Unraveling the Earl, Book 3 in the Idyllwild series:
The Earl of Hastings’s reputation as London’s greatest gift to the ladies has taken on a life of its own, one he is only too happy to live up to in one Mayfair bedchamber after another. Until he encounters a lady more interested in poking around his country estate than sampling his lauded charms.
Georgiana Buchanan is possessed of murky morals, skewed notions of right and wrong, a talent for dancing around the truth, and a penchant for crashing weddings, funerals and charity balls.
When Georgie catches Henry’s roving eye, she turns the tables on the arrogant scoundrel, introducing him to a world of sensual delights and unraveling his vaunted control before fleeing into the night.
Henry is determined to make the elusive Georgiana his mistress while the lady wants only to use his desire to further her own schemes. When they find themselves marooned at Idyllwild during a summer storm, they will both discover they’ve gotten more than they bargained for.
Miss Buchanan spun about and fixed Henry with a trembling smile, her eyes huge and unblinking. “Will you give me a tour, your lordship?”
“To walk off the kinks,” she drawled, sweeping ahead of him, her skirts whipping around her legs as she took the steps to the portico. “I’ve been tossed about in my carriage until I feel as if I’ve been tied up in knots.”
“Tied up in knots,” he repeated, his eyes fixed on her swaying hips. Thank God she’d dispensed with the starched petticoats. He’d have had a devil of a time getting beneath them. And while she was tall and slender almost to the point of scrawny, her hips were gently rounded and her legs incredibly long.
“Not to say that I mind being tied up in knots from time to time.” Her soft words drifted back to him as she approached Critchley who bowed as best he could, considering he was nearing ninety and ought to be putting his feet up somewhere in the bowels of the house.
“Mr. Crotchety,” she greeted, stopping in front of him.
“Miss Buchanan,” he answered with a smile that showed the gaps between his yellowing teeth. “Determined lady, aren’t you?”
“You’ve no idea, sir.”
“Nor does his lordship, I’d imagine.” With that parting shot the butler turned on his heel and disappeared down the hall.
“How is it you know my butler?” Henry followed her into the wide foyer, momentarily startled by the black crepe looped over the knocker on the open door. Forcing his eyes away from the reminder, he watched as Miss Buchanan surveyed the marble floor and rose-colored walls, pausing only briefly on the oval mirror draped in more black fabric, before drifting on to study the soaring ceiling and immense chandelier.
“I’d hope to tour the public rooms,” she answered without turning from her perusal of the immense space that had always struck Henry as less than welcoming. “Over tea Mr. Crotchety informed me that your mother had passed and the house would not be open to the public for some time.”
“Critchley,” he corrected as he dragged his gaze down her neck to her back, finding her shoulder blades clearly visible beneath the thin lace of her fichu. One spiraling curl had escaped its pins to trail down her nape and along her spine, shifting as she wandered around the hall.
Engrossed in the long lines of her back and that one corkscrew curl teasing his senses with images of releasing her fiery hair from its pins, it took Henry a moment to catch up with their conversation.
“Critchley invited you in for tea?” he asked. “When was this?”
“You were here three days ago? For whatever reason?”
“Why, the same reason I am here today, my lord. With more satisfying results I hope.” She peeked over her shoulder at him before turning toward the open parlor door. “May I?”
“Yes, of course.” Henry followed her into the formal parlor, pleased to see that his servants had followed his hastily jotted missive instructing them to keep the trappings of mourning to the front hall.
She stopped beneath a portrait of his father, her head tilted as she studied the pleasant visage above her. “You look rather a lot like him.”
Happy to help a lady maneuver him into closer proximity, Henry stepped behind her, near enough that she might feel his heat while keeping a hair’s breadth of distance between them. Their bodies lined up exceedingly well, her long legs putting her bottom right before his aching cock. “Do you think so?”
“But for the eyes. You’ve lovely eyes.”
“Alas, I’ve always preferred lavender eyes,” he ducked beneath the brim of her bonnet to whisper the words in her ear and came away with a mouthful of ivy.
Spluttering, he stepped back and pulled the offending foliage from between his lips. She spun to face him, her hand rising as if she might help him.
“Real ivy? And buttercups?” He snatched a bloom from her offending head-ware and held it before her.
With no further prompting she lifted her chin, gifting him with the long line of her throat. Her hand fell to his wrist, her fingers wrapping lightly around his bare skin and he could feel her heat through the thin lace glove. Henry trailed the flower over her chin and she sucked in a startled breath, her bottom lip trembling before she clamped it between her teeth. She met his eyes, hers almost comically round in her face, before dropping her gaze to his lips.
“It would seem you like butter,” he murmured.
“Only when it’s freshly churned.”
“Christ, your voice is an invitation to sin.”
“An invitation to sin,” she repeated as if she were savoring the words.
“One I’ve no intention of refusing,” he assured her as he caressed her jaw with the yellow bud.
She gave a muffled yelp and jumped back, her head bumping the frame of the portrait. Her hand on his wrist pulled him flush against her. With his knee wedged between her legs and his free arm bracketing her head he pinned her to the wall with no effort whatsoever.
“You’re good,” he said, surprised he sounded relatively calm with his blood pounding through his veins and his cock nestled at the apex of her thighs.
“I’m not good at all, my lord,” she argued breathlessly.
“Don’t you think we might consider dispensing with the my lords?” he teased, tugging gently against the manacle of her fingers on his wrist. “All things considered.”
“What would you have me call you?”
She released his wrist and he brought his hand up to cradle her jaw. Her skin was as soft as he’d imagined. Softer. He brushed his thumb over her cheek, traced the sculpted bones.
“Hastings. Or Henry if you prefer,” he offered. “And I shall call you…”
She hesitated for a moment, her gaze flitting over his features. “I suppose you might call me Georgiana.”
“Georgiana,” he repeated. “Your footman called you Georgie.”
“Old habits die hard,” she replied, her eyes searching his. “Perhaps we might begin our tour.”
Where to find Lynne: