Read Sin With a Scoundrel: The Husband Hunters Club Online

Authors: Sara Bennett

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction

Sin With a Scoundrel: The Husband Hunters Club (3 page)

BOOK: Sin With a Scoundrel: The Husband Hunters Club
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Chapter 4

ina spent some time shopping before going to Number Five Jasmine Square to keep her appointment. Horace was holding a soiree on the following Saturday evening, and then he was taking a coachload of his particular friends to the theater. Tina was one of his particular friends, and she meant to make the most of the opportunity to put her husband-hunting plans in motion.

In short she needed something to wear that would catch his eye.

Horace was so complacent where she was concerned; he needed to be jolted out of that complacency. Tina wasn’t quite ready to invite him to her boudoir, but neither did she want him thinking of her as the little girl who had chastised him for stealing eggs from birds’ nests for his collection. Tina knew they were perfectly matched, and they would make a perfect couple. If he would just open his eyes and look at her afresh!

her problems would be solved.


With a sigh she shook her head at the roll of crushed velvet the hopeful shop assistant was displaying for her. It was no good. She couldn’t decide. A new dress was an expense she shouldn’t even be contemplating, but her father had insisted, and she hadn’t the heart to tell him she knew the truth. That her mother had told her in tearful whispers that the Smythe family was as close to penniless as made no difference.

This dress was probably the last new garment she would ever have, the last chance for Horace to see her in something new and pretty, at least until she married. But if she didn’t marry Horace, then she’d soon be going about in rags—matters at home were becoming desperate. So much was dependent upon a construction of cloth and thread that suddenly the dress assumed monumental proportions, and Tina felt she must get it right. She must. Her usual practical coolheadedness deserted her.

Feverishly her gaze darted from greens to blues to reds. Choose the right one and all would be well; choose the wrong one, and the Smythes would sink without trace into the murky mire of bankruptcy. She’d known a family that had happened to, a child who had been a friend of hers many years ago when Tina was young. One day that child was there, the next she and her family were gone in a gust of scandal, and Tina’s parents spoke of them in hushed tones.

Was that what would happen to Tina? Would she become the girl people spoke of in murmurs?

But then she remembered she wasn’t alone in this.

She had Mr. Eversham.

A sense of relief filled her. Yes, she would leave the choice of the cloth for her new dress to Mr. Eversham. He would know what a man like Horace would prefer. He would know what she must wear to win his heart.

Tina was just gathering the samples the shop assistant had prepared for her when a church clock struck the hour. She was late! With a gasp she flew out of the shop and set off along Bond Street, clutching her bonnet to her head with one hand and holding her parcel close with the other, avoiding the people strolling along the exclusive thoroughfare. By the time she reached Jasmine Square, she was out of breath and had to recover herself a moment before using the knocker.

“Miss Smythe?”

Mr. Eversham’s man answered so promptly she gave a start of surprise. She watched him for some knowing glance or smirk, which would show he was in his master’s confidence, but he was perfectly polite as he showed her up the stairs.

“Should I take your parcel, miss?” he asked her, as they paused on the threshold of the sitting room.

Tina glanced down at her samples, wrapped in brown paper, once more caught in a maelstrom of indecision, and then shook her head. “No. I need to ask Mr. Eversham’s opinion, thank you.”

He showed no surprise and immediately tapped on the door and then opened it for her.

Tina found that today the blinds were drawn down and the sun did not beam into her eyes. In fact the room was much tidier, and so was Mr. Eversham. He wore a brown jacket and trousers, his waistcoat a bright teal color. There was a watch chain dangling from one pocket, and his necktie was neatly arranged above a pristine white shirt. His face was closely shaved, his brows dark slashes above his gray eyes, and his brown hair brushed becomingly.

He looked like a gentleman.

She was somewhat relieved—secretly she’d half expected him to be lounging shirtless, smoking a hookah. But of course that was ridiculous. He
a gentleman, just one who’d lost his way.

Tina sat down.

So did he.

He watched her a moment, observing her posture, the way she held herself. “You went to a finishing school,” he guessed. “Which one?”

