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Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

Lead Me Not Into Temptation | Tuesday April 12, 2 pm

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“Then we shall tell each other stories of our homelands. The time will pass quickly and you must be as curious as I am about the similarities and differences between the Colonies and the Caribbean.”

 

Unfortunately the ride was not even bumpy enough for her to pretend to be jostled about. It would be too obvious that she wanted to feel his arms around her, and though Lord Silverbridge would certainly oblige, it would ruin the honesty between them. And if he lunged forward to catch her, it might hurt the kitten nestled in his coat. Anne-Elisabeth didn’t want any harm to come to the sweet little feline.

 

He seemed more concerned than pleased that she lived alone. “I have my male servants to protect me. It is in their best interests, for if anything happens to me they will have a hard time finding work in another noble house. However, I have been thinking of hiring a bodyguard. Perhaps you can help me select one. I don’t really know what to look for other than physical strength and experience.”

 

The carriage hit a bump in the road, and the young Countess slid to the left, preventing herself from hitting the upholstered side by bracing her hand against it.  She wished she had pitched forward instead. “I’m sure the Red Lion is much more comfortable than St. marks Hall. And, of course, you need more than one room since your sister is staying with you. I tried to rent a room there when I first came to court, but it was full. Nobles from all over England flocked to London for the Christmas season and I arrived close to the end of it.”

 

Anne-Elisabeth felt the coach turn into the curved drive that led to her house and finally come to a halt. The driver opened the door and helped her out, again waiting for Lord Silverbridge to exit before driving away. “See? I told you it was a short trip.”

 

Her butler opened the door, looking down his long nose at her companion before disappearing farther into the house. The foyer echoed the house’s white exterior, though one of the walls was painted a blue color that always reminded her of the sea. There was a spiral staircase at the end of it. “My favorite parlor is on the second floor. Would you like to see it or would you prefer to remain downstairs?” Some gentlemen, she had been told, believed it too intimate to visit the second floor of a lady’s house. She didn’t believe that her enchanting companion was one of them, but it was best to be sure.

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He was glad that she was receptive to his helping her.

"I would be far less of a Gentleman if I did not ensure that you have adequate protection. Even tho it steps across the line as it is really not my place."

"You are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Servants are always seeking a better angle or place. They are a commodity that is always needed so if you are not here tis easy enough to get taken up by others."

"And I shall indeed assist you in this. Allow me to ask around with some that I have acquaintance with at the Red Lion ....."

A jolt or two made her adjust her position and it was all he could do to hold back from reaching out.

"The Red Lion has its uses." He smiled across at her. "Most up front but many, I suspect, are more nefarious in nature."

He had expected to alight first and thus have the chance to help her out but that was crushed by as she led the way. He took note of the butler assessing his body but instantly dismissed it. If THAT was an example of what she had surrounded herself with then it was imperative changes were made!

He stood still and took in his surroundings.

It was clear that she was a lover of color for inside was another reflection of her Style. He could not help his smile.

"I want to see all of it."

"For reasons of security ..... naturally."

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Anne-Elisabeth regarded him thoughtfully. “It seems to me that there are more people who wish to work in a noble household than there are positions. I was able to choose my servants from a considerable number of applicants. I also refused to hire any who did not have good references from previous employers. If they try to screw me over, they will be out on the street with no reference at all and I shall spread the word that they are not to be trusted. So it is in their best interests to make certain that thieves do not abscond with my belongings.

 

“Thank you,” she said sincerely. “I will expect a bodyguard to have excellent references as well as your approval.”

 

Lord Silverbridge seemed to enjoy his accommodations at the Red Lion and had already become acquainted with some of the other residents. She’d had no contact at all with her neighbors at St Marks. That they existed she knew from the creaking of their beds at night and their incessant snoring. The walls had been rather thin.

 

Anne-Elisabeth much preferred the spacious house she led Lord Silverbridge into. He must have liked what he saw for a smile curved his well-formed lips. What would they feel like if he kissed me? It seemed he wanted to see all of her house. Even her bedroom?

 

“Naturally,” she echoed. “First, though, let’s get the little one settled.” A maid entered the foyer and curtsied to both of them. The Countess ordered her to bring a bowl of cream to the upstairs drawing room.

 

“It is fortunate that I prefer cream in my tea,” she told her charming companion as they ascended the staircase. “It is not used much in Barbados as it ruins so quickly in the heat.  To me, it is still a luxury."

