Read Seducing the Viscount Online

Authors: Alexandra Ivy

Seducing the Viscount (8 page)

“Well, I am uncertain if Dunnington intended for me to become a gamester,” he muttered, shifting his feet with an uneasy suspicion the wounds he carried were nothing in comparison to those of his father.

“Perhaps not, but he did manage to teach you to be self-sufficient and capable of fending for yourself. An achievement that is not to be taken lightly.”

Ian regarded his father with a growing bewilderment. “I thought you disapproved of my ramshackle lifestyle? You have often warned that the gambling and wenching would lead me to a bad end.”

“It is hardly a lifestyle that leads to a long, healthy life, although my father would have been quite proud of you.” Awry smile twisted the older man's lips. “You are far more his son than mine.”

Ian gave a short laugh. “Somehow that does not seem a very high compliment. Indeed, I believe I am quite insulted.”

“I am sorry, that was not my intent. We should all be allowed to live our lives as we see fit.”

“As do you?” he prodded.

“Me?” There was a brief ripple of bitter amusement before his expression became shuttered, effectively hiding his emotions from Ian's searching gaze. “No. There are some paths closed even to a viscount.”

“I cannot imagine any path that would not be opened with enough wealth and power,” Ian challenged.

From the depths of the house a gong echoed down the corridors. With obvious relief that the encounter was at an end, Norrington crossed toward the door.

“I will not detain you any longer, Ian. You must change for dinner.”

“A moment, please,” Ian demanded, taking a step forward.

Norrington came to a grudging halt, his hand on the doorknob as if needing the comfort of knowing he could bolt at a moment's notice.

“Yes?”

“I have one question,” Ian confessed, swallowing his considerable pride. As much as he hated asking anything of this man, he had spent his entire life plagued by one question. This might very well be his one and only opportunity to discover the answer.

“And what is that?” Norrington demanded, his expression guarded.

“Was my mother merely a meaningless body in your bed, or did you care for her at all?”

There was a long, painful silence. Long enough that Ian steeled himself to be ignored. It would not be the first occasion his father had offered a cold rebuff.

Then, without warning, his father gave a slow nod of his head. “Actually, I loved her very much, Ian.”

Ian released a breath he did not even know that he was holding. “Thank you,” he whispered, his voice thick with a genuine gratitude. “It's stupid that it matters. . . .”

“But it does?”

“Yes. Yes, it does.”

“Then know that she will always hold a place in my heart.”

With his soft words delivered, Norrington slipped from the room and closed the door behind him.

Left on his own, Ian moved to pour himself another shot of whiskey.

During his journey to Surrey, his greatest fear had been expiring of boredom. There were few things more tedious than spending day after day in the country, especially when he was to be stuck in the marble mausoleum called Rosehill.

And not even the anticipation of uncovering his father's sins could offer more than a vague hope for entertainment.

Boredom . . .

His crack of laughter echoed through the silent room.

Chapter 7

Despite her best efforts, Mercy found herself lingering in the library long after she should have been in bed.

It was perfectly absurd.

Ian Breckford might have made an appearance at dinner and even have stayed long enough to play a game of chess with his aunt before bolting for the village pub, but as far as Mercy was concerned he might as well have been half a world away.

Never in her life had she ever been quite so thoroughly ignored. There had not been a word, or a touch, or even a glance the entire night. Which meant that it had to be intentional. No one could so assiduously avoid another without a great deal of effort.

Still, she found herself ridiculously hurt when she at last conceded defeat and climbed the stairs to her chambers.

Did the aggravating man fear she might force herself upon him at the dinner table? For heaven's sake, he had already made it obvious he did not consider her worthy to capture his jaded attentions. Did he have to rub her nose in his indifference?

Once in her rooms, she changed into the sensible night rail that was beginning to fray about the hem and brushed her hair into a tidy braid. Then, rather than climbing into her bed, she studied her reflection in the mirror.

In the flickering candlelight she could make out the pale oval of her face and the dark slant of her eyes. Nothing remarkable, of course. But surely not hideous, either.

So why was she continually overlooked, disregarded, or outright rejected by gentlemen?

What the devil was the matter with her?

Ignoring the knowledge that her father would be deeply disapproving of her display of vanity, Mercy continued to search her reflection for her fatal flaw, nearly missing the soft tap on her door as she remained lost in her broodings.

There was no mistaking, however, when the door was abruptly pushed open to reveal the gentleman currently plaguing her thoughts.

“Ian.” She awkwardly surged to her feet, her gaze widening at the sight of his disheveled appearance.

Sometime during the evening he had lost his cravat as well as his elegant jacket and waistcoat. Now he was attired in nothing more than a thin linen shirt that revealed a disturbing amount of his wide, smooth chest and a pair of breeches that clung to the hard muscles of his thighs with an unnerving precision.

Her stomach clenched with a giddy awareness as she lifted her gaze to take in the tousled raven curls and the shadowed line of his jaw.

He looked raw and dangerous and utterly delectable.

