Today's Reading

"Release me, sir. Right now."

She gave him a surprisingly strong shove, which unfortunately caused her to lose her balance and go under again.

Sighing, Graeme hauled her back to the surface. "If you would hold still for a minute and let me get this bonnet off, you would see that I am not your assailant."

She stopped flopping about. He yanked the blasted hat back so it dangled from her neck instead of covering her face.

"I'm trying to rescue you," he added.

She glared at him. "You're making a hash of it, then. And I'm perfectly capable of rescuing myself."

"I don't think the man who attacked you would agree."

Graeme pulled her to the edge of the greensward that surrounded the water.

"I was doing quite well on my own, thank you very much."

"Yes, I noticed that when you were tumbled into the water."

"Which only happened after you rushed up at us."

Graeme stared at her in disbelief. "He was attacking you, lass. What in God's name was I supposed to do? Stroll on by and let you two thrash it out?"

For a moment, it seemed she would continue her fiery tirade. Then she reached up and rubbed her nose, as if trying to prevent a sneeze. When she dropped her hand, Graeme saw her mouth curve up in a rueful smile. She had beautiful lips as plump and pink as a budding rose.

Which, of course, had nothing to do with anything.

"I sound awfully ungrateful, don't I?" she said. "It was very kind of you to jump in after me, although quite unnecessary. I'm a very good swimmer."

"No bogged down by that rig. That cloak must weigh twenty pounds by now."

"Perhaps you haven't noticed that we're both standing on the bottom. The Serpentine's not very deep at this end of the park."

Graeme looked down. He was only submerged to his waist, while the water reached her chest.

"It's deeper further out, but I only went under because he pushed me so hard," she said. "I was quite safe at all times."

Graeme couldn't help feeling annoyed. "To me, it looked like you were drowning. Anyone would have assumed that you were drowning."

"I was just surprised, that's all. But of course there was no way for you to know that," she hastily added.

He was beginning to get the sense that she thought him rather dimwitted. "It's not as if genteel ladies make a habit of paddling around in the Serpentine."

She nodded. "Correct. Having said that, do you think we could get on with the rescue?"

Apparently, he was a dimwit. "My apologies."

The lass shoved the wreck of her coiffure out of her eyes.

"I'd like to get out of here before anyone sees us."

"Little chance of being seen with this weather."

A quick glance around the park confirmed it remained deserted. Even the men of the Royal Humane Society had failed to put in an appearance, despite all the watery flailing about. The small building on the opposite side of the Serpentine was staffed at all hours in the event a hapless Londoner needed rescuing. In this case, it probably hadn't occurred to the staff that anyone would be larking about on so dismal a morning.

Why this particular woman was larking about was the question. Because of her, Graeme had lost his thief. Again. And that was incredibly annoying.

"Thank goodness," she said. "Naturally, I'm grateful for your help, but it might have been better if you hadn't come along at all."

Unbelievable.

He planted one hand on the embankment, keeping hold on her with the other. "How awkward of me. Thoughtless, really."

She crinkled her nose. "I just sounded rude again, didn't I?"

"Oh, not a bit."

"I will need your help climbing out of the water," she replied in an encouraging tone. "I'm positively waterlogged, and my fingers are rather chilled. Who knew the water would be this cold in the summer?"

It felt more like bath water to him, but he was a Highlander. He was used to mountain streams and lochs that could freeze the balls off a bull in August.
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