Will Charles risk the threat to his reputation to explore passions and proclivities he never knew existed—and discover desires he never knew he had?More info →
London, April 1880
Charles Westerman sipped his champagne and leaned against a yellow-veined marble column in the noisy and crowded foyer of Rutford House. He surveyed the guests in search of a familiar face—or, at least, an inviting one. Really, there should be halos of light above the people with whom he wanted to socialize so he could know them instantly in such a throng. Colorful waistcoats and ties—outrageous choices in evening wear—were one way to divine artistic tendencies. Unfortunately, the art world had its poseurs and sycophants, and far too many of them were there that night, hoping to blend in with authentic social Bohemians.
Viscount Creslow had done the unthinkable in establishing his first annual Salon des Refusés d’Académie, a pre-Season presentation of paintings not appearing in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. Expecting to see radical experiments by prominent artists, or at the very least works of salacious sensuality, the crowd had descended in droves. They were not disappointed, despite the display being predominantly pencil sketches and unfinished canvases.
Charles’s lips curled into a half smirk behind his drink. Lord Creslow knew how to promote his title, that was damn sure. The previously bland and stodgy viscountcy had become vibrant and popular with his latest venture. He had turned the entire ground floor of his house into a museum of sorts, with gleaming galleries and a well-stocked art library run by a staff of private registrars and curators, including—too shocking!—a woman.
Charles chuckled to himself. He wouldn’t mind meeting her.
What was he thinking? He wouldn’t mind meeting any her. He’d been far too monkish of late.
He downed the contents of his glass before availing himself of a waiter’s passing tray to restock his void.
No, that was not true. He had his standards as far as women were concerned. A thrilling mind, for one. Allure and charm. Although too much of any of that could be dangerous. His last lover had claimed to be a Russian countess, Ekatarina Krozinsky, yet, it turned out, in reality was Catherine, the youngest daughter of Lord Mayberry, a woman prone to flights of fancy. She had been “sent down to take the country air,” which Charles understood to mean she had been dispatched to a sanitarium.
Such a shame. She had been quite the satisfying little piece in bed.
The crowd parted ever so slightly, affording him a view of a woman. Despite a spray of lace from her hat shadowing her face, she seemed vaguely familiar. An artist’s model, perhaps? She had striking features one might find appealing if one painted or sculpted portraits. She wore a dress in the latest sheath style, robin’s-egg blue trimmed with chocolate brown, the cut and colors accentuating her feminine attributes quite admirably. She moved with a slightly seductive air, gracefully swooshing her skirts as she turned to talk to those around her. She had attracted a small gathering of intrigued men and shocked women, all guffawing and giggling at whatever story she told. She exuded confidence and laughed easily, qualities most of Queen Victoria’s female subjects should surely eschew.
Precisely the type of woman Charles had been looking for.
“I am surprised to see you here, brother.”
Charles turned to the voice slightly below his left shoulder. Despite her stature, Francesca always commanded his undivided attention.
“And good evening to you, Frannie.”
She ignored his feigned churlishness. “Darling, you’ve not called on me since your return. How are you faring?” She slipped her arm through his. “I heard about your Ekatarina.”
Theirs was an easy association mostly solidified after Francesca’s husband’s death. Her three children had been too young for a mother to lean on emotionally, so Charles had made sure he was by her side when she needed support. The touch of gray in Francesca’s blonde hair was the only hint of her having endured a strain to her heart and psyche. Otherwise her attractive features—that, for better or worse, ran in their family—remained unmarred. She wore a lemon-yellow dress that suited her so much more than the drab stages of mourning. The spectrum from black to a dull grayish lilac had been simply draining on her complexion and had taken the life out of her soft blue eyes.
“As well as can be expected, I suppose.” Charles glanced back at the vivacious woman holding court on the other side of the room as Francesca tugged him in the opposite direction.
“Papa wants to know if you’ve found another woman. Someone you’ve set your sights on.”
