Mr. Knightley smiled, and Emma noticed that his lips were distractingly full. It was the only thought she was capable of before he startled her by moving from the settee to the chaise to sit beside her. The movement was slight and one he had often made in the company of others, but Emma was of a sudden reminded that she and Mr. Knightley had not been alone together, as decorum and Miss Taylor had dictated, since Emma was perhaps fourteen. Perhaps decorum was in the right. The moment they were alone, Emma’s thoughts were running rampant.
Mr. Knightley leaned toward her slightly, and she unconsciously mirrored the movement. She could feel his breath on her cheek as he spoke. “Come,” said he a bit roughly, “you are anxious for a compliment, so I will tell you that you have improved her. You have cured her of her school-girl’s giggle; she really does you credit.”
His words momentarily penetrated her focus on the way his mouth moved as he talked. She realised he had complimented her. Emma could not have anticipated the warmth she felt in her cheeks any more than she could have anticipated his praise. He was not one to throw around flattery lightly. “Thank you. I should be mortified indeed if I did not believe I had been of some use; but it is not every body who will bestow praise where they may. You do not often overpower me with it.” The last had slipped from her lips unheeded, and Emma wished the words back again. She could not tell what had driven her to reveal that thought, and in such a tone as to betray an injury Emma did not want to admit feeling. Emma could only blame the odd state of her mind at present. If she were to ever have hope of keeping her composure for the rest of Mr. Knightley’s visit, she must keep a tight rein on her thoughts.
Mr. Knightley gazed at her intently. Those eyes that she now saw had flecks of green in them had heat swirling within. He was sitting extraordinarily close. The chaise was small and afforded no ample space. She could feel the heat of his skin through his breeches and her skirts. Her gaze dropped to her lap where her hands had fisted together quite on their own. Oh dear, she thought as she felt her thoughts slip her control.
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