Read Till Dawn with the Devil Online

Authors: Alexandra Hawkins

Tags: #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Romance - Historical, #Fiction, #Romance, #Romance: Historical, #Historical, #American Historical Fiction, #General, #Fiction - Romance

Till Dawn with the Devil (4 page)

BOOK: Till Dawn with the Devil
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Sophia held out her hand. “Lady Sophia Northam. Perhaps you are acquainted with one of my brothers, Lord Ravenshaw or Henry?”

“Lady Sophia . . . a pleasure,” the gentleman
said, bowing over her hand. “I have encountered your brothers a time or two, but I confess, I do not know them well. My name is Enright. Mr. Theodore Enright. I am a distant relation to Lady Shawe.”

Sophia withdrew her hand. “It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Enright,” she said, wishing the gentleman would step closer so she could study his face. She was unfamiliar with Lady Shawe, but assumed his relationship with her was his entrance into polite society.

“Now that we have been properly introduced, I must insist that we forgo propriety and sit as if we were old acquaintances.” He gestured toward the sofa. “Think of your injured leg.”

Sophia settled on one side of the sofa, giving her companion enough room to claim the other side of the cushion. “Oh, my leg is not injured, Mr. Enright. It is my eyes. I must confess that I have very poor vision.”

“Perhaps a pair of spectacles would improve your outlook?” he teased, and she laughed softly at his play on words since it was expected. “Or is it vanity that keeps you blind?”

Sophia shook her head. “No, I would wear my spectacles proudly if it would solve my problem. Unfortunately, I lost a considerable portion of my eyesight in an accident.”

“Forgive me. My question was incredibly rude.”

“No apology is needed.”

Sophia tried not to smile as Mr. Enright peered
into her eyes as if he could see the damage. Most people she encountered reacted in a similar fashion. It also gave her a chance to study him. It was a marvelous discovery to learn that his face matched the gentleman’s voice. It was flawless, solid, and kind. As for his eyes, the color was either gray or a light blue.

“I was a small child when it happened,” she said, unwilling to discuss the particulars with a complete stranger. “I have learned to compensate.”

“That is why you use the walking stick,” Mr. Enright said, sounding pleased with himself for solving some unspoken mystery. “I thought you might have injured your leg.”

“Or that I was eccentric,” Sophia added, fluttering her lashes. Mr. Enright laughed, and it was a heartwarming sound. “Now you know all of my secrets.”

Naturally, she was lying.

Anyone familiar with the Ravenshaw family would know of the tragic tale of betrayal and murder.

“If I may be bold, I would like to sit and learn more about you, Lady Sophia.”

Flattered by the gentleman’s attention, Sophia lowered her gaze and nodded. “You may.”

“I am not leaving,” Reign said, his tone implacable.

If he told his friends that an unknown lady
and her pretty light blue bows were partially responsible for his change of heart, they would laugh until their sides ached. Reign did not quite understand it himself.

Sin turned to Vane for an explanation since he had decided that Reign was in no mood to be reasonable. “If there is trouble, I want to know about it.”

Hunter drawled, “Well, we had the forethought to prevent Frost from showing up unannounced. Saint and Dare are distracting him until we can join them later at the club.”

“However, no one bothered to warn Lady Harper against adding Lord and Lady Burrard to her guest list,” Vane added.

Sin immediately comprehended the problem. “Bloody hell.” The marquess’s expression was apologetic when he stared at Reign. “It’s an old scandal, Reign. I doubt Lady Harper was even aware of your unfortunate connection to the Burrards.”

The muscle in Reign’s jaw flexed under his skin as he ground his molars. “No one owes me an explanation or an apology, Sin. As you said, Beatrice’s death is old news.”

Reign noticed that Lady Burrard’s circle of friends had increased, and several women could not resist glancing in their direction. The Lords of Vice had an innate talent for drawing attention and trouble. He suspected most of the trouble this evening was focused on him. It felt like
a persistent itch under his skin that he was forbidden to scratch.

“You have nothing to prove by staying,” Vane said.

“Actually, I do,” Reign said, taking the glass of brandy from a startled Hunter and draining its contents. It burned as it warmed his stomach. He handed the empty glass back to his friend. “I have grown weary of tiptoeing around the Burrards. I married their lying bitch of a daughter—”

“Uh, Reign,” Sin began.

Reign did not care if his voice carried all the way to France. “And I have suffered for my stupidity. It was not my fault Beatrice broke her foolish neck in her haste to leave me.”

“I’ll find the coach,” Hunter said, his broad shoulders disappearing into the crowd.

Vane squeezed Reign’s shoulder. “I will make certain Burrard remains in the card room.”

Reign scowled at Vane’s back. “There is no need—” His hands parted in surrender when his defiant gaze settled on Sin. “And what are you going to do? Toss Lady Burrard out the nearest window?”

The marquess chuckled. “If need be. Reign, this is an old wound. I understand—where are you going?” he demanded, sounding exasperated.

“Living up to my reputation,” Reign said, over his shoulder. “There must be some young innocent who could use a thorough ravishing.”

Reign stalked away from his friends, his steady gaze searching the crowded ballroom for another glimpse of the intriguing lady and her light blue bows.

CHAPTER THREE

Reign was only half serious about ravishing an innocent miss. Or the mysterious lady adorned in bows that begged to be untied. With his luck, the lady was happily married to a gent with no sense of humor when it came to other gentlemen lusting after his wife. No, a soiled dove suited his nasty mood. Mayhap one of Madame Venna’s girls, or any of his former mistresses. He craved a lady greedy enough to grant his every wicked whim without question. Reign openly prowled the ballroom, searching for a familiar face or a new one that tempted him.

His expression must have hinted at his dangerous mood.