Maybe after he’d met the woman in blue and brown. “No.”
“He’s worried you ran off to Scotland to brood. He wants to you to get over the Ekatarina incident as quickly as possible.”
“How kind,” he said a little too acerbically. “More like he wants distance between the incident and his family name. Although, as I’m the only one of our lot with any reputation, it is my prerogative to tarnish the name Westerman as I see fit.”
He patted her hand. “And I didn’t go to Scotland to brood, Frannie. I went there to paint.”
“Well, perhaps you could make a public display of having a mended heart by paying attention to some of the ladies present? It’s not a grand ball at a duke’s, but there are not just a few rather handsome women here tonight.” She pointed unobtrusively to a young woman standing with a matronly chaperon. “She’s pretty. The one in pink over there.”
“Ah. Yes. She is pretty, isn’t she?” remarked Charles. “And crushingly dull, I might add. I’ve already forgotten her name.”
“Perhaps she’s merely shy.”
“She is most definitely not shy and most definitely boring. It was a rather painful twenty minutes of my life.” Charles glanced at his empty glass. “I need another drink.” He waved to a waiter.
“Mr. Westerman.” A familiar melodic voice came from behind. Annalee? Charles’s cock responded favorably.
He turned around to face the speaker. Annalee Brockhurst was as beautiful as he had remembered. She wore a gold evening gown in the Grecian style, the folds and pleats embracing the curves of her body like a lover’s arms. Atop her gleaming blonde hair sat a golden laurel-wreath headdress. Her cornflower-blue eyes shone like gemstones amidst the ensemble.
The crowd around them slipped away.
He smothered a small surge of desire threatening to spark into flame. “Miss Brockhurst,” he exclaimed at the same moment he realized she was no longer “Miss” anything. He took her hand briefly and gave a slight bow. “How are you? I must admit I did not expect to see you here.”
“I’ve returned to London somewhat permanently. Just in time for the art world’s latest spectacle.” She smiled politely. “How was Scotland?”
“Bleak.” Without you to distract me. “But productive.” Probably because he had lacked such distractions.
“Bleak? I imagine your landscapes must all look the same, then.”
He chortled and sipped from his newly acquired champagne flute. “And your husband? Is he here tonight?” He should look away to endure the disappointing answer, but he simply could not divert his gaze from her lovely visage.
Her smile thinned. “Ah, no. I never did marry the gentleman in question. There was…a bit of scandal surrounding him from which, it seems, I needed to be spared.”
Charles almost choked on his drink. Not that he was unsettled by the hint of scandal, because that seemed to follow the young lady. The implication of the failed engagement was that Miss Brockhurst was unattached. “I offer my condolences.”
“Charles, I think an introduction would be polite.”
Francesca’s tone was chiding. Miss Brockhurst’s presence had, once again, distracted him from the world around them.
“Francesca, may I introduce Miss Annalee Brockhurst.” Charles extended his palm. “Miss Brockhurst, may I introduce my sister, Mrs. George Burridge.”
“How lovely to meet you, Mrs. Burridge.” Annalee offered her hand. “Mr. Westerman has spoken fondly of you.”
Francesca’s eyes widened. “He has?”
Annalee blushed. In any other woman such an affectation would be demure. “Yes. I knew Mr. Westerman in the Île-de-France when he painted several murals at my father’s country home last year.”
“Ah, of course,” remarked Francesca. “I recall his spring sojourn to Paris.”
“Oh dear,” Annalee suddenly exclaimed. “I apologize, but I must fly. I see my aunt and uncle looking for me.” She bowed to Francesca. “I’m glad to have met you, Mrs. Burridge.” She offered her hand to Charles. “I hope to see much more of you, Mr. Westerman, now that we both are returned to London.”
The tips of his fingers tingled when he touched her. “Yes, Miss Brockhurst. I hope to see more of you, as well.” Much, much more. He bowed. She left in a froth of billowing gold.
