He gave her a sarcastic look.

“Through Sophie’s writing room to the hall,” Eloise expounded.

“Is Sophie in her writing room?”

“I doubt it. Didn’t she go to fetch you lemonade?”

“Good.” He pulled the door open, muttering a quick thanks that it was unlocked, and poked his head inside. The room was empty, but the door to the hall was open, so he strode across and pulled it shut. When he turned back around, Eloise was still standing in the open doorway to the outside, watching him with a blend of curiosity and amusement.

“Shut the door,” he ordered.

Her brows rose. “I beg your pardon?”

“Shut it.” It wasn’t a tone of voice he used often, but after a year of floating along, of feeling lost amid the currents of his life, he was finally taking control.

And he knew exactly what he wanted.

“Shut the door, Eloise,” he said in a low voice, moving slowly across the room toward her.

Her eyes widened. “Phillip?” she whispered. “I—”


“Don’t talk,” he said. “Just shut the door.”

But she was frozen in place, staring at him as if she didn’t know him. Which, in truth, she didn’t. Hell, he wasn’t so sure he knew himself any longer.

“Phillip, you—”

He reached behind her and shut the door for her, turning the lock with a loud and ominous click.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“You were worried,” he said, “that we might not suit.”

Her lips parted.

He stepped forward. “I think it’s time I showed you that we do.”

Chapter 12

. . . and how did you know that you and Simon were well-suited for marriage? For I vow I have not met a man about which I might say the same, and this after three long seasons on the Marriage Mart.

—from Eloise Bridgerton to her
sister the Duchess of Hastings,
upon refusing her third proposal of marriage

Eloise had time to breathe—barely—before his mouth came down on hers. And it was a good thing she did, because it didn’t feel as if he had any plans to release her until, oh, the next millennium.

But then, abruptly, he drew back, his large hands cradling her face. And he looked at her.

Just looked at her.

“What?” she asked, uncomfortable with his scrutiny. She knew she was considered to be attractive, but she was no legendary beauty, and he was examining her as if he wanted to catalogue her every feature.

“I wanted to see you,” he whispered. He touched her cheek, then smoothed his thumb down the line of her jaw. “You’re always in motion. I don’t get to just see you.”

Her legs turned wobbly, and her lips parted, but she couldn’t seem to make them work, couldn’t seem to do anything other than stare up into his dark eyes.

“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured. “Do you know what I thought when I saw you the first time?”

She shook her head, desperate for his words.

“I thought I could drown in your eyes. I thought”—he moved in closer, his words now as much breath as sound—“I could drown in you.”

She felt herself swaying toward him.

He touched her lips, tickling the tender skin with his forefinger. The motion sent ripples of pleasure throughout her, right down to the center of her being, to places forbidden even to her.

And she realized that she had never really understood the power of desire until that very moment. Never really understood what it was at all.

“Kiss me,” she whispered.

He smiled. “You always order me about.”

“Kiss me.”

“Are you sure?” he murmured, his mouth curved into a teasing smile. “Because once I do, I might not be able to—”

She grabbed the back of his head and yanked him down.

He chuckled against her lips, his arms tightening around her with uncompromising strength. She opened her mouth, welcoming his invasion, moaning with pleasure as his tongue swept in, exploring her warmth. He nibbled and licked, slowly stirring a fire within her, all the while pressing her closer and closer against him until his heat poured through her clothing, wrapping her in a haze of desire.

His hands stole around her back, then down to her derriere, squeezing and kneading, then tilting her up until—

She gasped. She was twenty-eight years old, old enough to have heard indiscreet whispers. She knew what his hardness meant. She’d just never expected it to feel quite so hot, so insistent.

She jerked back, the motion more instinct than anything else, but he wouldn’t let her go, pulled her closer and groaned, rubbing her against him. “I want to be inside you,” he groaned in her ear.

Her legs completely gave out.

It didn’t matter, of course; he just held her even tighter, then sank her onto the sofa, coming down atop her until the full length of him pressed her into the soft, cream-colored cushions. He was heavy, but his weight was thrilling, and she could do nothing but loll her head back as his lips left hers to travel down the column of her throat.

“Phillip,” she moaned, and then again, as if his name were the only word left to her.

“Yes,” he grunted, “yes.” His words seemed torn from his throat, and she had no idea what he was talking about, only that whatever he was saying yes to, she wanted it, too. She wanted everything. Anything he wanted, anything possible.

She wanted everything that was possible and everything impossible, too. There was no more reason, only sensation. Only need and desire and this overwhelming sense of now.

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