Ask for Itby Sylvia Day
A MATTER OF DANGEROUS INTRIGUE... As an agent to the Crown, Marcus Ashford, the Earl of/p>
England, 1770. Beneath the silk and lace of London society lies a secret, elite organization of spies. Protecting the Crown from its enemies is hazardous, but for Marcus Ashford, protecting his heart from an unyielding passion is the far greater peril...
A MATTER OF DANGEROUS INTRIGUE...
Dangerous secrets led to the murder of Lady Hawthorne's husband. Secrets she now holds in a diary many would kill to obtain. But to entrust herself to the protection of the most seductive man she's ever known? Outrageous. Unthinkable. Irresistible. For it was Marcus's strong passions and burning desire that frightened her into abandoning him years ago--and her answering craving has never waned. Now, he means to be at her service, in every sense. And perhaps the only sensible course isn't to resist temptation, but to surrender to it completely...
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ASK FOR IT
By SYLVIA DAY BRAVA BOOKS
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Chapter One Marcus found Elizabeth before he even set foot in the Moreland ballroom. In fact, he was trapped on the staircase as impatient peers and dignitaries sought a word with him. He was oblivious to those who vied for his attention, arrested by a brief glimpse of her.
She was even lovelier than before. How that was possible he couldn't say. She had always been exquisite. Perhaps absence had made his heart grow fonder.
A derisive smile curved his lips. Obviously, Elizabeth did not return the sentiment. When their eyes met, he allowed his pleasure at seeing her again to show on his face. In return, she lifted her chin and looked away.
A deliberate snub.
The cut direct, exactly administered but unable to draw blood. She had already inflicted the most grievous laceration years ago, making him impervious to further injury. He brushed off her disregard with ease. Nothing could alter their fate, however she might wish it otherwise.
For years now he'd served as an agent to the crown, and in that time he had led a life that would rival the stories written in any sensational novel. He'd fought numerous sword fights, been shot twice, and dodged more than any man's fair share of cannon fire. In the process, he had lost three of his own ships and sunk a half dozen others before he'd been forced to remain in England by the demands of his title. And yet the sudden fiery lick of awareness along his nerve endings only ever happened when he was in the same room as Elizabeth.
Avery James, his partner, stepped around him when it became obvious he was rooted to the spot. "There is Viscountess Hawthorne, my lord," he pointed out with an almost imperceptible thrust of his chin. "She is standing to the right, on the edge of the dance floor, in the violet silk gown. She is-"
"I know who she is."
Avery looked at him in surprise. "I was unaware that you were acquainted."
Marcus's lips, known widely for their ability to charm women breathless, curved in blatant anticipation. "Lady Hawthorne and I are ... old friends."
"I see," Avery murmured, with a frown that said he didn't at all.
Marcus rested his hand on the shorter man's shoulder. "Go on ahead, Avery, while I deal with this crush, but leave Lady Hawthorne to me."
Avery hesitated a moment, then nodded reluctantly and continued to the ballroom, his path clear of the crowd that besieged Marcus.
Tempering his irritation with the importunate guests blocking his path, Marcus tersely acknowledged the flurry of greetings and inquiries directed at him. This melee was the reason he disliked these events. Gentlemen who did not have the initiative to seek him out during calling hours felt free to approach him in a more relaxed social setting. He never mixed business with pleasure. At least that had been his rule until tonight.
Elizabeth would be the exception. As she had always been an exception.
Twirling his quizzing glass, Marcus watched as Avery moved through the crowd with ease, his gaze drifting past his partner to the woman he was assigned to protect. He drank in the sight of her like a man dying of thirst.
Elizabeth had never cared for wigs and was not wearing one tonight, as most of the other ladies did. The effect of stark white plumes in her dark hair was breathtaking, drawing every eye inexorably toward her. Nearly black, her hair set off eyes so stunningly colored they brought to mind the luster of amethysts.
Those eyes had locked with his for only a moment, but the sharp shock of her magnetism lingered, the pull of it undeniable. It drew him forward, called to him on the primitive level it always had, like a moth to a flame. Despite the danger of burning, he could not resist.
