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Authors: Scarlett Scott

LadyClarissasSeduction

Lady Clarissa’s Seduction

Scarlett Scott

 

Lady Clarissa Darlington is shocked to discover her wastrel
father has gambled away the family’s meager fortune. When notorious gaming hell
baron Pierce Foster arrives on her doorstep to collect payment, she’s even more
shocked at the passion he awakens within her. Abandoned by her father, Clarissa
falls headlong into Pierce’s arms and succumbs to his daring seduction. Her
nights with him become a blur of intense desire as he brings her innocent body
to life.

But as deception threatens to tear them apart, Clarissa must
uncover some long-kept secrets and decide whether or not she can entrust her
heart in the hands of her lover forever.

 

An Ellora’s Cave Romantica
Publication

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

Lady Clarissa’s Seduction

 

ISBN 9781419931932

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Lady Clarissa’s Seduction Copyright © 2010 Scarlett Scott

 

Edited by Grace Bradley

Cover art by Syneca

 

Electronic book publication November 2010

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of
Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not
be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written
permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home
Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Lady Clarissa’s Seduction

Scarlett Scott

 

Chapter One

 

The day her father came home at six o’clock in the morning
and summoned the household staff was the day that changed Lady Clarissa
Darlington’s life inextricably. She’d known their straits were dire for some
time as she took note of the dwindling number of paintings in the drawing room,
the mysteriously disappearing candlesticks and silver. Even her mother’s jewels
had been taken from Clarissa’s own bedchamber. Credit was refused them at the
butcher’s the week before, the wine merchant had been calling daily for funds
owed him and an assortment of ruffians had all begun appearing at Number
Thirteen Grosvenor Square, requesting audiences with her father.

It was Daisy, her lady’s maid, who shook her awake early
that morning to the terrible news of their continued fall from grace. “Lady
Clarissa, you’d best rise quick and come downstairs. It’s the master!”

Clarissa had been waltzing in the arms of a handsome earl
until Daisy’s unceremonious disruption. She blinked, blinded by the candlelight
shining into her eyes. “Daisy, you know we haven’t the funds to waste tapers in
the morning!”

“It’s sorry I am, my lady, but candles are the least of your
worries now. Your father’s gone and dismissed the lot of us!” Daisy’s broad face
reflected her worry.

“Dismissed you?” She sat up, her bedclothes falling unheeded
around her even in the chill of the morning.

“Aye my lady, dismissed us! The maid-of-all-work has already
packed up her things and left, and the footman isn’t far off. It’s dreadful, it
is. He tells us we’re to leave straightaway. He hasn’t got the blunt to feed so
many mouths and it’s best if we be on our way.”

Dear God
. Had it come to this? She held a hand to her
heart and tried to calm its startled beats. “Every last one of you?”

“It’s that horrible, my lady, when I’ve been with you since
you were a wee little girl and I love you same as were you my own daughter.
I’ve got no home to go to save for my mother’s in the East End, but I doubt
I’ll even get a bed there, I do.” Daisy’s words gave way to thunderous weeping.

Clarissa’s head began thumping. Something had to be done.
She patted her maid’s back and wondered just what it was. “Help me to dress,
Daisy, and I’ll speak with him.”

* * * * *

Her father, as it turned out, had locked himself in his
study and refused to materialize. As Daisy looked on, crying with enough force
to propel an indelicate stream of snot onto her bodice, Clarissa attempted to
induce him to emerge.

“Papa, I do wish you would rethink your position on the
staff,” she tried. “It shall be impossible for us to run a decent household
without them.”

“Haven’t got the blunt for it,” he called back, his words
slurred. “Tell that spot-faced maid of yoursh to bugger off!”

Oh dear.
Daisy gasped at his insult. It was
abundantly clear he had not only been gaming all evening but had been indulging
his love of whiskey as well. Before Mama’s death, the Viscount had been such a
wonderful, dependable man. But grief had sent him spiraling to a dark place,
turning him into a virtual stranger. Gone was the happy family she’d once
known. He attended clubs all day and night, gambled on a daily basis and
consorted with the worst sort of ruffians and cutthroats. He was, in short,
ruining them and she had never felt more alone.

“Papa, can you not see that Daisy, at least, should stay
on?”

“Can’t countenansh it,” he replied with a belch.

She tried the door again. “Won’t you let me in?”

“Nothing for it. Can’t come out now. That rotter’sh coming
here thish afternoon to take all from me. You’ll have to hold him off,
Clarisha. Shee if you can’t.”

Daisy blew her nose loudly into a handkerchief. “We’re
doomed, we are, all of us!”

Clarissa held her fingers to her temples and took a calming
breath. “What rotter, Papa?”

“That bloody Pierce Foshter.”

“Pierce Foster!” Daisy gasped. “Oh, he’s a black one. We’re
well and truly done in now. I’ll go and pack my things. It’s sorry I am to say
it, but you’re on your own, my lady.”

* * * * *

Clarissa was able to glean from her father—through the
locked study door, no less—that Pierce Foster was the owner of several gaming
hells, one of which, dubiously called The Painted Lady, her father had been
frequenting. At The Painted Lady, there were, of course, the requisite painted
ladies, whist tables and whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey. Last evening,
Pierce Foster himself had sat in on a card game and insulted her father to his
face, questioning whether or not he was well enough in funds to even play.
Naturally, or so Papa would have it, he had been forced to defend his honor by
engaging in a game he went on to lose. While he would not let on precisely how
much he’d squandered, the mere fact he was removing every servant from their
house remained both troubling and telling.

Pierce Foster was notorious in less-than-savory circles.
Certainly she’d never have met him at Almack’s or even passed him on Rotten
Row, but Clarissa had read of him in the scandal sheets. He was not of the
fashionable set. Few members of the peerage knew him or received him unless
they were in his debt.

His immense wealth was as well known as his peccadilloes.
Rumor had him gambling and buying his way through society, attempting to steal
into the upper echelons. He was not a gentleman and it was said he had no less
than five lady birds, one of whom was a married countess. The frantically
packing Daisy suggested Clarissa run and hide to save herself from the danger
of the gaming baron’s lecherous company.

Clarissa, however, vowed to do no such thing. Her courage
would not fail her. After she exchanged tearful goodbyes with her lady’s maid,
she headed to her bedchamber with great purpose, choosing her most formidable
gown. Unlike many dresses from her come-out three years gone, this was a deep,
dark emerald to complement her green eyes and mahogany tresses. Its décolletage
was a bit lower than proper for the daytime, but she was in no position to fret
over proprieties. On her neck she wore a pearl necklace, one of few precious
items she’d been able to hide from her father.

By the time a knock sounded on the front door later, she’d
been pacing for the better part of an hour, rehearsing what she would say to
him, how she could handle the beast and bend him to her will. When she saw
Pierce Foster on the stoop, she nearly gasped. Nothing had prepared her for the
power of his presence. One word instantly rose to mind.

Dangerous.

He was tall and strong of build with broad shoulders and
lean hips. Pierce Foster possessed the body of an active Corinthian, muscled
and toned, nary a hint of fat. His blond hair was too long by society’s
standards, swept back from his high forehead. He had bronzed skin, even,
beneath his shirt. Shockingly, he wore no cravat, only a simple white shirt and
black waistcoat beneath his greatcoat, the shirt unbuttoned to reveal an
improper wedge of his chest. And his face was more beautiful than any she’d
ever seen on a man, starkly handsome. Lord, he was all slashing cheekbones,
proud chin, sullen mouth.

He gave a stiff bow and offered her his card. “Mr. Foster
for Lord Darlington.”

How could her greatest foe, a man so low he could have been
swept from the gutters, be the most magnetic man she’d ever met? It hardly
seemed fair. Best to gather her wits for the forthcoming battle and stop acting
the ninny.

“My father is indisposed,” she informed him in her frostiest
accent.

Mr. Foster smiled and he appeared, almost, the consummate
gentleman. Indeed had she not known what and who he was, she may have been
deceived by his confident bearing and deadly good looks. As it happened,
however, she knew the man for a blackguard and an utter swindler.

“Ah. Lady Clarissa, I presume?”

His familiarity startled her. How had he known her name?
“You presume correctly, Mr. Foster. You may have an audience with me if you
like, in my father’s absence.”

He raised a brow. “I don’t think I have any business with
you, my lady.”

She held herself with confidence feigned more than felt—she
hoped he could not see through her bravado. Her stomach bottomed out like a
carriage on the run from highwaymen. Her entire body turned quivery and
peculiar. “I find you do have business with me, Mr. Foster. Please, may I show
you to the drawing room?”

His sensuous lips flattened and she couldn’t shake the
feeling he didn’t like her for some reason. “Good of you to receive me, my
lady.”

She inclined her head with regal grace and stepped back to
allow him entrance. “Indeed, though I hesitate to agree with anything you say,
I should think it is good of me to do so. Particularly considering the
circumstances bringing you here.”

