KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
Several moments later, Melvin pulled away and stared at Viola with astonished delight.
“Marry me, Viola!” he cried breathlessly. “Please say you’ll marry me!”
“I will!” she replied with all the happiness and enthusiasm any man could ever hope for.
Just as joy rush through him, though, unwelcome reality intruded. “Your aunt and uncle probably won’t approve,” he noted woefully. “My estate’s not large and my family – well, my branch of it, anyway – isn’t powerful or influential, not like Barengar’s. And then, well, there’s me. Hardly a good catch, as they say. I’m not handsome or clever or good at arms and I talk too much.”
“You have a lovely voice to talk with,” Viola replied with heartfelt conviction, “and you are the sweetest, kindest nobleman I’ve ever met. And you’re courageous when you need to be. You have a truly noble spirit and a lion’s heart.”
“You really think I’m brave? And you like my voice? Nobody’s ever said to me before.”
She gave him a shy little smile, which was rather unexpected given what they’d just been doing. “You also kiss very well.”
His eyes widened. “I do? Truly, Viola, you aren’t just saying that?”
As if to prove her point, she kissed him again.
He forgot what they’d been talking about, but not for long.
“Viola,” he said firmly, taking hold of her hands and bringing them together before him. “We must be serious. Your aunt and uncle probably won’t give us permission to wed. We could run off together, I suppose, but how would we live? I’ve no skills to speak of. I won’t have you living in some hovel, sick and starving, because I’m too selfish to let you go.”
She gave him another smile that was anything but shy. “I believe I know a way to ensure that my aunt and uncle let us wed.”
She went to the door, peered into the corridor, glanced back over her shoulder and whispered, “Emil, the servant in the corridor, is asleep.”
“So now we can sneak past him?”
“No,” she replied as she quietly closed the door. She reached back and began to untie the lacing of her gown. “I’m staying here. All night.”
Melvin swallowed hard. Every part of him yearned to be with her, and yet… “No, Viola. If you’re found here alone with me, your reputation --”
“Will be ruined unless my aunt and uncle agree to our marriage. My aunt won’t want the family involved in such a scandal, so I’m sure she’ll insist that we marry.” Her lacings undone, Viola began to pull her gown and shift lower.
“What about the servant outside?” Melvin asked, his voice slightly strained. “He’ll be punished, won’t he?”
“Beaten, perhaps, but he’s my aunt’s spy among the servants, so he’s too valuable to be seriously hurt.” Her shoulders were bare by now. “You do want me to stay, don’t you, Melvin?”
“More than my life!” he gasped as her gown moved lower still.
“Then I shall gladly share your bed tonight and for the rest of my life, too, if you are willing.”
Without another word, Melvin swept her up in his strong arms and carried her to bed.
Chapter Seven starts on July 13.
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH AND THE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.