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The Lies of Lord John

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They have nothing in common…


Pretty, clever, and independently wealthy Margaret Bell lives just as she pleases in Regency Edinburgh’s gracious New Town, until her indulgent uncle marries a pious widow with strict ideas about how a young lady ought to behave. Only marriage can offer an immediate escape.


Lord John Dunwoodie, rakish younger brother of the Marquess of Crieff, is at the end of his tether. A family quarrel has left him homeless and penniless, and the secrets of his past are catching up with him. Only marriage to a lady of fortune can save him.


With nothing in common but desperation, can Margaret and Lord John find love together?


Publisher's Note: This Regency romance contains elements of power exchange.


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Published 03 June 2020
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EAN13 9781645631170
Language English

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WHAT’S INSIDE
She did not at all like the way he was looking at her, as if she had disappointed him
already. She clenched her fists and hardened her resolve, looking away so that she
should not see that disapproving glare.
The bedsprings creaked, and she felt the mattress depress beside her.
Her stomach swooped with excitement and alarm. It was about to begin. The argument
about the house would be swept into irrelevance. She turned to look at him with a shy but
inviting smile and found herself seized bodily about the waist.
She gave a small yelp of surprise, because this was not what she had been expecting.
A first, tender kiss leading to deeper, hungry kisses, and perhaps a hand caressing her
breast had been the first moves she had imagined. Instead, before she knew what was
happening, he had turned her face forward and upside down over his lap.
She struggled furiously as soon as she realised the position she was in, but it was too
late. He had, with two or three strenuous, determined physical efforts, thrown her over
one knee and was now fighting to lift up her skirts while holding her there. The strength in
his arms and upper body was intense, unyielding, masculine. She tried to kick her legs and
twist her body and bat at him with her fists, but he overpowered her.
"What are you d o i n g?" she shrieked. "Let me g o!"
"No, by God." He sounded a little out of breath but grimly resolute. "You will not talk to
me like that. We start as we mean to go on."
"You can't do this! I won't let you!"
"I c a n do this. I'm your husband. And I need to do this, or you'll never learn. Hold still,
you little minx!"
"No!" she cried again and somehow managed to twist her head round and up and sink
her teeth into the fleshy part of his hand.
She had the momentary satisfaction of hearing him swear, but it did not give her the
opportunity to escape. It seemed to imbue him with added resolve, and he succeeded with
a single final yank in pulling all her skirts high above her waist then trapping her legs hard
between his thighs.
Now, she really could not move. She hung over one knee with her head almost to the
floor, her hair coming undone into her eyes and her fingers scrabbling helplessly at the
carpet. She felt cold air upon her backside and legs and knew that all must be exposed to
his view. He laid one arm across her back, unyielding as an iron bar, to pin her down
against his leg, and then with no further ado, he lifted his other arm high to bring his open
palm down hard on her bare bottom.
She had no idea that a hand, on its own, could hurt so much. She scarce had time to
shriek in surprise before he struck her unprotected backside again, and again, anexcruciating, relentless volley of blows that soon had her bucking and twisting not in
indignation but in real desperation to escape.
"Oh! No! Please! Stop! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please stop!" she pleaded, screaming to be
heard above the pistol-shot cracks of hard hand on soft flesh.THE LIES OF LORD JOHN
BONNIE BRIDES BOOK FIVE
FIONA MONROEPublished by Blushing Books
An Imprint of
ABCD Graphics and Design, Inc.
A Virginia Corporation
977 Seminole Trail #233
Charlottesville, VA 22901
©2019
All rights reserved.
No part of the book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher. The trademark Blushing Books is pending in the US
Patent and Trademark Office.
