Dancing at Midnight (The Splendid Trilogy #2)

amidst the horrors of war, it became apparent that there was no way he could possibly survive the carnage. And if by some stroke of fate he managed to come through the conflict with his body intact, he knew that his soul would not be so lucky.

Belle had a feeling that someone had hurt this man very badly in the past. That didn't, however, mean that she would allow him to abuse her in turn.

But looking beautiful isn't, I think, as important as feeling beautiful,

He could just barely make out her form in the path about ten yards ahead of him. Her hair was so fair it captured what little moonlight hung in the darkness and glowed like a halo.

Her unintended striptease was all the more sensual because Belle was lowering her stocking with agonizing slowness not because she had an audience but because she seemed to love the feel of the silk sliding along her soft skin.

He was wearing that enigmatic little smile of his, as if he knew something that she didn't. Actually, she thought, it was more like he knew something that she never would.

How dare you belittle me this way?'
'What the hell are you talking about?'
'I have never, not even once in my life, given my love to another man. And you throw it back in my face like a trifle.'
'You misunderstand me. It is because I value your love so highly that I do not accept it.'
'You don't accept it because you don't want to accept it. You're mired in misplaced guilt and self-pity.

How in the hell am I supposed to watch my back if I have no idea what I'm watching for?

In this light your eyes look almost purple. Like black raspberries.'
Belle laughed softly. 'You must be in a state of perpetual hunger. You keep likening me to fruit.

I thought that I needed a church and hundreds of guests and music that

actually sounded like music, but I was wrong.

What I needed was a drunken priest, irreverent guests, and a companion

who learned to play piano from a goat."

"Then you got exactly what you needed."

"I suppose so. But then again, all I really needed was you.

I thought you wouldn't want weepy words of love and all that.'
Belle swatted him on the shoulder. 'Of course I do! Every woman does. Especially from the man she actually wants to accept. So devise some weepy words and I'll-'
'Aha! So you accept!

It's just that I love you so much, and -'
'Belle, please.'
'Please what? Please don't tell you I love you? Please don't love you?'
'I can't accept it, Belle.'
'How can I possibly let myself continue to love a man who can never love me back?'
'But Belle,' he whispered. 'I do love you.'
John wasn't certain how he expected her to respond, but it was certainly not in the manner she did. She stepped back as if hit ... 'No,' she finally gasped. 'No. Don't say that. Don't tell me that.' ... 'You can't do that,' she said, each word a hoarse little stab of pain. 'You're not allowed. You can’t say that and not let me do the same. It isn’t fair.

John ignored her insult, recognizing it for what it was: a mindless jibe from one wounded animal to another.

John shrugged. "It always seemed silly to me to desire a woman who cannot converse any better than a sheep."

Belle leaned forward, her eyes glittering mischievously. "Really? I would have thought you'd prefer such a woman,considering your difficulty with polite conversation."

"Touche, my lady. I cede this round to you.

Look at me," John gasped. "I cannot remember the last time I allowed
myself to be so happy. I smile all day long without knowing why. I climbed a bloody tree, vaulted through your window, and here I am—laughing.It's the middle of the night, and yet here I am
with you. Dancing at midnight, holding perfection in my arms." -John Blackwood to Arabella Blydon

Most people don't laugh so much while they're kissing." He grinned boyishly and tweaked her nose.

Belle tweaked his back. "They don't? How unfortunate for them.

My love has eyes blue as the sky.
Her warm, bright smile makes me want to try
To give her the world,
And when she's curled
Up in my arms where I can feel her touch,
I realize again that I love her so much.
My world has turned from black to white.
Kissing in starlight, basking in sunlight, dancing at midnight.'
~John's poem for Belle

No, Belle needed him. He had to save her from a disastrous marriage. And then, he supposed, he'd simply marry her himself.

John wasn't unaware that he was about to pull one of the greatest about-faces in history. He could only hope that Belle would understand that he had realized she'd had been right all along. People made mistakes, didn't they? After all, he wasn't some infallible storybook hero.

No, of course not," Belle said, playfully swatting him on the shoulder. "I never, never even once thought I was making a mistake. I was just a bit at odds with myself because my wedding wasn't exactly how I dreamed it was going to be."

"I'm sorry," John said softly.

"No, no, don't be. Just because it wasn't what I thought I wanted doesn't mean it wasn't absolutely perfect. Oh, dear, am I making any sense at all.?"

John nodded solemnly.

"I thought that I needed a church and hundreds of guest and music that actually sounded like music, but I was wrong. What I needed was a drunken priest, irreverent guests, and a companion who learned to play piano from a goat."

"Then you got exactly what you needed."

"I suppose so. But then again, all I really needed was you."

John leaned down to kiss her again, and they remained thus occupied for the next hour.

Siempre me pareció una tontería desear a una mujer que conversara apenar mejor que una oveja.

What happened?'
'He humiliated me.'
'Oh, my Lord, Belle. He didn't...'
'No. But I wish I had. Then he'd have to marry me, and I-'
'Belle, you don't know what you're saying.'
'I know exactly what I'm saying! Why is it that no one can credit me with the ability to know my own mind?

Will you allow me to start over this morning? I fear I arose on the wrong side of the bed.
'It is I who should apologize. I'm afraid that any side of the bed would have been the wrong one at this hour.

You don't talk much, do you?" she blurted out.
"I didn't think there was a need. You seem to be holding up both our ends of the conversation admirably.

You make me sound like some kind of heartless ice princess.'
'No, of course not, Belle. I must admit, you have always been uncommonly nice to every pimply-faced boy who has ever asked you to dance.'
'Thank you. I think.'
'It's probably why so many pimply-faced boys ask you to dance.

Your heart is free now."

"No," he whispered. "It's yours.