A Courtly Compromise
Book 6 in the Unrivalled Regency Series
Copyright©Jackie Williams 2016
Women adore him, fight over him, lust after him. He has never been short of a conquest, but with a beautiful, blonde temptress residing in the house, Callum’s engaging disposition and cheery humour have all but deserted him.
The indignation sparkling from her crystal eyes captivated him from the first, and now he can barely keep himself under control. But she is far more than a mere distraction. As if her enticing curves and subtle fragrance were not enough, her determination, her interests, and her scintillating conversation are driving him wild with frustration.
But to want her is futile. Leaving aside her noble connections and his honour, the weight of age old guilt will not release him from his obligations. As intolerable as the situation is, he must hold firm and resist her delightful charms. For she is an innocent and he is a murderer.
How could her father be so cruel? He abandoned her and left her penniless, his own reputation clearly more important than her life. Fortunately her new friends hadn’t deserted her; they embraced her into their family, and Callum’s with it. How could she ever live without them, or him? Educated to a standard far beyond his rank, Beatrice had never met a man like him. His playful manners kept a smile on her lips; his magnetic allure and dizzying kisses drugged her beyond reason. Leaving him would be near impossible.
With his dark past about to catch up with him, and the teaching position offered to her, there were no other options. It was heartbreaking that his loyal dedication and her want for self-reliance meant she couldn’t embrace Callum within her future too. One last touch of his lips is all she can have.
Beatrice reached for the handle of their own carriage door, but it swung open before she could touch it. The next moment Callum’s hand stretched out to help his mother.
“Come, mother. Cook has refreshments waiting for everyone.”
Hetty let out relieved sigh as her feet touched the ground.
“Thank goodness. I am parched.” She turned to her travelling companion. “Would you like tea sent up to your room, my dear?”
Beatrice swallowed nervously. Hannah’s resentment had been bad enough. She didn’t want to make enemies here.
“No, it’s quite all right. I can come to the kitchen if someone would show me where it is.” She stepped forwards to alight the carriage, but her foot caught in the hem of her dress. She dropped her reticule and scrabbled futilely at the carriage doorframe as she attempted to halt her fall. The next moment large hands clamped about her waist and she felt herself lifted into the air.
Callum didn’t stop to think as he grabbed the falling woman. Heat raced through his palms as his hands circled the dip of her waist. A frown creased his brow as he lifted her down the step and placed her safely on the gravel. No wonder she had tripped over her gown. She must have lost pounds in weight. How hadn’t he noticed that her dresses were now too big? The shawl about her shoulders covered much, but surely he couldn’t have been so blind. Gazing down into her bright eyes, it was almost too late when he realized that he still held her. He stepped back and released her from his grasp.
“A little keen on seeing the place?” He joked to cover not only his indiscretion, but the leaping sensation that suddenly filled his chest.
Beatrice glanced around wondering if anyone had seen her idiotic entrance, but the rest of the family and staff appeared to be preoccupied with becoming settled or unloading luggage. She ignored the irregular beat of her heart, shook the creases from her gown, and managed to smile.
“Apparently so, though I blame my clumsiness on my gown. I don’t remember it being so long. Thank you for not letting me fall in a puddle and make a fool of myself,” she added quietly as her shawl slipped down her shoulder. She glanced about at the rapidly drying drive.
Callum gave a small bow and almost choked as his eyes dropped to her newly revealed décolletage. Where the shawl no longer covered her, and her dress had become far looser, he could now clearly see the shadowed valley between her wondrous breasts.
“My pleasure.” He straightened quickly, fearing for his sanity as he took in the tempting sight. It most certainly was a pleasure. Her skin looked as smooth as whipped butter and he could see her pulse fluttering at the base of her throat. Was she as affected as he? Did the flesh at her waist still tingle as much as the palms of his hands? He gulped and ran his finger around his collar, his throat feeling oddly constricted.
He glanced up as he heard Giles calling him. His master beckoned while Lady Anne stood at the front door of the house, apparently waiting for her companion. He looked back down at Beatrice.
“I must go and speak to Giles before helping with the horses. They have earned their oats tonight. Go with Lady Anne. She will see you settled, and I will see you at dinner.” His eyes narrowed slightly and his gaze raked her figure once more before he turned and strode away.
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