Venice, 1262 AD
Though Adair knew he shouldn’t encourage her, he felt pity for the girl. At his positive response, her pretty face lit up and she dropped her gloveless hand on his, so their skin touched for the first time. She might as well have set his hand on fire. After a momentary dizziness, he recalled his earlier decision—to never take a wife and be married instead to science—and opened his mouth to speak. It would be caddish to mislead her.
“Elena, there is something I must tell you, however—”
Her dark eyes widened at his words. “Oh no. You are already betrothed! Is that what you were going to say?” She clutched his arm, this time digging her fingers into his sleeve.
“No, Elena. It’s not that, not at all.” The emotion in her voice caught him off guard. With Elena, his head was clouded. She was a thing of both extraordinary liveliness and tempting softness, from the glossy dark curls on her head to the organdy tucked along the neckline of her gown. The scent of warm lavender oil rose from her bare throat. She was a beautiful little present, wrapped in silk and lace.
“Then there is no problem if you were to kiss me.” She smiled at her own daring. She lifted her chin and closed her eyes, clearly expecting him to take up her offer. He tingled with fear and desire. He had little experience kissing in passion aside from a few experiments with his cousins back in Hungary. The few whores he had known did not expect, or even particularly want, to be kissed. He tried to put these thoughts out of his mind as he looked at Elena. Why not kiss the girl? They were alone, no chaperones hovering at their side. The bishop’s footsteps echoed down the hall, but he was still a distance away.