“What are you doing in here?” Brook asked in a hushed tone. She glanced quickly at the door.
“Watching you of course. I felt it my gentlemanly duty to see to it that you were safe and of course somewhat sound.” Landon replied as he leaned back on the chair.
“You cannot be in my chamber, Landon. Get out.” Her eyes narrowed at him. He was balancing on the back two legs of the chair. “If someone comes in and sees you here my reputation will be tarnished.” She watched him gaze at her with a devilish smirk. “Do not even say one word, Landon. This is not funny.” Brook stood from the bed. Landon rocked on the back legs of the chair with a gaze that she could not bring herself to look at.
“You worry far too much. We are two adults enjoying each other’s company having a conversation. It is not as if we are rolling around under the sheets in a tangled heated mess of flesh, Red.” He winked at her wide eyed expression. Red, come on I swear to you no one is going to come barging through that door.” He pointed with his finger.
“Landon please I would feel more at ease if we were to stroll in the gardens or-
“Brook my dear Sarah and me are setting out to.” Grams stopped half way into the room to the sound of a thud. “Landon James Fields! What on earth are you doing in this room?”
She did not move her gaze from him. Landon jumped up from the floor and set the chair right. “I…I was merely, um, that is to say, I am.” He paused and looked to Brook for help who was standing with one arm on her hip and clenching her teeth with wicked narrowing eyes at him.
“I was having a discussion about safety.” Landon pinched his lips together and lowered his brows.
Grams turned her body sideways and pointed at the door. “Out with you, boy!”
As Landon passed Brook he whispered, “Thanks for the help.”
Brook gasped at that and her fists tightened.
“Landon, I am moving you to the third floor this instant. You are not to enter through this door again unless the woman is on fire.” Grams scolded him.
“Well,” Landon began.
“One more word boy and you’ll be over my knee.” Grams warned him.
Landon stopped and took Grams’s hand in his looping it through his arm. “I do believe you have been threating that very same threat for years now, my naughty cupcake.
Grams slapped his arm with her free hand. “Boy, you are more trouble than you are worth.”
Landon laughed. “I know you do not think that beside whom would you pass the time with if I were not here to tease?”
Grams rolled her eyes as she nudged him forward. “I think the farther you are from Lady Brook the better.”
“What can I say, Grams the woman is just smitten with me.”
Grams let out a hoot of amusement in fact she could not stop herself once she started.
“What is so funny?” Sarah asked as she approached.
“Landon here believes Brook to be smitten with him and clearly he holds no attachment,” Grams said with giggles.
Sarah gazed over to Landon trying to hide her mirth. Landon just stared at them. After a few seconds he turned and walked off. “Where are you going, Lord Fields?”
“To the third floor.” He replied without turning to face them. “It sports a far better view.” This caused Grams to below out with more laughter.
Brook sat at her dressing table and gazed at herself in the mirror. Honestly what was he thinking? If it had not been Grams and someone I did not know well, it could’ve ruined me.
“Knock knock,” a soft famine voice said.
Brook gazed at the door in the mirror. Sarah’s smile was shining back at her. Brook turned and said, “Thank goodness you are here. I no longer have to talk to myself now.”
Sarah laughed. She sat next to brook at the dressing table. Brook turned back to the mirror.
“So,” Sarah said in a slow tone. “I came upon Landon and Grams in the hallway.” Brook pinches her lips together. “Are you going to tell me or do I have to assume it’s what I hope it is?”
Brook’s mouth fell open.
“Yes,” Sarah said as she gazed at Brook’s reflection in the mirror.
“It was nothing,” Brook snapped.
Sarah’s laugh filled the quiet room. “That man was upset about something and it was something to do with you.” Sarah stared at Brook than finally batted her eyes in an innocent playful fashion.
“I was lying on the bed and did not know he was here. When I heard his voice I told him to leave than Grams walked in.” Her gaze fell from Sarah’s. “See it was nothing.”
“Did he sneak in here?” Sarah asked.
“Yes and when I saw him he was drinking tea as if it was just any other day.” She shook her head. “Sometimes he gets me so frustrated, Sarah.”
“I will say it was very daring of him. With all the guests roaming around this place anyone could’ve come upon you two.”
