His minx pressed a soft kiss to his mouth. She pulled him closer while she ran her hands over his damp back in a soothing motion. He kissed her cheek and was surprised when she sighed with pleasure. He couldn’t help but wonder how women could be so completely different.

Elizabeth moved her head back so that she could look into his eyes. “Thank you for tonight. I’ll always remember it.” She looked and sounded so grateful. He couldn’t imagine what he'd done for her besides take her innocence without asking. He shouldn’t be thanked. He should be shot.

He sighed, shaking his head. “Minx,-”

“Shhh,” she pressed a finger to his mouth. “I don’t want you to feel guilty about this. It was perfect. This will always be the most passionate night of my life and I will always treasure it. Please don’t be mad. I’m not.”

“Minx,” he began again, “you should be mad…what we did….what I did was inexcusable. I-“

“No, no words, no apologies. Just let it remain this perfect moment between two strangers who found comfort with each other.”

Comfort? It was a hell of lot more than comfort. It was intense, indescribable, and possibly the stupidest thing he’d ever done. He’d just got himself leg shackled to this beautiful stranger.

With real regret, he pulled away from her arms and started dressing. “Listen, we need to talk.”

“About what?” she asked, pulling on her stockings. He forced himself to think about their situation and ignore those very beautiful legs of hers.

He shook himself. “Minx, I just took your innocence. We need to marry now. I think at least proper introductions are in order. My name is-“

Her small hand quickly covered his mouth. “Please, don’t. I need you to understand. I have no plans on marrying.” When he pulled back to protest she cut him off again. “I have no wish to marry you. What you did for me tonight was a special gift. I will always be grateful for it. Please allow me to keep this beautiful memory.”

After a long pause, he reluctantly nodded. There was no sense in arguing with her. He would never force a woman to do anything that she didn’t want to do. He certainly wasn’t about to thank this woman for the most wonderful night of his life by robbing her of her freedom without justification.

“If that's what you wish, but I should give you my name in case,” his gaze dropped to her stomach, “you and I made a child tonight,” he finished quietly.

She gasped softly. She hadn’t thought about that. A baby? She wanted children, desperately. Not that it would ever happen. Her mother told her that it was impossible to become pregnant the first time. It was unheard of. So there was nothing to fear.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” she said as she finished her hair, trying to reassure him.

Her only hope was that she looked presentable. Not that it mattered. As soon as she returned to the ball, she was leaving with a headache. After such a wonderful time with him she didn’t want to ruin the memory with the insipid men she knew waited for her.

He finished dressing as well. “There’s nothing to worry about? Minx, if you’re carrying my child I will certainly worry about it. I will never stand by while any of my children are raised without me. I’m not that sort of man.”

No, she somehow knew that he wasn’t.

“Here,” he said suddenly as he searched his pockets. He pulled out a small pencil stub and a small piece of parchment from his jacket pocket and wrote his name on it, knowing that he’d probably be out of the country by then.

For a moment he thought about delaying his trip for a few months to make sure that she wasn’t pregnant, but he knew that it was impossible. If she looked for him, she’d be able to quickly discover who his family was and ask James for help. James would move heaven and earth to bring her to him so that they could marry immediately for the sake of the baby. He’d pull his brother aside later tonight after they left the ball to discuss the matter.

He folded the note several times before handing it to her. “Take this.”


“I’m not trying to ruin this. If you should find yourself with child, open it and contact me or my brother, please.” When she didn’t take it, he continued. “If you don’t take it then I won’t be able to allow you to leave until I have your name.”

With a heavy sigh, she took the folded piece of parchment and placed it in her reticule. “Happy?”

He smiled. “Extremely.”

“How’s my hair?”

The smile took on a different meaning as he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Perfect.”

“Shall I go first and make my excuses to leave?”

He respectively nodded. “Thank you for a most wonderful evening, minx.”

“The pleasure was mine, sir,” she said, smiling shyly as she turned away and headed for the door.

Oh, no dear minx, it was definitely mine, he thought as he watched her walk away.

* * *
Elizabeth forced herself to smile pleasantly and walk at a slow pace through the crowded ballroom when all she wanted to do was run away from the crowd and find somewhere quiet where she could calm her racing heart. Somehow she managed to slip through the crowd without drawing attention from any of her many unwanted suitors and, more importantly, her mother as she made her way to a retiring room. Without hesitation, she closed and locked the door behind her and sank down to the floor.

In only took a few seconds for reality sank in. Her heart felt as though it was racing in her chest. She’d just lost her virginity to a man that she didn't know at a crowded ball. As wonderful as it had been, she couldn't help but think of what could have happened if someone had found them or if he’d turned out to be a fortune hunter. She could at this very moment be forced to announce her engagement to a man that she didn't know.

Her entire future could have been ruined in a matter of minutes all because she allowed herself to be carried away in a moment of weakness. She'd been so foolish and so incredibly lucky.

How could she have done something so irrational? She had a plan for her life and it most certainly didn’t involve making love to a man she didn't know in a well-lit orangery where anyone could have stumbled upon them. In a matter of months she was going to turn twenty-four and gain control over her inheritance. Then she would move to her north estate where she would live out the rest of her life away from the nonsense of the ton .

She'd been such a foolish woman tonight allowing herself to be swept away by a deep alluring voice, good looks, beautiful eyes and an overwhelming need to do the wrong thing. She'd been helpless to deny him. When his lips had touched hers, it felt like a fire had been lit in her body and she couldn't seem to get enough of him. Her cheeks burned with humiliation. What he must think of her!

The things they did!

The things she did!

A rather disturbing thought occurred to her. What if they ran into each other at another ball or a party? Would he expect a repeat of tonight? Would she allow it? It scared her how quickly she was able to answer that question.

Yes, she would.

If she was given another opportunity to be in his arms, she would not hesitate even for a minute. She'd risk everything for another moment with him. Knowing how weak she was when it came to the handsome stranger and what was at risk, she decided there was only one course of action left for her. She had to leave London sooner than she'd originally planned.