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Lady Pelham could not have designed a husband more suited to her needs. The Marquess of Grayson is a dear and enchanting friend and an unrepentant ladies’ man. Their union is solid; their hearts safe from one another. But every marriage has its surprises…
They Were Together For All The Wrong Reasons…
They are London’s most scandalous couple. Isabel, Lady Pelham, and Gerard Faulkner, Marquess of Grayson, are well matched in all things—their lusty appetites, constant paramours, wicked wits, provocative reputations, and their absolute refusal ever to ruin their marriage of convenience by falling in love with one another. Isabel knows such a charming rake will never appeal to her guarded heart, nor will she sway his philandering one. It is a most agreeable sham…until a shocking turn of events sends Gerard from her side.
Now, four years later, Gerard has come home to Isabel. But the carefree, boyish rogue who left has been replaced by a brooding, powerful, irresistible man who is determined to seduce his way into her affections. Gone is the devil-may-care companion who shared her friendship and nothing more, and in his place is temptation itself…a husband who desires Isabel body and soul and who will stop at nothing to win her love. No, this is not at all the man she had married. But he is the man who might finally steal her heart…
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“Do you truly intend to steal your best friend’s mistress?”
Gerard Faulkner, the sixth Marquess of Grayson, kept his eyes on the woman in question, and smiled. Those who knew him well also knew that look, and its wicked portent. “I certainly do.”
“Dastardly,” Bartley muttered. “Too low even for you, Gray. Is it not sufficient to cuckold Sinclair? You know how Markham feels about Pel. He’s lost his head over her.”
Gray studied Lady Pelham with a connoisseur’s eye. There was no incertitude about her suitability for his needs. Beautiful and scandalous, he could not have designed a wife more suited to irritating his mother if he’d tried. Pel, as she was affectionately referred to, was of medium height, but stunningly curved, and built for a man’s pleasure. The auburn- haired widow of the late Earl of Pelham had a brazen sultriness that was addicting, or so rumor said. Her former lover, Lord Pearson, had gone into a long decline after she ended their affair.
Gerard had no difficulty seeing how a man could mourn the loss of her attentions. Under the blazing lights of the massive chandeliers, Isabel Pelham glittered like a precious jewel, expensive and worth every shilling.
He watched as she smiled up at Markham with a wide curving of her lips, lips which were considered too full for conventional beauty, but just the right plumpness to rim a man’s cock. All around the room, covetous male eyes watched her, hoping for the day when she might turn those sherry-colored eyes upon them, and perhaps select one of them as her next lover. To Gerard, their longing was pitiable. The woman was extremely selective, and retained her lovers for years. She’d had Markham on a leash for nearly two now, and showed no signs of losing interest.
But that interest did not extend to matrimony.
On the few occasions when the viscount had begged for her hand, she refused him, declaring she had no interest in marrying a second time. Gray, on the other hand, had no doubts whatsoever that he could change her mind about that.
“Calm yourself, Bartley,” he murmured. “Things will work out. Trust me.”
“No one can trust you.”
“You can trust me to give you five hundred pounds if you drag Markham away from Pel and into the card room.”
“Well, then.” Bartley straightened his spine and his waistcoat, neither action capable of hiding his widening middle. “I am at your service.”
Grinning, Gerard bowed slightly to his greedy acquaintance who took off to the right, while he made his way to the left. He strolled without haste around the fringes of the ballroom, making his way toward the pivotal object of his plan. The journey was slow going, his way blocked by one mother- and-debutante pairing after another. Most bachelor peers similarly hounded would grimace with annoyance, but Gerard was known as much for his overabundance of charm, as he was for his penchant for mischief. So he flirted outrageously, kissed hands freely, and left every female in his wake certain he would be calling on her with a formal offer of marriage.
Casting the occasional glance toward Markham, he noted the exact moment Bartley lured him away, and then crossed the distance with purposeful strides, taking Pel’s gloved hand to his lips before the usual throng of avid admirers could encircle her.
As he lifted his head, he caught her eyes laughing at him. “Why, Lord Grayson. A woman cannot help but be flattered by such a single-minded approach.”
“Lovely Isabel, your beauty drew me like a moth to a flame.” He tucked her hand around his forearm, and led her away for a walk around the dance floor.
