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Authors: Tina Christopher

DangerbyDalliance

BOOK: DangerbyDalliance
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Danger by Dalliance

Tina
Christopher

 

Sequel to
Rescue by Ruin
.

 

Sarah Rigdon is desperate. Penniless
with taxes due, she can either beg mercy from the ruthless tax collector or
turn to the last man she wants to ask for help. Archer Latimer stirs desires no
proper lady would ever admit to. Though their meetings always end in quarrels,
she can’t deny the heat between them. When he agrees to help, Sarah thinks her
luck has turned. But she should have known nothing with Archer is ever easy.

Archer and his lover Warren Dorvee
have spent years searching for the right woman to complete their family. Both
believe luscious Sarah is the one and now have a chance to pursue her. After
all, the price of Archer’s help is for Sarah to pose for Warren’s latest
painting. Nude.

But trust has to be earned and a
crisis in London threatens their love. The three must navigate through lust,
lies and secrets or risk being torn apart forever.

 

Inside Scoop:
Contains m/m,
GLBT and ménage.

 

A Romantica®
historical erotic romance
from
Ellora’s Cave

 

Danger by Dalliance
Tina Christopher

 

Acknowledgments

 

I would like to thank Victoria Davies. You never hold back
and you push me to do better. Thank you for wielding your whip so accurately.
The teddy bear is no longer necessary ;) Huge thanks to Gina X. Grant and
Bonnie Staring for your invaluable input and assistance. I couldn’t do this
without you. And big thanks to Irene for the fabulous title.

 

Grace, thank you for being such an amazing editor. Thank you
for picking me and taking me on this wild ride. I wouldn’t be here without you.
I will miss you.

 

And a huge thank-you to my readers for accompanying me to my
Victorian London with a twist. It is quite the trip and I hope you will love it
here as much as I do.

 

 

Author Note

 

I have taken great liberties with the properties of ink in
this particular story. In 1844 the Bank of England became the sole distributer
of banknotes in England and Wales, but they did not add chemicals to the ink as
a security measure.

 

Chapter One

London, 1898

 

Miss Sarah Emma Rigdon wrinkled her nose and turned her back
on her best friend since childhood. A gasp went through the crowd of people
surrounding them. She wanted to turn back, show her support, be there for
Beatrice. But she couldn’t afford to draw the attention of gossipmongers.

She continued on with measured steps, ignoring the whispers
and stares around her. Her grip tightened on the handle of the bag she carried.
Her purse over her other wrist, she walked along the path.
Only a few more
steps, you’re nearly there.
Sarah kept her face expressionless, pretending
not to see or hear anything.

Finally she reached the gate exiting Hyde Park onto
Kensington Road. It was still quite a walk to the end of Stanford Road, but she
didn’t want to waste money on a hansom or steam taxi if her feet were perfectly
capable of taking her where she needed to go. Just about forty minutes later,
her arm aching from the weight of the bag, she arrived outside his house.

Sarah paused at the bottom of the steps. Even a few years
ago it would have been unthinkable for a young woman like her to visit a man by
herself, but progress had come to the Empire in the form of science and
invention, which in course had loosened some restrictions.

Just as long as she didn’t make visiting him a daily
occurrence, she would be fine.

She hated that she had to go to him with her metaphorical
hat in hand, but her alternatives were unacceptable. She exhaled, walked up the
stairs and used the brass knocker in the shape of a dragon.

How fitting.

The door opened to the butler, a tall, middle-aged man with
the pinched lips and disapproving eyes of his profession. “Good afternoon. How
may I help you?”

Sarah stepped inside the large entryway. “I am here to see—”

“Jennings, who is it?” The deep voice made her shiver.

Sarah stiffened and faced her nemesis. Archer Martin Latimer
leaned against the doorframe two doors down the main corridor, which probably
led to his office. Ink covered his fingers and he wore no coat.

Jennings raised his brows at her.

Unwilling to play Latimer’s games, she set down the bag,
handed the butler her coat and gloves. “Unless your eyesight has taken a
dramatic turn for the worse, you know very well who I am.”

For a moment Jennings stood and looked between the two of
them. “Sir, you have a visitor.”

Latimer smirked. “Miss Rigdon could be here for Mr. Dorvee.”

“Please, do not worry yourself, Jennings. I am indeed here
to see Mr. Latimer if he is free.”

The butler looked at his employer. “Anything else, sir?”

Latimer shook his head. “No, that will be all for now,
Jennings.”

They both watched Jennings walk away. An awkward silence
fell across the entrance hall. Finally Latimer straightened and waved Sarah
into his office. “If you would like to come in, Miss Rigdon.”

