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It seemed a lifetime since MacAllister had walked out of her life.
But there was no mistaking him. Even after all these years, standing in the shadow of the Larkspear Theater on a gaslit night, she knew the shape of his face, the wave in his chestnut brown hair, and the subtle scent of soap and bergamot indelibly imprinted on her brain.
Questions flashed in his eyes, coupled with a clear sense of recognition. Had he seen through her pitiful attempt at camouflage—a coffee rinse liberally applied over her hair to dull its natural auburn hue and a netted veil on her hat to partially obscure her features?
MacAllister had always taken in the smallest of details. Pity that trait had not changed.
Well, there was nothing to be done about it now. At the moment, MacAllister Campbell’s powers of observation were the least of her worries.
“Are you all right, miss?” His question was bland, ordinary. Perhaps she was mistaken—perhaps he didn’t recognize her.
She gave a nod, then raised up on her tiptoes to peer over his shoulder. In the distance, a tall man with a shock of stringy black hair shoved his way through the crowd. A chill washed over her. So, he was following her. The man’s near-constant presence since she’d left the hotel on the Strand had not been a coincidence. Another minute or so and he’d be upon her.
Dear God. The nod had been a colossal lie.
She wasn’t all right.
Not at all.
If the bull of a man caught up with her, she might well join the ranks of the deceased again.
Only this time, it would not be a charade.
Suddenly, she knew what she had to do. She’d likely regret it. But at least she’d be alive.
Since she’d last seen MacAllister, she’d developed a talent for making good use of every resource. And now, she needed MacAllister—well, she needed a man—if only for a very short while.
“Darling.” She flashed a soft smile, curled a gloved hand over his forearm, and urged him away from the gas lamp’s hazy light. “I’m delighted I found you.”
His eyes narrowed. She thought he’d respond, but he didn’t. Had she actually left him speechless? It wasn’t easy to get the better of MacAllister. This might well be a first. The notion was oddly satisfying. Not that she had time to savor the experience.
Peeking over his shoulder again, she spotted the black-haired man. He’d muscled past a burly gent with a walrus mustache. Oh dear.
“Oh, I’ve missed you so.” Taking hold of MacAllister’s jacket lapels, she stepped close to his body. Ignoring the press of a button against her cheek, she buried her face against the tweed. “Hold me. Please.”
His arms enfolded her. “Do you intend to tell me what in blazes is going on?” His voice was low and husky, so familiar, even after all this time.
Glancing over his shoulder to scan the crowd behind him, she glimpsed a flash of her pursuer’s coal-black hair.
His sharp, indrawn breath betrayed the tension in his body. “Who are you looking for?”
“An old friend,” she whispered against his mouth. “I need you to do something…for me.”
“Tell me what you’re up to. I’ve no patience for games.”
Did you ever, MacAllister?
She clung to him like a drowning woman. “Please, hold me.”
To her relief, he played along.
Leaning closer, she lifted the netting on her hat, just enough to leave her eyes still veiled.
“This is no time for words.”
No time for hesitation.
He framed her face in his large, warm hands. “What is this about?”
“Stop talking and kiss me.”
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