Lucien Remington's reputation as a debauched libertine who plays by no one's rules--in business or the bedroom--is well deserved. He gets what he wants, social repudiation be damned. But society can keep from him the one thing he truly desires, the untouchable Lady Julienne La Coeur. Until she sneaks into his club dressed as a man and searching for her irresponsible brother. Suddenly she's in Lucien's grasp, his to take, and his mind is filled with the most wickedly sinful thoughts. A gentleman would walk away from the temptation she presents. But then, Lucien has never claimed to be a gentleman. . .
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"What the devil are you doing in my club?"
Julienne looked across the massive mahogany desk into blue eyes the color of which she'd never seen before. Somewhere between deep blue and purple, they were fringed with thick black lashes that were shamefully wasted on a man. "I need to find my brother," she said, lifting her chin in defiance.
One black brow arched. "A message left with the doorman would have been simpler, Miss ..."
"Lady. Julienne. And I attempted to leave messages. I have yet to receive a response." She shifted in her chair as the broadcloth trousers chafed the delicate skin of her derriere. The wig itched, too, but she refused to embarrass herself further by scratching.
"Dressing as a man was an original touch." She heard the laughter in the velvety voice and scowled. "How else was I to gain admission to a gentleman's club?"
Julienne resisted the urge to flee as Lucien Remington rose from behind the desk and rounded it. She licked suddenly dry lips as she took in his height and the breadth of his shoulders. He was even more devastating up close than he had been across crowded ballrooms. Black hair and tanned skin displayed his extraordinary eyes to perfection. A strong jaw and generous mouth bespoke of his sensual nature, which was lauded far and wide by well-pleasured ladies of his acquaintance.
"Exactly, Lady Julienne. A gentleman's club. Those garments do not disguise the fact that you are all woman. Ridgely's foxed, or insane, not to have noticed." His perusal paused briefly on her breasts before rising to meet her gaze.
"No one noticed," she muttered.
And so he had. Almost immediately. She'd been in the club only five minutes at most before he'd grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her into his office. But then, it had taken her only five minutes to make a mess of the whole affair.
His voice softened. "What is so urgent that you would take such drastic measures to speak with your brother?"
As he leaned against his desk directly in front of her, the material of his trousers stretched over firmly muscled thighs. He was so close she could feel the heat emanating from his body. She smelled a hint of tobacco and starched linen, and another delicious scent that could only be the man himself.
Remington cleared his throat, drawing her attention. Julienne flushed at the knowing smile that curved his lips.
She straightened her spine, refusing to be cowed despite how beautiful he was or how flustered he made her. "My reasons are my own."
Remington bent, bringing his mouth inches away from hers. "When your reasons include my club, I reserve the right to know what they are."
Julienne's gaze was riveted to his lips. If she leaned forward just a tiny bit, she could touch them with her own.
Would they feel as soft as they looked?
He pulled away, then lowered to his haunches and placed his large hands on her knees. She jumped at the heat that burned through the broadcloth. "Who is your brother?" he asked.
Julienne's mouth parched the instant he touched her, making speech difficult. Lucien Remington was simply gorgeous. She'd always thought so, always compared her suitors to him and found them lacking in all respects. No one was as handsome, or as interesting, or as ... wicked.
Her tongue flicked out to wet her bottom lip, and his eyes followed the movement. An ache came to the place between her legs. Julienne attempted to push his hands away, but when she touched his skin, her palms burned. She pulled away quickly. "A gentleman does not put his hands on a lady," she scolded.
His hands slid higher, squeezing gently, his mouth gifting her with a roguish smile. "I never claimed to be a gentleman."
And he wasn't, she knew. His determination and ruthless business acumen were the stuff of legend. If it wasn't precisely prohibited in writing, Lucien Remington would do it. He showed no leniency when it came to expanding his empire. He was widely disparaged for his "vulgar pursuit of money," but Julienne found it rather thrilling. He cared nothing for the regard of others, a nonchalance she wished she could affect herself.
"Now, about your brother ...?"
"Lord Montrose," she blurted.
A devilish smile teased the corners of Remington's mouth. "That explains why he hasn't answered your messages, sweetheart. The earl owes me a great deal of money. I suspect he's avoiding me."
She said nothing, but she clenched her fists. Their situation must be worse than she'd thought. It was common for Hugh to carouse and spend days on end with his scapegrace associates. From experience she knew he most likely wasn't in danger. But that didn't ease her worry. Or their predicament.
"Why don't you tell me what you need?" Remington coaxed, his long fingers rhythmically kneading her lower thighs. "Perhaps I can help."
The sensations he elicited spread up her legs and into her breasts, flushing her skin. Her nipples hardened. "Why would you want to do that?"
His powerful shoulders flexed as he shrugged. "You are a beautiful woman. I like beautiful women. Especially troubled ones who require my assistance."