Fiona Monroe
The Lies of Lord John
EBook ISBN: 978-1-64563-117-0
Print ISBN: 978-1-64563-393-8
Audio ISBN: 978-1-64563-394-5
v1
Cover Art by ABCD Graphics & Design
This book contains fantasy themes appropriate for mature readers only. Nothing in this book should be
interpreted as Blushing Books' or the author's advocating any non-consensual sexual activity.C O N T E N T S
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Fiona Monroe
Blushing Books
Blushing Books NewsletterCHAPTER 1
bsolutely not. You may by no means accept the invitation. Mrs. Hamilton and her set are" A not the sort of people with whom I would have my niece associate."
Margaret gaped at her new aunt in dismay. Mrs. Cochrane had not even glanced at the letter in
Margaret's outstretched hand, just kept her head bent over her needlework.
"But, ma'am—" Margaret looked to her uncle for support.
Uncle Cochrane was in his easy chair beside the fire, The Scotsman folded in one hand, his pipe
in the other. He presented such a familiar figure that Margaret's heart gave a sudden pulse of sadness
and longing for how things had been before the awful day last summer, when he had told her that
Mrs. Rankine had accepted his proposal of marriage.
Mrs. Rankine, who had been the wife of the minister of a church over in Old Town, had suddenly
appeared in the congregation of their own church, St George's, barely a year ago. Margaret had no
idea how her uncle could have lived fifty years in the world immune to the charms of elegant and
eligible young ladies, and then, in the autumn of his life, fallen under the spell of a widow with no
beauty and no fortune, plus, the added burden of a daughter.
Spell, she supposed it must be, for her kindly Uncle Cochrane was now in thrall to his wife's
slightest word. Margaret saw him exchange a look with her and receive a stern instruction from her
glance. He shifted his glasses on his nose, shook out his newspaper, and without raising his eyes to
his niece, he said, "You have heard what your aunt has to say on the matter, Margaret."
"But, Uncle—" She tried to show him the letter. "Mrs. Hamilton is entirely respectable; her
husband is Mr. Hamilton, the physician, and her literary soirees are famous throughout town. I have
attended many in the past, in company with Mrs. Douglas—"
She broke off as her aunt snorted, and Margaret realised that this had been just the wrong thing to
say.
"Mrs. Douglas!" spat Mrs. Cochrane. "Yet another instance, if any more were needed, of the bad
company that woman led you into. Well, fortunately, Mrs. Douglas is no longer with us, and since
you have no chaperone, there is an end of that. Now come and join us, child, and we'll hear no more
of this foolishness."
Margaret almost stamped her foot in exasperation. It was true; even if her aunt had had no
objection to the acquaintance, she could not have attended Mrs. Hamilton's soiree the next evening
because she no longer had anyone to accompany her.
Since coming out at the age of seventeen, Margaret had been accustomed to the constant
companionship of Emmeline Douglas, who had been both a friend and a highly useful chaperone.
Emmeline was scarcely two years older than Margaret and had been married for but a summer in her
nineteenth year, yet those few scant weeks of matrimonial union had qualified her to escort an
unmarried young lady into company. Margaret had met and become firm friends with Emmeline
while Mr. Douglas still lived, and when a sudden violent ague had taken that unfortunate younggentleman and left his widow penniless, Margaret had invited her into her home to be her companion.
For four years—no, close on five—she and Emmeline had been inseparable, going where they
pleased and doing what they pleased. Margaret had enjoyed perfect freedom of movement under the
protection of her widowed friend, almost as though they had been two young gentlemen rather than
two young ladies. Her affectionate and indulgent uncle had offered no objection.
Until, alas, the thunder strike of last July.
Margaret reigned in her fury and obeyed her aunt, seating herself in the only chair left vacant in
the circle by the fire. Her own rightful position, the padded armchair opposite her uncle's, nearest the
fire, was now occupied by the new mistress of the house.
Instead, Margaret was obliged to sit beside her other recently acquired relation, her unwelcome
step-cousin, Charity. Charity had, as was her way, appeared to pay no attention to the argument. She
kept her fair head bowed over her work; her needle had not paused. But Margaret was sure she had
relished every word of rebuke and was rejoicing in Margaret's frustration.
