Challenge to Him

Challenge to Him by Lisabet Sarai Page B

Book: Challenge to Him by Lisabet Sarai Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lisabet Sarai
exercise of waiting on the whims of a half-dozen avaricious females ‘relaxation’…” His mother’s pursed lips and knotted brows made him grin. “Only teasing, Mother! I’ll be charm incarnate, don’t worry.”
    He bestowed an affectionate peck on her cheek and she disappeared inside to continue contemplating her guest list. While he waited for the hat he’d ordered a servant to fetch for him, he scanned the lawn and its fair population once more. If he were forced to choose, which girl would he select? He could picture any of them stripped bare and roped to the gateposts of the ridiculous Chinese tea house his mother had constructed at the far edge of the lawn, overlooking the sea—but beside him in his bed, night after night? Across the table from him in the vast dining room, one morning after another for the rest of his life? He shook his head to banish the unpalatable notion. He’d die of boredom.
    The maid arrived with his boater. Settling it on his head, he sauntered down the marble stairs that swept from the terrace to the grassy slope beyond. More impetuous than her sisters, Mary Beth raced up to meet him halfway.
    “You must join my team!” Her breath came in short pants and her cheeks were bright pink. “Louise and Thelma are giving us a terrible beating, but I know you can help.”
    I’d like to give you a beating. Andrew couldn’t suppress the thought as he smiled down at her. “I’ll do what I can, Miss Linton.”
    She practically squirmed with delight. He saw that she wanted to grab his hand, but didn’t quite dare. He strode away towards the flatter section where the staff had installed the wickets, leaving Mary Beth to scamper behind.
    Rainbow-coloured balls lay scattered in the grass like Easter eggs.
    “Andy! How lovely! We were hoping you’d play.” His sister Leticia handed him a wooden mallet. “Why don’t you take over from me? It’s the green ball, over there. If you can get it through and hit Selena’s—the blue one—we might catch up with them.”
    He strolled over to the indicated ball, hefting the striped mallet once or twice to get a sense of its balance. The women’s eyes followed him—he could feel the eager weight of their gazes, almost worshipful. Would they kneel at his feet if he commanded it?
    Once again, he pushed the evil notion to the back of his mind and focused on his shot. The giggling assembly fell silent. The sea sighed as it bathed the cliffs girding Wavecrest. A gull screamed, wheeling in the Wedgwood-blue sky overhead.
    He took careful aim and whacked the ball with the mallet. A solid sensation told him the stroke was true. The sphere sailed through one arched hoop, then another, finally colliding with Selena’s ball. The ladies burst into cheers.
    “Oh, Selena, you’re in trouble now,” crowed Mary Beth. He cast his gaze on the russet-haired Miss Larimer, who blushed as red as the rubies dangling from her earlobes.
    “I’m afraid I must send you into the rough.” Andrew made his voice low and intimate enough to suggest the possibility of a double meaning, just to see her blush deepen. As he crouched to position his ball so that it was touching hers, he allowed his hip to brush her gown. She flinched away as if burnt. What a prim little thing! Her mother was one of those temperance fanatics. He’d heard that Mr Larimer had to visit his club if he wanted to enjoy even a sip of port. An only child, Selena would inherit wealth almost on a par with his own, but honestly, she was so strait-laced he had a hard time working her into one of his fantasies.
    He placed his boot upon his own ball and swung the mallet once more, smacking the ball with a force that reverberated up his leg. Selena’s ball shot off to the left, finally rolling to a stop at least twenty feet away. He favoured the ball’s owner with a conspiratorial smile. “Sorry, Miss Larimer, but one must follow the rules of the game.”
    “I—um—of course. I understand, sir…”

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