Noble Passions, Book 2
by Sabrina York
Ebook ISBN: B01HSER81O
[ Regency BDSM Romance, MF ]
Posing as a dowdy companion, the last thing she expects is to snag the attention of the notorious Dark Duke, but when he seduces her with charm and a wicked hand, she can’t help hoping he will want to keep her.
Edward Wyeth, Duke of Moncrieff, stared at the fire crackling in the hearth. It was a rare moment of peace and quiet in a world that had been turned on its end.
Of course, to obtain this singular moment alone, he’d had to hide. Here. In the small, oft-forgotten study on the third floor of his suddenly inundated home.
Relatives. He shuddered and took a sip of fine forty-year-old Wyeth whiskey. Six rambunctious boys, an innocent debutante, a flatulent aunt and a sour-faced companion.
The fire popped and spat embers into the grate. He nestled deeper into the stately wingchair and tried to banish his gloomy thoughts.
That was the problem with peace and quiet. It had a tendency to lead one to unfortunate reflection.
He had no business feeling dissatisfied with his life. He was a duke, for God’s sake. His household ran smoothly—or it had until his brood of cousins had descended. He was wealthy, healthy. The world was at his feet. Anything he wanted was his for the taking.
Where this trickle of dissatisfaction came from, he hadn’t a clue.
Surely it had nothing to do with her. He frowned as visions of Helena Tully, now Countess Darlington, flickered through his mind. It wasn’t that he’d wanted her very much—although he had. It was the fact that she had married James.
James was married. The two were deeply in love.
Edward should not feel this unpleasant curl of envy.
He took another sip of whiskey. And then a gulp.
Damn it all anyway. He’d never wanted to be in love. Besotted. Stumbling around after a twitching skirt. What idiot did?
But watching Helena and James court, coo like lovebirds and drool over each other as they awaited their wedding had burned in his gut. Every encounter had been torment. The worst of it all had been watching them stand at the altar in St. Paul’s, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes like mooning cattle.
It was revolting. Surely he didn’t want that.
So why this melancholy?
Edward was alone. All alone in the world. He always had been—until his brood of cousins had descended. No one to please but himself. He liked it that way.
And why this nagging emptiness? As though something was lacking in his life?
There was nothing fucking lacking.
His life was full. Damn full.
He had his hobbies—horses and boxing and of course his writing, although that had stalled thanks to a young man’s reckless penchant for racing curricles. He had willing women at his beck and call, all of whom appreciated his particular tastes.
He didn’t dare think on how even that had begun to pall.
Not that he didn’t still enjoy having a willing wench bound and squirming on his bed. He just felt so…jaded. Nothing was new, nothing was thrilling anymore.
He had six houses, four carriages and seventeen of the most exquisite Arabians that had ever been bred. He didn’t even bother to count the servants.
Full. It was a full life.
And still—it was deadly dull.
He tipped back his glass and thought about heading across the room for a refill, but couldn’t be bothered. Instead he glared at the fire and brooded.
A snick at the door captured his attention. He turned to see a wraith enter. No. Not a wraith. A girl, wearing a voluminous white nightgown. Hell. His cousin’s vinegary companion—what was her name? It hardly mattered. The chit was a mouse. A timid, shy creature with spectacles and a tight bun, who curled up inside herself whenever he entered the chamber. He didn’t think he’d ever heard her speak so much as a word in the two months since the Onslaught.
Gads. Would these interlopers find him even here?
He sank deeper into the chair, thankful for the ornate wings, desperately wishing he’d refilled his glass. Hopefully she would come and go without noticing him, without requiring him to bestir himself to converse.
She hummed to herself as she perused the shelves on the wall. He should probably tell her she would find nothing of interest. This small collection held only his favorite books, ones he’d felt the need to rescue from the main library when he’d come upon Taylor—or was it Hamish? The two were nearly identical—using older tomes to start a fire in the umbrella stand.
She pulled out a book and flipped through the pages, then returned it to the shelf. And then another.
Edward forbore blowing out a sigh. He truly did not want to be discovered—
And then she walked in front of the fire and every fiber of his being snapped to attention. His cock stirred. For as she passed, backlit by the flames, captivating curves were revealed to his inspection. Her hair, no longer scraped back in that hideous bun, flowed softly over her shoulders and down her back—all the way to her exquisitely formed bottom.
Imagine that. The little mouse. In her drab, ill-fitting clothing. With the spectacles perched on her nose. A prim, proper pucker ever fixed on her unremarkable face.
She had glorious curves.
Edward shifted restlessly and she froze.
She spun to gape at him, eyes wide. Her hand flew to her chest. She gasped. She would have done more than gasp had she known this new position gave him an even more tantalizing view. She would have run.
“Oh. Your Grace. I’m so sorry. I dinna know anyone was here.”
Her voice, a lilting brogue, sent a curl of pleasure through him. He should have guessed. His cousins had come to his home from Perth. Of course Violet’s companion would be a Scot.
“Not at all, my dear.” Hell. What was her name again? He couldn’t remember. “Are you looking for a particular book?”
She blinked. Glanced at the door and then back at him. Tucked her hair behind her ear. “I-I couldna sleep.”
“I see.” In his experience, women who couldn’t sleep couldn’t sleep for a reason. A little devil stirred inside him. It was an old friend, that devil. “May I make a recommendation?”
He smiled—a slow, knowing grin. “A book, of course.” He could think of several she might find…illuminating.
“I doona want to be a bother.”
“Not at all. As it happens, I too could not sleep.” He waved to the seat by his side. “Please join me.”
“I should no’.” Again she looked at the door, as though she wanted to escape. The predator within him went to point.
