When the Lady Takes a Lover
by Jessie Clever
It was while she was drowning that she realized how much she hated Hawkins Savage, the Earl of Stonegate. Because just then, confronted with imminent death, she knew she’d rather die than face a lifetime of having to be grateful to the man for saving her.
But as her mouth and nose were full of water, she could not voice these concerns as he seemed to do little more than pluck her from the water. She heaved as soon as her head was free of the pond, her body rejecting the liquid as she struggled to draw a breath. It did little good.
The storm that had caused her current predicament had strengthened in the few seconds she had been in the water, and when she opened her mouth to suck in air, a gust of wind shot more water into it. She choked and coughed, spluttering to catch her breath as Hawk set her down on the bank, her feet slipping in the mud that had caused her perilous spill into the water feature in the first place.
He didn’t relinquish his hold on her as she stood on unsteady feet, but worse, she gripped the front of his shirt as though it held her to this earth.
It was only then she realized how terrified she was. Still. The memory of the water closing over her was just as fresh as when it was happening seconds earlier. Only now, her traitorous brain wondered what would have happened had Hawk not seen her deadly plunge.
She’d slipped sideways into the pond, and her skirts had tangled about her legs. She was disoriented and trapped and would have drowned in four feet of water had he not seen her and plucked her from danger.
Vaguely she wondered what Hawk was even doing there, out in the storm. She had been caught in it on her way back to the house after touring the gardens with the rest of the house-party guests, traipsing after an overeager Lady Sherrill, Hawk’s grandmother. She hadn’t wanted to leave the house in the first place, wishing to stay where she could keep an eye on her brother and Hawk. But Audrey had insisted, and so they had gone.
Oh God, Audrey. Her cousin was still out there somewhere in the storm.
With the battering rush of wind and rain, she couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like Hawk swore then, a guttural sound that cut through the disturbance around her. She’d never heard Hawk swear. His choice of weapon against her was always flattery and teasing.
She blamed this momentary confusion for what happened next. Hawk picked her up unceremoniously and strode in the direction of the house, his long legs devouring the distance and the stairs up to the terrace as if it were little more than a stroll in the gardens. She didn’t even protest, and blast if she didn’t hang on to the man like some simpering debutante.