Margaret opened the slim volume she had been carrying around all morning and focused for a
moment on the first page. The lines of poetry seemed to dance and swim, and she realised that it was
because her eyes were filling with tears. She swallowed and blinked, disgusted with herself. She had
always believed that women who cried—cried easily, at any trifling provocation—were letting down
the sex.
She had to try again.
"Uncle," she said. "See, this volume here—it came for me two days ago, from Baillie and Begg—
it is a wonderful poem, by a most marvellous new poet, Mr. Keats. It is a retelling of the myth of
Endymion—you know, Uncle, the beloved of Selene, goddess of the moon?"
Her uncle glanced up from his paper, as if prepared to listen and be interested, but Mrs. Cochrane
snorted again.
"Goddess of the moon, indeed," she said scathingly. "Margaret, I'll ask you not to talk such
impious nonsense, and before your younger cousin, too."
"It is Greek mythology, ma'am. It is not impiety. The ancient Greeks had no opportunity to hear
the Gospel—how could their belief in a pantheon be blasphemous if the truth was never revealed to
them?"
Mrs. Cochrane at last put down her embroidery and fixed Margaret with a chilly glare. "You dare
to answer me back, child? And on such a subject? Mr. Cochrane, you see where your faulty
indulgence of your niece has led?"
"Well, well, my dear. Margaret, apologise to your aunt."
"Uncle!" cried Margaret, suddenly becoming desperate. "This is unjust and—illogical! When did
the culture and beliefs of the ancients become blasphemous? You yourself, sir, studied Greek and
Latin literature at school and at the university! You taught it to me!"
"Aye, and it would have been far better had you done no such thing!" Mrs. Cochrane snapped,
addressing her husband. "What use does a girl have for Latin and Greek? Folly and nonsense. My
Charity was taught all the accomplishments fit for a young lady, and set to such reading as purifies
and fortifies the mind and spirit. She has never been permitted to open a novel, nor to read poetry."
She spat out the last word as if it were an obscenity. "And look at her, Mr. Cochrane. Is she not a
picture of filial obedience and humility? Have you heard from her a single word of defiance or seen
her behave in a way that is anything less than exemplary?"
"Indeed, my dear, Charity is a credit to you and the late Mr. Rankine."
Charity's needle had not paused, and she did not lift her eyes, but Margaret saw the faint smirk of
satisfaction. She seethed and attempted to speak again, but Mrs. Cochrane's steely tone overrode her."I will be frank with you, husband. I am nothing if not always frank. I was always frank with Mr.
Rankine; God rest his soul. When you did me the honour of offering your hand in marriage, I was
afraid that exposure to unsound ideas—to a poor example—might hurt Charity, who has been so
carefully, as I say, brought up. I knew of your niece's reputation."
"Oh, my dear, now—"
" M y reputation!" Margaret cried, unable to suppress her outrage. "What reputation, pray,
madam?"
"Your niece's reputation as a coquette and a bluestocking, a young lady who had been allowed to
run all over town in the company of a very young widow, who had turned down several eligible
offers of marriage and was said to have advanced ideas. I do not blame you entirely, my dear Mr.
Cochrane. It is very hard for a single gentleman to know what to do with a headstrong young lady left
on his charge. And they are all headstrong. Charity, here, would have been just as bad, had I and her
late father not taken such pains with her education and management. Daily churchgoing, improving
reading, and regular applications of the tawse, all are essential."
"A coquette?" Margaret jumped to her feet. "Uncle, dear Uncle Cochrane, will you let your wife
speak ill of me like this? How can you?"
"Silence, child!" said her aunt shrilly, without stirring herself. "Mr. Cochrane, rebuke your niece
for her impertinence, this instant."
"Margaret, please do not speak in this way. This is not like you, my child. Apologise to your
aunt."
"And to your uncle," said Mrs. Cochrane. "And your cousin, for your ill temper and impudence."
