A Little Bit Sinful [NOOK Book]

Overview

A Little Bit Unexpected. . .

Eleanor Collins knows that her beautiful younger sister will have wealthy, powerful men falling at her feet in her first London season. But Eleanor is surprised to discover that one man's attentions are utterly focused on her.

A Little Bit Forbidden. . .

As delicious as Sebastian Dodd, Viscount Benton, finds the eldest Collins daughter, his true motive is darker than mere seduction. Until he has avenged his mother's...

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A Little Bit Sinful

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Overview

A Little Bit Unexpected. . .

Eleanor Collins knows that her beautiful younger sister will have wealthy, powerful men falling at her feet in her first London season. But Eleanor is surprised to discover that one man's attentions are utterly focused on her.

A Little Bit Forbidden. . .

As delicious as Sebastian Dodd, Viscount Benton, finds the eldest Collins daughter, his true motive is darker than mere seduction. Until he has avenged his mother's death, he will be unable to think of anything else. Or so he believes, until he takes his first taste of Eleanor's inviting lips, and finds his mind--and his body--utterly consumed. . .

Praise for the Novels of Adrienne Basso

"Basso has a gift for creating. . .stories tinged with simmering passion and poignancy." --Romantic Times on How to Enjoy a Scandal

"Sinfully sensual." --Booklist on The Christmas Countess

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420122503
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 260,856
  • File size: 3 MB

First Chapter

A Little Bit Sinful


By ADRIENNE BASSO

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2011 Adrienne Basso
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-1190-3


Chapter One

Chaswick Manor, Kent, England, early spring, 1819

"Everyone, please gather closer."

The minister's voice, deep and solemn, echoed among the well-dressed group, shattering the stillness. Jaw clenched, eyes dry, Sebastian Dodd, Viscount Benton, took a step forward, swaying slightly as the bright sunshine momentarily blinded him. Following his lead, the sparse crowd of mourners standing behind him also moved, yet kept a respectful distance.

How very wrong it all feels, Sebastian thought, shifting his stance to block the sun's rays from his eyes. The weather should be chilly and damp and gray, with raindrops pelting their faces, the ground beneath their feet soaked and muddy. Instead there was warmth and sunshine, with a sky as blue as a robin's egg, solid, thick green grass, and a profusion of exuberant spring wildflowers.

Though he stood alone, Sebastian was mindful of the people gathered behind him. A few distant relatives, whom he wished had not bothered to make the journey, and an even smaller group of friends, whose presence made him feel a profound sense of gratitude.

"The Countess of Marchdale was a noble woman, possessing a strong character and a charitable heart. She was a pillar of the community, a shining example of a fine and genteel female," the minister proclaimed. "Heaven will most assuredly welcome this good lady with open arms."

Sebastian could not hold back his smile. His grandmother had been a feisty, opinionated woman who had ruffled more than her share of feathers, especially in the later years of her life. She would have laughed out loud upon hearing the minister's words, and then rapped his knuckles sharply before scolding him for exaggerating. The countess was never one to suffer false praise. Even at her own funeral.

As for her heavenly ascent, well, if such a place did exist, the countess's admittance was hardly guaranteed. She had not led an angelic life, nor a particularly pious one. She had enjoyed fully the excesses and privileges of her rank and wealth as well as—Sebastian always suspected—the delights of the flesh. After all, she had buried three husbands, each younger than her.

If, by some divine miracle, his grandmother did pass through the gates of St. Peter, Sebastian was confident that within minutes of arriving she would be expressing her opinion on how things could be improved in that world. And this one, too.

"Let us pray," the minister commanded.

Behind him, a soft chorus of voices blended together. The familiar words sprang from Sebas-tian's lips as he joined in, marveling at the power of memory, for it had been a very long time since he had spoken any words of prayer. At the conclusion, Sebastian lifted his bowed head and for the first time looked into the deep, dark hole that had been dug in the ground.

A shudder rippled through him. It seemed impossible to imagine his grandmother spending eternity in that darkness, cut off from everything she had once loved.

At the minister's command, four burly workmen took up their positions and began lowering the casket. Farewell. Sebastian voiced his final good-bye silently, yet the moment the thought solidified, a wave of sorrow rose from deep within his chest, catching him unawares. He had never been a man who allowed sincere emotions to easily flow. The tragedies of his life had taught him that true feelings were meant to be private. It was best to hold them close and keep them hidden.

