Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(33) by Lorraine Heath
“You should take it as a compliment, Miss Darling. Since returning to England, I’ve not propositioned one lady.”
“On the surface, admirable.” She gave him an impish grin. “But then I suspect you don’t consider all women ladies.”
“Very few, in fact.”
The lights were doused, and Sterling cursed the darkness. Even the lights that illuminated the stage did not push back the shadows in his box. He couldn’t clearly see Miss Darling. He could only smell the sweetness of her, memorize the shape of her silhouette, and become increasingly aware of the warmth of her body so near to his.
Leaning near her, he whispered, “Rest assured, I do consider you a lady.”
“One you wish to bed.”
Tugging off his glove, he skimmed his finger along the shoulder exposed when her shawl fell slightly. “That is not an insult. I’m very particular.”
He was near enough that he heard her swallow, before she said in a low voice, “As am I, Your Grace.”
Stilling his caress, he sat back. She wasn’t going to come to him easily. Fortunately, he enjoyed a challenge.
Halfway through the opera, Frannie decided to be merciful and suggested that they leave. She wanted to avoid the press of people, and she wasn’t able to truly enjoy the performances, as she was well aware of Greystone watching her rather than the performers. She wasn’t bothered by his perusal. Truth be told, she was quite flattered that he seemed unable to take his eyes off her, but she was finding it difficult to relax, wondering where dinner might lead.
When the coach pulled into the wide circular drive, she caught her first glimpse of Greystone’s residence. She’d always thought Claybourne’s house was magnificent, but this was monstrously large and unbelievably elegant. The coach door clicked open and Greystone gracefully exited before extending his hand to her. Shoring up her resolve, she placed her hand in his and allowed him to help her out of the coach. Glancing around at the grandeur, her hand on his arm, she followed him up the wide sweeping steps, with the sudden realization that Catherine had once lived here. She and Catherine were friends now, so in a way it was like being invited into a friend’s home.
A friend who had a very charming and dangerous brother.
Inside, as he escorted her through the hallways, she fought not to gawk at the portraits, but she could see him in the faces of so many of his ancestors. How wonderful it must be to know from whom he came, while for her she knew nothing more than that she existed. Someone—she had no idea whom—had given birth to her. Had she been married? A servant? A lady? Had someone loved her? Or was it as Frannie feared: was she the result of a violent encounter her mother hadn’t wanted, and so neither had she desired the child?
Greystone led her into a small room that seemed out of place in such a large residence. It contained thickly padded chairs and a sofa. Near the fireplace where a fire lazily crackled was a small lace-covered round table. The flames from strategically placed candles flickered, casting most of the room in shadows except for the area where they would dine. The draperies were drawn open to reveal a lantern-lit garden. In the corner of the room, a man stood silently holding a violin. Her heart gave a little flutter. She wasn’t exactly sure what she’d expected. Dinner formally served in a large dining room, the way she’d eaten every night when she lived at Claybourne’s. She’d certainly never expected anything with such romantic overtones. She knew Greystone wanted her in his bed, but this hinted at something more than a hasty mating.
She gave a little jump when Greystone’s fingers skimmed over her shoulder, as he slowly removed her wrap. He must have given some signal, because the soft strains of the violin began to float through the room.
“Easy, Miss Darling,” he whispered near her ear, coming from behind her, “we’re going to share only dinner.”
Nodding, she turned to face him. All his preparations made her more nervous because she feared she’d vastly misjudged exactly what he had in mind for her. If he romanced her, would she be able to walk away from his bed without feeling an immense loss? “You went to a great deal of trouble.”
“I went to none at all.” He gave her a devilish grin. “My servants, however, did. I take it you approve of their efforts?”
“It’s all exceedingly lovely.”
“I’m pleased that you’re pleased.” Lifting her hand, he began to peel off her glove.
“I can do that,” she said, breathlessly.
“I’d rather, if you’ve no objections.”
She shook her head, the pulse at her wrist jumping as his warm fingers trailed over her bare skin. She hadn’t even noticed him removing his gloves. It seemed he might be as light-fingered as she was. While she was not yet regretting her decision to join him tonight, she was well aware that he could be more dangerous than any of the men she might encounter on the street when she went in search of orphans.
When her hand was bared, he placed a light kiss on her fingertips before turning his attention to her other glove. She imagined him doing the same if he removed her clothing, kissing every spot that was revealed.
When he’d removed both gloves, he laid them on her wrap, led her to the table, and pulled out the chair for her, selecting the one that provided her with a view of the garden.
“The music is a nice touch,” she said as she took her seat, striving for nonchalance and fearing that she’d failed miserably. For him, she wanted to be sophisticated.
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