Colin stalked toward his house. The shock of seeing another man at Anna’s feet rendered him speechless. What did the man think he was doing? He stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets as he walked. Anna was his girl. She had been for years. She just didn’t know it yet.
He stopped, turned to go back, but could not find the ability to move. He had to tell her she was his girl. Too many times he tried, but she didn’t take the hint. He’d have to muster the courage to come right out and tell her, so there would be no further misunderstanding. He persuaded his feet to move and made his way toward her street. He’d tell her, and then he’d run the dandy back to where he had come from.
But what if she refused him? Could he take the rejection in front of Aidan and his friend?
Aidan never thought of Colin as an equal, anyway. If Colin came roaring out of the alley like a wounded lion, would it only prove his inferiority?
Colin was halfway to the street, halfway to a decision. If he didn’t say something, he had the feeling he’d lose her.
He took several more steps. By the smile he’d seen on her face, she was lost already. Did he even have a chance? He moved to the wall, and relived the few moments when he held her there, completely in his power, completely his. He pressed his back against the wall, chin to chest, and wondered what he should do.
* * *
Anna was much too excited to go home. She wanted to see Colin. As soon as the two young men turned the corner, she dashed toward the alley. Colin stood, hands stuffed in his pockets, his back pressed to the wall where he had her trapped against the brick only a few minutes before. His countenance was dark and brooding. She skidded to a stop before him.
“Who was he?” His voice rumbled low, ominous.
“Aidan. Surely you remember Aidan?” She played dumb, which she knew would make Colin bristle.
Colin spoke just above a whisper, a dark, stormy look in his eyes. “You know who I mean.”
“You are referring to Mr. Chase Trent, newly arrived from New York, America? Don’t you think he is exactly what I wished for?”
“He’s not one of us.”
“Exactly.” Anna clapped her hands. She could hardly contain her joy. “He’s better than us. He’s rich. And he wants to marry me. What do you say to that?” She proudly drew herself up.
Colin was silent as Anna gloried in her good fortune. His words were hesitant. “Is he what you really want?”
“Yes,” she hissed. “He’s all I want, and more. He is my dream come true, my ticket upward, as I planned.” She pressed her hands to his chest, and felt his heart thrum as she stared into his dark eyes. “I defy you or anyone else to take this opportunity from me.”
After a long, silent moment, he dropped his gaze. Had she felt his heart beat skip and slow under her palm?