“I saw the light beneath your door. . . .”

“For heaven's sake come in or out before anyone notices you,” she interrupted, annoyed by her ready reaction to his arrival. It seemed gruesomely unfair that she should burn with need when he was near, and yet he could remain indifferent.

Seemingly oblivious to the sharp edge in her voice, Ian entered the room and shut the door firmly behind him. Then, leaning against the wooden panes, he regarded her with an oddly muddled gaze.

“Sweet, sweet Mercy.”

With a frown, Mercy moved forward, able to catch the scent of whiskey on his breath as she halted directly before him.

“You are foxed.”

“No, I am not.” He swayed, his hand grasping the doorknob to keep from pitching forward onto his nose. “I am three sheets to the wind, my dear. Quite different from being foxed.”

“I suppose I must take your word for it. You are the expert, after all,” she muttered, grasping his arm as he once again swayed. “Have a seat before you knock us both to the ground.”

Without warning, he gave a sharp tug with his arm, knocking her off balance so she stumbled against him. Before she could recover, he had her pinned to his body, his arms wrapped about her waist in a ruthless grip.

“I do not want a seat. I want you beneath me on that bed as I part your legs and . . .” His eyes screwed shut, as if he were in actual pain. “Christ, you are driving me mad. I should have stayed at the pub. There were any number of women who were eager enough to ease my ache.”

The momentary delight at being held so tightly in his arms was swiftly doused at his less-than-flattering words. Lifting her hands, she placed them flat against his chest and arched back to glare into his aggravatingly handsome face.

“No doubt,” she hissed. “Why didn't you stay if they were so eager?”

“Because they were not you.” His eyes snapped open, the whiskey gold gaze sliding over her flushed face before lowering to take in the thin night rail that did little to cover her slender curves. A sinful heat followed in the path of his gaze, searing over her skin and making her shudder with need. “It did not matter how beautiful or willing or skilled they might be, I remained as limp as an overcooked noodle.” His expression was hard with self-derision. “It has to be you. Only you.”

With a violence that shocked her to the very core, Mercy curled her hands into fists and smacked them against his chest. It was not that she could actually hurt the man. She did not doubt that her blows caused more pain to her hands than to his rock-hard chest. Still, it was utterly uncharacteristic of her to lash out like a common fishwife.

“You do not want me,” she hissed. “You have made that clear enough for even a simpleton to comprehend.”

“Not want you?” With a sharp laugh, he grasped her wrists, easily halting her foolish attack. Then, with a low groan, he bent his head to brush his lips over the pulse pounding at her temple. “There are moments when I fear that if I do not have you soon I will shatter into a thousand pieces.”

She stilled, her body humming with excitement at his light caress. “Then why . . . ?”

His lips moved to explore the curve of her cheek, his hot breath sending a rash of prickles over her sensitive skin.

“I am not completely depraved, Miss Simpson, or at least I was not until stumbling over a delightful wood sprite who will not leave me in peace.”

She wanted to be offended by his accusation. He made it seem as if he had no choice in forcing his way into her room and wrapping her in his arms as if he would never release her.

Unfortunately she could barely think beyond the sensation of his knowing lips as they nibbled a path to the corner of her mouth.

“You were the one to seek me out on this occasion,” she rasped.

His hands splayed against the low curve of her back, squeezing her between his parted legs until she could feel the hard length of his erection pressed against her hip.

“Because it does not matter if I am in a pub a mile away or in London, I cannot get you out of my mind.” With a groan, he plundered her mouth with a savage kiss, his tongue thrusting between her parted lips as if he were desperate for the taste of her. At last he eased the hard pressure to mutter his words of frustration. “Your scent . . . the feel of that satin skin . . . the taste of your lips . . .”

Mercy was forced to clutch at his shoulders as her knees went weak. She felt as if she had been tossed in the midst of a maelstrom that threatened to drown her in sensation.

“Ian,” she breathed. “Wait.”

“Wait?” He gave the lobe of her ear a sharp nip. “I have bloody well waited for hours. Hell, I am beginning to suspect that I have waited my entire life.”

She struggled to think as his tongue traced the line of her throat. This was precisely what she had desired . . . what she
still
desired . . . but it was all happening so swiftly she could barely keep up with the emotions battering through her.

“What do you want from me?”

He deliberately rocked his arousal against her, his mouth skimming down to the line of her bodice.

“You are not that naïve.”

A soft groan was wrenched from her throat as his lips found the upper curve of her breast, seeming to savor the feel of her skin. Already her nipples were hard and aching for his touch. She had never dreamed that a man's lips on the sensitive buds could cause such exquisite pleasure.

“I do not consider it naïve to presume a gentleman who cannot so much as glance in my direction is indifferent to me.”

He muttered a curse as he raised his hands to tug the narrow bands of her night rail off her shoulders, his eyes glowing with a ravaging heat as the material drifted down to pool at her feet.

