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Authors: Beverley Kendall

Tags: #Historical Romance

All's Fair in Love and Seduction

BOOK: All's Fair in Love and Seduction
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Season Publishing

Conyers, GA 30013

Copyright © Beverley Kendall

Excerpt from
An Heir of Deception
copyright © 2011 by Beverley Kendall

www.theseasonforromance.com

www.beverleykendall.com

Cover Design © Hot Damn Designs

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

To the love of my life, Ryan.

Mommy loves you always.

Acknowledgments

To the greatest CPs a girl can have. Anastasia, your insight and knack for detail are invaluable. Barb, to the best blurb and query reviser ever. Thank you. 

For Miss Elizabeth Smith, sharing her first kiss with the charming Lord Derek Creswell is nothing short of a dream come true…that is, until she is spotted by one of the most relentless and influential gossips of the
ton
. With scandal nipping at her heels, to avoid total social ruin, Elizabeth must present a fiancé by the end of the Season. 

Viscount Derek Creswell believes Elizabeth set out to trap him into marriage. After all, her sister attempted the very same thing with his brother six years ago. Derek would rather see her ruined than be forced to marry a woman capable of such deception—even one as undeniably tempting as Miss Smith. 

But not only is scandal a double-edged sword, when a woman is determined...all's fair in love and seduction.

Also by Beverley Kendall

The Elusive Lords Series

SINFUL SURRENDER

A TASTE OF DESIRE

Chapter One

 

“Who is that standing next to Lady Windmere?” Lord Derek Creswell asked while his gaze remained fixed on the dark-haired beauty casting furtive glances at him over a lovely bare shoulder.

Derek had first glimpsed her at the Radcliffe ball the month past. Since then, he’d seen her at various other society events.

And he wouldn't mind seeing much more of her.

Lord Alex Cartwright angled his head in the direction of Derek’s stare and replied curtly, “Miss Elizabeth Smith.”

Normally, Derek would have wasted no time in seeking an introduction but something had cautioned against it. Perhaps it was the incongruity of innocence and sensuality packaged in a female form meant to make a man think of sin and nothing else.

By God, he’d been tempted, no doubt about that, but since he’d stop letting his cock take the lead in all things soft and female, he’d had to be content to admire her from afar.

“And?” Derek prompted, his attention still focused wholly on Miss Smith. It appeared the task of eliciting information from his friend would be an arduous one.

After a pause, Cartwright relented, replying as if reading points on a list. “Miss Elizabeth Smith. She’s Missy’s cousin twice removed. Her father recently came into a barony. This is her first Season.”

Lady Windmere’s cousin and thereby Rutherford's relation—though somewhat distant—by marriage.

Of all the bloody luck.

This made the situation particularly sticky if he chose to pursue her. He had to decide whether she was worth the headache of incurring Rutherford's wrath should things not go to the lady's satisfaction.

“She
is
stunning,” Derek remarked offhandedly in a belated and weak attempt to play down his interest.

Light brown eyes, red bow-shaped lips and skin like silk; almost as if she had been fashioned specifically with men in mind. 

Derek had wanted her from the first time he'd seen her and tonight that want had become a relentless throb in his loins. He knew what that meant and like the departure of a long treasured friend, he bade a silent farewell to his good judgment.

“That she is,” Cartwright replied, his voice softening and somewhat bemused.

Perturbed, Derek shot him a quick glance, then turned and followed the direction of his friend’s narrowed gaze to discover Cartwright wasn’t looking at Miss Smith at all. His friend’s attention centered on one of the Rutherford twins. From that distance, Derek couldn't tell which as they appeared to be identical in every way save temperament. He imagined it was Charlotte, the quieter one, for there had always been an undercurrent of something between them. He hadn’t exactly known what but it was obvious now.

Lust. Passion. Affection?

For his friend’s sake Derek hoped he felt a healthy dose of the latter, she was Rutherford’s cousin by blood after all, raised by him since the age of fifteen. There existed a bond between them Rutherford wouldn’t have with his wife’s cousin. Not that Rutherford would stand to see Miss Smith trifled with.

Regardless, Derek was relieved his friend’s interest was not in Miss Smith. It wouldn’t do for them to be lusting after the same woman.

Derek returned his attention to Miss Smith and as if he'd willed it by the force of his gaze, she angled her head to peep at him for the fifth time since he’d arrived a half hour ago. Her eyes widened at his openly admiring regard, for in the past he’d been just as circumspect as she in their visual intercourse.

