Authors: If You Deceive
I’m trying to forget that soon I’ll have to return to hell….
She shook herself and answered, “I’m here with my friends. We’re out for adventure.” At least, the others were. She planned to pick pockets once the punch was flowing freely.
“And by ‘adventure’ you mean
.” His tone seemed to grow irritated. “A bored young wife looking for a bedmate?”
“Not at all. We’re merely here to be scandalized so we’ll have something to write in our little diaries.” As if she could afford either the diary or the time to write.
“Is that why you allowed me to lead you back here? Because you thought I’d make good diary fodder?”
“I allowed you because it would have been fruitless to resist,” she replied. “I’ve seen intent like yours before. Would anything have stopped you from taking me to one of these rooms?”
“No’ a thing in the world,” he said, catching her eyes.
“Precisely. So I decided that instead of being hauled over your shoulder and carried, I might as well follow you to a quiet spot so I could explain to you that I am not interested in this.”
He stalked closer to her, forcing her back to a narrow table along the silk-papered wall. “My intent was no’ only to get you alone, lass. And it has no’ waned.”
er demeanor was surprisingly composed, her brilliant blue eyes calmly measuring behind her mask, as if a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Highlander accosting her in a darkened room made for sex was commonplace.
Up close, Ethan could see that she was probably no more than twenty, but she was possessed of herself—and even more impossibly lovely than he’d believed when she’d passed him on the street outside.
“And what is your intent?” she asked. Her breaths might have shallowed at his undisguised attention, especially when his gaze dropped to flicker over her breasts. She was slim, too much so for his customary taste, but her small breasts were expertly displayed, her cleavage plump above her tight bodice. He wanted to rip off his mask and rub his face against that creamy flesh.
“My intent is to”—
have a woman beneath me for the first time in three years
“You’ll have to get your
”—she stressed the word as if she doubted that was all he wanted—“from one of the hundreds of courtesans out there.”
“Doona want them.” When his gaze had met hers in the crowd and her pink lips had parted, Ethan had been stunned to find himself swiftly growing hard as stone. Now as he leaned his face in closer to her hair—a mass of white-blond curls, swept up to bare her neck—he smelled her light flowery scent and shot harder, his shaft straining hotly against his trousers. He savored the rare feeling, wanting to groan at the unexpected pleasure. “I followed you in here from the street.”
“Why?” Her tone was straightforward, and he silently thanked her for not being coquettish.
“I saw you outside under a streetlight. I liked the way you smiled.”
“And you just happened to have this with you?” She reached up, skimming her fingertips along the edge of his mask, but he caught her wrist, lowering it before releasing her.
“I liberated it from a passing patron when I saw you enter.” The drop of his mask fluttered above his upper lip, and he’d quickly determined that no one could discern the extent of his scarred visage when courtesans had sought his attention in the crowd filling the Hive. When they’d hindered his progress, he’d been tempted to lift his mask to frighten them away.
“Truly?” Her lips slid into that mysterious half grin, and the need to see the rest of her face burned in him. “So the entire time I saw you searching the crowd, you were looking for
?” Her accent was unusual—English upper class mixed with a tinge of French.
“Aye, for you,” he said. “You were watching me from your vantage?”
“Raptly,” she said, again straightforward, again surprising him.
The idea of her noticing him gave him an odd sense of gratification. “You’re no’ from London, are you?” When she shook her head, he asked, “Why are you here?”
“Do you want the truth or an answer fit for a masquerade?”
“I’ve come to England to search for a rich husband,” she said.
“No’ unusual,” he replied. “At least you have the ballocks to admit it.”
“I have a proposal waiting in the wings at home,” she said, then frowned. “Though I had hoped
to fall back on that one.”
“How is your hunt going?”
“Not as well as I’d wished,” she said. “A few discountable proposals.”
“Whenever I ask them to qualify themselves, they back off.”
“Is that so?” he asked, and when she nodded solemnly, he felt a completely unfamiliar tug at his lips. “And how would a man qualify himself to you?”
