A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens - Romance>Historical Other
And now, Stephanie Laurens has created her boldest Cynster yet - Gabriel - a man who has known the pleasure of many women, but who has given his heart to no one.
She was desperate for his help...
When a mysterious lady, her face hidden by a black veil, begs Gabriel Cynster for his help, he cannot refuse her plea. For despite her disguise, Gabriel finds the woman alluring and he is powerless to deny her. But he exacts payment as only a Cynster would demand: with each piece of information he uncovers, she must pay him - in the form of a kiss.
He was powerless to resist...
Lady Alathea Morwellan knows Gabriel is intrigued, but despite the sparks that fly between them, they have never passed a civil moment together. Yet as the stakes get higher, so does Gabriel′s desire for payment. And with each overpowering kiss, each passionate embrace, Alathea knows that she will not be able to resist his ultimate seduction...but what will happen when she reveals the truth?
Swirls of mist wreathed Gabriel Cynster's shoulders as he prowled the porch of St. Georges' Church, just off Hanover Square. The air was chill, the gloom within the porch smudged here and there by weak shafts of fight thrown by the street lamps.
It was three o'clock; fashionable London lay sleeping. The coaches ferrying late-night revelers home had ceased to rumble-an intense but watchful quiet had settled over the town.
Reaching the end of the porch, Gabriel swung around. Eyes narrowed, he scanned the stone tunnel formed by the front of the church and the tall columns supporting its facade. The mist eddied and swirled, obscuring his view. He'd stood in the same place a week before, watching Demon, one of his cousins, drive off with his new wife. He'd felt a sudden chill -- a premonition, a presentiment; perhaps it had been of this.
Three o'clock in the porch of St. Georges-that was what the note had said. He'd been half inclined to set it aside, a poor joke assuredly, but something in the words had tweaked an impulse more powerful than curiosity. The note had been penned in desperation, although, despite close analysis, he couldn't see why he was so sure of that. The mysterious countess, whoever she was, had written simply and directly requesting this meeting so she could explain her need for his aid.
So he was here -- where was she?
On the thought, the city's bells tolled, the reverberations stirring the heavy blanket of the night. Not all the belltowers tolled the night watches; enough did to set up a strange cadence, a pattern of sound repeated in different registers. The muted notes faded, then died. Silence, again, descended.
Gabriel stirred. Impatient, he started back along the porch, his stride slow, easy.
And she appeared, stepping from the deep shadows about the church door. Mist clung to her skirts as she turned, slowly, regally, to face him. She was cloaked and veiled, as impenetrable, secret, and mysterious as the night.
Gabriel narrowed his eyes. Had she been there all along? Had he walked past her without seeing or sensing her presence? His stride unfaltering, he continued toward her. She lifted her head as he neared, but only slightly.
She was very tall. Halting with only a foot between them, Gabriel discovered he couldn't see over her head, which was amazing. He stood well over six feet tall; the countess had to be six feet tall herself. Despite the heavy cloak, one glance had been enough to assure him all her six feet were in perfect proportion.
"Good morning, Mr. Cynster. Thank you for coming."
He inclined his head, jettisoning any wild thought that this was some witless prank -- a youth dressed as a woman. The few steps she'd taken, the way she'd turned -- to his experienced senses, her movements defined her as female. And her tone was soft and low, the very essence of woman.
A mature woman-she was definitely not young.
"Your note said you needed my help."
"I do." After a moment, she added, "My family does."
"Your family?" In the gloom, her veil was impenetrable; he couldn't see even a hint of her chin or her lips.
"My stepfamily, I should say."
Her perfume reached him, exotic, alluring. "Perhaps we'd better define just what your problem is, and why you think I can help."
"You can help. I would never have asked to meet youwould never reveal what I'm about to tell you -- if I didn't know you could help." She paused, then drew breath. "My problem concerns a promissory note signed by my late husband."
She inclined her head. "I'm a...