A Night to Surrender
    “Yes, I am. And I didn’t even ask. You see, I’m not going to ask Miss Finch anything. I’m going to tell her to stay far clear.” The pressure of his fingertip bit into her shoulder. “You are my problem, Miss Finch. No, you’re not a nettle, or a burr, or a delicate blossom of any kind. You’re a goddamned powder keg, and every time I draw near you, we start throwing off sparks.”
    “I . . . I don’t know what you mean.”
    “Oh yes, you do.” He fingered the lacy edge of her cap sleeve, then slid a caress down her arm.
    She was helpless to suppress a little shiver of pleasure.
    He groaned deep in his chest. “See? You’re full to bursting with passion. You may think you have it tightly capped and contained. Hidden from everyone, even yourself. Perhaps the pathetic souls who pass for men in that village are too cowed by your modern ideals to notice. But I only have to look at you, and I see it all. That core of dark, explosive potential, held together with just a bit of ribbon and lace.” His voice deepened as his gaze wandered down her body. “I’m a damned fool to even be touching you, but I can’t bring myself to stop.”
    His touch traced the edge of her elbow-length glove, skimming along the delicate border where satin met skin. Sensation rushed through her entire body, lifting the hairs on the back of her neck. She thought of those creases in his palms, still limned with gunpowder. So perilous. His caresses made her feel shaken, rearranged.
    Just a little dirty.
    “Do you understand now?” he said, keeping up his bold caress. “This is dangerous. You’ll leave straightaway, if you know what’s best.”
    Leave? She couldn’t move. Her body was so busy responding to his, it wouldn’t spare a moment to heed her own commands. Her breath quickened. A strange ache grew in her breasts. Her heart thundered wildly, and a matching pulse beat at the juncture of her thighs.
    “I know what you’re doing.” She lifted her chin. “You’re just trying to change an unpleasant conversation. I said you’re in pain, and I’ve piqued your pride. Why own up to possessing feelings, when it’s much more manly to be loutish and crude? If you’re hoping to push me away, it won’t work.”
    “Won’t it?” He propped a single finger under her chin. “This did the trick before.”
    He dipped his head, and his lips brushed hers.
    Sparks. She could have sworn she saw them, swarming bright and orange. Pinprick heat branded her skin.
    “What of this?” he asked. Another kiss. “Or this, perhaps.”
    His mouth moved over hers, teasing her with a series of brief, bruising kisses. There was meaning behind those kisses, so commanding and firm. They were like little words in . . . in German, or Dutch. One of those languages she really ought to know, but had never taken the trouble to learn. And now she was left frustrated, uncertain how to respond. Were they accusations? Warnings? Desperate pleas for something more?
    Whatever sort of argument they were having, she knew one thing.
    She could not let him win.
    She made herself tall, pressed back at his aggressive mouth with little kisses of her own. In both hands, she gathered great fistfuls of his warm lawn shirt, as if she could shake some sense into the impossible man. Or maybe just to keep from falling, as the dizzying sensations rocketed through her body. Exhilaration lifted her stomach and set her heart floating loose in her chest.
    When the kisses ended, she met his gaze, rather proud of herself for not dissolving on the spot. Despite the complete upheaval of her senses, she tried to appear worldly and composed. As if this sort of thing happened to her regularly, in the course of normal interaction. As if she often stood toe-to-toe with an enormous, virile, unshaven man in a room full of explosives, feeling these lethal sparks of attraction fly around and between them. And her breasts were just always grazing against a hard wall of muscled

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