 

The room they stepped into was large, with a window that spanned the length and width of the wall opposite the door. The window gave one a lovely view of the whimsical garden with its creatively sculpted topiaries.  The filmy coral curtains had been drawn back and fastened with turquoise ties with seashells strung upon them. Her telescope was set in front of the window, pointed up at the sky.  The  parlor was decorated in a tropical theme. The other three walls were each painted with a different color … one turquoise, one coral, and one light amber. The paintings on the wall depicted beaches, the ocean, palm trees, flamingos, parrots, and brightly colored flowers. There were several large potted plants set artfully around the parlor and vases full of flowers sat upon small tables next to pretty seashells.

 

At the end of the room sat a fireplace with a low fire burning in it. A rug featuring an underwater scene had been placed near it and a couch and two chairs made of rich dark mahogany were arranged around it with a small table between them. The upholstery echoed the colors of the walls. There was another longer table along one wall, strewn with books and maps of the night sky. The entire house was a bit warmer than most English residences so that it would be comfortable to a lady who had grown up in the heat of the tropics.

 

“This is where I prefer to spend most of my day,” Anne-Elisabeth explained. “Let’s see how the kitten likes her new home.”

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

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He thinks that she may be a bit confused in terms of that bodyguard! He will ensure that she will be well protected (as best as can be) but reference checking is not on his own requirement list.

He followed her as she moved about issuing her request for the small creature and he wondered if she would sound the same when it was the two of them alone as they climbed the stairs his eyes appreciative of her movements.

He looked about the room and he had been right. It was a reflection of its owner - all bright and full of color. All in all not a bad space but a bit too much for his own tastes. But they came from different climes so it would only be a natural thing for her to wish to replicate that here.

He resisted the urge to run a finger round his collar instead favoring her with another smile as he moved to her side and carefully took out the kitten.

"Poor mite but how well you have behaved - I hope that her manner is fine and lasts for I should not like to face a reign of claws each time I am here."

He handed it to her.

"Here. Now you have become its Lady Mother."

"I hope that this kitten will not be the only one allowed to have refreshment?"

He teased so that she would understand he was in no way questing her abilities as a Hostess.

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Lord Silverbridge didn’t tell her what he thought of her favorite drawing room. Anne-Elisabeth didn’t generally care about the opinions of others, but for some reason, she wanted him to like it. Did he think it too gaudy? She imagined that most English people would view it that way and he was from the Colonies, which, from what he had told her, was more plain and practical than fanciful and flamboyant. Every room of her house had an island theme. It was the closest she could get to Barbados.

 

He didn’t look displeased either, so she took that as a good sign. Her worries fled when he removed the kitten from his coat and handed it to her. The little feline yawned and stretched and immediately started sniffing the air of the strange new environment she found herself in. Anne-Elisabeth suspected that she had never been inside a house before. “I don’t know much about cats, but she doesn’t look the least bit aggressive. I guess that could change as she grows up, but I think she’s young enough to adjust to new surroundings. And she’s not afraid of people or she would not have let you carry her around in your coat. She’s also not hissing or spitting at me right now.”

 

As she cradled the fluffy creature in her arms, it looked up at her, curiosity in its eyes. Anne-Elisabeth smiled at Lord Silverbridge. “If I am her lady mother, then you are her lord father.” Her dark eyes sparkled with amusement. “We’ve only recently met and already we have a baby together!”

 

The maid returned with a large bowl of cream. The kitten wriggled in her arms, still sniffing the air. She probably smelled the cream. After instructing the servant to place the bowl on the floor, she set the kitten down in front of it and she began to lap it up greedily. There was no telling how long  the feline had gone without food.

 

Straightening up, she grinned at the intriguing Baron. “Do you want a bowl of cream too?” she teased and then told the maid to bring them some refreshments. “Would you prefer tea or something stronger? I have some coconut rum that comes from Barbados if you’d like to try it.”

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It had not occurred to him that the Lady might be wanting him to give voice to his impressions of her house - he had assumed that she would know by his manner.

"Well let us hope that she will be as such for as I had said I have no wish to be clawed by her ...."

He could not help the slow smile that spread across his face at the double meaning of his words but then he was quick to resume some show of normal. He knew that she knew what they both knew and at some point in the very near future it would be addressed.

