“Lady Soleil?” Ilie was quietly amused at the way his heartkeeper was acting. She was said to to be a calm-headed, methodical strategist in the battlefield and yet with him, she was more often than not adorably awkward.
“Y-yes?” Soleil inwardly cringed, with the way her voice had come out a croak.
Thankfully, the marquis didn’t seem to notice, with his voice remaining charmingly courteous as he murmured, “I have taken the liberty of asking permission from your father to escort you to a ball I’ve been invited to. It would be my pleasure if you were to honor me with your company for tonight’s ball.”
Carefully avoiding his gaze, she turned to the baron. “Papa?” She stared at him meaningfully, telling him without words to refuse.
But instead, Charles said jovially, “Go on, my dear. You should change into one of your pretty gowns. You wouldn’t want to keep the marquis waiting too long, would you?”
But before she could protest, her sisters had already clasped her arm on each side and were hurriedly urging her towards the door. “Papa’s right,” Aurora was saying. “We should get moving, there’s still your gown to choose and your shoes.”
“I’ll do her hair,” Fleur volunteered. “I know just the perfect style for it.”
As she was rushed out to the hallway, the marquis asked lazily, I look forward to being dazzled.
Fleur gazed at her sister with interest. “Why are you suddenly blushing, Soleil?”
“N-nothing.” But it was hard not to blush even more, with the seductive sound of Ilie’s laughter trailing after Soleil.
As they started to ascend the stairs, he told her, Don’t forget to keep your hair up.
She remembered that time in the carriage, when he had told her why he had wanted her hair styled in such a way—-
So I’d have the pleasure of taking it down.
—-and Soleil missed a step. She heard Ilie laugh again, knew he had read her mind, and her teeth gnashed. Cad!
As Aurora helped Soleil up, she noticed the way her sister was gritting her teeth and shook her head in bemusement. “You are acting so oddly, Soleil. Is this really how women in love act?”
Is it, milady, Ilie said wickedly.
Her two sisters turned to her, and realizing she had blurted the words out loud, she shook her head, stammering, “Not you two.”
“Then who?” Aurora asked, even more confused now.
Even by the time Soleil and Ilie were safely ensconced in the luxurious accommodation of his gleaming black barouche, the marquis’ shoulders were still rocking with silent mirth while she stared at him, fuming.
“I am serious, milord. You should never communicate with me that way again. It’s terribly confusing!”
“I understand,” Ilie said repentantly, but the gleam in his silver eyes told her he was likely to keep doing it, if only to see her flustered.
Solei rolled her eyes. “You, sir, are not convincing anyone with—-ah!” In a blink of an eye, she found herself dragged into the marquis’ lap, her legs dangling on one side. The marquis started nuzzling her neck, and she froze.
“You smell wonderful,” he murmured against the tender skin of her neck. “So good, it makes me want to take a bite of you.”
When his fangs scraped against the skin, Soleil was embarrassed to realize she was more excited than terrified, enough for her to press her legs together, hoping she wouldn’t get wet.
But of course she did.
And the marquis knew it, too.
“Do you know,” he murmured lazily, “that my hearing is good enough to sense when you’re just about to get wet? The creamy liquid coming out of you, drenching your drawers—-”
“Milord!” Oh my God, it was impossible to stop her body from responding, and she squeezed her eyes shut. “Please! I don’t want to attend a ball feeling…”
Consternation sparked in his heartkeeper’s blue eyes, and Ilie wondered if she knew how seeing her mad only made him want her more. Probably not, he thought wryly, knowing that for someone as pragmatic as his lily, it would make no sense.
You say you like me and yet you also like seeing me angry? That doesn’t make any sense, milord!
His lips twitched at the thought, and lowering his head, he stole a kiss from her. He intended it to last for a moment, but when their lips touched, he realized it had been stupid to think he could stop there.
He stroked her tongue with his, and when she whimpered, he couldn’t help kissing her more deeply.
It was a weakly voiced protest, but Ilie forced himself to heed it, knowing that he wouldn’t want her to attend the ball smelling of arousal either. No fucking way, he thought grimly, considering who were there.
Reluctantly lifting his mouth off hers, he told her raggedly, “I apologize, milady. When you are near me, I find myself unable to stay in control.”
With her head pressed against his chest, Soleil could feel his heart still racing and knew that the marquis had been telling the truth. He truly wanted her that much. Her head whirled at the thought.