The Alpha's Courtship (Werewolf Romance) (Ilie and Soleil Book 1) (5 page)

BOOK: The Alpha's Courtship (Werewolf Romance) (Ilie and Soleil Book 1)
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He had always liked going against the rules, and the idea that he would have to actually bow down to custom chafed.

Might there be a compromise? Might it be possible that he be allowed to court her in private and---

His nostrils suddenly flared, his wolf instincts catching the scent of another predator – someone infinitely punier to Ilie – attempting to poach on his territory. His gaze swung sharply back to her, and that was when he saw a rakish-looking nobleman chatting her up.

“Lady Soleil?”

Soleil snapped her book shut, cheeks flushing as she looked up. It was Sir Reginald, considered one of this Season’s better catches. What he lacked in terms of titles, he made up with his considerable fortune.

“Good afternoon, sir,” she murmured as he bowed.

He smiled at her, saying, “My day’s complete now that my eyes have rested upon you, milady.”

“Here we go again, milord, with your too-pretty words,” she said lightly.

His gaze slid curiously to her book. “What’s this you’re reading?”

Before she could answer, the knight was already reaching to pick it up---

No!

She would be ruined if anyone found out what she was reading!

Soleil hurriedly reached for the book, and their fingers touched.

A gasp escaped her. She had held men’s hands countless times, but they were men she was targeting to kill.
This
was totally different.

But before either of them could yank their hands away, another hand appeared and the book disappeared from their grasps.

She gasped again, twisting to see who it was, and a third gasp escaped her when the marquis, standing behind her chair, gave her a lazy smile.

The last time Soleil had seen him, it was while battling for her life, and before that, it had always been from afar, with Soleil never risking to come any closer in fear of the marquis recognizing the connection between them.

This was the first time she was able to look at him up close, and though she had mentally prepared herself for such a meeting, one glance at the marquis told her that those endless hours of practice were for naught.

Ilie Marcovici would always take one’s breath away.

Always.

He was so much taller than she thought or dreamed of, and his body was built even more lethally than she imagined. His hair, the shade of ice and gold at the same time, shone even more brilliantly under the lights, and his face---

Every inch of it seemed to have been carved by a grandmaster, and she clasped her hands tightly on her lap lest she forgot herself and reached out to touch his cheek.

Her gaze accidentally clashed with his, and the way his silver eyes gleamed so knowingly made Soleil quickly look away. Then she saw her book held securely in his hand, and her lips parted---

He said kindly, “You’ll run out of oxygen in my company if you keep that up, milady.”

Her mouth snapped shut, and she reddened and glared up at him at the same time.

“That was quite rude, milord,” Reginald decreed hotly, having recovered from his shock. He knew who the other man was, but what he had never expected was to meet the wicked marquis in this type of establishment. It was a well-known fact the marquis only frequented brothels and other unmentionable places.

“Was it?” the marquis returned idly. “I was only expressing my concern for milady.” He smiled down at Soleil again.

Soleil didn’t smile back. That smile didn’t look good. In fact, it looked downright bad – the kind people had nightmares of.

And it was, as a moment later Soleil was horrified to hear the marquis drawl, “My behavior is but typical of a betrothed, do you not think?”

CHAPTER FOUR

The silence that descended on the cake shop following the marquis’ announcement was comical, and Soleil had the unforgivable urge to laugh.
I am cursed
, she thought miserably,
with the oddest sense of humor.

“Is this true, milady?” Sir Reginald demanded, hurt confusion in his gaze.

Her heart immediately went out to him, and she started to protest, “Sir Reginald, please---”

“Keep it a secret,” the marquis finished in a lowered voice.

And of course, with that word, Soleil saw everyone’s ears practically perk up.

“Although I have already asked the baron for her hand and everything has been formalized, I would still like to give my beloved betrothed the kind of courtship she deserves.” The marquis’ voice was gentle, but the gleam in his silver gaze was mocking, daring the other man to take offense and challenge his word.

