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Authors: Samantha Holt

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Sinful Liaisons

BOOK: Sinful Liaisons
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Sinful Liaisons

A Cynfell Brothers Book

Samantha Holt

Copyright 2015 ©Samantha Holt

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Edited by Jen Bradlee

Proofed by Destini Reece

Cover art by

Chapter One

Oxfordshire, 1897

A breeze whistled across his nether regions. Pierce grimaced. It could have been worse, he supposed. At least the day was mild with no sign of rain. He peered into the distance. Only the deeply grooved road cutting its path through the gentle hills hinted at civilisation. He grimaced again. Where the bloody hell was he?

He curled a fist and began trudging along the grass at the side of the road. Stones pricked his bare feet.

“Bloody Goddamn it.”

Pierce was going to kill Giles if he lived through this. He hadn’t intended to visit their favourite gambling den, but Giles just
to talk him into it. Nor had he meant to get utterly foxed. He hardly remembered wagering everything including his clothes. As for how he’d ended up naked on the roadside...

“Bloody Goddamn it all to hell.”

One final wager...He had vague recollections. Something to do with a race? Damnation, if only his head wasn’t so fuzzy. But even then, why had Giles left him to sleep it off in a field—naked?

The rumble of a carriage made him stiffen. He wouldn’t get far with his bare feet. A form of transport would be useful indeed. But who would give a naked man a ride? Pierce shrugged to himself and turned, cupping one hand over himself to preserve what little modesty he had left and using the other to gain the driver’s attention.

The black, glossy carriage rumbled closer, led by two horses. He saw the driver glance his way then look again before turning his head away. Dirt spattered his legs making him jump back as it rolled past.

“Rot in hell then,” he muttered half-heartedly and resisted the urge to scuff his bare foot across the ground.

A command from the driver reached his ears and he held his breath as the horses came to a halt. The vehicle stopped. Both hands over the family jewels, Pierce waited. The door swung open.

“Thank you,” he uttered, lifting his gaze to the heavens, and hurried toward the carriage. He cursed under his breath when several more rocks jabbed the soles of his feet.

Trying to look as noble as one could when naked, he paused in front of the open door. There, in the dark confines of the vehicle and set against plush royal blue seats, an elegant redhead skimmed her gaze up and down his body. Even in the gloom of the carriage, he saw an eyebrow rise. Then he noted the curve of her lips.

Pierce stared back. He allowed his own gaze to travel over her, observing the generous rise of her breasts against a low cut bodice and the slender waist that led to hips emphasised by a bustle. Hair coiled high, it gave him a fine view of the gems on her neck and ears. From the delicate porcelain skin to the emeralds casting a faint green hew across it, everything about this woman told him of her importance.

And her attractiveness. He had to force his gaze from her breasts or else both hands wouldn’t conceal anything.

“Get in.”

The husky command startled him, and he laughed. He’d half-expected her to swoon or give a startled cry and order the driver to depart.

“You have my thanks, my lady.” He ducked into the carriage and seated himself opposite her, his hands firmly shielding what was left of his modesty. Velvet pricked his behind. He was going to kill Giles. He’d string him up from his fingernails. He’d strip him naked and abandon him in Trafalgar Square. He’d—

“Your Grace.”

“My lord,” he corrected. He certainly wasn’t a duke and his brother Julian held the title of marquess. Unless four of his brothers succumbed to something—and God knows the Cynfell men were as strong as oxen—he would never have anything but a courtesy title.

am Your Grace.”

She tilted her head to eye him. It was hardly the first time a woman had seen him naked, and it wouldn’t be the last. Nor was he only used to simpering virgins. He tended to prefer the more experienced woman. Taking a lady’s innocence held little appeal. So he had to be used to being appraised so frankly, surely? One of the women he’d bedded had to have looked at him in such a manner.

And yet, Pierce did not think so.

