He held out his hand, waiting until she placed her own in it to draw her to her feet. "Shall we?"
She cocked her head. "Thank you, yes. But be forewarned, I expect to be fascinated."
He secured her hand in the crook of his arm. "I shall endeavor not to disappoint."
"You know, Mr. MacNeill," she said after a pause, "you profess to be nothing more than an ill-bred orphan
and yet you sometimes evince manners that would be more suited to a fine drawing room than a garret."
"Stage dressing," he assured her. "Nothing more. Over the years I've picked up a few manners that I dust
off now and again. One of my earlier companions had a tongue so subtle and smooth he could seduce a song
from a cat."
"I don't know whether to believe you or not."
"As you will, ma'am," he said, his manner light and accommodating, his gaze frankly admiring. Almost as
A sudden suspicion caused her to stop and she spoke without thinking. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mr.
He, too, stopped. His lips twitched as if he might laugh but when he looked down at her his eyes were
utterly sober. "Why, yes, Mrs. Blackburn, I am. Does the prospect alarm you?"
"Yes," she said at once. "It does."
"Ah. Regrettable and I should think unnecessary, though from my position, I'd much rather your alarm be
"Should I call out for help?" she asked, trying valiantly to sound as sophisticated as he.
He bent a sardonic eye on her. "I believe the word used was ‘seduce' not 'rape.' You are in no danger
from me. Well, that's not precisely true," he allowed. "But you are only in as much danger as you allow
yourself to be."
"I see," she said breathlessly.
"Good. We understand each other then." He tucked her hand back in the crook of his arm and would have
begun to walk again but she remained firmly planted. He looked down at her.
"Can I convince you not to attempt to seduce me?"
His brows drew together for a few seconds as he considered her request. "No," he finally said. "No. I do
not think you can."
"Then my options are…?"
"To continue our walk and let me test my skills. Or not."
Her heart had begun racing the moment he'd stated his intent. Now it galloped in her throat.
His smile grew rueful. "Come, lass. My skills, even by own decidedly prejudiced account, are not so great."
She didn't believe him.