Deliciously Debauched by the Rake(3)

By: Ann Lethbridge



“You mother won’t like that.”

His dark eyes flashed fire. “What are you going to do about Elizabeth?”

John let Robert change the subject, because that was what friends did. And Robert had been tormented enough for one day. “What can I do? She wants more excitement. I’ve sent around a bank draft as promised in our contract.” He took a deep breath as a vision danced in his head. “And I’ll kill any man who goes anywhere near her.” But he wouldn’t, not if that was what she wanted.

Robert gave a crack of a laugh. “It is going to be odd seeing one of you without the other.”

“In other words, we were as dull as an old married couple.” His chest tightened as he echoed Elizabeth’s words. He never imagined she could hurt him quite so much. Or that she would ever leave.

Robert grimaced.

“Damn it all, Robert, it was good. Or I thought it was. Years ago, when we first met, she said she would never marry again. Now I know why. She clearly prefers variety.”

Robert downed a huge swallow of brandy. “So she’s ready to move on. To find someone new to light her fires.” He shrugged. “I guess you let the flames go out.”

John shot to his feet. “Damn you, Robert. I did not let—” Had he? Wasn’t that what Lizzie had said? The spark is gone. Then why did he care? Why did he, every time he thought of her with another man, want to choke the life out of someone?

Robert peered up at him. “Never take a woman for granted, John,” he said glumly. “Don’t forget to send her diamonds or pearls or she’ll be calling you a skinflint behind your back.”

If he didn’t leave soon, it might be his best friend he murdered. “Thanks for the advice. Will I see you tomorrow?”

Robert downed the last of his brandy. “Likely not. There is nothing for me here. I’ve an interview with my mother in the morning, then I’m gone.”

“So having debauched an innocent, you are just going to walk away. I thought better of you.”

Robert glared at him. “Look to your own house before you poke your nose in mine.”

Not one to be easily aroused to temper, John was shocked at the ire burning in his chest. The fury running though his veins. He glared at his best friend. “Then I wish you the best of luck. If you can ever bend that stiff neck of yours enough to ask for help, you will always find it at my door.”

He threw a few coins on the table and stomped out of the disreputable inn where Robert had taken rooms.

Now what? He glanced up and down the street. This area really was unpleasant and he’d be wise to take a hackney home. Except he didn’t want to go home.

The thought of his neat little townhouse without Elizabeth’s smiling face and delectable body didn’t hold any allure. Then he’d go to the Bedford Square town house. His official residence. A place he only set foot in once or twice a year. He’d order up the best wine from the cellars and see how many bottles it took before the pain in his chest subsided.

Lost the spark, had he? That was like telling a man his wedding tackle no longer worked. Well, his worked fine, thank you very much. He had no doubt there would be a dozen females lining up to enjoy what he had on offer once they knew Elizabeth was out of his life.

A sense of purpose filled him. Dammit. He’d show Elizabeth he hadn’t lost his spark. By thunder, he would.



With the Season barely begun, the opera house audience was sparse. Most of the ton remained at their country estates after holidays, until Parliament resumed. It was a good thing. The absence of Society’s high sticklers would allow Elizabeth to become accustomed to her new state of affairs.

Widow. A woman alone.

She didn’t need another protector. John had been more than generous over the years. But since she’d told him she was looking for excitement, she could hardly sit at home mourning for what could not be.

Living with John all of these years had put her beyond the pale of good Society, so here she sat in her rented box at the opera, another gift from John, looking as if she was selling her wares. And when the time came, she would enjoy watching John choose his bride and begin his family.

Without her.

It was the right thing to do. For him. The thought of seeing him was like a knife in her heart. She’d been angry after her husband died, longing for freedom. But she’d also been poor and desperate.

John had rescued her from the prospect of utter destitution. At the time, she hadn’t realized he was younger than she was. Inheriting his title so early had matured him far beyond his years. She owed him her gratitude. This was one way she could repay that debt. Cut him loose. Make it impossible for him to come back by taking another man.

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