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Authors: Christie Kelley

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Scandal of the Season

BOOK: Scandal of the Season
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NO MAN’S MISTRESS

It suddenly struck him that she was lying. Perhaps it was his gambler’s intuition, but he knew a bluff when he saw one. And Victoria Seaton was bluffing.

“And if I’m forced to kiss you?” The soft tone of his voice underlied the anger he felt at her lying to him again.

“I shall be forced to endure it.”

“Shall we see just how you do at enduring my kisses?”

Before she could back away, he pulled her close and brought his lips down on hers. The anger that he felt at her lying softened as her lips opened slightly. Taking advantage, he deepened the kiss, savored the tentative touch of her tongue against his.

She pressed her body to his and lifted her arms to wrap around his neck. He still had some lingering doubts about her bluffing. For some reason she acted as if she wanted to push him away, but her kiss told him the opposite. But was her reaction a learned response from her profession? Did she like to play the innocent prostitute?

As she responded to him, his body begged him to walk her to the bed. He couldn’t do that while there was still the incident of ten years ago between them. She would hate him forever if he did. And for some odd reason, he didn’t want that.

Slowly he lifted away from her and smiled down at her bemused face. The look on her face was not the look of a woman enduring his kiss.

He lifted her chin upward. “If you keep kissing me like that,
I
might even believe you want me.”

Books by Christie Kelley

Every Night I’m Yours

Every Time We Kiss

Something Scandalous

Scandal of the Season

Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.

S
CANDAL
Of The
S
EASON
Christie Kelley

ZEBRA BOOKS

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

I want to thank my sister, Louise Kelley, RN, FNP, for her assistance with my questions regarding infections and fevers. You’re the best! Oh, and I’m sure I’ll be calling on your expertise again.

 

A big thank you to my critique partner and friend, Kathy Love, for reading through this book at lightning speed and helping me sort out my plot. I think I still owe you a glass (maybe a bottle) of wine for that.

 

Another thank you to my critique partners, The Tarts. Kate Dolan, Kathy Love, Janet Mullany, and Kate Poole thanks for reading what I could get to you and for helping me plot this thing out.

 

And my heartfelt thanks to Peter Senftleben, my editor, for giving me the extra time needed to get Somerton in line.

 

Last but certainly not least, thanks to my husband Mike and my sons Stephen and Tommy. Thanks for understanding when I had to shut myself in my office to finish this book. I love you all!

Chapter One

London, 1807

Her smile attracted him like a beacon on that damp, cold night, drawing Anthony nearer to her warmth. But his friends yanked him away from the beautiful woman selling oranges. The force propelled him into the cobbled street. A hackney veered to the left just in time, preventing Anthony Westfield, Viscount Somerton from obliteration before ever giving his father the one thing he wanted—a proper heir.

Anthony stood and then stumbled back over the cobbles, landing at the woman’s worn brown boots. Perhaps he shouldn’t have had that third, or was it fourth?, glass of brandy. Trey and Nicholas pulled him to his feet.

“Are you all right, sir?” she asked in a small voice.

She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. Her big eyes looked light, possibly blue, in the pale illumination of the moon. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen her. Whenever he passed this street, she was there with her basket of oranges and a shy smile for him. Every time he saw her, he felt this pull of attraction to her. She had always favored him with a bright smile, but now her face appeared lined with concern. For him.

“Fine,” he mumbled. “Just a bit too much brandy tonight.”

Her blond eyebrows lowered in what could only be condemnation. She wasn’t the only one who would disapprove of his behavior tonight. Unless he completely sobered up by the time he arrived home, he would catch a severe dressing-down by his father. First gambling, then drinking, and he had an idea of what his friends had in mind next, not exactly proper behavior for the son of an earl. At least in his father’s opinion.

Anthony continued to stare at the woman. He wanted to know her name, discover if the scent of oranges was purely from the fruit she sold or if it permeated her skin. Yet once again, his friends pulled him away from her, this time more gently.

“Good night, fair lady,” he said as they dragged him away from her.

“Good night, sir.” The light sound of her musical voice carried to his ears.

“No more drooling over a woman who isn’t about to give you what you want,” Nicholas said with a slight slur to his voice. “And we’re not about to let you swive some poor innocent.” He turned his head and smirked at them both. “One of you should have some experience.”

Trey and Nicholas led him around the corner to a house on Maddox Street. After a very successful evening of gambling, his two friends had accomplished the not so difficult task of getting Anthony foxed. Perhaps they knew it was the only way to convince him to come with them. He looked up at the house and shook his head. As a man entered the building, the sound of merriment filled the air.

“Where are we?” Anthony asked, knowing their likely location.

“Lady Whitely has the cleanest girls in town,” Trey replied.

