Authors: Alice Gaines
Rake Thomas Boulton no sooner decides to abstain from pleasures of the flesh than he meets the most arousing woman he’s ever encountered. Widow Olivia Trent is clever, confident…and determined to beat him at the game of seduction. She challenges him to play sensual games until one of them pleads to be bedded. Thomas is sure he will soon have Olivia at his mercy—or will he be the one forced to beg?
Thomas Boulton’s cock would stay in his pants tonight. Just as well as not one ounce of female flesh he’d viewed at Lord Ridgeway’s little fete inspired Priapus to more than an occasional twitch. Three lusty widows, a half-dozen or so adventurous wives, two eager debutantes with careless mothers—a smart fellow stayed well clear of those—even a French countess. None of them tempted him in the least. Instead, he poured himself a stiff whiskey at the sideboard and made his way to the library for a good book to read until courtesy would allow him to give Lord and Lady R his regards and point his carriage toward home.
Had he had too many lovers lately? Had the quality of female pulchritude declined? At five-and-thirty, he no longer hardened whenever a female passed, but he couldn’t have lost touch entirely with his lustful nature. His father still menaced the upstairs maids whenever given the chance. He, himself, planned to dandle a voluptuous female on his knee well into his dotage. Perhaps if he gave Long Tom a rest, he’d come roaring back with twice the vigor.
Yes, that was the ticket.
He entered the library and glanced around. Hundreds of books looked back at him. Shelf after shelf of knowledge. He’d neglect his cock for a while and enrich his brain instead. He wouldn’t allow himself any dalliances until his lust rose to unbearable levels. Until he felt like a crazed beast. Nothing tasted sweeter than a cool drink after a raging thirst. He hadn’t allowed himself to grow thirsty. Simple and logical and easily fixed.
After taking a swig of his drink, he set the glass on a table and went off in search for food for his intellect. The first shelf appeared to hold nothing but histories—every single king of England, various shires and counties. From the condition of the spines, it appeared not a single volume had been opened. Understandable. He walked around that shelf in search of something a bit less likely to induce stupor.
He found it. Not a book, but a woman holding a book. He hadn’t seen this one before, or he might not have decided so quickly to forgo sex. She stood tall—most likely only a few inches shorter than his own height—and had long limbs, judging from the grace of the arm that had reached to the shelf. Hair the color of honey lay pinned in curls on top of her head, but a few wisps had escaped to frame her face and accentuate the warmth of her brown eyes.
When she spotted him, she straightened her shoulders and smiled. “Mr. Boulton?”
“You know me?”
Her lips curved in a most delicious manner. “I know your reputation.”
“Interesting.” Her accent marked her as not English. American, probably, but with a difficult regional accent to interpret.
“You have the advantage, madam,” he said.
She laughed. “My reputation is no better than yours, I’m afraid.”
“Now I am intrigued.”
“No doubt.” Instead of telling him more, she opened the book and flipped through a few pages. “Darwin. Hidden away here and untouched until I found it. What a waste.”
“Ridgeway owns a copy of
On the Origin of Species?
“Thank heaven,” she answered. “I’ll have something to read.”
She swept past him and disappeared around the bookshelf. A floral scent trailed after her and worked its way into his brain, creating images of lying in a field with a woman’s head on his shoulder. Priapus took note of that and stiffened with more enthusiasm than he’d shown all night.
He followed her and found her sitting beside the table with his drink in her hand. The book lay open on her lap, and as she read, she sipped the whiskey. Rather indelicately for a lady, but then, what lady drank spirits from a tumbler at all?
His surprise must have shown in his face because she lifted the glass in a toast. “Good Irish. We don’t get anything like this at home.”
“The United States.”
“I guessed that much. Where in the United States?”
She cocked her head. “Why? Do you plan to visit me?”
“I might. I’ve never traveled in that part of the world.”
“Well, you won’t find me. I’ll be here for some time yet.” She took a healthy swallow, set the glass back down and resumed reading.
Clever thing. She’d taken the book he might have found interesting, helped herself to his drink and gotten the attentions of his cock, all without giving him any clue who the hell she was. He walked to the table and picked up the whiskey, finishing it in one swallow. She pretended not to notice, but one brow lifted and her gaze flitted briefly to the front of his pants before settling back on the page in front of her.
