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Authors: Anna Campbell

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BOOK: Tempt the Devil
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By then her fate was sealed. He would have her. She alone could offer him surcease.

He wanted to kiss her again. Straightening, he prowled across the rich red and blue Turkish carpet. She tensed as though scenting a predator.

“My lord, I told you my rules about this house.” Her fingers curled against the desk's wooden lip. How delightful that she was nowhere near as self-possessed as she wanted him to think. It made him feel less helpless against the inexorable pull of attraction.

His approach didn't slow. “I can wait until tomorrow night for…satisfaction.” He almost purred the last word. “But perhaps a kiss on account?”

Her chin's defiant angle was unmistakable. “I should have outlined my requirements in a lover more fully this afternoon.”

“I'm all ears, madam,” he whispered. Very deliberately, he placed each hand on the desk next to each of hers. He wasn't touching her but his body created a cage around her. “You have my complete attention.”

Without a hint of a blush, she glanced down to where his erection strained against his trousers. She was no innocent, his mistress. He liked that. He'd been innocent once, and the tragedy of it had left him broken and ruined.

She was on edge and unsure, and he liked that too. He fought the urge to press himself against her. This close, he smelled her skin's delicate perfume. Lilies. Roses. Honey. Something warm and female that came from her and not a glass vial. His nostrils flared as he drew that delicious fragrance deep into his lungs.

“I don't kiss, Lord Erith.” Her voice lowered and the husky contralto vibrated in his bones. “At least not on the mouth.”

He leaned forward to catch another wash of her scent. Oh, she was glorious, this woman. “You'll kiss me.”

Her mouth formed a stubborn line. “No, I won't. This, my lord, is how I conduct my liaisons. My time is my own, I'm completely faithful and I don't kiss.”

He was an inch from tasting the creamy skin of her neck. A tendril of hair had broken free of the severe hairstyle. He reached to brush the stray lock aside. She stiffened under his touch.

“So many rules, Olivia,” he murmured. “Rules are made to be broken.”

“Not mine.” She strove to sound forbidding but her unsteady voice betrayed her. He was close enough for her breath to brush across his face. He caught a hint of rich brandy and tobacco. “If my requirements seem onerous, it's not too late to cancel our arrangement.”

“Now, that would be a pity.” He let his fingers drift to her nape. “When I've taken such trouble over you.”

He bent and placed his mouth fleetingly on her neck. Her skin was so soft there, like living silk. The honey in her scent left a sweet flavor on his tongue. She was exquisite. He couldn't remember wanting a woman more. His heart kicked into a pounding gallop.

Just one taste. Although the desire raging in his blood urged him to devour her whole. He raised his head and looked into her guarded whisky-colored eyes. Her lips were slightly parted, hinting at hot darkness within, and he heard the faint puff of her breath. His cock jerked and pressed against the front fall of his trousers. His fingers tightened in the soft hair at the base of her skull.

“I've never kissed a woman wearing trousers. The decadence is rather stimulating.”

He watched that slender throat move as she swallowed. “You're not going to kiss a woman wearing trousers now. I
told you, I don't kiss on the mouth. I can't believe you mistake my wishes.”

“Ah, your wishes, Olivia. I look forward to hearing more about those.” He smiled as his pleasure in her mounted along with his arousal. “I'll have you to myself tomorrow night. What harm a sample now so I wander home with sweet dreams?”

In her remarkable eyes he caught a flash of something that might have been fear. The thought nagged at the edges of his mind but not enough to stop him. Be damned to her rules. Somehow she'd hoodwinked every man in London into dancing to her tune. But he was the Earl of Erith. No woman snatched the lead from him as he waltzed her into his bed.

He pressed his mouth to hers. Her lips were sweet and soft. And firmly closed. It was like having the gates to heaven slammed in his face.

Well, there were more paths into paradise than the one through the front door.


Olivia remained taut and motionless beneath Lord Erith's kiss, while inside clawing panic shrieked to break free. A scream choked in her throat. It would be too humiliating to reveal how his kiss distressed her. She fought to stave off the blackness. She could survive this. She could survive anything. And with her pride intact.

This man would not defeat her.

Good God, she was a tall, strong woman, not a defenseless child. But his overwhelming height and heavily muscled body made her feel small and vulnerable in ways she hadn't experienced for years. The musky scent of aroused male sucked the air from the room. His kiss tormented her, frightened her, reminded her of events she'd tried desperately to forget.

