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The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell (cover coming very soon)

Chapter Six

In all honesty, Anne reflected quite some time later, it was probably a blessing that it all happened so fast.

Simon was standing near the window when she entered, his booted feet planted slightly apart. He remained in utter stillness for a moment, and Anne had the strangest sensation he sought to resurrect some tremendous emotion from deep inside. He pivoted, his shoulders hitched ever so slightly, along with the tilt of his head.

So did Anne’s.

She couldn't help but notice the way the taut fit of his jacket. He was a powerful man. A proud man.

He indicated the small settee. “Perhaps you wish to sit.”

Anne did not want to sit. She wanted to run, as far and as fast as she was able.

But she was made of sterner stuff, or so she contrived to assure herself. Cowardice was not her way. Silence was not her way. It was true there were times she had cause to regret something she’d said or done. Her feelings were something that she had never been able to constrain.

There had been no need.

Yet now there was a hollow silence. The moment seemed to stretch on into eternity. Anne discovered herself wholly beyond words.

“It appears we shall have to marry.”

It was so far removed from what Anne had always expected that it didn’t seem real. For this was not a proposal, she decided vaguely. This was but a moment of acceptance—of resignation—on his part.

And perhaps a moment of resignation, on hers as well.

He didn't want to marry her. It was there in the coolness of his eyes, in the rigidness of his posture, the clipped way in which he uttered the words.

They did not kiss. They did not touch. There was certainly no declaration of love . . . or anything else.

Anne couldn't help it. Seared in her mind was the feel of his mouth locked against hers. She couldn't help but recall—and vividly so!—of what had brought them to this course. She remembered the way he'd touched her. The heat of his mouth, the breadth of his chest, the ache in her own, the way she felt as if she were grasping for something that hovered just beyond reach. The way she'd longed to touch him in return, to linger and explore.

Did he think of it too?

She sucked in a breath. No. No. She could almost believe it had never been. That their blazing embrace last night was but a figment of her imagination.

But nothing was as it should be. Her life was suddenly wheeling out of control and there was nothing she could do to change it.

Whatever had possessed her to allow him to kiss her? she wondered wildly.

Somehow, she never thought to wonder what had possessed him.

Anne had never thought herself fanciful. Not a dreamer.

Though to be perfectly honest, she'd never met the man who inspired such dreams. At least not yet. But she'd always been certain she would find him. Or that he would find her. She'd always thought it would happen, of course, for she did not think she was destined to spend her days a spinster.

It appeared she would not.

But not so soon. Not now.

And not with this man who seemed so distant and cold!

She didn't want to look at him. She couldn't help it either. He did not retreat from her scrutiny. She almost wished that he did! For when she gazed into his eyes, his features, she saw no welcome. No surge of joy. His expression held nothing of tenderness.

And she thought, in that moment, something inside just shriveled up.

“I'm so sorry” –her voice was half-strangled— “that it came to this.”

Something darkened in his eyes. “Do not blame yourself,” he said very quietly.

Anne lowered her chin. She discovered it was the only way she could let enough air into her lungs to breathe again.

At length she raised her head. “When?” she asked levelly.

“I expect as soon as it can be arranged.”


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