It was her age that did it perhaps. She was older than he. About five years or so by his reckoning. A more experienced woman and a duchess no less. It certainly explained why there was no swooning or screaming. A woman of her rank had likely dealt with many things in her life and a mere naked man wouldn’t startle her.

“Forgive me,” he dipped his head in lieu of touching and removing his hat. “Your Grace. Lord Pierce Cynfell at your service.”

“Cynfell. I know that name.” She pressed a finger to generous lips.

“My brother is the Marquess of Lockwood.”

“I was rather thinking of that female artist—Josephine Cynfell. I have one of her paintings.”

“You have excellent taste, Your Grace.”

He tried not to scowl as he attempted to place her. She had to spend time in London society if she knew of Dante’s wife. Josephine was only recently becoming known in the art world and word of her talent had not yet spread all over England, though Pierce had no doubt it would. Dante—a man who had been utterly useless for quite some time—just about matched his wife in ambition now. Both were likely making a pretty penny.

He wished he could say the same of himself.

“My name is Evelyn Chesworth, Duchess of Ardleigh.”

Ah yes, he knew the name now, but how in the devil had she figured out what he was thinking? And why had he never paid attention to her before? She had to have attended at least a few of the events he did when he wasn’t gambling.

Pierce attempted not to squirm. Would she not at least order the coach to go so he could put an end to his...naked situation? He had nothing of which to be ashamed. He was strong and healthy. Women loved his body. But this woman’s brazen stare made him want something more than just his hands to cover himself.

“How is it you have come to be on the roadside in nought but your skin, Lord Cynfell?”

“Pierce. You should call me Pierce.” He turned on his most charming smile. It was the one that made women give him a second chance. The one that made sure he didn’t live like a pauper even though he practically was one.

It failed.

One slender red eyebrow arched impossibly high. “I hardly know you, my lord.”

“Considering I am sitting naked in your carriage, I think we can dispense with formalities. That is, if you allow it, Your Grace.”

Those full lips curved again. He watched the movement—riveted.

“You are indeed. Very well, you may call me Evelyn.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Evelyn,” he drawled. If he was going to be at the mercy of this woman, he needed to get her on his side. Charm would have to be his friend today.

Apparently it was lost on her. It seemed he had no friends. The cool cast to her expression remained, and he had the distinct impression she was enjoying his uncomfortable state. The lady was a masochist, surely?

A few more seconds passed. He shifted and lifted his gaze to the ornate roof of the carriage. When he glanced back at the duchess, her tiny smile had expanded. Finally, she leaned her head out of the door and called to the driver.

“Bramwell, your jacket please.”

There was a creak and a rock of the carriage, and a jacket was thrust through the open door. She passed it over to him and shut the door. After she tapped on the roof, the vehicle began its journey onward.

Pierce fought to get the jacket on one-handed whilst keeping himself covered. He failed and the woman’s lips quirked. Duchess or not, he was beginning to dislike her. However, he had to admit he couldn’t really take the moral high ground. He too would have found a naked man at the side of the road amusing. However, he’d rather hoped finding charity in a woman would have afforded him a little less embarrassment.

He finally managed to get the jacket on and wrapped it about himself. When he peered at her, he noted a slight stain on her cheeks. Ah, so she wasn’t completely unaffected by him.

“Pray tell, where are we going?”

“Fairchester Hall—my home.”

Pierce grimaced. Was he likely to end up being run off by an angry husband? Or worse. Called out for a duel? A naked duel. It wouldn’t be a first for him, he supposed, but he didn’t much fancy dying in the buff.

“Am I to expect a...uh...frosty welcome?”

“Not at all. My son is in Europe.”

He studied the elegant curve of her cheek. The boy had to be a whelp, surely? She didn’t seem old enough to have a grown up son. But no husband? Or was he simply elsewhere? He had to know. Even if it was none of his business, he had to know. And he wasn’t quite sure why that was.

“And your husband?”