“Exactly!” Brook stated.
“It may have ruined you,” Sarah said.
“It was rude,” Brook added.
“And wickedly childish,” Sarah included. She could tell Brook was not paying her any attention.
“So immoral and improper for him to act out like that,” Brook said.
“And sinful,” Sarah uttered. “So, very sinful.”
The low sultry tone made Brook turn her head from the reflection to Sarah’s profile. “What?”
Sarah faced her and whispered, “He is one bad boy, Brook and needs to be punished wickedly so.”
Brook could see her trying not to laugh. “Should I whip him?”
Sarah’s eyes widened. She took Brook’s hand and said. “Yes but only after you tie him up.”
The two started giggling. After a minute Brook gazed to Sarah. “I miss spending time with you.”
She reached out and hugged her. “Well you have me now.”
“I know but it’s not the same, Sarah.”
She pulled back and played with Brook’s red locks at her shoulder. “Shall we go find some trouble to get into downstairs?”
Brook smiled. “Let’s go bake something we haven’t tried before.”
Sarah’s head fell back as she laughed. “Oh boy the staff is going to be so cross with us.”
“It’ll be fine. We will clean up the mess afterwards.” Brook stood from the bench. “I promise not to burn anything this time.” Brook held out her hand for Sarah.
“Alright but do keep in mind we have to ready ourselves for dinner tonight,” Sarah said. “Grams will have our heads if we do not watch the time.”
“Has anyone seen Sarah,” Devon asked as he entered the atrium at the back of the house.
“I haven’t seen her since she went to chat with Brook,” Grams said. “Come to think of it I haven’t seen Brook all afternoon either.” She was seated comfortably on one of the deep red velvet settees surrounded by tall lush tropical plants looking like a plump royal goddess.
Landon gazed at Devon with an oh no look. “Let us examine this for a moment. One, no one has been reported injured. Two the house is still standing and not a blaze. Three, well, one and two make me happy,” He said as he looked to Quentin with a smile.
“Not to worry my boy,” Grams said as she patted his arm. “I’m sure the girls are enjoying the weather and picking flowers.”
“Sir!” A maid came running into the atrium, “We need you.”
“What is it?” Quentin asked as he walked towards her.
“In the kitchen, Sir.” She was breathless and panicked. “They set it on fire making cakes.”
Landon strode past them and said, “So much for number two.”
Brook shouted, “Sarah more wet rags.”
Sarah tossed a few to her. As Brook tried to smother one of the fires with them she lit her sleeve on fire. “I’m on fire!”
Sarah grabbed a rag covering Brook’s arm with it. “Are you alright?”
“Yes I am okay,” Brook coughed out. “We need help.”
“I sent the maid to fetch Quentin,” Sarah said through a wet rag to her mouth.
The kitchen soon filled completely with smoke. Brook was grabbing rags as Sarah was handing them to her from the water bucket. “Alright let’s move to the fire on the table, Sarah.”
They slid the bucket over and started covering the table with drenched rags. The smoke was too thick to see what was in front of them. The room was quickly becoming engulfed. Brook reached out her hand for a rag and made contact with something soft and fleshy.
“I’m here to help ladies. No reason to panic I’ve done this very same thing before.”
Brook realized it was Uncle Paul. That is not a rag in my hand and he has no pants on! “Oh my God Sarah,” she screamed and started jumping around shaking her hands.
“Brook,” Sarah grabbed her shoulders. “What is it? Are you burnt?”
“No it’s Uncle Paul and I touched it,” Brook shouted holding her hands out to Sarah.
She just stood there arms stretched out holding Brook’s forearms. “You touched…Oh you touched it!” Sarah flung Brook’s hands away from her.
Landon found himself with one word on his mind…Brook. Hundreds of images were running through his mind. Her body lying lifeless. Burnt or on fire. His heart raced and his feet matched at the speed of 6 horses in chase. Blood hell I’ll kill her if she is alive. His only reactions for her making him feel this way.
Brook shoved her hands in the water bucket and rubbed feverishly. This is insane. I’ll never be able to wash off the feeling of Uncle Paul in my hand. She gazed around the small kitchen but could see nothing. The smoke was a gray thick blanket. “Sarah we need to get out of here.”
“Sarah has to be in there with Brook,” Landon said to Devon who was fast behind him. He dashed past Landon and within seconds appeared with Sarah safe in his arms.
Brook heard a loud yelp. That was Sarah. “Sarah?” Where did she go? “Sarah!” She whipped her head every which way but saw nothing. The room was growing darker and the fact that her eyes were watering up from all the burning heat and smoke was not helping. I have to find her.
Taking a rag from the bucket she covered her mouth. I should just crawl forward she was in front of me. Something suddenly caught her eye directly in front of her. The growing ashen glow that was lingering throughout the room seemed to part and through all the smoke he emerged. Standing so tall and dashing.
Without a word he took Brook up off the floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he covered her face with his coat. “Sarah,” she said.
“Devon has her she is safe,” Landon said in a low soft tone. He carried her to the atrium. His body was stiff and his jaw line was clenched. A stone expression was fixed upon him.
He is angry with me. I don’t blame him I burnt down the kitchen. She studied him closely for a moment and then had to look away.
“Girls! You gave us a fright,” Grams blurted out in an emotional motherly scolding. She watched Landon start to check Brook over. “Are they hurt?”
Landon was looking at Brook’s arm. “I will need some ointment for this.”
Brook covered it with her hand. “I am sound. Please don’t fuss.” She wouldn’t look at him.
“Silence,” Landon said. His voice stern. His demeanor stiff.
Her gaze shot up to meet his. Genuine distress in his glare repressed any further words coming from her. Just look away. I can’t stand to see him look at me like this. It doesn’t make sense to me. He should not be this upset.
“Everything is alright.” Quentin stated as he entered the room. What use to be a white rag was now black with ash from his hands. “The fires are out and no one was injured.”
“Fires?” Grams asked as she looked to Devon.
“Yes apparently there was more than one,” Devon answered as he ran his hand through his hair.
“Three total to be accurate,” Quentin added.
“Oh dear.” Sarah said as she looked to Brook who was still eye to eye with Landon. “We are both so very sorry everyone. Quentin, I cannot convey my-
“Sarah,” he said softly, “It is an old kitchen that is hardly ever used. The important thing is neither of you were hurt.”
“Thoughtless, reckless, foolish.” Landon said as he stared into Brook’s eyes.
“Careless,” Brook added with raised brows.
“Inconsiderate, senseless, selfish,” Landon continued. His hand still resting at the side of her thigh. “Indifferent.”
Brook blinked a few times. Indifferent?
“Landon, let us go so the ladies can tidy up before dinner,” Devon said patting him on the shoulder.
He stood up without another word and left. Brook stared at the empty space he had just been in. Why is he so angry? Devon and Quentin seem okay and its Quentin’s kitchen. I should’ve said something.
Grams escorted the ladies upstairs and of course reprimanding them the entire way. Sarah was gripping Brook’s hand and she could feel Sarah still trembling slightly.
“Would you like me to sit with you a while?” Brook asked her.
She smiled at her softly. “I will be fine.” She leaned in Closer to brook and whispered, “Despite all that’s happened I still had a memorable afternoon with you.”
Brook gave her hand a squeeze and said, “Me too.”
~ Two Hours Later ~
A loud buzz filled the halls leading to the music room. Brook had not seen Landon since the odd exchange earlier. Standing in the doorway she spotted Sarah and Devon in the far left corner. I’m going to assume Grams and Richard are seated close by but where is Landon? My word there has to be at least twenty five people here. She rose up on her tip toes to try to see over heads. There was no sign of him in the room.
Oh this is just silly. I’m feeling disappointed I do not see him but am relieved I will not have to look into his eyes again for now. Brook, get a hold of yourself and stop playing with idol fantasies that will never happen.
Brook turned to see a butler holding a silver tray. "Yes."
"This note is for you," he said.
She took it from the try and thanked him. Turning the envelope over she examined it. Red? She couldn't help but let her heart quicken.
Landon watched her read the note. He saw the smile span across her face. Closing his eyes he sees her full succulent lips. Infatuated by the idea of caressing his thumb over them consumes his every though.