“By giving me a token that would actually be dear to him, like an expensive ring or a pair of matched bays, or something along those lines.”
“You’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“I think of nothing else,” she said so softly that he scarcely heard her. Then she added, “I did almost secure one. A truly good man.” Her blond brows drew together as she clearly mused about him. “There might still be the slimmest hope with that one.”
For the first time in his life and at the age of thirty-three, Ethan felt the unmistakable heat of jealousy.
What the bloody hell is wrong with me?
“Then should you no’ be working tonight on securing him?” he asked, his voice colder.
She blinked up at him. “Oh. Well, the man I mentioned went out for the evening. I’m his sister’s houseguest, so I’m accompanying her tonight.”
That generation of Weylands had only one male—
. Ethan ground his teeth. Quin had always been a favorite with the ladies.
She sighed. “
Ça ne fait rien
. It doesn’t matter.” Her voice was growing a bit slurred.
“No, it does no’.” The hell she’d be
Quin. Ethan would have to see her around London continually as their paths crossed—and if tonight was any indication, he’d have to continually cuckold Quin. “Forget him. He’s no’ here and I am.”
She gazed up at him and tilted her head. “Take off your mask.”
“That defeats the purpose of a masquerade, does it no’?” If he removed it, she would stop looking up at him with a growing curiosity glinting in her eyes, and instead, stare in horror. “I can enjoy you just as well with our masks on.”
“And what makes you think I’d allow you to ‘enjoy’ me?” A flirtatious note had eased into her voice, so subtly he might have missed it. Not coquettish—but amused, intrigued.
She was playing, enjoying herself, but she had no idea what she toyed with. “I’ve a sense for these things.” He brushed the backs of his fingers below the sapphire silk of her mask, down her cheek, and she allowed it. “Tonight you’re aching for a man.”
At that, she glanced away. “You might be right, Scot,” she said casually, then faced him once more. Her voice a purr, she asked, “But are
the man I await…where I ache?”
He felt on the verge of grinning. Ach, he liked this excitement. This bandying. He liked that she flirted with him, even knowing she didn’t plan to go further. Why hadn’t a man like himself been attending masquerades every bloody week?
“I am that man.” He took her by her tiny waist and lifted her onto the table along the wall.
“Scot, put me down!” she cried, but he could tell she was excited, well past intrigued now. “Why did you do that?”
“I want to be face-to-face with you when I kiss you for the first time.”
Finally, his words drew a small gasp from her lips. “Are you always so arrogant?”
“Aye, always.” He wedged his hips between her legs.
“You need to let me down,” she said, even as she hesitantly ran her fingertip over his arm—as if she’d struggled not to but hadn’t been able to help herself. “I’ve no time or use for handsome rakes with smooth words.”
His lips did curl then, pulling on the tight skin of his face, forcing him to recall that he didn’t smile—and that he was no longer handsome. “How do you know what I look like? This mask covers most of my face.”
“You have a powerful body and a seductive smile. Gorgeous eyes,” she said in a breathy voice that made his shaft throb. “You said you’ve a sense for certain things—well, I appreciate handsome men. An aficionada, if you will. There’s a reason I spied you out tonight.”
“Is that so?” When she nodded, he said, “Tell me your name.”
“That defeats the purpose of a masquerade, does it not?” she answered, repeating his words. She placed her gloved hand on his chest and let it rest there, as if she couldn’t decide if she should push him away or clutch his shirt and draw him to her. He caught her hand, rucking the glove up to bare her wrist, then placed a kiss on her satiny skin there.
She shivered, tugging her hand back until he released it. “Look at you, Scot. You’re a practiced seducer, if I’ve ever seen one.”
“Practiced?” For the last decade, his flirtations hadn’t been practiced—they’d been nonexistent. And before that, he’d never needed to seduce.
Impulse had made him kiss her hand.
So where did the sodding impulse come from?