He towered over her as he stepped inside, quite stealing her
breath. Goodness he was handsome. Still, she could not relent. He was her lower
in the social order. True, her father may well be a spendthrift, a complete
failure. It may be absolutely given out in the papers he was pockets to let,
and yet, the man before her remained beneath her by drastic levels. The very
act of her meeting him
sans
chaperone would ruin her reputation if
anyone knew. Thanks to their reduced means, there were no servants to speak of
it. Not even their esteemed butler Dryden had been able to stay on without
payment any longer than he’d already done. He and Daisy had hailed a
post-chaise together.

She took Foster’s coat from him in silence, noting he wore
no hat when every true gentleman would. Another strike against him. Unspeaking,
she gave him her back and led him to the drawing room. Meeting a man like
Pierce Foster in close quarters in the elegant—though perhaps squandered and
stripped—confines of one’s own drawing room left something to be desired. He
was, she suspected, a formidable opponent.

“Please seat yourself.” Clarissa perched on a settee. “I
would offer you tea, but I fear it’s too dear at the moment. We haven’t any.
Nor do we have a lady to prepare the water.” A bitter smile curved her lips as
she met his dark blue gaze.

He sat in a winged chair opposite her. “I’m sorry for your
reduced state, my lady, but I feel compelled to inform you it is not my fault
you are forced to it. That honor is reserved for your errant father.”

She was surprised, she realized, he spoke so well. Even his
accent hinted at a fine man. He steepled his large hands and watched her with
unnerving calm.

“I will thank you to keep from insulting Papa. You are
hardly one to look down upon him, living as you must.”

He sighed, sounding impatient. “My lady, if you don’t mind,
could we have it out? What is the purpose of this meeting?”

“To address the matter of my father’s debt.” She tightened
her lips and fought for inner strength. “I am prepared to part with a number of
personal items, this necklace for instance, and some diamond brooches left to
me by my mother. I hope they will satisfy what is owed you.”

He let out a bark of laughter. “Forgive me, Lady Clarissa,
but your baubles cannot hold a candle to thirty thousand pounds.”

Thirty thousand pounds?
She gasped. Surely her father
had not lost such an impossible amount to this man? Surely she misheard, or Mr.
Foster was lying?

“I take it he hasn’t told you the amount. You’re wondering
if I am to be believed, I can see.”

Her mind spun. She flew to her feet, wringing her hands in
her distress. “There are other things of value here, Mr. Foster. Some
paintings, some silver. Surely there will be enough…”

He rose as well. “Your fripperies here do not add up to
thirty thousand. Nor does this house, which has been mortgaged to the hilt by
your scoundrel papa.”

She turned away from him to pace the length of the room.
Were they to be homeless as well as destitute and ruined? At least there was
the country seat down in Surrey, though it was a drafty, tumbling down castle
not really fit for living. “How are we to pay you, then, Mr. Foster? Do you
mean to call in the notes?”

As she asked the last, she spun about to face him only to
find he had followed her and now stood inappropriately close. She could discern
a faint shadow of golden whiskers peppering his jaw. The man positively
emanated something primitive that called to her body, awakening it from a
twenty-year-long slumber. Her stomach swirled, her breasts tingled, and the
most wonderful ache began deep within her. Never in her life had she been so
aware of herself as a woman, attuned to her pulse, her hitched breath, the
longing for something scandalous.

“Convince me not to, princess,” he muttered, putting his
hands on her waist and suddenly yanking her against him. Every inch of their
bodies melded together in harmony. He was hard to her soft, the contact at once
shocking and pleasing though her mind warned her she must not bend to his
seduction. It would be sheer folly. Ruin.

Before her conscience could offer up further protest, his
mouth claimed hers. Their lips fused in a searing joining. His kiss was
certainly not the gentlemanly peck she’d experienced with former suitors. His
kiss claimed. It demanded. It shook her to her core. She clutched his
shoulders, pressing closer to him, opening her mouth beneath the onslaught. His
tongue swept into her mouth, shocking and exciting her. Heat settled low in her
belly, moisture pooling between her thighs.

His hands slid around her to cup her bottom, kneading her
sensitive flesh and positioning her so his cock sank into the folds of her
gown. It was appallingly improper, and somehow she savored every sensation he
evoked within her. She had always been a dutiful daughter, supportive of Papa
even as she watched him become a man who was foreign to her. Now something
within her cried out that surely she deserved this fleeting moment of
adventure.

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