This book is dedicated to the people who make things happen in my
literary world. My agent, Deidre Knight, and all the wonderful folks at The
Knight Agency. And John Scognamiglio, my editor at Kensington, who never
even blinks when I tell him what I’d like to write next. Thank you both
He’d made a fool of himself.
Over a man.
Lord Minshom raised the bottle at his elbow, drank deeply,
then carefully set it down again. He licked the brandy from his
lips and tasted his own defeat and humiliation at the hands of
that upstart, Lord Anthony Sokorvsky. A man who’d had the
nerve to walk away from him—from him!
All of London was whispering about how his former sex slave
had forsaken him for a woman. Minshom smiled bitterly in the
direction of the fire and exhaled, feeling the tug of recently
healed bone. At their last meeting, Sokorvsky had punched him
so hard he’d ended up unconscious at the bottom of the stairs
with two cracked ribs. Luckily, Robert had been there to drag
him away before Sokorvsky and his nauseating lady love had
descended the stairs to gloat over him.
Minshom picked up the bottle again and drank until there was
nothing left. And it wasn’t as if he was «in love» with Sokorvsky.
He didn’t love anyone, didn’t believe he was capable of it
anymore. All his sexual encounters were exercises in power,
opportunities to show that he was still at his peak and able to
subdue or seduce anyone he wanted.
Yet Sokorvsky had found the balls to walk away from him.
And for the first time in his life, despite his threats, Minshom had
given up the pursuit and allowed his former lover to follow his
heart. He grimaced at his own saccharine choice of words. Was
he slipping? Was he losing his touch?
He turned his head toward the door of the oak-paneled study,
blinked at the blurred outline of his valet and occasional
secretary, Robert Brown.
Robert came farther into the room. His dark red hair glinted
in the meager candlelight, the only spot of color against his pale
skin and somber black attire.
«Would you like to retire for the night, sir?»
Minshom held out the brandy bottle. «Get me another one of
Unlike most of his staff, Robert held his ground and didn’t
«I’ll get you more brandy if you take it up to bed with you,
«Go to hell.»
«I’m already there, sir; I’ve lived with you for far too long.
You’ll have to think of something else to threaten me with.»
Minshom raised an eyebrow and threw the bottle toward the
marble fireplace, where it shattered into a million glittering
fragments and almost put the fire out. «Get me my brandy, damn
Robert sighed. «I’ll go and get someone to clean that up, sir. I
wouldn’t want you cutting yourself.»
Robert hesitated, his brown eyes fixed on Minshom’s. He was
in his early thirties, had come to Minshom Abbey as a stable boy
and had stayed with his master ever since.
«Come here and kneel down.» Minshom pointed to the rug in
front of him.
«Are you sure you don’t want to go upstairs? Anyone could
«And see you sucking my cock? I’m sure they’ve all seen that
Robert looked resigned, but he did as he was told and came to
kneel in front of Minshom. He eyed Minshom’s groin.
«After the amount you’ve had to drink, I’m not sure I’ll be
able to get a rise out of you, sir.»
«You’d better try hard then, hadn’t you?»
Robert sighed again and undid the buttons of Minshom’s
placket, pushed aside his underclothes to reveal his half-erect
cock. Minshom reached forward to slide his hand into Robert’s
thick pelt of auburn hair.
«Make it fast and hard; make me come.»
He closed his eyes as Robert’s warm mouth closed over his
shaft and began to suck and pump his flesh. He hadn’t been back
to the pleasure house since his injury. The discovery that
Sokorvsky’s woman was Madame Helene’s daughter hadn’t
helped either. Would he ever go back there? Was it time to move
He could almost hear his father saying it, the way his lip
would curl, the sting of the beating he would no doubt get for his
impudence in begging for the punishment to end. He dug his
fingers deeper into Robert’s hair, heard his valet draw in a
hurried breath and suck faster. Perhaps he hadn’t completely lost
his ability to make men sexually serve him after all. But then he
and Robert had always been simpatico.
A slight commotion in the hallway below registered through
his drunken arousal. He wasn’t expecting guests and had told his
damned butler to deny anyone who inquired. He had no desire to
see the glee in his so-called friends’ eyes as they recounted yet
more gossip about Sokorvsky and his new love. To be fair, he’d
liked Marguerite Lockwood, had felt an unexpected stir of
interest in his loins despite his refusal to fuck women. She’d
reminded him of someone...
The disturbance was getting louder, rising up the stairs,
coming closer. The agitated sound of his butler’s voice and the
clearer high tones of a woman. What in damnation was going on?