She had a way of looking at a man with those amazing eyes. Marcus could almost have believed he was the only man in the room, that everyone had disappeared and nothing stood between where he was trapped on the staircase and where she waited on the other side of the dance floor.
He imagined closing the distance between them, pulling her into his arms, and lowering his mouth to hers. He knew already that her lips, so erotic in their shape and plumpness, would melt into his. He wanted to trail his mouth down the slim column of her throat and lick along the ridge of her collarbone. He wanted to sink into her lush body and sate his driving hunger, a hunger that had become so powerful he was very nearly mad with it.
He'd once wanted everything-her smiles, her laughter, the sound of her voice, and the view of the world through her eyes. Now his need was baser. Marcus refused to allow it to be more than that. He wanted his life back, the life free of pain, anger, and sleepless nights. Elizabeth had taken it away and she could damn well give it back.
His jaw clenched. It was time to close the distance between them.
One look had shaken his control. What would it be like when he held her in his arms again?
Elizabeth, Viscountess Hawthorne, stood for a long moment in shock, heat spreading across her cheeks.
Her gaze had locked on the man on the staircase for only a moment and yet during that brief time her heart had increased its rhythm to an alarming pace. She was held motionless, arrested by the masculine beauty of his face, a face which had clearly shown pleasure at seeing her again. Startled and disturbed by her reaction to him after all these years, she had forced herself to cut him, to look away with haughty disregard.
Marcus, now the Earl of Westfield, was still magnificent. He remained the handsomest man she had ever encountered. When his gaze met hers, she felt the spark that passed between them as if it were a tangible force. An intense attraction had always existed between them. She was profoundly disturbed to discover it had not abated in the slightest.
After what he'd done, he should repulse her.
Elizabeth felt a hand at her elbow, jolting her back into the conversation. She turned to find George Stanton at her side, his concerned gaze searching her face. "Are you feeling unwell? You look a bit flushed."
She fluffed the lace at the end of her sleeve to hide her unease. "It is warm in here." Snapping her fan open, she waved it rapidly to cool her hot cheeks.
"I think a beverage is in order," George offered and she rewarded his thoughtfulness with a smile.
Once George had departed, Elizabeth directed her attention toward the group of gentlemen who surrounded her. "What were we discussing?" she asked no one in particular. Truthfully, she hadn't been paying attention to the conversation for most of the past hour.
Thomas Fowler replied, "We were discussing the Earl of Westfield." He gestured discreetly to Marcus. "Surprised to see him in attendance. The earl is notorious for his aversion to social events."
"Indeed." She feigned indifference while her palms grew damp within her gloves. "I had hoped that predilection of the earl's would hold true this evening, but it appears I am not so fortunate."
Thomas shifted, his countenance revealing his discomfort. "My apologies, Lady Hawthorne. I had forgotten your past association with Lord Westfield."
She laughed softly. "No need for apologies. Truly, you have my heartfelt appreciation. I'm certain you are the only person in London who has the sense to forget. Pay him no mind, Mr. Fowler. The earl was of little consequence to me then, and is of even less consequence now."
Elizabeth smiled as George returned with her drink and his eyes sparkled with pleasure at her regard.
As the conversation around her continued, Elizabeth slowly altered her position to better secure furtive glimpses of Marcus navigating the clogged staircase. It was obvious his libidinous reputation had not affected his power and influence. Even in a crowd, his presence was compelling. Several highly esteemed gentlemen hurried to greet him rather than wait for him to descend to the ballroom floor. Women, dressed in a dazzling array of colors and frothy with lace, glided surreptitiously toward the staircase. The influx of admirers moving in his direction shifted the balance of the entire room. To his credit, Marcus looked mostly indifferent to all of the fawning directed toward him.
As he made his way down to the ballroom, he moved with the casual arrogance of a man who always obtained precisely what he desired. The crowd around him attempted to pin him in place, but Marcus cut through it with ease. He attended intently to some, offhandedly to others, and to a few he simply raised an imperious hand. He commanded those around him with the sheer force of his personality and they were content to allow him to do so.
