Excerpt from Love Be Mine

     
     There was a flurry of greetings and polite exchanges. Hugh's lips quirked in a sardonic smile at the air of reserve which overcame Micaela once she had recovered her surprise. Her nose was not exactly tilted as if she smelled something offensive, but very near. Unlike her mother, who was plainly pleased to see him.
     Hugh was so busy covertly studying Micaela's charming profile that he was barely aware of the conversation going on between Lisette and Jasper. It wasn't until Lisette said with amusement, "So, Monsieur Lancaster, you and Monsieur De Marco will join us for dinner tomorrow night, oui?" that he was recalled to himself.
     Recovering himself quickly, he murmured, "Dinner? Tomorrow night? It shall be my pleasure."
     "Bon!" Lisette said with a twinkle in her dark eyes. "We shall expect you at seven o'clock tomorrow evening."
     Hugh and Jasper bowed again. "Indeed you shall," Hugh said. "But for now, may we escort you to your destination?"
     Micaela, whose pulse had been acting erratically ever since she had first glanced up and met Hugh's glinting gray-eyed glance, said stiffly, "That will not be necessary, monsieur—we are almost there."
     "Ah, but I would be gravely remiss if I did not see you safely to where you are going. Just consider, mademoiselle—you might be accosted by someone—ah—objectionable." Hugh drawled, enjoying the vexed flush which stained Micaela's cheek.
     Micaela's bosom swelled with indignation. Dieu! The Américain was arrogant! A Creole would have graciously accepted the dismissal and would never have continued to insinuate himself where he was plainly not wanted. Smiling sweetly, she murmured, "But monsieur, you forget, this is still a city of Creoles, and Maman and I are not worried about being confronted by someone who would be so rude and overbearing as to force himself upon us." Her eyes sparkling with the light of battle, she added, "New Orleans is not like your rough Américain cities—our Creole gentlemen know how to take care of their own."
     Hugh grinned. "Well, that certainly put me in my place, did it not?"
     Micaela's eyes dropped, and she replied demurely, "One hopes so, monsieur, one sincerely hopes so."
     "Micaela!" Lisette burst out, a thread of laughter in her voice. "Do not be rude!"
     Micaela's gaze met Hugh's dancing gray eyes. "Oh," she asked, all innocence, "was I rude?"
     Hugh shook his head, the expression in his eyes making Micaela breathless. "Rude?" he murmured as he caught her hand in his and dropped a chaste kiss on the soft skin. "Oh, no, never rude... provoking, perhaps?"
 
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