The Naked Viscount
June 2010
Zebra Books
ISBN-13: 978-1420102543
ISBN-10: 1420102540

Read the Naked Nobility Series FAQ for information about the series chronology and reading order.

The Naked Truth...
After eight Seasons in London, Miss Jane Parker-Roth is ready to quit the dull search for a husband in favor of more exciting pursuits. So when she encounters an intruder in her host's townhouse, she's not about to let the scoundrel escape. Until she discovers she's wrestling a viscount—Lord Motton, the one noble she wouldn't mind meeting in the dark. And when their struggle shatters a randy statue of the god Pan, even more mischief ensues...

Motton was indeed searching for evidence of a scandal, but the shocking clues inside the nude statue are far from what he expected. The same can be said of Jane, who shows a talent for interfering in his affairs. And as his quest becomes more than a little improper, he finds the impetuous Miss has a talent for that as well...


Excerpt from The Naked Viscount


Accolades

*Starred review* 
"..a laugh a minute....Brimming with sex, schemes, and sass, MacKenzie's books...are so addictive they should come with a warning label."
—Shelley Mosley, ALA Booklist 

"...charming, yet darkly dangerous....If you want to smile, sigh, feel a tug of the heart, and be drawn in to a bit of danger, read a Sally MacKenzie romance."
Connie, Once Upon a Romance 

"Ah, another naughty, naked hero to brighten MacKenzie's irresistible romance. There's plenty of sizzle, delicious repartee (filled with double entendres), excitement and mystery to satisfy anyone who needs a bit of love and laughter to brighten their day."
Kathe Robin, RT Book Reviews

"..warm, funny...the perfect summer read."
—Gloria Gehres, The Romance Readers Connection 

"Naked, naughty nobles with a dash of intrigue and a side of romance all blend together for one delicious dessert in the form of a romance novel."
Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader.com

Chapter One

Edmund Smyth, Viscount Motton, tested the French window. It opened easily. Tsk. The butler was shockingly lax or, more likely, drunk as an emperor.

He pushed the window all the way up and stepped into poor, dead Clarence Widmore’s study. The Parker-Roth ladies were currently in residence; he should drop a word in Parker-Roth’s ear. Stephen would want to know his mother and sister were not being properly looked after. This was London, after all. Any sort of riffraff might try to break in.

Motton took a candle from the mantel and held it to the embers in the fireplace. It flared to life.

Of course, if Parker-Roth were living under this roof, he’d already know of the problem, but he couldn’t fault the man for wanting to keep his own rooms. He’d like to do the same--the aunties were driving him mad. Winifred had arrived today with her parrot and monkey, so now all five of his paternal aunts and their pets were in residence. Zeus. Bedlam might be quieter than his town house at the moment. The worst of it was the women were convening to mount an attack on his single state. Aunt Winifred’s arrival was especially alarming. She was a wily campaigner. He would have to be extremely alert until she returned to the country. 

He surveyed the room. Damn, it would help if he’d been given a hint where to look. Searching through every book for this mysterious sketch of French spies the Earl of Ardley wanted would keep him here until tomorrow. The Parker-Roth ladies would not be out that long.

He opened the nearest book and ruffled its pages. If he wasn’t Widmore’s neighbor and hadn’t been so damn bored, he would have politely--or not so politely--declined Ardley’s request. The man was a pompous ass with a decidedly odd kick to his gallop. But when Ardley had cornered him at White’s, he’d been in the doldrums. The jollifications of the Season were wearing very thin and even his extracurricular activities--tracking down and eliminating underworld vermin--were proving painfully frustrating.

If only he could discover the identity of the man behind so much of London’s criminal activity, but he’d been stymied at every turn. Everyone knew the miscreant only as “Satan.”  He was beginning to believe the fellow was indeed the incorporeal spirit of evil.  

He put the book back on the shelf and picked up another. Nothing about this little errand made sense. Paunchy, balding Widmore, a French spy? In all the years he’d lived next door to the fellow, he’d never once seen any evidence he was working for the French. Widmore had been odd--no question about that--but odd and treasonous were not synonymous.

Hell, if one were considering odd associations, Ardley’s connection with Widmore would be at the top of the list. Ardley had been at Lord Wolfson’s estate when Widmore had met his untimely end, landing bare-arsed on a nest of adders.

What Widmore had been doing capering about naked was not a question he wished to contemplate.     

