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Authors: Liz Carlyle

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Two Little Lies

BOOK: Two Little Lies
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Suddenly, from the shadows, a hand
grabbed her arm.

Viviana found herself jerked into an unlit alcove. She looked up into Quin’s angry eyes and lifted her chin.

“Madam, you have a great deal of nerve,” he said icily. “How dare you try to ruin this.”

Viviana tried to jerk her arm from his grasp. “Don’t be a fool, Quinten,” she said coolly. “Release my arm this instant.”

Instead, he pulled her closer, his nostrils flaring with rage.

“Quin,
basta!
” She tore from his grasp. “The others are leaving us.”

“I know how to find the goddamned dining room, Viviana,” he rasped. “It’s my bloody house.”


Si, caro mio,
and I suspect you never let anyone forget it.”

He leaned into her. “I shan’t let you forget it, that’s bloody certain.”

“Oh, trust me, Quinten,” she whispered. “That is one thing I have never forgotten. Your rank. Your wealth. Your unassailable British
privilege
. I did, however, make the mistake of forgetting your title, and now I see I’m to pay for it.”

His face contorted unpleasantly. “You liar! You never forgot a damned thing you thought you could use to your advantage.”

Suddenly, his meaning dawned on her. “Oh,
Dio!
” she said. “You are disgusting, and you are delusional. I could buy and sell you twice over, Quin Hewitt. Trust me, you have
nothing
I want.”

True anger flared in his eyes then. “What I want, my lady, is to see you in private,” he growled. “Tomorrow morning. In my study.”

Praise for National Bestselling
Author Liz Carlyle
and her sizzling romantic novels…

“Hot and sexy, just how I like them! Romance fans will want to remember Liz Carlyle’s name.”

—Linda Howard,
New York Times
bestselling author

THE DEVIL TO PAY

“Intriguing…engaging…an illicit delight.”

—Stephanie Laurens,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Sensual and suspenseful…[a] lively and absorbing romance.”

—Publishers Weekly

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

“Sinfully sensual, superbly written…Carlyle’s latest romance is nothing short of brilliant.”

—Booklist

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

“Sweep-you-off-your-feet romance, the sort of book that leaves you saying, ‘More, please!’ ”

—Connie Brockway, award-winning author of
Bridal Season

“Rich and sensual, an unforgettable story in the grand romantic tradition.”

—Christina Dodd

NO TRUE GENTLEMAN

“One of the year’s best historical romances.”

—Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Carlyle neatly balances passion and danger in this sizzling, sensual historical that should tempt fans of Amanda Quick and Mary Balogh.”

—Booklist

A WOMAN OF VIRTUE

“A beautifully written book…. I was mesmerized from the first page to the last.”

—The Old Book Barn Gazette

“I can’t recommend this author’s books highly enough; they are among my all-time favorites.”

—Romance Reviews Today

A WOMAN SCORNED

“Fabulous! Regency-based novels could not be in better hands….”

—Affaire de Coeur

MY FALSE HEART


My False Heart
is a treat!”

—Linda Howard,
New York Times
bestselling author

Also by Liz Carlyle from Pocket Books

One Little Sin

The Devil to Pay

A Deal With the Devil

The Devil You Know

No True Gentleman

Tea for Two

A Woman of Virtue

Beauty Like the Night

A Woman Scorned

My False Heart

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

A Pocket Star Book published by
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2006 by S. T. Woodhouse

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN: 1-4165-3069-X

POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Designed by Melissa Isriprashad

Visit us on the World Wide Web:

http://www.SimonSays.com

Prologue

In which a Proposal of marriage is Received.

Spring, 1821

S
ignorina Alessandri was ill. Again. With one hand restraining the flowing folds of her fine silk nightclothes, she lurched over the closestool in her Covent Garden flat and prayed, in fluent and fervid Italian, for death to take her.

“Oh, please, miss,
do
speak English!” begged her maid, who had caught her heavy black hair, and drawn it back, too. “I can’t make out a word. But I do think we’d best fetch a doctor.”

