Deliciously Debauched by the Rake(7)

By: Ann Lethbridge

“Mmmm,” he said considering, thoughtful. “I prefer you.”

Her stomach gave a little sensual hop at the heat in his voice and the flame of desire in his eyes. Her heart began to flutter in her chest. Her body to respond to his nearness with heat, the way it always did. “That was not quite what I meant.”

He picked up her gloved hand and played with her fingers, stroking and massaging and, she realized, slowly removing her lacy glove. She really should deny him the liberty. But why? Years before she’d decided that becoming a courtesan was the only way out of her financial difficulties. Those difficulties were gone now. She could choose for herself.

He wanted to be her lover. They were adults, not children. And besides, his touch felt absolutely delicious. Strong and firm yet gentle. The lace slid from off and his fingers stroked her bare palm. Her skin shivered all over with pleasure.

She’d always loved his hands. Long fingers, capable yet elegant whether handling the reins or the laces of her gown.

She’d loved everything about him, after her initial shame and fear.

He turned her hand over and pressed his lips to the inside of her wrist. Her pulse jumped so hard he must have felt it against his mouth.

“You taste delicious,” he murmured against her skin. He swirled his tongue in her palm.

Her insides melted. She felt loose and open and thoroughly weak.

But she wasn’t the naive and terrified widow she’d been when she first met him. She was a woman who could give as good as she got. She ran the rose down the side of his face. A whispering brush of petals. His eyes closed in obvious pleasure, she brushed the petals across his flickering eyelid and he smiled. She swooshed it around the shell of his ear and he hissed in a breath.

Her core pulsed at the sound.

All around them the air was filled with sweet perfume, heavy and enticing.

He drew back, his chest rising and falling with the obvious effort to regain control. “May I engage you to accompany me out this evening?” he asked, as was proper for a man with no prior claim. Her presence would cost him dearly. It would require a gift of jewels at the very least.

A flirtatious considering tilt of her head elicited a quick smile. “Say yes,” he urged. “I promise you will not be sorry.”

She had the feeling that when all this was over, she was going to be very sorry indeed. It had been hard enough to let him go once. But a second time? It would be hell. And yet he had brought her to the brink of excitement with his game, and regrets were in the future. She had been brusque at their separation. Like a surgeon with a knife. Perhaps she should have given them both time to get used to the idea. Let him down more gently.

“Very well,” she said.

To her dismay, he rose to his feet and strode for the door.

“George,” she said quietly. “How did you know where to find me? Do I have to relieve Broom of his duties?”

“Your man is a fortress, my dear lady.” He flashed a grin. “I followed you home.”

“Oh.” Simple, logical, straightforward. Just like John. Only he was nothing like her John.

“I will come for you at ten o’clock,” he said.

“So late?”

He shrugged. A devilish twinkle lurked in his eyes. “The real party does not start until later.”

Later was always the time for the madness and the badness of the scurrilous side of the ton.

Chapter Three

Elizabeth regarded the black gown in the mirror. It had arrived just before dinner, along with the scarlet domino and mask. “Wear these for me, G.” had been scrawled on the accompanying note.

He must be taking her to Vauxhall. In January. She heaved a sigh. She’d tired of the tawdry entertainments years ago. But the gown was shocking. Intriguing. A bodice gathered at the neck with a fine satin ribbon and made almost entirely of lace, skirts of the sheerest black silk and tied under the bust with gold. He’d even included the skimpiest chemise she’d ever seen and stays which fit her form to perfection. All in black. All in the finest sheerest fabric. The feel of them against her skin was heavenly. Sensual.

Black silk stockings tied above the knee and black satin slippers completed the outfit. Except for jewellery. She chose pearls.

A knock on the door below hurried her along. She threw the domino around her shoulders, fastening the hidden buttons down the front. A clever way of preventing anyone from seeing anything but the hem of the outrageous gown beneath. Thank heavens. Though why bother with the gown, if it was not to be seen? Mask in hand, she rushed downstairs.

The silky gown clung to her legs, brushed the insides of her thighs in a most seductive sensation. She gasped at the shock of it, pausing on the stairs.

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