Margaret looked between her uncle, who was red-faced and uncomfortable and seemed as if he
would like to disappear behind his newspaper, and her so-called aunt, who was pale and rigid and
outwardly icy calm. Charity, beside her, was vibrating with some kind of emotion. It was excitement,
Margaret thought with disgust.
She slowed her breathing with an effort. "I apologise, sir, if I have caused you any offence. And to
you, madam. But you see, Mr. Keats is in town—he is actually here in Edinburgh—and I was told—"
She stopped herself from saying that Mrs. Douglas had told her, just in time. "I have heard that Mrs.
Hamilton has invited him to the soiree. It is for that reason I am so particularly keen to accept the
invitation. To be introduced to the author of Endymion..."
She broke off as Mrs. Cochrane looked up from her work and fixed her with a direct look of such
outrage and disgust that Margaret quailed. Charity, too, had stilled her needle and was watching, her
eyes shining in her pale face.
"Did you hear your niece, Mr. Cochrane?" said her aunt, her voice quiet but quavering. "Did you
hear your niece express a desire to be introduced to a man?"
"But, Aunt—"
"And not any man. A poet, one who is a known associate of the debauched set led by Lord
Byron?"
Margaret was mildly surprised that Mrs. Cochrane should know about such things.
"Go immediately to your room," she said. "We will not see you at dinner."
"Uncle—"
"Margaret, my dear, you had better do as your aunt says. And mind your tongue in future. Be a
good girl."
Margaret turned in frustration, stalked from the room, and barely managed to restrain herself
from banging the door. She did not want to give Charity the satisfaction of witnessing a display of
temper.Once in her room, she flung herself on the bed and opened the slim volume once again.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever...
The opening line seemed to mock the ugliness of her life, now that it had been blighted by her
uncle's incomprehensible decision to bring Mrs. and Miss Rankine into their previously happy home.
She traced her fingers over the title page, across the name of the poet, and imagined a dedication
written to herself underneath by the poet's own pen. She imagined clasping the hand that had written
those lines, and she shivered.
One way or another, she had to go to the soiree.CHAPTER 2
t was the priest's withered hands he remembered, like those of a corpse already six weeksI dead and withered to skin on bone. That, and the lapping of the water at the door left open
in the putrid summer heat.
The chapel itself might have been underwater, filled with a torpid, aquamarine light from its two
stained glass windows, and chilly as only a Venetian interior could be on such a day as this.
The girl, so unappealing to him, with her narrow, darkish face and big, limpid eyes, a slight little
figure as diminutive as a child, though she was fully nineteen years old. Her black hair was draped in
a hundred guineas worth of lace, her simple silk robe. The priest's corpse hands, folding the mantle
over theirs, muttering the words of Latin in an Italianate singsong.
He looked old enough to be a native speaker of the ancient tongue. His eyes were rheumy,
cloudy, barely seeing.
The lap, lap of the water.
The slash and flash of a blade an inch from his eyes, the rip of linen, the spilling of mattress
innards like guts.
Lord John Dunwoodie awoke with the slash of the blade ringing still in his ears and the smell of
canal water in his throat. His heart thumped against his chest so hard that he could scarcely draw in
breath.
The sun across his face was the pale light of a Scottish January; the sounds he could hear were the
tranquil, workaday noises of the estate waking for another peaceful day. The faint shouts of
outdoorsmen, the distant bang of a door, the nearer scrape of metal on metal as a crouching figure
raked the embers from his bedroom fire.
Lord John drew in, and then let out, a long breath of relief. He was, of course, at Dunwoodie
House, where he had grown up, where his family had lived for four hundred years. He was in the
room that had been his ever since he had left the nursery, the Chinese bedchamber in the west wing,
with its four grand windows overlooking the lake. He was home, he was safe, and he had been for
nearly a year.