“Nonsense,” said the signorina, clenching the back of the closestool in a white-knuckled fist. “It was the fish Lord Chesley served last night.”

The maid pursed her lips. “Aye, and what was it yesterday, miss?” she asked. “Not fish, I’ll wager.”

With the other hand set at the small of her back, Viviana closed her eyes and somehow straightened up.
“Silenzio,
Lucy,” she said softly. “We talk of it no further. The worst is over now.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” said the maid.

Viviana ignored her and went instead to the washbasin. “Where is the morning’s post,
per favore?”
she asked, awkwardly slopping the bowl full of water.

With a sigh, Lucy went into the parlor and returned with a salver which held one letter covered in Viviana’s father’s infamous scrawl, and a folded note which bore no address. “Mr. Hewitt’s footman brought it,” she said offhandedly.

With hands that shook, Viviana finished her ablutions, then patted a towel across her damp face as her maid looked on in consternation. The girl had been both loyal and kind these many months. “Thank you, Lucy,” she said. “Why do you not go have a cup of tea? I shall read my letter now.”

Lucy hesitated. “But do you not wish your bathwater brought, miss?” she pressed. “ ’Tis already past noon. Mr. Hewitt will be here soon, won’t he?”

Quin.
Lucy was right, of course. Viviana laid aside the towel and took the note. Quin usually came to her in the early afternoon. Yes, just as he meant to do today. And oh, how she longed for it—yet dreaded it in the same breath.

She tossed the note into the fire. She had not missed the furious looks he’d hurled her way in the theater’s reception room after last night’s performance. Viviana had sung gloriously, hitting every high note in her last aria with a chilling, crystal-clear resonance, before collapsing into her lover’s arms in a magnificent swoon. The theater had been full, the applause thunderous.

But all Quin had seemed to notice was what had come afterward. The compliments and congratulations of her admirers. The champagne toasts. The subtle, sexual invitations tossed her way by the lift of a brow or a tilt of the head—and refused just as subtly in turn. It had not been refusal enough for Quin. One could hardly have ignored his cocky stance and sulky sneer as he paced the worn green carpet, a glass of brandy clutched in his hand. His uncle, Lord Chesley, had even had the effrontery to tease him about it.

Quin had not taken that well. Nor had he been especially pleased to see Viviana leaving on Chesley’s arm, as she so often did. And today, God help them, he would undoubtedly wish to quarrel over it. Viviana was not at all sure she was capable of mounting a spirited defense. But it almost didn’t matter anymore.

“Miss?” said the maid. “Your bathwater?”

Nausea roiled in her stomach again, and Viviana moved gingerly to a chair. “In ten minutes, Lucy,” she answered. “I shall read
Papà
’s letter whilst my stomach settles. If I am late, I shall receive Mr. Hewitt here.”

Lucy pursed her lips again. “Aye, then,” she finally answered. “But I’d be telling him straightaway, miss, about that bad fish if I was you.”

Finally, Viviana laughed.

The fleeting humor did not sustain her as she opened her father’s letter. Even the scent of his letter paper tugged at her heartstrings. She knew the very drawer of his desk from which it had been taken; the same desk in which he kept his tobacco. Then there was the penmanship itself. The broad, slashing strokes always recalled to her his indefatigable strength, the tight loops and curls, his wisdom and precision, and the lyrical words, his artistry. He was one of Europe’s most renowned composers, and not without reason.

She drew in the scent once more, then spread the letter across her lap. She read it through once, disbelievingly, then again, very carefully. Chesley, it seemed, had kept his old friend well-informed. Already
Papà
knew that tonight was to be her last performance in
Die Entführung,
and that all of London’s West End lay appreciatively at her feet. As
Konstanze,
at long last, she had triumphed.

And now
Papà
was writing to tell her she might return home. Viviana closed her eyes and thought of it. Dear God, what a strange confluence of fate and timing this was! It seemed an eternity since she had fled Venice with nothing but her panic, her violin, and her music folio to bear her company. And now, to return! Oh, it was what she had lived for and longed for almost every moment since, save for those spent in Quin’s arms. He had been, in truth, her salvation.

