‘Is that so?’ Hugh asked softly. ‘I wonder if I’m able to infatuate you again now your decent man has disappeared...’
This time his mouth closed with hers relentlessly, tracking every evasion until she ceded with a little gasp and allowed their lips to merge. She felt his long fingers forking into her hair, dislodging her hat and a few pins. But though she struggled Bea knew she was defeated. Since the moment he had turned up at her father’s house with news of Alex’s mother she had unconsciously craved this. Within a second of his caress skimming her silhouette she had melted closer.
Hugh sensed her need and immediately deepened the kiss, manoeuvring her jaw to part her mouth. His tongue teased the silk of her inner lip, sliding and circling with slow eroticism, while a determined hand stroked from her back to her buttocks, jolting her into awareness of the effect she was having on him. His hands cupped her face, forcing her back from him so he could gaze at her features. A flush had spread across a soft cheek where his stubble had grazed her and her mouth, moist and temptingly slack, was scarlet and plump from his passionate assault.
But she was not the sweet ingénue she’d been before. He could read behind the desire in her large eyes that her response was reluctant...measured...and he wondered just how much the doctor had taken before he’d gone away.
‘You’re easily infatuated, sweetheart,’ Hugh murmured. ‘I’m beginning to wish I’d bedded down at the Hall last night, after all, and got to know you again.’
His brutal comment was like a dousing with cold water for Beatrice. He couldn’t have made it plainer that he thought her a wanton, desperate for his attention, just as she had been years ago when she’d promised him anything he wanted, then cried when he’d coolly told her he must stop seeing her.
A small hand, liberated from entrapment between their bodies, flew up to crack against his unshaven cheek, jerking his head sideways. ‘I’m not infatuated and never will be again...not with you, at least. I’m disgusted by your lust and insolence.’ She backed away, pressing quivering fingers to her pulsing lips. ‘Colin might not be able to marry me under the terms of his inheritance but I’d sooner be his mistress than your wife.’
Hugh stalked her on their way back, until she realised she’d got the stream directly behind her and could go no further.
‘I don’t recall proposing to you...ever...not then, not now,’ he gritted through his teeth, infuriated with himself as well as her.
He would have risked even worse humiliation at her hands if he’d let those four damnable words circling his mind trip off his tongue.
‘But if it’s a lover you want...’ Hugh continued in a deliberately lewd tone as he trailed just one tormenting digit down a hot silky cheek. ‘I’ll provide a better service than the doctor...in every way. Just name it and it’s yours, whatever you desire.’ He grunted a callous laugh as she flinched at his crude proposition. ‘So...the decent man’s gone off to Miss Rawlings to keep his estates safe, has he?’
‘Don’t you dare mock him!’ Beatrice cried. ‘He didn’t want to leave me! He had to for his future heirs’ sake!’
‘Quite the martyr, then, isn’t he?’ Hugh mocked. ‘Yet Sir Colin, as he demands to be known, gives the impression of a man content with his lot in life...whereas I have just realised I am not, because I want what he doesn’t.’
Beatrice gulped down an indignant protestation. She had not seen Colin since he’d jilted her, but for her pride’s sake she’d clung to a belief that he was missing her as she missed him. She might tell her family...she might tell herself...that she was glad they’d parted, but in private moments she knew it wasn’t wholly so. There had been tender interludes during their relationship, if no great passion. For this man to brutally throw her fiancé’s faithlessness in her face—even if it were the truth—was galling.
‘If Colin seems content it is because he is stoic and sensible enough to know he must accept what he cannot change!’ Beatrice hissed. ‘Whereas you are a disgusting degenerate.’
‘Am I? Who told you so?’ Hugh enquired with specious softness.
Beatrice pressed together her lips, as though to prevent herself repeating what she’d learned about him from Lady Groves: he was a man who preferred spending time with harlots rather than decent women, despite his popularity with debutantes. If the ladies’ comments about the flirtatious Miss Rawlings were to be believed Colin’s future wife seemed, with awful irony, particularly taken with Hugh Kendrick. And if that were not enough then there was the other business which, if she’d guessed correctly, had taken place overseas.