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.
It might have been the sweet aroma of a burning cheroot that woke Henry in the middle of the night.
More likely, it was the fine mist that swirled about the room, cooling his skin.
Rolling to his back, he lifted heavy lids and spied the source of both.
Candlelight shone from one corner of the chamber, washing over Georgiana where she sat on the sill of the open window, his dressing gown tied lightly around her waist, covering her breasts before falling open to reveal long legs bent at the knees, crossed feet resting on the wooden frame. Tiny drops of water, no more substantial than mist, floated on the breeze, glowing like so many jewels in the golden light.
He watched her lift the thin black cheroot to her lips, the end burning red as she puffed daintily before turning to blow the smoke out into the night.
“It’s raining,” he whispered, hoping not to startle her.
“Barely spitting,” she replied, staring out at the night. “Do you remember the names of the other twenty-six women you’ve taken to your bed?”
As non sequiturs went, it was a doozy.
“In truth, I took very few of them to my bed,” he answered, hoping to buy a bit of time.
Georgiana tossed the cheroot out the window and spun about, scooting back until her bottom was perched on the narrow sill, feet dangling off the floor.
“Come away from the window, love.”
“I won’t fall.”
“All the same, I’d feel better if you had both feet firmly planted.”
In response she eased forward and stretched her legs out before her, careful to whisk the dark silk down to her ankles and he smiled at the modest gesture from a woman who’d thus far exhibited little in the way of modesty.
“Better?” she drawled.
Henry sat up and stretched his arms over his head, gratified when her gaze dropped to sweep over his chest, before lifting it to his once more.
“My name is not Georgiana.”
“No? I clearly remember you giving your name as Georgiana.”
“We were not lovers then,” she replied with a shrug of one shoulder, her borrowed robe slipping down her arm with the movement. “I should like you to know my true name, as I hope you will remember me.”
“You are hardly a woman I would forget.” Throwing off the rumpled bed linens, Henry swung his legs over the side.
“Twenty-seven is an awfully large number of women to remember. And who knows, you may double that number in the coming years, triple it before you die.” She spread her arms wide, and wider still as she spoke, leaning back with the motion.
“Come away from the bloody window.” Rising he made his way toward her, intent upon pulling her from harm.
With a huff that might have been laughter or annoyance, she slid off the sill and yanked the window closed before dropping into the chair beside it. Tugging his dressing gown over her legs, she looked up at him, her lips slowly lifting, one side then the other, into a bright smile.
Henry found his trousers draped over one corner of the chest of drawers and pulled them on before dropping to his haunches before her. He sifted his fingers through her curls, found them damp. “There isn’t a chance in the world I will ever forget you.”
“Are you telling me your name is Georgie?”
“Truly my name is George but no one ever calls me such except Killjoy who only does so to bedevil me.”
“Your parents named you George?”
“My mother named me after my father, who had no say in the matter as he did not know of my existence until after the fact,” she replied.
“Ah,” he breathed as the import of her words hit him. He should not have been surprised to learn she was illegitimate, not with what he’d been told of her relations, not after she’d shoved him to his ass to prevent his spilling his seed within her womb.
“Are you hungry, my lord Henry?”
Relieved by the change in topic, he lifted her to her feet and took her place, pulling her into his lap. “Famished.”
“Your larder is well stocked with fresh bread and cheese. And I warmed a few slices of Mrs. Porter’s corned beef for you.” Georgie curled one arm around his neck and reached for a piece of bread liberally spread with butter and missing only one bite.
“You aren’t having any?”
“Oh, I don’t eat beef.”
“Not eat beef? I’ve never heard of anyone not enjoying a good roast with potatoes.”
“I don’t eat anything with a face,” she answered. “Well, occasionally I’ll have a bite or two of lobster. But only if the heads have already been severed so that I might pretend they never possessed a face.”
“You don’t eat beef or pork or even fish?” he asked.
“Nor chicken or pheasant. And I certainly do not eat lamb or mutton.”
“I was raised on a sheep farm,” she replied, frowning so that a tiny line formed between her arched brows, like an arrow drawing his eye to her long, crooked nose. “I was forever making pets of the sheep and throwing temper fits when they were slaughtered.”
“You drink milk and eat butter, in rather large quantities,” he said with a nod to the liberally buttered bread she waved about as she spoke.
“Milking a cow doesn’t kill her,” she tossed back with a grin. “I imagine she likes a set of hands wrapped around her teats, tugging in a gently rolling fashion.”
Where to find Lynne: