Anastasia sank into his warm embrace, wishing the moment would never end. His kiss grew more intense, more demanding, drawing her deeper into the haze of longing for him. His hands felt their way to her arms, as if he would lift her again into his embrace. When his fingers tightened around them, a stabbing pain shot straight through her and she flinched against it.
Instantly Baldwyn released her and stumbled backwards, searching her face for signs of injury. Before her very eyes, the cloud of desire dissipated from his, retreating in the face of raw fear, and on the heels of that fear, sparked to life a blaze of hot fury. So sudden was the transformation, she had no time to react before he had drawn an index finger up in front of her face.
“What were you thinking! Have you not been told never to roam the gardens unchaperoned with any man? Were you not concerned for your reputation? For your virtue? Is this the type of daughter Lord Marks has raised?” Baldwyn dropped his hand to his side, clenching it into a fist with evident rage. He began pacing back and forth before her. Anastasia shrank back as he lashed out again. “You, who so brazenly go gallivanting about in the dark with a suave foreigner? What did you expect him to do, pray tell? Out there in the dark! In solitude!”
“Truly, Your Grace, I wasn’t—” she began, but he cut her off with his continued tirade.
“What if I had not happened by? What if I had been inside searching the ballroom for my betrothed and never once thought to look out of doors?”
A lump rose in Anastasia’s throat, and she didn’t dare risk her voice, lest it give away the tears threatening to break through the floodgates. Confusion and fear reigned.
Only a moment ago, he held her in his embrace. Comforting and shielding her from the waking nightmare she had endured. And now—now he derided her for her glaring stupidity. Her naïveté. Scolding her as if she was a mere child.
A mere child in mousy brown pigtails.
“What?” He stopped in his tracks and swung around to face her.
“Were you?” she repeated.
“Was I what?” he demanded.
“Were you searching for me?” Her heart dared to hope for it.
His reply was an exasperated grunt. Then he pivoted on his heel and stormed from the room bellowing, “It’s not enough that you tear me from my true duty in the dead of winter, but now I must play nursemaid to the infants as well!”