Authors: Lavinia Kent
A dangerously handsome marquess . . .
Tristan, Marquess of Wimberley, believes he will never succumb to love. Though his closest friends have married, he is determined that he never will. But not for a moment had he envisioned the entrance of a lovely and innocent lady into his jaded life. A lady who desperately needs him.
A young woman at the end of her rope . . .
Tristan has the solution to Miss Marguerite Wilkes’ problem: They will marry. But, even while the two grow closer, obstacles and secrets intervene that could derail their growing trust. Will they overcome the impediments between them and together embrace a rare and passionate love?
Taste of Desire
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
2013 by Lavinia Klein
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
Minerva, Lady Harburton, tipped her glass to him across the ballroom. He watched as she let her lips linger on the edge, parted her mouth further, and then slid her tongue artfully along the rim. She lowered her eyelids and let her shoulders roll forward, displaying the upper swells of a monumental bosom above the emerald silk of her bodice.
have been titillated, or at least intrigued. In fact, Tristan St. Johns, Marquess of Wimberley, had pursued this moment for weeks. He knew he had only to breathe seduction, and Lady Harburton would spill all her secrets.
At last he would learn whether the Lady or her family
had traded the King’s secrets to Napoleon.
He took a step towards her
. Her smile broadened. Why did he feel shackles around his ankles?
She was a beautiful
if overblown woman. She was married, but that had never before been an impediment. A quick tumble with a willing and experienced woman, a tryst that might solve the puzzle he long worried at – it was a small price for so great a prize.
Harburton stepped towards him. He waited and she drew closer, the lioness approaching the tethered sheep, not seeing the trap about to be sprung.
He could smell her heavy scent, see the powder and rouge that marked her face
. She licked her lips again and it was impossible to miss the innuendo of the gesture. She giggled like a schoolgirl and laid her hand upon the embroidered velvet of his jacket.
“It is so hot insid
e this evening, my lord.” She snuggled closer as she spoke. “Don’t you long for a cool breeze?”
“I would confess the room is a trifle stifling, but what is one to do?
” Tristan held still as she moved until her breast brushed along his arm. He shot a glance around the ballroom. He had always believed in discretion. His friend Wulf strode around the edge of the room, no doubt seeking their hostess, Lady Burberry. Minerva’s husband was deep in a corner, involved in conversation that almost certainly centered on horseflesh. Everyone else was engaged in his own small social sphere. Nobody was watching.
followed his glance. “Don’t worry; nobody cares what we do. I should tell you that I have a corner room, where the breeze positively caresses the bed. It really is most invigorating. It’s at the end of the blue hallway if you should care to experience it. I know I positively must get out of this dress and lie down.”
She didn’t give him a chance to answer, but rubbed
her breast hard against him so that he could feel the peaked nipple beneath the silk. Then she turned and, with a quick flounce of her skirts, headed towards the hall.
Tristan leaned bac
k against the wall and wished he could close his eyes.
It was all just so much bloody work
. A man never got the chance to rest. Still, he had a job to do, and he would do it well. He sucked in a deep breath and pulled himself upright. He’d give Minerva five minutes and then follow.
It wouldn’t hurt to have another brandy first.
He turned, and stopped.
She stood at the top of the stairs, hair made of moonbeams and a shy curve of lip that could have lured foxes from the den. Her gown was blue and straight – but that was all he noticed. She glowed as if she were lit by stars as she slowly descended the stairs.
Miss Marguerite Wilkes.
She was his hostess’s younger sister. He’d seen her before. Been introduced. But now she rendered him speechless, thoughtless. Innocence. Beauty. Wonder. Integrity.
He walked towards her
, and all else was forgotten.
” Her blue eyes searched his and did not stray.
“You must call me
She blushed, the ivory skin warming to a deepest pink
. “I couldn’t.”
She grew even pinker, but did not answer.
He had to say something; he was rarely at a loss for words. “May I fetch you a drink, some lemonade perhaps?”
“I should say yes, but I must confess I had several glasses before I came down – it is awfully warm – and I fear that if I have another . . .
