Simon’s eyes met hers, held her steady in his gaze. “I would have liked to see you dance. I would have liked to dance with you.”
“I do not stand at Lady Esme’s side as her equal, Your Grace,” Sarah reminded him gently. As Lady Esme’s companion, she could not encourage invitations to dance. Her duty was to be an observer, a protector of her lady’s interests.
He was quiet for a moment, staring down into the liquid he swirled in his glass. “I know Miss Farnshaw taught you how. I watched you once, years ago.”
“Did you?” she breathed.
“I did.” He raised his gaze, met her eyes. “I watched you dance a minuet in the parlor.”
“Oh.” Something about the way he was looking at her sent a soft heat flushing through her from the inside out.
“I wanted to dance with you then. I wanted to dance with you tonight, too. Did you not wish you had danced this evening?”
She considered this. She would have liked to dance, yes, to take the place of Miss Stanley on Simon’s arm. But how could she tell him that?
Suddenly, firmly, he set the glass on the side table and rose. He held out his hand to her.
She stood without thinking, reached out to take his hand. Like when he’d helped her into the carriage earlier, his grasp was warm and strong, but now was different. Now she touched his bare skin, felt the roughness of his fingertips under the sensitive flesh of her palm. His hand was warm and dry. Intoxicating. Touching him like this, skin to skin, was a heady feeling, indeed.
“A minuet,” he murmured. “Dance with me, Sarah.”
He stepped back and bowed formally to her. Entranced, she curtsied back. They both took a step, and he swept up her right hand once more in his firm grip. They turned to face the closed door at the other end of the room, and as he hummed the notes, they danced forward then began the figures and turns of the minuet. Throughout it all, Simon’s lips pressed together, humming the notes in a low tenor, and his eyes never left hers.
In the minuet, the couple came in contact with each other infrequently, and when they were separated and dancing to the corners of the room or turning to complete their figures, Sarah ached for the moment when they would come together again, only their hands contacting, those strong fingers curving around her palm.
It was the slightest touch, the rarest contact between the two of them. But with his green eyes focused solely on her, his bare hand touching nothing but her, Sarah had never felt anything so erotic. Each time her skin connected with his, a deep shudder ran through her.
Finally he gathered both her hands in his, and as they turned, Sarah realized this was the end. The humming notes stopped, and he let her go, stepping back once more to bow.
She curtsied, and he straightened as she rose.
They stood there, in the center of the room, staring at each other. The depths of his dark green eyes held her in his thrall, so heavy with the weight of the world, and at that moment, she wanted to wipe it all away—the pressures of Parliament and government and his position. Worries about his sister…and his mother.
“I wished it had been me,” she said softly. “When you were dancing with Miss Stanley and the others. I wished you were dancing with me.”
He gazed at her unspeaking for a moment. Then he said, “I did, too.”
He stepped forward, wrapped his arms around her, and pressed his lips to hers.
The feel of him, of their lips gliding against each other, sent fireworks exploding through her. She dragged him harder against her, heard his ragged whisper, “Sarah.”
Their lips moved in a hot, sensual slide. His hand rubbed tight circles over her lower back…and lower, until he cupped her bottom, pulling her against him so the hard ridge of his arousal pressed against her abdomen. The feel of it, of that most primitive, masculine part of him, sent a carnal shudder racing through her.
His mouth moved down her chin, and she kissed his rough cheek, then tilted her neck as he moved her braid aside with his free hand to kiss her there.
His lips pressed against her jaw, then caressed the shell of her ear before kissing their way back to her mouth, seeking, exploring.
Sensation washed over her. Not only in the places his mouth touched, but all over and through her. Deep yearning. Longing. Need.
She gave a small whimper, clutched him tighter, kissed his bare, warm skin wherever her mouth could reach him. She wanted more. So much more.
His arousal grew, pressed against her lower belly, so hard and so hot she could feel the heat between the layers of their clothes.
His hand moved from her neck to the opening in her robe, cupping her breast over her nightgown, his thumb running over her nipple, hardening it into a sensitized nub that strained against the fabric of her chemise.
She pressed her body tighter against him, blindly seeking his lips with her own.
She caught them, moving against him in a brazen kiss that she hadn’t known she was capable of. He tasted like man and desire. Cedar and spice. So delicious. She didn’t know how she’d ever get enough.
Suddenly his hands moved from her buttocks and breast to her upper arms. With a low groan, he pushed her back.
She gazed at him, clawing through the haze of desire that had overcome her. “No, Simon.”
He blinked at the use of the familiar name and, from a part of her deep inside, she froze.
Reality crashed in. Forcing her frozen neck to move, she swung her head away.
“Sarah, look at me.” He cupped her hands in his palms, and warmth instantly flushed through her, combating the cold.
“I…Sarah, I want you. But I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not the kind of man who…uses women.”
“I know you’re not.” One of the reasons she adored him.
“So you see why we can’t, why I can’t…?”
“I’m not a fool, Your Grace,” she said softly. Sarah knew that no matter what happened between them, no matter what power he had over her, Simon would never take advantage of her. “I know what I am doing. What I want.”
Simon flinched. “I don’t want to ruin you.”
“I know,” she whispered. “But sometimes I wish you did.”