The countess's death had not been unexpected. She was an elderly woman whose normally robust health had been compromised by a persistent winter illness. The day before she died she had told him that she was weary of feeling unwell and melancholy over the loss of her active, buoyant lifestyle. She confessed she was at last ready to leave this earth and begin her final adventure.

Sebastian took a deep breath. She might have been ready to depart, but he wasn't prepared to see her go. She had pestered and plagued him all of his adult life, attempting to dictate everything from the meals he ate to the clothes he wore, from the items on which he spent his money to the company he kept. She was quick to find fault and even quicker to express her displeasure.

But the countess had also protected her only grandchild with a maternal tenacity that had no equal. Her loyalty was unmatched, her love always given lavishly. Accepting the finality of her death was difficult and thus Sebastian forced himself to stare at the casket as it was slowly lowered into the ground.

It seemed to take forever.

Sebastian heard a sob, then a loud sniffle. One of the female mourners was crying, most likely his grandmother's cousin Sarah. She was a self-proclaimed delicate woman who never missed an opportunity to showcase her sensitive nature. He wondered idly if she attended many funerals, since clearly that would be the best venue to demonstrate her frail constitution.

The sobbing grew louder. Though he dismissed it in his mind as pure artifice, the mournful sound struck a chord. Sebastian felt the tightening in his chest increase. A combination of grief, coupled with the need to suppress it, he decided. He scowled, wanting desperately to turn and walk away, but that would be unpardonably rude. He owed it to his grandmother's memory to act as she would have wished, with dignity and decorum. Two qualities she often lamented he lacked in sufficient quantity.

As he fought to capture and tame his rioting emotions, Sebastian became aware of someone standing very near. Apparently one of the mourners had broken ranks and approached him. Who would dare to be so brave?

Please, dear Lord, let it not be cousin Sarah.

Sebastian inhaled and gritted his teeth. Yet before he could turn and face this unknown individual, he felt the gentle brush of feminine fingertips against his gloved hand, then caught a whiff of fresh lemons. Emma. The tightness twisting in his chest eased.

Dearest Emma. She was such a compassionate girl. He imagined she had spent the entire service with her eyes trained upon him, waiting for the precise moment when he faltered, ever at the ready to come to his aid when he needed her most. Heedless of the proprieties, Sebastian accepted Emma's comfort, intimately entwining his fingers with hers.

Strange how such a small, dainty hand could instill such strength inside him, letting him know that he was not entirely alone. At least not for the moment.

Cousin Sarah's lusty sobs abruptly ceased, her sniffles replaced by an indignant gasp. Apparently the scandal of holding a woman's hand—an unmarried woman, to whom he was not engaged—was enough to shock the sorrow from Sarah's breast and replace it with horror. Sebastian felt Emma sway slightly and realized she too had heard that gasp of disapproval.

Fearing Emma might pull away, he squeezed her fingers. Without hesitation she returned the gesture. His breathing once again grew steady and he felt a profound sense of relief that Emma was not easily intimidated by the rigid rules of society.

Under the minister's direction, they recited one final prayer and then it was over. In a daze, Sebastian turned swiftly, facing the group of mourners, his hand still tightly clutching Emma's.

"Thank you all for coming this morning. Though it is more modest to say that the countess would have been humbled by this show of respect and affection, those of us who knew and loved her know the truth of the matter." He halted, swallowing back the lump of grief that had risen up in his throat. "Cook has prepared an enormous luncheon. Please, let us all retire to the manor and partake of this hearty fare."

The majority of mourners obediently turned and headed toward the carriages. The family plot where the countess had been laid to rest was in a picturesque spot bordering the estate's great woods. Though Sebastian would have preferred walking the mile to the manor house, it was unthinkable to expect his older relations to do the same.

"Would you like to ride in my coach, Benton? There's plenty of room."

Sebastian paused, then shook his head at the man who had spoken. Carter Grayson, Marquess of Atwood, was one of only two men on this earth he respected utterly, trusted completely, and genuinely liked. They had attended Eaton and later Oxford together, forging a friendship as boys that had deepened and strengthened as they became men.

