She was just leaning closer to study it when she heard the door open and close with a quiet click. Assuming it was Myrtle on an errand for Aunt Zinnia, Lilah didnât bother to turn. âYou may tell my aunt that I will return shortly. I have need of a breath of air.â
âDo you breathe better when youâre bent at the waist?â a manâs deep voice asked.
Startled, Lilah jerked upright, whipping around to face the stranger.
Only he wasnât quite a stranger. Sheâd seen him before. In fact, not more than an hour ago. And he looked just as out of place in this manicured garden as his Destrier had trotting along the London streets. She imagined, however, that man and beast would look perfectly at home galloping across an untamed moor or into battle. The man had a feral, warrior look about him. Especially with the golden, hot-ember color of his eyes beneath the arch of a tawny brow. And instead of walking with perfect pedestrian form, he prowled toward herâagile but controlled, as if always prepared for battle.
Beneath a gray tailored coat, his broad shoulders subtly rolled and shifted. The black buttons of his striped waistcoat were in a flat, straight line, suggesting a firmness, about which she likely shouldnât ponder. The same way she should not admire the storm-cloud gray shade of his riding breeches and the way they encased his thighs, displaying every gradation of his impressive musculature.
When her gaze dipped, she also took note of the large bouquet of pink and white primroses he carried, hanging carelessly by his side. The flowers were enough to remind her of why she was out in the garden. A fresh wave of disappointment hit her.
âI believe,â she said, but when her words came out in nothing more than a whisper, she cleared her throat and began again. âI believe youâll find my cousin in the parlor.â
He stopped just beneath the arbor, not two steps from her. As they had earlier, his lips curled into a smirk at one corner of his mouth. This time, there was no mistaking the direction
of his gaze. He was, most assuredly, looking at her. âWhen I asked where I would find Miss Lilah Appleton, a rather frantic maid pointed in this direction. Was she mistaken?â
Lilahâs breath caught in her throat. His voice was that of a warriorâs tooâsure and commanding but with an underlying edge. Do not cross me, that tone warned as much as it promised. I will fight to the death for you. She could easily hear him saying those words on a battlefield . . . or in a ballroom. Of course, his attire would be different for each occasion . . .