Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell, Page 26R. L. Mathewson
Well, it really didn't matter who she wanted to kiss. She was leaving soon and didn't want any complications. She certainly didn't want any more toe curling kisses from Robert. Since she didn't like him in the least, she didn’t want or crave his touch.
"Where exactly are we going?" James asked, thankfully pulling her away from her rather disturbing thoughts about being in Robert's arms and how good it felt to have his lips touch hers.
"I'm taking a basket to a friend," she said distractedly as she once again wondered why, out of every man that she knew, Robert was the one that made her nervous, made her want to smile and made her ache to touch him. It was ridiculous. She didn't even like the man, but she couldn't help the way her body reacted to him.
It was utter madness!
"And who exactly is this friend?" James asked
She opened her mouth to tell him that Robert wasn't her friend when she remembered what they were talking about. Why in the world was she daydreaming about a man that she couldn't stand, she wondered not for the first time since he came back into her life.
"It's for one of the maid’s nieces that’s been ill," her maid answered with a sniff.
"A maid’s niece?" James asked, looking confused as Elizabeth sent her maid a glare for her big mouth. Jane gave her an apologetic smile even as she noticeably winced. No one was supposed to know what she was up to. Annabel, Heather’s old maid and now a housemaid, was worried sick about her niece and for good reason from what she’d been told, but her father refused to give the woman the day off to check on her without an explanation.
"She helps me from time to time," she lied, shooting Jane a warning.
Annabel’s niece had recently been tossed into the streets by her employer, Jonathan, the Earl of…. well, she still couldn’t quite remember his title and she didn’t care. The only thing that she cared about was that the bastard had used the girl until it became obvious that she was carrying his child. Without a thought or a penny for the child, he’d thrown her out into the street. She was now living in a rundown rooming house in a section of town that was a bit dangerous. When Elizabeth had discovered the situation this morning, she’d decided to take the girl a basket herself and make sure that the girl had everything that she needed.
James frowned. "Then why not send a servant to bring her the basket? Or at the very least bring an extra man or two. You really shouldn't be making deliveries to servants, Elizabeth. It's not seemly. "
"I have other errands to run and I thought I would handle the matter myself," she said with a warm smile, hoping he'd just let the matter go, but of course he didn't.
For a moment he didn't say anything as he considered her words, but finally with a shake of his head and a heavy sigh he said, "One of the men will handle the girl while I aid you with the rest of your errands. "
As much as she wanted to argue, she couldn't. If she was stubborn about this, he would no doubt alert her parents and that was the very last thing she needed at the moment.
So it was with a heavy heart that she nodded and thanked James. She would just have to trust whoever James selected for the chore to make sure that the girl had everything that she needed.
* * *
"Isn’t that your brother with Lady Elizabeth?" Jenkins asked.
Robert looked up from the parchment his solicitor had given him at the end of their meeting and barely held back a string of curses that would have sent the genteel ladies walking along the shops gasping before they fainted dead away.
"She's at it again," he said through clenched teeth as he shoved the parchment into Jenkins' hands and headed across the busy street.
"At what, sir?" Jenkins called after him.
"Wrapping my brother around her little finger," he said, not caring if Jenkins heard him or not as he watched his brother smile down at Elizabeth while they walked past a bookshop. His gaze dropped down to his brother's arm and he felt his jaw clench so tightly that he was honestly surprised that his teeth didn't crack under the pressure.
She was touching James, again. In the back of his mind he knew there was nothing inappropriate about his brother offering his arm to Elizabeth, but that didn't stop him from seeing red as he moved towards them.
"Would you like a bit of chocolate, Elizabeth?" he heard his brother ask as they neared a sweet shop.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," Robert said brightly as Elizabeth opened her mouth, probably to accept. He moved past the two large goons and the unhappy looking maid that was following them and moved to Elizabeth's right, making sure of course to brush against her. He nearly groaned when he saw that beautiful blush crawl up her neck and burn her cheeks.
"Are you alright?" his brother asked when he too noted the deep blush painting her cheeks.
"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you," she said, forcing a smile for James as she pointedly ignored Robert.
Now that would never do, he thought with an inward sigh. He also didn't appreciate the fact that she was moving away from him and closer to James. No, that wouldn’t do either, but of course that was easily fixed.
"What are you doing here, Robert?" James asked, giving him a pointed look over Elizabeth's head to get lost. If his brother had been with any other woman, he might have taken the hint and left them alone, but this was Elizabeth, his minx, and it would be a cold day in hell when he allowed her to marry his brother.
"I had a craving for chocolate," he said, pausing at the door of the sweet shop and gesturing for Elizabeth to precede him.
After throwing him a cautious look that he really couldn't blame her for, she released James' arm and walked into the shop. When his brother moved to join her, Robert cut him off and smoothly moved to Elizabeth's side, offering his arm and knowing damn well that she couldn't refuse him.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously on him as she reached up and took his offered arm. He sent her a wink as they stepped into the line. When she dug her nails into his arm he could only chuckle, which seemed to irritate her more judging by the way she dug her nails even deeper into his arm. That was more than fine with him, because she wasn't wearing gloves and he was in heaven. He couldn't even begin to describe how good it felt to have his minx holding onto him tightly.
When his scowling brother joined them, Robert pointedly ignored the man. He was doing his brother a favor after all by making sure that he didn't end up married to Elizabeth, which would just be pure misery for the man. He honestly couldn't imagine anything worse than being married to Elizabeth. Having to deal with her every day and night after night where he would take his time to explore her beautiful body with his mouth and hands before he-
"Get out of here and don't come back!" the shopkeeper's wife yelled, drawing his attention to two children being chased out of the shop with a broomstick.
"We just wanted some lemon drops," the little boy, whose clothing looked like it was being kept together by all the dirt covering it, said as he held up a silver piece.
The little girl with him, whose clothes were in worse condition if that were at all humanly possible, tripped when she moved to dart out of the path of the broom and fell against Elizabeth's legs, leaving a large dark smudge against Elizabeth's light blue skirts.