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Authors: Amanda Quick

Rendezvous

BOOK: Rendezvous
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“You should have come directly to me.”

Augusta narrowed her eyes. “What would have been the point? You would have lectured me and made a most unpleasant scene, just as you are doing now.”

“I would have taken care of the matter for you,” Harry said grimly. “And you would not have put your neck and your reputation at risk as you did tonight.”

“It seems to me, my lord, that both of our necks and our reputations were at risk tonight.” Augusta tried a tentative smile of appeasement. “And I must say, you were most impressive. I am very glad you turned up when you did, sir. It seems to me it all turned out for the best and we should both be thankful the thing is over.”

“Do you really believe I am going to let the matter rest there?”

Augusta drew herself up proudly. “I will, of course, understand completely if you feel my actions tonight have put me beyond the pale. If you feel you cannot possibly tolerate the notion of marrying me, I shall be quite willing to cry off and free you from this engagement.”

“Free me, Augusta?” Harry reached out to catch hold of her wrist. “I fear that is impossible now. I have come to the conclusion that I shall never be free of you. You are going to bedevil me for the rest of my life and if that is to be my fate, I may as well take what consolation I can for what I shall be obliged to endure.”

Before Augusta had time to realize what he intended, Harry had yanked her across the short distance between them. An instant later she found herself lying across his strong thighs, as his mouth came down on hers.…

Rendezvous

Bantam Books by Amanda Quick

Ask your bookseller
for the books you have missed

AFFAIR
DANGEROUS
DECEPTION
DESIRE
DON’T LOOK BACK
I THEE WED
LATE FOR THE WEDDING
MISCHIEF
MISTRESS
MYSTIQUE
RAVISHED
RECKLESS
RENDEZVOUS
SCANDAL
SEDUCTION
SLIGHTLY SHADY
SURRENDER
WICKED WIDOW
WITH THIS RING

FOR TWO VALUED EDITORS
:

Coleen O’Shea, who took a chance

on the first Amanda Quick books

AND

Rebecca Cabaza, who edits them now

with understanding and perception
.

MY THANKS

PROLOGUE

T
he
war was over.

The man once known as Nemesis stood at the window of his study and listened to the clamor in the streets. All London was celebrating the final defeat of Napoléon at Waterloo as only Londoners could celebrate. Fireworks, music, and the roar of thousands of exuberant people filled the city.

It was over, but as far as Nemesis was concerned it was not finished. Now it appeared it would never be finished, at least not to his satisfaction. The identity of the traitor who had called himself Spider was still a mystery. The final puzzle must go unsolved. There would be no justice for those who had died at the Spider’s hands.

As for Nemesis, he knew it was time to get on with his own life. He had duties and responsibilities to fulfill, not the least of which was the matter of finding himself a suitable bride. He would approach the task as he approached everything else, with logic and intellectual precision.
He would make up a list of candidates and he would choose one from the list.

He knew exactly what he wanted in a wife. For the sake of his name and title, she must be a woman of virtue. For the sake of his soul she must be a woman he could trust, a woman who understood the meaning of loyalty.

Nemesis had lived too long in the shadows. He had learned the true value of trust and loyalty and he knew they were priceless.

He listened to the noise in the streets.
It was over
. No man was more grateful for an end to the appalling waste of war than the man who had been called Nemesis.

But a part of him would always regret that there had been no final rendezvous between himself and the bloody traitor known as Spider.

T
here
was no sound as the library door was opened, but the slight draft created caused the candle flame to flicker. Crouched in the shadows at the opposite end of the long room, Augusta Ballinger froze in the act of trying to insert a hairpin into the lock of her host’s desk.

From her damning position on her knees behind the massive oak desk she stared in stunned shock at the single candle she had allowed herself for illumination. The flame sputtered once more as the door was closed very softly. With a gathering sense of dread, Augusta peered over the edge of the desk and gazed down the length of the darkened room.

The man who had entered the library stood quietly in the inky depths near the door. He was tall and appeared to be wearing a black dressing gown. She could not see his face in the gloom. Nevertheless, as she crouched there holding her breath, Augusta was aware of a deep, disturbing sense of awareness.

Only one man had this effect on Augusta’s senses. She
did not need to see him clearly in order to hazard a guess as to who lounged there like a large beast of prey in the shadows. She was almost certain it was Graystone.

He was not sounding an alarm, however, which was an enormous relief. It was strange how at ease he appeared to be in the darkness, as if it were his natural environment. Then again, Augusta thought optimistically, perhaps he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps he had only come downstairs to look for a book and assumed the candle had been carelessly left behind by someone who had come down before him.