“Charles,” Francesca hissed. “Who, pray tell, was that?” She shot him a perturbed look.
Charles shifted uncomfortably. “Remember when I returned from France last year and didn’t want to talk about something?”
Francesca lifted a brow.
He grabbed another passing glass of champagne and took a deep swallow. “She’s the something.”
Francesca gripped his forearm before he could finish the contents of his flute. “Tell me now,” she said through clenched teeth.
“She’s the daughter of Lawrence Brockhurst. When I met her last year, she had been engaged to a young man for a year or so, I believe. That did not seem to stop her from—how shall I put this?—‘flirting’ with me.” Charles surreptitiously looked around. “Frannie, I was indiscreet, I admit. You see how beautiful she is. It was very difficult to rebuff her.”
“Charles,” Francesca scolded.
“And I only flirted back,” he lied. Every encounter had worked him up to a fantasy of fucking Annalee fast and hard, while she’d seemed to relish causing him such physical distress. “It appears she is now unattached.”
Francesca tilted her chin. “Charles, how old is Miss Brockhurst?”
“She’s twenty-two, I believe.”
“Oh, all of that.” Francesca shook her head.
“Yes I do know she is half my age…or younger—”
“Charles, she’s half your age and a flirt.”
“And Ekatarina was thirty-five and a lunatic.”
He leaned in. “She’s a charming girl, Frannie, you’ll see.”
“Yes, Charles.” Francesca relented with exasperation. “Don’t you have artist friends here to distract you?”
“It seems they are outnumbered by the fawners and flatterers. I’m having a devil of a time trying to find them. I had thought if I stayed in one place, perhaps they’d find me.”
Francesca patted his arm. “Well, darling, I will leave you to your distractions, old and new, and seek out some of my own.”
Charles flashed her an encouraging smile. His freedom in his own love life had emboldened her of late. Widowers and bachelors abounded in the art world. Seeing his sister once again happy in a man’s company would be heartwarming.
She smiled back. “Being the sister of the celebrated Charles Westerman has its perquisites.” She took her leave with a flounce of her skirts.
One old distraction continued to plague Charles. Annalee Brockhurst. If only there were a way to get her in a dark, secluded corner, up against a wall, his hands gripping her butt as he slammed inside—
A very boisterous and masculine laugh brought Charles back to the present, subduing the ache in his cock. A fragrant crowd had gathered around the artwork immediately behind him. He turned to see the spectators gawking at garish pastel studies of a woman’s breasts. An equally garishly attired man gesticulated nearby, describing how the artist tried to get the female form “just right,” how the delicate shading of white and yellow added such depth of realism that a man could just reach out and touch the soft globes.
Good God. Had the windbag just said that out loud?
Charles let out an exhalation and caught a glimpse of the woman in blue and brown still entertaining her own clique, albeit they had somewhat thinned out. Surely she was not as ridiculous a lecturer?
Did he really want to find out if she would shatter his fantasies?
Women. He needed to get away from them.
Well there was one place in Creslow’s ad hoc museum that would be quiet.
Charles shook his head at the breast-gazers and slunk off to the art library.
Rosamund Chambers, the Viscountess Threxton, was having a splendid time waxing philosophic regarding the lack of male nudes amongst the sketches displayed on the walls of Lord Creslow’s brilliant amateur gallery when Margaret Longacre—wearing a color one might consider a little too orange for her skin tone—joined her enrapt audience. While Rosamund considered Margaret a friend, the latter was something of a complainer and, consequently, a bore. Now the grande dame had decided to insert her meddlesome—although somewhat interesting—comments into the discourse. Her droning platitudes repelled those more interested in light conversation, which, it seemed, was most of the crowd in attendance. Minutes later, Rosamund and Margaret stood alone, Margaret jabbering away, Rosamund praying for an escape.
Rosamund glanced around while she nodded in assent to whatever it was Margaret was saying. Unfortunately, Jeremy was nowhere to be seen, having left her over an hour ago to chase “a flutter of beauty heading down the corridor.” She did appreciate her husband’s discretion in pursuing his affairs, and was quite used to being introduced to his amoureuse du jour. Rosamund had recently espied her own flutter of beauty—an attractive blond man with a woman who looked as if she could be his sister. Perhaps that was wishful thinking. And now Margaret’s weighty presence had distracted her long enough that the man was nowhere to be seen.
If he were a wise man, he would be escorting his relative away from the lewd studies of female body parts to view the unfinished landscapes in the next room.
“Really, Rosamund,” Margaret rambled, “my dear Viscountess, you should be far more concerned with the abysmal showing of women artists rather than the preponderance of female subjects. If this is truly to be a Salon des Refusés—”
Margaret’s accent was impeccable.
“Then Viscount Creslow should have approached the Society of British Women Artists.” Margaret’s pitch went up an octave as her voice boomed louder. “Of course, if the viscount wants to be utterly outré and shock the Academy, then he should find a woman artist who sketches male nudes. With all this display of female flesh—”
“I quite agree, Margaret.” She really did. Still, agreement was the only way one could interrupt what was quickly becoming a tirade. “And I will do my best to make such notions known to my uncle for next year’s Salon.”
Margaret stared wide-eyed as if stunned she had finally swayed someone to her side. “Why thank you, Rosamund. I very much appreciate your assistance.”
“I’m happy to oblige, Margaret.” Rosamund whipped her head to the right, hoping her feigned attempt at recognition was dramatic enough to be considered credible. “Oh, I beg your pardon, but I’ve just seen a client of my husband’s and I promised I would follow up on his assessment of the commission.” She smiled her most saccharine smile. “You understand, Margaret, don’t you? It is an art exhibition, and my husband is a working artist. We must make the most of our opportunities to garner business.”
Margaret’s cheeks colored, veiny and red. “Of course, my dear Viscountess.”
Rosamund took off as quickly as propriety would allow, but with enough swiftness that left no time for Margaret to rescind on her acquiescence and start conversation anew.
Rosamund strode with purpose down one of the corridors covered with row upon row of figure studies in oil, her husband’s work standing out as the more palatable to the modern taste. She knew none of the gawkers—the middle class had turned out in droves to the gratis event. But she had to find someone somewhere to chat with or she’d insult Margaret. Her tedious friend had the ability to cut a person from certain fashionable circles. For that reason she was tolerated.
The half-open door to the art library was her salvation. Rosamund ducked in. All around the room, rich mahogany shelves were lined with the gilt-decorated spines of leather tomes. A few scholarly chaps were scattered about, perusing books while seated at gleaming oak tables. Others thumbed through etchings or architectural plans housed in long, shallow drawers. Marble busts of learned men lined the shelf above the bookcases. Rosamund smiled. Lord Creslow, or, rather, Uncle Bradley, had never been a scholar, had actually railed against “tutors and dons,” yet now he was the proud owner of a true gentleman’s scholarly library.
She lifted and tucked up her veil. Just a few minutes in the comfortable, peaceful room, long enough for Margaret to think she was meeting with a patron, and then Rosamund would rejoin the unlearned masses.
The susurration of silk induced Charles to look up from leafing through Creslow’s landscape architecture plans. He couldn’t believe his luck. The woman dressed in robin’s-egg blue and chocolate brown had just walked into the library. She glanced around, then moved to the bookshelves, drawing a finger along the spines, alternately nodding or shaking her head with a wry smile. She walked down the row until she was right next to him, the flounce at her rear eye-level from his position bent over the drawer. He straightened, the action drawing her attention.
She smiled, the expression slowly transforming from a superficial mask to startlement curling her luscious lips and brightening her light-brown eyes. She held out her hand, exuding a natural sensuality that mesmerized Charles until the need to breathe forced him to respond.