“Miss Debenham’s.”

“Ah. Yes, you have the Debenham look.”

Tina preened a little, but his next words dented her pleasure in his praise.

“The neatly-folded-hands-and-knees-together look.”

He was blunt. Tina wasn’t used to men who were blunt—apart from her brother Charles, and he didn’t count.

“Is there something wrong with folding my hands and holding my, uh, knees, together?”

“Not at all. If you are in church or attending a vicarage tea party. But you, my dear Miss Smythe, are seducing a gentleman.”

She gave him her direct look and considered the matter. “Yes, I can see that might be different. What should I do differently?”

It was his turn to consider. He let his gaze travel over her in a manner she would have thought insulting and disturbing in other circumstances, but now, alone with Mr. Eversham’s expertise, she felt neither. His manner was so unfamiliar she found herself captivated, constantly wondering what he would say next.

“I think if you reach up and brush that lock of hair back, perhaps tuck it behind your ear . . . Yes, that’s it.”

Tina complied.

“Slowly, slowly, as if you enjoy the sensation.”

Again Tina did as he asked, this time winding a tendril of hair about her fingertip, smiling at him shyly through her lashes. His face stilled, and for a moment she feared she’d done something wrong.

“I feel a little foolish,” she admitted.

“You shouldn’t.” He leaned forward, his gray eyes alight. “You are trying to attract the attention of the man you want to marry. There is nothing foolish about that. Not if you’re certain this is what you want.”

Her own eyes widened. Did he know about her family circumstances? No, how could he! She was imagining nuances where there weren’t any. Tina made herself smile.

“It is.

But instead of beaming back at her, Mr. Eversham gave her a look that was insultingly kind, as if he were a thousand years older than she. In experience, she expected he was. Suddenly she didn’t want him to look at her like that.

“I know this is difficult for a well-brought-up young lady, Miss Smythe. I am asking you to do the opposite of all you have been taught by your mother and your governess and your finishing school. But believe me, if you want to ensnare a man of the world like Lord Horace Gilfoyle, you have no option.”

Tina blushed. “Is ‘ensnare’ the right word?”

“Semantics, Miss Smythe.” He eyed her kindly again. “Do you want me to help you or not? If so, then you will have to harden yourself to what I say and act with your emotions, with passion, with your
rather than your mind. Perhaps this is something you cannot do?”

But I have to,
Tina thought anxiously.
My future is with Horace, the fate of my family depends upon it, and if winning him means I must act in a manner more suited to a courtesan than a lady, then so I shall.

Determinedly she put her embarrassment behind her. “I think what you want me to do,” she said clearly, “is draw attention to my feminine attributes.”

“That would be a start,” he agreed mildly. “You could touch the lace on your décolletage, draw the eye, eh, downward. You are a beautiful woman, Miss Smythe, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in wishing others to notice.”

Dear God, did he say that?
Tina swallowed and nodded.

Stiffly and self-consciously she brushed her hand across her décolletage. She tried again, and this time felt more comfortable with the gesture. A brief touch of the lace, a movement designed to draw male eyes. Certainly it drew Mr. Eversham’s.

Her heart was beating rather quickly, but she told herself that was because she was overturning years of ladylike teaching. It had nothing at all to do with being alone with Richard Eversham.

n spite of her modest dress—the style was in fact some years out of date—Richard was surprised at his gut reaction to her timid gesture. The sudden surge of desire. The urge to undo those buttons where her hand rested and discover for himself, inch by inch, the pale swell of her breasts. She was a client, he told himself, nothing more, and a means to an end where that shady character Gilfoyle was concerned.

He had no intention of becoming romantically involved. Once bitten, as the saying went. And Richard had been well and truly bitten.

However, he had a part to play and forced himself to carry on. “That is a very good start, Miss Smythe,” he said, as if he felt nothing. As if this were merely business.

“Do you think so?” she asked with an anxious glance. “Should I place my hand here? Or here?”

“I have no doubt Lord Horace’s attention will be drawn by either positioning.”

