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Authors: Amelia Grey

Tags: #Regency, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Historical, #London (England), #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Historical Fiction, #General, #Love Stories

A Taste of Temptation

BOOK: A Taste of Temptation
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Page iv

Titles by Amelia Grey

never a bride

a dash of scandal

a little mischief

a hint of seduction

a taste of temptation

Page v

a Taste of

Temptation

Amelia Grey

b

BERKLEY SENSATION, NEW YORK

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Taste of Temptation

A BERKLEY Book / published by arrangement with the author All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2005 by The Berkley Publishing Group.

This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission.

Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

For information address:

The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is http://www.penguinputnam.com

ISBN: 0-7865-6013-4

A BERKLEY BOOK®

BERKLEY Books first published by Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

Electronic edition: December 2005

“It is with true love as it is with a ghost; everyone talks about it but few have seen it.” As the new Season begins, many lovely young ladies will be looking for love among the
ton
’s of unattached gentlemen. And none will be more sought after than the last remaining bachelor of the once famous Terrible Threesome. Andrew Terwillger, the Earl of Dugdale, is back in Town, but is he looking to make a match?

Lord Truefitt

Society’s Daily Column

O
livia Banning folded
the week-old edition of the
Daily Reader
and handed it back to her aunt. “Lord Truefitt is colorful with his tittle-tattle, Auntie. I wonder if anyone in London’s Society ever tries to find out who he is.” Agatha Loudermilk laid the paper on the bed beside her and looked up at Olivia. “I’m sure there have been hundreds over the years who would like to know, but not me. If his identity were discovered, he would no longer have access to the
ton
and couldn’t write any more columns.

He’s so clever with his quotes and so delicious with his gossip that I don’t want him to stop.” Olivia smiled down at her great aunt, who was propped against fluffy pillows having her morning chocolate and toast in bed.

“He does have a way with openings. Remember, last Season he started every column with a quote that had something to do with horses.”

“Yes, I do. And the year before that every column of gossip started with a quote from Shakespeare. It looks as if this Season he is starting each daily with a quote about ghosts.” Olivia gave her aunt an indulgent smile. “You are looking much better today. It must be because spring is in the air.” Her aunt’s lively green eyes sparkled as she said, “I am much better indeed, but the reason is not the sunshine or the passing of winter. Come and sit beside me, Livy.” She patted the bed. “I’ve been making plans for us and it’s time to tell you about them.”

Intrigued by the excitement showing on her aunt’s aged face, Olivia pushed the news paper aside and sat down. If Agatha was making plans for a party, it was a sure sign she was over the serious illness that had gripped her for most of the winter.

“I must go to London soon and I need you to go with me.”

Surprised by this statement, Olivia said, “Auntie, you were in bed with that terrible cough for weeks. You’re not well enough to take a trip to London. Besides that, I’m sure the roads are still boggy and treacherous. It’s best you forget about traveling for a while.”

“I say nonsense to both your concerns, Livy. I’m feeling better than I have in years, and as far as the condition of roads, they should be in passable shape by the time we’re packed and ready to leave.”

Olivia knitted her brows together in bewilderment. “I don’t understand. You haven’t been back to London since you came to live in Kent and take care of me a dozen years ago. You’ve always said there is nothing for you in London anymore. Why do you suddenly need to go now?” Her aunt leaned forward and in a whispery voice said,

“Lord Pinkwater wants me to come to him. He has something to tell me.”

Obviously her aunt wasn’t as healthy in mind as she was in body if she was talking to someone from the afterlife.

Olivia eyed her aunt with concern, for Lord Pinkwater had been dead for years.

“I think you’re confused about something, Auntie,” she said softly, hoping not to upset her aunt’s delicate hold on reality. “You do remember that Lord Pinkwater died more than thirty years ago, don’t you?”

Agatha laughed softly. Her bright eyes danced with intrigue. She suddenly looked very mischievous for a lady well past her prime.

“Of course he did, my dear. How good of you to point that out. I should have said that
his ghost
is beckoning me to come to him.”

At first Olivia didn’t know how to respond to that shocking revelation, so she merely repeated her aunt’s words in the form of a question. “A ghost is summoning you to London?”

“Yes.”Agatha picked up her warm chocolate and sipped it.

There wasn’t even a hint of a tremble or a shake in the blue-veined hand that held the delicate china cup, but something was wrong. Her aunt appeared as lucid as Olivia, but there was no way Agatha could be.

Concern quickly turned to apprehension and a shiver of disquiet stole over Olivia. She wouldn’t allow herself to panic—yet. There had to be a logical reason for Agatha to think a ghost had visited her. Perhaps she was taking the opening of Lord Truefitt’s column a little too seriously.

Agatha looked better and stronger than she had in months. The luster had returned to her long, silver hair.

Her appetite was adequate, and she was taking long walks in the garden each day. Her face, while showing lines of age around her eyes and mouth, was glowing with good health.

But what could have happened to her sound mind?

Olivia cleared her throat and rearranged the folds of her pale blue morning dress while she thought about what to say. She certainly didn’t want to upset Agatha, so a calm approach was in order.

“I don’t think you’re feeling well, Auntie. Perhaps I should take your tray and let you nap. We can continue our conversation later in the day.”

