Read Something Sinful Online

Authors: Suzanne Enoch

Something Sinful

S
UZANNE
E
NOCH
Something Sinful

To my sister, Nancy, for spending two weeks in En gland with me and not minding that I had to go into every bookstore between Salisbury and London.

And to our Blue Badge guide, Bryan Gorin, who knows the coolest stuff
and
drives a London taxi—even if he does take it on the wrong side of the street.

Contents
Chapter 1

“Caine, where the devil are my boots?” Charlemagne Griffin bent…

Chapter 2

“What do you mean, you already sold the silks?”

Chapter 3

“I’m merely pointing out the fact that tariffs don’t concern…

Chapter 4

Sarala sat back to look over the letter she’d just…

Chapter 5

Charlemagne’s mouth molded against Sarala’s. He felt her surprise and…

Chapter 6

“Papa, surely we can find something more useful to do…

Chapter 7

“Yes, I’ll just walk home and die from an inflamation…

Chapter 8

“Is your new strategy to earn my gratitude by becoming…

Chapter 9

The Duke of Melbourne found his youngest brother sitting at…

Chapter 10

Charlemagne made his way downstairs to the smell of fresh-baked…

Chapter 11

“Did you invite all these ladies?” Lady Deverill whispered to…

Chapter 12

As soon as Lady Deverill’s coach stopped on the front…

Chapter 13

“Is everyone dead?” Lady Hanover wailed from the couch in…

Chapter 14

“So we could be permanently engaged,” Sarala said skeptically, standing…

Chapter 15

Peep liked Sarala. Mentioning her cobra-charming abilities had certainly helped,…

Chapter 16

Sarala twirled about the dance floor in a country dance…

Chapter 17

“I’ve been thinking,” Sebastian said, leaning along the billiards table…

Chapter 18

And Sarala had thought things couldn’t get any worse. “Shay!”…

Chapter 19

John DeLayne set aside his glass and stood as Charlemagne…

Chapter 20

John DeLayne arrived at St. James’s Park in his cousin’s coach.

Chapter 21

Charlemagne paced in the Carlisle morning room. They’d arranged everything…

Chapter 22

Charlemagne stood to one side of the splendid white stateroom,…

About the Author

Other Books by Suzanne Enoch
Copyright
About the Publisher
Chapter 1
“C
aine, where the devil are my boots?” Charlemagne Griffin bent to look beneath his bed, flinging up the blankets and groping into the murkiness. His fingers touched a lone book, but no boots.
“They’re on their way up, my lord,” the valet returned in his light Irish lilt, his expression horrified as he gazed at his master rooting about the bedchamber. “We had some difficulty getting that mud off them after your trip to Tattersall’s.”

Charlemagne straightened, dusting off his pantaloons. He flipped over the book he’d found to look at the cover.
A Hundred Days in Rome.
So that was where he’d left the damned thing. “Go encourage them to hurry,” he said absently, settling on the corner of the bed and flipping the book open. “I refuse to be teased for being unable to dress faster than a female.”

Caine stooped in a bow, backing out the door as he did so. “Right away, m’lord.”

A knock came at his bedchamber door just as Charlemagne had begun reacquainting himself with day thirty-seven in an adventurer’s exploration of Rome. “Enter,” he said, looking up from the book.

His younger brother, Zachary, strolled into the room. “You can’t go to a party in your stockings, Shay.”

“My thanks. I’d be a social pariah without you.”

Zach nodded. “Glad you realized that.” He wandered closer. “Rumor has it that you were busy today.”

“Is that your way of saying that you heard I purchased Dooley’s bay hunter?”

“Aha. As soon as I came across Dooley in White’s, and he was practically in tears over letting the horse go at such an abysmal price, I
knew
it had to be you who bought it.”

Charlemagne smiled. “It
was
a good price, if I say so myself.”

“So tell me your secret. Do you use witchcraft to put spells on your opponents? I can’t think of any other reason that otherwise sensible men would sell you the entire moon for a stick and a broken wheel.”

“I wouldn’t have much use for the moon.”

The valet scratched at the door and pushed it open. “Your boots, my lord. Good as new.”

Looking over Caine’s head as the valet knelt to shove on the Hobys, Charlemagne chuckled. “Since you asked, Zach, the secret is patience. Patience and observation. A hunter at any price, for instance, is no good to a man who can’t afford to pay his household wages.”

“That sounds a bit coldhearted.”

“That’s why we call it business, and not pleasure.” Charlemagne stood, stomping into his left boot. “Besides, Dooley’s hunter wasn’t my only target for the day. I—”

“For God’s sake,” Zachary cut in, leading the way out to the stairs, “we’re going to a party. I don’t want to have to look at all the other guests and secretly know how many of them you’ve ground into dust during the course of the day.”

