Bedding The Baron

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Authors: Alexandra Ivy
pressing a hand to her heart.
    “No . . . I do not want this.”
    She was going to bolt, he realized with a flare of panic. And once she had disappeared she would devote her considerable will to convincing herself that he had just taken shameless advantage of her.
    He had to do something. And quickly.
    “Portia, forgive me.” He raised his slender hands in a gesture of peace. “I did not mean to frighten you.”
    She blinked, as if an apology was the last thing she had expected. Good. If he could keep her off guard then perhaps she would not be so eager to judge him by her past.
    “You did not frighten me. I just . . .”
    “Do not wish to remember that you are a woman as well as an innkeeper?” he demanded.
    She folded her arms around her waist, her expression hardening. “I just have no intention of being seduced by a stranger who will soon be gone.”
    “Fair enough.”
    Once again she was caught off guard. “What?”
    Fredrick carefully shifted on the pillow, biting back a curse as a jagged pain lanced through his head.
    “Portia, I kissed you because I have longed to do so from the moment I entered this inn. And I will not deny that I want you. Desperately.” He entangled her wary gaze with his. “But I am perfectly capable of enjoying the companionship of a woman without demanding something that she is not yet comfortable offering.”
    She regarded him in wary silence until the sound of the maid returning made her give a sudden start.
    “Here’s the brandy, mum.” Blissfully unaware of the tension clogging the room, the maid moved to set the bottle of brandy onto the table beside the bed. Once her task was complete she lingered long enough to cast a bold glance down Fredrick’s reclined form, her dark eyes flashing with an unmistakable invitation.
    “Thank you, Molly,” Portia said dryly. “You may return downstairs and help with dinner.”
    “ Aye.”
    With a small dip the servant left the room and Portia moved to pour a measure of the brandy into a glass.
    “I doubt this is good for you, but gentlemen always seem to believe it will cure any ill.”
    Fredrick accepted the glass with a challenging smile. “Perhaps if nothing else, I can prove to you that not all gentlemen are the same.”
    A dark brow arched. “You would not be the first to try and to fail.”
    “My business has taught me that failure is merely one step on the path of success.”
    With a roll of her eyes she moved toward the door. “I will have Quinn bring you dinner when he returns from the stables.”
    As was her habit, Portia awoke early the next morning and washed herself with the cold water from the pitcher. Then, pulling her hair back in a smooth knot, she pulled on a fresh chemise. Instead of rushing through the rest of her morning routine, however, she discovered herself pausing before the oval mirror propped in the corner of the cramped chamber.
    A rueful smile touched her lips as she studied the delicate lace inserts and pretty flowers that she had painstakingly stitched onto the fine lawn fabric.
    Even her closest acquaintances would be shocked to discover that beneath her sensible gowns she wore such delicate, utterly feminine undergarments. To the world she had become a staid widow who devoted her life to her business. It was only in secret that she allowed herself to remember that she was still a relatively young woman who had once harbored the same hopes and dreams as any other.
    Dreams she had thought buried until last night. Stepping closer to the mirror, Portia considered her pale features and the delicate curves of her body. With vivid detail she remembered the feel of Fredrick’s lips as they had traveled over her skin. The taste and scent of him had awakened sensations that still hummed through her body.
    The knowledge was maddening, and yet, undeniably exciting. As if she had suddenly been jolted awake after years of sleep.
    With a shake of her head, Portia forced herself to finish preparing for

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