“Would you like another?” he asked. “Ridgeway keeps a good stock.”
“If I drank more, I might drift off out of sheer boredom.”
“You have Darwin to amuse you.”
“I’m not used to reading with an audience.”
He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
“You’re not offending me. You’re blocking my light.”
“I’ll leave you, then.” He turned. Not exactly on his heel, but close. He’d almost made it to the library door when she laughed.
“Honestly, Mr. Boulton, I never expected you’d give up so quickly.”
“I beg your pardon.” Damn, first heel-turning and now “I beg your pardon.” She had him acting like the worst sort of prig. The type of fool he most enjoyed nettling. And he still had no bleeding idea who she was.
“A dedicated rake like you ought to be more persistent with his seduction.”
“I don’t need persistence,” he said. “I usually win easily.”
“I don’t give in easily.”
“But you do give in.”
She turned and looked at him, but her features showed no evidence of shock or even anger at a remark that could cause any decent woman to take great offense. Instead, she seemed satisfied that she’d hooked his ire to the point where he’d say something so indecent.
She swept him from head to toe with an appraising glance. “I’d expected to meet a few famous swordsmen during my visit. I didn’t anticipate finding one in a library.”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned my reputation,” he said. “You haven’t been in London long, or I would have heard of you.”
“You’re the topic of conversation for all the women here tonight. If I were looking for a lover, you’d be at the top of my list.”
His jaw fell, and he had to consciously shut his mouth. What an audacious, little witch. Worse, she sat there smiling at him as if she’d taken his measure as an opponent and found him wanting. They’d see about that.
“If you expressed an interest in me, I’d have to disappoint you,” he said.
That, at least, set her back. She straightened in her chair, and her eyes widened.
“When I happened on you, I’d just decided to abstain from the pleasures of the flesh,” he said.
“Fascinating,” she answered. “I made the same decision the other day.”
“Then, we have nothing left to discuss.”
She held up the book. “Unless you’d like to talk about Darwin.”
“Not at all.”
“Fine.” She turned her back to him. “I’ll get on with my reading.”
. She’d dismissed him. She’d bloody well dismissed him. He could trace his roots to the seventh duke of Banning. He had an income of ten thousand per annum. Satisfied women all over England and in parts of Wales happily welcomed him into their beds. He could ride, shoot and gamble with the best of them, but this arrogant snippet of skirt from an upstart backwater of a country found a book more interesting than his company.
Of course, insolence had done nothing to cool his cock’s fascination. Now fully erect, it had forgotten about boredom and had focused on her. Well, that was his decision, not his rod’s. He wouldn’t honor her, but he would tempt her. Yes, he’d make her want him and then declare his own lack of desire.
He walked around her and stood, his feet firmly planted in the Oriental carpet. “Not interested in taking a lover, are you?”
She closed the book and lifted her chin. “I’m tired of fucking for the sake of doing it.”
He almost choked. “Fucking?”
“You must know the word.”
“Of course, I do. I didn’t think a lady would.”
She lifted a hand and stroked her neck—her long, soft neck. “I’m not a lady.”
“A woman, then.”
Her fingers next dallied over the flesh above the bosom of her gown—her plump, soft flesh. “I am a woman.”
“And you fuck for the sport of it.” His throat went dry at the thought.
“It feels very good when it’s done properly.”
Priapus nearly jumped at that declaration. She might have been able to see it through his pants. Every rational thought flew out of his head.
“Women have the same drives as men,” she went on. “Stronger, if they’d admit. But the costs for even discussing our needs are so high we keep them hidden. We simper and flirt and tease. Always denying our men. Always denying ourselves.”
“You’ve found a way to satisfy yourself.”
She blushed. Actually blushed, her cheeks turning an appealing pink. “Wealth helps. I’m sure you’ve found that true.”
“A wealthy American.”
“We’re not a myth.”
“Texas cattle baroness? Southern planter? Descendant of a Yankee whaler, perhaps.”
“Northern industrialist. My father had a small forge in upstate New York. He and my husband built it into a major industry. I run it now.”