And why had Ardley associated with Widmore at all if he’d suspected him of treason?  Or, more to the point, why did he suddenly care about a supposed sketch of some French spies when Widmore was dead and the war was long over?

He put the book he’d been examining back. He’d start with the desk instead. It didn’t look promising--the wooden surface was as bare as a windswept moor--but perhaps something had got stuck in the back of a drawer or, better, perhaps there was a hidden compartment or two.

Here was something interesting. Most people did not decorate their work areas with an object about two feet high draped in Holland cloth. The white fabric billowed in the breeze from the open window, giving it a rather ghostly appearance. Unlikely it had anything to do with what he was looking for, but he’d leave no stone unturned. He plucked off the cloth...

Good God.

He stared down at a statue of the god Pan--a very, er...excited Pan.

* * * * *

Miss Jane Parker-Roth sighed as she closed Frankenstein. It was always hard to finish a book one enjoyed--it was like leaving a good friend. She’d pleaded the headache so she could stay home from the Hammershams’ musical evening and read. Mama must have suspected her malady was feigned, but she hadn’t argued, thank goodness.

She put the novel on the bedside table. One of the best things about coming to Town was the lending libraries. Oh, the Priory had an extensive book collection to be sure, but only a few were novels. Da had his poetry books; Mama had her art books; John and Stephen, her older brothers, had their horticultural books; but novels? No.

One would think a painter and a poet would have very liberal ideas on what their children could read, but such was not the case. Lucy, the baby, was already thirteen and had virtually memorized A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, yet Mama still would not let her read even Miss Austen’s stories. Lucy was a resourceful girl, however, and had managed to smuggle into the house an impressive assortment of novels.

Thankfully, Mama had given up on her when she’d made her come-out, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-four, she could read whatever she wished, at least when she was in London.

What should she read now? She didn’t want to start a new book immediately, but she liked to have her next selection ready. Anticipation added to the delight.

Hmm. She’d been meaning to read Waverley for the longest time. She was quite a fan of Mr. Scott’s stories, but she’d never read his first. She glanced at the clock. It was far too early to go to sleep. She’d just slip downstairs and see if by chance the book was in the Widmores’ collection. Perhaps she’d even take a quick look at its opening pages...

Jane climbed out of bed.  Mama wouldn’t be home for hours yet. Not that she’d been looking forward to the “infernal caterwauling,” as she’d put it, of the Hammersham twins, but she’d been greatly anticipating seeing her artist friends. She’d surely go off into a side room with them and catch up on all the art gossip. She might not come home before the sun rose.

Jane put on her slippers. Her wrapper, unfortunately, was off to be washed--she’d spilled chocolate on it this morning. No matter. She’d only be a moment, and the servants were all in their quarters, celebrating the housekeeper Mrs. Brindle’s birthday.

She stepped into the hall. As she’d suspected, it was deserted. She made her way toward the stairs.

If only she could spend all her time in London at the lending libraries and museums, but Mama had other plans, of course. It was the Season and she was still unwed. She couldn’t plead a headache every night--Mama would have the physician at the door in a pig’s whisker. The woman took her children’s every twinge, every sniffle, very seriously.

She sighed. So Mama would drag her to as many society events as she could, hoping her eldest daughter would inspire undying ardor in some gentleman’s breast.

Mama was living in air castles. When was she going to face the truth? This was her--damn. Jane grabbed the banister and stopped on the top stair. Could it be? She counted on her fingers to be certain...Yes, this was the beginning of her eighth Season.     

She wasn’t just on the shelf; she was stuck to it like a leaky glue pot.

Which was just fine with her. She started down the stairs. She’d met all the eligible--and some not so eligible--society gentlemen and had found them all completely boring.

Well, not all. There was Viscount Motton--six feet of elegantly attired muscle, with sapphire blue eyes, chestnut brown hair, and a damn dimple in his left cheek.

Not that she’d noticed.   

She snorted. The man certainly hadn’t noticed her, or if he had, he only thought of her as John and Stephen Parker-Roth’s younger sister. He’d never once asked her to stand up with him at any ball or assembly. She’d barely exchanged two words with him all these years.

Of course, he didn’t attend many social events. He came--briefly--to the first few each Season and then vanished. And she’d wager she wasn’t the only woman who’d made note of his habits in that regard.  

She glared at a plaster cherub discreet enough to have avoided Mrs. Brindle’s Holland cloths. Lord Motton didn’t get dragged to every ball and breakfast, oh no. He was a man. He had the freedom to choose the path his life would take. He could stay on his estate like John, or go off to foreign lands like Stephen. When he finally decided it was time to start his nursery, he would just pick one of the many aristocratic girls displayed for his inspection on the Marriage Mart.

Faugh! A man’s life was so much better than a woman’s. Men could have adventures, while women must sit home, darning socks and tending children. It was not fair.

She reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around. There was still not a servant in sight. She’d just slip down the hall and into the study. With luck, she’d find the books in some discernible order, but given the general state of the house, she’d more likely encounter a complete hodgepodge. Oh, well. She had plenty of time to browse through the shelves.

She came to the study door, put her hand on the knob--and paused. Odd. She sniffed. Did she smell smoke? Only a trace, as if someone had just blown out a candle.

Ridiculous. She was allowing the gothic thrill of Frankenstein to cloud her thinking. This was present-day London. Nothing exciting ever happened to her.

She shook the silly, fanciful thoughts from her head and opened the door.

Her candle went out. Damn. She stepped toward the fire to relight it and felt a breeze. The French window was open.  Why--

A strong arm snaked around her waist and a broad, naked hand clamped over her mouth. She was hauled up against a hard male chest.

Dear God! She swung her candlestick, but only managed to knock over the hideous statue of Pan on the desk. She couldn’t turn and pummel the man behind her--he was too strong. But he was taller than she...She flung her weapon up and back this time and collided with something.

“Bloody--” The man took his hand off her mouth to grab for the candlestick. She drew in a deep breath. This was her opportunity. No one would hear her scream, of course--the servants were too far away and likely too drunk to come to her aid--but this miscreant didn’t know that.

She yelled as loud as she could.

“Hell, woman, you just broke my eardrum.”

“I’ll break more than that, sirrah, if you don’t release me immediately!” Odd, the man’s voice had sounded educated and very faintly familiar.

He chuckled. “Who would have thought you were such a hellion?”

Hellion, hah! She hadn’t grown up with two older brothers for nothing--and a younger brother as well. If he gave her just an inch, he’d be sorry. She screamed again and thrashed more vigorously.

Will you stop that?”

“Not until you let me go, you--oof!

He’d managed to twist her to face him. His left arm was now around her back, his right hand on the candlestick, and his mouth--heavens above!--his mouth was descending...

She gasped. The moonlight revealed his identity just before his lips touched hers.

She was being held and...hmm, well, kissed...by Viscount Motton.  

Her fingers loosened and the candlestick crashed to the floor. Neither of them bothered with it. The candle was out. It wasn’t going to set anything aflame.

The viscount was setting her aflame. She was surrounded by his scent--eau de cologne and leather and...him. His mouth covered hers, but she’d lost all desire to scream. No, her desire was headed in an entirely different direction. She felt boneless, like her knees would give out at any moment.

His lips moved, brushed hers, nibbled at the corner of her mouth, and then meandered over her cheek to a very sensitive spot on her neck just under her ear.

She’d never been kissed before...well, never like this. This was an entirely new experience--a wonderful experience. Mmm.

What was the man doing here? He lived next door--and yes, she’d occasionally tried to time her daily walks to catch a glimpse of him. Had he mistaken the house? Gone astray?

His mouth moved farther down her neck, his hands wandering lower to skim her bottom. Ohh. He was going very much astray.

Should she be alarmed? No, he must not mean her any harm. He knew her brothers, and he had an unblemished reputation.

Ohh. He was stroking her bottom now. Her nightdress was so old and worn, it was almost as if his hand were on her bare skin.

She’d dreamed of someday getting a dance with the man, of feeling his gloved hand on hers--and now...

They were quite alone. No one would know if she took advantage of this odd situation.

He’d come back to her mouth. Was that his tongue touching her lips? What would happen if she...?

Ohh.

His tongue slid between her teeth. How disgusting! Hmm, well, it should be disgusting, but it was...not. Actually, once one got over the shock, it was rather wonderful. He tasted of brandy, and he filled her with wet heat.     

Her mouth was not the only part of her that was very hot and wet. Her stomach...well, lower than her stomach...was embarrassingly damp--if she was still capable of feeling embarrassment, which she apparently wasn’t--and throbbing. An odd hollowness opened there, wanting something...