The horrible black suffocation only lasted a moment. Her mind recognized that. Her soul cringed and cowered and felt it had plunged back into endless nightmare.

He wasn't even hurting her. His mouth wasn't brutal and the hand behind her head speared through her hair almost tenderly. For all its implacability, his grip was gentle. He didn't use his unquestionable power to flatten her onto the desk so he could rip at her trousers and push his way into her.

None of this mattered. What mattered was the sense of being overpowered, forced, compelled against her will. Her stubborn pride faltered, began to fracture. She was at the point of releasing the scream when abruptly the kiss changed.

The demanding pressure eased. He brushed her lips with a torrent of little kisses, seemingly innocent. Although innocence, she already knew, was a word foreign to this man.

No, these glancing nibbles and licks were the tactics of a hardened seducer. A man confident enough to know that if he took his time, lulled his prey into a false sense of security, he'd get what he wanted.

Well, he didn't know who he dealt with.

No man turned Olivia Raines into a helpless victim. On a surge of fortifying anger, she raised her hands and with all her strength, she shoved at his broad chest. She wrenched her mouth from his. “No!”

Her push didn't shift him. He brushed one last kiss across her mouth and stepped back, silently indicating the decision to release her was his alone. He breathed more quickly than normal and his eyes glittered like polished silver. For once they weren't cold at all. He was still heavily erect.

So he wanted her. Of course he did. That was why he paid a fortune to set her up as his mistress. Men always wanted her. They'd wanted her since she was a child. But she had the power. She made the choice.

“You had no right,” she spat.

Her resentment didn't dent his arrogance. “What a fuss over nothing. You must know I intend to do more than kiss, Olivia. This coyness doesn't become you.”

“It's not coyness,” she said sharply. She sucked in a calming breath, although panic still frayed her composure. Deliberately, she lowered her tone so she sounded like Olivia Raines, queen of courtesans, not the frightened child she'd once been. “I don't kiss on the mouth. My lovers have no complaints about my generosity in other areas.”


Her seductive response didn't fool Erith. She was paler than usual and her lush mouth, red from his kisses, settled into a strangely vulnerable line. That kiss had affected her. Although unfortunately not with overwhelming lust.

No, something else happened.

He just wished to hell he knew what it was.

Would she be similarly unresponsive when he got her into bed? Surely not. Her previous keepers had waxed lyrical on the pleasures of her body.

But she'd stood like a warm, fragrant statue under his lips. There had been no reaction, less even than he'd enticed from her this afternoon.

He leaned close to draw in another breath redolent of her, although he didn't touch her. He could wait. Even if his balls felt like they were on fire. “I'll see you tomorrow, Olivia.”

He was close enough to see fleeting uncertainty cloud her gaze. “Lord Erith…”

She caught his arm. Even through layers of wool and cambric, he felt the burning heat of that touch. Before she could draw away, he placed his hand over hers. “Yes?”

“I was too hasty agreeing to your proposition.”

Almost absently, his fingers stroked hers. “I thought you made of stauncher stuff, Miss Raines. Are you to falter at the first fence?”

The eyes she raised to his were dark and turbulent. Beneath her calm surface, wild storms raged.

“This isn't a hunt meeting on your estate, Lord Erith,” she said with a hint of asperity. “You think to buy me much as
you'd buy a horse or a new pair of boots. But more is at stake and you know it. You and I will not suit.”

Ah, she came back to herself, thank God. He abhorred the idea that he might have scared her. Although with such a strong woman, fear seemed a puzzling reaction. Especially to something as ephemeral as a kiss. Even if the kiss at the time had felt anything but ephemeral.

“We'll suit very well,” he said steadily.

“That's for me to say.”

He reached out and tilted her chin to look into her eyes. He admired her courage in neither flinching away nor avoiding his gaze. “You're really not curious about how we'd be together?”

That ironic smile tugged at her lips. “A person in my profession loses her curiosity quickly, my lord.”

“Then do it because you're woman enough to tame me. It's poor spirited to end our bout before we come to grips with one another.”

Her smile deepened, and his glance fell again to that tiny, alluring mole near the corner of her lips. He was desperate to kiss her again. Only her frozen response to his last kiss stopped him. “This isn't a wrestling match either.”

He laughed softly and let her go. The ghost of her warmth lingered on his fingers. “I intend wrestling to be involved.”

“And fencing.”

“Definitely. My blade is at the ready.”

“Your blade is always at the ready.”

“When I see an opponent worthy of my sword, it is. But my preferred opponent claims she's not up to my weight.”

“Wrestling again?”

“Boxing, Olivia. I want to make you see stars.”

“You don't waste time on false modesty, do you?”

“I don't waste time.” He paused. “Will you come to me tomorrow or does London's most independent, capricious female admit she's met a man she can't bring to heel?”

She arched her eyebrows in perfect disdain. “You think to coax me with childish taunts?”

“I think to coax you. Any way I can. From what I've seen, you've terrified a bunch of milksops into bending to your will. Test your mettle on a hardier opponent. Why not bring the infamous Earl of Erith to his knees?”

She gave a huff of dismissive amusement. “You believe I have as much chance of achieving that as of flying to the moon.”

“But I dearly look forward to watching you try, Olivia. Aren't you tired of easy conquests?”

“You think you know a lot about the men who've shared my bed.”

“A good sportsman assesses his competition.”

“If you tell me you're leaping into the saddle, I swear I'll slap you.”

He laughed again. With every second, his appreciation of her grew. “I'd never be so crass, Miss Raines.”

“No, you're a model of decorum,” she said dryly.

“Not always. As I hope you'll allow me to demonstrate.” He hesitated. The answer to his next question was more important than he'd have believed possible a day ago. An hour ago, even. “Tomorrow?”

When she looked at him, her face was vivid with challenge. “Tomorrow.”

livia rounded the turn in the elaborately carved staircase and looked down into the hall. It was night and Lord Erith had just arrived at the lovely little house he'd taken for her near Regent's Park.

The earl stood below her, his feet planted square on the black and white tiles. He certainly was a handsome devil. Lamplight gleamed across his thick dark hair as he passed hat and cane to the butler.

He looked splendid in his evening dress. Black coat and trousers, a crisp white shirt, a high neckcloth. The scrolls of embroidery on his gray silk waistcoat shone in the soft light. When he glanced to where she hovered above him in the shadows, his eyes glittered silvery hunger.

“Olivia.” The bass baritone rumble conveyed gloating satisfaction.

She read ownership in his stance. Ownership of the house. Ownership of her. Resentment made her raise her chin even as her belly churned with nerves.

Curse this uncertainty. She needed to remember who she was, who he was. Erith was only a man. Nothing would happen tonight that hadn't happened before. Once the old, banal dance started, surely she'd find her pattern, follow the steps that were second nature. Nevertheless, her hand tightened on the banister rail until her knuckles shone white.

The butler discreetly withdrew, leaving them alone. She fought to steady her voice. “My lord.”

“I'm sorry I'm late. A family crisis.”

The apology surprised her. After all, he paid her to await his convenience. “No matter.”

She stood poised above him like Juliet speaking to her Romeo from the balcony. The fugitive thought left a sour taste in her mouth. Neither she nor Lord Erith was young or innocent or passionate.

Or in love.

Real love between a man and a woman was as unreal as Perry's randy painted gods. Years of servicing her patrons had taught her that.

His stare remained unwavering upon her. That hot gaze licked across her skin like living flame. He vibrated with unspoken desire. She was wrong to say he lacked passion. He could claim passion, or at least its earthiest variant. She'd seen that intent look on men's faces too often to mistake it.

Desperately, she sought the still, calm center that bolstered her when she entertained her lovers. She was appalled that it wasn't there. Instead, she was a roiling mass of fear and anxiety. Her palm became slick as it flattened on the polished mahogany.

Perhaps his unwelcome kisses had made her jumpy. They'd certainly inspired bad dreams last night from which she'd woken trembling and bathed in sweat.

Perhaps she was off-balance because she hadn't taken a lover for months. The intervals between her liaisons had steadily lengthened. The world interpreted her fastidiousness as an attempt to push up her price, but in reality it was
nothing so calculated. As the years passed, she found having a man in her bed less and less palatable.

It might be time the great Olivia Raines relinquished her self-appointed crusade against the male sex. She had money, and Lord knew she was weary of this empty life. Weary to the bone.

But first she had to get through tonight, keeping her reputation for cold allure intact. Then the nights that followed, until she could discard Lord Erith on her own terms.

Retirement from this stale game might beckon, but by God, she'd end her career in triumph. She wouldn't sneak away like a whipped dog. She'd claim one last victory over a lover then vanish in a blaze of glory. Her pride would accept nothing else.

The silence, tinged with dark currents of craving and resistance, extended awkwardly. She made herself speak. “Would you like to come upstairs?”

