“Hit him! screamed the onlookers. Show ‘im what for!
The sentiment was echoed all around until Mellie actively hated them all. Not just the crowd, but the two combatants. Trevor and Ronnie, fighting like boys in the school yard. Bloody and violent, to be sure, especially since they were grown men, but she consoled herself that no one was likely to die. Which is when Trevor stepped in a hole.
He cried out in surprise and pain. Thank God he was wearing boots, otherwise his leg might have snapped in two. As it was, he tumbled down into the mud and Ronnie clearly meant to finish the fight. But he hadn’t reckoned on Melinda. She’d been an unwilling participant in this whole disgusting display. Well, if her cousin wanted a Cheltenham tragedy, she would bloody well give him one.
She surged forward. Stop it! Ronnie, stop it now! And when he didn’t hear her, she said the words she’d never thought she’d utter in her entire life. My love!
That got his attention. Mellie!
She flung herself forward, sliding in the mud to stop right beside Trevor’s head. Ronnie reached for her, but she pushed him away as she wrapped herself around the fallen lord. My love, are you alive? Oh God, someone fetch a doctor!
Trevor’s face was a battered mess, but not so unrecognizable that she didn’t see the gleam of appreciation in his eyes or the mischievous smile that pulled at his swollen lip.
Are you an angel? he asked. Have I died?
The man was lying in the mud, his ankle nearly snapped in half. His face oozed from a myriad of cuts, and yet he still had the wherewithall to give the crowd a good show. It was enough to make her contemplate dropping him in the mud.
Meanwhile, Ronnie just stood there poised, his fist still raised as he gaped. I won. This was an affaire d’honor.
Congratulations, she mocked. You beat a man half your weight.
I’m not that small, muttered Trevor.
Shut up. I’m making a point. Then she turned her attention to her cousin. You were right, Ronnie. You have made everything clear. I could never love a brute like you. I love Trevor.
Since never. She had a thorough disgust of them both. Especially as Trevor began to speak in a quavering voice.
Oh, to finally hear those words, now in the moments before I expire. Kiss me, my love. Mayhap your love will keep me tethered to this mortal coil.
I will not, she said between clenched teeth.
He pitched his voice to a plaintive wail. Then I shall die for sure!
Damnation on all bloody, arrogant, ridiculous men! One glance about her showed that the crowd was hanging on his every word. She didn’t really care until she looked at Ronnie’s face. He wasn’t stupid. He could see that Trevor wasn’t really hurt. It wouldn’t take him long to remember that she’d never spoken of Trevor with anything but disdain. And from there it was a small step to realizing that this entire display was a sham. So she had to do something quickly. Something that he’d never forget, even if he did suspect the lie.
She kissed Trevor.
She more than kissed him. She lifted him in her arms and gave him the kind of scorching kiss that every woman dreamed she’d receive from the grandson of a duke. And hehorrible roue that he waswrapped his arm around her shoulders and kissed her right back.
And he kept kissing her, with tongue and teeth and a growl of hunger so wonderful that she hated him even more. Even as she lost all thought to propriety in this very public place.