So possessed with the image of her rich red love begging him to indulge in a blissful elation of passion calls out to him. Forceful fiery need builds within him to a point of no denial.
Imprisoned in his own mind is the notion of a kiss…her kiss. Seductive in every sense of the word runs ramped inside his head. Desirable impressions turning into destruction of his will.
The lure of her smile, the way the corners of her mouth curl up is unbearable. It is the simplest of things. It is the temptation of a kiss.
Holding the elegant note in her hand, Brook paced around the groups gathered in the grand music room. What could he possibly want? Maybe they have found McMay or maybe he has found us. Gazing at the clock on the mantel, she realized it had only been three minutes. How long should I wait?
“Can I fetch you refreshment, my lady?” He paused for a brief moment, “I do believe you did not tell me your name.” He smiled with a wide grin up at Brook.
Brook glared at the small balding unshaven man push his glasses back up his overly large red nose. He had been following her around the room all night. Twice he grazed up against her bottom and once ran straight into the middle of her chest. On all three occasions it was by no accident and his hands lingered far longer than they should have.
After a long pause the man crossed both his arms over his chest as if he was hugging himself and leaned into Brook than whispered, “It is crowded here tonight. Would you care to go with me somewhere perhaps…more private?”
Brook continued to stare at the man who came up to her chest in height.
The man reached up and stroked his index finger along Brook’s arm. She slapped his hand away quickly and said nothing, she just stared at him.
He pulled his hand away with a swift jerk and sniffed his finger that had been on her arm. Brook watched him walk away rather fast. She swore she heard him giggle.
Moments later she was in the hall staring down the dim hallway. There was no sign of Landon as far as she could determine. Taking one last glace at the doorway of the grand music room, Brook began to walk slowly through the shadows.
Reaching the end of the hall, she turned to face the front. Where are you Landon? It was considerable silent given all activates taking place at the estate tonight.
Brook took a few steps forward just as two men appeared from the grand music room. A hand darted out and snatched Brook’s left arm, pulling her into the alcove. A strong hand quickly covered her mouth.
She tried to scream but the man holding her was fast and strong. He swiftly turned Brook around against the paneled wall so she faced him.
“Shhh.” He slid his hand away from Brook’s mouth.
“Landon! You scared me half to death! Why-”
“He placed his hand back over her mouth. “Shhh Red.” He leaned closer whispering, “I’m sorry. It was not my intention to frighten you.”
Brook swatted his hand away. “I do believe it was your soul intention.” She moved onward to the opening. Landon stepped in front of her. Brook gazed up at him slowly. “Landon I do not have time to play your little games. Now, I would like you to move.” Brook moved her eyes from him and focused on the shadows cast onto the wall from the candle.
Landon chuckled. “Do you really need to return to the company of all those people you and I both know, you don’t care to talk to.” He placed his finger under Brook’s chin and pulled it up to face him.
“You should not assume to know what I care to do and not do. I had happen to be having a splendid time before you sent me-
Landon laughed at her. “With the little bald man following you around?” Landon stepped aside and bowed slightly. “By all means then, Red, if that is what you desire.”
Brook pushed past him with furry. At the last second Landon took her and pulled her around and into his arms. “You cannot go yet. There are two men out there still.” Landon gazed down into her big blue eyes filled with frustration for him. “Are you not the least bit curious as to way I sent you the note?” Landon asked her.
“I was. But now, I do not really care. My life and everyone else’s does not seem to be in any eminent danger. I believe you were merely board with the guests and needed to amuse yourself.” Brook then tilted her head to the side as if gesturing him to challenge her theory.
Landon released her. God she is right. What am I doing? His gaze traveled from her eyes to her lips. No, that was not why.
After a moment Brook asked in a softer tone, “How did you know there was a man pursuing me?”
“Pursuing? I would describe it more to the effect of hunting.” Brook giggled. “Shhh,” Landon said as he pulled her further inside the alcove. “The two men are walking this way.”
Brook slipped between him and the wall. “I hear them.”
He gently moved Brook into the corner and stood in front of her.
“What are you doing?” Brook whispered.
“My attire is black and your dress is not. If I stand here I will block them from seeing you.”