She had three brothers. Her mother was an artist with more than one nude painting in her studio--she had never been shy about explaining things. Mama might not want her daughters reading novels, but she did want them to know certain facts of life. And Jane had been eleven when Lucy was born--she’d asked quite a few questions. She had a good idea what her body was aching for--and what part of Lord Motton’s physique could provide what she needed. It had formed a hard ridge against her belly.

His hands were moving again, one still tracing the contours of her derrière, the other sliding up to...

Oh. Oh, heavens.

All rational thought fled as his fingers cradled her breast.

Motton was lost in a flood of sensation--the feel of this woman, so soft in his arms, her lovely curves unshielded by stays or layers of clothing; the taste of her sweet mouth under his; the smell of her skin, of lemon--a hint of purity, of innocence--and the musk of heat and need; the sound of her small gasps.

She had been so feisty--so fiery--at first, but now she was yielding and feminine and thoroughly seductive. Fiery, but in an entirely different way. He certainly felt as if he were on fire--his cock was just about ready to burn a hole in his breeches.

He pulled her bottom closer, bringing her more tightly against his poor, straining member, but the pressure only served to stoke the flames higher. His other hand cupped one of her lovely breasts. It was firm, soft, perfect. It fit his palm as if it had been made for it. He ran his lips over her jaw as he rubbed his thumb over her nipple. The lovely woman in his arms gasped.

He chuckled and kissed her just below her ear as he flicked the hard little nub once more. She gasped again.

He almost gasped. Standing was becoming a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately the loveseat was far too small, but there was the desk. She’d thoughtfully cleared it of that obscene statue. At the moment he’d wager his cock was far larger than Pan’s in any event.

She was running her hands down his back, spreading them over his buttocks, pressing him against her.

He cradled her jaw and returned to her mouth. Before he could plunge inside, she slipped her tongue tentatively past his lips and teeth. Ah. Who would have thought this girl would be so delicious, so responsive, so--

So virginal. So respectable. So closely related to two of his friends.

He froze. He’d actually been thinking of lifting Miss Parker-Roth onto the bare desktop, raising her nightdress, and--

Sanity came crashing back like a migraine. He straightened and jerked his hips back.

“What...what are you doing?” The soft little words were hardly more than a whisper. She sounded completely confused.

She looked completely seductive, but it was past time he started thinking with his brain and not his...

Long past.

He tried to push her gently away from him, but she wasn’t moving. She wrapped her arms around his back and held on.

“Miss Parker-Roth--”

“Jane.”

“What?”

“Jane. My name is Jane.”

Had he known her Christian name? No. He’d never paid much attention to her, frankly. She’d been just another attractive item decorating the ton’s ballrooms--like a potted palm or a ficus tree.

Little had he known.

“What’s your name?”

The question hit him in the gut. Surely she knew whom she’d been kissing? And rather more than kissing, actually.

He found he didn’t at all care for the notion that he was just an anonymous male. “Motton.”

She shook her head. “I know that. I want to know your name.”

Ah, his Christian name. No one called him by that except the aunts. It felt rather...intimate to share it with her. “Edmund.”

“Edmund.”

She murmured it as if she were exploring how it felt on her tongue. Damn! He could not think of Jane--of Miss Parker-Roth--and tongues. Her tongue had been so sweet, so shy. He would dearly love to feel it on--

Think with your brain, Motton! He firmly detached the woman and stepped back out of her reach. “Miss Parker-Roth, it cannot have escaped your attention that we are in a dark room without a chaperone and you are in your nightclothes.”

She grinned, the minx! “Yes, I know.”

“I shudder to think what society would say were it to learn of this...” What? Scandal? Disaster? Monumental lapse in judgment? All of the above? “This situation.”

And why wasn’t Miss Parker-Roth having the vapors? Surely a gently bred miss should be in hysterics at the treatment she had just received. Not that she’d been struggling. Oh, no. She’d been a very active, a very willing participant.

She dimpled up at him. She did have a most attractive smile. “Oh, don’t go all poker-faced.”

It wasn’t his face that was pokerish. If he didn’t start thinking about something besides Ja--Miss Parker-Roth’s--tongue and soft bottom and lovely breasts, he was not going to be able to light a candle and reveal his very impolite proportions.