Feeling the intensity of her regard, his gaze met hers again. The corners of his generous mouth lifted upward as perception passed between them. The glint in his eyes and the warmth of his smile made promises that he as a man could never keep.
There was an air of isolation about Marcus and a restless energy to his movements that had not been there four years ago. They were warning signs, and Elizabeth had every intention of heeding them.
George looked easily over her head to scrutinize the scene. "I say. It appears Lord Westfield is heading this way."
"Are you quite certain, Mr. Stanton?"
"Yes, my lady. Westfield is staring directly at me as we speak."
Tension coiled in the pit of her stomach. Marcus had literally frozen in place when their eyes had first met and the second glance had been even more disturbing. He was coming for her and she had no time to prepare. George looked down at her as she resumed fanning herself furiously.
Damn Marcus for coming tonight! Her first social event after three years of mourning and he unerringly sought her out within hours of her reemergence, as if he'd been impatiently waiting these last years for exactly this moment. She was well aware that that had not been the case at all. While she had been crepe-clad and sequestered in mourning, Marcus had been firmly establishing his scandalous reputation in many a lady's bedroom.
After the callous way he'd broken her heart, Elizabeth would have discounted him regardless of the circumstances but tonight especially. Enjoyment of the festivities was not her aim. She had a man she was waiting for, a man she had arranged covertly to meet. Tonight she would dedicate herself to the memory of her husband. She would find justice for Hawthorne and see it served.
The crowd parted reluctantly before Marcus and then regrouped in his wake, the movements heralding his progress toward her. And then Westfield was there, directly before her. He smiled and her pulse raced. The temptation to retreat, to flee, was great, but the moment when she could reasonably have done so passed far too swiftly.
Squaring her shoulders, Elizabeth took a deep breath. The glass in her hand began to tremble and she quickly swallowed the whole of its contents to avoid spilling on her dress. She passed the empty vessel to George without looking. Marcus caught her hand before she could retrieve it.
Bowing low with a charming smile, his gaze never broke contact with hers. "Lady Hawthorne. Ravishing, as ever." His voice was rich and warm, reminding her of crushed velvet. "Would it be folly to hope you still have a dance available, and that you would be willing to dance it with me?"
Elizabeth's mind scrambled, attempting to discover a way to refuse. His wickedly virile energy, potent even across the room, was overwhelming in close proximity.
"I am not in attendance to dance, Lord Westfield. Ask any of the gentlemen around us."
"I've no wish to dance with them," he said dryly, "so their thoughts on the matter are of no consequence to me."
She began to object when she perceived the challenge in his eyes. He smiled with devilish amusement, visibly daring her to proceed, and Elizabeth paused. She would not give him the satisfaction of thinking she was afraid to dance with him. "You may claim this next set, Lord Westfield, if you insist."
He bowed gracefully, his gaze approving. He offered his arm and led her toward the dance floor. As the musicians began to play and music rose in joyous swell through the room, the beautiful strains of the minuet began.
Turning, Marcus extended his arm toward her. She placed her hand atop the back of his, grateful for the gloves that separated their skin. The ballroom was ablaze with candles, which cast him in golden light and brought to her attention the strength of his shoulder as it flexed. Lashes lowered, she appraised him for signs of change.
Marcus had always been an intensely physical man, engaging in a variety of sports and activities. Impossibly, it appeared he had grown stronger, more formidable. He was power personified and Elizabeth marveled at her past naiveté in believing she could tame him. Thank God, she was no longer so foolish.
His one softness was his luxuriously rich brown hair. It shone like sable and was tied at the nape with a simple black ribbon. Even his emerald gaze was sharp, piercing with a fierce intelligence. He had a clever mind to which deceit was naught but a simple game, as she had learned at great cost to her heart and pride.
She had half expected to find the signs of dissipation so common to the indulgent life and yet his handsome face bore no such witness. Instead he wore the sun-kissed appearance of a man who spent much of his time outdoors. His nose was straight and aquiline over lips that were full and sensuous. At the moment those lips were turned up on one side in a half smile that was at once boyish and alluring. He remained perfectly gorgeous from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. He was watching her studying him, fully aware that she could not help but admire his handsomeness. She lowered her eyes and stared resolutely at his jabot.