"A Father? Well I suppose turn about is fair play and so I shall accept that title. And since it was I after all that found her I would not feel right if I left its care to you alone so I shall happily provide you with a small income for its care."

He would not take 'no' for an answer and he hoped that she would not fight him on it.

if this was a child that we had made together I would do the same but far greater

That thought caught him by surprise and for a moment his gaze locked with hers and held only to be interrupted by the return of her servant.

"I? Cream? Madam I assure you I am long out of the nursery and so Rum it shall be."

He moved to help her up even as she stood his hand lingering on her arm as he drew a breath  ......

So close that his mouth had but inches to touch hers and she, if she looked close, would clearly see his eyes darken and a hint of color across his cheekbones.

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Anne-Elisabeth could feel the sparks growing stronger between them, and she knew that it was only a matter of time before they succumbed to it. Lord Silverbridge’s beguiling smile told he that he knew it too. But would their resistance crumble today or would it happen on their trip to his estate? And which one of them would give in first?

 

He seemed more pleased with the idea of being the kitten’s father than she though he would be. She was both surprised and touched that he offered to provide for its care, just as a proper gentleman would if he found out that he had sired an illegitimate child. Though she couldn’t see the needs of a kitten putting a strain on her finances, she decided not to protest because it would mean she would see him more often. Maybe he would even decide to stay longer in London. Anne-Elisabeth already knew she would miss him when he went back to the Colonies, even if it was just temporarily.

 

She held his gaze until the servant returned. “Then rum it shall be.” As Lord Silverbridge took her arm to help her up, a jolt of pure pleasure careened through her bpdy and she trembled slightly. His hand continued to linger on her tanned skin and he was close that she could feel his warmth and smell the pleasing scent of him. His lips was only a hairsbreadth away from hers, his eyes darkened with desire. She wanted nothing more than to lean forward and kiss him. 

 

Just before her lips met his, she felt a pull on her skirts. Looking down, she saw the kitten climbing up the coral silk. Well, that’s one gown ruined. Maybe she’s going to cost more than I thought.. Even worse, the intimate moment between her and Lord Silverbridge was ruined as well. At least for the moment.

 

“I think she’s jealous,” she laughed, bending down to gently unhook the kitten’s claws and lift it into her arms. “We should name her. We can’t keep calling her ‘kitten’ forever.”

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He could feel the heat that burned between them and the sudden quickening to his groin added torment and all he need do was to inch closer and her mouth would be his to plunder! Her scent wrapped itself into his head and he gave into his needs ....

But the spell was broke as she suddenly drew back and looked down giving a laugh as that creature made to climb up her skirts.

He then took a step or three back a hand tugging on his collar uncaring if she saw it or not.

"Name it?" He drew breath in an attempt to calm himself. "Why not leave it thusly - I can not think of a fitting name better suited."

"And as to its feeling it had best get used to taking a second place."

He smiled yet he was serious. It would not be allowed to cause any interference again.

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Anne-Elisabeth found the way that Lord Silverbrige pulled at his collar rather endearing. She doubted that the fire blazing in the hearth had made him too warm. Flames of desire were burning through her as well. If the kitten had not decided to scale the mountain of her skirts, she might be leading him into her bedroom by now. Her heart was still fluttering with anticipation.

 

He must also be flustered if he wanted to call the little feline in her arms ‘Kitten.’  He was intelligent and clever and certainly didn't lack in the imagination department. “We wouldn’t name our child ‘Child,’ would we? She deserves her own special name.” The dark-haired Countess set the white ball of fluff back on the floor. The bowl of cream was completely empty. “Perhaps the perfect name will come to us later.”

 

A sultry grin. “And yes, we must teach her not to come between us.”

 

The maid returned with a tray full of hastily concocted hors d’oeuvres that both looked and smelled delicious along with a bottle of coconut rum and two glasses. There was also a small bowl of raw finely-minced meat for the kitten. Anne-Elisabeth plucked the bowl from the tray and set it down. The kitten pounced toward it and immediately started devouring the meat, growling and hissing as if she was afraid that the humans would try to take it from her.

 

Anne-Elisabeth stepped closer to her handsome companion, her dark gaze lingering for a moment on his lips before rising to his eyes. “Perhaps we should leave her here and take our refreshments out to the garden? Or we can stay here if you prefer.”

 

The maid awaited her mistress’ instructions.

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"If it was male and in the wild tis much like a 'tiger' but that hardly fits the whiteness now does it?"