But now she could go home. It was a bit of a devil’s bargain, what was being offered her. Certainly it was not what she wanted. Nonetheless, as
Papà
pointed out, there were advantages to such an arrangement. Great advantages. It would also make his life a vast deal easier, though her father would sooner die than tell her so.

And so the decision was to be hers.
Nothing would be forced upon her.
Ha! Those were not her father’s words, she’d wager. Apparently, Conte Bergonzi had changed his tactics. Moreover, Viviana could tell by his careful phrasing that
Papà
fully expected her to refuse Bergonzi’s offer, and would forgive her if she did so. Viviana set her hand on her belly. She was not at all sure she would have the luxury of refusing.

The water was wonderfully hot when it came, and remarkably restorative. Feeling perhaps a little more at peace, Viviana was still luxuriating in it when Quin came stalking into the room. He looked at once angry and yet almost boyishly uncertain.

He stared down at her naked body and gave her a tight, feral smile. “Washing away the evidence, Vivie?”

It was a cynical remark, even for him.

For a moment, she let her black eyes burn into him.
“Silenzio,
Quinten,” she returned. “I had quite enough of your jealous sulking last night. Be civil, or go away.”

He knelt by the tub, and rested one arm along its edge. His eyes were bleak today, the lines about his mouth almost shockingly deep for one so young. He smelled of brandy and smoke and the scents of a long, hard-spent night. “Is that what you want, Viviana?” he whispered. “Are you trying to drive me away?”

She dropped her soap into the water. “How, Quin?” she demanded, throwing up her hands in frustration.
“Mio dio,
how am I doing this driving? I am not
,
and that is the truth of it,
si?”

He cast his eyes away, as if he did not believe her. “They say Lord Lauton has promised you a house in Mayfair, and more money than I could ever dream of,” he answered. “Not until I come into my title, at any rate. Is it true, Vivie?”

She shook her head. “Quin, what would it matter if it were?” she returned. “I am no longer for sale—perhaps not even to you. Why must you be so jealous?”

“How can I help but be, Viviana?” he rasped, brushing one finger beneath her left nipple. It peaked and hardened, begging for his touch. “Men’s eyes feast upon you everywhere you go. But at least you still desire me.”

Viviana glowered at him, but she did not push his hand away. “My body desires you,
si,”
she admitted. “But sometimes,
amore mio,
my mind does not.”

He plucked the nipple teasingly between his thumb and forefinger. “And what of your heart, Viviana?” he whispered, looking up at her from beneath a sweep of inky lashes. “I have your body ensconced, ever so circumspectly, in this flat which I have paid for. Have I your heart as well?”

“I have no heart!” she snapped. “That is what you told me when we quarreled last week, if you will recall. And you need not remind me, Quin, of who has put this roof over my head. I have become mindful of it with every breath I draw.”

As if to torment her, he let his lashes fall shut, then leaned forward to crook his head so that he might suckle her. Viviana sat perfectly still, allowing him to draw her nipple into his mouth, and then between his teeth. At that, she gasped, and cursed the old, familiar pull of lust which went twisting traitorously through her body. It curled deep in her belly and left her breathless.

He lifted his head with a satisfied smile. “Where did you go last night, my love?” he asked.

She looked at him defiantly. “To Chesley’s town house,” she said. “We dined with Lord and Lady Rothers, and some acquaintances they had brought from Paris.”

“Ah, patrons of the arts, all of them, I’ve no doubt,” said Quin almost mockingly. “My uncle’s little coterie!”

“Why must you so often think ill of him? He is kind to me, no more.”

“My uncle is a fine man,” Quin returned. “It is his friends I do not trust. By the way, my sweet, what is this here, just below your jaw? A bruise? Or something else?”