He sat up and settled against the pillows to watch the girl at her work. The fireplace was at the
other side of the room, and she was kneeling on the hearth to sweep the last of the overnight ashes
into a pan. She rubbed her palms on her skirts then pulled her log basket closer and, with quick littlemovements, began to lay kindling. It was a long room, but even so, he could see a springy lock of
dark hair escaping from underneath her cap. There was doubtless a glorious mass of it, tamed into
submission with pins and ribbons and crammed under that fetching headgear, just aching to be
released in handfuls.
He had always found a housemaid's plain cotton cap more alluring than the most fashionable
feathered turban.
"Good morning," he said.
The little figure froze then darted a quick glance back. When she saw that Lord John was awake
and sitting up in bed, confusion suffused her pretty cheek. She turned quickly back to her work.
"You're new, aren't you? Have I seen you around before?"
No longer able to pretend that her master was not addressing her, the girl got to her feet, dropped
a curtsy, and looked at the floor. "No, yes, my lord. I've been in the kitchens, my lord. Mrs. Swankie
said I might try out as housemaid this week."
"Mrs. Swankie has great good sense. What is your name, my dear?"
"Rosie, my lord. Oh, I mean Spink. I'm Spink, if it please, my lord."
"It does not please me. Spink, what a foul name. Why should I call you that, when you have
another so beautiful as Rosie? What's in a name? That which we call Rosie, would she by her ugly
surname smell as sweet? Come over here."
The maid stood still, like a fawn frozen in the sights of a rifle.
"Come," said John again, dropping his tone. "Don't be alarmed. I want to see you in the light."
"My lord, I have to—" She indicated the fire-tending apparatus around her feet.
"Come here."
With only a little hesitation more, the girl approached the bed. As she came near, he saw that her
cheeks were flaming as red as the flower that was her namesake. She was full in the bloom of youth,
plump and lovely.
She stood on the carpet next to the bed, twisting her hands together, her eyes downcast.
"Rosie," he said, gently. "Look at me. I want to see your eyes."
Rosie bit her lower lip in a most charming manner and lifted her gaze as ordered. Her eyes were
bright blue, in contrast to the near black of the hair that was still struggling to escape its confinement,
and they were full of trepidation.
But there was a hint of fascination there. She was agitated, she was afraid, but she was also
intrigued.
"Her eyes in heaven would through the airy region stream so bright," said John, reaching
slowly out to touch her face, "that birds would sing and think it were not night."
"M-my lord?"
"Shakespeare, Rosie. The Swan of Avon. Have you read Shakespeare?"
"I can't, my lord. Can't read, I mean."
"Tut. You must have heard the Bard read, though, I'm sure."
"N-no, my lord. My father reads from the Bible on a Sunday night, my lord."
"All well and proper, no doubt. But what is life without poetry? Wouldn't you like to hear some
of the most beautiful words ever penned, Rosie?"
"I-I should get back to my work, my lord, begging your pardon—"
"Come closer. Sit here." He pressed the edge of the bed. "Come on. Don't be frightened." He held
out his hand.
She had dropped her eyes once more, a picture of proper modesty and respect, but he knew she
was gazing at his outstretched hand. He flexed his fingers, once. After a long hesitation, a deliciousfew seconds during which John felt his heart begin to thump hard again and his manhood rise to press
against the blankets, she reached for him.
Carefully, holding back his eagerness and sense of triumph through long practice, John caught the
soft fingers. Her hand was a little calloused and reddened—of course, it was, but plump and fresh
nonetheless. He tugged gently, too gently to genuinely compel, and she came up against the edge of
the bed with a stumble.
"There now, Rosie. You'll be more comfortable here. Sit down, just for a little while."
"My lord, please, I should go—"
"No need to go just yet, Rosie. Sit and tell me a little about yourself."
"It's not fit that I should sit in your presence, my lord."
"It's fit enough if I say it is. I command you, sit."
"Yes, my lord." She obeyed abruptly, making the feather mattress dip. Her face was aflame and
turned from him. She was trembling, but she had made no move to withdraw her hand from his.
