A Rogue's Secret - Stacy Reid Page 0,2

Verity, don’t you? Why does she have to come to the garden for mistletoe? Is there none growing locally that is easier to access?”

“No, it is relatively rare around these parts. Benson prunes it vigorously from the apple trees in the orchard, but his lordship would not hear of the old apple tree in the garden being touched, so mistletoe flourishes there.”

Rupert was already striding out the library door. Farrant followed on his heels as he opened the door just down the corridor to the walled garden. It was a chill December afternoon, but the sun was trying to shine through a cloudy sky. Rupert marched towards the old fruit trees by the ancient orangery that had come with the original manor house before the new façade and building had been created a century ago.

There, an old apple tree had long been planted. It was really too near to the orangery as its roots would have gone deep to grow that high. Rupert had many memories of climbing in that tree, which had, at one point, sported a small platform to which a pair of energetic boys could scramble up to consume a packed luncheon. Both that platform and a knotted swinging rope he and his childhood friend Percival Humber had used had long been taken down.

Once he had children of his own, Rupert would ensure to build them something similar. A bench had been pulled beneath its branches, and there Rupert espied a fetching form in a red redingcote clambering on one arm of the bench precariously reaching up into the branches. As he neared, a small dog barked as if in warning. The dog sounded an aggressive threat rather than just yapping annoyingly.

Rupert approved of its loyalty and desire to protect his mistress. His gaze, however, was more preoccupied with the vision he had before him. The lady’s rear view was very satisfying, a rounded rump and neat figure as she reached up on tiptoes to cut a sprig of white berried mistletoe.

Then as the dog barked again, her half-booted feet, slipped and she tried to regain her footing. Rupert rushed forward in time for a very comely bundle to fall into his open arms. The weight of her in his embrace was delightfully pleasant. He smiled down at her shocked face as one hand tried to cling onto the mistletoe sprig, and the other was attached to a pair of large scissors.

Her pretty loveliness stuck his heart forcibly and quite unexpectedly. Rupert found himself enjoying his beautiful burden a little too much, and she was holding the mistletoe above them… An imp of mischief took over and he leaned down and claimed her cherry ripe lips with a ravaging and definitely indiscreet kiss.

The soft feel of her mouth set his heart quickly pounding. The visceral reaction startled him, but he did not lift his head. She tasted sweet and luscious, and he deepened the kiss allowing his tongue to roam along the crease of her mouth. Clearly shocked, her lips parted on a gasp allowing him access, and he plunged within and was enjoying himself enormously. Rupert couldn’t recall ever feeling such pleasure from a kiss. He was sharply brought to his senses as the lady wriggled within his arms, dropping both scissors and twig. He set her down, and before he could speak, a sharp crack of a slap connected with his cheek.

“How dare you abuse me so?” The lady retorted angrily, but her cheeks were flushed, and there was a look of amusement in her eyes and just a touch of arousal.

His heart was still racing too fast for such a relatively chaste kiss and he struggled for equanimity. “You were holding the mistletoe above our heads, oh so exquisite trespasser. I thought it was a local tradition to always kiss a beautiful woman beneath mistletoe. Perhaps not the best way to affect an introduction, my lady.”

He moved back a few steps. “Rupert Rogers, newly baron of this estate, at your service,” he said smiling as he made a flamboyant bow in the style of his cavalier namesake, Prince Rupert, with great aplomb.

Her eyes widened, and her cheeks reddened. “A most inappropriate introduction, my lord.”

“Will you permit me the pleasure of your name?”

She cast a glance at his approaching butler. “It is Lady Verity, though I suspect you are very well aware of it.”

At his silence and admiring stare, she clutched the skirts of her gown almost nervously. “Why is the garden door locked; it