“My pleasure.”

She tried to ignore how he drew out the word “pleasure.” He had such a deep voice. The soft but resonant sound set her heart to a frantic flutter.

With a swish of butterscotch yellow skirts, she turned and mounted the steps to the landing. Among Lord Erith's preparations for her arrival had been an elaborate wardrobe from her favorite modiste. He must have spent a fortune to have it ready so quickly.

Behind her, she heard him climb the stairs. Each booted footfall heavy and deliberate. She hid a shiver as she heard every inexorable step stake a claim to her.

She paused at the closed door and he loomed near enough for her to catch his scent, clean male and sandalwood. Cold sweat prickled her nape under her upswept hair. She kept her face averted for fear he'd see her vulnerability.

She must be going mad. She hadn't felt like this with a lover since she was a girl. Dear Lord, if she didn't seize con
trol, she'd be completely defenseless. And she knew to her cost what men did to defenseless women.

She sucked in a ragged breath then cursed the betraying rattle of air in her lungs. Erith was too clever to miss any sign of weakness.

He was the enemy. As all men were the enemy.

Courage, Olivia.

She straightened her spine and faced him with a neutral expression. “The servants have laid out a fine supper.”

His face was intent and he didn't smile. “Later.”

His arrogance kindled her temper. At last, thank heaven, she sounded like the serene, worldly courtesan instead of the terrified child she once was. “We're not animals, my lord, who rut in a field without ceremony. A liaison is a work of art.”

“You speak a lot of damned rot, Miss Raines.”

This time her inhalation was pure annoyance. “This is how my affairs proceed, Lord Erith. We have supper, conversation, perhaps a little music, then I retire and prepare myself and you come to take your pleasure. More pleasure than any woman has ever given you.”

“That's a big promise.” He sounded unimpressed.

Curse him for a cynical devil. She deepened her voice to a seductive purr. “You'll discover ecstasy beyond your wildest dreams if you let me conduct this affair as I wish.”

Hoping without great optimism that her extravagant promises convinced, she pushed the door. It opened silently on a room bright with candlelight. The air was heavy with the scent of hyacinths and freesias and cherry blossom. Vases of spring flowers whose heady perfume tugged on her senses and added an aura of innocence to an encounter that held no innocence at all. On a red lacquer Chinese sideboard, a lavish cold supper waited, along with a bottle of champagne cooling in ice.

Assuming an air of confidence, she stepped inside and waited for Lord Erith to follow. Ahead, the bedroom door
stood ajar, revealing more flowers and the huge expanse of bed with sheets already turned down.

She stopped in the center of the room and turned to face him, her spine straight, her chin up, her gaze steady. He strode through the doorway and didn't stop. His jaw set with unmistakable determination and his eyes were alight with purpose.

She refused to retreat. He crowded her. Only when she thought he might trample her did she finally take a short step back.

When she recognized she made even that small concession, she stopped abruptly. Still he pressed onward. If she didn't move, he'd mow her down. With every unwilling step, the bedroom door behind her loomed closer and closer.

“What are you doing?” she asked sharply.

“That's a fool question, Olivia.” His voice held a ruthless edge that made the hairs stand up on her skin. She'd seen hints of this side of Erith before, but tonight she was alone with him, and clearly he had plans that didn't require her consent.

Of course he didn't wait on her consent. He'd paid a fortune for her body and she'd accepted the bargain.

“My lord, I told you what I want.” She strove for her usual authority. She tried to sidle from his path, but he stretched out one powerful arm to block her escape.

“Yes, you did.”

She gritted her teeth, trepidation and anger a foul brew in her stomach. “I won't…” She tried to brush past him on the other side but he set his body before her like a barrier. “Blast you, my lord, I'm not a sheep! Stop herding me like one!”

The corners of his mouth kicked up in a faint smile. “If you insist.”

She should have known a direct challenge was the last way to achieve her ends. For a shocked moment she registered the way his mouth firmed and his eyes narrowed. Then he grabbed her with implacable hands and swung her off her feet in a tumble of yellow silk.

Ever since she'd glimpsed him towering over the crowd in Perry's salon, she'd understood this was a man of more than usual physicality. But only now when he held her close did she register the thick, hard bands of muscle across his chest and arms.

And his heat. He was like a raging furnace.

“Put me down!” she choked through a throat tight with outrage.

“No.” He bent and nipped where her neck met her shoulder.

