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Servants, and the Lady Anne, well experienced in nursing for charity, ran to remove the now fully unconscious man to a more appropriate location to receive medical care. The man supporting him dropped into the nearest chair, removing his top hat to run his hand through his sopping hair. “Who is that?” whispered Alessia, stunned at the dramatic entry. Lady Hartley tittered in amusement. “Oh, that’s Brooks Kensington. He’s always getting into trouble of some sort or another. Looks like he’s brought it home with him this time.” “Home?” Alessia asked, confused. “Why yes! Surely you know he’s the Duke’s only grandson. My, how all his family dotes on him. He’s the apple of his grandfather’s eye, and quite a few girls around town as well.” “Never mind that,’ whispered Heart conspiratorially in Alessia’s ear. ‘Quick, come with me.” “Uh-um, we’re off to the powder room,” Alessia came up with as Heart dragged her away. “What, exactly, is this all about?” “Aren’t you curious?” Heart demanded. “Don’t you want to know about the man they dragged in out of the storm?” “No!” Alessia did not like where this was going. “He’s probably some sort of- of reprobate! Not in any way!” “Good,” her impish sister replied. “Then you won’t mind being lookout.” “Absolutely not, under no circumstances whatsoever, will I be a party to whatever mess you intend to get yourself into this time. You are welcome to cause any trouble you like as long as you understand it does not involve me, am I crystal clear?” “Perfectly,” said Heart. Ten minutes later Alessia was guarding the hallway while her sister slipped into the dark room where they’d put the man to recover, fuming to herself. Heart walked softly to the bed, her curiosity overcoming her, as usual. She pulled the lamp on the bedside table closer to get a better
look at the unconscious man. Asleep like this, he almost looked harmless, though she could tell that he would be imposing awake. He was wearing some sort of unusual clothing, and something glinted around his neck. She leaned forward to pick it up and he grabbed her hand, light brown eyes flashing onto her quickly, then closing again. Somehow, he was still asleep with his hand grasped tightly around her wrist. Alessia chose this moment to poke her nosy head in. “Heart-“ “One minute,” Heart hissed at her. “Heart, someone’s coming,” Alessia hissed right back at her, panicked. “Hurry up with whatever you’re doing, let’s go!” Heart tugged at her wrist, but the man wouldn’t let go. She tried to peel his fingers off one by one, but as soon as she uncurled one and moved to another, it would turn right back again. Desperate, she shoved her fan into his hand to lever it off and he grasped it, letting go of her wrist. She raced to the doorway, grabbing Alessia and they rushed down the hallway, turning the corner right before Count Woodley and Contessa Von Buhren came around the other side. He dragged her into an empty room while she giggled, making a false attempt to push him away. “Why, Sir Joseph, I don’t know what you must think of me. I am a married woman,” she protested. He pushed her against the wall, trapping her hands beneath his, pressing up against her and whispering in her ear, his breath hot against her skin. “And what makes you think I care whether or not you’re married?” She shuddered as he dropped one hand to her waist, circling it slowly to tug at the laces fastening her dress. Licking her lips in anticipation, she buried her free hand in his hair as he slowly kissed his way down her neck, her dress slipping over the top of her shoulder, his mouth following the brush of fabric against her skin. He slowly, tantalizingly pulled her down to the ground, crushing her dress as he pulled it down further, leading her own hand slowly across her décolletage and she let out a little moan. She pulled his head back, desperate for the feel of his lips against hers and the taste of his expert tongue. She let herself go in the experience of bliss, and all thought of her husband was forgotten.