"So you can take advantage?" She stood, her thoughts and body in turmoil, and his hands fell away. "I should not have come in here."
"No, you shouldn't have," he agreed, his voice soft. Remington rose at the same time, towering over her. The top of her head barely reached his shoulders, and Julienne was forced to tilt her head back to look at him.
She turned to leave, but his grip on her elbow stayed her. Heat radiated from his fingers and spread through her body.
"Unhand me," she ordered in an unsteady voice. "I wish to leave."
She didn't, not truly, but she must. Remington's proximity was doing terrible things to her. Wonderful, terrible things. Things it most likely did to countless other women.
He shook his head and grinned. "Pity that, since you're not going anywhere. Not until morning. You've created enough of a stir as it is, coughing brandy all over Lord Ridgely. Returning to the floor, however briefly, would stir up the whole mess again. You've wounded his pride, and he's a pompous ass."
"What do you suggest I do then?"
The amusement in his eyes never wavered. "You'll stay the night in one of the rooms upstairs. I'll entertain Ridgely and his cronies until the whole debacle is forgotten."
She gaped. "You're mad! I cannot remain in this establishment overnight!" Remington laughed. The deep, rich sound gathered around her like an embrace and made her shiver. But she wasn't cold. To her dismay, she was growing hotter by the moment. She couldn't help it with the way he looked at her. Julienne had seen that look before. But no man had ever dared to give it to her.
She found she rather liked it.
"You went to a hell of a lot of trouble to get in here," he purred. "And now you're anxious to leave?"
Julienne sidestepped, but he didn't release her. "My need was especially dire. I apologize for any trouble I —"
"You don't sound very sorry."
"I'll leave immediately," she offered.
"You'll leave in the morning. The hour is late. The streets aren't safe."
"My aunt will worry," she argued.
"I'll send Lady Whitfield a note. She'll know you're well."
She stilled, her eyes narrowing. "How do you know about my aunt?"
"I know everything about every one of the members of my club. Especially those who enjoy lines of credit." Remington's thumb began an absentminded caress of the hollow of her elbow. Julienne felt the warmth of his touch all the way to her bones.
"I know your parents died when you were very young and your Aunt Eugenia's been your guardian for years. You and Montrose are always running roughshod over her. Your brother is brash, hotheaded, and still too young for the responsibilities of his title. You're always bailing him out of one mess or another. And now I know how seriously you take that responsibility."
She looked away, flustered that he knew such intimate details. "Do you also know how sick to death I am of that chore?" she said finally, surprising herself with the admission.
His voice turned soft and sympathetic. "I'm certain you must be. But you've done an admirable job. There's not been even a breath of scandal attached to the La Coeur name."
Julienne looked up at him, overwhelmed by his nearness. She felt slightly tipsy, but she couldn't blame it on the brandy. Lord Ridgely was presently wearing most of it.
Remington led her across the room and pulled the bell. "I'll have one of the courtesans give you a night rail. You'll be comfortable. My hospitality is legendary."
She scowled. "That's not all that's legendary."
Unperturbed, he gave her a wink. A lock of silky hair fell across his forehead, and Julienne fought the unaccountable urge to brush it away with her fingertips.
An attendant came, and Remington drew him aside. Whenthe servant left, she tried again to reason her way out of trouble.
"Mr. Remington, I must insist you allow me to leave. It is most improper for me to spend the evening here."
"And masquerading your way into my club is proper?" Remington's brilliant gaze hardened with determination. "You've created an inconvenience for me, Lady Julienne. The least you can do is minimize the damage."
Everything they said about the man was true. Single-minded. Stubborn. Relentless. She could always slip away. She was good at —
"Don't even consider sneaking out," he warned. "I've already instructed the attendant. You won't get far."
"Of all the —!" she sputtered.
Abruptly the wall opened, revealing a hidden passageway and a young, scantily dressed woman.
"Escort my" — he shot her an amused glance and chuckled — "lady friend to the Sapphire Room, Janice. Give her a night rail, and order her a supper tray."
The courtesan's eyes widened as she studied Julienne with obvious interest.
With a hand at the small of her back, Remington propelled her toward the opening. He bent low, his lips brushing her ear. "Stay in your room until I send for you in the morning. I would hate for you to be seen without your disguise."
Julienne stared at the open portal. "Don't you have one of these that lead out —"
"No. This goes from here to my room. Nowhere else."
She shivered as his breath danced across her throat, the feeling so intimate as to have been almost a caress. "Mr. Remington, is there any way I could convince you of the impropriety of this arrangement? I'm truly sorry to have disturbed you."
His blue eyes darkened, and he opened his mouth to speak. Then he shut it and shook his head. "Go on now," he urged in a husky whisper. "I have work to do."
Muttering under her breath, Julienne followed Janice into the secret hallway, feeling Remington's eyes on her until she disappeared from sight. It took only moments to reach the upstairs gallery, where the courtesan ushered her into an opulent bedchamber. As soon as she stepped inside, Julienne paused, entranced.
