How to Sin Successfully (Rakes Beyond Redemption), страница 1
RIORDAN BARRETT: LAST RAKE STANDING
With his comrade rakes-in-arms succumbing to respectability, anyone might think that wicked Riordan Barrett is next. But such happy endings aren’t for him —the whole of society knows there isn’t a redeemable bone in his sinfully sexy body.
Suddenly Riordan finds himself not only an earl...but father to two young wards!
His only experience is in the art of irresponsibility. This rake needs help—and hiring a young, pretty governess won’t be such a hardship!
Sweet, innocent Maura Caulfield is the only lady in London seemingly unaware of Riordan’s disreputable ways. But it won’t stay like that for long. He’ll show her just how much fun sinning can be....
He pressed a finger to her lips and shook his head. “Call me Riordan and I shall call you Maura. No more Lord Chatham and Miss Caulfield.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Too much familiarity would breed all nature of problems, not the least of which would be the assumption their relationship as employer and employee was more than it should be. It was much the same logic that governed why farmers didn’t name cows they slaughtered.
“Well, I do.” Riordan pressed, his hands most indecently placed at her hips in an intimate, possessive fashion.
“You have been drinking.” Maura persisted, but without any real chagrin. That something she’d sensed earlier was about to ignite.
“I have been a great many things tonight, Maura.” He drawled her name, purposely defiant. She could feel the heat of his hands warm and welcoming at her hips as they drew her closer until their bodies met. His blue eyes held hers.
“I’ve been dancing and jumping, and most of all, I’ve been in a room with a beautiful woman far too long without kissing her.”
How to Sin Successfully
Harlequin® Historical #1113—November 2012
Introducing a deliciously sinful and witty new trilogy from Bronwyn Scott
Rakes Beyond Redemption
Too wicked for polite society...
They’re the men society mamas warn their daughters about...and the men that innocent debutantes find scandalously irresistible!
The notorious Merrick St. Magnus knows just
HOW TO DISGRACE A LADY
The untamable Ashe Bedevere needs no lessons in HOW TO RUIN A REPUTATION
The shameless Riordan Barrett is an unequaled master in HOW TO SIN SUCCESSFULLY
Be sure not to miss any of these sexy men!
Available from Harlequin® Historical and BRONWYN SCOTT
Pickpocket Countess #889
Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady #896
The Viscount Claims His Bride #929
The Earl’s Forbidden Ward #986
Untamed Rogue, Scandalous Mistress #1001
A Thoroughly Compromised Lady #1030
Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante #1058
*How to Disgrace a Lady #1104
*How to Ruin a Reputation #1108
*How to Sin Successfully #1113
*Rakes Beyond Redemption
And in ebooks from Harlequin Historical Undone!
Libertine Lord, Pickpocket Miss
Pleasured by the English Spy
Wicked Earl, Wanton Widow
Arabian Nights with a Rake
An Illicit Indiscretion
*How to Live Indecently
And in Harlequin Historical Royal Weddings ebook Prince Charming in Disguise
How to Sin Successfully
For my extraordinary husband and my awesome kids, who all are so patient with my writing schedule, and for the puppy, Apollo, who isn’t. I love you all.
Welcome to Rakes Beyond Redemption. If this is your first look at the series or your last because you’ve been with us the whole way it doesn’t matter! Each of the three books stands alone quite well. But why miss one when the series features three sexy men? If you’re just joining us, let me catch you up.
The premise of the series is to explore how three second sons are transformed by family or personal crisis from their fast-living, hard-loving lifestyles to being men who take pride in their families and position in society. Really, the ultimate Regency makeover.
In Book One, How to Disgrace a Lady, Merrick finds himself at the heart of a wager that compromises the honor of a lady. In Book Two, How to Ruin a Reputation, Ashe must rise to the challenge of meeting the conditions of his father’s will in order to save the earldom. In Book Three, How to Sin Successfully, Riordan has instant fatherhood thrust upon him when he inherits two young wards.
Enter Maura, governess number six. She enchants both the children...and Riordan! But in order to hold true to her principles Maura knows she’ll have to resist the charming earl—unless he can convince her one can sin successfully....
P.S. It’s the gentlemen who get all the action in Rakes Beyond Redemption, but it’s the ladies who set the ton on its ear next, in my forthcoming duet. Stay tuned for more about two women who redefine what it means to be a lady.
May 1835, London—the official opening of the Season Rumour held that Riordan Barrett could bring a woman to climax at fifteen feet using only his eyes. At close range, the possibilities were endless, just like the lush curves of Lady Meacham’s delectable body. Riordan rested a light hand on the small of said lady’s back, contemplating those possibilities as he ushered her through the throng gathered at Somerset House to mark the beginning of the Season with the annual Royal Academy art exhibition.