He took her hand in his, the warmth from the touch shooting straight to his crotch. He bent his head and hovered, wanting desperately to touch his lips to the tips of her delicate fingers bejeweled with gemstone rings but naked at the end of her sheer lace half gloves.
He released her, too soon really, as she too seemed to want to linger. “Madam, I see you’ve discovered Lord Creslow’s library.”
“As have you, my good sir,” she responded casually. She glanced down at the drawer he had just closed, level with his burgeoning erection. “And might I find you in those drawers, or—“she waved her hand at the bookcases “—on these shelves?”
She was good. She’d guessed him for an artist. He chuckled quietly. “Ah, no, I fear not.”
“But really you should exhibit. For your career.”
Charles returned her gaze. The fine lines on her face revealed she was older, perhaps almost his age. She was an exotic beauty, with a subdued flirtatiousness that was enchantingly attractive. The smoldering spark of lust ignited. “I’m grateful for your concern. But you needn’t worry. I’ll be showing at the Summer Exhibition.”
And that was just a drop in the bucket. He was riding a wave of professional notice. Some Grand Prize winners eventually fell into utter obscurity. However, he had works spread throughout Europe—
He cringed. Peacocking his own accomplishments would get him nowhere with this woman. She was far more sophisticated than his usual fare.
She turned, a move so graceful and sensual he simply stared. “And what will you be showing?”
There was that sly smile again, tinged with cool awareness of his physical state. “At the Summer Exhibition.”
“Landscapes?” she said with a modicum of surprise. “In oil?”
“How colorful.” Her gaze took him in from head to toe, lingering about halfway. “And do you employ an assistant?”
“To mix your pigments? Stretch your canvases? Clean your brushes?” Her voice deepened ever so slightly. “Really, there is so much an assistant can do for you.” Her intonation was positively seductive.
She was teasing him. Lusciously teasing him. He leaned in a hair’s breadth. “Madam, let me explain something.” He kept his tone low with just a hint of sultriness. “When a client commissions my services, he expects me to do the work. I am an artist, not a manufacturer.”
She blushed to the roots of her golden-brown hair, the coloring provocative, not demure. “Of course, sir. I did not mean to insult.”
“No insult has been taken.”
The crack of a snort drew their attention away. A balding man with his hands on his copious belly had made use of a leather club chair and footstool as a bed. His overly loud yet peace-inspiring presence had emptied the library and seemed to keep newcomers at bay.
Charles was virtually alone with his newfound object of desire.
Should they introduce themselves? That’s what one did at these sorts of events, wasn’t it? She could be the daughter of a famous art collector, or the wife—
Yes, of course. She could be a wife. In that case, if she asked his name, he would offer. But he would follow her lead in the matter.
One should never seduce a wife unless one were absolutely certain she wanted to be seduced. Wives who wanted seduction were often married to men who wanted their wives to be seduced. It made for a happier marriage all around. One did not need to know details such as names.
Well, that was all well and good in theory. He’d never actually been with a married woman. The closest he’d ever gotten was with Annalee during her engagement.
His temptress sauntered away from the bookcase. “And what brings you to Viscount Creslow’s inaugural exhibition?”
He watched but did not follow her. “I have friends here, both on the walls and in the galleries.”
She glanced back, that smile playing upon her lips again, teasing, inviting. “How droll you are.”
He chortled. “Dare I ask you the same question?”
“You mean, am I a denizen of the art world, or merely a flatterer looking to advance my circumstances?”
“Those embedded in the art world are always looking for opportunities to advance their cause.”
She laughed softly. “Spoken like a true cognoscente.”
Charles shook his head in disgust. “You don’t want to know.”
