A Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove #2)

A better man wouldn’t play this ‘sweethearts’ game with her when he knew very well it couldn’t lead to more.

But he wasn’t a better man. He was Colin Sandhurst, reckless, incorrigible rogue—and damn it, he couldn’t resist. He wanted to amuse her, spoil her, feed her sweets and delicacies. Steal a kiss or two, when she wasn’t expecting it. He wanted to be a besotted young buck squiring his girl around the fair.

In other words, he wanted to live honestly. Just for the day.

A hint of sensual frustration roughened his voice.
“And I will curse the gods along with them, Min. Some wild monsoon raged through me as I looked at you just now. It’s left me rearranged inside, and I don’t have a map.

A man might engage in flirtation with distinterest, even disdain. But he never teases without affection.

Anyhow,” she went on, “so long as my mother forced me to embroider, I insisted on choosing a pattern that interested me. I’ve never understood why girls are always made to stitch insipid flowers and ribbons.” “Well, just to hazard a guess . . .” Colin straightened his edge. “Perhaps that’s because sleeping on a bed of flowers and ribbons sounds delightful and romantic. Whereas sharing one’s bed with a primeval sea snail sounds disgusting.” Her jaw firmed. “You’re welcome to sleep on the floor.” “Did I say disgusting? I meant enchanting. I’ve always wanted to go to bed with a primeval sea snail.

Certainty becomes you.

Dedication: For all the girls who walk and read at the same time.

Don’t you do that.” She turned away from the mirror, toward him. “Don’t you dare make a joke. It took a great deal of courage to say what I did. And you don’t have to speak a word in return, but I will insist you be man enough to take it. I won’t have you making light of my feelings, or making light of yourself—as if you’re not worthy of them. Because you are worthy, Colin. You’re a generous, good-hearted person, and you deserve to be loved. Deeply, truly, well, and often

For the love of ammonites, man! That's just stupid. Why on earth would the Society need to protect unmarried women from bone-dry lectures regarding soil composition? Do your members find themselves whipped into some sort of dusty frenzy, from which no delicate lass would be safe?"
Mr. Barrington tugged on his coat. "Sometimes the debate does get heated."
Colin turned to her. "Min, Can I just hit him?"
"I think that's a bad idea."
"run him through with something sharp?

He had to feel those lips on him again. Had. To. This wasn’t a mild expression of preference. This was an imperative. His body was insistent. To continue his
existence on this earth, he now needed the following: food, water, shelter, clothing, and Minerva Highwood’s lips.

He laughed. A strained, ha, ha, ha, I may die of this laugh.

He lay on the bed, freshly shaven and washed, legs crossed at the ankles and arms propped behind his head. His posture said, Yes, ladies. I truly am this handsome. And I don't even have to try.

He quietly groaned. Again and again, he’d witnessed this phenomenon with his friends. They got married. They were happy in that sated, grateful way of infrequently pleasured men with a now-steady source of coitus. Then they went about crowing as if they’d invented the institution of matrimony and stood to earn a profit for every bachelor they could convert.

He squeezed her hands. “I love you. I love that you’re clever and loyal and curious and kind. I love that you’re often so fearless and bold and strong—but I also love that you’re occasionally not, because then I can be strong for you. I love that I can tell you anything. Anything at all. And I love that you always have something surprising to say. I love that you call things by their right names. That you aren’t afraid to call a tit a tit, or a cock a—

He was right. They could have a whole conversation without exchanging a word. And the conversation they had right now went like this: Colin, shut it. I don’t think I will, M. Then I’ll make you. Really? How?I’m not certain, but it will be slow and painful. And I won’t leave any evidence.

I'm male. You rubbed your...femaleness all over me. I didn't think. I reacted.

I slept well last night. But when I woke this morning, I missed you so intensely. I don't even know how to describe the sensation. I looked at the other pillow, and it just seemed wrong that you weren't there. As though I'd woken up missing my own arm or half of my heart. I felt incomplete. So I rose, and dressed, and I just started walking toward you--because I couldn't move in any there direction.