They shared similar viewpoints on most matters and enjoyed a vigorous debate when their opinions clashed. Atwood's marriage last year to Dorothea Ellingham had done little to diminish this male bond, though he was starting to develop what Sebastian regarded as an unhealthy obsession with propriety. Alas, marriage and respectability could do that to even the most hedonistic of men.

The marquess was also Emma's brother-in-law.

"If you'd rather not go with Atwood and Lady Dorothea, you can ride with me," Peter Dawson suggested.

Dawson had also been a classmate and was the only other man Sebastian considered a true friend. Possessing a quiet, cerebral personality, Dawson was the levelheaded, thoughtful balance in the trio of friends, the one who had kept them all from total disgrace. Yet he still knew how to have fun.

"My coachman has instructions to return for me after he has delivered my relations safely to the manor's front door," Sebastian replied. "I'll wait for him."

"I'll wait too," Emma quickly volunteered.

"Really, Emma, you should come with us," Lady Dorothea admonished in a soft voice. "I'm sure the viscount would appreciate a few minutes of privacy."

"Oh, goodness. I hadn't realized," Emma replied.

Sebastian felt her stiffen and he panicked, thinking she would pull away. "I would prefer that Emma stay with me. If you don't object?"

Sebastian looked directly at Lady Dorothea as he spoke, but the question was obviously intended for both her and her husband. Emma might be Dorothea's younger sister, but it was the marquess who protected her. Still, if Lady Dorothea disapproved, Sebastian knew Emma would be gone in the blink of an eye.

Lady Dorothea took a deep breath as if striving for patience and understanding. She was a kind woman and he knew she cared about him, knew she was sincerely sympathetic over the death of his grandmother. Yet his roguish reputation and scandalous deeds made her leery about leaving her seventeen-year-old sister alone with him in so isolated a location. Smart woman.

Lady Dorothea turned toward her husband. Atwood grimaced, then deliberately glanced down at the hand in which Sebastian held Emma's. Tightening his grip, Sebastian tucked it closer to his chest. Atwood's brow rose in a disapproving manner, but he said nothing.

"We will see you both shortly?" Atwood finally asked.

It was more of a command than a question. Sebastian nodded.

It was quiet after they left. Hand in hand, Sebastian and Emma walked through the small cemetery, passing his ancestors' well-tended graves.

"'Tis a pretty spot," Emma remarked.

"Yes, all things considered." Sebastian gazed into the distance, taking note of the sea of blue wildflowers dotting the landscape, their vibrant color a sharp foil to the rich, green grass. Funny, his grandmother had always had a particular fondness for any shade of blue.

"You know, Sebastian, you might feel better if you cried," Emma said. "There is no shame in feeling such deep sorrow at your loss. I vow, I sobbed for weeks when my parents died."

"You were five years old."

Emma grunted. For the first time that day, Sebastian laughed. He knew she wanted to argue with him, to press her point, but her kind heart would not allow her to challenge him on such a sad day.

He swung their clasped hands up to his face, pressing her gloved knuckles against his cheek. Then he lowered his arm and tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, making it all proper and correct between them. Well, except for the lack of a chaperone.

"Did you know that I saw the countess the day before she died?" Emma asked.

Sebastian nodded. "She spoke briefly of your visit. It was kind of you to think of her. Not many bothered to call on a sick old woman."

"In addition to my visit, I delivered something. Since you haven't said anything about it, I assume your grandmother didn't speak of it."

"She only told me that you had called."

Emma's brows knit together with uncertainty. "I know she wanted to show it to you, but I imagine she lacked the strength." Emma paused. "I brought her your portrait."

"You finished it?"

"Yes. The main portion had been completed for several weeks. I was worried about rushing the finishing touches, but I knew the countess did not have much longer to live. Thankfully, having a shortened deadline did not hinder my work. I believe she was very pleased with the final result," Emma concluded modestly.

Sebastian felt a tug of wistfulness. He was glad that the countess had seen the work finished, yet felt sorry that they had not had the chance to view the portrait together, especially since it had been his grandmother's idea.

Though she was young, and a female, Emma's artistic talent had impressed the countess. Without hesitation, and over Sebastian's protests, his grandmother had commissioned the portrait. But his initial grumbling quickly faded. Emma was not a giggling, spoiled debutante who dabbled with her brushes and colors. She was a serious artist with a phenomenal talent.

