“To persuade me of the wisdom of your pudding-headed plan.”
Her glare turned into a glower. “There is nothing wrong with my plan. It is excellent. A business proposition which would have been beneficial to you.”
“A business proposition which would’ve only landed you in more trouble, minx.” Jasper shook his head slowly. “No, my lady. You will see that I ‘ave done you a favor.”
“No you have not,” she denied heatedly. “What you have done is managed to make a muddle of everything. I shall not marry you.”
He startled her by reaching out and running a lone finger along her jaw, then down her throat before tracing the line of her collarbone and pausing at the hollow where her pulse thundered. “So you’ve said twice now.”
“Because I will not do it.” She was the one who was blustering now. For if she was to be sent to Mama in shame, Octavia’s life as she knew it would be at an end.
Mama did not allow gossip, scandalous caricatures, or fun of any sort.
The rough pad of his fingertip traveled back up her throat, stroking gently in a slow caress. “You will be my wife.”
“You cannot force me.” But even as she issued her denial, her voice was weak. Her resistance was crumbling.
The place where his skin met hers seemed to be the center of her body. It was all she could think about, all she could feel. And it was not helping matters.
“No force needed where you are concerned, sweetheart.” His head dipped. “You want me.”
Just not as her husband.
“Not enough to marry you.”
“I need a wife.” There was victory in his voice, shimmering in those eyes of his. “You need someone to keep you out from under the hatches.”
His speech was smoother. More careful. Was he so assured of his success, or was he exerting every modicum of charm he possessed to convince her?
“I do not need a husband,” she said, breathless despite her best intentions to remain unaffected by his proximity and touch.
“Not one of those nibs,” he said, slowly rubbing his lower lip against hers in a half kiss. “A fancy cove ain’t for you. You need me.”
Back and forth went his lip against hers, teasing, taunting, tempting.
She wanted the full kiss. The tender force of both his lips on hers again.
Suddenly, a thought planted itself in her mind, rather in the fashion of a seed. If she were to marry Jasper Sutton, perhaps she could find a way to make her scandal journal come to fruition after all. A new surge of hope rose within, joining the desire.
But a knock on the door to the chamber cut through the potency of the moment.
“Winter’s ‘ere,” called an unfamiliar male voice from the other side of the portal. “And none too pleased.”
Jasper’s head lifted, ending the kiss before it could begin. “Excellent.”
Rafe had not sufficiently warned Jasper about the intensity of Demon Winter’s fury. Fortunately, Jasper was accustomed to sudden attacks, drunken fisticuffs, impromptu knife fights, and all manner of violence. So when he crossed the threshold of his office, the swinging fist intent upon connecting with his head was easily dodged.
“Where is my wife’s sister, you devil?” growled the irate man, clearly gathering himself up for a second attempt at breaking Jasper’s nose.
He had no wish to go to loggerheads with Demon Winter, particularly since Caro was now married to the man’s brother. But having a civil conversation was paramount to the success of Jasper’s plan. On a sigh he reached into his boot and presented the knife which was always secreted within a special sheath there. The gleaming blade was pointed directly at Winter’s chest, lest he refuse to listen to reason.
He sighed. “Settle, Winter. This ain’t no way to conduct yourself. Thought you were a fancy cove now.”
“And I thought you wanted to maintain peace with my family,” his opponent snarled. “Holding my sister-in-law captive is not the way to do that, Sutton.”