His thunderous expression softened. "Come closer."
His eyes swept over her face as he caressed her cheek with the knuckle of his forehand. "I did not see her slap you, but your cheeks look burning hot. Answer something for me, Angelique" he ordered gruffly. "Has that woman ever hit you before?"
Angelique drank in the comfort of his nearness. His touch was soft and soothing. "Never," she lied. "Victoria has never slapped me or hurt me. My lord, it was really my fault...I provoked her."
He definitely will have his way with me and my place will be in his bed!
Mon Dieu!A guttural sound escaped her lips when she recalled her own words. She was not certain whether she was more distressed at having thrown those awful words at her stepmother or the dreadful possibility that Nicholas had actually overheard them.
Attempting to sound nonchalant, she stammered Victoria’s original question to him, "H-how long had you been standing there, monsieur? Did you...did you hear anything?" she asked in a faint whisper, her voice cracking with embarrassment.
"Hear what, my love?’ he asked innocuously.
"Monsieur, how long had you been standing there?" she repeated with mounting dread. Then gazing at him, she suddenly wished she had not asked. His dark blue eyes sparkled with complete understanding as he stood casually against the doorjamb, strong arms folded across his chest, a devil of a smile beginning to form on his face.
"How long, monsieur…?"
Nicholas did not wait for her to finish. Without another word, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her hard on the lips. Then, just as suddenly, he let go of her, allowing her to fall back against the doorpost.
"Long enough to know I’m going to enjoy those willful ways of yours. Not to mention putting you in that bed of mine."
Her heart pounding fast against her heaving chest, Angelique watched in stunned silence as Nicholas turned on his heel and made his exit. She could still feel his warm lips against hers as his deep, masculine chuckles echoed in the hallway.