He sported a long, leather coat, well-scuffed and worn open to show a pair of rough trousers and a workman’s shirt, unbuttoned at the throat.
Nothing wrong in that. Dorothea’s own father was a worker, if a skilled one—the blacksmith back home. This man had no blacksmith’s build. Instead he looked light on his feet, square-shouldered and graceful as quicksilver. Brash confidence rolled off him in waves.
As she stood staring across the road in consternation, he held up her hat and grinned before casting a look both ways and jogging over to her side.
He brought a presence with him that backed Dorothea up a step or two. She might credit it to the set of those fine shoulders or the grin that still occupied his face or the swagger he displayed that made the most of his height which, surely, didn’t top six feet.
He reached her, spent an instant examining her closely and presented her hat with a sweeping bow worthy of a practiced thespian.
“Lovely miss, I’m thinking this belongs to you.”
“Yes. Yes it does, thank you.”
Dorothea reached for the hat but, like the rascal he undoubtedly was, he kept it from her grasp, pretending to examine it closely. He brushed off a bit of grit from the brim and fingered the now-tattered veil.
“A mite worse for its adventure, but no doubt you can mend it, women having a certain magical talent for such things.”
Again, Dorothea reached for her hat; again he kept it from her only to take a step closer and set it on her head.
“There you go, beautiful lady. You will be sure and hold on to it more closely next time.”
Dorothea, assaulted by the full force of his masculinity, said nothing though she reached up one hand and clamped the hat to her head. She looked into his face and all the breath fled her lungs.
He wore no hat and had a head full of copper curls well-tossed by the wind. His face screamed Ireland with a broad forehead and slightly-squared jaw all sprinkled with freckles visible even beneath his worker’s tan. His eyes—but no. Dorothea met them once before her gaze skittered away much as the hat had, only to return again on a rush of fascination.
Tawny gold as those of a tom cat, his eyes held a world of emotions: amusement first of all, that flaming confidence, an uncanny wisdom and a hint of daring. Dorothea responded to the last first—seldom did she fail to accept a dare.