―No," he agreed.

She‘d been ready with an argument. Not a coherent one, but still, an argument. This, however, completely flummoxed her. ―No?"

―You‘re right. It‘s not my responsibility." He walked over, seductively closing the distance between them. ―It would, however, be my pleasure."

―Oh my."

He smiled.

―I‘m back!" It was Lady Olivia, calling out from the hall.

Annabel looked up at Sebastian. He was standing very close.

―I kissed you," he said softly.

She could not speak. She could barely breathe.

―I kissed you in ways a husband kisses a wife."

Somehow he was even closer than before. Now she definitely couldn‘t breathe.

―I think," he murmured, his breath now close enough to heat her skin, ―that you liked it."

―Sebastian?" It was Lady Olivia. ―Oh!"

―Later, Olivia," he said, not even turning around. ―And close the door."

Annabel heard the door shut. ―Mr. Grey, I‘m not sure—"

―Don‘t you think it‘s time to start calling me Sebastian?"

She swallowed. ―Sebastian, I—"

―I‘m sorry." It was Lady Olivia again, bursting in. ―I can‘t."

―You can , Olivia," Sebastian ground out.

―No, I really can‘t. It‘s my house, and she‘s unmarried, and—"

―And I‘m asking her to marry me."

―Oh!" The door shut again.

Annabel tried to keep her head, but it was difficult. Sebastian was smiling down at her as if he might like to nibble her from top to toes, and she was starting to feel the strangest sensations in areas of her body she‘d almost forgotten she‘d possessed. But she couldn‘t forget that Lady Olivia was almost certainly standing right outside the door, and she also couldn‘t forget that—

―Wait a moment!" she exclaimed, wedging her hands between them. She gave him a little push, and when that didn‘t work, turned it into a shove.

He stepped back, but he didn‘t stop smiling.

―You just said to her that you didn‘t want to marry me," she said.


―Just a few hours ago. When I was crying. You said you‘d known me barely a week."

He looked unconcerned. ―Oh, that."

―Did you think I didn‘t hear?"

―Ihave known you barely a week."

She didn‘t reply, so Sebastian leaned down and stole a quick kiss. ―I changed my mind."

―In"—she looked crazily around the room for a clock—―two hours?"

―Two and a half, actually." He gave her his most wicked smile. ―But they were a rather momentous two and a half hours, wouldn‘t you agree?"

Olivia came crashing through the door. ―What did youdo to her?"

Sebastian groaned. ―You‘d make a terrible spy, did you know that?"

Olivia practically flew across the room. ―Did you compromise her in my drawing room?"

―No," Annabel said quickly. ―No. No. No, no, no. No."

That was quite a lot of no‘s, Seb thought peevishly.

―He kissed me," Annabel said to Olivia, ―but that‘s all."

Sebastian crossed his arms. ―When did you become such a prude, Olivia?"

―It‘s my drawing room !"

He didn‘t see a problem with that. ―You weren‘t here," he pointed out.

―That‘s it," Olivia declared, stomping past him and taking Annabel‘s arm. ―You‘re coming with me."

Oh no, she wasn‘t. ―Where do you think you‘re taking her?" he demanded.

―Home. I just drove by. Newbury‘s gone."

Seb crossed his arms. ―She hasn‘t given me an answer yet."

―She‘ll give it to you tomorrow." Olivia turned to Annabel. ―You can give him your answer tomorrow."

―No. Wait a moment." Sebastian reached out and yanked Annabel back. Olivia was not going to take over his marriage proposal. Holding Annabel firmly at his side, he turned back to Olivia and said, ―You were just hounding me to ask her to marry me, and now you‘re taking her away?"

―You were trying to seduce her."

―If I‘d been trying to seduce her," he growled, ―you‘d have found a much different scene when you arrived."

―I‘m still here," Annabel said.

―I may be the only woman in London who has never been in love with you," Olivia said, jabbing a finger toward Sebastian, ―but that does not mean I don‘t know how charming you can be."

―Why, Olivia," he said, ―such lovely compliments."

Annabel held up a hand. ―Still here."

―She will make up her mind in the privacy of her own home, and not while you‘re looking at her with those…those…eyes."

For about two seconds Sebastian was silent. Then he doubled over with laughter.

―What?" Olivia snapped.

Seb elbowed Annabel, then jerked his head toward Olivia. ―I usually look ather with my nose."

Annabel pinched her lips together, obviously trying not to smile. She had an excellent sense of humor, his Annabel.

Olivia crossed her arms and turned to Annabel. ―He‘s better than Lord Newbury," she said waspishly, ―but only just."

―What‘s going on in here?" It was Harry, looking a bit rumpled, as if he‘d been running his hand through his hair. There was an ink stain on his cheek. ―Sebastian?"

Seb looked at his cousin, then at Olivia, and then started laughing so hard he had to flop into a chair.

Harry blinked and shrugged, as if this were nothing out of the ordinary. ―Oh, good afternoon, Miss Winslow. Didn‘t see you back there."