ONCE A SCOUNDREL
He trailed kisses down the side of her neck until his mouth hit the coat collar that was buttoned to the top. He bit back a curse. The only thing that kept him from stripping off that coat and continuing to kiss his way down her body was knowing that she’d soon be his wife. He could be patient until then. Maybe.
“You can’t deny it,” he rasped out as his lips returned to hers. “You can’t deny that you have feelings for me, that you don’t want a life together as much as I do.” He licked teasingly across her lips. “Or that you want me just as much as I want you.”
“Want...isn’t love,” she challenged in breathless pants as his hand fumbled at the buttons keeping the coat closed and her body away from him. “And you...don’t love me.”
But he did. He’d loved her for years, since long before he left for India, despite being too young and stupid to act on it. But admitting that now would only frighten her. Hell, it frightened him when he thought about the enormity of it. “I wouldn’t say that,” he replied carefully, slipping one button free and then the next until the coat gaped open. His fingers slipped inside—
“You were once a scapegrace who cared for no one and nothing but yourself,” she whispered, the pain of each word reflected on her face. “I’m not naïve enough to think that you couldn’t fall back into your old ways.”
“I won’t.” Good God. Is that what she truly thought of him? That he was still as unpredictable as that, even after all he’d revealed to her?
Her eyes glistened with tears. “And the women?”
“What women?” Dread surged through him. “There are no other women in my life.” There was only Faith. There would only ever be her.
“When someone like Lady Rathbourne tempts you—”
“I am not tempted by that woman.” I love you! But he definitely couldn’t say that now. She wouldn’t believe him. “I don’t want her, nor anyone like her.” He captured her face between his hands, willing with every beat of his heart for her to believe him. “And I will never leave you, Faith. I learned my lesson before.”
Sadness darkened her face as she breathed out, “So did I.”
He flinched as her whisper pierced him. “I’m not that man anymore. I need you to believe that.”
She squeezed her eyes shut to fight back the tears and whispered, “I don’t know what to believe.”