Nicholas paused to step carefully over a rose bush and avoid its damaging thorns before trudging back through the bushes. When he glanced up to check on the woman, the scene before him stopped him cold. Randall was sprawled out in the grass and the woman was standing over him, her reticule swinging heavily from her hand.
"Why didn't you listen to me? Oh dear. I hope I haven't killed you," she said, her voice tinged with indignation.
Killed him? What the hell!?
Nicholas jumped over a bush and into the shadows lining the clearing. He blurted the first words that came to his tongue. "What is going on here?"
The woman whirled around, her hand held out in such a way that Nicholas knew she would do battle with her reticule if provoked. He could not help the amused smile that curled the corners of his lips.
"Who is there?" she asked, her voice trembling. "Come out so I can see you."
Nicholas swept his gaze over the woman's face and gritted his teeth as something quite peculiar lurched in his chest. He had never met the woman before so he could not blame the odd sensations swirling in his chest on a prior rendezvous. Instead, he passed it off as mere nervousness. After all, it wasn't every day that a gentleman would see the most beautiful woman in London standing before him.
As he watched, several strands of blonde hair pulled from her chignon to softly float about her slim neck in the breeze. He darted his gaze over her softly arched eyebrows, pert nose and full lips before gazing into her gray eyes. There, he saw something that stirred his soul.
In the smoky depths of her eyes, a pain so heartfelt, so consuming softly smoldered. He was drawn to her for a reason he could not understand. There was something captivating, something ethereal, about her that made him long to spend more time in her company.
The breath streamed from Nicholas's lips. He gazed into her eyes and knew in some innate sense that she would understand him as no one ever had before. He knew her pain and she knew his.
He stepped out of the shadows and into the light.