‘A happy ending all round...’ Bea gave him a tiny smile.
‘Is it?’ Hugh plunged his hands in his pockets, his eyes darkening. ‘Why did you assume I was a deceitful villain before allowing me to explain?’
‘I told Mrs Monk she was lying about you from the start. I was sceptical about your interest in her daughter even when she said you’d take Stella just to ensure Toby couldn’t have her...’ Beatrice rattled off, wishing she had a more robust defence to present to Hugh.
She had recklessly flown here in a fury, believing the worst of him. She’d called him names and quizzed him over being a liar...but now that her jealousy and indignation were no longer colouring her reason her earlier opinion of him had changed drastically. In fact he had moments ago provided her with yet more cause to adore him, she realised. He might be self-indulgent where women and pleasure were concerned, but he was not weak or mean. His kindness towards Rani didn’t irk Beatrice; such consideration reassured her that, however nasty and corrupt his older brother might be, Hugh had escaped being infected with a similar nature. Hugh Kendrick was an honourable man, and she loved him.
Blinking back the heat in her eyes, she gazed at him, wanting him to say something, but he remained stubbornly quiet.
‘I’m conscious that you have great trust in me to have disclosed your secret... I swear I will never betray it.’ Still he said nothing, and Bea slowly turned away. ‘I must go now, and hope that nobody knows I’ve been here other than your servants.’
‘You took a great risk for a man you don’t trust.’
‘I do trust you...’ Beatrice keened, swinging back to gaze at him beseechingly.
Hugh suddenly cradled her face in his hand. ‘Do you, Beatrice?’ he demanded throatily. ‘Prove it to me, then...’
‘How can I? What do you want me to do?’ Beatrice whispered. She glimpsed the smoky desire burning at the backs of his eyes and a piquant thrill rippled through her. ‘I shouldn’t have doubted you, but Mrs Monk is adept at stirring the pot...’ She began a diffident mitigation.
‘If you’re curious about my past ask me about it and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’ Hugh dipped his head to tantalise a corner of her lips with his own. ‘Or perhaps you’ll think me lying to cover up my sins...will you?’
‘No! I won’t! I trust you...’ Bea’s eyelids fell as the kiss continued.
‘Good. But I’m after more than just your trust, sweet, you know that. I always have been.’ His fingers smoothed over a warm satiny cheek, a thumb brushing lightly on her lower lip. ‘I want us to finish what we started in Hyde Park this afternoon, before we were interrupted by those infernal people.’
He held her back from him a little, tilting his head to watch her bashful expression.
‘Come...don’t be shy; we both know it didn’t begin today but years ago, and we’ve waited far too long to satisfy this need for one another. It’s time now to surrender, Beatrice.’
‘You want me to kiss you to say sorry?’ Beatrice murmured, glancing at him from under her curly dark lashes.
‘That would be a nice start...’ Hugh sounded huskily amused as he moved his mouth to a position fractionally above hers, daring her to take the initiative and close the space between their lips.
Raising herself onto tiptoe, Bea kissed him with innocent sensuality. A scent of tangy sandalwood soap enveloped her as their bodies merged and she slipped her arms onto his shoulders, entwining her fingers in his tousled hair.
‘You feel damp...’ she teased, trying to temper the sizzling atmosphere between them. ‘I’m sorry I interrupted your bathing...’
‘There’s time yet to finish that too before the night’s out,’ Hugh growled against her mouth. ‘Will you wash my back?’
Bea stumbled back a pace from him, her smile uncertain. ‘I hope you’re joking...’
Hugh tracked her evasive paces until her spine was touching the library table. Indolently he placed a hand either side of her, trapping her between his muscular arms. ‘No joke... I want you with me everywhere, Beatrice...even in my bath.’
Confused by an overwhelming mix of excitement and embarrassment, she clasped the solid forearm closest to her with two small hands. Sinew flexed beneath her palms as he resisted her attempt to move him. Bea’s eyes roved features that displayed an uncompromising raw carnality. Slowly she exhaled a pent-up breath. Why fight him? She yearned for his loving as ardently as he would bestow it. She couldn’t deny it. Neither could she deny that the idea of his sleek skin slipping beneath her wet palms as she soaped him was making her feel restless.