By: Anne Stuart | Other books by Anne Stuart
Published By: MIRA
Published: Aug 01, 2010
ISBN # 9780778328483
Available in: Secure Adobe Epub eBook, Secure Adobe eBook
Few outsiders will ever witness the dark misdeeds of the Heavenly Host. And among this secret society, where exiled Georgian aristocrats gather to indulge their carnal desires, fewer still can match the insatiable appetite of their chief provocateur, the mysterious Viscount Rohan.
Pursuit of physical pleasure is both his preferred pastime and his most pressing urge, until he encounters the fascination of a woman who won't be swayed. And while his dark seduction appalls the pure and impoverished Elinor Harriman, she finds herself intrigued...and secretly drawn to the man behind the desire.
The visit with the lawyer had not gone well. Elinor Harriman arrived home just as her sister, Lydia, had finished dealing with their landlord, and she ducked out of sight so the old lecher wouldn't see her. Monsieur Picot had no patience for either her or her mother, but her baby sister was a different matter. All Lydia had to do was let tears fill her limpid blue eyes and make her Cupid's bow mouth tremble and M. Picot was destroyed, awash with apologies and assurances. He didn't realize he was being played until the door was firmly closed behind him and Elinor could sneak up the stairs, grateful that she hadn't had to defend Lydia's honor if M. Picot got carried away. He never did. None of the landlords and butchers and greengrocers ever took advantage of Lydia's delicate beauty. She radiated such an exquisite innocence that no one would dare. Even in this less than felicitous area of town, no one would even think of offering her an insult.
"Told you," Lydia said with an impish grin far removed from her Madonna smile. "It works every time."
Elinor flopped into the nearest chair, letting out a groan as an errant spring poked her backside. During their last enforced move they'd had to relinquish all but their most wretched of furniture. The tiny parlor on the edge of one of the least savory neighborhoods in Paris held three chairs and a meager table that served as a desk, a dining surface and a dressing table, and the chairs were barely functional. The bedrooms were as bad. One sagging bed in the first room held their mother's snoring body, in the other there was only a shared mattress on the hard floor. She refused to think about how Nanny Maude or Jacobs the coachman slept in the back area that served as kitchen and servants' quarters.
And how absurd it was to have a coachman when it had been years since they'd even had a horse, much less a coach. Not since their very first days in Paris, when their mother had been in love and the two sisters had reveled in their new adventure. But Jacobs had come with them from England, under Lady Caroline's spell as most men were, and nothing, not even a total lack of wages, could induce him to leave.
The lover and the money had disappeared quickly, to be replaced by someone almost as wealthy. In the last ten years Lady Caroline Harriman had been working her way down to a state Elinor couldn't bear to consider. At least right now her mother was too ill to cause trouble, to go looking for another bottle of blue ruin, another game of chance, another man to finance her more important needs, which had never included her daughters.
"So how much time have we got?" she asked, reaching for her knitting. She was a wretched knitter—her handwork was atrocious but she convinced herself she could do something useful, even if her socks and vests were full of dropped stitches. Nanny Maude had taught her, but as usual she was proving less than adept.
Lydia sighed. "He'll be back in a week, and I don't think I'll be able to put him off again." Sweet Lydia was perfect in every way, pretty and darling and clever, and her handwork was flawless. She could dance perfectly with only the cursory lessons their mother had once paid for, she could paint a pretty picture, sing like a bird, and any man who met her became her willing slave, from Jacobs, their elderly manservant, to the wealthy young Vicomte de Miraboux whom she'd met at the lending library. For a brief time Elinor had hoped their problems were solved, until the Vicomte's family caught wind of what was going on and the Vicomte had been swept away on a grand tour of Europe.
They'd offered her money, Elinor thought, rubbing her...