“Nonsense. We’re both restless. Why not enjoy each other’s company for a while?” Truth be told, he could listen to that voice all night. Naturally, he’d prefer to hear it warbling in his ear as he sank into her, but given what he knew of her, that prospect wasn’t likely.
What a damn shame.
Because for the first time in a long while, he was intrigued.
To his delight, she sat.
No, he probably couldn’t seduce her, but he could toy with her a bit. That would be diverting. He did so enjoy toying with innocents. He fixed his features into an avuncular arrangement and threaded his voice with just the right amount of indifference. “May I offer you a drink?”
“A drink, Your Grace?”
He kept from grimacing, but only just. “Please, call me Edward.”
That puckered look appeared on her face. It occurred to him that without it, she’d been quite striking. “I think no’, Your Grace.”
“Really. Your Grace does get quite old.”
“You have my sympathies.” This, she offered in a manner so dry, the words almost curled up and blew away.
What ho! The little mouse had some spark. And a sense of humor. This was going to be fun. Edward picked up his glass and strolled to the decanter by the window and poured in several drams. Then he filled a glass for her. He launched into his tried-and-true method for inciting proper females to misbehave.
“It really is quite fascinating,” he said as he made his way back to his chair. He glanced at her, fully expecting her to ask what was quite fascinating. They usually did.
She did not. She merely crossed her arms over her rather impressive chest and observed him with an owlish mien. Blink. Blink. The spectacles made her eyes look quite large. A stormy gray. Laced in feathery ashes.
In the light of the fire, her unbound hair took on an amber hue.
He did love a ginger. In his experience, redheads had hidden depths. And a blazing temper. They resisted deliciously.
When she didn’t take her glass from him, he set it on the table beside her elbow and sat. “I say, it really is quite fascinating,” he repeated. He took a sip of his drink. And another. Still, nothing. Not one to be discouraged by silence, he decided to continue on without her. “This new generation of women…”
Her brow rose, but only infinitesimally.
Well, hell. This had always worked before.
Finally, she spoke. “A new generation of women?” He liked the way her lips quirked as she repeated his words.
“Ah. Yes. Womanhood is experiencing a new age. A liberation.” He swallowed his quivering anticipation. This was the point where their eyes went wide and their faces lit up and the long-stifled rebel within them awoke—
Edward choked on his drink. Or perhaps on his surprise.
That word, in that tone, from that prim and proper mouth? Scintillating.
Clearly this was not a girl who was easily led.
No worries. He’d always enjoyed a challenge. In fact, her intransigence spurred his resolve.
He chuckled. “And here I thought you were a shy little innocent.”
“I’m hardly an innocent.”
Something in the tenor of her voice snagged his attention. The fact that she didn’t consider herself an innocent was intriguing enough—how he would love to investigate that tidbit. But with the statement came the realization there was something more to her, something simmering beneath the surface, something that belied her deliberately nondescript exterior.
He glanced pointedly at her whiskey. Then pointedly took a sip of his own. When she didn’t take his cue, he just came right out and asked. “Aren’t you going to drink?”
“Your Grace, are you trying to get me drunk?”
Edward blanched. He’d never had a woman call him on his seductive maneuverings. Not even once.
And then he gaped at her. Because she picked up the cut crystal filled with forty-year-old Wyeth whiskey and tossed it back in one gulp.
She didn’t wheeze. She didn’t tear up. She didn’t cough or choke.
In fact, she belched. It was a dainty little belch, but a belch nonetheless.
“Because if you are trying to get me drunk, my lord, it won’t work.” She leaned closer and whispered, in that charming lilting brogue, “I was weaned on whiskey. All good Scots are.” Then she stood and shook out her nightgown, though it hardly needed shaking out, and gave him a little curtsey. He suspected it was offered as a travesty of respect, but he hardly cared. Because the bow was low enough for him to get a glimpse of her breasts.
Disappointment lashed him as she turned to leave. “W-where are you going?”
“To bed, Your Grace.” Dimples blossomed on her cheek as she grinned. Lord, she was lovely when she grinned. “Alone.”
“Wait!” He jumped to his feet. He didn’t want her to go. He wanted her to stay. He wanted— “You forgot your book.”
“Ah. My book.” She turned to the shelves and tapped her lip with a finger.
Of a sudden, he was possessed of the urge to taste those lips.
But she would never allow it. Not this feisty girl.
Oh, how he had misjudged her. Perhaps having his cousins staying here wasn’t quite the dismal disaster it seemed at first glance.
She tipped her head and surveyed him. “Were you going to make a recommendation?”
Was he. He sprinted to the shelves and pulled out a particular book. “You will find this one interesting.”
“Will I?” She took it from him and began to open it.
He snapped it shut, caging her hands in his. Her skin was warm and soft. He stroked her with his thumb. “Not until you’re alone.” A whisper.
She wriggled her hands free and peered up at him through her spectacles, her eyes wide. “Alone?”
“Yes, my dear. And when you read it, think of me.” He leaned closer, intent on tasting her. Her lips parted. In that moment, he noticed she had one slightly crooked tooth. An adorable tooth. Ah. So sweet. He was but a breath away from that kiss—
Something sharp pricked his side. He looked down and froze.
She held a knife to his ribs.
His gaze snapped to her face. He opened his mouth but no words came out. In the whole of his life, no one had ever poked him with a knife.
Her lips curled in a slow smile. Again, those fiendish dimples blossomed. Slowly, she backed away. “Good night, Your Grace,” she said. “Thank you for the whiskey. And thank you for the book.”
She was gone before he could even marshal his legendary charm to call her back.
In something of a stupor, he sank into his chair and tossed back his drink.
What a woman.
He’d never met the like.
He had no inkling in which of his many rooms she was housed, so he could hardly hunt for her tonight. But by God, he’d have her.
And he’d have her soon.