“Oh, heaven’s angels, Livy, don’t make me sound like I’m on my death bed. My cough is gone, my strength has returned. I’ve been going downstairs for a month now. I am not sick in body nor am I weak in my mind.” Not knowing what else to do, Olivia rose from the bed and plumped the goose feather pillows behind her aunt. If molly-coddling wasn’t going to pacify Agatha’s fragile hold on reality she’d pursue a different approach and take charge of the situation.

Firmly she said, “And apparently your activities of the past four weeks have been too much of a strain on you.

Clearly you are not yourself. You just said a ghost told you he wants you to come to London.”

“He does,” Agatha said without a hint of embarrassment or doubt. “And my pillows are fine, thank you very much.

Listen to me, Livy. I’m not going insane. I know Lord Pinkwater is calling to me and I must go to him.” Olivia let her arms drop to the sides of her muslin skirt.

Not willing to give in to Agatha’s pronouncement, she said,

“But that’s absurd, Auntie. Even if Lord Pinkwater’s ghost is alive—I mean, if he is real or present or whatever ghosts are—why would he be summoning you to London?” A faraway expression settled on Agatha’s face. Her eyes held an unusual glimmer and her thin lips settled into a wistful smile. Olivia had the feeling her aunt was looking into the past, at days long gone but often remembered.

“You know that Lord Pinkwater was the man who broke my heart all those years ago, and that he is the reason I never married.”

“Yes,” Olivia answered, wondering what could have happened to trigger Agatha’s reflective mood on the past.

“I never gave up hope. I always felt he would come back to me some day. And now he has.”

Olivia’s breath caught in her throat at the sadness she heard in her aunt’s voice. She’d always known that Agatha had never married because the legendary Lord Pinkwater jilted her when she was eighteen and ran off with another young lady more than forty years ago.

In the twelve years Agatha had lived with Olivia she’d seldom mentioned the man. Olivia had assumed that after all these years her aunt had finally gotten over him, but apparently her heartache had only deepened.

“But you knew he was a rogue who had many lovers before you agreed to the betrothal. He didn’t even marry the woman he left you for. I don’t think he ever loved anyone but himself. Why did you wait for him?”

“I had to. It didn’t matter that he never really loved me.

I loved him and that was enough. It still is.” She turned her gaze to Olivia. “At last, he wants me to come to him.” Suddenly Olivia reached over and put the palm of her hand to her aunt’s forehead. Agatha brushed it aside.

“Stop that, silly girl. Don’t fuss or worry about me. I don’t have a fever, and I’ve not suddenly gone mad.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” Olivia said, wondering if she really believed that. “Perhaps you’ve had too much tonic and you are imagining him calling to you in your dreams.” Olivia needed a logical explanation for her aunt’s sudden revelation.

“I haven’t had any laudanum in weeks. Ask Susan, she will tell you.”

“The maid will say whatever you tell her to,”Olivia insisted.

“Then take all the tonics and elixirs in this house and throw them away if you don’t believe me.” She reached up and took hold of Olivia’s hand. Agatha’s skin was warm and her grip was as steady and firm as her eyes. “I’m not imagining this. Lord Pinkwater’s spirit is as real as you and I. This is very important to me, Livy. I must go to London and find him.”

Olivia was moved by her aunt’s passion, but all that did was fuel her unease about Agatha’s state of mind. Olivia wasn’t even sure she believed in ghosts. She’d never had serious reason to think about it. She’d read about them in any number of books and heard stories, but she’d never seen one.

And even putting all that aside, this wasn’t a time in her life when she wanted to leave Kent and travel to London.

She was looking forward to the spring dances, house parties, and the continued attention of a certain young gentleman who had recently caught her eye.

“If Lord Pinkwater has a ghost, I mean if he is a spirit or whatever he is, why doesn’t he just fly through the air and come to you?”

Agatha let go of Olivia’s hand. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” she said with all conviction. “I suppose he can’t.

Or, perhaps it’s because London is where we met and where we last saw each other. Maybe he wants to tell me why he left me for Lady Veronica. Maybe that’s why his soul is not at rest. It doesn’t matter. I’ll ask him when we find him.” An anxious feeling shimmered down Olivia’s spine.

“When
we
find him?”

“Yes. I know he resides at a house in London but not which one.”

“Auntie, surely you aren’t suggesting we go searching homes for a ghost.”

Agatha smiled as sweetly as if she were talking to their minister after Sunday morning worship. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do. I have it all worked out. I’ve decided to give you a Season in London. That way we will be invited to all the best parties in private homes in Mayfair.”

“You know he’s in a house in Mayfair but not which one? How do you know that?”

Her aunt looked aghast that Olivia could even ask such a silly question. “Lord Pinkwater wouldn’t dream of staying in any other section of London, dead or alive.” Olivia felt sufficiently rebuked. “All right, but how will you determine which house he is in?”

“I’ll know when we enter the house whether or not he resides in it. I’m not sure if I will sense his presence or if he will show me a sign. But I will know when I reach the house he inhabits.”

Olivia lifted her skirts and knelt down beside the bed.

“Auntie, you know I would do anything for you, but how can I help you find a ghost? I’m not even sure I believe in them. And you know I have no desire for a Season in London. I’m hoping to get to know Mr. Yost better when the spring assemblies begin.”

Agatha patted Olivia’s cheek with her warm, soft hand and smiled at her with affection. “I know you think this young man pleases you, and perhaps in certain ways he does, but I think he is much too weak for you. You need a stronger, more prosperous gentleman.”

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