Max motioned with his hand. “Come out. I won’t harm you.” He stepped out of her path so that she could pass when the sound of something large and metal hit the floor in the vicinity of her feet.
“What was that?” the man asked. Amused suspicion rang in his voice. Had his face not been cast in shadow, Katrina would have been able to read which conflicting emotion prevailed. How could she tell him that the silver tray from the stunning tea service in the upstairs sitting room had just fallen from between her knees?
Katrina stepped over the tray, intending to make a dash for the door when a hand encircled her upper arm like an iron band. A metal tinkling—albeit muffled, sounded from beneath her skirts. She drew her bottom lip between her teeth to stop herself from cursing—a habit she’d picked up from the rabble with whom she shared lodgings.
“Just a moment.” He manoeuvered her off her intended path and paused. “What do we have here?”
Shite! It seemed he had indeed noticed the tray on the floor.
“Hm. A thief, eh? Any other curious intrigues beneath your skirts?”
“Nothing else—I mean, this is all some sort of mistake. Unhand—”
“I think not. This situation calls for further investigation.”
She tried futilely to pull free from his grip. “No… Release me this instant… Bastard!”
A strangled breath that sounded as if it could have been a humorous noise caught in his throat. “Such language, madam,” he scolded.
Regardless of her struggles, he muscled her over to a settee, sat and positioned her over his knees as if she were a naughty child in need of a spanking. Bloody hell, he could have at least allowed her to face her punisher head on!
“Let me go you cur!” She kicked her feet but they never struck their target. This was not good. Katrina needed to escape the nightmare she’d stepped into before she ended up in Newgate.
“Stop wiggling, this instant.”
At once, his hand came down on her backside. Hard. She squeaked in protest—or had she moaned?—and froze. Regardless, the sting, which refused to fade beneath the fabric of her skirts, sent liquid fire straight to her womb. She must have broken into a sweat, for the cotton of her bloomers at the juncture of her thighs seemed damper than it had before. Too embarrassed to admit even to herself that the pain and pleasure of the still-smarting tap was affecting her in such a heated way, not to mention the fact that her vulnerability in this position could induce all sorts of immoral ideas, she shouted at him. “There, you’ve done your worst—now let me go!”
His laugh could’ve definitely been categorised as wicked. “That, madam, wasn’t anywhere near my worst.” With that, he yanked the back of her skirt up and over her bottom.
Indignant beyond words and trapped between his solid chest and rock-hard thighs, Katrina tried again to get away with more kicking and thrashing about, but the way in which he held her could not be broken. The silverware she’d fixed to her petticoat now tinkled aloud with each movement. At once she stilled. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice her take. It was quite dark, after all. She drew in a breath. A warm, spicy scent invaded her senses, but only for a moment.
“What do we have here?”
“Either you were in the midst of setting the table for supper and your skirts ingested a few essential items or in your spare time you are a wind chime.”
“Release me, damn you!”
“Not until I’ve retrieved my family’s silver.”
Katrina heard each shellfish fork, butter knife and tea spoon as they were ripped from their restraints.
After enduring the fishing about of the lower region of her person in a manner only a husband had the right to do, he spoke. “There, that should do it.” She felt him lean over and away from her to set her near-pilfered prizes upon an end table next to the settee.
At that fortuitous moment, Katrina jumped from his lap. She slammed the heel of her boot down hard and with purpose on top of his foot, then ran for the door. Behind her the man roared out a name—likely that of someone in his household. The frantic, frustrated echo followed her all the way down the two-tiered set of stairs to the foyer. She pulled the heavy door open—damned if she was going to close it—and fled through the front gate, her frantic steps too loud upon the pavement for comfort.
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