Her glower darkened as he brushed the side of her neck with the back of one finger. “It is absolutely nothing,” she snapped, having no need to look. He was trying to elicit some sort of guilty reaction. “It is nothing, as it has always been nothing, Quin,” she went on. “Chesley is my father’s friend. My mentor here in London. He thinks of me as his
ward,
for God’s sake! How many times must we suffer this foolish argument?”

He broke his gaze, and looked away. “I cannot help it, Viviana.” He choked out the words. “You—you drive me insane. Chesley runs with a fast crowd. I cannot bear how those other men look at you.”

“And how, pray, am I to stop it?” she asked him. “What would you have me do, Quin? Give up my career? Enter a convent? I am a singer, for God’s sake, and for that, one needs an audience.” She seized her towel from the floor with a snap and pushed him away.

“I—I could pay you,” he said. “A little now, and a great deal more—eventually. Then you would not have to sing at all.”

She looked at him incredulously. “Sometimes, Quin, I do not think you understand me,” she whispered. “I
must
sing. It has nothing to do with money.”

He watched her almost warily as she stood to towel the water from her body. Viviana made no effort to hide her nakedness from his heated gaze as it drifted over her. She was, after all, his. He had bought and paid for her. She had let him do it, too—though she had fought it at first like a tigress.

“Lie down on the bed, Viviana,” he said when she was dry. “Open your legs. I want you.”

For a moment, she considered refusing. But God help her, she still desired him. Even though it had come to this. She had wounds and scars to last a lifetime, as, no doubt, did he. Petty jealousies and bitterness had eaten into their hearts. He was too young. Too inexperienced. And she—well, she was simply too lonely. They were just using one another now. Surely he understood that?

Certainly, she did. Yet she craved the pleasure and the peace his virile young body could give her. She craved
him
. And she remembered a time, not so long ago, when it had been enough to sustain her; a time when they had worshipped one another, and experienced together all the sweet delights of a first love.

“Lie down on the bed,” he said again, more firmly. “You are my mistress, Viviana. I have the right.”

And that, too, was perfectly true. Viviana tossed aside the towel, drew back the sheets, and did as he asked.

As the early-afternoon light spilt over his shoulder, Quin stripped off his clothes with the practiced ease of a man who was used to having his needs and whims accommodated. He was already hard and fully erect. As usual.

When his snug, buff trousers had been shucked and tossed aside, he crawled across the bed in an almost predatory fashion and mounted her without preamble. Viviana gasped at the invasion, her whole body arching upward.

“You are mine, Viviana,” he whispered, thrusting the full length of his erection inside her. “Do not ever forget that.”

She was not his, but she did not argue. Instead, she set her feet flat against the bed, and tilted up her hips to better take the deepening strokes.

In response, he clasped her hands in his, palm to palm, and pushed them high over her head and onto the bed pillows, holding them there as he rode her. They had become like cats in heat, she and Quin, hissing and squabbling even as they burnt for one another. She could already feel the quickening in his body—and in hers, too, despite the hurt he had done her. What manner of woman was she, to crave and cling to this?

It was as if Quin read her very thoughts. “You are mine, Viviana,” he growled, bending over her and staring into her eyes, still pressing her hands high above her head. “You are mine, damn it, and no one else’s.
Say
it.”

Viviana turned her head away. It was not worth the fight. “I am yours,” she whispered.

“Look at me, Viviana,”
he insisted, quickening his thrusts. “Look at me when I do this to you. Sometimes, I swear, I think you mean to break my heart. Say it again. You are mine, and no one else’s!”

She returned her gaze to his, defiant. “I am
mine,
Quin,” she said, her voice low and tremulous. “I am
my own person.
But I have chosen to be with you. There is a difference.”

But Quin seemed not to hear her words. He had closed his own eyes now, and the flesh was taut across the hard bones of his face as he rode her more furiously. She felt her pelvis arch to his against her will, urgent and greedy. Oh, God, he had such a gift for this! She wanted to lose herself in this pure, physical act. Wanted to feel nothing but the joining of their bodies.

He sensed it, and the urgency drove him. In this one way, at least, he understood her.
“Si, caro mio,”
she crooned. “Ah, yes. Like that.”

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