Chapter 15

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One, two, three and four.

The pebble bounced four times before it sank into the depths of the pond. Jacob bent to find another one, he needed it to be as flat as possible.


Jacob straightened slowly, knowing who it was even before he turned. Of course it was Olivia, who else would be bold enough to seek out an unmarried gentleman alone in the woods? And she was exactly why he'd turned to the pond to seek solace. When he'd risen this morning, the first thing he'd seen from his window was Olivia riding with that damned Merrick. She was laughing and chatting...

"Jacob." He turned slowly, hating how his name on her lips brought him pleasure.

"Lost your way, Lady Olivia?" he looked at her condescendingly. Why was she here? To torture him?

She drew in a deep breath before she spoke. "I came to tell you that I enjoyed your kiss and I couldn't help but wonder what came next–" she was saying but Jacob held up a hand, cutting her off. Was she inebriated? It didn't seem likely at this time of the day. But whatever it was, it was threatening his sanity-or what was left of it anyway.

Her lips tightened and her eyes flashed. But she reigned in her reaction, pasted a serene expression on her face.

"You're angry with me, understandably so. I wish to apologise for my behaviour that day, I don't know what came over me," she sighed.

What the hell was she talking about? He wasn't angry with her, he was angry with himself-because he couldn't stay away from her.

"That was a pretty apology, my lady. But I assure you, I'm not angry at all," he said evenly, looking at her smart riding attire from beneath his lashes. She was beautiful.

"You're not?" She smiled and it made him just a little dizzy.

"You forget that I must feel something for someone in order to get angry with them," he murmured. She gasped and Jacob instantly regretted his thoughtlessness. Tears gathered in her eyes and he almost went to her, almost told her how much he wanted her.

"It's best if you return to your beaus, my lady. It wouldn't do if someone found you here with a rake such as I," He said blandly, turning towards the pond again. He waited for a sign that she'd left. When he heard the sounds of leaves crunching, he turned around to find her retreating form. She looked so fragile, the usually brisk gait seemed to drag.

Jacob clenched his fists at his sides. Unless he'd misheard what she'd said, she'd just told him that she enjoyed his carnal attentions, she'd offered him the perfect excuse to take what he was so badly tempted to take.

Why was it always so hard to do the right thing?

"What's wrong, Olivia?" Wini asked.

"Nothing," she huffed, toying with her croissant. Mr.Townshend entered the breakfast parlour and Olivia looked up immediately. His dark gaze met hers and her pulse quickened with hope. But he looked away quickly, his gaze hooded as he prowled about the room, mounting his plate with kippers and eggs.

"A reluctant beau, hmm?" Wini murmured from beside her, eyeing her shrewdly.

Olivia began to deny it, but then stopped herself. It was pointless to refute it. Besides she knew Wini wouldn't judge her or spread tales. She nodded slowly.

"Can I help in any way?" she asked softly.

"I don't think so. He doesn't seem to want me," Olivia sighed, throwing a quick glance his way.

"Of course he does," Wini snorted and Olivia turned to look at her, confused. "Did he tell you that he didn't want you?"

"Not in so many words but he said the most terrible things."

"There you have it. He's just forcing some distance between the two of you the only way he knows," Wini smiled winsomely.

"Yes, but why?" Olivia looked at her friend as if she was mad.

"Only he knows the answer to that, my dear. You must understand that men such as Mr.Townshend are complicated creatures. It was clear from the way he looked at you that you are a weakness. Now you must decide if what you seek from him is worth the fight you must surely put up to win him."

"So you're saying that he doesn't in fact despise me?" Olivia asked a little too hopefully for her taste.

"Yes, quite the opposite," her friend laughed.

When she looked at Mr.Townshend the next time, it was with more confidence.

"I assume it isn't marriage that's on you mind?"

"I haven't thought about that far ahead," Olivia stammered, a blush staining her cheeks.

"I'd thought so. He isn't the sort to marry, you know," Wini smirked. "You mustn't worry, my dear. I don't think less of you for wanting him. It's unfair really, how men seek pleasure whenever they want to but we ladies are forced to wait until we're married."

Olivia nodded, feeling better about her decision.

The glances Olivia was throwing his way actually scared him. It looked like she was up to something and that sent tingles up his spine. Jacob turned his attention to the delicious food on his plate, but he felt her gaze on him all the while.

Why did the one spinster he'd entangled with have to be so damned stubborn and enticing?

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