Authors: Tiffany Clare
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Regency, #Historical
“I have not changed my mind where you are concerned. I was once young and stupid, but I’m too old to play your games now. You act as though I don’t understand your intent.”
“I’ve noticed one great change in you,” he said conversationally, as though her complaints against him were easy to ignore. Then again, he wasn’t denying what she had guessed to be the truth. “Would you care to know what that is?”
“What you think of me and what respectable society thinks of me are two very opposing views. You might think to associate me with the naïve young woman I was, but you’ll be sorely disappointed when you realize I grew up long ago. When you finally figure out that there is nothing between us, you’ll find another young woman to fawn your attentions on.”
“I’d rather not argue over something so trivial.”
“Then let me pass,
.” With a beseeching tone, she said, “And please, just leave me alone.”
“We should reacquaint ourselves.” Leo’s gaze traveled the length of her body. He wasn’t referring to mere friendship but another liaison.
“You might be a cad. But I never took you for a fool.”
“So you’ve already said. I’m still not letting you storm off. Not till this matter is settled between us.”
“You are an infuriating man. If I never had to spend another minute in your company for the rest of my days, I’d be the most content woman there ever was.”
“Now you wound me, princess.”
Making a bold move, Genny tried shouldering him away from the door latch so she could make an exit. Instead of budging from her path, Leo clutched each of her upper arms to hold her still, giving her no choice but to face him.
“Don’t tell me I’m the only one fighting this damnable attraction, Genny.”
Impressed he hadn’t caught her off guard, and had only put voice to the very thoughts she’d been having, she said coolly, “Whatever I felt for you four years ago was quelled the day you left to pursue your own path. Don’t flatter yourself and think that I’ve spared you a single thought since then.”
“Damn you,” he said vehemently.
She gasped, giving him an open advantage of her mouth. His lips took hers in what could only be described as a rather feral and delicious kiss; his tongue plunged between her startled lips and suddenly … she forgot all her arguments and …
It became impossible to remain cool and in control.
Because she wanted this. It was the second stupidest thing she’d done in her entire life, the first being her previous affair with him. She apparently had a reckless nature about her.
She forgot that she should be making efforts to avoid Leo, not tempt him and encourage their current position. She’d craved his kiss and touch for so long now, that she just wanted to enjoy the moment for a little while longer.
When his tongue delved deep into her mouth, she tasted him back. Just as eager, just as hungry for more as apparently he was. The stroke of his tongue slowed, became less urgent as she relaxed into the kiss. It was a reacquaintance of their sensual, need-to-be-touched side.
Foolishly, she’d thought her desire for him had dulled to a slow burn, but the feel of his lips pressed to hers, his solid body beneath her spread palms pliable and so very masculine, made her realize otherwise.
She wanted to touch him in the flesh. Strip him out of his clothes so she could feel the hard muscles roped throughout his body, and let him do the most wicked things he could possibly do to her—and preferably with his tongue. She wanted to sink into his skin and indulge in the sensation of his body next to hers.
Why couldn’t they forever indulge in this mutual passion? Why couldn’t things have turned out differently? Why had it been so easy for him to walk away at all?
An inferno of lust burned through her veins and seared her senses. It was impossible to remain impassive or idle. Not when her body had other ideas.
Leo’s, too. His hands slipped upward from her rib cage to lance the sides of her breasts, the action cutting through to her core like a sword through soft flesh.
She pulled away with sheer force of will, panting from the onslaught of his mouth hot against hers. His eyes were full of fire. Goodness, his gaze bored a hole straight through her center and pierced her fast pacing heart—but it didn’t slow any from the onslaught of feelings bombarding her. It hitched into a higher gear, fervent for more.
“Tell me you can so easily walk away from that,” he said.
Though she’d been flushed with desire, anger for her hasty actions outshone the passion she’d just felt and she donned her proverbial matron’s hat. It wasn’t easy to stand away from Leo, but she did it.
