on November 12, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Rakish playboy, Fletcher Banks, Earl of Wakefield has wanted Agnes Watkins since the first time he saw her. But her older brother is his direct supervisor and makes it very clear that Agnes is off limits. Fletcher does his best to forget her and instead focuses on his spying assignments that have him seducing women for needed information.
But when Agnes corners him at a ball and proclaims she’s going to reform his scoundrel ways, Fletcher knows he can ignore her no longer. Initially he considers this an opportunity to rid himself of his fascination with her. But the more time he spends with her, the more he realizes that what he feels for her isn’t a passing infatuation, but real love. He uses her goal as an excuse to pursue her full throttle despite warning glances from her brother. But can he convince her that he’s mended his scandalous ways?
He spotted Agnes the moment he entered the room. Her blue dress molded to her torso, accenting her impressive décolletage. She was far too tempting. His hands itched with need to touch her. This was why he kept his distance. But knowing he was going to be near her, able to hear her voice and smell the delicate floral scent—that he guessed came from her hair—would be an exercise in restraint. Or torture.
But if she was in danger, then protecting her was all that mattered. He would willingly endure torture if it meant she was safe. Not only that, but he couldn’t lose his position with the Seven. It was the only thing he’d ever been good at and it gave meaning to his life in many ways. He was a patriot after all. With that thought, he maneuvered through the crowd and reached her side.
“Miss Watkins,” he said.
Her eyes widened. “Lord Wakefield. I didn’t peg you for a fan of poetry.”
“I have many secret passions.”
A blush crept into her cheeks and her eyes glanced downward.
“May I sit with you?” he asked.
“Would you care for refreshments first?”
She frowned. “No, but thank you.” She glanced over to the girl on the other side of her and they whispered something back and forth, but he couldn’t make out any of their words.
Then they were instructed to take their seats and Fletcher found himself perched on a perfectly dainty chair that he was entirely too big for.
Agnes glanced over and laughed upon seeing him wedged in.
“I don’t suppose they anticipate many men attending these,” he said. He attempted to cross his legs but ended up kicking the older woman next to him. “My apologies, madam.” Then he flashed her a smile. It seemed to soothe her irritation.
“You look rather uncomfortable,” Agnes said, her grin impish and genuine.
He shouldn’t flirt with Agnes, shouldn’t indulge himself in such a pleasure. But that smile that lit her entire face, he’d do nearly anything to earn another one. Even if it meant torturing himself with a temptation he could not have. He leaned over to whisper into her ear. “The perfect solution is for you to stand. I can then spread my abnormally large body over both chairs and you can sit upon my lap.”
She sucked in her breath. And the pupils in her eyes nearly swallowed the perfect shade of blue of her irises. Her lips parted.
She was aroused. His own lust roared to life and he shifted on the ridiculously small chair. Damnation! What the hell was wrong with him? He was supposed to be here to watch over her, keep her safe. He was not supposed to seduce her as he had seduced so many other women before her. Despite the obvious appeal of being intimate with Agnes, the idea of adding her to the list of women he’d bedded for no other reason than pleasure disconcerted him. He didn’t want her included among the women who had been nothing more than passing affairs. With all those other women he’d been pretending, playing a role. With Agnes, he only ever wanted to be himself. He wanted more for her than a typical seduction.
“You are the worst.” But her subtle grin belied her words.
The crowd fell quiet as the man at the front began to read. It was something about a long, meandering walk through a winter landscape and Fletcher suppressed a yawn.
Agnes jabbed him in the side with her elbow.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Do you suppose anyone would mind if I leaned over and laid my head in your lap for a quick nap?”
She released a laugh, then tried to cover it up with a cough. But the damage had been done, the magical sound of her giggle had poured through him like the finest of liquors. Two older women sitting in front of them both turned around, offering matching scowls.
“My apologies,” Fletcher whispered.
Finally, that particular poem was finished and there was a polite round of applause. Then a matronly woman stepped up and began reading.
“Are you going to tell me what you are doing here?” Agnes asked.
“Same as you, I suspect. Enjoying the lyrical lines of—”
“You obviously hate poetry,” she interrupted with a shake of her head.
“Not entirely true. I am an avid reader of Shakespeare’s sonnets.”
Her eyes rounded, then she smiled. “I prefer his plays, but one would be a fool not to appreciate his poetry.”
The two cranky ladies in front of them shifted, and one of them held a finger up to her lips to shush them.
Fletcher rolled his eyes.
“What is your favorite? Of his sonnets?” Agnes asked.
“Number eighty-seven,” he said.
Her lips parted. “I don’t believe I’m familiar with that one. I should like to hear it.”
He leaned as near to her as he could to whisper into her ear. From this proximity he could smell her sweet floral scent. He closed his eyes and spoke the words.
“‘Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou knowst thy estimate.
The Charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting,
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thy self thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking,
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgement making.
Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter:
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.’”
She inhaled sharply. Then from his close position, he saw her throat constrict as she swallowed. She turned slightly to face him, their lips scandalously close together. Her eyes searched his, then she directed her focus back to the woman at the front of the room.
Agnes’s gloved hands clenched the fabric at her knees while the woman finished her recitation. He rarely allowed himself the luxury of getting this close to her, she was too much of a temptation. Tonight, he was reminded why. Everything about her called to him. Her startling blue eyes, her full rosy lips, and her throaty laugh—when she allowed herself to indulge in such a thing. Her body—he shifted in the tiny chair at the mere thought of those luscious curves of hers—was made for sin.
The memory of those sinful curves pressed against him when they’d kissed the other day…damnation he was getting hard at a stupid poetry reading.
Three additional readers stood and recited poems before the evening came to an end. Fletcher didn’t speak much to Agnes and her friends, but she allowed him to walk them to their carriage. He’d follow behind to ensure she made it home safely.
He couldn’t have her, he reminded himself. He’d lose his position with the Seven, and where would that leave him? It certainly wouldn’t aid in him deserving her. No one in his life had ever stayed. They’d all deserted him because he wasn’t worth loving.