Curiosity was killing Lady Emily Stapleford.
Could it possibly be true that the mysterious, obscenely wealthy American Logan
Jennsen, a man she considered nothing more than an uncouth colonial, was an
Surely not. Surely her friend Carolyn had
exaggerated. Still, the claim had piqued Emily’s curiosity and she found
herself stealing but yet another glance at the tall, dark-haired, broad
shouldered man standing across the drawing room, hating the fact that her gaze
continually sought him out. It was as if Logan Jennsen was a powerful magnet
and her errant eyeballs were made of metal. He stood alone, glass of champagne
dangling from his long fingers, observing the guests who’d attended the small
wedding ceremony between Lady Julianne Bradley and Gideon Mayne. She watched
his gaze pan over the small group, telling herself that she’d shift her
attention before he looked at her. But just then his eyes locked with hers and
she found herself unable to look away, an irritating turn of events as she
didn’t like the man. Not one bit. Every time she found herself in his
presence, she felt vexed and annoyed, a situation made even more grating because
her three closest friends all liked Mr. Jennsen and didn’t understand her
antipathy toward him. Of course Carolyn, Julianne, and Sarah weren’t aware that
Emily’s father owed Mr. Jennsen a great deal of money. Had Mr. Jennsen lured
her father into an unwise investment? Emily didn’t know, but she wouldn’t put
anything past the American. After all, what did anyone really know about him?
Rumor had it he’d been born into poverty and amassed his fortune through his
business acumen and the non-gentlemanly pursuit of hard work. Rumor also had it
he’d left America under mysterious circumstances.
And, if Carolyn was to be believed, that he was
an excellent kisser.
Could it be true? Since the moment Carolyn had
made the claim, Emily hadn’t been able to erase the words from her mind, nor the
unsettling images they evoked—of Logan Jennsen’s mouth touching hers. Curiosity
had frequently proven too strong a temptation for Emily to resist, and she
simply had to find out. Once her curiosity was satisfied, she’d be able to put
the matter, and the man, out of her mind. She didn’t doubt for a moment that
she’d find his kiss the exact opposite of excellent, something she’d delight in
knowing. And there was no time like the present.
With her gaze steady on his, she crossed the
room, telling herself that the fluttering in her stomach was nothing more than
the usual annoyance she experienced in his company. She stopped in front of
him, ignoring the warm and breathless sensation she inexplicably experienced
every time she saw him. “Lovely wedding, wasn’t it?”
He raised his brows, made a great show of
looking to his left, then his right, then glancing over his shoulder. “Could it
be...are you speaking to me, Lady Emily?”
She barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
“Obviously I am speaking to you.”
“So I see. Forgive my surprise, it is just that
you normally avoid me as if I harbor the plague.”
“Yes, well, one cannot be too careful.”
“Oh, yes, I agree.” To her further annoyance,
amusement lurked in his dark eyes. “Everyone knows that Americans are notorious
plague harborers. But to answer your question, yes, the wedding was lovely.” A
look of feigned shock came over his features. “Good God, is it possible we’ve
agreed on something?”
“I cannot imagine anyone not agreeing that it
was a beautiful ceremony.”
“In other words, I should not expect this
détente between us to last.”
He shrugged. “I’m not surprised, given the
fickle nature of you hothouse society diamonds.”
Vexing man. Clearly she’d taken leave of her
senses to even consider satisfying her curiosity with such an ill-mannered
lout. But then he lifted his champagne glass for a sip, drawing her attention
to his mouth. How unfair that such an irritating man possessed such perfectly
formed, beautiful lips that managed to look both firm and soft, demanding and
tender. And once again she found she couldn’t resist temptation. Her three
best friends all spoke of the magic that could be felt in a kiss—a magic she’d
never experienced--and, according to Carolyn, this particular man knew how to
impart that magic, a claim Emily highly doubted, and one she was determined to
prove wrong. How could this man be such an excellent kisser? Why, he wasn’t
in the least bit classically handsome. His features were too bold and stark,
and clearly his nose had been broken at some point. Honesty forced her to admit
his looks were…compelling. Perhaps she’d even, under duress, have to allow that
he was darkly attractive. But she refused to believe he was an excellent kisser
as Carolyn claimed.
“Was there something else, Lady Emily?”
His question yanked her from her thoughts and
jerked her gaze back to his. And found him regarding her through narrowed
eyes. Summoning her courage, she raised her chin and said, “As a matter of
fact, there is. However it is a matter I’d prefer to discuss in private. If I
could have a moment of your time in the library?”