Blast! His proportions just got even more shocking. Miss Parker-Roth had moved so her back was to the hearth. There was sufficient illumination from the fire’s embers to reveal a tantalizing glimpse of her waist and legs and--

He turned away to step closer to the open window. It was suddenly infernally hot in the damn study.

“Society won’t say anything because no one will find out,” she was saying.  “As you point out, there are no witnesses, and I’m not going to go blabbing about...” She paused, and he glanced back at her. He’d wager if there were enough light, he’d see her face had turned bright red. His eyes dropped. There was definitely enough light to see...

“I’m not going to blab about...about what we were doing,” she said. “Are you?”

“No, of course not.” He had to stop staring at her br-chest. He jerked his attention back to her face. “I am not a complete idiot.”

“Well, then, there you are.” Jane frowned. She was suddenly feeling very out of sorts. Here she’d just had the most wonderful experience of her life with the man she’d dreamed of for years, and the fellow acted as if he could hardly bear to look at her. He’d turned as prim and proper as...as her stiff-rumped brother John.

John, thankfully, was not in London with them this Season. He’d gone off to Baron Tynweith’s estate. Odd, since the baron’s parties were often disreputable, but John had said something about topiary when he’d left the Priory. Plants were John’s passion--unlike Stephen, his only passion.

What was Lord Motton’s passion?

Mmm. She’d like to taste a little more of his passion. Her dreams had not come close to the reality of it. Unfortunately, the man did not look at all willing to repeat his thrilling performance.

And now that she looked at him--really looked at him--she saw he was dressed most peculiarly. Every article of clothing he wore was black--black shirt, black cravat, black breeches, black stockings--and he had dispensed with a coat and waistcoat. Well, she’d vaguely noted those omissions when she’d been plastered up against him.

was almost as if he wished to blend into the shadows. Why? More to the point, why was he here at all and how had he gotten in?   Mr. Hunt, the butler, was at Mrs. Brindle’s party.

He kept looking down at her chest. Had she spilled chocolate there, too, when she’d had her accident with her wrapper this morning? She looked down.  

Oh.

She darted behind one of the wing chairs. Thank God its back was high and she was not terribly tall. Damnation, if Lord Motton was truly a gentleman, he’d offer her his coat...he didn’t have a coat...oh, bother.

He bowed briefly and cleared his throat. “Ahem, well, I must be going. Do pardon my intrusion. And, of course, my apologies for the...” He waved his hand vaguely. “For my behavior.” He looked ready to go out the window.

Well, that answered the question of how he’d gotten in, but he certainly wasn’t leaving before she got some answers.

She leapt back out from behind the chair and grabbed his arm. “Wait! You must tell me why you’re here.”

He frowned at her. “Miss Parker-Roth, please control yourself.”

He sounded far too much like John. She considered uttering one of the very improper words she’d learned from Stephen, but she restrained herself. “I’ll make you tell me.”

He snorted, shook off her grasp, and turned. She latched onto the back of his shirt.

“Will you stop--”

“I have two older brothers, a younger brother, and two younger sisters. I know all about blackmail and coercion.”

He didn’t even bother to reply; he just pulled her hand off his shirt and kept going. She hurried after him, out through the French window onto the terrace.

“I’ll tell your aunts what happened here tonight.”

That got him to pause. “You wouldn’t. You’d ruin yourself.”

“Not if I tell your Aunt Winifred--she’s not such a high stickler. I saw her arrive today with Theo and Edmund. Oh!” Jane covered her mouth with her hand, but her snicker still escaped. “She named the monkey after you, didn’t she?”

Lord Motton sighed. Surely Miss Parker-Roth would not be so bold as to tell Winifred about this evening? If she did...well, Aunt Winifred was awake on every suit. She would immediately see a golden opportunity to push him into parson’s mousetrap. And she would be right--he would be bound to marry Miss Parker-Roth if word of this encounter ever did get out.  He couldn’t be alone with a young, unmarried woman in her nightdress without offering for her.  And they hadn’t just been standing around discussing the weather.

He waited for anger to surge through him. He’d spent years avoiding marriage traps...but, to be fair, Miss Parker-Roth hadn’t set out to trap him. He’d brought this on himself, not that he’d foreseen the risk when he’d agreed to search Widmore’s study.

And kissing her had been extremely pleasant.