The Sapphire Room was the loveliest room she'd ever seen. The walls were covered in deep blue-and-cream stripes of silk, the massive bed was layered in lush indigo velvet, and the parquet floors were covered with rich Aubusson rugs. She spun slowly, attempting to picture Remington here.
Julienne started in surprise at the use of her courtesy title. "How did you know?" Janice smiled. "'Tis impossible to hide good breeding. I'll go now and fetch you something else to wear and some supper. I won't be long."
"Thank you. I'd be very grateful to get out of these clothes."
After the courtesan left, Julienne tossed the wig into the coal bucket and sank into a chair, once again admiring the luxuriousness of her surroundings. Remington's Gentleman's Club was a pleasure den, a bastion of male comfort and iniquity. Hugh had steeped himself in the environment, surrounding himself with erotic novels and scandalous peep-show boxes, as well as a social circle made up entirely of debauched rakes. She'd been forced to study the enemy simply to know what she faced.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. Julienne had to admit she was curious about carnal relations. She hated to be in the dark about anything, and Aunt Eugenia was no help at all, stuttering and stammering every time she was asked anything of a sexual nature. The books and contents of the boxes had answered many of Julienne's questions, but in the process they had raised many more, and unfortunately they had told her nothing about how to remove Hugh from his path of self-destruction.
Standing, she crossed to the window and stared at the darkened London skyline. Remington's was Hugh's favorite establishment, and after seeing the inside of the famous club, Julienne could understand why. He'd been absent for a week, which was not unusual, but the hounding creditors were driving her mad. Usually Hugh dealt with them, charming them into allowing him a few more days. She, on the other hand, had no notion of what to say, and while the duns strove to be polite to her, they grew angrier by the day.
There would be hell to pay when Hugh showed his sorry hide again. But in the meantime, she was inclined to think her adventure had been worth it just for the few stolen moments she'd enjoyed of Lucien Remington's company. The fact was, the possibility of seeing him up close, of hearing his voice, of watching him at her leisure, was what had prompted this plan. Finding Hugh would have been a bonus.
Under no other circumstances would Julienne have been allowed to make Remington's acquaintance. She knew very little about him, since he was not a fit topic for unmarried ladies. Furtive eavesdropping in retiring rooms had only whetted her appetite to learn more. But there was one thing she knew for a certainty: Lucien Remington was a naughty man.
And she rather liked that about him.
He knew how to enjoy himself without running headlong into the poorhouse. In fact, rumor said he was one of the richest men in England. She hoped Hugh could learn similar self-restraint and financial acuity.
Releasing a deep breath, Julienne turned toward the bed. At times she truly hated being an earl's daughter and all of the social strictures that came with that station. She wished she could be like her abigail, who was seeing the neighbor's footman and was blissfully in love. Instead Julienne would be forced to marry for prestige and money. It really wasn't fair. Playing the martyr didn't suit her nature. Hugh made his own messes, and as far as she was concerned, he should clean them up himself. Unfortunately, that wasn't the way it would be.
But her dreams were her own. And if those dreams were of Lucien Remington and his wicked smiles, no one else would ever have to know.
Lucien strode to the sideboard, poured two fingers of brandy, and tossed the fiery liquid back in one gulp.
He'd lost his damn mind. There was no other explanation for forcing Lady Julienne La Coeur to stay. His hand went to the front of his trousers and rubbed the length of his aching erection. His arousal was ridiculous. She was dressed in men's clothing, for Christ's sake!
Closing his eyes, he pictured the sway of her hips in those trousers as she'd left the room. His cock throbbed in response.
Hell and damnation! He should have shoved her out the door. Gently, of course, but shoved with haste, nevertheless.
Instead he had sent her upstairs to the room that adjoined his. She was an innocent, that was painfully obvious, but despite her unfamiliarity with sex, she was no stranger to desire. She'd looked at him as if she wanted to eat him alive. And, God, he'd love to allow her to. With very little effort, Lucien could imagine sliding his cock in and out of her delectable mouth. It would feel like warm silk ... He groaned as his trousers grew even more uncomfortable.
With a muffled curse, Lucien set his empty glass on the desk and walked to the bookshelf. Glancing quickly through the spines, he located the file for the Earl of Montrose. The earl's entire monetary history could be found in here, from the amount he owed his tailor to the balance in his bank account.
Lucien had been aware that Montrose was playing too deep. Any other patron would have lost his credit privileges long ago. But Lucien had left the young earl's accounts open, for one reason and for one reason only — he wanted Julienne La Coeur. He'd coveted her across many a crowded ballroom. Tiny but temptingly voluptuous, with dark blonde hair and mischievous eyes, Julienne had stolen the breath from him at first sight.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "From Bad Boys Ahoy!"
Copyright © 2006 Sylvia Day.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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