Their eyes met and held, and the awareness that had smoldered like a brush fire between them, threatened to burst into a conflagration of lust. Seconds ticked too slowly, too quickly before she looked away, her face flushed a violent pink. A heaviness settled in his loins.

“Arrange an introduction,” Derek demanded quietly, giving up all presence of casual interest.

Cartwright slanted a glance in his direction, one eyebrow rising above a lock of black hair resting low on his forehead. He did not immediately respond, instead appeared to be thoughtfully choosing his words. “I’ve met her…Miss Smith. She is not the worldly sort. And more to the point, she is practically Rutherford’s relation. If you’re looking for a dalliance, I think it best you set your sights elsewhere.”

How had Cartwright taken it as far as dalliance when he'd merely asked for an introduction? It wasn’t as if he meant to whisk her off to the gardens for a private ravishing. At least not that very night.

 

Caught!

The sheer weight of Lord Creswell’s regard initially made it impossible for Elizabeth to look away. His gaze pierced her through to her core, creating an ache that started in her chest and spiraled downward until her inner thighs clenched in an effort to contain it, find relief from it, only to find none. 

After several breathless moments trapped under the heat of his penetrating stare, she summoned up what little of her will remained, managing to wrench her gaze away. 

An image of him as he’d looked six years ago pushed to the forefront of her thoughts. He had been the kind of handsome that warranted second and third looks. But that first impression he’d made upon her fifteen-year-old heart paled in comparison to what he did to it now. 

He’d grown only more handsome in the ensuing years, his dark hair cut shorter, his shoulders broader, his cheekbones more pronounced and jaw more squared. He had an air of maturity in his face that had been lacking in the twenty-three year-old man who had stood in her parents’ parlor, venom in his eyes and condemnation lacing his every word.  Before her now—not but thirty feet away—was a man who would stand out in any crowd. In the prime of his youth, he wore his black and white tailored garments with the same ease as he carried himself. Before her stood a man of consequence; a man she could only gaze upon but never even think to have for her own.  

The viscount didn’t know who she was and provided she kept her distance, he never would. But given the small and exclusive nature of the London ton, their paths would undoubtedly cross again. The prospect should have given her pause instead of causing an unwanted thrill to shoot through her. 

“He is quite handsome is he not?” 

Charlotte’s voice jolted Elizabeth from her thoughts that ever increasingly tended to center on the viscount.   

“Who?” Elizabeth tried her hand at nonchalance but feared the effect was lost to the heat flooding her face. Her mother often said she wore her heart on her sleeve and one day it would be her undoing. If she should come undone, best it occur after her first London Season, well out of the vicinity of prying eyes and loose tongues.

“Alex,” Charlotte chided, with the ease of a friendship that numbered in years and not the month since their introduction. 

It had taken the better part of only three days after Elizabeth arrived at Laurel House before Charlotte had confided her feelings for Lord Alex—infatuation-turned-to-love that now spanned three years. 

After meeting Lord Alex, Elizabeth wasn’t the least bit surprised. With his piercing silver-gray eyes and dimple in his chin, the second son of the Duke of Hastings possessed looks and charm to spare. Truth be told, he and Lord Creswell shared a superficial resemblance, both tall and handsome, each with a thick black head of hair. 

  “Very handsome indeed,” Elizabeth agreed with a sage nod. She flitted another glance in the men’s direction but the group at their side had shifted. The back of Lord Stanton’s silver-streaked head now obstructed her view and his voice boomed, threatening to render her deaf in one ear.  

“He is a good friend of Alex’s. I can arrange an introduction if you’d like.”

The offer was tempting. Elizabeth had dreamt of their meeting since her mother had informed her she was to have a London Season.  Her father’s title had not only come with two entailed properties but a stipend of three thousand a year. A veritable fortune to a family who had thus existed in something close to genteel poverty.

“I’m certain Lord Creswell is deluged with admirers,” she replied evasively. Any sane woman would leap at the chance to meet the rich, handsome viscount, and the state of her mental acuity had up until that day, never been questioned. She’d very much like it to remain that way. 

Charlotte chortled, the sound light and ebullient, which had Elizabeth chuckling in spite of herself. “You are quite right. He’s a particular favorite of the ladies.”

Their laughter faded under a companionable silence before Elizabeth spoke again. “Where can Catherine have got to?” She hoped her friend didn’t note and file the change of subject for precisely what it was. 

Her question had the desired effect for Charlotte immediately went up on her toes and began scouring the room for her twin.  A mass of golden curls secured loosely at her crown with pale pink hair combs bobbed  as she twisted her neck from right to left and back again.

BOOK: All's Fair in Love and Seduction
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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