“I don’t want to see you again, my lord.” Her voice was cold. “I do hope you’ll make a point of avoiding my cousin, or I will find a way to make your life miserable.”
He remained silent and she thought her battle easily won. Until …
“I will take your challenge, my lady.”
“There is no challenge!” She pounded her fist against the wall beside her to emphasize her point. “There is nothing except an unseemly past between us. And if you don’t mind, I would like to keep that time between us buried exactly where it belongs … forever forgotten and easily dismissed as a past indiscretion.”
There must have been something in her expression that clearly showed she would not cede this argument for he stepped aside to finally let her pass.
She didn’t even glance at him as she reached for the door latch.
As she slid through the open door, Leo gently clasped her wrist in his warm hand. “We
see each other again.”
He stated it as a simple fact. Just a fact.
Only time would tell if that would come to pass. Well, she could be just as stubborn as he. And she’d make it a personal goal to avoid him at every turn from here on out.
They looked at each other for a long, charged moment. There was a small part of her that thrilled at the prospect of him chasing after her, but the rational part of her mind knew she had to shutter off those kinds of feelings. Nothing good would come from participating in a liaison with him.
This writer will certainly entertain readers today. Not only has Lord B
attended the most coveted dinner engagement of the season, but a Miss C
also known to my readers previously as the mysterious chaperone of one Lady C.L., has also attended this exclusive dinner party. One must wonder at her association with the revered countess.
The Mayfair Chronicles, May 29, 1846
After the Carleton dinner party, Leo hailed a hansom and headed directly for Hayden’s townhouse. They had arrived in Tristan’s coach, but his friend had wrapped not only Ponsley’s offspring around his finger but also Mrs. Greystone, a widow he knew well, who did this thing with her tongue around a man … He blew out a breath in frustration. Even the thought of Mrs. Greystone caught in flagrante delicto with that wicked tongue of hers didn’t rouse his ardor.
His thoughts remained on Genny. Good Lord, what in the name of heaven was wrong with him that caused his thoughts to be wholly consumed by one woman?
He had met Genny purely by accident. Some of Lady Carleton’s country party guests had daringly gone for a midsummer dip in a shallow, somewhat warm pond on her country property.
He rephrased that … a handful of the ladies in attendance of said summer party had doffed their heavy dresses and waded into the cooling water in only their underclothes. Of all the delectable sights he’d been privy to, that one topped the list of what he wished to see again.
He’d been enjoying an afternoon stroll away from the stuffed suits of his father’s set. Genny had boldly teased him and suggested he join them in the water. He’d been tempted,
tempted, but had refrained, and then more houseguests had arrived.
That had been the one and only time he recalled acting the perfect gentleman, ushering off the new arrivals so the women could find their way back to the house and don their society dresses as though nothing had happened. He swore on his walk back to the manor that he’d heard the odd giggle following closely behind.
That very evening, Genny had boldly introduced herself to him and thanked him for his discretion.
He found himself offering his services any time she so requested and had insisted she walk in the gardens to take the morning air with him the following day.
She had proposed a stargazing adventure instead, and without her maid in attendance, so they could freely enjoy themselves. How was a man to refuse such a generous offer? Better yet, what sane man would argue away the opportunity to spend a few unhindered hours with a beautiful woman?
They’d definitely enjoyed themselves. So much so, that for the first time in his twenty-five years—at the time—he had halted their intimacies before he found himself buried betwixt her lovely thighs.
That was not to say that they hadn’t indulged in other things. There had been much petting and stroking. There had also been plenty of kissing and in not so obvious places. He’d left marks on her skin that night, but had put them in places that would stay hidden from anyone’s prying eyes. Even then, he couldn’t resist finding her the night after that.
Pulling up to the duke’s townhouse, Leo pressed his hand to his straining erection, moving it to the side so he wasn’t so bloody uncomfortable in his trousers. He could not go anywhere in his current state.