Truly? That whole determined, dangerous saunter across the room was for me? In that case, would you mind going back and doing it all over again? Slowly this time, and with feeling.

It’s all right,” she said. “You’re through.”

“Jesus,” he finally managed, pushing water off his face. “Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. For that matter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.” Still not enough. He needed to reach back to the Old Testament for this. “Obadiah. Nebuchadnezzar. Methuselah and Job.”

“Be calm,” she said, taking him by the shoulders. “Be calm. And there are women in the Bible, you know.”

“Yes. As I recall it, they were trouble, every last one.

I will insist you be man enough to take it. I won’t have you making light of my feelings, or making light of yourself—as if you’re not worthy of them. Because you are worthy, Colin. You’re a generous, good-hearted person, and you deserve to be loved. Deeply, truly, well, and often.”

He looked utterly bewildered. Well, what did he expect, after the power he’d given her? He couldn’t compare a woman to a torrentially beautiful monsoon, and then look surprised that he’d gotten wet. “You reckless man.” She laid a touch to his cheek. “You really should be more careful with those compliments.

Jesus. Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Delilah, Jezebel, Salome, Judith, Eve. Trouble, every last one. Add Minerva Highwood to the list.

Mr. Sand, do you think it's possible to fall in love in the space of a single day?"

He smiled. "I wouldn't know. I only fall in love at night. Never lasts beyond breakfast, though.

Oh no. Oh God. I couldn't possibly be so stupid."

"Don't limit yourself. You can be anything you wish.

She couldn't "heal" him. No woman could. Events that far in the past just couldn't be undone. But perhaps he didn't need a cure, but . . . a lens. Someone who accepted him for the imperfect person he was, and then helped him to see the world clear. Like spectacles did for her.

She stared at him, horrified. And thrilled. And horrified at being thrilled.

So odd. Most women of his acquaintance relied on physical beauty and charm to mask their less-pleasant traits. This girl did the opposite, hiding everything interesting about herself behind a prim, plain facade.

What other surprises was she concealing?

The words burned on her tongue, but Minerva couldn’t give them voice. What a hopeless coward she was. She could pound on his door at midnight and demand to be respected as an individual. She could travel across the country in hopes of being appreciated for her scholarly achievements. But she still lacked the courage to ask for the one thing she wanted most.
To be loved, just for herself.

This is ideal, you’ll see. We do everything backward. It’s just how we are. We began with an elopement. After that, we made love. Next, we’ll progress to courting. When we’re old and silver-haired, perhaps we’ll finally get around to flirtation. We’ll make fond eyes at each other over our mugs of gruel. We’ll be the envy of couples half our age.

What on earth are you wearing? Did you take orders in a convent since we spoke last? Little Sisters of the Drab and Homely.

What? You mean to travel almost five hundred miles alone? No. I can’t let you do that. I . . . I forbid you.” It was Colin’s first attempt at forbidding anyone to do anything, and it worked about as well as he’d expected it to. Which was to say, not at all.

You know,” he said, “this design begins to appeal to me after all. Sea slugs aren’t the least bit arousing, but logarithms . . . I’ve always thought that word sounded splendidly naughty.” He let it roll off his tongue with ribald inflection. “Logarithm.” He gave an exaggerated shiver. “Ooh. Yes and thank you and may I have some more.”

“Lots of mathematical terms sound that way. I think it’s because they were all coined by men. ‘Hypotenuse’ is downright lewd.”

“ ‘Quadrilateral’ brings rather carnal images to mind.”

She was silent for a long time. Then one of her dark eyebrows arched. “Not so many as ‘rhombus.’ ”

Good Lord. That word was wicked. Her pronunciation of it did rather wicked things to him. He had to admire the way she didn’t shrink from a challenge, but came back with a new and surprising retort. One day, she’d make some fortunate man a very creative lover.