What a waste!
was what he was really thinking.
To think I am wrapping up this luscious morsel for that bastard! But perhaps her education with me will give her a little more wisdom in her choice of men. When this is over and done, I can help her to choose a better man than Gilfoyle. I’m sure I can think of someone who will suit. Will Jackson perhaps? He’s a fine young man with a nice inheritance waiting for him. No title of course, but is she the sort who is set on having a title?

Richard realized he didn’t know anything about Miss Clementina Smythe apart from what she’d told him. In the interest of doing a thorough job he really should do some digging about.

“Mr. Eversham? The fabric?” Tina interrupted his thoughts.

“Fabric, Miss Smythe?”

“For my dress for the theater. Horace has invited a group of friends.” She looked puzzled, and he realized he hadn’t heard a word she’d said. Hardly the behavior of a professional seducer, a man who knew how to charm and woo the most difficult of women. He pulled himself back into the moment and assumed a serious expression.

“Ah, yes. Of course. The fabric.” He brushed his fingers over the samples she’d laid out on the table in front of him. “The crimson is the obvious choice of course. That will certainly attract his notice. But I do think that dark green would be more effective with your coloring. With your eyes. And it would be all to the good if you could ask the dressmaker to lower the décolletage.”

“Lower the décolletage?” she repeated faintly. “How low?”

“As far as your modesty will allow,” he said firmly.

In his years on the town Richard had discovered that the most hardened rakes were often repelled by forward behavior in their nearest and dearest. They were like dogs with bones in that regard. Richard was hoping that seeing Tina behaving in such a manner would cause Gilfoyle to form a dislike for her.

Unfortunately Richard was discovering that watching Miss Smythe play her part was having the opposite effect on him. There was something very seductive about instructing her in the arts of seduction.

“Perhaps a little lace might draw his attention?” she suggested tentatively, and lifted her chin as if to draw courage in what must seem to her a very strange conversation.

“Indeed. A creamy lace with the dark green velvet would be exquisite. What is the occasion again?”

She gave him an odd look but answered politely enough. “Lord Horace is having a small soiree at his residence and then taking a few friends to the theater afterward. My brother and I have been invited to both events.”

“How exciting for you.” He stifled a yawn.

Her eyes flashed.

“Oh yes, I like that. You must do that more often, Miss Smythe.”

“Do what?”

“The way you looked at me then. Eyes glittering, the flush on your cheeks. Most attractive, and captivating, too.”

“I-I don’t know if I can do it again. You made me cross when you yawned.”

“You could always remember this moment. There! That’s the look I want.”

Tina sighed. “This is getting rather complicated. You want me to glare at Horace for no reason? Are you sure that will appeal to him? In my experience Horace has never been one for bad-tempered females.”

“Oh no, you won’t be trying to appeal to Lord Horace. Not at this stage. I want you to concentrate on every other man there, with the exception of your brother, of course.”

“But I have no desire to attract any other man!”

“My dear Miss Smythe, obviously you are very ignorant of the male mind.”

Her green eyes gave him that attractive flash again, but this time he managed to ignore it and the effect it had on his senses, and carry on instructing her.

“We men are creatures who invariably want what attracts other men. If you flutter your eyelashes at some chap and laugh at the bad jokes of another, you’ll soon have them all eating out of your hand. When Gilfoyle sees every other man lusting after you, you can be quite sure he will suddenly see you, not as a little sister, but as the object of his own desire.”

Richard wondered whether he’d spoken too freely. Was she shocked, or did she realize he was talking nonsense? In actual fact he was expecting Gilfoyle to be livid when she played off the other men in his party against him.

But although Tina seemed slightly bemused, she didn’t argue. For a moment, she gazed questioningly into his eyes and then lowered her lashes in that charming manner she had and composed herself once more. He felt almost ashamed of himself then for using her for his own ends—she really was the most valiant girl.

“So you think I should act like a courtesan at Horace’s soiree, Mr. Eversham?” she said primly, as if she were discussing the weather.

“Do you know many courtesans, Miss Smythe?” he answered in amusement. “Stand up. Let’s pretend we’re at this little soiree.”

BOOK: Sin With a Scoundrel: The Husband Hunters Club
11.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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