The Duke and the Lady in Red
Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #3
By: Lorraine Heath
Releasing April 29, 2015
Blurb: Sparks fly in the finale of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Place series, as the last wicked rogue meets his match.
When Rosalind Sharpe gains the attention of the deliciously wicked Duke of Avendale, she’s torn between her distracting attraction to the notorious rogue and the knowledge that he—rich as Croesus—is the perfect target for a deception that will put her swindling days behind her.
However, Avendale is no fool. After he discovers the tantalizing lady packing up to leave London with his coins in tow, he confronts her with a scandalous proposition: she can have all the money she requires…for a week in his bed.
Desperate for the funds, Rose agrees, but on one condition: he must never question her motives. Avendale quickly sees beneath her mask and discovers she is more than passion and pleasure—she is everything he has ever desired. But claiming her requires he unveil her secrets and lose her forever. Unless he can put his own dark past aside and risk everything for a chance at love.
She knew she was being watched. She could feel the gaze homed in her, was aware of little shivers cascading along her skin. The fine hairs on the back of her neck had risen. But she gave no outward appearance that she was bothered by the scrutiny
while inside her heart pounded with the fierceness of a regimental drum beating out the call to battle.
She’d overheard someone talking about an inspector from Scotland Yard who was wandering about. But he was supposedly a guest and not searching for her. She hadn’t been in London long enough for alarm bells to be ringing, for anyone to suspect—
“Champagne?” a deep voice asked behind her.
She would dearly love some, but needed to remain sharp and focused. Spinning around to decline the footman’s offer, she came up short.
The man extending a flute toward her was most certainly not a servant. Nobility, entitlement, privilege screamed from every pore, every finely stitched seam, every thread of exquisite cloth that cloaked his magnificent frame. His dark eyes blatantly assessed her, and the hairs on her nape quivered once more. So it had been him watching her. He possessed an intensity that was slightly unsettling, made her fear that he could see straight through her.
But if he could, he would be calling for that inspector that was around here, not offering her champagne. His gaze wouldn’t roam over her as though he were taking measure of every curve, dip, and swell while imaging how each would fill his hands.
If she had to guess this man’s rank, she would put him as duke. He wore power and influence like a second skin. She could make do with a duke.
She gave him her most alluring, sensual smile. “I am quite parched, and so appreciate a man who can fulfill my desires. Thank you.”
Wrapping her fingers around the stem of the flute, she made sure that her gloved fingers touched his, lingered for a moment. His eyes widened slightly, and a corner of his luscious mouth curled up almost imperceptibly. Anyone else might not have even noticed, but she had trained herself to discern the smallest of details. People communicated far more truth with their bodies and facial expressions than they ever did with their words.
She tapped the edge of her glass to his. “To an interesting night.”
Peering over the rim of her flute as she slowly sipped, she watched him as he did the same, inspecting her. She’d never been so intrigued by a gentleman. Most fawned over her once they made their move and got her attention. This one was more cautious, more assessing. He would be a challenge, but if she was right about his position, she was more than willing to welcome it. She licked her lips, satisfaction coursing through her as his brown eyes darkened. He was not as skilled as she at appearing unaffected.
“Isn’t it rather scandalous for a gentleman to approach a woman he doesn’t know without someone at his side to make introductions?” she asked.
“I am nothing if I am not scandalous.”
“Should I be wary? Is my reputation at risk?”
“Depends on your reputation. Considering that you arrived without chaperone or escort, I assume your reputation is of little consequence to you.”
So he’d seen her arrive, had been observing her for a good long while. Nearly three quarters of an hour now. It was a good omen that she had managed to hold his interest for so long. “I’m a widow. I don’t require a chaperone.”
“My condolences on your loss, although it appears you’re out of mourning.”
She didn’t fail to notice the way his gaze dipped to the plumped up mounds of her bosom. They drew men much more than her face, which was lacking in beauty. But it served to her advantage as a dipping gaze seldom noticed the shrewdness in her eyes. “It’s been two years now. We were exploring the jungles in India when he was attacked by a tiger. Terribly gruesome.” She visibly shuddered, ensuring he was distracted by the quivering flesh of her breasts. Men were so easy to manipulate. She should be ashamed, but she had learned long ago that one shouldn’t be regretful about what one was forced to do in order to survive. “I don’t wish to dwell on it.”
She took another sip of the excellent champagne, allowing her hand to tremble slightly. “I fear I need a distraction. It has been lovely visiting with you, but I should like to tour the gentlemen’s salon. As I understand it, after tonight, ladies will no longer be welcomed within its walls. I want to see what we are being denied.”
“I’ll accompany you.”
“Surely you have a wife somewhere who would not appreciate your attentions to me.”
“No wife. No betrothed, no paramour. I’ve no interest in attachments of a permanent nature.”
“I can’t blame you there. Having had one, I now find myself feeling quite the same way.”
He offered his arm. “Then shall we?”
She placed her hand in the crook of his elbow and was greeted with firm muscle. A man who didn’t just lie about with no purpose. Her head barely reached his shoulder. He was a towering man, large and broad. But it was more than his physical traits that made him appear powerful. She suspected if his height did not extend past her knee, he would still dominate his surroundings. He seemed to dwarf everything around him. She didn’t know if she had ever met a man who commanded such supremacy.
LORRAINE HEATH always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals and computer code, but something was always missing. After reading a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s RITA® and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.
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