Sarah clung to the bag, and her composure, with both hands
as she walked closer. She had no idea what it was about him, but Archer Latimer
always threw her off balance, overwhelmed her with his presence and charisma.
Which was why she usually excused herself as soon as she could when they met at
gatherings and functions, and watched him from afar.

His office was like him—big, bold and brassy. Oversized
bookshelves covered every available wall space in dark wood, framing his strong
body. Half the shelves were filled with books, but the ones closest to the
large desk were filled with cogs and gears, small clockwork creatures and
contraptions she had no names for.

She lifted her hand as if to open the lid on top of a
circular brass box. Before she had even gotten close Latimer barked, “Don’t
touch that.”

She balled her hand into a fist and took a deep breath. The
scent of earth and paper filled the room, with a hint of engine oil thrown in.
Sarah would never admit it outside her own head, but Latimer’s sharp tone and
dominant demeanor loosened something deep inside her.

With him you wouldn’t always have to be in charge of
everything.

Dismissing the thought, a repetition of something that
swirled through her head every time she encountered him, she focused on the
task at hand.

Latimer gestured to a comfortable chair in front of the desk
before he dropped into the large-scale leather chair behind the workspace. His
tall figure made it look small. Chocolate-brown eyes set in a roughly hewn face
studied her. High cheekbones and a solid chin matched his powerful build. He
was an intimidating figure, but a small part of her in the furthest corner of
her mind knew that the woman he cared for would never have to worry about
facing the world on her own.

He flipped a gear and the raised rectangular area at the
center of the desk, up until now tilted toward him, slid down until it rested
back in the flat of the desktop.

“Interesting.” She saw he’d been working on technical
drawings. “It must make it that much easier to work.”

So what if she sounded like a ninny? She needed a moment
before she made her requests.

He raised his right eyebrow.

Sarah pursed her lips. She hated it when he gave her that
look.

Latimer smiled sardonically. “It does.” He rested his arms
on the desktop and leaned forward. “Color me surprised, Miss Rigdon. After our
last encounter I did not expect you to arrive on my doorstep.”

She clenched her jaw. Was he really going to bring that up
instead of just leaving it in the past where it belonged? “Whatever would make
you think that?”

He tapped a finger against the desk. “Well, you did call me
a bottom-feeding opportunist who stole other engineers’ hard work and used it
to grow my own fortune.”

“That was then. This is now. You should be well aware that
it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” She raised her chin, quaking
inside. Those words had exploded out of her after an agonizing day attempting
to mitigate the consequences of her father’s thoughtless behavior.

That day she had realized how much trouble they were in.

It had been unkind and hurtful and she’d immediately wished
to take back the words, but circumstances hadn’t allowed it. She hoped he would
read the apology in her face and let it go.

He captured her gaze for an endless moment before a smile
curved his firm lips. Appreciation sparkled in his eyes. “I would never dare to
question a woman’s right to anything. What has brought you to me today?”

“I am here for two reasons.” She lifted the bag onto her
lap, opened. With a hiss the pneumatic shrinking device that matched the bag to
whatever needed carrying released, and she removed a square metal box with two
colored lights on the top. “This is my father’s latest invention. He calls it
the Rigdon’s Banknote Verification Device.” She set it on the desk. “You feed a
banknote in here.” She pointed to a slit on the side. “The RBVD will test it.
If the note is false, the red light will flash.”

He stilled for a moment, his brow furrowed, before pulling
the machine closer. “What made your father go in this direction?”

“He’s been working on this for some time, but under the
current circumstances believed it deserved his complete focus.”

“What circumstances?”

If she had feathers he’d be ruffling them. Did he have to be
so methodical? “I am sure you are aware of what is happening in the city.”

“I am more surprised that you are. Why did you bring this to
me?”

She cleared her throat. Her chest tightened. “My father says
he has taken it as far as he can. Because of your previous partnership he’d
hoped you may be interested to see if you can identify the issues with the ink
scanner and take the device to its final conclusion.”

He sat back and steepled his hands before his face.

When he didn’t say anything for a minute her stomach
churned. He had to agree. Otherwise her father’s invention was only a pile of
junk soldered together and the trouble she was in had been for nothing. “Of
course your previously established conditions would remain.”

He lifted the machine off his desk and added it to one of
the shelves. “I will see what I can do.” Latimer returned to his chair and
tapped a finger against the armrest. “You mentioned two reasons for your
visit.”

Sarah bit her lip and tried to breathe evenly. A flush crept
across her cheeks. She’d prepared her speech, but now everything had vanished,
leaving her mentally racing to find the right words.

Everything, that is, except the impact his presence always
had on her. Sparks rushed through her stomach, spreading out toward the apex of
her thighs. She was glad she wore a thick tweed dress as her nipples hardened.

