Page 3 of Vanquished

Chapter Three

“He seemed rather good.”

Delilah’s attention returned to the present with a screeching halt as she eyed her father. “What?”

They were having luncheon at the hotel where they generally stayed when they were in town, but while she normally enjoyed the fare, her attention was somewhat distracted by the memory of a devilishly charming Irishman. Afraid that she might have mumbled something aloud, she felt some of the color drain from her cheeks. If her father were to find out she’d been stealing kisses from Conor, he would be appalled. Of course, ever since he’d told her his name, she hadn’t been able to stop from daydreaming.

He finished chewing his food with a shake of his head. “Delilah, really. You shouldn’t be so discordant with people who are only trying to help. Mr. Flannigan was a perfect gentleman, and you were quite harsh.”

She frowned, still at sea. “Who?”

He set down his utensils with a heavy sigh. “The Irishman who came to our aid earlier today. Really, Delilah, you’ve never been unkind to anyone before. At least, that I know of.” He hesitated. “Is it because he’s Irish? There has been turmoil with England in the past, but I didn’t think you cared about politics enough to discourage someone because of where he comes from.”

Delilah gritted her teeth but made sure to keep her tone even and calm. “No, Papa. I have nothing against him for being from Ireland. In fact, I congratulated him on his care of Hercules,” she ended brightly.

He nodded in approval. “Very good. He certainly has a way with horses. Hercules was nearly back to his usual good humor by the time I left the auction house.”

Delilah smiled but said nothing. While she normally checked in on the horses often when they weren’t doing well, she didn’t want to risk running into Conor again, so she’d retreated to the hotel. She’d sipped tea in the lobby and acted as though she hadn’t a care in the world.

She imagined the sound of the Irishman’s laughter and stood. “If you’ll forgive me, I think I’ll go back to my room. I feel a headache coming on and I want to ensure it is gone by the time the auction starts.”

“Of course.” He smiled at her in concern. “I hope you’re not getting ill. You know that if we can’t attend the auction today, we have to wait until next Monday and I shouldn’t like to have to pay the extra expense for stabling the horses that much longer.”

She bent down and kissed him on the cheek. While her father was the one in charge of the business aspect of their mounts, Delilah kept the notes for the auction, that he would later take care of writing in his ledgers. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. It’s just a slight megrim, which we ladies sometimes suffer.”

At her assurance, the crease between his brows disappeared and he dove back into his meal.

She sighed as she headed upstairs, feeling truly weary all of a sudden. As she passed one of the rooms in her hallway, she paused when the sound of a feminine moan reached her ears. Her skin prickled with awareness as she glanced at the closed door where a masculine grunt soon followed. She quickly covered her mouth with her hand, for there was no mistaking what was transpiring in that room. Granted, she had never been with a man before, but she wasn’t so sheltered she didn’t know the sounds of lovemaking in progress.

She told herself to keep moving, to slide away from the door before someone caught her eavesdropping on such an intimate affair, but her legs refused the command. Instead, she stood there and found herself drawing closer to the wood. Another breathy moan sounded, and she bit her lip, completely engrossed now. She realized she was wicked in the extreme to have allowed this to have captured her attention, and yet, she remained.

Her eyes drifted closed, and as she continued to listen, she imagined that the man on the other side was Conor and she was the woman. Fantastical images of them in a compromising position floated through her conscious until she felt faint.

“Hear anything ye like?”

The husky whisper was directly in her ear and Delilah nearly screamed at the sound. Instead, she clamped a hand over her mouth and rushed off toward her room with her face burning in shame and embarrassment. She withdrew her key from her reticule and tried to insert it into the lock, but her hands were shaking so bad that she couldn’t get her fingers to cooperate.

A warm hand covered hers. “Why don’t ye let me do that.”

It wasn’t a question, and she reluctantly released the keys to Conor’s care, all while keeping her face averted from his.

Delilah heard the key in the lock and then the door was pushed open. When she thought it was safe, she darted for the entrance, but a strong arm shot out to block her path.

“Let me pass.” Was her voice that shaky?

“Ye don’t have to be embarrassed, Delilah.”

Her breathing turned shallow, for the feel of Conor’s breath on her bare neck, combined with the sound of her name coming from his lips only added to her earlier, wayward imagination.

She swallowed. “Stop this.”

“Stop what?” he countered. This time he brushed his hand over her upper arm. Shivers instantly shot throughout her body.

“Whatever it is you’re doing to me.”

“And what am I doing?” he crooned, as his hand moved to her waist and slid up her ribcage. His thumb rubbed along the underside of her breast, and her nipple hardened beneath the muslin, but when she waited for him to do more, he kept his hand just out of reach. Touch me! She wanted to shout but clenched the door frame for control instead.

She tried a different tactic. “Go away.”

“Don’t you want me to come inside?” he cajoled.

Blast the man and his dark, sensual teasing! It was playing havoc on her common sense. But thankfully, it was still there, and she clung to it like a lifeline.

“No.” She dared to swivel her head toward him, hoping that he would see the firm refusal in her eyes, but she quickly realized her mistake. His handsome face was just inches from hers, their every breath intertwining.

He lifted his hand and ran a finger down her cheek. “Are ye sure about that, lass?”

She prayed for the strength to resist him. Hoping that a change in topic would help, she asked, “What are you even doing here?”

He smiled broadly. “Hoping to see ye.”

“Don’t be absurd.” She laughed. “You don’t even know me.”

“Do ye have to know someone to find them appealing?” His lips twitched. “Don’t ye believe in lust at first sight?”

It was the reminder that she needed, the intervention that she’d been searching for. “What of love? Isn’t that more important?”

His green eyes sparked with something other than seduction before it was swiftly banked. “Love is fleeting. And dangerous.”

“Some would say the same for lust,” she countered.

“Aye, that might be true, but since I’ve thought of nothing but you all day, after the taste of yer sweet lips on mine, I would disagree.” He slowly moved closer. “Won’t ye let me have another taste?”

Delilah was captured by his spell, but at the last moment, something clicked in her brain. She was conscious of her surroundings and the fact anyone—even her father—could come by and see them standing so close together and come to the wrong conclusion, was something that could haunt her reputation for the rest of her days.

She steeled her backbone and took a much-needed step back. “Like I said earlier, Mr. Flannigan, you are welcome to dream, but the reality is you are wasting your time.” She walked inside the room and prepared to shut the door in his face.

However, he was there in the threshold to block her intentions. With his arm relaxed against the frame, he slowly allowed his gaze to travel up and down her body. It was as if he could see right through her, as if there was nothing shielding her from his eyes. “We’ll see, lass. We shall see.”

With that, he moved away.

Delilah slammed the door, but her heart continued to pound.

Tags: Tabetha Waite Romance