At Lady Georgina Gordon's debutante ball a contradance was announced. When Georgina realized that her next partner would be John Russell, the Duke of Bedford's younger brother, she experienced a small ripple of panic. As they stepped toward each other and he took her hands, she blurted, "Is your wife here tonight?" Then she blushed. Damnation! The arrogant devil will think I have a tendre for him. "Why do you ask?" "Because once again my curiosity outweighs my good manners. I'd like to know what she looks like." "My wife looks like an angel." His tone had finality about it, warning her that he did not wish to discuss his wife with her. He placed his hand on her waist to swing her around and she imagined she felt the heat of it seep through the delicate material of her gown. She flushed again, and shivered. His dark eyes saw and her blush deepened. Georgina felt weak with relief when he moved down the line to the next lady. After the partners changed half a dozen more times, Georgina saw that the next man in line was Francis Russell, Duke of Bedford. She masked her amusement that he would no longer be able to ignore her. He nodded politely, but did not smile. "Your Grace, it is such an honor." "The honor is mine." His tone was cool and detached. "Yes, Indeed it is." A fierce light kindled in his eyes, proving he was neither cool nor detached. "You are playing a teasing game of cat and mouse." He placed his hand on her waist and squeezed. "I would enjoy playing other games with you Georgina." He's flirting outrageously with me, yet I feel absolutely nothing, apart from distaste. "Lanterloo, perhaps?" She tried to keep the sarcasm from her voice, knowing she would be rid of him in a moment or two. "We could play for forfeits," he said with a leer. Georgina heard the echo of her brother's words: You shouldn't banter with Bedford like that. He is a known womanizer. When the contradance ended, Georgina's mother cornered her. "When Bedford partnered you, I hope you encouraged him. "He needed no encouragement. His manner was most familiar." "Splendid! I knew if you plied him with charm, he wouldn't be able to resist you." Georgina saw John Russell walking a straight path toward her and went suddenly weak in the knees. He nodded politely to her mother. "Lady Gordon" He then spoke to their Scots friend, the Earl of Lauderdale. "James, if I can steal you from the ladies, I'd like you to join me in a drink." "There's an offer I never refuse." Lauderdale bowed gallantly to the Duchess of Gordon and Georgina. "Please excuse us, ladies?" The uncouth brute totally ignored me. She was highly offended and stared after him, feeling strangely abandoned. If the surly sod does ask me to dance, I shall refuse him outright! A short time later, Georgina felt thirsty and headed toward the refreshment room. She encountered John Russell at the doorway. A look of amusement crossed his face. "Are you by any chance looking for me, Lady Georgina?" Conceited swine! "Sorry to disappoint you, Russell. The only thing I'm looking for is a glass of champagne." The amusement left his face. "Aren't you a little young for champagne, mistress?" "God in his goodness sent the grapes to cheer both great and small; little fools will drink too much, and great fools none at all," she quoted. John felt the urge to protect her. "Wine can steal the senses and lead a young lady into trouble." "I certainly hope so. Trouble is my middle name." "Must you always be so extreme?" "Indeed I must. Extremes are sharp black and white...that's why I love them." Georgina returned to the ballroom, where Prince Edward partnered her again. He tried to lure her into a rendezvous, and she gave him a set down. Nevertheless, the prince's advances made her feel vulnerable and she sought safer dancing partners for the next hour. After so many dances, Georgina found the ballroom extremely warm and stuffy, and she fanned herself to catch her breath. She saw her mother raise her head and search the ballroom with her eyes. Lord, she's looking for me. Georgina slipped out onto a balcony and drew in a deep breath of fresh air. She lifted her face to the dark sky and gazed at the glittering stars. After a few moments of blissful solitude, she noticed the aroma of tobacco and sensed that she was not alone. She glanced across the stone balcony and saw the glow of a lit cheroot. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you." "You don't disturb me, little girl." She drew in a swift breath as she recognized the deep voice of John Russell. "You!" she accused. "Obviously you were expecting someone else." She was outraged at his accusation. "Surely you don't suspect me of arranging a tryst out here on the balcony?" "I suspect you are capable of arranging anything you damn well please, Georgina Gordon." Her anger flared. Why are we like flint and tinder whenever we meet? The answer was obvious. The shrewd devil knew her too well. She had no defenses against him. "Go to the devil, old man!"