Garden of Dragons(4)

By: Meara Platt


“Only checking for broken bones?” After a moment’s consideration, she permitted him to continue his task. He seemed to know what he was about, and as her numbness wore off, she did begin to feel more than a little sore.

“Don’t move yet,” he insisted when she renewed her attempt to rise and instead fell back with a groan. “You took quite a tumble.”

“I don’t need you to tell me…oh! Ow.” She attempted to rise once again and sank back, more from dizziness than from a desire to obey, irritated that the Dragon of Draloch had been right in cautioning her. As for his name, Saron, she had no intention of taking him up on his offer to call him that. They were enemies, not friends, though he was treating her quite gently at the moment.

He ran two fingers along the nape of her neck, carefully turning her head this way and the other. She felt his warm breath against her cheek when he lifted her slightly toward him.

“I see no bruises.” He was again gentle when he set her back down. “Can you wiggle your toes?”

“Yes, I am immensely capable,” she said and wiggled them.

He turned immediately to check her lower extremities, but not before she caught the quirk of a smile at the corner of his lips. Drat, he was quite handsome when he smiled.

She placed a hand upon her brow as though to ward off sunlight and gave in to the bold urge to look him over. He was a man used to spending time outdoors, she mused, noting his lightly bronzed complexion. She thought it much more attractive than the pasty, often ashen pallor strived for by members of Society. He had a strong jaw, a fine firm mouth, and a perfectly proportioned nose. His thick black hair and gripping blue-gray eyes complemented his flawless masculine profile. Indeed, she realized with disgust, if one could conjure up the perfect male specimen, it would be Saron Blakefield.

“Anabelle, are you hurt?” Lord Chalmers lumbered to her side, short of breath.

She smiled up at her dear friend as though casually meeting him on a country lane. The scene was too ridiculous to do other than brazen it out. “I’m quite well, thank you for asking. I would like to get up now, but I find a dark, demonic presence holding me down.”

“Yes, well…” Lord Chalmers cleared his throat.

Anabelle regarded him sympathetically. The poor man was obviously overwrought by her situation. She knew him to be soft spoken, but also knew that despite his gentle manner, he could be stern when necessary. He would stand up to the Dragon. He would order the arrogant duke off her. She waited with marked anticipation for his inevitable ultimatum.

Lord Chalmers turned a questioning eye toward her brother, then shrugged his shoulders. “Perhaps we could all do with some refreshments. Come along, young man. I’m certain I smell freshly baked cakes. Perhaps Dolly has a freshly brewed pot of tea for us, as well.”

Anabelle couldn’t believe it. Her brother and her neighbor strolling off in search of tea and cakes, leaving her to the mercy of the Dragon of Draloch? What could they be thinking?

*

Damn. Saron gazed down at Anabelle. Amazing Anabelle, as she was known throughout the ton, might have had her head blown off had he given his coachman the signal. Fortunately for her, he had decided to trust Lord Chalmers’ opinion of her nature. Fortunately for him, Lord Chalmers’ assessment had proved correct. But it could easily have been otherwise and for what? This small parcel of land which had meant so little to her father that he’d wagered it in a game of cards and laughed in relief when he lost it to Saron? Hadn’t her father realized it meant everything to Anabelle?

Amazing Anabelle. What a strange appellation for a slip of a girl. He had thought her quite plain at first, dressed as she was in that formless black gown. Yet, when the wind had pressed the fabric of her gown against her skin, he’d noticed well-formed legs and a slender waist. And though her eyes, from what could be discerned above the scope of the rifle, had seemed an unimpressive brown, when she finally lowered her firearm and gave him an unimpeded view, he had been pleasantly surprised by their exotic upward slant. Her lashes, he now noticed, were thick, long and dark. All in all, reminiscent of the eyes of a fawn, a soft, gentle fawn.

He shook off the impossible notion immediately and began to peruse her hair, which seemed a safer subject. He was wrong, he realized as he suppressed the urge to run a possessive hand through her unruly mane. With growing annoyance at his own distraction, he forced his gaze to remain steady. He refused to let the girl affect him.

She needs to tame me, not stir the beast within me.

Though her hair was long and lush, he would not call it extraordinary. No indeed, many other young women were possessed of similarly beautiful manes. It meant nothing that at the moment, he could not recall a one with hair quite so splendid.

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