Paris, France, 1836
Aha! He was being smothered by a pair of breasts.
That at least explained the strong scent of a woman. Julian shifted between the two luscious mounds and gasped for air as a most delectable female creature murmured unintelligible phrases in his ear. Unfortunately, even the touch of the little French goddess couldn't raise him higher than half-mast. A crane couldn't raise him higher than half-mast--damned appendage was nothing but trouble of late.
Julian sighed, realized he was still holding a bottle of whiskey, and managed to take a good swig of it before burying his face between her breasts again. A bead of perspiration trickled down his temple and he couldn't help smiling; perhaps he just wasn't trying hard enough. As if on cue, sweet Lisette sighed longingly, inflaming all of his masculine senses--except that one, curse it to hell--and Julian attempted to position himself for another go at it. His fingertips brushed a taut nipple; his palm cupped the firm swell of her breast--
The cold hands on his shoulders startled him so badly he couldn't even cry out. Suddenly, he felt himself being lifted and heard Lisette's muffled shriek as the bottle of whiskey flew out of his hand and scudded across the bed. He caught just a glimpse of the elaborate frieze moldings on the ceiling before he hit the hard wood floor with a resounding thud.
Now that hurt. Wincing painfully, Julian glanced up at his assailant. "What in blazes did you do that for?" The response was the toss of his shirt onto his head. He yanked it from his face and glared up at the infidel towering high above him--Louis Renault, otherwise known in this godforsaken country as Monsieur le Comte de Claire. A scoundrel if Julian had ever known one, an insufferable Frog with all the manners of a toad, and most unfortunately, the husband of his sister Eugenie.
Unsteadily, Julian gained his feet.
With disapproval seeping through every pore, Louis let his gaze sweep over Julian as he folded his arms across his chest. "Did you come to Paris to make trouble for me? Is that how you repay my kindness to your sister?" he demanded in that smooth, silky way he had of speaking English, and stooped to pick up Julian's trousers. "Come. Your frolic is fini. You must go from here."
Go? Julian glanced at Lisette, who smiled seductively and twisted a blonde lock around one finger. From here? His focus slipped to the rumpled bedding--ho there! Where was his whiskey?
"Kettering, listen to me!" With supreme effort, Julian forced himself to look at the Frog--no small feat given that there appeared to be at least two of him. "You are in danger. . . . Do you understand?"
He understood all right. "Ridiculous," he mumbled, and waved dramatically at the little French goddess. "What danger is Lisette?"
With a snort, Louis tossed his trousers to him, which Julian caught clumsily against his chest. "If you do not leave Paris at once, Monsieur LeBeau will see you shot. Or worse. Dress, will you?"
Dress. One glance down his naked body and Julian silently agreed that he ought to at least cover up the offending parts. All right, he'd dress, but he wasn't going anywhere with Louis. He was going to crawl right back into that bed and pick up where he had left off. Needing both hands to attempt the trousers, he dropped his shirt and lifted one leg. He missed.
This would, apparently, require some keen navigational skills. "Mon Dieu! I'll be forced to carry you from here!" Louis exclaimed, and grabbing Julian's arm--rather tightly--steadied him so that he could get his trousers on. "I distinctly warned you of the trouble you were causing, didn't I? LeBeau is a hateful man. I told you this, more than once I told you this, but would you listen? No! I ask you now--Madame LeBeau, is she so appealing for all the trouble you've caused?"
Julian paused with one leg in and one leg out of his trousers to ponder that. He could vaguely recall seeing Gisele LeBeau. Had she actually kissed him again? Probably. The woman could fill an ocean with her gall.
"What, so you think he would ignore this?" Louis heatedly continued. "Some of the most important names in Paris attend the balls on the Boulevard St Michel. How could you humiliate him so? Dallying with his very own wife!"
Actually, Gisele had cornered him when he wasn't looking, not the other way around. And what was he to do? When a comely woman pressed her breasts against him, he was only human. "Ha!" Julian interjected, thrusting the second leg into his trousers with such force that he swerved right into Louis's chest. "LeBeau is a . . ." --he had to think about this--"a shrimp. With ears," he added firmly, and clumsily attempted the buttons.
A hard jerk of his arm, and Louis was suddenly standing so close that Julian had trouble focusing on his flaring nostrils. "You would do well to heed my advice, mon ami. In France, a discreet affair is something a man expects and may tolerate, but to publicly coqueter with his wife in the most crowded ballroom in all of Paris is another thing entirely. These things turn deadly when a man's honor has been compromised! Trust me, LeBeau will see you dead if you remain here!"
The image that conjured up suddenly made Julian laugh. For some unknown reason, so did Lisette.
A rapid-fire, heated string of French fairly burst from Louis's lips. Although Julian thought he spoke French fairly well, when Louis was in a mood, he spoke that fast, never-let-an-Englishman-understand-you French. Hell, even Lisette seemed to be having trouble keeping up with him. With an impatient flick of his wrist, Julian said, "You fret like an old woman, Renault. Off with you now."
What was amazing, Julian would later recall, was that he never saw Louis move. He never even felt the impact of Louis's fist against his jaw. He just had the strange sensation of flying before everything went black.