The women might claim to be clean, but the last thing Anthony needed was a woman to give him a disease, or worse, a bastard. His father would never forgive him for that dishonor.

“I should be getting home.”

Nicholas only laughed. “Don’t be nervous, Anthony. We all have to have our first time.”

Trey joined in the chortling. “I can’t believe you still haven’t…”

But Anthony hadn’t. His father had warned him about the unclean prostitutes around Eton and in town. As the heir to the earldom, Anthony had a responsibility to lead a clean life, marry when the time was right, and have his own heir. Besides, Father had been through enough with Mother dying in a carriage accident when Anthony was only ten and his sister only two. Attempting to live up to his father’s wishes was the least he could do. Or at least try to.

“I really need to go,” Anthony tried again. But his friends wouldn’t release their tight grip on his forearms.

“Not this time,” Trey said. “Lady Whitely will find you the perfect girl.”

“I don’t need to pay for a woman,” Anthony grumbled.

“You’re not,” Nicholas said. “It’s your birthday and almost Christmas. Think of it as a gift from two old friends.”

Paying for a woman seemed completely wicked and morally wrong. Women like that only went down the wrong path because they had nothing else. They had no one else.

“I just don’t think this is a good—”

“This
is
a good idea.
A very good idea,
” Nicholas interrupted. “One of Lady Whitely’s ladies will teach you exactly what a man needs to know before he takes a wife.”

Anthony frowned. He knew the rudiments of the act; how much more was there to it? “I’m not planning on taking a wife for a few years. And I still—”

“Too late, we’re already here,” Trey said with a laugh.

They pulled Anthony up the steps, opened the black lacquer door and pushed him into the front hallway. He almost tripped and fell onto the black and white checkered marble floor. Luckily, Nicholas caught him.

“Be a man and do this,” Nicholas whispered in his ear. “Your future wife will thank you.”

Now his friend sounded like his father. Anthony didn’t want a wife yet. He was only eighteen. As he walked into the salon and glanced around, he suddenly realized he did want to learn more about the relations between a man and a woman. Several women strolled around in gowns designed to show off all their assets. Lady Whitely offered an excellent selection of women—redheads, blondes, several brunettes, too. Small-breasted women, large-breasted women, and a few in between.

Their arrival brought whispers and giggles from some of the younger ladies, and leering glances from the older ones. Trey leaned over and spoke softly to one of the women while Anthony continued to gawk. His breeches felt confining against his unruly erection. After blinking to clear his vision, he walked over to the servant selling drinks in the corner and ordered a brandy.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” a husky voice sounded behind him.

Anthony turned and stared at the woman. Her dress was cut almost to her belly, giving him a splendid view of the valley of her abundant breasts. He picked up his brandy and gulped it down.

“First time?” she asked with a knowing smile. “Well, I do hope you will pick me. My name is Giselle, and I love teaching a man what he needs to know.”

“Thank you, Giselle. I’ll remember that.” Anthony quickly ordered another drink and moved away from the strumpet. There had to be a better way to learn about sex than to lie with a woman who’d been with numerous men.

“Come on, Somerton,” Nicholas called to him from the doorway. “We have everything arranged.”

Anthony cringed with the thought. But he couldn’t back down now, could he? What would his friends think of him? He knew exactly what they would think, that he was a coward. A boy too scared to become a man.

He had to do this at least this once. Then he would do something to help these poor women. He’d find a way of reforming them so they didn’t have to work on their backs for a few pounds.

Following Nicholas up the stairs, Anthony took in his surroundings for the first time. When his friends implied they were taking him to a brothel, he’d expected a poorhouse with naked women prancing about. He had never thought that the staircase would be marble, the railing a burled walnut, that a fine crystal chandelier would hang from the two story ceiling, and there would be beautiful—and completely erotic—paintings on the burgundy walls.

Nicholas dragged him down the long corridor. Murmurs and moans filled the cavernous walkway. Hearing the excited voices and the groans of pleasure sent blood racing to Anthony’s stiff cock. Perhaps his body wanted this night more than his mind.

“Yes, Dickie. Oh, yes!”

Anthony could only imagine what Dickie was doing to that woman to elicit such a passionate response. Maybe learning a few things before marriage would help him and his future wife—whoever she might be.

“Come along, Anthony. You’ll get yours soon enough.” Nicholas stopped before the last room on the left and then opened the door.

Anthony followed him inside a small room painted a dark red and filled with all things feminine. A large four-poster bed with a white, Belgian lace coverlet took up most of the room. The table nearest the bed contained a variety of lotions and oils, which permeated the room with exotic scents of the Far East.

“Lady Whitely is assisting another patron but will be here in a few minutes to help you decide on your best choice of woman,” Nicholas said by the doorway. “Have fun and stop listening to your father’s voice in your head. I’m quite certain even he has been known to visit a brothel.”