The scent that clung to him enveloped her senses. It was a wonderfully manly scent of sandalwood, citrus, and Marcus's own unique essence. The flush of her skin seeped into her insides, mingling with her apprehension.
Reading her thoughts, Marcus tilted his head toward her. His voice, when it came, was low and husky. "Elizabeth. It is a long-awaited pleasure to be in your company again."
"The pleasure, Lord Westfield, is entirely yours."
"You once called me Marcus."
"It would no longer be appropriate for me to address you so informally, my lord."
His mouth tilted into a sinful grin. "I give you leave to be inappropriate with me at any time you choose. In fact, I have always relished your moments of inappropriateness."
"You have had a number of willing women who suited you just as well."
"Never, my love. You have always been separate and apart from every other female."
Elizabeth had met her share of scoundrels and rogues but always their slick confidence and overtly intimate manners left her unmoved. Marcus was so skilled at seducing women, he managed the appearance of utter sincerity. She'd once believed every declaration of adoration and devotion that had fallen from his lips. Even now, the way he looked at her with such fierce longing seemed so genuine she almost believed it.
He made her want to forget what kind of man he was-a heartless seducer. But her body would not let her forget. She felt feverish and faintly dizzy.
"Three years of mourning," he said, with a faint note of bitterness. "I am relieved to see grief has not unduly ravaged your beauty. In fact, you are even more exquisite than when we were last together. You do recall that occasion, do you not?"
"Vaguely," she lied. "I have not thought of it in many years."
Wondering if he suspected her deception, she studied him as they changed partners. Marcus radiated an aura of sexual magnetism that was innate to him. The way he moved, the way he talked, the way he smelled-it all boasted of powerful energies and appetites. She sensed the barely leashed power he hid below the polished surface and she recollected how dangerous he was.
His voice poured over her with liquid heat as the steps of the minuet returned her to him. "I am wounded you are not more pleased to see me, especially when I braved this miserable event solely to be with you."
"Ridiculous," she scoffed. "You had no notion I would be here this evening. Whatever your purpose, please go about it and leave me in peace."
His voice was alarmingly soft. "My purpose is you, Elizabeth."
She stared a moment, her stomach churning with heightened unease. "If my brother sees us together he will be furious."
The flare of Marcus's nostrils made her wince. Once he and William had been the best of friends, but the end of her engagement had also brought about the demise of their friendship. Of all the things she regretted, that was paramount.
"What do you want?" she asked when he said nothing more.
"The fulfillment of your promise."
Excerpted from ASK FOR IT by SYLVIA DAY Copyright © 2006 by Sylvia Day. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than 40 countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in 25 countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Her Crossfire series has been optioned for television by Lionsgate. Visit Sylvia at www.SylviaDay.com, Facebook.com/AuthorSylviaDay and on Twitter @SylDay.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I came upon Ask For It by some serendipitous quirk of fate - its the first (and only, sadly) historical I've read by Sylvia - but it won't be the last, if I have anything to say about it! Marcus Ashford, the Earl of Westfield, was jilted by his fiancee Elizabeth years ago. She then proceeded to turn right around and marry someone else! Needless to say, Marcus has been harboring a bit of bitterness over the whole affair - and when his chance comes to get back at his erstwhile former fiancee, he takes it. But things aren't quite as simple as he'd like them to be - least of all his feelings for Elizabeth. Due to a misunderstanding, Elizabeth left Marcus and married Lord Hawthorne. She is now a widow, and holds the key to a mystery the Crown would like to solve. Which means she and Marcus will be working together - very closely. I'm almost unsure how to describe this book - its unlike any other historical I've read, and yet its a wonderful example of the genre. Its as if Ms. Day has just dropped us smack-dab into the center of these people's lives - it feels that immediate - but I never felt lost or confused. She has a completely natural voice in this genre. And, unsurprisingly, the love scenes are erotic and memorable. There is one particular scene that comes to mind - almost brutal, but incredibly sensuous at the same time - VERY intense. This is now one of my favorite historical romances. Extremely well done.