“Yes, practiced. That kiss to the wrist is a perfect communication. The brush of your lips demonstrates that you’d be gentle and sensual in bed. The firm hold on my hand as you placed it indicates that you’d be masterful at the same time.”
Gentle? He thought back. Had he ever been
? Right now, he recognized he had no desire to be so with her. He wanted to grind his hips against her, rubbing his erection at the juncture of her thighs to proudly show her how fierce his reaction was.
“I’ve met a lot of your kind,” she said. “Know that I’m invulnerable.”
“I take that as a challenge,
. I’m going to be inside you tonight, and I’ll remind you of your words when I have your legs wrapped round my waist.”
“Oh, Scot, that won’t happen.” She shook her head, and a few glossy curls tumbled free, bouncing over her shoulder.
“You’re obviously no innocent.” Which puzzled him, since he knew she was upper class. She must indeed be a jaded thrill seeker like Jane Weyland and her crowd. “Why no’ spend a night with me?”
“You don’t think I’m untouched? Why?”
“You looked like you could have yawned at the scene we found in here. No’ many innocents would be unfazed by the sight of a prostitute giving a man a below job.”
“Well, whether I am or not is incidental. The fact remains that I’m here to find a husband—not a lover. And I’ve no time for dalliances.”
“Make time. If you’re in London to find a husband, seems like you might no’ be so disdainful to an unmarried man like myself.”
didn’t have time for this. Tomorrow he would leave town to hunt Grey, and for the first time, the call of a kill like that wasn’t as strong as the call of a woman.
She laughed then, a seductively sultry laugh that made him yearn to kiss her. “You are so unreachable, you’re not even a remote candidate.”
He tensed. “Based on what little you know of me?”
All humor gone, she said, “I know enough to suspect that you would use me and never look back. And I’m not condemning, just stating a fact.” Her guileless blue eyes were suddenly inscrutable. “I think we have a lot in common, you and I.”
n common? Then you’re achin’ for us to tup, too.”
Maddy grinned then. She simply couldn’t help it. “And just like that, you disarm me.” There was something about his rough—markedly rough—around-the-edges demeanor that appealed to her. Who was she fooling?
about him appealed to her, from his rumbling brogue to his muscular body to his peculiar fixation
“I want to do more than disarm you.”
Her smile faded. The Scot wasn’t giving up, and she regretted leading him on. She was behaving foolishly, like a normal girl of twenty-one might, when she didn’t have that luxury. Ever-practical Maddy felt herself closing down, the barbs sharpening, the walls going up. “My friends have probably begun to look for me by now. I need to get back to them.”
His brows drew together. “You’re truly…
?” He sounded baffled, as if he had no idea what to do with this.
“And you’re truly not used to being turned down?”
“I’m no’ used to being in a position to be.”
“You never pursue women?” she said in a doubtful tone.
“So I was the lucky first?” Normally she would roll her eyes at comments like these and take them for what they were—verbal attempts to get into her skirts. But there was something about the way he said them, as if they were significant to him, as if they were not only truths but new and unwelcome ones.
And as if he blamed her for them.
“Aye.” He exhaled. “You are the first.”
“It’s a shame that on your first sally you’re going to fail.”
His dark eyes narrowed. “And you call me arrogant? What makes you think you can dismiss me?”
are the one who sought
“And I dinna do it in vain.” He placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head, then leaned in as if to kiss her. “I’m taking you from here tonight.”
Though she was dying to know what his lips felt like, she pushed against his chest, striving to ignore how rigid and big the muscles there were. “Not a chance of that, Scot. There’s no chance in hell I’ll leave with you…”She trailed off as he drew in closer.
He’s going to kiss me right now!
Her breaths shallowed, and her eyelids nearly fluttered closed in pleasure at his clean scent and the heat emanating from his body.
She licked her bottom lip, and he noticed, giving her a wicked grin just as he was about to reach her. She couldn’t stifle a soft whimper—