Read A Taste of Temptation Online

Authors: Amelia Grey

Tags: #Regency, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Historical, #London (England), #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Historical Fiction, #General, #Love Stories

A Taste of Temptation (8 page)

BOOK: A Taste of Temptation
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Perhaps it was because she hadn’t slept well. Usually she had no trouble finding slumber, but it had eluded her last night.

She’d been up and dressed since dawn, impatiently waiting for her aunt to come belowstairs. When midday had passed and there was still no sign of Agatha, Olivia inquired about her. Their maid Susan replied that her aunt had said she would be down later.

It was fast approaching midafternoon and she still hadn’t appeared. A couple of hours before, Olivia had wanted to barge into her aunt’s chamber without permission and demand they talk, but after last night, Olivia was reluctant to enter anyone’s room without an invitation.

Olivia stood in the middle of the parlor and looked around the room. What else could she do but pace until her aunt chose to join her? Olivia had already lost all patience for trying to read, write poetry, or work with the needle.

The constant drizzle of rain had made a walk in the gardens impossible. It wasn’t like her to be so twitchy, but then it wasn’t like her to let a complete stranger kiss her, either.

What strange phenomena had caused her to behave in such a brazen manner?

She didn’t like the unsettled feeling inside her. Her hands dropped to her sides as she strolled around the room taking time to look closely at each object. She didn’t par-ticularly want to dwell on the contents of the house, but she was struggling to find something to keep her mind off a certain rogue earl.

The house Agatha had leased for the spring and summer was small but elegantly decorated with exceptional furniture, fine rugs, and expensive paintings. The draperies were rich red velvet trimmed military style with gold fringe and brass rosettes. Even accessories like the candlesticks, lamps, and figurines had the look of excellent quality.

It was clear no expense had been spared with the furnishings or with the kitchen and flower gardens, which were tended every day by the servants who worked for the owners of the house. Olivia knew she and her aunt had only been allowed to lease the town house in the exclusive district of Mayfair because Agatha had known the owners for many years and they were quite fond of her.

Olivia stopped to stare at a painting that hung on the wall by a handsome chair upholstered in a fine Chinese silk. It portrayed a young lady and her beau standing in the middle of a crowded dance floor. The gentleman was bowing as he kissed her hand, but his eyes were looking up at her face.

She was smiling back at him.

What surprised Olivia was that she’d been in this room every day for over a month and this was the first time she’d looked at the painting and saw the romance between the two people. The expression on the face of the gentleman spoke of the desire he had for the lovely maiden.

Had Lord Dugdale looked at her like that last night?

Had she wanted him to? Had she offered him even a hint of a smile?

All night she’d remembered each touch of the earl’s fingertips on her skin. She’d felt the pressure of his lips on hers, the warmth of his arms and the whispered breath of each word he spoke.

Olivia and Agatha had left Lord Dugdale’s home immediately after they quit his chamber. Olivia had wanted to stay at the party. She didn’t like the feeling that she was running away or hiding from him or anyone else. But Agatha wouldn’t hear of remaining. She insisted that leaving was the proper thing to do.

In the carriage on the way home Olivia had expected to get a stern dressing down and to be questioned at length about being caught with Lord Dugdale in his room, but the only thing Agatha had been interested in was whether or not Olivia had seen or sensed any signs that Lord Pinkwater’s ghost might be present.

Clearly there were times her aunt wasn’t in her right mind, and that worried Olivia.

Agatha told her that everything with Lord Dugdale would be satisfactorily worked out later. She insisted that finding Lord Pinkwater would be the bigger challenge.

The gloomy day had given Olivia too much time on her hands to think about her intimate encounter with Lord Dugdale and his lingering kisses. She’d been kissed once by a young suitor—if their light touching of lips could be called kissing when compared to the way Lord Dugdale had manipulated his lips across hers.

Her stomach quickened deliciously just thinking about the way the earl had made her feel. But when that young man had given her her first kiss, she hadn’t felt struck by lightning as she had when the earl’s warm mouth covered hers.