He didn’t feel angry, he felt...he didn’t know how he felt. Miss Parker-Roth was uncommonly attractive in that virginal nightdress with her hair in a long braid down her back. He’d like to spread her hair out over her shoulders and run his hands through it. It was a warm brown with hints of red.

Why had he never noticed her before? She must have been at all those dreadful society events over the years.

The answer was simple. He’d not been in the market for a wife, and John and Stephen’s sister was not a suitable candidate for dalliance.

“I’m waiting, Lord Motton.”

And she was getting chilly. He could see her nipples peaking against her nightgown.

He’d like to make them harden for him...

“Come inside and I’ll tell you as much as I know, which isn’t much.” He took her arm and turned her back to the study.

“I would advise you not to try pulling the wool over my eyes.” She jutted out her lower jaw. She looked quite pugnacious.   

He smiled briefly as he seated her in a wing chair and turned away to light the candles. He could easily bamboozle her if he wished--he’d had far more experience with deception than she, no matter how many brothers or sisters she had.

For some reason the thought of lying to Miss Parker-Roth sat like a rock in his belly.  

He glanced back at her. She looked so pure, so beautiful sitting there staring at...her eyes were...

Good God! Miss Parker-Roth was studying his arse.

He turned to light some more candles. He could almost feel her gaze on his breeches.

She was going to have something else to study when he turned to face her if he didn’t pull his wandering thoughts back to the subject at hand--which was...what?

Ah, right.  Widmore’s supposed sketch.

He lit the last candle and sat down quickly, leaning forward to shield his lap and any suspicious protuberance that might be apparent there. “I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes--I really do know next to nothing. The Earl of Ardley cornered me at White’s this afternoon and told me Widmore had been a French spy--”

“Clarence?” Miss Parker-Roth gawped at him. “A spy?”

“I grant you, it does seem unlikely.” He’d had almost the same reaction when Ardley had told him. Widmore had been fat and loud and...colorful. He’d wager the man was constitutionally incapable of moving unobtrusively.  If Widmore had been a spy, he’d been a master of concealment. “But sometimes the best spies are those who seem the least likely.”

“Oh.” Miss Parker-Roth narrowed her eyes. “Are you a spy?”

“No, of course not.” It was true. He’d never considered himself a spy, but if he’d ever been one, he wasn’t one any longer.

Her expression did not change.

“Well, I may have done a little skulking about on occasion and a spot of listening here and there.”

“Hmm. I don’t suppose you’d tell me if you are a spy.”

“I don’t suppose I would, but I’m not.”

“You’re here.”

“Merely on an errand for a”--no, he couldn’t call Ardley a friend--“an acquaintance.”

“Why isn’t Lord Ardley doing his own skulking?”

He snorted. “Ardley?” The earl was fatter than Widmore had been.

Miss Parker-Roth laughed. “True, I can no more see Lord Ardley as a spy than I can Clarence Widmore.” She shook her head and echoed his own thoughts. “If Clarence was a spy, why would Lord Ardley care about his activities now? The war is long over and Clarence is dead.”

“Yes, but according to Ardley, Clarence sketched some of his fellow spies. That’s what he wants me to look for. Such a drawing, if it exists, could be very useful in rooting out any traitors still lingering in positions of power.” That was what had finally convinced him to take on this ridiculous mission. He wished to see all traitors brought to justice.

Yet something about Ardley, something in his manner or his voice had made him suspicious. Ardley wanted something, yes, but Motton would wager it wasn’t a drawing of French spies.

Surely the man couldn’t be stupid enough to think he wouldn’t examine anything he found?

He leaned closer to Miss Parker-Roth. “Did you know Widmore well?”

“No. Mama knows his sister, Cleopatra. They are both painters, though Cleopatra paints flowers and fruit, while Mama paints”--Miss Parker-Roth suddenly turned red and cleared her throat--“other things.”

“Ah.” If the painting Stephen had hanging in his rooms was an indication of the bulk of Mrs. Parker-Roth’s work, he understood Jane’s embarrassment. Mrs. Parker-Roth appeared to have a fascination with nudes. “I see.”

His eyes dropped to her nightgown. It was primly buttoned to her chin, but if he loosened that line of buttons...

He would like to see Jane nude, sprawled across his bed--

Damn it, he could not be entertaining salacious thoughts about this particular young woman. Such fantasies were totally inappropriate--and he had a job to accomplish before the servants or Mrs. Parker-Roth discovered him here. Mrs. Parker-Roth might be an artist, but she was also a mother. She would not look favorably on a man having a tete-a-tete with her nightgown-clad daughter.      

