by Georgette Heyer
She put out her hands quickly, to hold him off. "No!"
He caught her wrists, and swept them behind her, clipping them in the small of her back, and so holding her chest to chest. Her heart beat fast; she felt breathless, but not afraid.
"Yes!" he said, still mocking. "You should have run away, my golden girl, while you had the chance to do it!"
"I know I should, and I can't think why I did not," she replied, incurably candid.
"I could hazard a guess."
She shook her head. "No. Not if you mean it was because I wanted you to kiss me again, for I don't. I can't prevent you, for my strength is so much less than yours. You needn't even fear to be called to account for it. My brother is a schoolboy, and - very lame. Perhaps you already know that?"
"No, and I'm obliged to you for telling me! I need have no scruples, I see."
She looked up at him searchingly, trying to read his mind, for although he jeered she thought his voice had a bitter edge. Then as she stared into his eyes she saw them smiling yet fierce, and a line of Bryon's flashed into her head: There was a laughing devil in his sneer. "Oh, do let me go!" she begged. "I've suddenly had the most diverting thought! Oh, dear! Poor Oswald!"
He was quite taken aback, as much by the genuine amusement in her face as by what she had said, and he let her go. "You've suddenly had the most diverting thought?" he repeated blankly.
"Thank you!" said Venetia, giving her crushed dress a little shake. "Yes, indeed I have, though I daresay you might not think it a very good joke, but that's because you don't know Oswald."
"Well, who the devil is he? Your brother?"
"Good God, no! He is Sir John Denny's son, and the top of his desire is to be mistaken for the Corsair. He combs his hair into wild curls, knots silken handkerchiefs round his neck, and broods over the dark passions in his soul."
"Does he indeed? And what has this puppy to say to anything?"
She picked up her basket. "Only that if ever he meets you he will be quite green with jealousy, for you are precisely what he thinks he would like to be - even though you don't study the picturesque in your attire."
He looked thunderstruck for a moment, and ejaculated: "A Byronic hero-----! Oh, my God! Why, you abominable ----" He broke off, as a cock pheasant exploded out of the wood, and said irritably: "Must that worthless dog of yours make my birds as wild as be-damned?"
"Yes, because my brother doesn't like him to do so at Undershaw, which is why I brought him with me today. Putting up game is what he particularly enjoys doing, and as he's quite useless as a gun-dog, poor fellow, he gets very few opportunities to do it. Do you object? I can't see why you should, when you never come here to shoot!"
"I never have done so!" he retorted. "This year is quite another matter, however! I own I had not meant to stay in Yorkshire above a few days, but that was before I made your acquaintance. I am going to remain at the Priory for the present!"
"How splendid!" said Venetia affably. "In general it is a trifle dull here, but that will be quite at an end if you are to remain amongst us!" She caught sight of Flurry, called him to heel, and dropped a slight curtsy. "Goodbye!"
"Oh, not goodbye!" he protested. "I mean to know you better, Miss Lanyon of Undershaw!"
"To be sure, it does seem a pity you should not, after such a promising start, but life, you know, is full of disappointments, and that, I must warn you, is likely to prove one of them."
He fell into step beside her, as she made her way towards the turnstile. "Afraid?" he asked provocatively.
"Well, what a stupid question!" she said. "I should have supposed you must have known yourself to be the ogre who would infallibly pounce on every naughty child in the district!"
"As bad as that?" he said, rather startled. "Had I better try to retrieve my shocking reputation, do you think?"
They had reached the turnstile, and she passed through it. "Oh no, we should have nothing to talk about any more!"
"Vixen!" he remarked. "Well ---! Tell your
lame brother how shamefully
I used you, and fear nothing! I won't pounce on him."