He teased her back. "Well for a child 'kitten' would be a fondness bit not a suitable name for a son or daughter."

An image of that flashed thru his mind - a small girl like her mother full of Life and a son with his height and manner  ......

The servant returned and he was ever glad for that drink as she once again came within touching distance and her eyes went to his mouth as did his to hers.

"Garden I think. May I?"

He broke their gaze and walked to where the maid stood and poured out a measure into two glasses then turned offering her one.

"Leave the bottle"

He quietly instructed her servant and if smart that maid would understand to leave. That he had done so he did not think would cause any resistance from the Lady. He was one-minded now and intended to find out which way the wind was blowing. That he would sample and allow her to do the same if she wanted was but the beginning and there was no hurry. No hurry at all.

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“I think that 'Tiger' would be more appropriate for a male orange tabby.” Anne-Elisabeth knew next to nothing about cats. If she had, she might not have specified ‘male’ since about eighty percent of such cats were, indeed, male. Nor did she know that the color of their fur was known as ‘red’ instead of ‘orange.’

 

“But she is certainly acting like one, attacking that bowl of meat.” She had believed the kitten to be a gentle soul, but perhaps she was more ferocious than she looked.

 

Lord Silverbridge gazed at her mouth as well, and she couldn’t resist teasingly running her tongue across her upper lips. It seemed to her as if their surrender was going to be sooner rather than later, which was perfectly fine with her considering the stunning sensations that were shimmering through her body.

 

She had hoped that he would choose the garden. The young Countess nodded, assuming that he was asking his permission to kiss her. She pouted a bit as he stepped away from her and poured drinks for the two of them. As Lord Silverbridge handed her one of the goblets, she made sure that her fingers brushed softly against his.

 

The servant looked at her for confirmation. Again, she nodded, and the maid set the bottle on the table and left, taking the tray of food with her. Perhaps she realized that it was not food they hungered for.

 

Anne-Elisabeth took a sip of the coconut rum, savoring its sweet taste as it slid down her throat. Her eyes met those of Lord Silverbridge and she grinned playfully. “Shall I show you the garden now?”  If his answer was yes, she intended to take his free hand and pull him to the door that led outside.

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The brush of her fingers against his sent another wave of heat thru his body. Her pout was duly noted and he his a smile.

He tossed back the measure in his glass taking a moment to discern the taste of coconut and found it was much to his liking.

"Yes."

"I have a desire to see your garden in bloom ....."

He held her gaze and his grin matched hers. He would let her lead him for now.

He picked up the bottle with one hand waiting for her to make her move. 

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“I think you will find my garden quite delightful,” she replied. After Lord Silverbridge picked up the bottle, Anne-Elisabeth took his other hand and led him through the corridor and out the door that led to the garden. From peering into her neighbors’ yards through her telescope, she thought that her garden was a bit larger than most and certainly the most creative use of space. Tall toparies in the shape of mythological creatures dominated the area, giving it a mystical air.

 

Colorful flowers, some just beginning to bloom, surrounded each bush. The flowers had been planted after she bought the house, and a fountain had been placed in the center. Continuing the mythological theme, It featured a statue of a mermaid holding a giant shell from which water sprayed into the circular basin.  It was also surrounded by beds of bright blooms.

 

Two more benches had been added as well. One was not enough since Anne-Elisabeth planned to throw parties in the garden. She led Lord Silverbridge over to the one that sat in front of a topiary scupted to resemble a three-headed hydra. The heads loomed over the bench, shading it from the sun. Sitting down, she patted the space beside her. “You should see this place at night,” she said, downing the rest of her rum and holding her glass out for a refill. “It looks quite magical in the light of the moon.”

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did she deliberately misunderstand me ..... 

HIs double meaning had been clear enough at least to him and it should have been to her as well based upon their previous word play.

He was led first back out into a corridor then thru a door out into the light where once again it was clear that she had a taste for the Dramatic. She was showing it off to him and he could not help his grin as he saw the mermaid with the shell that was a clever water feature.

"I see here too that you have made it as colorful as the inside ..."

He looked at the Hydra that provided the shade and sat beside her refilling both glassed then setting the bottle on the ground beside him.

"I think that you have a mind to entertain here judging by how well things have been planned and put about. The flowers will be a veritable field of color!"

"If that is an invitation I accept it. Do you, I wonder, ever dance under that moonlight?"

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