His gaze narrowed another fraction, and for
several seconds she thought he meant to refuse her, but then he set down his
champagne and inclined his head. “The library,” he agreed.
Emily took a quick look around, and after
assuring herself they were unobserved by the chatting guests, she led the way
into the corridor, then to the library. After entering the room, she watched
Mr. Jennsen move toward the fireplace. Reaching behind her, she closed the door
with a quiet click then joined him.
“What is this private matter you wish to
discuss?” he asked.
“I wish for you to satisfy my curiosity.” And
prove Carolyn wrong.
There was no mistaking his surprise. “I beg
“I want you to kiss me.”
His eyes filled with suspicion and he backed up a step. “Why?”
Good Lord, it hadn’t occurred to her that he
might be unwilling. Weren’t men always eager to kiss women? Deciding her best
course of action was the direct approach, she told him the unvarnished truth.
“I’ve heard that you’re well versed in the art of kissing, a claim which has
aroused my curiosity.”
“So you want to know for yourself if it is
“Actually, I’m convinced that the claim is
His brows raised. “Indeed?”
“Yes. Therefore I want you to kiss me.”
“So I can prove to you that I’m not well versed
in the art of kissing.”
Something flickered in his dark eyes, something
that made her heart jump and had her wondering if perhaps she’d made a grave
mistake, a thought she immediately shoved aside. What could be the harm in a
simple little kiss? With renewed determination she stepped closer to him,
stopping when only several inches separated them. Reaching up, she rested her
hands on his shoulders and rose up on her toes. “Well?” she asked, infusing a
wealth of challenge in that single word.
He studied her for several long seconds, then
lowered his head, so slowly her heart began to pound with something that felt
suspiciously like anticipation. She closed her eyes and waited. What on earth
was taking him so long? She’d expected the kiss to be over already.
Then his lips brushed over hers, a whisper of a
touch that stilled her. He repeated the feather light caress, once, twice, and
the fleeting thought crossed her mind that it wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, it
He ran his tongue over her bottom lip and she
gasped, effectively parting her lips, and before another thought could form in
her suddenly addled brain, his arms came around her and she found herself
pressed against his hard chest. He deepened the kiss, shocking her senses when
his tongue touched hers. Heat rushed through her, pooling low in her belly.
Heart pounding, she returned the caress, tentatively at first, then with more
confidence when she heard him groan. And suddenly, what had started out as
slow, soft, and gentle exploded into something hot and dark, raw and demanding.
With a noise that sounded like a growl, he
yanked her tighter against him and slanted his mouth over hers. Fire seemed to
lick through her veins, igniting her every nerve ending and melting away
everything except him. The feel of his mouth on hers. His hard body pressing
against her. His scent surrounded her—an intoxicating mixture of fresh linen,
shaving soap and sandalwood--and his taste was pure heaven. Warm and
delicious. The intimacy of his tongue exploring her mouth hardened her nipples
into aching peaks and turned her knees to porridge. She clung to him, sifting
impatient fingers through his thick, dark hair, pulling his head lower, eager
for more. She opened her mouth wider and was rewarded with a deeper kiss that
melted her spine.
He coasted his hands down her back to curve
around her buttocks, hauling her tighter against him. The heat of his hands and
of the hard ridge of flesh pressing against her stomach penetrated her muslin
gown, a warmth she craved more of. An insistent throb pulsed between her thighs
and she squirmed against him in an attempt to relieve the ache. Another low
groan echoed in her ears, one she wasn’t certain came from him or her.
Desperation such as she’d never known filled her and she strained closer,
wanting, needing more. Lost in sensation, helpless to do otherwise, she rubbed
herself against him. A shudder racked him and with an agonized sound he grasped
her by the arms and lifted his head.
Everything in Emily groaned in protest. With
her breaths coming out in short, rapid pants, she dragged her eyes opened. His
cheekbones were flushed with color and his breathing was as erratic as hers.
His eyes resembled ebony infernos and they raked her face with an intensity that
left her trembling. They way he was looking at her…dear God, it looked as if he
wanted to devour her, a fact that should have alarmed her. Instead it rushed
another heated wave of want through her and she had to press her lips together
to keep from uttering the word that trembled on her tongue. Again.
He drew in a long, slow breath then swallowed.
“Satisfied?” he asked in a husky rasp.
No. God help her, her entire body trembled with
the need for more. She struggled to locate her voice, and managed to whisper,
“Yes.” Which she supposed was partially true. Logan Jennsen had satisfied her
curiosity and proven himself to be an excellent kisser. An amazingly excellent
Unfortunately she feared that knowledge wasn’t
going to render him as easy to forget as she’d planned.