She tilted her chin and pursed her lips as she studied him, providing him the opportunity to study back. Her bone structure gave her face angles and planes that would make her a marvelous model for one inclined to portraiture. She held herself gracefully, as if posing for a full-length figural painting, seemingly knowing exactly which assets a man might find most appealing. Her body could easily tempt him away from dispassionate landscapes in more ways than one.
She couldn’t possibly be a model, though. Her accent and knowledge implied a cultured, educated, aristocratic background.
She held out her left hand. “Maybe I do.”
Desire smoldered in his groin. Before him was an invitation from which he did not want to—no, could not extract himself. Her magnetic draw was too powerful, and he too willing to be pulled right in. Perhaps he was too suggestible, his need for female companionship too easily quashing his reason.
And yet, his reason weighed in, there was something about her that was different from all the others. She understood his mind as well as his body.
He stepped toward her, perhaps too eagerly, taking her hand in his. Her warmth further drew out his utter need. The slow burn inside burst into a conflagration of desire, spiking heat to his cock. He flushed, half in mortification, half in lustfulness.
He skimmed the pads of his fingers over her hand, over the lace and rings, letting the sensuousness of the intimacy feed him. He stopped his explorations at her fourth finger and looked down. A gold band glittered under the delicate lace. He hesitated.
“It appears the fact of my husband is more important to you than it is to me.”
Her eyes held sincerity, her smile held promise. He parted his lips, an excited breath escaping in a rush. Her gaze fell to his mouth, her tongue traveling slowly to wet her lips as if tempted with a treat. She closed the remaining space between them, raised herself on tiptoe, and brushed her lips against his.
The world around him faded as the fire of passion took hold. He grasped her to him, startled by his desperation for her touch. He plunged his tongue into the depths of her willing mouth, tangling, exploring, tasting. He cradled her head, the froth of lace on her hat rough under his palm. He shifted his stance, spreading his legs, his arm wrapped around her waist as he pressed his crotch against her skirts. She clung to him as she fell supple in his arms.
He broke from the kiss, traversing his mouth down her neck, flicking his tongue under the lace of her high collar.
Her breaths puffed quietly. “Sir,” she murmured, “shall we take this conversation somewhere more private?”
He continued his kisses across her shoulder to her bosom tightly bound in exquisite silk brocade. “Where do you suggest?”
“There’s an office behind that bookcase.” She pointed to shelves heavily laden with leather tomes.
“An office?” He barely understood her words.
“The librarian’s office. The bookcase closes out the world.”
That was precisely what he wanted. To shut out the world and have her for himself. “Show me.”
She glanced around before heading to the secret doorway. They were still alone with the snorer, his exertions resonating like a hundred men sawing in unison.
She fussed behind some books, shifting them along a shelf to reveal a latch folded flush with the wood. She lifted the bolt and pulled slightly.
The dim light of the library revealed a small office behind.
He gestured to the doorway. “After you.”
She disappeared into the office. A light flared. A lamp.
She closed the door. The inside appeared as a proper door, oak with inset panels and guilloche trim.
Suddenly he was as nervous as a schoolboy in the headmaster’s office.
He glanced up the wall toward the ceiling. Two metal grilles with geometric designs offered air—and possibly a way for someone to overhear what was going on in the librarian’s secret abode.
She followed his gaze. “Don’t worry. I know this house intimately. No one can hear.” She gave him a once-over and raised an eyebrow. “Although perhaps there will be nothing to hear.”
Anxiety had slackened his arousal. “Madam, unfettered lust goads me to do something I’ve not done in far too long.” It had been almost a year since Ekatarina. In Scotland, there had not even been a shepherdess to keep him company.
“I’m not holding you back.” She casually unhooked the draping flounce wrapped around her hips, loosening the tight gown.
“No.” Quite the opposite. She was prodding him forward.
She cupped his crotch. His cock sprang to life under the heat of her palm. She held his gaze as she licked her lips slowly, provocatively, while massaging his erection.
Good God. She was not innocent of fellatio, an Englishman’s most secret desire. Did she suck her husband’s prick? Did the man even deserve such a wife?