“Fine,” Charlemagne returned with a half scowl, somewhat amazed that, with Zachary’s aversion to the harsh realities of business, his younger brother had managed to survive long enough to marry. “I don’t expect you to be able to grasp the nuances of a business deal.”

“Good. Tell someone smarter than I am.”

“That hardly narrows it down.”

From the noise at the foot of the stairs, the rest of the Griffin clan had arrived. Over the past year their family had expanded by two—Eleanor’s husband, Valentine Corbett, Marquis of Deverill; and Zachary’s wife, Caroline. Happy as he was for his siblings, at times Charlemagne could do without the resulting chaos.

“There you are, Shay,” Eleanor said, sweeping forward to kiss him on the cheek.

“You look lovely, Nell, as do you, Caroline.” His gaze found Sebastian, the Duke of Melbourne. Their eldest sibling, Seb was the only other Griffin who shared his own affection for business. The duke stood in his office doorway with Valentine. Charlemagne joined them. “How was your meeting with Liverpool?” he asked.

“Promising,” the duke returned. “I think he’s finally beginning to realize that pride is no reason to keep from doing business with the Colonies.”

“Pride might not be a reason, but lack of imagination is even more difficult to overcome,” Charlemagne put in.

“You won’t hear me arguing with that. How did your own venture go today?”

Zachary came up behind Shay and clapped him on the shoulder. “He made Dooley cry. I saw it myself.”

Satisfying as it had been to acquire a prime hunter for a great deal less than it was worth, his second trip out had been far more interesting, and with far more possibilities. Charlemagne stifled a frown. “Dooley didn’t have to accept my offer. As for my conversation with Cap—”

“Did Valentine tell you his news?” Melbourne broke in.

“The news is hardly the sole property of Valentine,” Eleanor said, moving forward to take her husband’s arm.

Zachary whooped, pounding Valentine on the back. “You old dog. And to think that a year ago the idea of marriage made you shriek like a chit.”

“And now I seem to be procreating. It’s been an odd twelve months,” the marquis agreed, lowering his head to kiss Eleanor. “Glad I didn’t miss it.”

“Mm, so am I,” she returned, chuckling.

Charlemagne took a step back as the congratulations circled around and around. Another member of the family. The babe wouldn’t bear the Griffin name, but it would carry on the Griffin bloodline, just as Melbourne’s seven-year-old daughter Penelope did. And from Caroline’s expression, whatever she’d said about not having room in her life to be domestic, the thought was beginning to cross
her
mind, as well. Good. The more the merrier, he supposed.

The talk turned to baby names, for which Valentine was apparently willing to accept bribes, and Charlemagne backed to the front door. “I’m supposed to meet with Shipley in twenty minutes,” he said in a low voice to the butler as Stanton handed him his hat and gloves. “I won’t disturb their fun, but if anyone should miss me, tell them I went on ahead to the party.”

Stanton nodded. “Very good, my lord.”

The quiet and cool evening breeze of the front portico felt welcome, and Charlemagne paused on the shallow granite steps to take a deep breath. Three coaches stood awaiting passengers, and he walked to the one at the fore. “Let’s go,” he said, climbing in.

To himself he could admit he felt a bit irked that Melbourne had cut off his description of this afternoon’s business dealings, especially after his brother had been the one to ask about them in the first place. Ah, well. At eight-and-twenty he hardly needed anyone’s approval or affirmation of his skills—though a little appreciation would have been nice. Babies did trump just about everything but a Derby victory, though. Charlemagne smiled as he pulled a cigar from his pocket and lit it on the coach lantern. Just about everything. He preferred a good negotiation, himself.

The Brinston butler announced him as he entered the ballroom, and Charlemagne found himself engulfed by the crowd. When he finally emerged at the refreshment table on the far side of the room, he’d put his name on three chits’ dance cards, delayed Lord Shipley and Lord Polk until luncheon tomorrow, and given the prime minister, Liverpool, a pair of his best American cigars. That might help the man see Melbourne’s point of view about trade and tariffs.

He glanced toward the door as he signaled for a glass of claret, but the remainder of the extended Griffin clan hadn’t yet arrived. Sebastian would probably be annoyed that one of the group had fled the house, but as far as Charlemagne was concerned, a bachelor was only supposed to be able to stand so much domestically oriented news.

Someone gripped his elbow, and he nearly spilled the claret. His older brother had a reputation for being something of a mind reader, but he could hardly simply materialize. Probably not, anyway. As Charlemagne turned around he smiled, his curiosity turning to vexation. This was much worse than facing an annoyed Sebastian. “Harkley,” he said, reaching over to shake the hand of the portly gentleman before him. “I thought you still in Madrid.”

The viscount made a face, jowls wobbling. “Too damned much talk about Bonaparte. Came back for a bloody taste of civilization.”