Lady Meacham tossed him a coy glance that left no doubt she was thinking the same. He knew what she wanted, what they all wanted; she wanted the rumours to be true. She wanted to experience the pleasure he was reputed to offer. He wanted it, too, wanted to lose himself in it for a little while. He was good at that —losing himself in pleasures. Cards, wagering, racing, drinking, the usual vices of a gentleman—he knew them all. He was no stranger to the debauches of the demi-monde or the bedchambers of other men’s wives. He and the Lady Meachams of the world both knew why. ‘Pleasure’ was just another word for ‘escape’, a less-desperate word.
Desperate already and the Season had only just begun. When had the glitter of a London spring full of balls and beautiful women lost its shine? Riordan shook off the thought and manoeuvred Lady Meacham in front of Turner’s latest: a depiction of the burning of the House of Lords and Commons which had taken place last October. If this went well, he’d spend the afternoon immersed in Lady Meacham’s voluptuous charms, sprawled in his bed, forgetting.
Riordan bent to Lady Meacham’s ear and began the game in earnest. ‘Note how Turner’s brush conveys the energy of
‘You’re quite the expert on, ah, stroke technique,’ Lady Meacham murmured, her body angling subtly so that her breasts brushed the sleeve of his coat in discreet invitation.
‘I’m an expert at a great many things, Lady Meacham,’ Riordan replied in private tones.
‘Perhaps you should call me Sarah.’ She tapped his sleeve playfully with her furled fan. ‘You’re so well informed. I must ask, do you paint, yourself?’
‘I dabble a bit.’ He’d painted with more aspiration than dabbling once upon a time. But somewhere between then and now, painting had stopped occupying a central place in his life, much to his regret and to his surprise. He couldn’t recall how it had happened, only that he no longer painted.
Lady Meacham, Sarah, looked up at him from beneath long lashes, a smug smile playing on her lips. ‘And what is it that you paint?’ This conversation was going precisely where they both intended it. Riordan had his response ready.
‘Nudes, Sarah. I paint nudes. They tell me it tickles.’ Lady Meacham gave a throaty laugh at his naughty innuendo, the final confirmation she was willing to forgo Somerset House’s overheated Great Room for a more comfortable address off Piccadilly and his brushes.
Her hand lingered overlong on his sleeve in a communication of familiarity.
‘There really is no speck of decency in you, is there?’
Riordan covered her gloved hand with his, his voice a low leonine rumble for her alone. ‘Not a scrap, I’m afraid.’
Her eyes lit at the possibilities the phrase invoked, a coy, knowing smile on her kissable mouth. ‘I find that quality positively delicious in a man.’
She was more than willing and less than a challenge. It was somewhat disappointing she’d been caught so easily. Still, he should feel more excitement over the conquest, more desire. Sarah Meacham was a prize indeed. Her husband was out of town with his mistress and gossip at White’s had it she was looking to take her first lover since the birth of the ‘spare’ last autumn. There’d been bets laid as to who that lover would be.
He’d come up to town specifically to win that wager, in case anyone doubted there wasn’t a redeemable bone in his body. He couldn’t have it be said Riordan Barrett was losing his touch, that his brother, Elliott, had finally talked some sense into him. The fates had decreed that Elliott, the heir, was to be good, so very good, and Riordan, the spare, was to be bad, so very bad, a natural juxtaposition to his beloved brother’s goodness. So here he was, up to town early, cutting short a visit with his brother in Sussex, to swive another man’s wife and prove to everyone Riordan Barrett was as wicked as rumour reported.
It was all very sordid if one dwelled on the details long enough or if one didn’t have enough to drink. Over the last year, Riordan had discovered it was taking more and more of the latter to keep himself from doing the former. His silver flask was ever-present in his coat pocket and, right now, he was too sober for his preference.
Riordan reached for the flask, only to be interrupted by the approach of a footman bearing a silver salver and a sealed letter. ‘Milord, pardon the intrusion.
This arrived for you with the utmost urgency.’
Riordan studied the letter with curiosity. He didn’t have an interest in politics or any business investments that required his attention. In short, he was definitely not the sort of man people sought out with any of the urgency implied by the footman. He broke the seal and scanned the four short lines scribed in inky precision by Browning, the family solicitor, then re-read them in the hope that repetition would make the note any less fantastical, any less horrifying.
‘Not bad news, I hope?’ Lady Meacham enquired, her hazel eyes wide with concern, proving he looked as pale as he felt.
Not bad news—the worst news. The news would be all over London within a day, but London wouldn’t hear it from him. He wasn’t ready to dissemble to his latest affaire in the midst of the Academy art show. Riordan gathered his remaining senses and fixed Lady Meacham with a rakish smile to mask his roiling, rising emotions. ‘My dear, I regret my plans have changed.’ He gave a short, sardonic bow. ‘If you’ll excuse me? It seems I have become a father.’
He’d reach for his flask, but there seemed little point. There wasn’t enough brandy in the world to ease this. He was going to need help. He’d take any he could get.
‘I’ll take anything you have.’ Maura Harding sat ramrod straight with her gloved hands folded demurely in her lap. She strove to sound affable instead of desperate.
She wasn’t desperate. Maura forced herself to believe the near-fiction. If she didn’t believe it, no one else would. Desperation would make her an easy target.
