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The Governess Game Tessa Dare 2022/8/3 13:55:21

She deserved better. A young, unmarried woman of her class lived with the specter of danger, and a threadbare jacket made for a pitiful shield. He wanted to peel the garment from her, cast it aside, and offer himself instead.

Chase wasn’t good for much, but he could stand between her body and the world.

He cupped her breast through the light muslin of her day dress. He found her nipple and rolled it beneath his thumb, teasing it to a hard peak.

The pleading note in her voice made him wild. He stole inside her open jacket, shoving aside the virginal white fichu, then worked his fingers beneath the muslin of her frock. He knew the layers of a woman’s clothing as well as he knew his own. Better than his own, truthfully, since he had a valet to assist with his own attire.

He eased one of her frock’s sleeves down over her shoulder. The strategy gave him just enough space to reach beneath her stiffened stays and linen shift. With a deft, well-practiced motion, he lifted her breast, liberating it from her stays.

Her eyes fluttered closed. She bit her lip, sealing in a gasp. He would have liked to hear her moan and cry out with pleasure. But there was something about the silence that was just as erotic, if not more.

Breathless, he cradled the soft weight in his hand. Caressing, treasuring. She was so small and slightly built. Her heartbeat thrummed like a bird’s beneath his palm.

Holding her breast was like holding her heart in his hand.

And that scared the life out of him.

Guarding her body was just basic masculine impulse. But he couldn’t take responsibility for her heart.

He broke the embrace with uncharacteristic brusqueness, setting her back on her feet. A bewildered look moved over her face as he rearranged her clothing. He regretted causing her any confusion or disappointment, but this time he’d gone much too far.

More accurately, he’d drawn too close.

He cleared his throat. “Alexandra, this . . .”

“Never happened,” she finished. “I know.” Her lips curved in a smile, but her eyes weren’t in on the joke. She was hurt.

He felt small enough to disappear into a crack in the wall. Well, she couldn’t be surprised. She had no illusions about the sort of man he was. Not when it came to women, anyway. She’d had ample evidence of his rakish history from the start.

Apparently, it was Chase who needed the reminder.

Very well, then. He would go out on the town, find a sophisticated, beautiful, willing woman, bring her back to his retreat, put that new mattress to the test—and rid himself of the desire to paw at the governess like a slavering hound.

And he would do it tonight.

“Come have a look at Mars.”

It was a clear, dark night, and Alexandra had invited the girls to join her for a bit of stargazing, well past their bedtime. A lesson in celestial navigation, she called it. In truth, it was a bribe to get them into their baths and nightclothes, then brush and neatly plait their hair. The girls’ hair smelled clean and fresh, and as she bent over Daisy’s shoulder to help her find the red planet, she drank in the innocent scent. A tender, warm emotion spread through her chest.

In just a few weeks’ time, she’d grown to care for these girls. Deeply. By helping them, it was as though she could reach back through time to her younger, newly orphaned self and clasp that girl in a hug laced with assurance. Don’t be afraid. I know it’s hard now. So very hard. But you’re stronger than you know, and it will all come right in the end.

But as she wrapped her arm round Daisy’s shoulders and pressed her nose to the girl’s sweet-smelling crown, Alex was a little bit afraid, herself. When the girls went away to school, would anyone be there to hug and soothe them then?

“I can’t make it out,” Daisy said. “It’s all muzzy.”

“Truly? Let me see.” Alex replaced her young charge at the eyepiece. “Perhaps I need to clean the lens.”

Before she could take a proper view, however, they heard the sounds of a carriage drawing up alongside the house.

A quick peek out the window confirmed Alexandra’s suspicions. Mr. Reynaud had rolled up to the house in his phaeton—and he wasn’t alone. Light, feminine laughter floated up through the night air and swooped through the open window, uninvited. Alex wanted to swat that laughter like a pesty gnat.

“Oh, Reynaud,” the lady said coyly. “You are a devil.”

He handed the lady down from the high-sprung carriage. As she alighted, the woman “stumbled.” Mr. Reynaud caught her in his arms.

Alex rolled her eyes at the transparent ploy.

She was so distracted watching them, she hadn’t realized she wasn’t alone in her spying. Rosamund had swung the telescope to point down toward the street. “Enemy craft sighted to starboard. And la-di-da, isn’t she a fancy one.”