He stilled under her ministrations, waiting, hoping she would get down on her knees and unbutton his fly. He grew harder by the second, wanting to close his eyes and just feel her, but the sight of her lust-filled expression was excessively irresistible.
She let out a little mewling moan.
He could stand it no longer.
He turned her around and bent her over the desk. With one hand he tossed up her skirts, tearing at the fly of his trousers and drawers with the other. He threw off his jacket and waistcoat, unbuttoned his braces, and pulled out his too-eager cock.
Before him, arrayed in the finest French silk and lace, were the most marvelous buttocks. He pressed his crotch against her as he smoothed both palms down the curves of the cheeks.
“Magnificent,” he breathed.
“I am delighted my backside pleases.” She wriggled against him.
Her teasing spurred him to swat her gently. “It sets my imagination on fire.” He slid his hand through the slit of her drawers. “What else may please me?” He found her sex, sticky and plump. She wanted him as much as he needed her. He glided his middle finger inside her and was greeted by a clench and a moan. He moved to her clitoris, the bud slippery under his fingers. He stroked the hardened nub as she rolled her hips in encouragement.
This was a fantasy beyond fantasy. “Madam, I do not wish to pull out,” he intoned in a gravelly whisper.
“Sir, I do not want you to,” she said between excited breaths.
So she used some prophylactic. His anxieties eased a little.
He grabbed his cock, the head glistening with arousal, and shoved in.
His senses exploded.
He had forgotten what it felt like to be inside a woman, the welcoming warmth enveloping him, radiating into his stones, the suctioning slickness enticing, nay urging him to continue. And this particular woman rocked her hips in a determined rhythm, commanding him to pleasure her.
The force of her passion undid him.
His knees weakened. He slumped forward to get his bearings, continuing to drive into her not from conscious control toward a glorious culmination, but from a base masculine impulse surging forth in an uncontrollable tumult. He clutched at her hand flat on the desk, the wedding band under her lace glove galling, repelling, reminding him of her undeserving husband, while her French fragrance flared his nostrils, the scent ensnaring him, compelling him to stay the course. Instinct took over, tamping down lingering qualms, pushing him forward to climax.
She came with a powerful contraction. His inexorable release ensued immediately.
He bent over her, utterly spent, his heart pounding up his throat to his head. He sucked in breaths, trying to calm his physical body, while wave after wave of gratification inundated his mind.
She sighed, then squirmed under him with a gentle groan of protest.
He pushed back, breaking contact, grabbing his handkerchief in time to prevent a stain.
Calmly, as if getting fucked over a large oak desk were commonplace, his office paramour righted herself, reattaching the flounce, pushing down then fluffing up her skirts, turning this way and that to survey the state of her dress.
“Madam, your gown is unscathed.” He gazed at her. “And you look delightfully refreshed.”
She beamed. “Thank you.” Her lips twisted into a smirk. “And you, sir, look positively disheveled.”
Damn. He tugged his waistcoat into place, then grabbed his discarded jacket.
As a wife might, she helped his arms through the sleeves, fussed with his collar and tie, then smoothed back his hair. “A touch of gray I hadn’t noticed before. Your blond hair hides such effects of age.” She brushed the lapels of his jacket. “Of course, I am assuming you to be of such an age.” She lifted a brow. “I hope I am not the cause of a sudden shock of silver.”
He chuckled. “I assure you, madam, others hold that honor.”
She smiled broadly. “And now, I shall leave you. Give me a few moments.” She sashayed around him and scurried away in a sensual swoosh of silk skirts.
Charles stared into the emptiness of the office for quite some time, until a snort followed by a vociferous yawn resounded in the library, shaking him from his reverie.
He’d give the lady a few more minutes to move through the galleries while he perused the library shelves. He’d hardly know how to act should he encounter her again.
Good God. What if she were attending the Salon with her husband?