“Ow,” she protested, although he hadn't hurt her. It was galling that he remained so indisputably in charge without violence.

“I've waited for this from the first time I saw you.” He marched across the floor to the bedroom's open doorway.

“That was only the day before yesterday,” she bit out, straining away.

“An eternity.” He adjusted his grip and jostled her closer to the bed. “Stop your damned wriggling. You know I won't hurt you.”

“How can I know that? You're acting like a savage.”

Olivia hooked her hand around his neck and tugged sharply on the dark hair that curled against the back of his high collar. She'd expected hair so thick and vital to feel coarse under her fingers. Instead it was soft, like rough silk.

“You cat! I'll put you down, all right.” He stopped at the edge of the bed and dropped her unceremoniously. Gasping, she bounced on the fine linen sheets.

Furiously she tried to roll away, but Erith came down over her in a crouch, trapping her with his big body. She heard the fragile silk of her skirt rip as she made another futile attempt to escape.

Other men had tried to use physical superiority to control her. Her indifference, her strength, her obstinacy, always cowed them to her will. If a lover asked for more than she was willing to grant, she left. Her detachment lent her a power over her patrons few courtesans matched.

Yet here she was, seething and helpless under Lord Erith. How had he put her so completely at his mercy? And with such effortless ease?

She'd governed every lover she ever had, after her first. By heaven, she would govern the Earl of Erith.

“Stop this immediately,” she said in a cold voice, lying stiff as a doll. “You will not treat me like some doxy you've picked up in Covent Garden for a few pence.”

“I wouldn't dream of it,” he said smoothly. “Just as you won't treat me like one of your lapdogs.”

Olivia didn't bother to protest his insulting description of her previous keepers. He was right, confound him, although how he knew so much was a mystery.

He pressed a kiss to the place he'd bitten. She jerked away, although that fleeting contact echoed in her blood like distant music.

“Let me up, Lord Erith.” Astonished, angry, edgy, she lay panting and trembling in the shadow of his body.

He still looked unimpressed. “Has anyone ever told you you're rather bossy, Miss Raines?”

“Not and survived with all their parts intact,” she shot back.

He gave a startled bark of laughter. It was the first time she'd heard him laugh. The sound's unabashed freedom surprised her. She didn't know him well, she doubted she ever would. But she'd judged him as almost inhumanly contained. That sudden release of unfettered humor contradicted the conclusion.

“You're most welcome to touch my parts whenever you wish.” He dipped his hips until his erection brushed her belly. Through his trousers and her dress, the heat burned like a brand.

He was a big man. Of course he was. He had too much swagger to suffer any lack of confidence about his manhood.

She placed both hands on the broad expanse of his chest.
She pushed, but it was like struggling to shift a huge slab of sun-warmed rock. His scent surrounded her. Soap. Clean skin. Arousal. Physically he was more overwhelming than any lover she'd ever known. It wasn't just Erith's size and power, but some deep source of energy that made the air around him buzz and swirl. Like he created his own weather wherever he went. Storm or sunshine.

She shoved harder and he made a scornful sound deep in his throat. “Give up, Olivia. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you. We're destined to end up in this bed. You don't need special techniques to seduce me. You seduced me the moment I saw you.”

Desperately she studied his face, seeking some weakness. She saw only adamantine will and the burning regard of a man intent on having a woman. There was no help there. She was canny enough to realize she'd lost this particular battle.

“All right,” she whispered, using the voice that gained her unfailing sway over simple male animals.

“All right?” He sounded suspicious. “As easy as that?”

A reminder that while he was definitely a male—she couldn't mistake that hard seeking organ in his trousers—he was more complex than most members of his sex. She trod such a fine line between overestimating his power and underestimating his cleverness, which she grimly recognized as prodigious. Managing Lord Erith was like crossing a river full of hungry crocodiles on a fraying rope bridge.

“Don't think too long and hard, my lord, or the offer may disappear,” she said sourly.

“Long and hard sounds good,” he murmured, brushing her belly again and sending searing heat shooting through her.

“Self-praise is no recommendation,” she snapped. “Let me up from this ridiculous position and we'll begin.”

Another huff of laughter and no attempt to obey. “You sound like a stiff-rumped governess. It's strangely arousing.”

She studied Lord Erith's vivid features and reached a decision that had nibbled at the edge of her mind for a long time. He was the last man she'd sleep with for money. Given her contempt for all males, that meant he was the last man she slept with.

BOOK: Tempt the Devil
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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