For an instant Augusta even dared to hope he had not noticed her peering anxiously at him over the top of the desk. Perhaps he had failed to observe her there at the other end of the big room. If she was very careful she might still get out of this mess with her reputation intact. She ducked her head behind the edge of the heavily carved oak.

She heard no footfalls on the thick Persian carpet, but a moment later the man spoke from no more than a few feet away.

“Good evening, Miss Ballinger. I trust you have found something suitably edifying to read down there behind Enfield’s desk? But surely the light is rather poor in that location.”

Augusta recognized the terrifyingly calm, unemotional male voice at once and groaned silently as her worst fears were confirmed. It
was
Graystone.

Just her bad luck that of all the guests who were inhabiting Lord Enfield’s country house this weekend, her discoverer was her uncle’s good friend. Harry Fleming, Earl of Graystone, was the one man in the house who probably would not believe any of the glib tales she had carefully prepared.

Graystone made Augusta uneasy for several reasons, one of which was that he had a disconcerting manner of looking straight into her eyes as if he would look into her very soul
and demand the truth. Another reason she was wary around him was that he was simply too bloody damned clever.

Frantically Augusta began sorting among the various stories she had planned to use in just such an eventuality as this. It would have to be a very clever story. Graystone was no fool. He was gravely dignified, chillingly correct, and at times solemnly pompous as far as Augusta was concerned, but he was no fool.

Augusta decided she had no choice but to brazen out the embarrassing situation. She forced herself to smile very brightly as she looked up with a feigned little start of surprise.

“Oh, hello, my lord. I did not expect to encounter anyone here in the library at this hour. I was just searching for a hairpin. I seem to have dropped one.”

“There appears to be a hairpin stuck in the lock of the desk.”

Augusta managed another amazed start and jumped to her feet. “Good heavens. So there is. What a very odd place for it to have landed.” Her fingers trembled as she snatched the pin out of the lock and dropped it into the pocket of her chintz wrapper. “I came downstairs to look for something to read because I could not sleep and the next thing I knew, I had lost my hairpin.”

Graystone solemnly considered her bright smile in the pale glow of the candle flame. “I am surprised you could not sleep, Miss Ballinger. You certainly had plenty of exercise today. I believe you participated in the archery contest organized for the ladies this afternoon, and then there was the long walk to the old Roman ruins and the picnic. All topped off by a great deal of dancing and whist this evening. One would have thought you’d have been quite exhausted.”

“Yes, well, I expect the unfamiliarity of my surroundings is to blame. You know how it is, my lord, when one sleeps in a strange bed.”

His cool gray eyes, which always made Augusta think of
a cold winter sea, gleamed faintly. “What an interesting observation. Do you sleep in a lot of strange beds, Miss Ballinger?”

Augusta stared at him, uncertain how to take the question. A part of her was very nearly inclined to believe there might have been a deliberate sexual innuendo in Graystone’s seemingly polite remark. But that was impossible, she quickly decided. This was
Graystone
, after all. He would never do or say anything the least improper in the presence of a lady. Of course, he might not consider her a lady, she reminded herself bleakly.

“No, my lord, I do not have much opportunity to travel and therefore have not grown accustomed to the notion of changing beds frequently. Now, if you will excuse me, I had best be getting back upstairs. My cousin might awaken and notice I am gone. She would worry.”

“Ah, yes. The lovely Claudia. We certainly would not want the Angel to become concerned about her hoyden of a cousin, would we?”

Augusta winced. It was obvious she had sunk quite low in the earl’s estimation. Graystone clearly considered her an ill-mannered baggage. She could only hope he did not also think her a thief.

“No, my lord, I would not want to worry Claudia. Good evening, sir.” Head high, she made to step around him. He did not move and she was forced to halt directly in front of him. He was extremely large, she noticed. Standing this close, she felt overwhelmed by the solid, unyielding strength in him. Augusta gathered her courage.

“Surely you do not intend to keep me from returning to my bedchamber, my lord?”

Graystone’s brows rose slightly. “I would not want you to go back upstairs without that which you came for.”

Augusta’s mouth went dry.
He could not possibly know about Rosalind Morrissey’s journal
. “As it happens, I feel quite sleepy now, my lord. I do not think I shall need anything to read, after all.”

“Not even the item you hoped to find in Enfield’s desk?”

Augusta took refuge in high dudgeon. “How dare you imply I was attempting to get into Lord Enfield’s desk? I told you, my hairpin simply happened to land in the lock when it fell.”

“Allow me, Miss Ballinger.” Graystone removed a length of wire from his dressing gown pocket and slid it gently into the desk lock. There was a faint but quite distinct
snick
.

Augusta watched in astonishment as he eased open the top drawer and studied the contents. Then he waved a casual hand, inviting her to search for what she wanted.

BOOK: Rendezvous
12.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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