“I am a widow. My son inherited the title some years ago.”

“Forgive me, I’m sorry for your loss.”

A slight hint of anguish fluttered across her face. It surprised him as he hadn’t seen anything other than the faintest flicker of amusement from her so far. Lord knows, love between dukes and duchesses rarely existed but it seemed this woman must have felt something for him.

“Thank you,” she said coolly. He had the distinct impression she didn’t much want his sympathies. “Anyway, whilst my son is studying in Europe I am entirely alone, so, do not fear, no one shall be wanting to chase you off.”

“I must thank you for stopping for me. It was brave of you.”

Evelyn shook her head, causing her curls to brush her neck like a lover. What would it feel like to stroke that gentle arch? He found himself anxious to know. She really was a remarkably beautiful woman.

“What threat could you pose to me when you clearly have no weapon?”

“I hope you do not take that philosophy all the time. At the risk of having you throw me out on my arse, you make a tempting prize and it would not be hard to overpower you.”

“You forget I have footmen and a driver,” she pointed out.

“Yes, but you are exceptionally beautiful. A brawl with a mere three men would not seem so great a cost.” Her cheeks grew a little pinker and her reaction gratified him. “Nevertheless, I am grateful you stopped for me.”

Evelyn leaned back against the cushions and studied him. “So, Cynfell, why exactly were you naked on the roadside?”

He pinched the bridge of his nose. He supposed he owed her an explanation and it wasn’t as though his humiliation could get any worse.

“I believe I made a wager. Not sure of the details but apparently it included my clothes.”

She pressed her lips together as though fighting a laugh. “You like to gamble.”

He shrugged. “It is my one weakness.”

More than a weakness. It ate him up inside sometimes. After Julian had threatened to cut him off when he’d racked up yet more debts, he’d tried to stay away, he really had. But what else was he to do? He needed to pay off what he owed, and a man like himself had no way of earning money. Giles had convinced him last night was his night—the night he’d make his fortune and put everything to rights.

But no. Now he’d have to go crawling to Julian and ask for more money. Hell, he couldn’t even go cap-in-hand seeing as he had not a scrap of clothing on him with the exception of the borrowed jacket. A jacket that smelled of cheap tobacco and a little sweat.

She didn’t probe him any further. For that, he was grateful. Being naked in her carriage was certainly a low point for him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to add to his humiliation by telling her the story of a rich boy turned poor. Damn, how he hated to be a cliché.

The carriage took its time travelling through private land—all belonging to her young son. Lucky boy indeed. Fairchester Hall turned out to be as grand as he’d expected. Entirely square with long windows and pillars across the entire front.

Evelyn pressed open the glass window again and called to the driver. “Around the back please.”

“Ashamed of me?”

“I can parade you through the house if you wish. My servants are very discrete.”

He considered being eyed by the maids and a likely matronly housekeeper, and shuddered. “The back will be fine.”

They came to a halt at the servants’ entrance and there was some awkwardness as he was forced to ignore the usual etiquette and get out last once her footman had handed her down. Pierce narrowed his gaze at the lad whose lips twitched at the sight of Pierce. The smile rapidly dropped when he took in the size of Pierce compared to him. Though he wasn’t an overly large man, he dwarfed the footman and clearly had a great deal more strength.

“Follow me,” she ordered.

He winced when bare feet hit gravel but soon wooden floorboards gave him relief as they moved through the bowels of the house. A maid gave a little curtsey when they passed. He heard her startled sound when she spotted him, but they came upon no others.

Unfortunately for him, his good luck ran out once they started up the grand staircase. With the feel of plush red carpet beneath his feet, he had thought he was almost safe. But a stern-faced butler greeted them halfway up. Somehow, the man managed to keep his face straight but disapproval rang clear in dark grey eyes.

“Bertram, will you send Tillie to my room in just a moment?”

BOOK: Sinful Liaisons
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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