She didn’t understand it but knew she couldn’t imagine not ever feeling that wonderful sensation again.

Suddenly Olivia’s breath caught in her throat.

Was it possible that’s why her mother had been so attracted to Olivia’s rogue father and why her aunt continued to pine after Lord Pinkwater? Had her mother and Agatha felt the same stirrings from those men as she had felt when Lord Dugdale kissed her?

She shook her head to clear away the silly notions and continued her stroll. So much for not wanting to think about the handsome earl. If sewing, reading, and studying lovely objects didn’t keep her mind off Lord Dugdale, what would?

She must find something to occupy her thoughts while she waited for her aunt.

“Good afternoon, Livy.”

Olivia spun and saw Agatha floating into the parlor looking like a streak of sunshine in a yellow-sprigged dress that flattered her aunt’s tall, slender figure.

“Auntie,” she said almost breathless, “why have you taken so long coming down? I’ve been waiting all day to talk to you.”

Keeping a smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes Agatha said, “What kind of morning greeting is that?”

“It’s not morning. It’s past two in the afternoon. I’ve been up for hours wanting to talk to you.” Olivia could have added that she hadn’t slept more than a wink or two but Agatha looked so cheerful that Olivia didn’t have the heart to say anything that might make her feel bad.

“Oh, my dear, I am sorry about that, but I was resting so well I simply lingered over my chocolate and toast and then I had other things to do.”

Concern crept inside Olivia. “You aren’t feeling ill again, are you?”

“Heaven’s angels, no. I’m in the pink. After I rose and dressed I had too many things to do before I could come down. I had invitations to respond to and I had several correspondences to write. Oh, Livy, I feel like I’m home again. I’ve missed London and I’m enjoying every moment of being here.”

Concern turned to confusion. Agatha’s behavior had been so irrational of late. Olivia wouldn’t have been surprised if her aunt had taken to her sick bed over the incident in Lord Dugdale’s chambers last night, but she didn’t seem the least upset about it.

That worried Olivia.

“I didn’t realize you had missed living in the city so much.”

Agatha laughed softly. “Neither did I, but I think I’m coming alive again for the first time in years. I’ve stepped right back into Society as if I’d just left yesterday. It’s a splendid feeling.”

A bit of hope sprang up in Olivia. If her aunt felt as if she were coming alive again maybe she’d stop searching for a man who died over thirty years ago. “You are looking wonderful, Auntie. I’m sorry to have kept you away so long from the life you loved.”

Agatha’s eyes widened then narrowed and softened just as suddenly.

She stepped closer to Olivia. “Never say such nonsense again, Livy. You didn’t take me away from anything. I left London because I wanted to take care of you. I was sad for you losing your mother but happy for myself that your father didn’t want you. I knew I would never have children of my own, so you were a welcome gift to me.” Olivia’s love for her aunt grew. She smiled at Agatha and nodded. “Thank you, Auntie.”

“I have loved you as if you were my own daughter and I always will.”

Olivia’s heart melted. She hugged Agatha’s thin frame affectionately.

“I’ve never regretted a moment I spent in your father’s house, but I am pleased to be back in London Society with all its parties, its fame, and its secrets, but that said, I wouldn’t be happy if you weren’t here with me. The parties have been grand, don’t you think? And now there’s a little excitement going on, a little taste of scandal in the air. It’s just like the old days.”

Olivia was incredulous.

“But the scandal is about me, Auntie. How can you be excited about that?”

“Oh, Livy, scandal can be a good thing as long as it is dealt with properly in the end.” Agatha smiled triumphantly.

“And I assure you this scandal will be.”

“How? I’m unsettled about last evening. And I can’t understand why you aren’t outraged that I wasn’t more careful in my chance meeting with Lord Dugdale.”

“There’s no reason to be. At my age, Livy, few things upset me and even less outrages me. The damage was done once you were seen with him in his room. The only thing left to do is handle it. And I shall.” The way Olivia wanted it dealt with was to return to Kent, find a nice man like Mr. Yost to marry, and live a quiet life. She didn’t want to be plagued with remembrances of mint scented soap, whispered words, and stirring kisses.

