Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

Page 29


And then his lips were on hers, and everything changed.

Chapter 6

… And yet, there is a mystery to our Lady G—. One that forces even the staunchest of aristocrats to raise her lorgnette and consider the girl across the room. Is it possible that we have heaped her with false disdain all these years? Only the Season will tell…

… Young ladies of London, heed our call! By all accounts, Lord L— is on the hunt for a wife. His list of desired attributes no doubt includes beauty, good humor, and proficiency with a string instrument. Alas, those who are not exceedingly wealthy need not apply…

Pearls & Pelisses Ladies Magazine, April 1833

He didn’t care that she was lying.

Didn’t care that she had been protected for years by the most powerful, secretive man in London. Didn’t care that a man with that kind of money would not take kindly to anyone touching that which was his.

He didn’t care that she was nothing she seemed – that she was somehow neither whore, nor ruined aristocrat, nor innocent.

All he cared was that she was pressed against him in this empty space, all long limbs and soft skin, and, for a fleeting moment, she was his.

The kiss was sin and innocence, like the lady herself – at once all experience and none at all. Her hand came to the nape of his neck, fingers threading into his hair with remarkable purpose while she gasped against his lips as though she’d never been kissed.

Christ.

It was no wonder she was London’s most coveted companion. She was red silk and white lace. Two tempting, unbearable sides of one coin. And for this moment, she belonged to him.

But first…

He pulled away barely, giving her a scant inch to breathe as he whispered, “I would have stepped in. Either way.”

He hadn’t liked her implication that he’d only pummeled Pottle because she was from an aristocratic family. It had grated to think that she would imagine that he’d have left any woman to be mistreated so roundly. But more importantly, it sickened him to think that she believed he’d have left her if circumstances had been different.

He didn’t know why it was important to him that she believe him. That she believe he was the kind of man who would fight for a woman. Any woman. Her. But it was important. “I would have stepped in,” he repeated.

Her fingers danced at the nape of his neck, playing with the curls there and making him want her with their innocent, teasing promise. “I know,” she whispered.

He captured the words with his mouth, stealing her open lips and taking the kiss deeper. Longer. More.

Information or no, arrangement or no, double identity or no, this woman was irresistible. He would never betray her secrets. Not now that he knew she was so much more than she seemed.

He wanted her without quarter.

He caught her by the waist, pulling her closer, pressing one leg into hers, tangling in her skirts, in her scent, in her seduction. And she seduced him just as he did her. He’d never felt so well matched in his life.

She leaned into the kiss, taking as he took, reveling as he reveled. And the sounds she made – the little sighs and gasps and pants – she was glorious.

He lifted her in his arms and turned her, walking her to the opposite wall of the alcove as his lips trailed across her cheek and captured the lobe of one ear. “You’ve wanted this for years,” he whispered, teeth worrying the soft flesh as her fingers spread across his shoulders.

“No,” she said. And in the lie, he heard such truth.

He grinned against the skin of her neck, running his teeth down the glorious column. “You think I haven’t seen you? Haven’t felt you watching?”

She pulled back from his caress. “If you’ve noticed, why haven’t you come for me?”

He watched her for a long moment, staring into those eyes the color of liquid gold. “I’m coming for you now,” he said as he leaned in and bit her lower lip, pulling her toward him, reveling in the low, lush laugh that erupted from her.

He chased the sound down the column of her neck to the place where it vibrated in her throat, worrying the spot with his teeth. She sighed at the sensation and he wanted to roar his satisfaction. His pleasure. Her lips curved, and he ached for them. Reached for them.

She pulled back. “You didn’t want me until now. Until you discovered I’m her, too.”

He stilled at the words. “Her.”

“Georgiana.”

The way she spoke of herself in the third person called to him. He turned her to the light, to see her. “Georgiana is other?” She closed her eyes briefly, considering her answer, and he changed the question. “You must think on the answer?”

“Mustn’t we all?” she asked, the words soft and thoughtful. “Aren’t we all two people? Three? A dozen? Different with family and friends and lovers and strangers and children? Different with men? With women?”

“It’s not the same,” he insisted. “I don’t play at being two people.”

“It is not play,” she replied. “I do not revel in the game of it.”

“Of course you do,” he said, and she was again struck by how well he saw what few others did. “You adore it. I’ve seen you here, holding court over the floor of the club, as though you own it. Beautiful. Perfectly turned out…” He let his fingers trail over the edge of her gown, loving the way her breasts swelled as she inhaled at the touch. “… and that laugh, rich and welcome.

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