“Only a gentleman desperate to be buried deep inside you would ever go to such an effort to avoid you, sweet Mercy,” he rasped, his hands busily tugging her hair free of its braid. “If you knew how hard it has been to keep from ripping the clothes from your delectable body and having my way with you, you would be quaking in terror.”

Mercy was quaking. But terror had nothing to do with her trembling.

No, it was the hand that he tangled in her tumbled curls as he sharply angled her head back to meet his demanding kiss, and the pained rasp of his breath.

Even in her innocence she realized that this was not the smooth seduction of a practiced rake. There was nothing polished in his desperate touch or the shudders that wracked his body.

The knowledge was far more erotic than any amount of skill, and, tossing aside her lingering hurt at his earlier rejection, Mercy wrapped her arms around his neck.

She was drowning in a delicious heat despite the chill that brushed over her bare skin. A heat and excitement that she could feel to the tips of her toes.

Ian growled deep in his throat, his tongue thrusting with a slow rhythm that mimicked the same thrust of his hips. Mercy felt an ache bloom deep in the pit of her stomach.

Instinctively she arched closer, the rasp of his clothing an unwelcome barrier to the hardness of his body. She needed . . . dear heavens, she needed something. Something only Ian Breckford could offer.

“Oh,” she gasped as his lips wrenched from her mouth to dip downward and close about a throbbing nipple. “Oh . . . God.”

“Not God, sweet Mercy,” he muttered, abruptly whirling until she was pressed against the wall. “Not even close.”

Mercy gazed down at the dark head, her breath lodged in her throat as he continued to suckle her with exquisite care. There was a restless urgency clenching her body that made her long to scream in frustration.

His warm lips felt so wondrous against her breasts, his tongue making her whimper in delight. This was the reason women tossed aside all sense and gentlemen sacrificed thrones.

“Ian.”

“What, my sweet?” Lifting his head, he regarded her with a hungry gaze. “What would you have of me?”

She shook her head in a helpless motion. “I do not know.”

For a long moment he studied her upturned face, as if he were memorizing each sweep and curve of her features.

“Will you trust me, Mercy?”

“I . . .” She licked her lips that were swollen and tender from his kisses. “Yes. Yes, I trust you.”

His eyes flashed gold in the candlelight. “Then allow me to teach you of pleasure.”

Without warning he was slowly lowering to his knees directly before her. Her eyes widened in shock as she realized his head was even with her most private parts. Even more shocking was the realization that his avid gaze was causing an embarrassing dampness between her legs.

“What are you doing?”

With a hint of reverence, Ian lifted his hands to slide them up her bare legs, his light touch sending jolts of electric excitement through her.

“You said you trusted me,” he chided, his voice oddly raw.

Mercy's breath was trapped in her lungs as she struggled not to swoon.

“I do, but surely we should be on the bed—” Her words came to a startled squeak as his hands determinedly parted her legs at the same moment he leaned forward.

Her fingers clutched at his hair as she felt the stroke of his tongue and the rasp of his whiskers against the sensitive flesh of her inner thigh.

“No bed,” he muttered as his tongue traced a pale blue vein.

Her heart came to a sharp halt as he neared her tender slit. The last thing she desired was to distract him at such a critical moment, but then again, she was not entirely certain her shaky knees would hold her up much longer.

“Why?”

His grip tightened on her thighs, his head grudgingly tilting back to meet her bemused gaze.

“I have spent the night at the local pub trying to forget you, sweet Mercy,” he rasped, a dark flush staining the narrow line of his cheekbones. “When I take your virginity it will not be when my mind is clouded with whiskey and my body so hard with need that I risk hurting you.”

“Then what are you doing?” she whispered, her stomach clenching with dread. Oh Lordy, he could not be thinking of ending things at this late point. Could he? She would beat him with her slipper if he tried to bolt.

“I am attempting to please you,” he said, his eyes dark with longing. “If only you would allow me.”

“But—”

“Shh, Mercy, enough speaking.” His mouth returned to tease at the inner skin of her thighs. “I will go mad if I do not taste of you.”

He shifted higher, his hands steadily urging her legs to part. Mercy hissed, grasping his shoulders as her knees threatened to collapse. He was close to that aching void. So very, very close.

Mercy moaned as he teased and taunted, his breath brushing the vulnerable region and making her squirm with fiery excitement. Restlessly she explored the line of his shoulders with her hands, amazed by the hard muscles. He was so wonderfully, unmistakably, utterly male.

“Mercy,” he rasped, his hot breath searing over her skin. “May I please you?”

Please her?

If he pleased her any more, she would surely expire upon the spot.

“Yes . . . yes.”

The agreement had barely tumbled from her lips when his fingers at last parted her intimate folds, giving his tongue unfettered access to her tiny nub of pleasure. She nearly screamed in bliss as raw heat exploded in the pit of her stomach.

God almighty.

Her head banged into the wall as she was suddenly consumed with a tension that shimmered through her. Oh, he was wicked.
This
was wicked. Nothing could feel so damnably good and not be a sin.

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