Anthony almost laughed as Nicholas shut the door behind him. His father would never call on a strumpet. He was the one who always told Anthony to control his base urges and save himself for marriage. After all, Mother had been dead for eight years and his father had never remarried or kept a mistress, at least as far as Anthony knew.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and thought about what kind of woman he wanted for his first time. Closing his eyes, visions of his little orange blossom, as he liked to think of her, came to his head. Perhaps if he asked for a young woman with blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile like an angel, Lady Whitely could provide him with his fantasy. Opening his eyes, reality sank in. Even if she did find him a woman who looked like his orange blossom, she wouldn’t smell fresh and clean with a hint of spicy orange to her.

A quick knock scraped across the door. This was it. Time to face Lady Whitely, choose a lady, and become a man. He rose unsteadily and cleared his throat. “Come in.”

The door opened and a woman in her mid-thirties walked into the room. Her dark blond hair had been lavishly swept back, except the few curls artfully left to frame her oval face. As she stared at him, her perfect smile seemed frozen in place.

And he stared back, wondering why she looked slightly familiar to him. Neither moved. They only gazed at each other as if trying to decide how they knew each other. A small clock on the nightstand ticked away the minutes.

“Anthony?” she finally whispered.

That voice! He knew that voice. He’d heard it so many times when he’d been scared at night or when she sang him to sleep.

No!

It could not be her. She was dead. It must be the brandy addling his mind tonight. “Anthony, is that really you?” Slowly she approached him. She reached her hand out to cup his cheek.

He reeled away from her as if her light touch had burned his skin. Turning back to face her, he said in the most damning tone he’d ever used, “Mother?”

She blinked away tears and pressed her lips tightly together. She acknowledged his condemnation by taking a step away from him.

“It is you, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Of course.”

He grabbed the post of the bed and hung onto it like a lifeline. Hundreds of questions bounced in his head but only one came out. “Why?”

“Why what?” She moved to the end of the bed, sat on the edge and looked up at him. “Why did I leave you and your sister? Why did I leave your father? Why did I come here and set up such a house?”

There was only one more important question. “Does Father know?”

A delicate shudder visibly rolled through her body. “Yes,” she whispered.

Anthony clung tighter to the bedpost. It was one thing for one parent to lie and deceive her child, but quite another when both parents were in collusion to betray their children. But his father would never do such an underhanded thing. He must have only recently discovered the truth of her deception.

“How long has he known?”

“Almost from the day I left.”

Anger broke through his drunken haze. “He’s known you were alive and did nothing to save you from this life?”

His mother laughed softly. “I know you may find this difficult to believe, but my life has been far better away from your father than with him.”

“How can you say that?” He finally released the bedpost, stood in front of her, and hoped the world would stop spinning soon. “Why didn’t you let
me
know you were alive?”

“I couldn’t, Anthony. I was trying to protect you.”

“Protect me?” he all but yelled. “You’re the one who needs protecting.”

“Why is that?” She swept her arm around the room. “Look around, I am quite safe here.”

“You make your living by…by…”

“By what, Anthony?”

“Lying with any man who would pay you.”

She reached out to clasp his hand but he pulled it away. Her dainty shoulders drooped. “I only lie with the men I wish to be with.”

“And that is supposed to make me feel better?”

She shrugged. “I suppose not.” Slowly she stood before him, barely reaching his shoulders. He had not realized just how small she was…petite, with dark blue eyes that flashed in anger at him. “You have no idea what I’ve been through with your father. When the time is right, I shall be happy to tell you.”

“Then tell me now,” he growled.

“No. This is not the time. You’re intoxicated, and you’ve had far too much of a shock. You need to go home and think about what you discovered tonight. And when you are ready, I shall explain everything to you.”

“I’m supposed to just leave here and accept the fact that my dead mother is actually alive and well, living as a prostitute?”

Her face whitened. “I am not a—”

“Oh? You run this house. You already said that you lie with whomever you please. You are a strumpet.”

Before she could try to deny her profession again, he strode to the door and then down the stairs. He passed a footman on his way up the steps with a bottle of fine brandy on a silver salver. Anthony grabbed the bottle and ran from the house of horrors.

He raced down Maddox Street until he nearly collapsed at the side entrance to St. George’s Church. After sitting down on the brick step, he opened the bottle of brandy and gulped a large amount down.

She was alive.

After almost eight years to the day, she was alive.

How?

How had his mother kept herself from them all these years? Hadn’t she cared about her children, if not her husband? She was alive. The past eight years had been a complete farce, which made him nothing but a fool for believing everything Father had ever told him.

BOOK: Scandal of the Season
12.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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