“I’m afraid that you’ll find much of the talk here is about Bonaparte, as well,” Charlemagne returned.

“Your brother about?”

“Melbourne? He hasn’t arrived yet.” Hm. Liverpool detested Harkley, and at the moment Sebastian needed the prime minister’s cooperation. Thinking quickly, Charlemagne gave a pained smile. “When he does appear, you may want to avoid him. He’s been a bit sour-faced the last few days. Tariff disagreements, a new war with the Colonies. Mostly annoyances, but there is all that possible bloodshed and loss of life.”

Harkley toasted him with his own glass of spirits. “My thanks for the warning. I certainly don’t want His Grace snarling at me before I can even say hello.”

“Glad I could be of help. You…”

A splash of color flickered in front of the refreshment table, drawing his gaze. Whatever he’d been about to say, he forgot. A goddess stood taking a delicate bite of candied orange peel. No, not a goddess, Charlemagne amended after a moment. Definitely a female of flesh and blood. Lightning shot from the back of his skull to his groin. Good God.

“—who can afford that without a partner to invest some additional blunt?” Harkley was saying.

Charlemagne handed him the half-empty glass of claret. “Excuse me.”

In a few steps he stood across the table from her. Hair black as midnight coiled about her head and ended in a tail banded by a long, narrow shaft of gold running down along the small of her back. Gold sparkled on her eyelids, the soft glitter taken up by beading throughout the length of her deep red gown. Eyes as green and bottomless as pools of emeralds flicked past him and then returned.

Down, lad,
he ordered himself, and inclined his head to her.

She’d never been to a London Society gathering before. He knew that, because he attended most of them. If she’d shown her face anywhere, he would have seen her. And if he’d seen her, he would have remembered.

“You’re staring,” she said, a slight, exotic upturn of an accent buried beneath her proper English tones.

“Yes, I seem to be,” he returned. Not just her voice, but the whole of her felt almost tangibly exotic, foreign, and enticing. Epithets like “goddess” or “Aphrodite” or “Venus” flew through his mind, but he just as swiftly disregarded them. She’d probably been endlessly bombarded by poetry and flattery, and that wasn’t his style, anyway. Getting what he wanted—and taking whatever steps were necessary to accomplish that goal—
that
was his style. “I’m Charlemagne Griffin.”

She lifted a glittering eyebrow. “‘Charlemagne’?”

He liked the way she said his name. Suppressing another faint shudder of his muscles, he circled the table to stand directly in front of her, speaking as he did so. “My mother’s idea. Father named my oldest brother after himself and his own father, and so she decided that if I couldn’t have the family name, I should have a famous one. My friends call me Shay.” He took a slow step closer, reaching out for her hand and brushing her knuckles softly with his lips. “And who might you be?”

At that she blinked and glanced about as though she’d just realized she was forgetting something. Was she spoken for? Had some lord imported her from somewhere without the rest of them getting so much as a look at her? Nonterritorial about females as he generally considered himself, the idea frustrated and annoyed him. He waited silently, though, for her to make the next step. If she was spoken for, he was fully prepared to detest her betrothed, but he didn’t poach. Not ever.

She faced him again. “Shouldn’t a mutual acquaintance be introducing us?”

At least she hadn’t thrown a fiancé in his face. Charlemagne shrugged, adamantly opposed to the idea of adding
any
third person to their conversation. “In the grand scheme of things, I doubt it will matter that we’ve done it ourselves. Pray tell me your name.”

She bit her lower lip, then seemed to think better of that. “My mother warned me about men like you, very forward and sure of themselves and uncaring of a lady’s reputation.”

Now she seemed to be baiting him. “Tell me your mother’s name,” he returned. “Then I would at least have a clue as to your identity.”

“Very well,” she said with a smile that could have melted a stone statue. “My mother is Helen Carlisle, Marchioness of Hanover.”

This time Charlemagne frowned. He knew England’s peers; with his family’s connections, he doubted there were any nobles he
didn’t
know. “The Marquis of Hanover died a bachelor, just over a year ago.”

The temptress nodded. “My father, Howard, was his younger brother.”

Now things were beginning to make sense. “Your father lived in India.”

“As did my mother and I. We’ve only been in London for ten days.”

He’d been right about her
being
exotic rather than merely
looking
that way. Unable to resist, he brushed a finger along the beading at the shoulder of her gown. He could swear he scented cinnamon in the air around her. “Have you, now? Ten days only?”

Her dark-lined eyes met his. “Ten days. We’ve only just opened the house, and I have to admit that I’m acquainted with barely a soul.”

Good.
All the more for him. “I would call us acquainted if you’d only tell me your name,” he suggested in a low voice.

She looked up at him through dark, curling lashes. “Very well. Sarala. Sarala Anne Carlisle.”

Charlemagne drew a slow breath, absorbing the information. “‘Sarala’?”

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