Derrington found the Foster mansion about what one would expect. There was an efficient butler to answer the door and take his hat; a marble entryway with a lofty ceiling and grand staircase leading to the upper floors—and even a few potted palms that decorators favored these days. So, he could hardly have expected what he’d find when the major domo guided him to a formal sitting room and left, closing the door quietly behind him.
Miss Juliet Foster rose when he entered, but she hardly resembled the Juliet Foster he’d encountered before. Instead of a dress in mourning black, buttoned up nearly to her chin, she wore a ball gown in crimson silk. The bodice dipped low, exposing most of her bosom, and how magnificent it was. Even from across the room, her skin looked powder soft.
“Do you approve, Lord Derrington?” she said.
He finally managed to move his gaze to her face. She wore an odd expression, more like steely resolve than anything else, with the uplifted chin and the determined set to her jaw.
“’Approve’ is inadequate to describe how I feel about how you look in that dress.”
“I’m sure you can think of another one, then.”
“I doubt it,” he said. “You’ve rendered me quite speechless, Miss Foster.”
“It’s early yet,” she answered. “Whiskey?”
“Now, I hardly know what to think.”
“A man who has no opinion on spirits?” she said. “You’re not a teetotaler, I hope.”
“Of course, not.”
“Good. Let’s have a drink.” She walked to a side table that held a silver tray with tumblers and several decanters. “Irish, Scotch, or American bourbon?”
“Scotch, thank you.”
She poured a generous amount from one of the decanters and then selected a second. From that, she splashed a tiny bit into a glass and drank it in one swallow. The look of determination returned to her features as she served herself a more substantial portion. Then, both glasses in hand, she approached him, and gave him his drink. “Please, sit down.”
He took a seat on the settee, as that seemed the best place to launch a formal courtship. If she selected a separate chair, he’d have to figure a way to deal with the distance.
She didn’t, though. She joined him, neither perching at the opposite end nor snuggling up next to him.
“My dear Miss Foster, I believe you know I’ve come to admire you.”
“Try the whiskey,” she said. “It’s very good.”
Ah, yes. The whiskey. He might as well. He’d never launched a campaign to win a woman’s heart before. He’d always been strictly honest with his lovers, letting them expect a jolly good time and nothing more. A few had become friends, but he’d never lied to a woman about his intentions. He was exploring new territory here, and a little fortification might help.
He took a swallow of his Scotch. Enough to burn the back of his throat and make him cough.
Miss Foster slapped his back. “Are you all right?”
“Quite.” He coughed once more and then cleared his throat. “It’s excellent Scotch.”
“Good, then let’s talk for a while.”
He took another sip of his drink, more carefully this time. “Miss Foster, you have me at a disadvantage.”
She blinked. “I do?”
“You don’t seem to realize how your presence affects me.”
“Well, how could I if you don’t tell me about it?” she said.
“It’s delicate to speak of.”
“You don’t look very delicate to me, Lord Derrington.”
Curse the woman. Why didn’t she play the game? Flutter her eyelashes at him. Swoon. At the very least, blush. That way he could watch a flush cover her chest, which was now close enough that he only needed to reach out a hand to stroke the skin. He swallowed more of his Scotch.
“It’s a matter of my heart,” he said. Surely, she couldn’t miss that message.
“Oh, dear.” She pursed her lips for a moment. “That isn’t the organ I was interested at all.”
He gaped at her for a long second. “I beg your pardon.”
“You see, there’s a favor I need.” She did blush, finally. And the flesh of her bosom did turn a delightful pink. And his body responded.
“I’ve thought long and hard about this,” she said. “And, I think you’re the right man.”
“I certainly hope so,” he said.
She took a big gulp of her whiskey and looked him in the eye. “I want you to take my virginity.”
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