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.
Georgie peeked through her lashes at the devilishly handsome man standing beside her, silently acknowledging that she was going to have to provide him with a bit of sport.
She just couldn’t see any way around it.
She’d held him off for hours while they’d wandered around the cold, silent house. She’d deftly avoided all of his rather clumsy attempts to lure her into alcoves, coyly misunderstood each and every one of his ribald suggestions, and evaded both his roaming hands and his soft lips. Not to say there hadn’t been more than a handful of near misses. The earl had a way of sneaking under the brim of her bonnet to brush his mouth over the shell of her ear, the slope of her jaw and the sensitive skin of her nape.
But their tour was coming to an end. Already the sun was dipping toward the horizon, painting the long portrait gallery in shades of pink.
The only rooms she’d not yet seen were the countess’s apartments and those belonging to the earl. Georgie doubted she would see the former without first visiting the latter.
She could hardly ask to see the countess’ private rooms today of all days.
There was nothing for it but to slake the randy aristocrat’s lust. Surely when he’d fallen asleep after a bit of love play, as men were wont to do, she could sneak into Lady Hasting’s chambers and find what she’d come for.
Her greatest desire, indeed.
“It looks as if we’ve reached the end of our tour.” Hastings voice was low and soft, a rough whisper, promising all manner of wicked delights.
“Not by a long shot,” she murmured as she turned away from the final portrait, a rather unremarkable rendering of the earl and his sister sitting on a bench beneath a tree improbably blooming with red, white and blue flowers.
“I beg your pardon?” One tawny arched brow winged up in inquiry.
Damn, if he wasn’t the most beautiful of men. His golden-blond curls were tousled from repeatedly running his hands through his hair. His lovely blue eyes, as bright as a cloudless summer sky, shone with anticipation. His bronze skin was flushed, twin spots of color on his chiseled cheekbones. Decadently plump lips were pulled into a pout above a square chin complete with a deep cleft.
As she drifted her gaze over his too damn perfect visage it occurred to her that he’d enjoyed chasing her from one room to the next in this great mausoleum. It was little more than a game to him, seducing women, and one he was annoyingly confident of winning.
She would have liked nothing better than to put the foolish man in his place and storm off in a cloud of righteous indignation.
How wonderfully amusing it would be to watch the cocky arrogance drop away from his too-pretty face.
Ah, well, perhaps some other time.
“Oh, my lord, we can’t have toured all of the rooms in your lovely house,” Georgie cooed, batting her lashes and feeling seven kinds of foolish. “Surely I would remember if we’d seen your chambers.”
“We’ve saved the best for last, my dove,” he answered smoothly, cocking out his arm.
Georgie ignored the gesture, instead sweeping out of the gallery ahead of him. It was easy enough to guess where his chambers lay. There was only the one wing they’d not yet explored and it must hold both his ultimate destination and her own.
The hallway in this part of the house was wide, four sets of tall double doors evenly placed along the dimly lit space.
“Will you allow me to guess?” She tossed the words over her shoulder with a smile as she passed the first door on the right. That would be a sitting room, either his or his mother’s.
Quickening her steps lest he put a halt to her progress, she reached the next door and pushed it open.
“Not that one, dove.”
Disregarding his words, she stepped over the threshold into a room that could only belong to the recently deceased countess. The walls were papered in the lady’s trademark ice blue, rich velvet damask above stark white wainscoting. A huge bed canopied in gray silk dominated the room. Delicate gilded furniture was clustered about in quaint little seating arrangements. The drapes were open, muted sunlight filtering across the blue and white floral Turkish carpet.
It was a pretty room, but cold. Much as the woman had been.
Hastings came up behind her, his legs tangling in her skirts, his hard chest pressed to her back, the unmistakable ridge of his arousal nestled against her bottom. He reached around her to pull the door closed and as one they stepped back into the hall, their movements as well-choreographed as the steps of a dance.
The door closed gently before her and she drew in a deep breath. She’d seen enough in those few seconds to find her way about the room later, even in the dark if it came to it. She’d also seen the row of miniatures lining the mantel, two more on a small delicately carved desk and still half a dozen others hanging on the walls.
“Time to pay the piper,” she whispered beneath her breath.
“Ah, my lovely Georgiana,” Hastings breathed against her neck just below her ear. “I’ve been dreaming of you playing my pipe.”
Georgie rolled her eyes at his nonsense. Honestly, was this how the highborn went about seduction? Buttercups and bumbling caresses and bawdy talk?
Where was the finesse? Where was the empty flattery, the practiced maneuvers, the whispers and yearning sighs?
Where the devil was the lauded lover all of London gossiped about in ballrooms, in theater boxes and in church for goodness sake?
Play his pipe, indeed.
It wasn’t a bad idea. She needn’t share her body with the silly man. A quick tug and a swipe of her tongue and she’d bring him off. Perhaps a glass or seven of whiskey and a bite to eat afterward. Surely he would be snoring before it was full dark.
Where to find Lynne: