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The Naked Viscount
By Sally MacKenzie
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Sally MacKenzie
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEdmund Smyth, Viscount Motton, tested the French window. It opened easily. Tsk. The butler was shockingly lax or, more likely, drunk as an emperor.
He pushed the window all the way up and stepped into poor, dead Clarence Widmore's study. The Parker-Roth ladies were currently in residence; he should drop a word in Parker-Roth's ear. Stephen would want to know his mother and sister were not being properly looked after. This was London, after all. Any sort of riffraff might try to break in.
Motton took a candle from the mantel and held it to the embers in the fireplace. It flared to life.
Of course, if Parker-Roth were living under this roof, he'd already know of the problem, but he couldn't fault the man for wanting to keep his own rooms. He'd like to do the same-the aunties were driving him mad. Winifred had arrived today with her parrot and monkey, so now all five of his paternal aunts and their pets were in residence. Zeus. Bedlam might be quieter than his town house at the moment. The worst of it was the women were convening to mount an attack on his single state. Aunt Winifred's arrival was especially alarming. She was a wily campaigner. He would have to be extremely alert until she returned to the country.
He surveyed the room. Damn, it would help if he'd been given a hint where to look. Searching through every book for this mysterious sketch of French spies the Earl of Ardley wanted would keep him here until tomorrow. The Parker-Roth ladies would not be out that long.
He opened the nearest book and ruffled its pages. If he wasn't Widmore's neighbor and hadn't been so damn bored, he would have politely-or not so politely-declined Ardley's request. The man was a pompous ass with a decidedly odd kick to his gallop. But when Ardley had cornered him at White's, he'd been in the doldrums. The jollifications of the Season were wearing very thin and even his extracurricular activities-tracking down and eliminating underworld vermin-were proving painfully frustrating.
If only he could discover the identity of the man behind so much of London's criminal activity, but he'd been stymied at every turn. Everyone knew the miscreant only as "Satan." He was beginning to believe the fellow was indeed the incorporeal spirit of evil.
He put the book back on the shelf and picked up another. Nothing about this little errand made sense. Paunchy, balding Widmore, a French spy? In all the years he'd lived next door to the fellow, he'd never once seen any evidence he was working for the French. Widmore had been odd-no question about that-but odd and treasonous were not synonymous.
Hell, if one were considering odd associations, Ardley's connection with Widmore would be at the top of the list. Ardley had been at Lord Wolfson's estate when Widmore had met his untimely end, landing bare-arsed on a nest of adders.
What Widmore had been doing capering about naked was not a question he wished to contemplate.
And why had Ardley associated with Widmore at all if he'd suspected him of treason? Or, more to the point, why did he suddenly care about a supposed sketch of some French spies when Widmore was dead and the war was long over?
He put the book he'd been examining back. He'd start with the desk instead. It didn't look promising-the wooden surface was as bare as a windswept moor-but perhaps something had got stuck in the back of a drawer or, better, perhaps there was a hidden compartment or two.
Here was something interesting. Most people did not decorate their work areas with an object about two feet high draped in Holland cloth. The white fabric billowed in the breeze from the open window, giving it a rather ghostly appearance. Unlikely it had anything to do with what he was looking for, but he'd leave no stone unturned. He plucked off the cloth ...
He stared down at a statue of the god Pan-a very, er ... excited Pan.
Miss Jane Parker-Roth sighed as she closed Frankenstein. It was always hard to finish a book one enjoyed-it was like leaving a good friend. She'd pleaded the headache so she could stay home from the Hammershams' musical evening and read. Mama must have suspected her malady was feigned, but she hadn't argued, thank goodness.
She put the novel on the bedside table. One of the best things about coming to Town was the lending libraries. Oh, the Priory had an extensive book collection to be sure, but only a few were novels. Da had his poetry books; Mama had her art books; John and Stephen, her older brothers, had their horticultural books; but novels? No.
One would think a painter and a poet would have very liberal ideas on what their children could read, but such was not the case. Lucy, the baby, was already thirteen and had virtually memorized A Vindication of the Rights of Women, yet Mama still would not let her read even Miss Austen's stories. Lucy was a resourceful girl, however, and had managed to smuggle into the house an impressive assortment of novels.
Thankfully, Mama had given up on her when she'd made her come-out, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-four, she could read whatever she wished, at least when she was in London.
What should she read now? She didn't want to start a new book immediately, but she liked to have her next selection ready. Anticipation added to the delight.
Hmm. She'd been meaning to read Waverley for the longest time. She was quite a fan of Mr. Scott's stories, but she'd never read his first. She glanced at the clock. It was far too early to go to sleep. She'd just slip downstairs and see if by chance the book was in the Widmores' collection. Perhaps she'd even take a quick look at its opening pages ...
Jane climbed out of bed. Mama wouldn't be home for hours yet. Not that she'd been looking forward to the "infernal caterwauling," as she'd put it, of the Hammersham twins, but she'd been greatly anticipating seeing her artist friends. She'd surely go off into a side room with them and catch up on all the art gossip. She might not come home before the sun rose.
Jane put on her slippers. Her wrapper, unfortunately, was off to be washed-she'd spilled chocolate on it this morning. No matter. She'd only be a moment, and the servants were all in their quarters, celebrating the housekeeper Mrs. Brindle's birthday.
She stepped into the hall. As she'd suspected, it was deserted. She made her way toward the stairs.
If only she could spend all her time in London at the lending libraries and museums, but Mama had other plans, of course. It was the Season and she was still unwed. She couldn't plead a headache every night-Mama would have the physician at the door in a pig's whisker. The woman took her children's every twinge, every sniffle, very seriously.
She sighed. So Mama would drag her to as many society events as she could, hoping her eldest daughter would inspire undying ardor in some gentleman's breast.
Mama was living in air castles. When was she going to face the truth? This was her-damn. Jane grabbed the banister and stopped on the top stair. Could it be? She counted on her fingers to be certain ... Yes, this was the beginning of her eighth Season.
She wasn't just on the shelf; she was stuck to it like a leaky glue pot.
Which was just fine with her. She started down the stairs. She'd met all the eligible-and some not so eligible-society gentlemen and had found them all completely boring.
Well, not all. There was Viscount Motton-six feet of elegantly attired muscle, with sapphire blue eyes, chestnut brown hair, and a damn dimple in his left cheek.
Not that she'd noticed.
She snorted. The man certainly hadn't noticed her, or if he had, he only thought of her as John and Stephen Parker-Roth's younger sister. He'd never once asked her to stand up with him at any ball or assembly. She'd barely exchanged two words with him all these years.
Of course, he didn't attend many social events. He came-briefly-to the first few each Season and then vanished. And she'd wager she wasn't the only woman who'd made note of his habits in that regard.
She glared at a plaster cherub discreet enough to have avoided Mrs. Brindle's Holland cloths. Lord Motton didn't get dragged to every ball and breakfast, oh no. He was a man. He had the freedom to choose the path his life would take. He could stay on his estate like John, or go off to foreign lands like Stephen. When he finally decided it was time to start his nursery, he would just pick one of the many aristocratic girls displayed for his inspection on the Marriage Mart.
Faugh! A man's life was so much better than a woman's. Men could have adventures, while women must sit home, darning socks and tending children. It was not fair.
She reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around. There was still not a servant in sight. She'd just slip down the hall and into the study. With luck, she'd find the books in some discernible order, but given the general state of the house, she'd more likely encounter a complete hodgepodge. Oh, well. She had plenty of time to browse through the shelves.
She came to the study door, put her hand on the knob-and paused. Odd. She sniffed. Did she smell smoke? Only a trace, as if someone had just blown out a candle.
Ridiculous. She was allowing the gothic thrill of Frankenstein to cloud her thinking. This was present-day London. Nothing exciting ever happened to her.
She shook the silly, fanciful thoughts from her head and opened the door.
Her candle went out. Damn. She stepped toward the fire to relight it and felt a breeze. The French window was open. Why-
A strong arm snaked around her waist and a broad, naked hand clamped over her mouth. She was hauled up against a hard male chest.
Dear God! She swung her candlestick, but only managed to knock over the hideous statue of Pan on the desk. She couldn't turn and pummel the man behind her-he was too strong. But he was taller than she ... She flung her weapon up and back this time and collided with something.
"Bloody-" The man took his hand off her mouth to grab for the candlestick. She drew in a deep breath. This was her opportunity. No one would hear her scream, of course-the servants were too far away and likely too drunk to come to her aid-but this miscreant didn't know that.
She yelled as loud as she could.
"Hell, woman, you just broke my eardrum."
"I'll break more than that, sirrah, if you don't release me immediately!" Odd, the man's voice had sounded educated and very faintly familiar.
He chuckled. "Who would have thought you were such a hellion?"
Hellion, hah! She hadn't grown up with two older brothers for nothing-and a younger brother as well. If he gave her just an inch, he'd be sorry. She screamed again and thrashed more vigorously.
"Will you stop that?"
"Not until you let me go, you-oof!"
He'd managed to twist her to face him. His left arm was now around her back, his right hand on the candlestick, and his mouth-heavens above!-his mouth was descending ...
She gasped. The moonlight revealed his identity just before his lips touched hers.