He sat up further, moving with great care. He could sense that the bird would startle and flee if he
pounced too soon. "Tell me, Rosie. Has any man kissed those rosebud lips?"
"N-no, my lord."
"Truly?"
She was silent for a moment too long then stammered, "I am a good girl, my lord."
"I'm sure you are, Rosie. A very good girl. There's no harm in a kiss."
He brushed her cheek with the lightest touch, then traced his fingers down its glowing
smoothness, held her chin, and lifted her face to his. He gazed deep into those startling blue eyes, saw
frightened yearning there, and kissed her mouth fleetingly. Just a swift, sweet taste of its softness.
A breath escaped her, a gasp that was at once a squeak of terror and a sigh of longing. Her lips
parted, a sure sign that she wanted more, whether she knew it or not. He lost no time in pulling her
into a full embrace, and she returned his kiss with a willingness that was unmistakable.
He stole a hand to her bosom, to cup the fullness of one breast.
"My lord—" She ducked out of the kiss and wriggled as if to squirm from his arms.
"Hush, Rosie. It's all right. Do these laces come undone? I just want to look, that's all. Just a
little look."
The neck of the housemaid's plain working dress was fastened by a single, hastily knotted cord.
With practiced fingers, he released the binding and gave a small downward tug. All at once, her
breasts were revealed, two ripe, creamy, wondrous orbs.
He managed to catch hold of one and squeeze its full, hot softness before Rosie let out a squeal
and clutched her dress back together.
"My lord! For shame!"
"Shame? There's no shame in obliging your master, is there? Be a good girl, Rosie. Let me look."
She released her grip on her laces, her lip trembling, and sat still and without further protest as he
eased the bodice down once more. He took a moment to admire the sight of her naked bosom, round
and full and lovely, then gently pressed her upper body back onto the pillows.
"Oh no, my lord—"
"Hush. I'll do you no harm. How do you like this?"
He took one perfect pink nipple into his mouth and felt it harden against his tongue. He felt, too,
the tension in her body begin to melt. She arched her back and closed her eyes, and her mouth fell
open a little as he flicked his tongue against the stiffened nipple.
Without ceasing that ministration, he dared to caress her ankle. She was wearing boots, but below
her rough woollen work skirts, her legs were quite bare. No stockings or other undergarmentsimpeded the slow, delicate progress of his hand along her calf, over her knee, up the buttery hot
smoothness of her inner thigh. There was, as he had anticipated from the first, no barrier to guard her
secret place. It burned against his feather-light touch, and Rosie gasped.
"My lord, oh, no, please! Please, my lord, you must not—I must not—"
She subsided into whimpers when his fingers found the nub of her womanhood and caressed it,
and she let her legs fall apart as if unconscious of how her body betrayed her words. With great care,
he tried to slip a finger into her. She was swollen and moist, but he could not. His finger encountered
a slippery, yielding barrier.
She was a maid.
John drew back for a moment, his entire body taut with ardour. The canal-water stink of his
dream, the lingering of jewel-light from the Venetian chapel, had faded away. This was an
unlookedfor delight, a thrilling surprise to console him after the nightmare. The girl was fair, and a blooming,
hearty nineteen years at least. That her treasure should be as yet unplundered had not seemed likely;
he had taken her tremblings and protests as the usual charade of modesty, but it seemed that her
innocence was genuine. This girl had what might be sold for fifty guineas in a London whorehouse,
and he could have it now for the price of a few whispered endearments.
Distantly, he registered the sound of wheels and hooves on gravel as he took the girl once more
into his arms and pulled her more entirely into the bed. She had probably never in her life lain on
scented linen sheets, nor on a feather mattress. Her eyes were wide both with fear and wonder and
scared surrender. Dimly, he half-formed the thought that it was an unusual hour for a gentleman's
carriage to arrive—only visitors for the family would draw up at the front of the house—but almost
all his attention was on the girl. He unbuttoned one of her boots and eased it off. The rough woollen
skirts and coarse apron he rather liked, but he did not want boots in his bed.
