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With a smirk clinging to the corners of his mouth, he swung himself around to face the wall. “Let me know if you need assistance,” he said in a singsong voice.
“I’ll be fine,” she muttered. Her fingers twitched with memories and urges that had never fully gone away.
“If you insist,” he said. “I just know how queens get used to having others dress them, pamper them …” He raised his arms in an exaggerated stretch. “Just want you to know that my services are available.”
“Stop talking, Gild,” she said, her whole body flushed now.
He answered with a laugh.
Even as she tore off what was left of her chemise and shimmied into the gown he’d brought, her skin, bare against the dress’s fabric, tingled with memories of where his fingers had once traveled. The backs of her knees. The sensitive skin along her rib cage.114
She gave a ferocious shake to her head as she straightened the gown’s fabric. “All right, you can turn around. Will you do the laces?”
“Ah, so you do need my help?”
She cast her eyes to the ceiling. “You’re insufferable.”
“You seem to like me anyway.”
She paused, half turned around, and faced him again, catching the hand that had been reaching for the laces. She held his gaze and he froze, the teasing glint fading in his eyes.
“I do, Gild,” she said earnestly. “I do, so very much.”
His mouth opened, but she didn’t give him a chance to respond before she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his, trying to fill the kiss with all the words she wasn’t allowed to say. She might be married to the Erlking, but she wantedhim. Only him.
Her eyes were watering when she pulled away. Gild watched her, his expression both hopeful and … heartbroken.
Without a word, Serilda turned her back to him.
She was both relieved and disappointed when Gild cinched up the laces with as much integrity as a gentleman could. He did not let his fingertips trace the triangles of bare skin, or linger at the nape of her neck. He did not lean closer, letting his breath dance against the back of her ear. He did not embrace her from behind and start to undo his hard work.
And everything he didn’t do left Serilda boiling over with a yearning she’d spent the past months shoving deep, deep down into herself.
“There you are,” he said, quietly stepping back.
Serilda faced him again. “Thank you.”
He must have seen it in her eyes. He must have known. She couldn’t have hidden her desire from him if she’d tried.
His eyes darkened, but for once, he had no cocky remark.
Serilda swallowed.
They were alone.
No one would know if she stole one more kiss. One more embrace.
No one had to know.115
She took a step forward. “Gild, I—”
“They’re waiting for you,” he stammered, as his hands came up to her arms. Not to pull her closer, but to hold her back.
She froze. “What?”
“The children. Everyone. They’re waiting for you.” Gild gave a fleeting smile. “We wouldn’t want anyone to worry.”
Chapter Fourteen