Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(6) by Lorraine Heath
Not that he ever expected to attract a lady with it. Frannie was the only one he’d ever truly wanted. While she’d recently married, it had been a little over a year since she gave her heart to Greystone. Swindler wasn’t of a mind to seek another lady. He’d given Frannie his heart, and with her, it would remain. All he required now was an occasional woman to satisfy his baser needs. As he was known for giving women his undivided attention and serving up pleasure—
even to those who’d never before experienced it—he had no trouble finding women wishing to spend an evening in his company. Even those accustomed to taking coins seldom took one of his. Of late, while he satisfied women, none satisfied him, his actions more mechanical, derived from habit. He was always left with an ache in his chest—no doubt the result of his no longer possessing a heart. Although God help him, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a woman to bed.
Miss Eleanor Watkins saved him from his own deep thoughts, as she went to stand beside a tree that gave her a clear view of Rotten Row, no doubt awaiting the arrival of her quarry on his fine steed. While Swindler was supposed to be focused on the lady, he’d made a few inquiries regarding Rockberry. He now knew as well as she probably did that Lord Rockberry took a jaunt about the park every afternoon at precisely half past five. No one seemed to pay any heed to her. The other ladies were occupied seeking to garner the men’s attention, and the men were more interested in the ladies who wanted to be seen, rather than the one who didn’t. It was all part of the ritual of shopping for a spouse. Approaching her might put her reputation at risk, but he was anxious to get on with this job. Swindler began to amble toward Miss Watkins. He’d given considerable thought to how he would approach her. He would take on the role of interested gentleman, earn her trust, and then discern the reasons for her fascination with Rockberry—as well as exactly what she intended where the poppycock lord was concerned.
As he came up behind her, Swindler was hit with the fragrance of roses wafting from her. He didn’t remember the fragrance from last night. Perhaps it was because it was earlier in the day, the rose water only recently applied. It teased his nostrils as the scent of most women didn’t.
She spun around. Her eyes—the shade of a cloudless sky—widened and her plump, rosy lips parted slightly. She quickly regained control. “Why, Mr. Swindler, isn’t it? What a surprise. I’d not expected to see you again.”
Whatever words he’d planned to deliver to disarm her jumbled in his mind like rattled dice within a cup. By the light of day she was an entirely different creature. So much had been hidden from him in the shadows of the night. Her skin was remarkably flawless, creamy alabaster with a hint of blush curving over her high cheekbones. Her eyes held innocence, softness he’d not noticed before. Her hair peeking out from beneath her bonnet was a pale moonlight, almost white. He was staring at the same woman he’d confronted last night, yet she was more lovely than he recalled. Something about her in the daylight managed to give him a sharp blow to the chest, making it difficult to draw in a breath—which he desperately wanted to do if for no other reason than to enjoy her scent once more.
She bestowed upon him a whimsical smile. “You’re not following me about, are you?”
He gave a brisk shake of his head and cleared his throat, giving himself time to regain his wits. Women didn’t have this power over him. Ever. Even the most skilled seductress might turn his body to mush, but never his mind.
“No,” he finally responded, hoping to charm her with one of his warmest smiles. As a child he’d collected a host of expressions that could be brought forth to help him acquire whatever he needed. Sad eyes when he was hungry and hoping for a scrap of food from a grocer or a cook at the back door of a residence, tears when he needed to draw a lady nearer in order to pilfer her hidden pockets. Cockiness when it was warranted. Humility when it would best serve to garner the prize. There were times when he’d decided he was a vast wasteland absent of emotions, except for those in his arsenal that he could conjure upon command. “Well, yes, I suppose I am in a way. I found something that I thought you might like to have. I was in the process of taking it to your lodgings when I spotted you walking up the street. I decided to present it personally rather than leave it with your landlady.”
Reaching into his jacket pocket, he removed a folded map of London and held it out to her. “So you might never again become lost.”
Her face lit with surprise and she laughed, a light airy sound that competed with the birds singing in the trees. As she took the map, her gloved fingers grazed his, and his gut tightened with the thought of her grazing something else entirely. He swallowed hard, striving to regain his bearings. She was only a woman, after all. A mark. And his facade had been carefully built just for her—it didn’t reflect his true self. That, he showed to only a select few.
“How very thoughtful.” Her expression was open when she lifted her gaze to his. How in God’s name did anyone think she’d inflict harm on a fly, much less a man? “You must have gone to a great deal of bother to find it.”
He’d gone to none at all. He’d bought it last year, when mapmakers had flooded the city with maps in anticipation of the many visitors who would come to London in order to view the Great Exhibition. He gave her a daring combination of humility and confidence. “Going to the bother was part of the gift.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online