Chapter 5

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7 years ago.

13 June, 1814
Derbyshire, England

Olivia grunted as another pebble slipped into her slipper. It appeared like she'd gone momentarily daft when she'd chosen her dainty slippers instead of the sturdy boots for her jaunt by the country side.

Well, she hadn't been thinking. She'd been in a hurry to get away from her house, finding it too stifling.

The usually peaceful Chatsworth House was filled with people. It was teeming with servants running about to attend to various errands, making sure everything was perfect while she was being chased by a passel of dressmakers from London who weren't content no matter how many fittings she'd had.

It was to be her debut ball in a matter of days and her dear father was going out his way to make sure that everything was flawless.

Olivia was excited about her debut, she really was. But she'd  needed to breathe for a spell. So she'd taken off with her sketch pad and no maid to accompany her.

"You're enjoying the walk too, aren't you?" She smiled down at her new puppy.

Hmm, she still hadn't thought of a name for him.

He yipped happily, skipping past her. Olivia increased her pace, trying to keep up with the naughty dog.

He finally stopped by the river bank. She sighed her relief and sat down by a tree, opening her sketchbook.

Her puppy seemed to be content with chasing butterflies and rolling on the grass.

She grinned and began to outline the picturesque scenery.

Damn, but it felt good to finally wash off all the mud from his person. Jacob hated coming to the countryside at this time of the year, but his idiot friend, Peter Willowhby had dragged him here for a horse race.

Then again, he was having a grand time. There was something about the grassy lands and clean air.

Not to mention, the chits here were more agreeable, he thought with a grin.

Jacob dunked his head into the warm water once more. When he came up, he had a feeling that he was being watched.

Strange, because there was no one about. He'd made sure that he was alone before taking off his shirt.

But gut feelings and all...

Olivia couldn't believe what she was doing. But she couldn't seem to pull her gaze away from the half naked man who was bathing in the water.

She'd been engrossed in her sketch when she heard splashing sounds from the river. Naturally, she'd gone to investigate.

Now she stood hidden behind the trees, ogling the man.

It was riveting, really, the way his muscles bunched when he raised his hands to clean his hair. The way his broad shoulders tapered down to a narrower waist...she hadn't even seen his face yet. But she'd never been so attracted to man's physique before, half-naked or otherwise.

And she was spying on him like a wanton, she berated herself. All the rules regarding the comportment of a proper Lady that her governess had drilled into her for years faded into nothingness. Unsurprisingly, Miss Geraldine had failed to tell her about how one must behave in face of such startling and rather pleasing  maleness.

Now if only she could snap out of it and mind her own business...

Then her puppy began to tug at her morning gown, wanting attention.

Olivia didn't know if she was grateful or annoyed at the interruption.

She knelt down and patted his head. Then she found a twig lying by. She picked it up and hurled it. Her little mutt ran towards it, wagging his tiny tail all the while.

She smiled and stood up again, turning her attention to the river again. Except, the man was gone.

What?

She couldn't prevent the stab of disappointment in her chest. She'd been enjoying herself before he'd decided to leave so soon.

Olivia sighed and turned around to find a very handsome and a very wet face towering over her with an amused smile.

Blood rushed to her face. She'd been caught red handed.

Goodness gracious, this was so very embarrassing.

"Now what do we have here?" his voice wrapped around her like velvet.

"I was...um–I was sketching! It's uh quite a view!" she stammered unnecessarily, knowing she was only making a fool of herself.

"Oh I have no doubt that you were enjoying the view," he grinned unrepentantly, his eyes full of mischief.

Olivia was certain she resembled a tomato by now.

But one thing was for sure, he had a face to go with his amazing body-now linen clad, unfortunately. Not that his damp shirt did anything to hide his splendid form.

Never in the eighteen years of her existence had Olivia seen someone so handsome. His hair was dark, his eyes even darker, giving him an air of mystery. But his casual, boyish smile betrayed his friendly nature. As for the rest of his face, she could only describe him as chiseled. They were sharp, his features, his gaze.

He even had dimples, for heavens-sake.

Lucifer must've looked this way, offering the world. Except this man wasn't blonde.

Olivia knew she had to get out of here. "Well, good day, then," she said with a fake cheery voice and made to move but he caught her by the wrist. His touch warmed her and made her just a little dizzy.

"Not so fast, sweetheart. You must tell me, did you like what you saw?"

Sweetheart?! Now she was certain that she was going to pass out.

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