"My lord, please—"
Her naked foot, white and diminutive, was charming.
"In the lands of the Orient," he murmured, caressing it, "men yearn for a glimpse of a lady's bare
foot. The ladies there keep them tiny, somehow, like a child's. No need for that here. Yours are
beautiful, just as they are." He released the other one and tossed the boot to the floor.
Now her legs were bare from her toes to her inner delights, and with slow relish, he began to
work the hem of her skirts up to her knees.
She was lying still and did not seem likely to flee, but he leaned across her and captured one arm
gently with his to secure her in case she took sudden fright. Again, he kissed her waiting mouth,
tasting her excitement and alarm, and again, he set his hand exploring between her willingly parted
thighs. He had to suppress a groan of desperate desire as his manhood brushed against her knee
through the cotton fabric of his nightshirt. The urge simply to open her legs, lift his shirt, and plunge
right into her was almost overpowering. But that would be to rush one of life's rarer pleasures. The
taking of a maidenhead was a serious business.
He stroked the centre of her pleasure and caressed her bosoms, all the while kissing her face and
mouth and neck. The greater her transports, the less painful it would be for her and the easier for him.
He wanted to batter down the gates then slip triumphantly into a welcoming embrace, not to fight his
way in. He could never understand why men would take a girl by force, when it was so much more
entertaining to make them gasp and pant and surrender themselves.
Somewhere deep in the house, a door banged.
"My lord, my lord—" Rosie could hardly get the words out as he ran his palm again and again
over her burning, swollen womanhood. He had not yet feasted his eyes on the treasures between her
thighs but only felt the many wondrous folds and the little nub now standing hot and stiff.It was time to look. He slid her skirts over the top of her thighs to her waist and spread her knees.
"Please, no, my lord, no, ohh!" She squeaked in surprise and moaned when he dipped his head to
kiss what was revealed.
"So beautiful," he murmured and tasted her sweetness again.
She arched herself forward to press against his mouth, still gasping, "No, please don't. Please, my
lord—"
He could bear it no longer. His mind was clouded with the urgency of passion, so that he barely
heard the rapid, near running footsteps in the corridor outside his room. He lay over Rosie so that his
weight pinned her to the bed and ran his hand back and forth along her now naked thighs.
"Oh, no—"
"It's all right, Rosie. There's nothing to be afraid of. I'll be gentle."
He lifted his nightshirt, and she gave a small cry as she saw him exposed.
"My lord, you can't—"
"It's all right," he said again, trying to keep his tone soothing and low, but his voice was thick and
hoarse with lust, and he knew he was on the verge of losing control. He had to take her, before he
exploded.
She had closed her legs in a last feeble bid to guard her virtue but offered no resistance as he
eased them apart once more with his knee. He captured her mouth with his and kissed hard to distract
her from any thoughts of eleventh hour escape.
On the very point of storming the barricades, when the tip of the ram was rested against the
portcullis in readiness for the assault, a voice sounded as if from far away. "My lord, I beg your
pardon, I knocked three times but—Rosie? Rosie, is that—get away from there, at once, you wicked
child!"
Groggy and utterly disorientated, Lord John rose to his knees and saw that Mrs. Swankie, the
housekeeper, had entered his bedchamber unsummoned.
Rosie shrieked and rolled off the bed, clutching her dress over her bosom.
"Good God," said Lord John. His breath felt short; his head was dizzy. He glared at the
housekeeper. "Swankie, how dare you come barging in here."
"I'm sorry, my lord," said Mrs. Swankie, neither looking nor sounding apologetic. She was
frowning in outrage at Rosie, who had started to cry. "But it could not wait. His Lordship is insisting
that you go to him immediately."
"At this hour? It's before breakfast!" There was no need to ask which lordship was in question.