“Fascinating,” he said. “That leaves you time for fucking?”
“I keep my days and my nights separate.”
“My dear madam, may I know your name?”
She nodded graciously. “Mrs. Olivia Trent.”
He took her hand and bent to kiss the backs of her fingers. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Trent.”
“Well, then, what do we do now?”
He straightened. “Do?”
“Now that we’ve been introduced, I can’t go back to reading Darwin and ignore you.”
“I could leave you alone to read.”
She bit her lip for a moment. She had a lovely mouth, lush and full of interesting curves. It would look devilishly good around the head of his cock. Priapus swelled even further at the image and began the slow ache that inevitably led to more urgent desires.
“Unless I misread your state, you don’t want to leave me alone,” she said.
“What do you know of my state?”
“I know a bit about male anatomy.” She let her gaze linger on his pelvis. Something flashed in her eyes, either admiration or outright lust. She recovered quickly, though, and lowered the mask of serenity over her features. “But then, you’ve given up fucking.”
“I have. And, I can assure you that I’m the master of my body, not the other way around.”
She rested her elbow on the arm of her chair and bent her head to stroke her fingers over her lips. “Really.”
“A man who can’t control himself makes the worst sort of lover.”
There it was again—that spark of interest. Her eyes even widened this time. Intellectual as well as physical, though. He could almost watch the wheels turning in her mind. A clever woman and very sure of herself. She’d have to be both to run a company in this male-dominated world.
“You never cede that control?” she asked.
“Only at the right moment. When I’m sure I’ve satisfied the lady in question. When I know for a fact that I can make her climax with me.”
Any woman proud of her virtue would slap him for that, but she only bit her lip again.
This time, he gave her an easy smile. “That won’t work, Mrs. Trent.”
Her eyebrows rose in frank surprise. “I beg your pardon.”
“That thing you do with your mouth. It’s very persuasive but only if used in small doses.”
“Well, Mr. Boulton, I am impressed.”
He gave her a tiny bow.
“You are experienced with women,” she said. “You’d make an able opponent.”
This time, she’d set him back with her remark. “I don’t normally think of women as my opponents.”
She waved a hand. “Don’t be silly. Of course, you do.”
“Men and women always play against each other in the game of seduction. How much can I get from him while giving up the least myself and vice versa? It’s the same in business.”
“I don’t think I’d like to compete with you in anything.”
“Too late,” she answered. “We already are.”
“Perhaps you’d better explain the rules to our game.”
“Both of us have had our fill of the standard seduction,” she said.
“True.” Only moments before he’d set foot in the library and found her among the books, he’d resolved to make his cock wait until it honestly craved someone before he’d indulge it. He might have gotten to that point with Mrs. Trent in the ordinary passage of social intercourse. The twinkle in her eye now promised much more if he engaged in this new sport.
“Then, let’s resolve not to have sex with each other,” she said.
“That makes no sense as a game,” he said. “I could have simply left you alone with the book.”
She raised a finger to command his silence. “Unless one or the other of us begs.”
“Begs? My good woman, what are you talking about?”
“Do you know how you sound saying that?”
He humphed. “I imagine you’re going to tell me.”
“You sound like every other prig I’ve met ever since I found myself in society here. ‘How perfectly ghastly,’ they say. ‘Utterly, utterly shocking.’”
She did that last so well, he couldn’t help but laugh. Her accent was impeccable, her impersonation of faked moral outrage spot-on.
“You don’t want to act like the pompous clowns in the ballroom, do you?” she said.
“Not if you put it that way.”
“Then, let’s have some fun. Engage in sex play until one of us can stand no more.”
“Until one of us begs.”
“And then, we’ll fuck,” she concluded.
She rose and extended her hand. When he bent to kiss it again, she shook. Not a lady but an equal closing a business deal. The action only surprised him for a second, then he returned her grip with a firm one of his own.
That seemed to please her, as she set aside the book and smiled. “Now, you may take me back to the party.”
“Anne, what do you know about Thomas Boulton?”
Olivia’s maid stopped brushing out Olivia’s hair in midstroke. “Mr. Boulton, ma’am?”