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Home > Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)(13)

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers #2)(13)
Author: Sarah MacLean

This was idiocy.

Whether from the cacophony surrounding her or a latent sense of self-preservation, she looked up.

Her eyes were brown.

And wide as saucers.

Her jaw dropped and she stopped short, frozen with surprise and uncertainty, and all Nick could hope for was that she would not move out of his path, or both of them would be in extremely dire straits.

Had he not learned his lesson regarding saving young women from impending doom?

Apparently not.

He was on her then, the momentum of his large body propelling her backward, his arms wrapping tightly around her as they were lifted off the ground with the force of the collision. Her papers went flying.

Instinctively, he twisted in midair, protecting her from the impact that would almost certainly rob him of breath—and quite possibly of working limbs.

When they landed, it was just off center enough to send a shooting pain down Nick’s arm; he gritted his teeth before they tumbled several feet farther in the thick grass. As they came to a halt, Nick felt the horses pass, the earth trembling beneath them as they left scarred earth in their wake.

He lay still for a long moment, his left shoulder and right knee throbbing in pain familiar enough not to be worrisome. It was then that he registered his position, wrapped around a warm, feminine body.

He was curved around her, his arms having instinctively protected her head and neck from injury. He lifted his head carefully, looking down at her cradled in his embrace; her eyes squeezed shut, her lips pressed into a thin, firm line. He could feel the wild rhythm of her breathing against his chest. She had lost her bonnet in the fall, and one thick auburn curl lay across her face. He flexed one hand, moving it from where it cradled her head, and, without considering the action, brushed the hair aside.

She opened her eyes at the touch, blinking up at him.

Her eyes were no mere brown. They were a mosaic of honeys and golds and mahoganies magnified by a sheen of tears, the product of fear and confusion and surprise and relief.

There was something soft and tempting about this woman.

Then she began to struggle.

“Sir! Remove yourself from my person!” She found use of her hands again, pounding against his chest and arms. “Immediately!” One of her blows landed just so on his wounded arm, and he winced at the pain that shot through his shoulder.

He had been wrong. There was nothing soft about her. She was a harridan.

“Stop.” The word stayed her movement.

She went rigid beneath him and he was instantly, keenly aware of their position—the press of her body against his, the feel of her br**sts against his chest as she struggled for deep, calming breath. The place where his thigh rested, cradled between her own, tangled in her skirts. And, suddenly, the throbbing in his knee was not nearly as distracting as the throbbing of entirely different parts of him.

That would not do at all.

He lifted his body from hers gently, wincing as his wounded shoulder protested the weight. He hissed at the discomfort, one side of his mouth kicking up. “I hope your letters were worth nearly killing us both.”

Her eyes widened at the words. “Surely you are not blaming me for our current position. You attacked me!” She pressed her hands to his chest and shoved against him with all the strength she had—a surprising amount, considering their recent near-death experience.

He raised an eyebrow at the words, but lifted off her, standing and making a show of adjusting his coat, taking a moment to consider its ruined sleeve, half torn at the elbow, before he took hold of its cuff and, with a firm tug, ripped the entire lower portion off completely.

He turned his attention back to her, still on the ground, now seated, ramrod-straight, peering up at him from beneath a mass of escaped auburn curls, transfixed by his billowing white shirtsleeve now flapping loosely in the breeze.

“Well, it is not as though there was any amount of mending that might have made the thing wearable again,” he pointed out, reaching the arm in question out to her.

She leaned away slightly, as though uncertain of his motives.

“A lesser man would take offense, you know,” he said. “Saving your life should have proven my good faith.”

She blinked, and for a fleeting moment, he was certain that he saw something flicker in her eyes—amusement, perhaps? She reached up, accepted his hand, and stood. “You did not save my life. I was perfectly fine until you—” She winced as she tested her weight on one foot—he might not have even noticed if he had not been so fascinated by her.

“Easy,” he said, slipping one long arm behind her. “You’ve had quite a tumble.” Their position brought their faces mere inches from each other. He lowered his voice. “Are you well? Can I help you home?”

When she looked up, he saw the flash of awareness in her gaze. She was warming to him. It was gone before he could consider it further, shuttered away. She stepped away from his touch, removing her hand from his, a pink wash spreading across her face, incongruous with the wide smudge of dirt that marred one high cheekbone. “No. I am quite well, my lord. I do not require your assistance. You need not trouble yourself any longer.”

He was taken aback. “It is no trouble at all, miss. I was happy to play the knight to your damsel in distress.”

Her tone turned defensive. “I can see how you might have thought that I was in trouble, my lord, but I assure you, I was completely aware of my surroundings.”

One brow rose. “You were, were you?”

She nodded once. “Quite.”

“And when were you planning to get out of the way of the horses that were barreling toward you?”

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