Sirtris guided Miralys along the path toward the cottage, amused by her air of obedient contrition. She couldn’t actually be regretting the dress, he decided, since she’d worn it specifically to provoke him. This was all going according to her plan.
“I was wondering,” she said with a direct glance, “when you intended to speak to my father.”
“I speak to him regularly, Miralys,” he said.
“That isn’t what I meant, and you know it.”
He stopped and turned to gaze down at her. She had tears in her eyes, a common enough occurrence. He knew better than to believe it most of the time. “You have no intention of giving up, do you?”
“Never,” she whispered.
“Then I can wait indefinitely, can’t I?” He began walking again, leaving her behind on the pathway. Something clipped the side of his head, a mild blow that did no more than startle him. One of her slippers landed on the pathway ahead of him.
“Damn you, Damon Sirtris,” she yelled at his back. “I have worked very hard at this. I went to that school, and I stayed there, and I hated it, but I did what you told me to do.”
Four years before, he’d told a disheveled child that he would never consider marrying someone who couldn’t act like a lady, and she had meekly gone off to the finishing school her father had found. Amazing them all, she’d stayed there, despite having been expelled from every school she’d attended before.
“Has it ever occurred to you,” he said over his shoulder, “that you might allow me to court you, rather than the other way around?”
“That would take forever,” she complained.
He turned back to look at her. She had, indeed, grown up to be as beautiful as her mother. Her shining black hair coiled over her shoulder in one loose curl, resting temptingly on her coat. Her flawless skin showed a hint of red about the cheeks, either her irritation or the cold.
She wasn’t Galasiene, but she still seemed to be annoyingly perfect for him. He hoped his parents wouldn’t be too upset. “Are you going to agree to let me do the courting, or not?” Sirtris asked.
Her dark eyes turned toward the path and a furrow appeared between her elegant brows as she most likely considered how she could twist around his request to be in control of the situation. She raised her eyes after a second. “Yes, Damon,” she murmured. Recently they’d become his two favorite words.
Sirtris crossed the distance between them and drew her to him with one arm. She looked startled, a precious thing since nothing ever flustered her. He lowered his lips to hers, kissing her as gently as he could manage in his annoyed state.
Her hands immediately came up to tangle in his hair, overlong now since he hadn’t been to a barber in almost two months. He pulled away, but she refused to let him go. “The very first thing I’m going to do when we’re married,” he whispered, “is to take you over my knee and spank you as your father should have years ago.”
“Truly?” she asked, dark eyes wide.
“Absolutely.” He kissed her again and then extricated himself from her arms, not wanting to get himself in more trouble than he could handle. “For now, you are going to put on a more modest dress.”
“You’re very overbearing,” she said, her mouth making a little moue.
“Which is why you like me,” he pointed out.
This time, she didn’t argue.