Spending time sitting for the painting had given Sebastian a rare gift. A friendship with Emma, his first with a member of the opposite sex. It was something he valued greatly.

"Tell me, do I look impossibly handsome in my portrait?" he asked.

"I am an artist, Sebastian, not a magician."

"You are a cheeky brat," he stated emphatically.

Emma tugged insistently on his arm. "And you are far too vain. Impossibly handsome, indeed. I painted you as you are, though the countess thought I might have embellished the width of your shoulders and the firmness of your jaw."

"Ah, so the women will be impressed?"

"Yes, they shall be swooning in alarming numbers when they gaze upon the splendor of your male beauty."

"Rendered speechless, perhaps?"

"Struck dumb," Emma insisted.

"Alas, that is hardly difficult for many a young lady in society."

Emma's brow arched the tiniest fraction. 'Twas far too worldly a gesture for such an innocent young woman. "Your opinion of the gentler sex is alarmingly insulting. We are not all a bunch of ninnies."

"I can count on one hand the number of women who possess more brains than God gave a goose."

Emma shook her head. "Have you ever considered that the reason there are so many foolish, empty-headed young women littered throughout society is because they are deliberately kept ignorant by the men who seek to control them?"

"Protect them," he countered.

"Rubbish." Emma sighed loudly. "You don't believe that any more than I do."

Sebastian admired the way her chin angled up when she grew perturbed. She was a very pretty girl. A few years of maturity on her face and figure and Emma would become a truly stunning woman.

"Though you are loath to acknowledge it, we both know there are females in society who do indeed require male protection, mostly to save them from themselves," he said. "I daresay you've already met one or two of these types this Season. Trust me, there will be others."

"Honestly, Sebastian, you are such an old curmudgeon at times. I don't understand how you can possibly have such a dashing reputation."

"I confess to working rather hard at it." Sebastian smiled. This was just the kind of distracting conversation he needed right now. In a few minutes he would have to face his relatives and then later the reading of the will. Knowing his grandmother, there were bound to be some surprises.

They reached the end of the short row of graves and turned to walk up the next. Sebastian glanced idly to his left, where his eyes set upon a tall, marble headstone. Evangeline Katherine Maria Dodd, fifth Countess of Benton. Mother.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Little Bit Sinful by ADRIENNE BASSO Copyright © 2011 by Adrienne Basso. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 54 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    fresh, fun frolic

    Viscount Sebastian Dodd has waited for seemingly forever to enact vengeance for the death of his mother years ago. He remained patient though each ensuing season of the Ton added to his thirst to finally achieve his vendetta. Now the opportunity is here and he seizes the moment. He will seduce innocent Bianca Collins.

    However, his problem is not with the lovely Bianca, but with her obstinate older sister Eleanor. Whereas the men compete for Bianca, Sebastian prefers Eleanor as he enjoys their witty battles. She begins to fall in love with him, but assumes he loves Bianca so she steps aside. He knows his plan will only work with Bianca, but he cannot ignore Eleanor. Then they kiss. Revising his cold scheme of revenge, Sebastian finds the nurturing warmth of love so much more enlightening until his beloved learns of their past connection and why she assumes he courted the Collins' sisters.

    Although the twin R themes of revenge and redemption have been used many times before, the cast keeps Adrienne Basso's historical romance a fresh, fun frolic. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as a little bit of love overpowers years of anger. The secondary characters enhance the house party in which Sebastian learns vengeance is served cold while love serves internal warmth.

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    Skip it! It's not a must read.

    This was my first book by this author. Unfortunately, I found the story to be boring and drawn out.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2013

    Great

    Read it twice.

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  • Posted November 5, 2012

    Not a whole lot of sinful

    Takes awhile for the heroine and hero to get together. There was no real simmering passion but a cute romance none the less. Its best moments come late in the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    A Typical period romance with a few surprises

    This romance based on a quest for revenge had a few things in it that I didn't see coming. The characters were good, but the sexual details were quite fantasied I thought. As far as sexual details, it was a "whole lot" sinful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend

    Very well written...Easy read..fell in love w Lord Benton!! Very naughty boy.

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    Posted August 27, 2011

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