“Are you familiar with the house, then? Do you have any idea where Widmore would have hidden a drawing?”

Miss Parker-Roth shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. We usually stay at the Pulteney Hotel when we come up for the Season. We’re only here this year because Cleopatra is on her honeymoon and offered us the use of her house.”

“I see.” It had been too much to hope she would hold the answer to this puzzle. He looked at the crowded bookshelves. Zeus, he did not relish going through each one of those tomes. And Widmore could easily have hidden the paper elsewhere. Almost anything--the desk, a chair, a bed--

No. No thinking of beds with Miss Parker-Roth in the room. It would be...entertaining to search her bedchamber--

No bedchambers.

The truth was, anything could conceal something as slim as a sheet of paper.

“Didn’t Lord Ardley have some suggestions as to where Clarence might have hidden the sketch?” Jane asked.

“Unfortunately, no.”

She stood, which put his eyes on level with...gave him an excellent view of...

He shot to his feet.

“It sounds to me as if you are forced to look for the proverbial needle in a haystack,” she was saying. “So I shall help you.”

Help him?  He caught a whiff of lemon and woman--which went directly to his groin. Blast. The only way she could help him was to lie down on the carpet and spread her legs.

He needed to haul his mind out of the gutter.

He’d have her lie on his bed instead--

Bloody hell! His imagination had never been this unruly before. He took what the women of easy virtue offered and left the other females--women like Miss Jane Parker-Roth--alone.

Miss Parker-Roth had pulled a book off the shelf. She opened it, turned it upside down, and shook it.

“What are you doing?”

She looked over her shoulder at him as she pulled out another book. “Helping you. You’ll be here all night if I don’t.” Nothing fell out of this book either. “You’ll probably be here all night even if I do.”

She was standing in front of the fire again. He could clearly see the curve of her breasts, the shadow of her nipples. If he looked lower, he knew he would see--

No, he would not look lower. He wrenched his gaze up to study the mantel. “You are not helping me.”

“Of course I am--don’t be so pigheaded. And why are you looking up there? Do you see something--ack!

He’d grabbed her arm. He couldn’t stand it any longer. “I said you are not helping me. You are going back upstairs to bed--”

Blast! She whirled to give him a piece of her mind, no doubt, and he stepped forward at the same time. Their bodies collided. Her soft, sweet body--her breasts and hips and belly against his hard...his rock hard, painfully hard--

Her tart, sweet scent enveloped him. She had tasted so good before. Her lips were just inches from his now. What harm could one small kiss do?

He bent his head. Just a small kiss. Just a brushing of lips. No tongues.

Just a small, good-night kiss...

Jane held her breath. He was going to kiss her again. She could tell. He had that intent, almost hot look in his eyes. He was staring at her mouth; her lips felt swollen, sensitive.   

She tilted her chin, closed her eyes. Every part of her--even some shockingly embarrassing parts--tingled with anticipation. Waiting...

Would it be as wonderful as the first time?

Would it be better?

Would it--

She felt him move away. Her eyes flew open. His eyes were still hot, but with anger instead of seduction.

“You are going to bed.”

“Huh?” She felt like a four-year-old being sent to her room with no supper for doing...what?

“You are going upstairs.” He tugged on her arm. “Now.”

“No.” She dug in her heels, but she was no match for his strength. He dragged her toward the door. “You’re hurting me.”

He paused. “Am I really hurting you or are you playing one of your tricks on me?”

Lord Motton was a fast learner, especially considering he had no siblings. Best not to answer that question.

“My lord, you know you need help.”

“I do not.”

“You do.”

He didn’t bother answering; he just moved closer to the door. She had to do something.

They’d reached the Pan statue. It was in pieces--obviously the work had been a plaster cast and not the solid stone she’d initially supposed. Her foot sent Pan’s mammoth member skittering across the carpet to slip between the legs of a small loveseat.

Had she seen something sticking out of the broken end, right before it had disappeared under the furniture? A piece of paper perhaps?

Excitement shivered up her spine. She had to get her hands on that penis.


Copyright © 2010 by Sally MacKenzie


Spinster House Series   •   Duchess of Love Series   •   Naked Nobility Series

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