“Oh, I see,” said Brook. She could not help her mind from wandering to the night he kissed her at Devon’s estate. I hate that I want to kiss you. I hate it even more you have not kissed me yet. Why was he watching me?
“I did not see you in the music room,” Brook said.
“That is one thing I am good at, making myself disappear.” Landon smiled at Brook’s agreement with a nod. “I was at first in the corner by the statue and then I just blended in as I trailed you around the room.”
Brook peered up towards him. “Trailed or hunted?”
Landon smiled and said. “Well honestly, chased. You move rather quickly, Red.”
“I had to. I was being hunted and stalked by a four foot balding creepy man.” Brook then batted her eyes at Landon and he chuckled at her humor. “And why was it precisely you found the need to follow me?”
Landon leaned in a little closer and said, “Because I like watching you.”
Brook felt her heart quicken.
“I happen to have grown fond of a particular part of you, Red,” he whispered softly into her ear. He was not touching her but he could tell she tensed her body.
Brook licked her lips before asking, “What specific part is that?” I cannot believe I just asked him that.
“From the moment I saw you Red, your smile and those big blue eyes of yours have captured my attention,” He paused. Leaning in closer to her ear he continued, “But the one thing about you that has captured all of my attention…is your lips.” He placed his hand on her waist. “Your beautiful lips have imprisoned my every thought when I gaze at you. I remember how soft they feel.”
Her body began to tremble and she was at a loss for words. You are all I’ve thought about since the instant I set my eyes upon you. Just kiss me already. What am I saying? Don’t, he can’t.
Landon squeezed her waist. He had not moved away from her ear. “The temptation of a kiss…your kiss is dangerous, Red.”
Brook turned her head and placed her lips against his ear and ever so softly whispered, “Yes, but to deny one’s desire for it can be…sinful.”
Landon moved slowly till he caught her gaze. Reaching up to her, he ran his thumb gently across her bottom lip. “I do believe that was the most single sexy thing I have ever heard. What a wicked thing to escape across your beautiful full lips, Red.”
Brook stared at him with a seductive gaze and said, “Did you mistake me for a naive pure innocent, Landon? If it is my lips and my lips only that you desire, then I will surrender them to you, but only this once.”
Landon took in a deep breath. “Do you need for me to kiss you, Red?”
Brook giggled flirtatiously. She had no idea where this was coming from but she suddenly felt powerful. “Oh Landon, I believe the need is all yours. Do you long to kiss me? Do you yearn to taste my lips once more? Do you hunger for the moist warmth of my mouth?”
“I do,” Landon said with a heavy breath. His length was hard and now throbbing. Red, if you say one more thing like that slow and seductively, I may have more than just a kiss from you. I have never ached so badly before for a woman. You are breathtakingly-
He felt her hand over his at her waist. “Landon, I want you to kiss me again.”
He smiled at her. “We haven’t even kissed once. The first two kisses did not count. They were far too short to be considered a kiss…a real kiss, Red.”
“I believe you to be charming and find myself enthralled with you Landon.”
“I find you to be fascinating and sensuous.” Landon leaned closer. “To say I need to kiss you will not describe how I feel right now.”
Brook reached her lips closer to his. “What would then?” She placed her hand against his chest and clutched his shirt in to her fist. Oh please stop teasing me.
Landon was but an inch away and he softly said, “Destitution.”
“Did you find him yet?” A voice shouted from down the hall.
Landon and Brook both jumped by the loud outburst. Landon turned towards the noise and then back to face Brook but she was still staring with wide eyes out the doorway. “I think it is Devon,” he said. “I should go see what has happened.” He waited for her to face him. “Brook?” She finally turned to him. “Will you wait here for me to return?”
“Are you sure that is such a good idea? I mean someone could find me here,” she said.
“Yes, but you will be alone. Have a seat right here on the bench and I should be back in no more than ten minutes or so.”
Brook sat down and said, “I will wait then.”
Landon picked up her hand and kissed it. “Do not leave, Red. I will return.” He kissed her hand again.
She watched him disappear around the corner. His voice echoed off the paneled hall. It made her smile at how deep it sounded. Brook waited and then waited some more. She had no idea how much time had passed.