There was only one man who could have the temerity to summon him in this fashion—his eldest
brother, James, the fourteenth Marquess of Crieff. "What in God's name is the matter? Is his lordship
ill? Or her ladyship?" He felt a slight qualm of alarm, as it was more likely that his sister-in-law had
taken ill.
Mrs. Swankie caught hold of Rosie's arm and shook her. "Wheest your noise, you little strumpet.
Aye, just you wait till your father hears of your shameless conduct. Get about your work!"
At the mention of her father, Rosie burst into noisier sobs but said nothing as she gathered her
boots and slunk out of the room.
Mrs. Swankie waited until the door had closed behind her, before turning her disapproving gaze
back toward him and saying, "My lord, your brother has arrived from town. From London, I mean, all
the way from London. He travelled overnight."
"My brother, which brother? I have five of 'em, Swankie."
Mrs. Swankie was clearly very agitated. "I beg your pardon, my lord, I mean to say Lord Gordon."
Just like Gordon, John thought, to interrupt his fun, "And what the blazes is my dear brotherGordon about, doing something so unlike himself as a moonlit dash in a carriage and four?"
Mrs. Swankie heaved a breath. "My lord, he is hurt. My lord, he says someone tried to kill him.
My lord, he says that you are to blame."CHAPTER 3
argaret's heart was thundering under her breast as she closed the door to her bedroomM and listened. Her uncle's house in the fashionable location of Charlotte Square had a
grand central marble staircase, which wound its way up through four of the six stories, and from the
landing outside her bedroom on the second floor, she could see all the way down to the
black-andwhite tiles of the entrance hall. Standing here, it was possible to hear everything that was going on in
the main part of the house.
All was silent, as expected. Her aunt and cousin would be in the parlour behind the drawing
room, where they retired after dinner every evening. Her uncle might have joined them, or he might
still be finishing his port alone in the dining room. All was tranquil at present. She ducked back as
one of the footmen glided across the hallway bearing a silver tray with a decanter of port and a single
glass. Her uncle was probably in the parlour, then, and had summoned another drink.
Margaret had retired immediately after dinner, claiming that she had a terrible headache and was
going to bed. Nobody had questioned her, beyond uttering a few words of stilted concern. Nobody,
she was prepared to wager, would trouble to check on her later in the evening. They would assume
she had gone to sleep and would not disturb her. As long as she could be back in her room before the
maid came in the next morning, it would be as if she had never left.
Her plan was a simple one. She slipped through the plain door set unobtrusively flush to the wall
at the back of the landing, one of many which led into the mysterious realm belonging to the servants.
She knew that it must be possible to get out of the house via the back staircase and the kitchens
without being observed by anyone in the family, but she had never before set foot into the servants'
quarters. It felt like a real transgression to step across the threshold into the dark, bare, enclosed
stairwell, and the trespass heightened her sense of danger and exhilaration.
The staircase was dimly lit by a skylight somewhere above, and Margaret was able to make her
cautious way down the steep stairs by tracing her hand along the wall. Her feet were encased in
evening slippers, so made no sound on the wooden steps. She made it to the bottom without
encountering anyone and found herself in a stone-flagged passageway with mustard coloured walls
and many doors leading off it, all closed. There was a board nearby on the wall mounted with small
bells. Margaret peered up at it and saw that the name of a principal room was painted underneath
each: drawing room, parlour, study, Mr. Cochrane's bedchamber, Miss Bell's bedchamber. In a
noticeably different hand, someone had added 'Miss Rankine's bedchamber'.
As she stared in fascination, the bell labelled 'parlour' shivered then gave a smart little chime.
Margaret knew she had to move quickly. She could already hear flat, heavy footsteps thudding
behind one of the doors and an indistinct call in a loud female voice. She opened the nearest door and
slipped into the dark room behind it, leaving a small crack open to observe what was happening in the
corridor.
Mrs. Guthrie, the cook, emerged from somewhere further down the passage and lumbered up to