Gentlemen and ladies separated, giving him a clear path. Several mothers seized their daughters by the arms and dragged them away for fear his mere presence might tarnish the girls’ reputations. Others shyly glanced away as he passed. Reign heard the gasps and whispers in his wake. Scandals never truly died. They were akin to dust
on old floorboards that choked the air whenever anyone dared to tread over them.

And then he saw her.

Miss Light Blue Bows.

With Theodore Enright.

Well, well . . . this was most unexpected. Lady Harper’s little ball was riddled with surprises.

Standing near a wall of potted plants, the blond-haired angel dressed in a charming white satin frock with light blue Claremont braces, and matching bows and ribbons at the bottom of her skirt, appeared to be hanging on every prosaic word Enright was uttering. Reign shook his head in disgust. Snatching the beautiful blonde away from the preening dilettante would be a pleasure. In truth, he was doing the chit a great favor, though he doubted she would thank him for it.

“Enright.”

Reign watched with a bland interest as the gentleman turned a sickly pale green.

“Y-you!” he sputtered.

Concern furrowed the blonde’s brow as she peered intently at her companion. “Mr. Enright, are you ill?”

Reign scowled at the woman. Her concern for the sniveling bastard irritated him. “There is nothing wrong with him that a little fresh air will not cure. Is that not correct, Enright?”

“Yes.” Enright retrieved a handkerchief from the pocket of his waistcoat and wiped his forehead. “With your permission, Lady Sophia, I will escort you to your friends.”

Reign’s dark blue eyes narrowed on Enright’s pinched face. “Do not trouble yourself. I have come to claim a dance from Lady Sophia.” He extended a gloved hand, but the lady rudely ignored it.

“Dance?” The lady wrinkled her nose. “I must regretfully decline, my lord . . . ?”

“Reign,” Reign politely supplied to the bewildered chit. “And I really must insist.”

Lady Sophia squeaked as Reign shackled her wrist and pulled her into his arms. Not expecting his high-handed maneuver, the lady stumbled and her walking stick went skidding across the polished marble floor. Without the stick as support, she was forced to embrace him to keep from falling on her lovely backside.

The blonde straightened, but his iron grip on her wrist prevented her from stepping away. “Oh, I do beg your pardon, my lord.”

“See here, Reign,” Enright said, working toward righteous indignation. “Lady Sophia is
not
—”

“Your concern, Enright,” Reign said, displaying plenty of sharp teeth. “Leave, at once, or I just may decide to spare Lady Sophia and play with you. The choice is yours.”

“Mr. Enright?” Lady Sophia queried hesitantly.

“Forgive me, Lady Sophia,” Enright said, backing away. As Reign had assumed, the coward was more than happy to leave the lady to meet her fate alone. “The devil take you, Rainecourt!”

“He already has, Enright,” Reign drawled. “And he is looking forward to meeting you.”

Rainecourt.

Sophia tugged, attempting to free herself from the earl’s unyielding hold. The silky menace in the man’s voice as he spoke to her companion was enough to convince Sophia that Rainecourt was intimately acquainted with the devil. And curse Mr. Enright for abandoning her.

This is the son.

For a long time, Sophia had forgotten that the Earl of Rainecourt had had a son. How old had Reign been when his father had cold-bloodedly murdered her parents and then taken his own life?

Reign started to drag her toward the other dancers. “I have promised you a dance.”

“That is hardly necessary,” Sophia protested, barely keeping up with him. This was not how she had imagined their first meeting. “If you could help me find my walking stick, I will leave you to pick a fight with someone else who has offended you.”

Reign abruptly halted. He caught Sophia before she went sprawling forward onto the floor. “You are the clumsiest creature I have ever encountered.”

Sophia gasped, appalled by his casually uttered insult. “My eyesight is ruined, you horrid man!” Sophia seethed, resisting the urge to hit him with her reticule. “You are walking too fast and everything is scrambled. I want my walking stick!”

Reign hesitated. Instead of apologizing as Sophia had expected, he waved his hand over her eyes.

Exasperated, she said, “I said, ‘ruined,’ not ‘blind,’ you twit!” Utterly provoked, Sophia slapped his arm with her reticule. Where was Fanny or Griffin? Why was the earl just staring at her? Good grief, had she just made a complete fool out of herself in front of Lady Harper’s guests?

“Do not move,” Reign ordered tersely.

Sophia dutifully stood there trembling and imagining the worst. Blinking furiously to battle the tears that threatened to add to her humiliation, she listened as Reign exchanged a few pleasantries with a helpful gentleman who had collected her walking stick from the floor.

Reign held up the white-and-gold stick. “I have it.”

Not feeling gracious, Sophia snatched it from his hand. The smooth firmness of the painted wood clasped within her palm calmed her. It helped banish the vulnerability she was feeling, and gave her the strength to find her way back to her friends without the assistance of the Earl of Rainecourt.

“Good evening, Lord Rainecourt,” Sophia said, grinding the tip of the walking stick into the floor as she stepped away from the infuriating gentleman.

The earl caught her elbow. “And what of our dance?”

Sophia was getting weary of wrestling Reign for her freedom. “I do not dance.”

“Nonsense. Your vision is impaired, not your feet, Lady Sophia,” Reign said, leading her away from the edge of the ballroom toward the other dancers.

A waltz was playing. The flashes of movement and color made her head spin. No, she could not do this. Not with so many people looking at her. Sophia locked her ankles together, refusing to move.

“No.”

Reign did not seem to comprehend the meaning of the word. With a soft sigh of impatience, he captured both of her hands. He guided the hand holding the walking stick to his shoulder so her stick dangled down his back. To keep her from pulling out of his brazen embrace, he placed his free hand on her waist.

BOOK: Till Dawn with the Devil
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