Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(16) by Lorraine Heath
Instead, his gaze was focused intently on her. He, too, was holding a tumbler, and when she lifted hers to take another sip, he did the same, his eyes never straying from her. He was a large man. She had felt his corded muscles beneath her fingers, pressed against her body, as he’d carried her here. He’d never paused his rapid steps. He’d never struggled for breath. He’d seemed unbothered by the pelting rain.
She suspected he was a man very much accustomed to having his way. And he wanted his way with her.
“I’ll fight you, you know,” she said. “I shall kick and scream and claw out your eyes.”
She thought she saw a twinkle of humor light those very eyes that would feel the scrape of her fingernails, but it happened so quickly she couldn’t be sure. His throat worked as he took another long slow swallow of his Scotch. She couldn’t recall ever seeing so much of a man exposed: his neck, the narrowing V of skin down his chest. She saw strength there, potency that Geoffrey didn’t possess. Neither had her father. Before his illness, his form had been robust but it had not exuded power. Food, rather than anything of an exertive nature, had shaped him. Rafe Easton obviously did not lie around all day doing nothing more than ordering servants about.
“I’m not in the habit of forcing women, Evelyn,” he finally said. “But I am pragmatic. If you do not become my mistress, what recourse is open to you?”
Ah, there was the rub and well he knew it. She fought not to let her shoulders slump with her despair. “He didn’t let me take anything, not even the jewelry my father gave me. I could have sold it—”
“And how far do you think you would have gotten with it?”
She shook her head, hating to admit, “I don’t even know where I would have sold it.”
“With me,” he said, “you will have a roof over your head, food in your belly, a clothing allowance to rival the queen’s, as well as jewelry, trinkets, baubles. You will never want for anything that is within my power to purchase.”
“But I must give you my body.”
Another long swallow of Scotch, a slow nod, a half closing of his eyes in acknowledgment.
She was suddenly unbearably cold again. She took a big gulp of her drink, but it failed to warm her. “I want a husband, a family.”
“How do you expect to acquire that? By sitting out on the street in your hideous black gown until someone walks by and thinks, ‘By jove, I’d like that lovely for a wife.’ How will you eat? Where will you find shelter? Be realistic, Evelyn. You have nothing. You have no one. You have no options.”
“I could work for you. Oversee your household as I thought—”
“I have someone who sees to my household. Shall I dismiss her, toss her out on the streets because you don’t want to warm my bed?”
She shook her head, wishing she was of a selfish bent, content to think only of herself. “No, you’re right. That’s not fair either. Perhaps you would be kind enough to allow me to stay here for a few days until I find employment—”
“What skills have you?”
She wanted to blurt out something, anything, but the truth was that she wasn’t certain she could even manage a household. She’d never helped with the servants. She knew only that tables were never dusty, fires were always ready to be set, floors were always polished, her clothes were always pressed. She was horrendous at stitchery, her penmanship was not precise, and numbers were not her friend. They never added up the way they should. She could read, very well in fact, but who would hire her to read?
It also seemed she was very good at drinking Scotch. She downed the last of the liquid in the glass and set it aside. With smooth unthreatening movements, he exchanged his glass for hers. Did he have to be so graceful, so masculine, so utterly gorgeous?
“Geoffrey informed me that you own a gambling establishment. Perhaps I could work there.”
“The women who do wear very little clothing and spend a good bit of their time sitting on gentlemen’s laps. Do you prefer to spread your thighs for many men rather than only one?”
Her mouth opened, her eyes widened. If she were a true lady, he wouldn’t speak to her of such raw, carnal things. But then if she were a true lady, she wouldn’t be in this predicament.
Crouching, he added a log to the fire and stirred it. His trousers outlined his muscular thighs and firm buttocks. She imagined guiding her hands over them. Was that what she would do if she was his mistress? Touch him, caress him, tell him how marvelous he was even though at this precise moment she hated him with every breath she took?
She reached for the almost half-full glass of Scotch and tossed back nearly half of it. It fairly scalded her as it traveled through her. But it made her limbs feel as though they were no longer part of her. If she drank enough could she lie beneath him and pretend she wasn’t truly there?
“I know what it is, Evelyn, to have no options.” He was still stirring the fire, not looking at her. “To think: this cannot be my life. It is not where I was headed, and yet . . . it is where I have arrived. To survive, you learn to make the best of it. It’s not easy. It’s not what you want, but you can still own it, make it yours.”
He unfolded his magnificent form, placed his arm back on the mantel, and studied her with those icy blue eyes. “Your brother sought to humiliate you, to degrade you, to give you a place in Society that is no place at all, where you would not be seen or acknowledged. What better revenge than to become the most infamous courtesan in all of London? I won’t hide you away. I’ll flaunt you. I’ll teach you to manage your money. When our time together comes to an end, as long as the ending is of my choosing, you may have the residence and everything within it. You won’t be forced into becoming any other man’s mistress. You can select your paramours, be choosy if you wish. Seems a rather fair trade to me.”
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