People could sense desperation like dogs smelled fear.
According to the small watch pinned to her bodice, it was half past ten in the morning. She’d come straight from the mail coach to Mrs Pendergast’s Referral Service for Young Ladies of Good Breeding and she needed a position by nightfall.
She’d been right on schedule up to this point—the point where Mrs Pendergast peered over the rims of her spectacles and hesitated.
‘I don’t see any references.’ Mrs Pendergast’s impressive bosom heaved in disapproval as she made her pronouncement.
Maura drew a deep breath, silently repeating the mantra that had sustained her on the long journey from Exeter: In London there would be help. She would not give up now simply because she had no references. After all, she’d known this would be a likely obstacle. ‘It’s my first time seeking a position, ma’am.’ First time using an assumed name, first time travelling outside of Devonshire, first time on my own...quite a lot of firsts, Mrs Pendergast, if you only knew.
Mrs Pendergast’s brows went up in an expression of doubt. She set down Maura’s carefully written paper and fixed Maura with an uncompromising stare.
‘I do not have time to play games, Miss Caulfield.’ The false name sounded, well, false to Maura, who had spent her whole life being Miss Harding. Could Mrs Pendergast tell? Did it sound as false to her? Did she suspect?
Mrs Pendergast rose to indicate the interview was over. ‘I am very busy. I’m sure you did not fail to notice the crowded waiting room full of young ladies with references, all eager to be placed in households. I suggest you try your luck elsewhere.’
This was a disaster. She could not leave here without a position. Where else would she go? She knew of no other referral agencies. She knew of this one only because one of her own governesses had mentioned it once. Maura thought quickly. ‘I have something better than references, ma’am. I have skills.’ Maura gestured towards the discarded paper. ‘I can do fine needlework, I can sing, I can dance, I can speak French. I can even paint watercolours.’ Maura paused. Her accomplishments did not seem to impress Mrs Pendergast.
When reasoning failed, there was always begging. ‘Please, ma’am, I have nowhere else to go. You must have something? I can be a companion to an elderly lady, a governess to a young girl. I can be anything. Surely, there’s one family in London that needs me.’
It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. London was a big city with far more opportunities than those offered in the remote Devonshire countryside outside Exeter where everyone knew everyone, a situation Maura was trying very hard to avoid. She didn’t want to be known, although she was fast discovering that choice came with its own consequences. She was now officially a stranger in a strange place and her carefully concocted plan was in jeopardy.
It worked. Mrs Pendergast sat back down and opened a desk drawer. ‘I might have something.’
She rifled through the drawer and pulled out a folder. ‘It’s not exactly a “family”
situation. None of those girls out there
With those ominous words, Mrs Pendergast pushed the file towards her. ‘The gentleman is a bachelor with two young wards he’s inherited from his brother.’
Maura was only half-listening. Elation poured through her, drowning out her other sensibilities.
The large woman made a tsking sound. ‘It’s a bad business all around. The new earl is a dissolute rake. He’s out cavorting at all hours of the night, getting up to who knows what debaucheries while the children run wild. Then there’s the business with the earl’s brother.’ She made another tsking noise and peered meaningfully at Maura over her glasses again. ‘The manner of his death was highly shocking and sudden. As I said, it’s a bad business all around, but if you want it, the position is yours.’
If? Of course she’d take it. She couldn’t afford to be choosy at this juncture.
Maura was starting to see how precipitous her flight had been, even if it had been necessary. ‘It will be fine. Thank you. You won’t be sorry.’ She would have gone on gushing her gratitude, but Mrs Pendergast held up a hand.
‘I won’t be sorry, but you might. Did you hear a word I said, Miss Caulfield?’
‘Yes, ma’am.’ It wasn’t exactly a lie. She’d heard most of the words. She’d heard ‘new earl’ and ‘two wards’ and something about the suspect nature of the former earl’s death. The situation didn’t sound as bad as Mrs Pendergast was making it out. She had a position, that was all that mattered. Life could now proceed according to plan.
Mrs Pendergast communicated her doubt with a hard stare. ‘Very well then, I wish you luck, but either way, I don’t want to see you back here. This is the only position you’ll get without references. I suggest you find a way to make this work where the other five have failed.’
Maura rose, hiding her surprise. Clearly, she’d missed a little something while she’d carried on her mental celebration. ‘The other five?’
‘The other five governesses. I did mention them, Miss Caulfield. Did you miss the dissolute-rake part, too?’
Maura’s chin went up, determined not to show her surprise. She hadn’t listened as well as she’d thought. ‘You’ve been very clear, ma’am. Thank you again.’ The ‘dissolute’ part was unfortunate. She might have launched herself from the frying pan and into the fire, exchanging one dissolute male for another. But she doubted anyone could be as dissolute as Wildeham, the man her uncle had chosen for her to marry. Besides, she doubted she’d see much of this roguish Earl of Chatham. Dissolute rakes weren’t exactly the stay-at-home types when surrounded by the entertainments of London. It was difficult indeed to be rakish at all by staying home.