Sir Reginald was visibly fuming, and her unease grew. She turned to the marquis, but he only responded to her warning glare with a roguish smile.

Liquid heat ran through her body, and she looked away again.
Arrogant boor.
But the thought lacked heat, and the way her heart was racing so fast made it worse.

“May I have your word as a gentleman on this, sir?”

She took one look at the knight’s face and knew he hadn’t bought one word of it.

And if she let him speak, then they would end up dueling, and it would not be an even match at all. Sir Reginald might be the reigning champion in the city’s sporting hall, but he was still a man. A child even, compared to the likes of Ilie Marcovici.

Sir Reginald began, “You, milord---”

“---are telling the truth,” Soleil heard herself say, and she forced herself to meet Sir Reginald’s gaze. He looked crushed, and her conscience stung painfully. “I’m sorry, sir.” As she spoke, the marquis casually took hold of her hand.

For one moment, she froze, the scorching heat of the contact stunning her.

Ilie saw shock flare in his heartkeeper’s eyes and could not fault her. He was similarly stunned as well, only he was better at hiding it.

Merely holding her hand was an exquisite pleasure, and he could not help think of the other and equally pleasurable parts he could touch. He was suddenly impatient, and he looked at Soleil, his eyes boring through hers.

Get rid of him, or I will.

She jumped in her seat at the sudden sound of the marquis’ cold voice inside her head.

Oh, she had forgotten about this stupid blood bond between heartkeepers!

The command still ringing in her ears, Soleil had an inexplicable urge to defy the marquis, just to show him she wasn’t going to submit to him so easily.

But then she saw the marquis glance at Reginald, and this time he was no longer looking at the knight as a mortal to be tolerated. This time, the marquis was looking at the other man the way predators mercilessly viewed their prey---

An image flashed in her mind, sent by the marquis.

He was in his wolf form, and he was crushing the knight’s ribs under his paws before his viciously sharp canines tore the man’s throat---

The image vanished, and the marquis murmured, “Lady Soleil? You have something else to say?” He smiled at her, and she could almost imagine his fangs flashing.

I won’t warn you again, milady.
His thumb rubbed across her knuckles, his touch possessive, tender, and hot.

It was also extremely distracting, and Soleil had a hard time finding the right words to say. Her attention kept straying to the way the marquis’ touch made her feel. A part of her was lost in a daze.

The Marquis di Lunare, the man fated to share her soul, was holding her hand.

“Milady?”

The hopeful look in Sir Reginald’s eyes sent her crashing back to earth, and Soleil swallowed. “Lord Ilie and I have an understanding, sir. I am so sorry if---”

“There is nothing to apologize for, milady.” His cheeks were flushed with a mixture of resentment and shame, and he was unable to meet her gaze. “I was the one who misunderstood.”

This was her fault
, she thought, cringing. News of today’s incident was sure to spread like wildfire, and she wouldn’t be surprised if they were the talk of the town by tonight. The thought made her feel resentful herself, and Soleil unthinkingly tried yanking her hand away.

But the marquis’ grip only tightened, with just enough strength to remind her that she was fighting a futile battle.

Remember what I am, ma lisse.
His voice was gentle, but possessiveness still threaded through it.

She ceased her struggle, not because he had reminded her of his otherworldly bloodlines, but because of what he had called her.

Ma lisse.

My lily.

He had called her ‘his lily.’

Again, the odd urge to laugh struck her.
Did he remember what she was as well? Did he remember that she was, for all intents and purposes, a professional killer?

Yes, I remember,
the marquis answered calmly.

Oh! He had read her mind. She had forgotten about that ability of his, curse it.

Sir Reginald was bidding her farewell now, and she mustered a smile.

“Will I see you at the Delsey’s ball tonight?”

Not if he’s there,
the marquis said silkily.

“I’m not quite sure,” she said vaguely.

The other man’s smile dimmed, and it was only then that she realized he had seriously carried a torch for her. “Goodbye then,” Sir Reginald said, his normally strong clear voice turning into a mumble unworthy of his stature.