“But you know I was in there looking for Lord Pinkwater’s ghost.”

“It doesn’t matter if all Society knows. The reason behind the two of you being in there at the same time is not important. How it’s settled is. I received a correspondence from Lord Dugdale this morning. He was very prompt. He will be calling on us within minutes.” Olivia’s stomach felt as if it rolled over. It was an odd feeling; she wanted to see him and she didn’t.

“Why are you forcing him to come over, Auntie? I really wish you wouldn’t.”

“What an odd thing to say. He’s a gentleman. He must.”

“But I would very much like to forget that I ever stepped foot in his bedchamber last night. In fact, I should be happy never to see him or the inside of his house again.”

“You will see him. I immediately sent a note back to him saying we would be expecting him. I have no doubt that everything will be worked out perfectly.”

“But what is there to work out? I want nothing to do with the earl.”

His kisses made her feel too many things she didn’t want to feel for a titled man with a rogue’s reputation.

“That’s not a solution. Let me take care of this, Livy. I have a bit more experience dealing with the rules of Society than you do. I knew I shouldn’t have let you search the house for Lord Pinkwater’s ghost. I blame myself for this and I have every intentions of making things right for you.”

“Lady Lynette is such a nice lady, I don’t think she would breathe a word to anyone. Maybe you could persuade the Lord Mayor’s wife not to say anything about what she saw?”

“I’m afraid it’s too late for that. The afternoon edition of the
Daily Reader
was delivered to my room just before I came down. Lord Truefitt’s column has already published that a young lady was seen in Lord Dugdale’s bedchamber.”

“What? How did they get the story and print it so quickly?”

“Gossip has wings like a bird. It flies, my dear.”

“Did the column mention my name?”

“No, no names in this issue, but that does not mean Lord Truefitt doesn’t know. And don’t even ask how he finds out about such things. All the writers of scandal sheets have their little spies at every party. It’s simply how Society works. Something this delicious couldn’t possibly be kept from the eyes and the ears of the
ton
. That would be unforgivable.”

“You think that even if I’m the one being talked about?”

Agatha sounded like she was enjoying this, but that couldn’t possibly be true.

“The proper settlement can silence the sharpest of tongues when it comes to scandal.”

Olivia cringed. She had allowed the earl to touch her and kiss her. And worst of all, she’d enjoyed it far more than she should have.

“Now, there’s no reason to fret, Livy. I’ve sent a letter to your great uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, seeking his counsel.”

“The Duke? He’s not really my uncle is he?”

“Of course he is—by way of three or four marriages to be sure, but he’s still related to you.”

“But why mention last night to him? I don’t understand.” Agatha reached down and picked up Olivia’s discarded embroidery and looked at it. “For one thing, he’s always been a favorite of the king as well as being in excellent standing with the prince. Lord Dugdale would know this.

Besides, the duke would want to be consulted in this matter as you are a distant relative and without a close male guardian.”

An unusual feeling of unease stole over Olivia. Confer-ring with the powerful duke seemed over the top for such an innocent—partially innocent—meeting with an earl.

Was this really happening? All she had wanted to do was spare her aunt the stigma of being remembered as an old woman who had gone mad and searched houses for ghosts.

“Besides all that, I’m eager to hear what Lord Dugdale has to say for himself,” her aunt added.

Olivia was not one to run away from anything, but she didn’t want to be pushed into anything, either.

Agatha looked up from the embroidery and said, “I’ve always said you do lovely work, Livy. You have an eye for color and design.”

Olivia wasn’t going to be distracted. “Auntie, it’s time for us to quit this idea of finding a ghost and go back home.” Agatha laid the sewing aside and looked into Olivia’s eyes. “Last night changed everything, Livy. This is home now for both of us.”

Her aunt’s words were far too final sounding for Olivia.

They chilled her.

“Excuse me, Miss Loudermilk,” the housekeeper said.

“The Earl of Dugdale has arrived.”

BOOK: A Taste of Temptation
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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