She was being held and ... hmm, well, kissed ... by Viscount Motton.
Her fingers loosened and the candlestick crashed to the floor. Neither of them bothered with it. The candle was out. It wasn't going to set anything aflame.
The viscount was setting her aflame. She was surrounded by his scent-eau de cologne and leather and ... him. His mouth covered hers, but she'd lost all desire to scream. No, her desire was headed in an entirely different direction. She felt boneless, like her knees would give out at any moment.
His lips moved, brushed hers, nibbled at the corner of her mouth, and then meandered over her cheek to a very sensitive spot on her neck just under her ear.
She'd never been kissed before ... well, never like this. This was an entirely new experience-a wonderful experience. Mmm.
What was the man doing here? He lived next door-and yes, she'd occasionally tried to time her daily walks to catch a glimpse of him. Had he mistaken the house? Gone astray?
His mouth moved farther down her neck, his hands wandering lower to skim her bottom. Ohh. He was going very much astray.
Should she be alarmed? No, he must not mean her any harm. He knew her brothers, and he had an unblemished reputation.
Ohh. He was stroking her bottom now. Her nightdress was so old and worn, it was almost as if his hand were on her bare skin.
She'd dreamed of someday getting a dance with the man, of feeling his gloved hand on hers-and now ...
They were quite alone. No one would know if she took advantage of this odd situation.
He'd come back to her mouth. Was that his tongue touching her lips?What would happen if she ...?
His tongue slid between her teeth. How disgusting! Hmm, well, it should be disgusting, but it was ... not. Actually, once one got over the shock, it was rather wonderful. He tasted of brandy, and he filled her with wet heat.
Her mouth was not the only part of her that was very hot and wet. Her stomach ... well, lower than her stomach ... was embarrassingly damp-if she was still capable of feeling embarrassment, which she apparently wasn't-and throbbing. An odd hollowness opened there, wanting something ...
She had three brothers. Her mother was an artist with more than one nude painting in her studio-she had never been shy about explaining things. Mama might not want her daughters reading novels, but she did want them to know certain facts of life. And Jane had been eleven when Lucy was born-she'd asked quite a few questions. She had a good idea what her body was aching for-and what part of Lord Motton's physique could provide what she needed. It had formed a hard ridge against her belly.
His hands were moving again, one still tracing the contours of her derrière, the other sliding up to ...
Oh. Oh, heavens.
All rational thought fled as his fingers cradled her breast.
Motton was lost in a flood of sensation-the feel of this woman, so soft in his arms, her lovely curves unshielded by stays or layers of clothing; the taste of her sweet mouth under his; the smell of her skin, of lemon-a hint of purity, of innocence-and the musk of heat and need; the sound of her small gasps.
She had been so feisty-so fiery-at first, but now she was yielding and feminine and thoroughly seductive. Fiery, but in an entirely different way. He certainly felt as if he were on fire-his cock was just about ready to burn a hole in his breeches.
He pulled her bottom closer, bringing her more tightly against his poor, straining member, but the pressure only served to stoke the flames higher. His other hand cupped one of her lovely breasts. It was firm, soft, perfect. It fit his palm as if it had been made for it. He ran his lips over her jaw as he rubbed his thumb over her nipple. The lovely woman in his arms gasped.
He chuckled and kissed her just below her ear as he flicked the hard little nub once more. She gasped again.
He almost gasped. Standing was becoming a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately the loveseat was far too small, but there was the desk. She'd thoughtfully cleared it of that obscene statue. At the moment he'd wager his cock was far larger than Pan's in any event.
She was running her hands down his back, spreading them over his buttocks, pressing him against her.
He cradled her jaw and returned to her mouth. Before he could plunge inside, she slipped her tongue tentatively past his lips and teeth. Ah. Who would have thought this girl would be so delicious, so responsive, so-
So virginal. So respectable. So closely related to two of his friends.
He froze. He'd actually been thinking of lifting Miss Parker-Roth onto the bare desktop, raising her nightdress, and-
Sanity came crashing back like a migraine. He straightened and jerked his hips back.
"What ... what are you doing?" The soft little words were hardly more than a whisper. She sounded completely confused.
She looked completely seductive, but it was past time he started thinking with his brain and not his ...
He tried to push her gently away from him, but she wasn't moving. She wrapped her arms around his back and held on.
"Jane. My name is Jane."
Had he known her Christian name? No. He'd never paid much attention to her, frankly. She'd been just another attractive item decorating the ton's ballrooms-like a potted palm or a ficus tree.
Excerpted from The Naked Viscount by Sally MacKenzie Copyright © 2010 by Sally MacKenzie. Excerpted by permission.
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