Marguerite looked to Jean-Gabriel, whose face wore an expression that set her butterflies aloft. His eyes softened, warming her with a light she’d thought alien to him. She was accustomed to being looked at as an object of lust. This, however, was different. He looked at her as an equal. “Brava,” he said softly.
She turned so that her flaming cheeks would not give her away. She bent to collect her pillow, minus most of its stuffing, and the knife slipped out. Reaching for it quickly, she grasped the blade rather than the handle and felt the cold metal bite her skin. “Merde,” she swore.
“Marguerite!” Madame snapped.
Marguerite raised her fingers to her lips and tasted blood as it oozed out of two fingers, slashed across the pads. Madame rose and went in search of a bandage, but Jean-Gabriel sat rooted to the spot. She took her fingers from her mouth. “You could do something to help, you know.”
He did not answer.
She cleared her throat and tried again. “An offer of assistance would not be ill-timed.”
He gave no indication that he heard her this time, either. Then, with his eyes still locked on her bleeding fingers, he rose noiselessly and in one swift movement, was by her side. “Let me,” he whispered.
She looked into his eyes, now darker than she’d ever seen, as if each of his pupils had suddenly eclipsed the iris. He took her hand in his gloved one, handling her surprisingly gently. The soft movement of his fingers against her wrist sent a spark of desire shooting through her.
When his lips touched her skin, she sighed. His kiss was frosty, like an icy wind that no manteau could keep out. His tongue grazed her fingers, scooping up the blood that was already starting to clot. He swallowed, resting his mouth on her finger in what might have been a kiss. A deep sigh wrenched his gut, and then he turned his face away.
He continued to hold her hand in his, pressing his silk cravat to the cut instead of his lips. Marguerite stared at the set of lines fanning out from the corners of his strangely lit eyes. She could feel the weight of his gaze and of some physical need he had, expressed only through the glow of his eyes. The spark of desire inside her turned into a flame. She felt her breath stop in her throat, caught by a sigh she dared not release.
When he finally let go of her hand, it fell to her side like a stone in a river. In just that second, Marguerite knew she had seen something impossible. The light in his eyes, the way his tongue had seemed to draw her blood from the cut…something was at work in him that was not so in anyone she had ever met before.
“Do not fret,” he said. “The bleeding has nearly stopped.”
“How did you—” Madame began, and then saw his stained cravat. The hard edge returned to her face. “Monsieur, you shouldn’t have.”
“It is done,” he said. “I must go.”
Marguerite opened her mouth to plead otherwise, but no sound would come out.
Jean-Gabriel picked up his sword and strode for the door. He looked at her once, over his shoulder, and his eyes seemed to glow again briefly. Before she could think of what to say, a knock on the door startled him. The phantasmic glow faded, the moment lost forever.
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