The devil! Did he think to make her jealous? She reached up and gave his chest a small push, thinking to show him just how little regard she had for his kind, but something odd happened the moment she touched his skin. His muscles were so firm under her fingers, sculpted and strong. Currents of energy zipped through her as she touched him. “I would never allow you to get close to my sister.” Her breath sped up, making her chest rise and fall rapidly.
He cocked a brow, staring down at the hand still touching his jacket. “Jealous?” he asked, moving closer despite her hand on his chest. To her complete surprise and irritation, her arm bent to allow him to bridge the gap.
“I am not jealous,” she hissed back, her voice catching on the last syllable. “You don’t fool me, Lord Crestwood. You may hold the title of lord, but you’re not a man of worth.”
He stepped back suddenly, pushing against the side railing. “That is very true.” His brow crumpled as if he were in pain, and he clenched his jaw, a muscle pulsing. She instantly regretted her words and reached up a hand to tell him as much.
But he turned toward the open doorway, clearly going to leave her company. Adrianna took a step toward him. She’d heard the hurt in his voice and she was sincerely surprised to have dealt such a powerful blow but before she could say so his spinning heel caught between two metal bars that made up the floor of the balcony.
His arms flew up in the air and without thinking, she reached out and grabbed the lapels of his coat, pulling him toward her with a force she didn’t know she had.
His large, hard body careened toward hers and crashed into her front, sending them both flying backward and pinning her to the opposite rail. He circled her back with his powerful arms and crushed her to his chest to keep her from be
nding out over the open rail.
Her breath pushed from her lungs in a force she hadn’t thought possible her gaze flew to his. “Are…are you all right?” She could barely push the words from her lips.
“I’m fine, thanks to you. Are you? How’s your back?” He gave her a light squeeze, his gaze intent upon her.
“I’m fine. Just…” Her heart beat wildly in her chest. “Scared.” Was that the reason the offending organ refused to slow?
Damn if this woman didn’t feel good pressed up against him. Luke fisted his hands into her dress, pressing her body closer to his. She fit perfectly against his much larger frame. “I wouldn’t have fallen. You needn’t have put yourself at risk on my account.” He swallowed, wondering how close she’d been to falling over the edge of the balcony when he’d slammed into her. She’d been at a much greater risk than he had been. His muscles tightened even more about her just thinking about the danger.
Then again, based on his reaction, perhaps he was in more danger than he’d first realized. Not physically. But he didn’t worry about women. Protecting them was the first step in caring and he never allowed himself to do such a thing. Not since her.
“I…” she looked up at him, her lips clearly trembling. “I didn’t think. I just saw you lose your balance and...” She wove her arms around his back as she shivered in his arms.
He could lean down and kiss her, he realized. All his worries evaporated as her soft lips were parted almost in invitation, her throat and chest open and exposed, her body so close to his he could smell her scent. He drew in her feminine aroma, taking a deep breath through his nose. It was subtle, floral, slightly sweet. Like…violets. Exactly like her, a beautiful flower, exotic in color but understated in its size. Not as showy as roses or lilies. If a man wasn’t careful, he might pass by such a treat.
“Well, I’m glad we’re both all right.”
“Adrianna,” her father called. “Are you out there still?”
Luke stepped back, reluctantly letting go of her as the air rushed between them. Her chest rose and fell, and his eyes cast down to her bosom. Had he thought it too small? It looked delightful just now. Her eyes widened as she looked up to him, not answering her father.
The last thing he wanted was to arouse any suspicion. “She’s fine, Mr. Moorish. I nearly fell from the balcony and Miss Moorish aided me.”
Then he reached for her hand and took her fingers into his much larger palm, gently pulling her toward the door. He wasn’t certain why he hadn’t kissed her just now. Perhaps it was that he couldn’t take advantage of a woman who’d put herself in harm’s way for his sake. Or, it might even had been that he’d gotten too caught up in just looking at her. But either way, he’d made his choice and now the moment had passed.
Probably better, really. The fun he’d wanted had grown more dangerous.
She curled her fingers into his, her body pressing against his arm. Odd. He looked down at her, trying to decide what was happening, when he noticed her shallow breath. “I’m sorry. Suddenly I feel…” She looked up at him, her eyes even wider as her skin took on a pale hue in the rising moon.
She gave a slow blink, pressing deeper into him. He wrapped his arms about her again, concern knitting his brow. “Adrianna.” He pulled her up as he realized she was sinking down, sliding against him. “Stay with me, now. We’re all safe, there is no need to faint.”
Her fingers dug into his arms. “My apologies. I was fine and then you stepped away. I’m not sure…”
He held her tighter as her father appeared in the doorway. He gave Mr. Moorish a quick glance before he focused on Adrianna again. “You’re all right,” he murmured, holding her a bit tighter. “Take a nice deep, slow breath.” He’d seen this before. But somehow, worry still tightened his chest. It wouldn’t do any good to show that feeling, however. She needed him to be calm now.
“What’s wrong?” Mr. Moorish gave a worried yell, reaching out to them. “Should you bring her inside?”
“Wrong?” He heard a female cry from the inside.
“Something’s wrong?” another called, the volume rising.
He looked to Mr. Moorish, giving the man a calm smile. “She’s fine and I think the air out here will do her good.” He lightly stroked her back. “I gave her a scare and you know women and their corsets. She can’t catch her breath.”