“This morning I heard her tell Aurora,” Fleur was confiding, “that she could finally read those books.”
Ilie knew what that those books were, but even so, he was puzzled. “Why does Aurora not just read them if she wants to?” It wasn’t like Aurora wasn’t of age yet.
Fleur was looking at him like he was crazy. “Because Soleil told us not to, and we would not have survived this long if we didn’t follow her word.”
“And you know, she’s also agreed to finally give me free rein with my allowance. I have nagged her endlessly about it, but she always told me I had too many frivolous wants to be trusted—-” Pausing, Fleur gazed at him calculatingly. “Has anything different happened between the two of you last night? Something that could have made my already sweet sister turn insanely sweeter?”
He thought about Soleil with his cock in her mouth and coughed.
“Aha! I knew it! No doubt it has something to do with someone going down—-”
Ilie choked. What the fuck? Could Soleil have told her baby sister that?
“—-on bended knee,” Fleur finished triumphantly.
Ah. He cleared his throat in relief, realizing that Fleur didn’t know the truth after all. “That did not happen last night, but I had already let her know my intentions.”
“So you did go down—-”
Wincing, he cut her off, saying, “No, I did not propose to her in such a manner.”
Fleur leaned back against her seat in disappointment. “How disgustingly pragmatic. I told you, right? She’s a hopeless romantic. No wonder she’s still against your suit.”
“She is not.”
“She gave me her approval,” he said stiffly, “about tonight’s formal announcement of our engagement.”
Fleur shrugged. “So? It doesn’t mean she said yes to being your heartkeeper.”
It was almost the exact same thing Soleil had said last night, he realized. These sisters were too much alike it was uncanny.
“Oh, my,” the younger girl suddenly exclaimed. “The way my sister’s looking at the gentleman she’s dancing with—-”
He turned abruptly towards where he had last seen Soleil just in time to witness her placing one gloved hand over the baron’s arm.
Beside her, Fleur said smugly, “I told you, milord. You’re jealous, and only people who are in love feel that way, don’t you think?”
EVEN IN HIS ADVANCED age, the baron was still a good dancer, and he expertly whirled his daughter across the floor.
“You are still too good,” she told him laughingly.
She smiled up at him. “Papa, did I ever thank you?”
“For taking care of me, of us. For always being there—-”
His gaze narrowing, he asked warily, “Is this your way of buttering me up before you ask me for something?”
She grinned. “That has never been my style, Papa, and you know it. Besides, we all know you’re all bark. You never deny us anything.” Stopping mid-dance, she tiptoed to kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, Papa.”
When she drew back, the marquis had appeared beside them, surprising both father and daughter.
You deliberately shocked me, she accused him.
His gaze laughed at hers before he turned to the baron, asking formally, “May I have the next dance with your daughter, milord?”
“Is this an omen?” the baron grumbled. “I’m beginning to dislike the idea of having to relinquish my daughter to you.” But his smile belied his words and he was already stepping back as he spoke.
For a long time, neither of them spoke, not out loud, not in their minds. They were simply content to dance, teasing each other with stolen gazes and secret smiles, seducing each other as they whirled and dipped about—-
His fingers on her waist, her breasts against his chest-—
“This is the most scandalous dance,” she couldn’t help telling him breathlessly. It was true, but even so, she wanted more.
He smiled rakishly down at her. “Just the first of many.”
Her heart squeezed at the words, and she pressed her breasts harder against his chest.
His eyes widened.
Her smile naughty, Soleil said, “So you would not always think you can guess my every move.”
The marquis grunted. “When did I ever think that? From the moment I knew of you, you never did anything you should.”
“But you know almost my every thought,” she grumbled back, “and it’s hateful.”
His rock-hard shoulders lifting in a careless shrug, he teased, “Do not blame me for your inability to hide your thoughts.”
Her dimples flashed. “Such arrogance.” And he was, too arrogant. Because she wasn’t as bad as he thought.
They danced a second time, and it was wonderful. They danced a third time, and by then it was official, their engagement good as announced. Such was the way things were in their world.
When the music ended, Ilie cupped her face and lowering his head, he kissed her in front of everyone. Her toes curled, and even though she was very much aware of how scandalous they were being, she couldn’t help kissing him back.