A Deception Most Reckless
Lady Daphne Bevington would do anything for her maid Kate-including masquerading as Kate and sneaking around the wrong side of London to settle the poor girl's debt. Yet her innocent ruse takes a scandalous turn when "Kate" runs into a handsome gentleman on a secret quest of his own. A moment of passion could cost Daphne her reputation, but how can she ignore the stranger's searing kiss?
An Arrangement Most Wicked
Lord Cormack Northmore is determined to find the immoral peer who ruined his sister. So when he learns that the irresistible woman he knows as "Kate" is the Season's most sought-after debutante, Cormack plans to use her connections to help him set a trap. Now, the closer Cormack gets to uncovering the villain who haunts the ton's ballrooms, the more he realizes that the lovely lady is in danger herself. Will he abandon his quest for revenge-or risk losing his one chance at love?
The heat in his gaze intensified. He leaned toward her, his handsome face commanding her full attention. “So tell me, Kate, in addition to being a dancer to pay off this debt, and not a very talented one at that, did you also entertain patrons?”
“Entertain?” She blinked, flustered by his proximity, and his overwhelming maleness. Had he truly said she was not a good dancer? And wait… he had said patrons. She frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
Certainly he did not believe…well, she supposed he might, given the sordid circumstances in which he’d found her.
One dark eyebrow lifted. “The Blue Swan is a brothel.”
“Never,” she blurted, heat rising to scald her cheeks. “This was my first night ever to go to that place, and it was not at all what I’d expected.” She spoke the truth now. Not all her words were lies. “All I had was the address on a scrap of paper, and instructions that I would be a model in the tableaux.”
A sudden fear came over her, a dreadful worry that in her naivety she’d misjudged the stranger beside, that he wasn’t a gentleman, but instead just like the others who had crowded against the stage, mindless with lust. He could easily overpower her, and satisfy whatever male urges he wished.
But he did not. He instead eased back into the seat until shadows obscured his countenance, all but his sensual lips, which pursed and frowned. She sighed with relief
“Good.” He nodded. Below his breath, he muttered, “Yes, good…I suppose.”
He conveyed a mixed message, one of approval but also disappointment. What if she’d answered yes? Would he have sought to make use of her services? All the wicked things Sophia had described came to her in a vivid rush. Her mind entertained a fleeting fantasy, one of tangled sheets, muscled limbs and bare skin.
The very idea of being intimate with a stranger, with this stranger—
She exhaled, bemused.
--was not as appalling as it ought to be.
Perhaps it was the graveness in his eyes, above lips that she suspected always carried some semblance of a smile that made her heart contract and her blood run hot.
He really was nonpareil. No man in her social circle compared, but that was because he obviously wasn’t a nobleman. No nobleman would travel about London in a shabby, half-destroyed carriage nor converse on such familiar terms with their driver.
“Who are you, Cormack?” she asked.
“Are you a newspaperman? A store owner, or a sea captain? Please tell me, I want to know.”
“I…er, a merchant actually. Saltpeter.”
That answered her question. After tonight, she most certainly would never see him again. A merchant would never be allowed into the ballrooms of the haute ton. Even if he was deliriously rich, which he obviously wasn’t, given the condition of his equipage, the upper echelon of the beau monde, to which she had been born, simply did not intermingle with men of trade.
Her adventurous nature awakened. No, she didn’t intend to ever marry, but…what would be wrong with kissing a handsome, intriguing stranger she’d never see again?
Everything inside her soared and spiraled and exploded into sparkly stars at wondering. Again, her gaze settled on his mouth, which slowly, as if it read her mind, turned up at the corners, making her catch her breath.
At that moment, the carriage made a sudden turn and tilted steeply. Daphne toppled, the whole of her weight crushing into Cormack. His arms came round her, seizing her in place against his chest. The carriage bounced down again, and continued on, to the sound of Jackson cursing at another driver, but Cormack didn’t release her. How she wished she wasn’t wearing the coat, which smelled of damp wool. He, on the other hand, smelled delicious, like rainwater and soap.
“How unexpected,” he murmured, his mouth so close his breath feathered across her lips. “But not unwelcome.”
“No,” she whispered. “Not…unwelcome.”
About Lily Dalton
Lily Dalton grew up as an Army brat, moving from place to place. Her first stop after relocating was always the local library, where she could hang out with familiar friends: Books! Lily has an English degree from Texas A & M University and after graduation worked as a legal assistant in the fields of accident reconstruction and litigation. She now lives in Houston, Texas, with her family. When she isn't at work on her next manuscript, she spends her time trying out new recipes, cheering on her favorite Texas football teams and collecting old dishes, vintage linens and other fine "junque" from thrift stores and flea markets.
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