Miss Chelsea Bellamy is desperate
Her beloved brother is being held for ransom. Impoverished after the deaths of her parents, Chelsea doesn't have five shillings, never mind the 500 pounds the kidnappers are demanding. With no one to turn to, she resorts to highway robbery to raise the sum.
Lord Anthony Grenville is bored
The Viscount Montrose is on his way to London when his coach is overtaken by a highwayman – who turns out to be no man at all! Anthony hasn't been this intrigued by anything, or anyone, since his return from the war. And when he catches the flame-haired thief breaking into his London house to further pad her coffers, he comes up with a plan to rescue her brother – and resolves to seduce her into his bed.
Their passion is mutual
To save her brother, Chelsea accepts Anthony's aid, but she'll never become his mistress – even if the thought of it fills her veins with liquid fire...
A Rogue's Pleasure
Extrait offert par Hope Tarr :
Standing before him, she caught a whiff of the cool, clean scent of his shaving soap. The urge to let her fingertips trace the hard line of his freshly shaven jaw was so strong that, to be safe, she jammed her free hand inside her trouser pocket.
"I really should be going." Her voice held remarkably steady for a woman whose insides were churning.
He released her with a show of reluctance. "I had hoped you might stay to join me in a light supper."
Shocked, she crammed the hand he'd just released into her other pocket. "I'm afraid that is out of the question."
"Don't tell me that you've already eaten?" His face registered disappointment.
She was about to answer "yes" when her stomach betrayed her with a loud rumble.
He grinned. "I think not." Hand on her elbow, he steered her toward the door. "But we can remedy that."
She halted. "Lord Montrose, I don't think dining with you would be wise."
"Why not?" he asked, expression bland.
Was he mocking her? Annoyed, she answered through pursed lips, "I should think that would be obvious. I came tonight only to return the necklace I--" she faltered "--stole from you. I am hardly an invited guest."
He opened the study door and held it. "That is for me to decide."
Chelsea hesitated. To accept his invitation would be to chart a perilous course. But over the past twenty-four hours, her body seemed to have developed a will of its own. She laid her fingers atop his, butterflies dancing in her stomach. He linked his long fingers through hers, and her hand disappeared in his warm grasp.
"You needn't fear discovery." His other hand on her back, he guided her through the sconce-lit hallway. "I have dismissed the staff for the night, including Chambers."
Recalling the frail, black-clad old man she'd seen answering Anthony's front door the day before, she asked, "I gather Chambers is your butler?"
"My uncle's butler." He paused, then amended, "My butler now, I suppose. Fellow must be in his eighties. He's blind as a bat and creaks like carriage springs when he walks, but I haven't the heart to retire him."
A sliver of light showed beneath ornately carved double doors. Releasing her hand, Anthony opened them and led her inside a large dining room with cream-colored walls, emerald velvet drapes, and plush carpet patterned in hues of cream and jade. The faint smell of fresh paint hovered. The night before, she hadn't stopped to admire the chamber's beauty, but now she found her gaze straying. Roundels depicting scenes from classical mythology dotted the intricate plasterwork ceiling. Flames flickered in the wall sconces above a burl walnut sideboard laden with food.
Lord Montrose stood in the center of the room, the pride of possession shining from his brown eyes. "Do you like it? It's one of the few rooms in this mausoleum that comes close to being habitable."
Habitable, indeed. Chelsea thought of the shabbiness of Oatlands, Robert's legacy—assuming he survived—and her heart tugged. Rotting woodwork and a leaking roof, veritable calamities a few weeks before, were now the very least of her worries.
Aware of her host watching her, expectant, she suppressed a sigh and answered, "It's splendid. The most beautiful room I've ever seen."
"I'm glad you approve." He led her to the end of the long table where two places had been set, a brace of candles between them. "Right now, the thing I like best about this room is that there's no one here but you and I." He pulled out a shield-back chair. "So, you see, you shall be quite safe."
Safe? Alone in a chamber veiled in candlelight and shadows with an unrepentant rake and a brain brimming with foolish fantasies, Chelsea had never felt less safe in her life. Everything about the room and the man standing in its center radiated romance.
A Rogue's PleasureWanting to clear the air before matters got out of hand, she said, "I should tell you that, if you're planning to seduce me, you're wasting your time."
He smiled his mesmerizing smile. "I appreciate your candor, Lady Robin. Now that you've broached the subject, I must confess that the thought had crossed my mind, but I assure you that I shall respect your wishes. I meant what I said last night, that it is not my custom to force my attentions where they are unwanted." He gestured toward the sideboard. "But it would be a pity for all this to go to waste, don't you agree?"
Disarmed, Chelsea found herself returning his smile. "The toast I had for breakfast does seem rather a long time ago."
His smile broadened. "Even fierce knights of the road have to eat. Besides," he added, his connoisseur's gaze sweeping over her, "You look like someone who could benefit from a good meal."
She surrendered with a grimace, slipping into the chair he held out. "After such a gracious invitation, how could I possibly refuse?"
She might have no designs on Lord Montrose, romantic or otherwise, but she was woman enough to wish for something pretty to wear. And to think Robert had always cared for clothes far more than she had. How smart he'd looked in his uniform, the creases of his spotless white trousers ironed as sharp as knife blades. Imagining how bedraggled and filthy he must be by now—if, indeed, he still lived—she felt tears burn the backs of her eyes.
Fortunately Lord Montrose had moved to the sideboard, affording her a moment to compose herself.
"Sending the staff to bed does have one disadvantage, namely, that we shall have to fend for ourselves. This is my first time waiting at table, so you'll have to bear with me."
A bottle of wine had been left to decant. Slinging a napkin over his arm, he carried it to the table.
"Reputedly a very fine red bordeaux. I hope 'tis to milady's liking."
He gave a servile bow before bending to pour, and Chelsea couldn't help but smile. How charming he was, how amusing.
He stepped back. Awaiting her verdict, his dark eyes glinted with mischief. His playfulness was contagious, and Chelsea found her mood lightening. Falling in with the game, she swirled the liquid around her glass before raising the rim to her lips.
"It is rather... wonderful."
Reminding herself that red wine always gave her the headache, she set down the goblet. She couldn't afford a muzzy head tomorrow just as she couldn't afford to become tipsy in his lordship's presence. He'd promised he wouldn't force himself on her, and she trusted him to keep his word. Herself she trusted far less.
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