“Needed a respite from the ambitious mothers, I assume?” she asked in her throaty voice. “I’m afraid even my association will not be enough to make you less appealing. You are simply too delicious for words. You shall be the death of one of these poor girls.”
Gerard breathed a deep sigh of satisfaction, an action which inundated his senses with her lush scent of some exotic flower. They would rub along famously, he knew. He had come to know her well in the years she had been with Markham, and he had always liked her immensely. “I agree. None of these women will do.”
Pel gave a delicate shrug of her bare shoulders, her pale skin set off beautifully by her dark blue gown and sapphire necklace. “You are young yet, Grayson. Once you are my age, perhaps you will have settled down enough to not completely torment your bride with your appetites.”
“Or I can marry a mature woman, and save myself the effort of altering my habits.”
Arching a perfectly shaped brow, she said, “This conversation is leading somewhere, is it not, my lord?”
“I want you, Pel,” he said softly. “Desperately. Only an affair will not suffice. Marriage, however, will take care of it nicely.”
Soft, husky laughter drifted in the air between them. “Oh, Gray. I do adore your humor, you know. It is hard to find men so deliciously unabashed in their wickedness.”
“And it is lamentably hard to find a creature as blatantly sexual as you, my dear Isabel. I’m afraid you are quite unique, and therefore irreplaceable for my needs.”
She shot him a sidelong glance. “I was under the impression you were keeping that actress, the pretty one who cannot remember her lines.”
Gerard smiled. “Yes, that’s true. All of it.” Anne could not act to save her life. Her talents lay in other, more carnal activities.
“And honestly, Gray. You are too young for me. I am six and twenty, you know. And you are . . .” She raked him with a narrowed glance. “Well, you are delectable, but—”
“I am two and twenty, and could ride you well, Pel, never doubt it. However, you misunderstand. I have a mistress. Two, in fact, and you have Markham—”
“Yes, and I am not quite finished with him.”
“Keep him, I have no objections.”
“I’m relieved to have your approval,” she said dryly, and then she laughed again, a sound Gray had always enjoyed. “You are quite mad.”
“Over you, Pel, definitely. Have been from the first.”
“But you’ve no wish to bed me.”
He looked at her with pure male appreciation, taking in the ripe swell of her breasts above the low bodice. “Now, I did not say that. You are a beautiful woman, and I am an amorous man. However, since we are to be bound together, when we decide to fall into bed with one another is moot, yes? We shall have a lifetime to make that leap, if we decide it would be mutually enjoyable.”
“Are you in your cups?” she asked, frowning.
Pel stopped, forcing him to stop with her. She stared up at him, and then shook her head. “If you are serious—”
“There you are!” called a voice behind them.
Gerard bit back a curse at the sound of Markham’s voice, but he faced his friend with a careless smile. Isabel’s countenance was equally innocent. She truly was flawless.
“I must thank you for keeping the vultures at a distance, Gray,” Markham said jovially, his handsome face lit with pleasure at the sight of his paramour. “I was momentarily distracted by something that proved not to be worth my time.”
Relinquishing Pel’s hand with a flourish, Gerard said, “What are friends for?”
“Where have you been?” Gerard growled a few hours later, as a hooded figure entered his bedroom. He paused his pacing, his black silk robe swirling to a halt around his bare legs.
“You know I come when I can, Gray.”
The hood was thrown back revealing silvery blond hair and a beloved face. He crossed the room in two strides and took her mouth, lifting her feet from the floor. “It is not often enough, Em,” he breathed. “Not nearly.”
“I cannot drop everything to serve your needs. I am a married woman.”
“You’ve no need to remind me of that fact,” he grumbled. “I never forget it.”
He buried his face in the curve of her shoulder, and breathed her in. She was so soft and innocent, so sweet. “I’ve missed you.”
Emily, now Lady Sinclair, gave a breathless laugh, her lips swollen from his kisses. “Liar.” Her mouth turned down morosely. “You have been seen with that actress more than a few times in the fortnight since I saw you last.”
“You know she means nothing. It’s you I love.”
He could explain, but she would not understand his need for wild, unrestrained fucking, just as she had not understood Sinclair’s demands. She was too slight of frame, and genteel in sensibility, to enjoy such fervency. It was his respect for her which led him to seek such release elsewhere.