The Earl of Westfield, Marcus Ashford, has been obsessed with Lady Elizabeth Hawthorn since she left him high and dry to elope with another. Now four years later, her spouse has been murdered and Marcus is determined to scratch that itch for Elizabeth so he can stop obsessing over her. Little does he know that one taste isn't enough to quench his need, it only leaves him wanting more. The love that develops between Marcus and Elizabeth is quite intense, especially when they try to deny the magnetism. This love story had action, murder, angst, and love scenes far too hot for a historical romance! This is the third book I have read by Sylvia Day and I can never put them down. Though I do not usually read historical romance novels, I found myself re-reading passages and absolutely fell in love with this couple.
Sylvia Day has written a compelling and deeply sensual story in Ask For It. __________________ Marcus Ashford an agent for the crown is still profoundly hurt by Elizabeth¿s marriage to another. Now she is widowed and her life is in danger. Marcus demands to be the one to protect her. He figures he can keep her safe and also get his desires for her out of his system. ___________________ Elizabeth ran from the strong feelings she had for Marcus and married a much more suitable man. After his death her life was in peril and she is forced to accept Marcus¿s aide. He consumes her every waking thought until she has to give in to her desires. ___________________ Trying to keep Elizabeth safe and not touch her is impossible for Marcus. He thinks he can keep his heart out of this but his heart has other plans. _________________ Ask For It is one of the most sensual stories I have read in awhile. Marcus and Elizabeth discover their passion is all consuming. The danger is riveting and equally as compelling. Sylvia Day is an author to watch.
I discovered Sylvia Day's writing when I read Catching Caroline, and I've read her books ever since. She writes in a variety of subgenres, including paranormal, futuristic, historical, and contemporary. Her next book, Ask For It, is a historical romance: 4 out of 5. // Ask For It is Day's second book for Brava, and it's an excellent story. You have to love a heroine who knows how to use a weapon. LOL! And I liked the twists and turns of the story--just when I thought I'd figured things out, the plot took an unexpected turn. It was a refreshing change from many of the predictable stories out there. One secondary character surprised and intrigued me, and I hope he gets his own story. // Day has a talent for creating realistic and unforgettable heroes. Marcus definitely fits in this category. I'm a sucker for a hero who falls completely in love despite all his best efforts, and that's exactly what happens here. Marcus is a forceful man who needs a woman willing to stand up to him. Although Elizabeth isn't as strong a character, she's a good match for Marcus. // I can't review one of Sylvia's books without mentioning the love scenes. Sex isn't always about simple pleasure sometimes it's complicated, tangled with a variety of emotions. Day does these scenes very well, painting a visual picture of Marcus and Elizabeth's evolving relationship. It starts with ambivalence on both sides and develops into more in a way that's both absorbing and real. As a longtime reader of Day's work, I admire the fact that her love scenes are never the same, and she's willing to take risks in this area. // With Ask For It, Day proves again that she's a writer whose career is on the rise. She is under contract for several books from Avon Red and Brava. The only bad thing is that I have to wait until 2007 for the next book.
I really enjoyed this book, When I finished it I read it again I enjoyed so much.. I am really liking the series too..
I love a story where people have emotional scars they must over come to find love. This story had great characters and even better conversations.
Enjoyed this historical novel.
I llove historical novels. This one has it all. Mysrry beautful sexey characters with alot of hot sex. Is there more?
LOVE this book. Couldn't put it down. the story is intriguing, the couple is entertaining and endearing, and the romance is HOT HOT HOT!!! Great read, worth the money, get it NOW!!!
What an awesome mix of intrigue and romance. You cannot go wrong with a Sylvia Day story. I fell in love with Marcus myself!!!
I guess i just liked her other books more. Still an ok read
I wasn't a big fan of the language back in the early 1900s but this book actually kept my attention even though it wasn't a modern day romance it still had plenty of spice to it.