Oh, how dreadfully insensitive she was
.
Regret filled her as she watched him turn away and leave. She bit her lip hard, wondering if she had been too callous. Maybe she should just go to the Delsey’s ball, after all---

Over my dead body, ma lisse
, the marquis said coolly. Out loud, he asked her politely, “May I join you, milady?” He released her hand to gesture at the chair across her.

She said reluctantly, “Of course,” all the while feeling perversely disappointed at the loss of contact between them.
It had to be because he was an otherworlder and thus more seductive than human men,
she told herself.

The marquis folded his powerful, elegant length in the dainty chair in front of her, and her resentment flared anew. It was so unfair. His sheer grace should have made him look like an overly fussy fop, but no – it just made him so much---

Then she noticed what he was casually flipping open.

She mentally screamed as loudly as she could,
NO!

The marquis winced, his fingers freezing on the page he had just opened to. “What’s the big deal---” His eyes widened.

Soleil grabbed her dessert fork, fed herself a tiny slice of cake, and concentrated on chewing it slowly.

He closed the book and returned it to her, smothering a laugh when she practically snatched the book from his hands.

“Your taste in books is surprising, milady,” he murmured wickedly.

Her cheeks turned pink, but she pretended not to hear him and instead fed herself another tiny slice.

“I’m heartbroken, milady. Are you ignoring me?”

She didn’t look at him.

And that was her mistake.

He shifted in his seat, and a moment later she felt his hand settle on her knee.

Curses!

Her gaze flew to him in shock.

His hand was like a burning tattoo on her skin, making her body quiver, and her knee felt like it was about to turn into jelly any second under his touch.

“Stop it,” she hissed then stopped, realizing she might be heard. She said in her mind,
Take your hand off my knee!

But this only made him squeeze her knee, and pleasure that felt both forbidden and painful coursed through her body.

“Please say you are no longer mad that I have let Sir Reginald in our little secret.”

She thought about ignoring him---

His hand on her knee lifted, only to be replaced by fingers that somehow found a way under her skirt. His hand returned to her knee, and this time bare skin touched bare skin.

---and changed her mind.

“I forgive you, milord.”

His smile was dazzling and intimate at the same time. “That means the world to me,
ma lisse.

Oh!

There it was again, and this time he had used the endearment out loud!

Stop calling me that,
she told him, recovering.

But it was the marquis’ turn to ignore her. Instead, he said in a low voice, “Your sister told me everything.”

Curse you, Fleur.

“Oh?” She worked hard to sound unaffected.

He squeezed her knee, murmuring, “She says you’ve known I was the one since you were fifteen.”

Double curse you, Fleur.

It took her a while to answer, Soleil not wanting to sound breathless as she asked, “Does it matter, milord?”

“Yes.”

She was stunned at the sudden tautness in his voice.

“How is it that you even knew about it before I did?”

She could appreciate why he was genuinely perplexed, and she asked him in her mind,
Father has told you about me, hasn’t he?

How he came to bring you up, yes.

Apparently, my otherworlder parent has demon blood, and whatever I inherited from him – or her – sort of leapt in recognition when I saw you.

“I see.” He was grimly silent for a moment. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her dimples flashed in a playful smile, but her eyes said something else as she said lightly, “You mean why didn’t I beg you, right? Why didn’t I throw myself at you? Because that’s the only way you’d have noticed me, do you not think…
my one?

The last words would have sounded sweet to anyone’s ears, but she and the marquis knew that it was her way of mocking him, of asking why a powerful half-demon like him hadn’t known she was near.

I’m sorry.

I’m sure you are.

Irritation flashed in the marquis’ eyes, and it was obvious he was not used to having women not falling over everything he said.

What more do you want?

Nothing, milord.
It was pure agony, ignoring the way his hand on her knee made her feel, but she managed to as she continued,
I wasn’t the one who looked for you---

BOOK: The Alpha's Courtship (Werewolf Romance) (Ilie and Soleil Book 1)
11.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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