Closing his eyes, he rested his head back on the worn leather seat and counted to five, all the while thinking of his father lecturing him on his behavior and conduct. His father insisting that he cut off all ties to the country lass he’d fallen for since it was nothing more than a passing fancy. Leo had known from the moment he’d left Genny behind that it was the wrong step to take. But how could he go back to her when she had the perfect opportunity to marry another?
Better fit for company now that his thoughts weren’t solely focused on one troublesome young woman, he stepped down from the hansom and flicked a coin up to the driver with a nod in farewell.
Hayden’s footman opened the door before Leo could lift the knocker. The tall young man bowed and stepped aside to allow him entrance.
“My lord,” he said, “His Grace is in his study.”
Leo removed his hat and gloves, and handed them over along with his cane. The man took them, leaving Leo to find his own way to Hayden’s study.
Leo strode down the hall, determined to get answers about Fallon’s will.
Smart man that Hayden was, he had not partaken in the game to woo the young lady out from Mr. Warren’s grasp. No one expected it of him. He had lived like a bloody monk for more than a year. Leo and Tristan thought maybe the last break-off with his mistress had done more lasting damage than anyone could guess. Hayden hadn’t set his eyes on another woman since that very public split.
The door to the study was ajar. Flickering amber indicated the lamps were lit bright. Stepping into the room, Leo located his friend sitting in a wingback chair. His feet were perched on a small ottoman, spectacles rested on the edge of his nose as he stared down at an open book in his lap.
The clock on the marble-encased mantel indicated the late hour with a chime at half past one. Leo took the settee across from his friend.
“Anything?” he asked, flopping back on the cushioned seat.
Hayden raised his brows, eyes focusing on Leo instead of the book he’d been reading. “Afraid not. Everything, including his investments, is tied into the entailments and estate. It can only be accessed by the Earl of Fallon and then signed off with the official Fallon seal.”
Hayden tossed the leather-bound book down on the table beside him. “Would you expect anything less after the tumultuous marriage they had?”
“No, I suppose not. Is there any way she can appeal the will?”
“Not without an issue.” When Leo opened his mouth to say something, Hayden raised his hand in a bid for silence. “I’ve already asked the delicate question. She knows she has no standing ground without an heir to succeed the father.”
“Christ, it just keeps getting worse. Mr. Warren doesn’t seem … How shall I word this?” Leo motioned with his hands as he searched for the right word. “Generous. He’s known as a pit bull in Parliament.”
“And with his upcoming engagement and nuptials, as Jez assures us, the chit will breed quickly. He’s already got bastards stretched from one end of the country to the other from what I’ve been able to dig up. Not that I could find proof of the so-called bastards.”
Did Jez think he and Tristan would court every marriageable young woman Mr. Warren set his sights on? While any man with a heavy hand for the fairer sex didn’t deserve to marry, they couldn’t stop him indefinitely from marrying. It wasn’t possible for so many reasons. The main one being that Leo was interested in one particular woman at the moment.
“Jez cannot expect us to court every young woman who could potentially take on her husband’s legacy. Not only is it poor sport, it’ll ban us from every social event of the season. Jez, too, should it be discovered what we are doing.”
Fingers drumming along the arm of the padded brocade chair, Hayden said, “Then let her assume you plan to complete the task at hand. In the meantime, I’ll talk to her. Maybe convince her to invest her meager annual into something offering high interest on returns. It should appease her for the time being.”
“It’s a start if nothing else.” Leo stood.
“I can make no promises, but I’ll try to convince her to take another path to secure her future. It’ll be difficult, though, because she has her sights set on her husband’s fortune.”
“Can you still hold up the will in court?”
“There is nothing I can do.” Hayden brushed his hands through his hair. “Everyone will wait out the year to make sure she isn’t increasing, then all the entailments will pass on to Mr. Warren.”
“So she has some time to plan her future.”