.” Her words trailed off and she dropped her gaze to her brightly painted evening slippers.
“Yes, it is warm, but I’ve been told there is a breeze
. Perhaps, I could escort you through to the gardens.”
Her glance trailed up his body and he could feel it as sure as any caress
. Her pale eyes reached his and stopped. She nodded, and stepped towards the open doors.
She did not take his arm as he led her out, but they were as joined as any lovers
. He allowed himself one moment of fantasy in a long lifetime of hard factuality.
Marguerite had never been this close to a man in private – inhaled his musky scent, been the center of his attention. She swallowed as she looked up into deep, quicksilver eyes. Still, this was Tristan. He was a marquess, a gentleman, even if she had not long made his acquaintance. He would never take liberties – not that she knew exactly what “liberties” consisted of – surely she was safe with him.
She took a step toward him, into the dusk of the garden, away from her sister’s ballroom
. His eyes darkened, the black centers eclipsing the liquid gray surrounding them. Desire in his gaze, he traced over her features, as the heavy scent of night jasmine drifted about them. Her breath caught as his glance rested on her lips and she fought the urge to lick them. The taste of lemons still lingered from the punch she had drunk.
She shivered – and they had not even touched
. As if he sensed her thought, Tristan reached out and caught her gloved hand between his own, his palm warm through the supple leather. Never had such emotion flickered through her when she’d touched the gloves of other dance partners. He trailed his fingers across her palm, sparking wild sensations with each caress, then inching back as if to gauge her readiness.
Was her nervousness apparent
? She did not resist when he turned her palm up and drew it to his lips. She released a long-held breath when his fingertips played at the wrist fastening of her long glove, slipping his fingers between the buttons. Flames licked her skin. Locking eyes with her, he opened the buttons and ran his still-gloved hand over the bare skin of her wrist. Marguerite squeezed her legs together, an exquisite sensation coursing through her.
When he pushed his finger up into her glove, against the fleshy pad of her thumb, her knees weakened
. How could she bear this? He rubbed back and forth across her skin, and her whole body trembled.
Her breath grew rapid and shallow
. She fought for control. When he withdrew his firm fingers, a protest nearly escaped her lips.
Do not stop now, Tristan. Please.
Then his bare hand crept to replace the first. He had removed his own glove, and Marguerite swayed against the wall. The heat of skin on skin seared. She never imagined a man’s touch would be so strong, so wonderful. Her eyes fluttered shut and she gave herself over to his demands.
He peeled back her glove to expose tender, virgin skin
. She lost all thought and purpose. The tiny tingles of each touch thrilled her and her muscles tightened. His breathing grew heavy and her skin grew hot.
She glanced at him from under her lowered lashes and was undone by the intensity of his gaze
. He drew the glove further over her fingers and pulled it back. The burn of his rough skin left her dazed.
Tristan raised her hand to his lips again, and she tried to draw back
. How could she allow such a thing? Then his warm, dry lips pressed against the flesh of her wrist. She swallowed hard as they progressed to the mound of her thumb. When his tongue flitted out to trace the base of her fingers, she gasped, then surrendered, eager for more. They breathed in unison, and Marguerite drew towards him, standing so close that the hem of her skirt trailed over his evening slipper. She tipped up her head and opened her eyes. Deep in her heart she knew she was his forever. His gazed locked on her mouth again, her lips burned at his look. Her body coursed with the force of the pull between them. Stillness. Then he lowered his head towards her.
The pound of footsteps came from the path
. Fearing discovery, she darted away. Blushing deeply at the improprieties she had allowed, Marguerite hid her bare hand in her skirts and fled toward the ballroom – toward safety.
The hack jerked to a stop, sending Marguerite sliding along the bench seat. She pressed a palm to her lips to control another wave of nausea. Travel had never made her so sick before. It was lucky she lacked the coin for food, or surely she would have embarrassed herself many times.
Fighting for control, she stepped down and stared up at the magnificent façade of the townhouse
. It towered well over a story higher than any of the surrounding homes and was placed far back from the busy road. Its marble exterior glowed pink in the spreading twilight, both beckoning and imposing.