Robert stopped sucking and tried to raise his head. Minshom
shoved him back down again.
«I didn’t tell you to stop.»
He didn’t bother to turn his head as the door flew open and
his butler started apologizing.
«I’m sorry, sir, she refused to leave and...»
And sure enough, his vision was filled with an apparition from
the darkest recesses of his personal hell.
«Good evening, Robert, good evening, Minshom.»
Minshom kept one restraining hand on Robert’s head. He
used the other to wave the butler away and waited until the door
shut behind him before addressing his visitor.
«What the hell are you doing here?»
«I didn’t give you permission to do that.»
She raised her eyebrows and took off her bonnet, holding it at
her side by its wide blue ribbons. Her long brown hair was neatly
parted in the center and drawn back into two coiled braids over
her ears. At first glance, she still looked far too young to be
anyone’s wife, let alone his.
«I don’t believe I need your permission to visit my own
«It’s my house. Don’t you remember? When you married me,
everything you brought with you became mine.»
«How could I forget? You’ve always been very good at
making me feel like a possession.»
He met her clear hazel eyes and smiled. «And yet, here you
are. Where you are not wanted.»
She sighed. «Can we stop this? I need to talk to you.»
He glanced down at Robert. «I’m busy. Make an appointment
with my secretary and get out of my house.»
She regarded him for another long moment and then turned
on her heel. «Fine, I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning
when you are sober.»
He closed his eyes as the door closed behind her, waited for
the front door to slam as well and heard nothing. Dammit, where
was the woman going? He sat forward and hissed as his now-
flaccid cock caught on Robert’s teeth.
He glared down at his valet who was busy wiping his hand
over his mouth.
«Was that her ladyship, sir?»
«Did you finally send for her?»
«Of course not!»
Minshom shoved his seat back and stood up, waited for the
room to readjust itself to his unbalanced drunken gaze. Where
the hell had Jane gone? Surely she hadn’t had the audacity to stay
and bed down here for the night? He’d made it quite clear he
wanted her off his property. Minshom started for the door,
almost tripping over Robert in his haste.
The marble stairway was dark, and Minshom paused to listen.
A door closed upstairs and he set off again, following the faint
trail of lavender-scented soap Jane always left behind her.
He was aware of Robert tracking him, but at least his valet
had the sense not to speak.
Minshom passed the door into his own suite and kept going
down the hall. A faint light gleamed under the door of the room
next to his. He entered without knocking and found his wife
kneeling in front of the fireplace, encouraging a wisp of smoke to
ignite the kindling.
«I told you to get out.»
She rose slowly to her feet and faced him, her expression as
mulish as he suspected his was.
«I am not going anywhere.»
«Despite your age, you haven’t put on that much weight.» He
allowed his lascivious gaze to flow over her, let her see it, resent
it, waited for her to blush. «I wager I could still pick you up and
toss you out myself.»
«I’m sure you could, if you wanted to cause yet more scandal.»
«You think I’m afraid of scandal?» He smiled. «My whole life
is a scandal.»
«I know. I might live in the countryside, but I do read the
London newspapers and the gossip columns.» She unbuttoned
her drab pelisse and laid it over the back of a chair, meeting his
gaze unflinchingly. «And I don’t think you have done anything to
be particularly proud of.»
«And you think I care about your opinion?»
«Probably not, but there it is, all the same.»
He moved toward the chair, picked up her discarded coat and
held it out to her. «Put this back on. I wouldn’t want you to catch
a chill on your journey back to Minshom Abbey.»
She ignored him and continued to unpack her small valise,
taking out a long white nightgown and her hairbrush. He stared
at the back of her head and realized that Robert had slipped into
the room behind him. Jane was right. Did he really want more
scandal? He was already out of favor with the ton.
Throwing his wife out into the street would certainly make
But then, if he was already convicted, why not add to his
infamy? He took a step toward Jane, then hesitated as she started
to take down her long dark hair. God, he remembered watching
her do this a thousand times, the anticipation building in his loins
as she readied herself for bed, for him...
«Stop doing that.»
She looked over her shoulder at him, her hands still busy in
«I can hardly sleep with all these pins sticking in me, can I?»
He throttled down his frustration and the unexpected surge of
interest from his cock, knew he couldn’t bear to watch her
disrobe. He’d forgotten how clever she could be. Was this battle
worth fighting while he was drunk and still incapacitated from his
cracked ribs? In truth, he was in no state to follow through on his