Calmly, slowly, she reached behind with her left hand and came up against - yes, fabric. Fine linen, to be precise. So far, so good: she was inside a wardrobe, after all. The only problem was that this linen was oddly warm. Body warm. Beneath the tentative pressure of her palm, it seemed to be moving... With terrifying suddenness, an ungloved hand clamped roughly over her nose and mouth. A long arm pinned her arms against her sides. She was held tightly against a hard, warm surface. "Hush, " whispered a pair of lips pressed to her left ear. "If you scream, we are both lost.
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I'm so sorry. I don't think the etiquette manuals cover this sort of situation.' He leaned in close, his lips all but grazing her neck, and inhaled. 'Mmm. You smell good, too.' She nearly choked. Took a step backwards, until her back met cold stone. 'Th-thank you.' 'That's better. May I kiss you?' His finger dipped into her shirt collar, stroking the tender nape of her neck. 'I d-don't th-think that's a good idea.' 'Why not? We're alone.' His hands were at her waist. Her lungs felt tight and much too small. 'Wh-what if somebody comes in?' He considered for a moment. 'Well, I suppose they'll think I fancy grubby little boys.
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He smiled. "I suppose I thought we'd have a madly impractical, terrifyingly modern sort of marriage. One based on love. Not to mention dangerous undertakings and hair's-breadth escapes from burning buildings, high ledges and exploding sewers." "And bickering." "Always that, yes." "Assuming I want to marry at all." "True. I know of no good way of forcing you to do anything." "And you're mad enough to think it could work - one day?" He cupped her face in his hands. His smile was so brilliant it seemed to illuminate the room. "I think it would be heaven." She trembled, then. "You have a very strange idea of heaven." "Kiss me and see.
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My dearest Mary, Both my words and my conduct at our last meeting were ungentlemanly - born of haste and high emotion, rather than friendship and good judgement - and yet I cannot find it within me to apologize. I am glad I kissed you; glad to have revelled in your scent, your taste, the touch of your hands; glad, even, to have quarrelled with you because during those moments of anger, I was in your presence. Mary, you are the most singular woman I know: intelligent, brave and honest, and I crave your friendship. I confess to only the haziest notion of what I ask, having never been friends with a woman before. My friendships are male and conventional; pleasant and without distinction. But a friendship with you would be a bright, new, rare thing - if you would do me the honour. I expect that what I ask is impossible. But it is sweet to dream, Mary, and thus I tender one last, insolent, unapologetic request: write to me only if you can say yes. Yours, James
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