniform, Lady Phoebe.” His gaze wandered freely over her face, down her slender neck, to the tastefully displayed décolletage peeking over the lace splashed bodice of her gown. He slid both hands around her slender waist, relishing the quiver that rushed through her. Still she stayed, a flush of healthy excitement blooming in her cheeks.

She tilted her head coquettishly. “I’m coming to believe the wild tales about you are overstated, James.”

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