How did he do this to her every time she saw him? And what
was
this
?

“Miss Rigdon?”

“Of course, Mr. Latimer.” She exhaled and dragged her focus
back to where it needed to be. Kicking and screaming.

For a moment she wished she had some sort of feminine wiles
to use in this encounter, some way to distract him, dull his razor-sharp wit.
But looking after her father and their small house didn’t give her a lot of
opportunity to learn to be a coquette. “Mr. Latimer, I came here today to see
if you could—”

The door banged open and a man stormed into the room. He was
slightly taller than Latimer, but had a leaner build. Brown hair, two shades
lighter than Latimer’s, curled around his shoulders. He wore only trousers and
his shirt was untucked. He looked as if he’d been through a storm. His white
shirt was also covered in paint splatter and was half open.

A tingle went through Sarah when she saw his muscular chest
play peek-a-boo with her. She should look away, but she’d never seen this much
skin on a man.

Propriety be damned. She studied him from under her lashes.

She’d never met this man in her life, but the urge to stroke
her hands across the smooth-looking skin overcame her.

The passion gathering inside her simmered hotter.

“Arch, have you seen my notebook?” The new arrival raised
his head and saw her. He stopped. “Oh, I apologize. I hadn’t realized you had a
guest.”

To Sarah’s surprise he made no effort to button his shirt or
make himself more presentable. Instead he crossed his arms over his lean chest
and studied her. His gold-green eyes focused on her like a spotlight.

Latimer grimaced. “Jennings should have let you know.”

The two men exchanged a glance. Latimer appearing somewhat
tortured, the new arrival filled with mirth.

“Miss Rigdon, please let me introduce Warren Hugh Dorvee, a
dear friend and housemate.”

Dorvee bowed. “At your service, Miss Rigdon.”

Sarah swallowed. Their combined gazes made her shiver. The
office seemed unnaturally hot. Even in their somewhat casual state of dress
Latimer and Dorvee dominated the room. She wanted to get up and touch them, rub
her hand across Dorvee’s muscular abdomen and see if the dark hair on Latimer’s
forearms, bared by the rolled-up sleeves, was as soft as it appeared.

These shocking thoughts pulled Sarah back from the brink.
Her heart pounded, but she concentrated on her responsibilities and duties. She
couldn’t afford to be anything but above reproach.

Even in her own mind.

“Mr. Dorvee, are—” She cleared her throat, uncomfortable
with how sensual her voice sounded. “Are you a painter?”

Dorvee leaned against the side of the desk. “I am, Miss
Rigdon. What gave me away?” Laughter shimmered in his eyes, highlighting the
gold sparks in the deep green. Laughter and an appreciation that made the tips
of her breasts tingle.

“Oh, I don’t know.” She couldn’t help but fall in with the
teasing. “Maybe the colorful decorations on your shirt?”

He pulled his shirt away from his body, giving her another
glimpse of a muscular abdomen and a narrow line of hair ending in his trousers.
Brief as it might have been, her hard nipples rubbed against her chemise and
the boning of her corset. Sparks traveled from her breasts to her stomach and
below.

“Maybe I am only starting a new fashion trend.”

Her lips twitched, but then she met Latimer’s look and the
heat inside her turned into a blaze. Sarah had always thought of it as anger,
but now she realized it was something else.

Something she had no name for.

Something that was caused by the two men before her.

She swallowed. “I am not sure your new trend will replace
current fashions right away, but don’t give up. You’ll never know what might be
possible with a little bit of patience.”

“How very true, Miss Rigdon, how very true.”

They both looked at her.

Latimer by himself was unsettling enough, but the two of
them combined, side by side, were overwhelming. And Dorvee’s hands kept
twitching as if he wanted to reach for something. Did he have a condition?

When the silence between them approached awkward, Latimer
turned to Dorvee. “Apologies, Warren, but I have not seen your notebook. Have
you checked the sunroom? That is the last place I saw you with it.”

Dorvee’s face lit up. “No, I’d forgotten I’d been sketching
in there the other day. Thanks, I’ll have a look.”

Sarah smiled at him. “I hope you find your book.”

Latimer and his friend shared a quick glance filled with
words she couldn’t interpret. She could have sworn a flash of emotion so hot it
made her shiver passed between the two men.

She tugged at the cuffs of her blouse. What a ridiculous
notion. She was aware that there were some men who preferred the company of
other men, but she’d heard enough of Latimer’s adventures to be certain he did
not fall into this category. And bachelors often shared accommodations.

Every artist needed a patron and Lord knew Latimer had the
funds to be the handsome man’s personal Svengali.

BOOK: DangerbyDalliance
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